The Trip

Vanessa walked with me as I stared at the moonlit trees. They seemed to be aware of my presence, their twisting branches reaching toward me. I wasn't afraid, though; I was drawn to them. As we approached one particularly old and massive tree, Vanessa said she wanted me to touch it. I think she just wanted to see my reaction. When I laid my palm on the cool bark, it felt as though I could see into the tree's roots and know its history. I inhaled sharply. A sense of euphoria rushed through my body.

One of the ironies of LSD is that you are generally aware that your state is the result of the drug. The floors may move like water, but you know it's not water. And yet your mind can return to such a childlike state that you may try to dip your hand into the floor anyway, just in case. Or, you may not be certain whether what you're seeing is hallucination. Getting another sense involved, as I did by touching the tree, helps. Maybe the tree wasn't conscious, but my childlike fascination compelled me to explore the possibility.

I've long been an opponent of the war on drugs, and one of the dumbest ideas to spring from it is the idea of the "gateway drug." It's false because drugs work very differently in the body and have different effects. If you like the kind of high you get from marijuana, by far the best way to get more intensity is just to smoke more and/or stronger weed. And the contrast between marijuana and LSD is one of the best examples of this.

On marijuana, your senses are somewhat dull. You feel relaxed, maybe slightly euphoric, and calm. You don't want to do much. Your thoughts are slow, and you forget things easily. You may forget significant amounts of things you experienced while high.

On LSD, your senses are heightened. Everything is brighter and more colorful. A bird chirping in the distance sounds like it's right next to you. Foods are so intense wth flavor that eating can be over-stimulating. A light touch from your partner can feel orgasmic.

Your thoughts race. You think with remarkable clarity, sometimes perceiving anxieties or other challenges in novel ways that help you grow. You see patterns you had never noticed before, or think of a new way to do something you've done mindlessly a hundred times. A friend of mine, for example, figured out a novel way of solving complex math problems that saved him time with schoolwork.

The only problem is that everything is a rabbit hole. A thought, a sensory experience--it's very easy to get distracted. On one trip, it took me two hours to mop my kitchen. Not because I was slow at mopping, but because my mind jumped quickly from one thought to the next. I'd spy dog hair on the couch and remember I wanted to vacuum. On my way to get the vacuum I'd become fixated on the movement of the walls. I'd look around and see one of the dogs. Play time! I'd get my camera to take pictures of the dogs. Then I'd want to listen to music, so I'd set some up on the TV. I'd turn around and see the mop. Better finish the kitchen!

Before I tried it, I was afraid of having a "bad trip." I wasn't sure what to expect. Fortunately, I've learned there's nothing to be afraid of. Because of your heightened senses, crowds and excessive noise might be overwhelming. Your first time at least, it might be a good idea to stay at home or at least remain in a calm environment surrounded by friends. Fortunately, you generally have a sense of what will be too simulating, and can easily avoid uncomfortable situations. You might also find your thoughts going down a rabbit hole that is upsetting. LSD's ability to draw anxieties and trauma to the fore is usually a good thing, but some people aren't prepared for the emotional intensity. While one can certainly embrace this and have what is better described as a "challenging" trip than a "bad" one, it can be a good idea to have on hand what I like to call a totem (in a nod to Inception)--something that can redirect your thoughts toward something positive. Fortunately, it's incredibly easy to drift between unrelated topics while tripping.

LSD is non toxic, non addictive, and there is no known lethal dosage. It's safe to say that any theoretically dangerous amount would be cost-prohibitive for most people--literally tens of thousands of dollars. And LSD is hard to find in the first place, much less in such copious amounts. There is a tolerance of sorts, although the mechanism is very different from addictive drugs like heroin or cocaine. Within a few days of repeated use, a fixed dosage will produce no effect. The simple solution is to only trip occasionally, which is certainly ideal anyway as setting aside a full day is difficult for many people. Mine were many weeks apart. Since the drug is not addictive, it's not a difficult prospect--though you'll likely want to trip again because it can be such a pleasant and even transcendent experience.

And although the experience may indeed be life-altering, I often tell others to temper any expectations of transformative self therapy or profound epiphanies. Mostly, you will just feel very good, experience vivid hallucinations, laugh at random things, and mentally race between unrelated but trivial topics. But personally, my trips have been very reflective and helped me resolve deep seated anxieties. The latter hours of the trip are marked by serenity and clarity. This can last several days, which is known as the afterglow. Following a trip, I have no desire to smoke marijuana or consume any other depressant; I'm unfazed by external stressors and feel in control of my emotional state. You may very well remember patterns you saw during your trip, or even experience brief recurrence of hallucinations.

Steve Jobs has famously extolled the virtues of LSD, saying, "Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could." I don't know if I'll ever be as influential as Steve Jobs, but I share his view of the wonder of LSD. It's a transformative experience, and though a trip might be long compared to other drugs, what you can take from it can be carried on far longer.

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