Cannabinoids [kuh-nab-uh-noid] are a class of diverse chemical compounds that activate cannabinoid receptors (molecules on the surface of a cells in the brain and throughout the body, which receive chemical signals). After the receptor is engaged, multiple intracellular signal pathways are activated; researchers are still unraveling the precise mechanism at work. Cannabinoid receptors are activated by endocannabinoids (produced naturally in the body), phytocannabinoids (found in plants), and synthetic cannabinoids (produced chemically in a lab). The most notable cannabinoid is the phytocannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound of cannabis. However, there are known to exist dozens of other cannabinoids with varied effects. Before the 1980s, it was often speculated that cannabinoids produced their physiological and behavioral effects via nonspecific interaction with cell membranes, instead of interacting with specific membrane-bound receptors. The discovery of the first cannabinoid receptors in the 1980s helped to resolve this debate. These receptors are common in animals, and have been found in mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles. At present, there are two known types of cannabinoid receptors, termed CB1 and CB2, with mounting evidence of more. There are three types of transmembrane receptors (Protein, Ion, and Enzyme); cannabinoid receptors are protein based, and the human brain has more cannabinoid receptors than any other protein-coupled receptor type.
CB1 receptors are found primarily in the brain, to be specific in the basal ganglia (associated with movement and motivation) and in the limbic system (the paleomammalian brain), including the hippocampus (important in spacial memory and navigation). They are also found in the cerebellum (works mainly to control balance and coordinate movement) and in both male and female reproductive systems. CB1 receptors are absent in the medulla oblongata, the part of the brain stem responsible for respiratory and cardiovascular functions. Thus, there is not the risk of respiratory or cardiovascular failure associated with cannabis. CB1 receptors appear to be responsible for the euphoric and anticonvulsive effects of cannabis. CB2 receptors are predominantly found in the immune system, or immune-derived cells, with the greatest density in the spleen. CB2 receptors appear to be responsible for the anti-inflammatory and possibly other therapeutic effects of cannabis.
A detection dog or sniffer dog is a dog that is trained to and works at using its senses (almost always the sense of smell) to detect substances such as explosives, illegal drugs, or blood. Hunting dogs that search for game and search dogs that search for missing humans are generally not considered detection dogs. There is some overlap, as in the case of human remains detection dogs (sometimes called cadaver dogs), trained to detect human remains. They are also used for drug raids to find where the drugs are. In the state of California, dogs are trained to detect the Quagga Mussel on boats at public boat ramps, as it is a invasive species. Sniffer dogs have also been enlisted to find bumblebee nests. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has trained an English Springer Spaniel to detect the colonies, assisting them with the conservation of threatened species. Some prisons have dogs trained to detect illicit cell phones in prison cells.
Detection dogs have been trained to search for many substances, including: Bed bugs, Human remains, Currency, Drugs, Explosives, Firearms, Mobile phones, Mold, Polycarbonate optical discs such as DVDs (used to search for bootleg recordings), and Termites. One notable quality of detection dogs is that they are able to discern individual scents even when the scents are combined or masked by other odors. In one case at an Australian prison, a detection dog foiled an attempt to smuggle drugs that had been hidden in a woman’s bra and smeared with coffee, pepper and Vicks Vapo-rub. A sniffer dog can detect blood even if it has been scrubbed off surfaces. In one case, a sniffer dog sniffed a drop of blood on a wall although an attempt had been made to scrub it off. It was so small that it couldn’t be seen without a microscope. Some of these functions can be carried out by trained pigs, which also have an excellent sense of smell, and have been used to hunt truffles for centuries.
The Merry Pranksters was a cohort that formed around American author Ken Kesey in 1964 and sometimes lived communally at his homes in California and Oregon. The group promoted the use of psychedelic drugs. Their motto was ‘Never Trust a Prankster.’ Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters are noted for the sociological significance of a lengthy road trip they took in the summer of 1964, traveling across the United States in a psychedelic painted school bus enigmatically and variably labeled ‘Further.’ Their early escapades were chronicled by Tom Wolfe in ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.’ Wolfe also documents a notorious 1966 trip on Further from Mexico through Houston, stopping to visit Kesey’s friend, novelist Larry McMurtry. Kesey was in flight from a drug charge at the time. Notable members of the group include Carolyn Garcia (named ‘Mountain Girl’ by Kesey). ‘Whole Earth Catalog’ founder Stewart Brand, cartoonist Paul Foster, the Grateful Dead, improvisation pioneer Del Close (then a lighting designer for the Grateful Dead), Wavy Gravy, journalist Paul Krassner, and ‘Kentucky Fab Five’ writers Ed McClanahan and Gurney Norman (who overlapped with Kesey and Babbs as creative writing graduate students at Stanford University) were associated with the group to varying degrees.
On June 17, 1964, Kesey and 13 Merry Pranksters boarded ‘Further’ at Kesey’s ranch in La Honda, California, and set off eastward. Kesey wanted to see what would happen when hallucinogenic-inspired spontaneity confronted what he saw as the banality and conformity of American society. One author has suggested that the bus trip reversed the historic American westward movement of the centuries. The trip’s original purpose was to celebrate the publication of Kesey’s novel ‘Sometimes a Great Notion’ and to visit the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. The Pranksters were enthusiastic users of marijuana, amphetamines, and LSD, and in the process of their journey they are said to have ‘turned on’ many people by introducing them to these drugs. The psychedelically painted bus had its stated destination as being ‘further.’ This was the goal of the Merry Pranksters, a destination that could only be obtained through the expansion of one’s own perceptions of reality. They traveled cross-country giving LSD to anyone who was willing to try it (LSD was legal in the United States until October 1966). Novelist Robert Stone, who met the bus on its arrival in New York, has written that those accompanying Kesey on the trip were Neal Cassady (described by Stone as ‘the world’s greatest driver, who could roll a joint while backing a 1937 Packard onto the lip of the Grand Canyon’), Ken Babbs (‘fresh from the Nam, full of radio nomenclature, and with a command voice that put cops to flight’), Jane Burton (‘a pregnant young philosophy professor who declined no challenges’), Page Browning (‘a Hell’s Angel candidate’), George Walker, Sandy Lehmann-Haupt (‘dis-MOUNT’), Mike Hagen (‘Mal Function’), Ron Bevirt (‘Hassler’), and Paula Sundstren (‘Gretchin Fetchin, Slime Queen’).
An entheogen [en-theo-gen] (‘generating the divine within’) is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context. Historically, entheogens were mostly derived from plant sources and have been used in a variety of traditional religious contexts. Entheogens can supplement many diverse practices for healing, transcendence, and revelation, including: meditation, psychonautics, art projects, and psychedelic therapy. Entheogens have been used in a ritualized context for thousands of years. Examples of traditional entheogens include: peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, uncured tobacco, cannabis, ayahuasca, salvia, iboga, morning glory, and Amanita muscaria mushrooms.
With the advent of organic chemistry, there now exist many synthetic substances with similar psychoactive properties, many derived from these plants. Many pure active compounds with psychoactive properties have been isolated from these organisms and chemically synthesized, including mescaline, psilocybin, DMT, salvinorin A, ibogaine, ergine, and muscimol, respectively. Semi-synthetic (e.g. LSD derived from ergine) and synthetic substances (e.g. DPT used by the Temple of the True Inner Light and 2C-B used by the Sangoma) have also been developed. Entheogens may be compounded through the work of a shaman or apothecary in a tea, admixture, or potion like ayahuasca or bhang.
The mesolimbic pathway is one of the dopaminergic pathways in the brain. The pathway begins in the midbrain (part of the brain stem) and connects to the limbic system (Paleomammalian brain) via the nucleus accumbens (‘pleasure center’), the amygdala (associated with the assignment of emotions, especially fear and anxiety; there are two, one in each temporal lobe, and their functions may be lateralized), and the hippocampus (associated with procedural and declarative memory) as well as to the medial prefrontal cortex. The mesolimbic dopamine system is widely believed to be a ‘reward’ pathway, but that theory is not universally accepted.
Sensitization [sen-si-tuh-zey-shuhn] is an example of non-associative learning (learning involving exposure to a single event) in which the progressive amplification of a response follows repeated administrations of a stimulus. An everyday example of this mechanism is a warm sensation followed by pain caused by constantly rubbing an arm. The pain is the result of the progressively amplified response of the nerve endings. Sensitization is thought to underlie both adaptive as well as maladaptive learning processes in the organism. Sensitization refers to the process by which a cellular receptor becomes more likely to respond to a stimulus (more efficient). There are a several of different types of sensitization: long-term potentiation, kindling, central sensitization, and drug sensitization.
Habituation [huh-bich-oo-ey-shuhn] occurs when an animal responds less to repeated stimuli. It is a primitive kind of learning and a basic process of biological systems. Animals do not need conscious motivation or awareness for habituation to occur; it enables them to distinguish meaningful information from background stimuli. Habituation occurs in all animals, as well as in some large protozoans. The decrease in responding is specific to the habituated stimulus. For example, if one was habituated to the taste of lemon, their responding would increase significantly when presented with the taste of lime (stimulus discrimination). Two factors that can influence habituation include the time between each stimulus, and the length of time the stimulus is presented. Shorter intervals and longer durations increase habituation, and vice versa.
In a human example of habituation, a short time after a person dresses, the stimulus clothing creates disappears from our nervous systems and we become unaware of it. In this way, habituation is used to ignore any continual stimulus. This sort of habituation can occur through changes in sensory nerves themselves, and through negative feedback from the brain to peripheral sensory organs.
Psychedelia [sahy-ki-deel-yuh] is a name given to the subculture of people who use psychedelic drugs, and a style of psychedelic artwork and psychedelic music derived from the experience of altered consciousness that uses highly distorted and surreal visuals, sound effects and reverberation, and bright colors and full spectrums and animation (including cartoons) to evoke and convey to a viewer or listener the artist’s experience while using such drugs. A psychedelic experience is characterized by the striking perception of aspects of one’s mind previously unknown, or by the creative exuberance of the mind liberated from its ostensibly ordinary fetters. Psychedelic states are an array of experiences including changes of perception such as hallucinations (perceiving stimuli where none exist), synesthesia (mixed up senses), altered states of awareness or focused consciousness, variation in thought patterns, trance or hypnotic states, mystical states, and other mind alterations. These processes can lead some people to experience changes in mental operation defining their self identity (whether in momentary acuity or chronic development) different enough from their previous normal state that it can excite feelings of newly formed understanding ranging from revelation & enlightenment to the opposing polarity of confusion & psychosis.
Psychedelic states may be elicited by various techniques, such as meditation, sensory stimulation or deprivation, and most commonly by the use of psychedelic substances. When these psychoactive substances are used for religious, shamanic, or spiritual purposes, they are termed entheogens. The term was first coined as a noun in 1957 by psychiatrist Humphry Osmond as an alternative descriptor for hallucinogenic drugs in the context of psychedelic psychotherapy. Seeking a name for the experience induced by LSD, Osmond contacted Aldous Huxley, a personal acquaintance and advocate for the therapeutic use of the substance. Huxley coined the term ‘phanerothyme,’ from the Greek terms for ‘manifest’ ‘spirit.’ In a letter to Osmond, he wrote: ‘To make this mundane world sublime, Take half a gram of phanerothyme.’ To which Osmond responded: ‘To fathom Hell or soar angelic, Just take a pinch of psychedelic.’ It was on this term that Osmond eventually settled, because it was ‘clear, euphonious and uncontaminated by other associations.’ This mongrel spelling of the word ‘psychodelic’ was loathed by American ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, but championed by Timothy Leary, who thought it sounded better.
Harm reduction refers to a range of public health policies designed to reduce the harmful consequences associated with human behaviors, even if those behaviors are risky or illegal. Examples of behaviors targeted for harm reduction policies include recreational drug use and prostitution. Criticism of harm reduction typically centers on concerns that tolerating risky or illegal behavior sends a message to the community that these behaviors are acceptable. In the case of recreational drug use, harm reduction is put forward as a useful perspective alongside the more conventional approaches of demand and supply reduction. Many advocates argue that prohibitionist laws criminalize people for suffering from a disease and cause harm, for example by obliging drug addicts to obtain drugs of unknown purity from unreliable criminal sources at high prices, increasing the risk of overdose and death.
Providing a medical prescription for pharmaceutical heroin (diamorphine) to heroin addicts has been seen in some countries as a way of solving the ‘heroin problem’ with potential benefits to the individual addict and to society. The treatment greatly improves the social and health situation of patients, while reducing costs incurred by delinquency, criminal trials, incarceration and health interventions. In Switzerland, heroin assisted treatment is fully a part of the national health program. There are several dozen centers throughout the country at which heroin-dependent people can receive heroin in a controlled environment. The Swiss heroin maintenance program is generally regarded as a successful and valuable component of the country’s overall approach to minimizing the harms caused by drug use. A German study of long-term heroin addicts demonstrated that diamorphine was significantly more effective than methadone (a synthetic opioid) in keeping patients in treatment and in improving their health and social situation. Many participants were able to find employment, some even started a family after years of homelessness and delinquency. Since then, treatment had continued in the cities that participated in the pilot study, until heroin maintenance was permanently included into the national health system in 2009.
The eight-circuit model of consciousness is a transhuman (an intermediary form between the human and a hypothetical posthuman) theory proposed by Timothy Leary and expanded on by Robert Anton Wilson and Antero Alli. The model describes eight circuits of information (eight ‘brains’) that operate within the human nervous system. Each circuit is concerned with a different sphere of activity. The lower four, the ‘larval circuits,’ deal with normal psychology, while the upper four, the ‘stellar circuits,’ deal with psychic, mystical, enlightened and psychedelic states of mind. These higher circuits are thought to have only recently evolved, with just a fraction of human beings using them. The higher the circuit, the fewer people have activated it. Leary describes the four larval circuits as necessary for surviving and functioning in a terrestrial human society. He proposed that the higher four exist primarily for future use by humans who might someday migrate to outer space and live extraterrestrially.
Leary, Alli and Wilson have written about the model in depth and how each circuit operates, both in the lives of individual people and in societies. The term ‘circuits’ came from the first wave of cybernetics research and development in the United States in the 1970s. (Other have proposed that the term ‘systems’ should be substituted for ‘circuits’ to reflect both a systems theory approach and also the changing anatomy of an entity as it goes through a neurological change). Each successive circuit represents a more complex phase of evolution. In line with recapitulation theory (the idea that the embryonic development of an individual organism follows the same path as the evolutionary history of its species), the model applies equally to the evolution of an individual organism and the evolution of the whole tree of life. Each neurological circuit provides a new cognitive function (whether or not the organism is aware of the circumstances that led to its activation). The eight circuits are 1) oral biosurvival; 2) emotional–territorial; 3) symbolic or neurosemantic–dexterity; 4) domestic or socio-sexual; 5) neurosomatic; 6) neuroelectric or metaprogramming; 7) neurogenetic or morphogenetic; and 8) psychoatomic or quantum non-local (Overmind).
Mind at Large is a concept from ‘The Doors of Perception’ and ‘Heaven and Hell’ by Aldous Huxley. This philosophy was influenced by the ideas of philosopher and historian C. D. Broad. Psychedelic drugs are thought to disable filters which block or suppress signals related to mundane functions from reaching the conscious mind. In this book, Huxley explores the idea that the human mind filters reality, partly because handling the details of all of the impressions and images coming in would be unbearable, partly because it has been taught to do so. He believes that psychotropic drugs can partly remove this filter, which leaves the drug user exposed to ‘Mind at Large.’ Huxley was administered mescaline, and had an interviewer prompt him to comment on various stimuli around him, such as books and flowers. The conversation was recorded and the book mainly concerns Huxley’s thoughts on what he says in the recordings. He observed that everyday objects lose their functionality and suddenly exist ‘as such.’ Space and dimension become irrelevant, and perceptions seem to be enlarged and at times even overwhelming.
‘Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful. According to such a theory, each one of us is potentially ‘Mind at Large.’ Also ‘In The Doors of Perception,’ Huxley stated: ‘In the final stage of egolessness there is an ‘obscure knowledge’ that All is in all—that All is actually each. This is as near, I take it, as a finite mind can ever come to ‘perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe.”
Hallucinogens are drugs which can cause hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or otherwise perceiving things that are not real). They are a general group of pharmacological agents that can be divided into three broad categories: psychedelics (drugs with perception-altering effects), dissociatives (drugs that produce feelings of detachment – dissociation – from the environment and self), and deliriants (drugs that induce a state of delirium in the user). These classes of psychoactive drugs have in common that they can cause subjective changes in perception, thought, emotion and consciousness. Unlike other psychoactive drugs, such as stimulants and opioids, these drugs do not merely amplify familiar states of mind, but rather induce experiences that are qualitatively different from those of ordinary consciousness. These experiences are often compared to non-ordinary forms of consciousness such as trance, meditation, dreams, or insanity.
Hallucinogens have several common characteristics, for example, in proportion to other effects, changes in thought, perception, and mood should predominate; intellectual or memory impairment should be minimal; stupor, narcosis, or excessive stimulation should not be an integral effect; autonomic (involuntary) nervous system side effects should be minimal; and addictive craving should be absent. Not all drugs produce the same effect and even the same drug can produce different effects in the same individual on different occasions. The term ‘hallucinogen’ is a misnomer because these drugs do not cause hallucinations at typical doses. Hallucinations, strictly speaking, are perceptions that have no basis in reality, but that appear entirely realistic. A typical ‘hallucination’ induced by a psychedelic drug is more accurately described as a modification of regular perception, and the subject is usually quite aware of the illusory and personal nature of their perceptions. Deliriants, such as diphenhydramine and atropine, may cause hallucinations in the proper sense.
Psychedelic therapy refers to therapeutic practices involving the use of psychedelic drugs, particularly serotonergic psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin, DMT, and 2C-B. As an alternative to synonyms such as ‘hallucinogen,’ ‘entheogen,’ ‘psychotomimetic’ and other functionally constructed names, the use of the term ‘psychedelic’ (‘mind-manifesting’) emphasizes that those who use these drugs as part of a therapeutic practice believe these drugs can facilitate beneficial exploration of the psyche. Proponents of psychedelic therapy also believe psychedelics enhance or unlock key psychoanalytic abilities, and so make it easier for conventional psychotherapy to take place. Psychedelic therapy, in the broadest possible sense of the term, undoubtedly dates from prehistoric knowledge of hallucinogenic plants. Though usually viewed as predominantly spiritual in nature, elements of psychotherapeutic practice can be recognized in the entheogenic or shamanic rituals of many cultures. Shamans have historically been well known throughout the world to mix two or more substances to produce synergistic effects.
Melange [mey-lahnj] from French ‘mélange’ (‘set of diverse elements’) – also called the ‘spice’ – is the name of the fictional drug central to the ‘Dune’ series of science fiction novels by Frank Herbert, and derivative works. In the series, the most essential and valuable commodity in the universe is melange, a geriatric drug that gives the user a longer life span, greater vitality, and heightened awareness; it can also unlock prescience (foreknowledge of events) in some humans, depending upon the dosage and the consumer’s physiology. This prescience-enhancing property makes safe and accurate interstellar travel possible. Melange comes with a steep price, however: it is addictive, and withdrawal is fatal.
Herbert is vague in describing the appearance of the spice. He hints at its color when he notes that Guild Navigator Edric ‘swam in a container of orange gas … His tank’s vents emitted a pale orange cloud rich with the smell of the geriatric spice, melange.’ Later, a discovered hoard of melange appears as ‘mounds of dark reddish brown.’ Herbert also indicates fluorescence when the character Moneo notes, ‘Great bins of melange lay all around in a gigantic room cut from native rock and illuminated by glowglobes of an ancient design with arabesques of metal scrollwork upon them. The spice had glowed radiant blue in the dim silver light. And the smell – bitter cinnamon, unmistakable.’ Herbert writes repeatedly that melange possesses the odor of cinnamon. Lady Jessica notes that her first taste of spice ‘tasted like cinnamon.’ Dr. Yueh adds that the flavor is ‘never twice the same .. It’s like life – it presents a different face each time you take it. Some hold that the spice produces a learned-flavor reaction. The body, learning a thing is good for it, interprets the flavor as pleasurable – slightly euphoric. And, like life, never to be truly synthesized.’
The Gin Craze was a period in the first half of the 18th century when the consumption of gin increased rapidly in Great Britain, especially in London. Many people overconsumed and the city had a virtual epidemic of extreme drunkenness; this provoked moral outrage and a legislative backlash that some compare to the modern drug wars. Parliament passed five major Acts, in 1729, 1736, 1743, 1747 and 1751, designed to control the consumption of gin. Though many similar drinks were available, and alcohol consumption was considerable at all levels of society, it was gin (otherwise known as ‘Mother’s Ruin’ or ‘Madam Geneva,’ a misspelling of the original drink called ‘jenever’) which caused the greatest public concern.
Gin was popularized in England following the accession of William of Orange in 1688. Gin provided an alternative to French brandy at a time of both political and religious conflict between Britain and France. Between 1689 and 1697, the Government passed a range of legislation aimed at restricting brandy imports and encouraging gin production. Most importantly, the monopoly of the ‘London Guild of Distillers’ was broken in 1690, thereby opening up the market in gin distillation. The production and consumption of English gin, which was then popular among politicians and even Queen Anne, was encouraged by the government.