Seven years ago in my middle school health class, I was introduced to a diverse array of recreational drugs. I still remember my friends' innocent, carefree chats on the way to the gym and our bespectacled, strict health teacher.
I remember at the time I wasn't much concerned with the drugs themselves. For our unit-ending project, I diligently researched and compiled the facts, prepared something to say, presented my work, and collected my grade.
At the most, perhaps I briefly wondered why anyone would actually be driven to consume substances with qualities like that. It was unthinkable to me that one day I might be interested in actually trying any of them. Today, I marvel at my transformation from unquestioning obedience to eager open-mindedness.
Despite all of my health teacher's efforts, none of those teachings could dampen my curiosity just years later. I knew that nothing could replace firsthand experience.
But the risks still existed, no matter how prepared or determined I felt.
About 4% of those who have taken psychedelic drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms develop the condition known as hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). It's characterized by visual distortions, similar to those experienced while tripping, but persisting after the drug has cleared ones system. HPPD can last for months and even years.
For me, the symptoms consist primarily of visual snow and afterimages. Visual snow refers to an intrusive layer of static over the visual field; as for afterimages, most people are familiar with the scenario of looking at a bright light and having the image "seared" into their vision. HPPD afterimages are similar, but they occur sporadically, in all kinds of scenarios throughout the day.
After a trip midway through 2019, the symptoms appeared for me within a month. They can be pretty awful. Theyre especially noticeable when trying to admire distant mountains and finding them difficult to focus on through the visual distortions. They also obscure and distort the blue sky.
There are plenty of folks out there who have it worse than I do; for some, the condition hinders their ability to work and navigate daily life. Some require treatment with anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines. Thankfully, my symptoms arent that extreme.
Dr. Charles Chavkin, a professor in the department of pharmacology, shed some light on the condition. He said that, as of right now, scientists generally hypothesize that HPPD occurs not as the result of drug-induced neural damage, but as a result of the drug interacting with a person with already predisposed neurochemistry.
"There's really no evidence that typical hallucinogens like LSD or psilocybin are themselves neurotoxic," Chavkin said. Some people are uniquely vulnerable for reasons we dont yet understand.
He pointed out that only a small, specific subgroup of UW students decides to ever experiment with hallucinogens.
You gotta ask, what is it about that subgroup? Chavkin said. What preselects them, and is this vulnerability that we just described a part of that selection? Where's that curiosity com[ing] from? Could it be that they've been experiencing [something] that is triggered by some underlying differences in their existing neurochemistry?"
Chavkin also brought up the well-documented antidepressant effects of psychedelics and hypothesized that there might be a connection between them and the HPPD phenomena since both arise after the drug has cleared the system. In all the excitement over psychedelic therapy, perhaps something's being overlooked: If the psychedelic trip facilitates a long-term alteration in mood, then perhaps it causes other, less desirable long-term effects on the brain.
[These drugs] have actions that are unknown; you're taking great risks that we don't really understand or appreciate, Chavkin said. Don't be assuming that you're invulnerable, as many people do."
Sound advice. It's always hard to imagine that you'll be among that tiny percentage that contracts a condition, until it happens.
The truth of the matter is that no amount of education, influence from my family, or advice from experts could have altered my decision to experiment with drugs. I don't regret it on the whole, but in the end, I believe I may have indulged in one trip too many.
I think for many college students, the drug education of their youth didn't make much of an impression. Maybe the voice of a fellow college student can be more effective. If you're like me, you're gonna do some drugs. Satisfy your curiosity, but maybe afterward, respect the substances enough to let them go.
Reach contributing writer Aidan Treat at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aidantreat
Like what you're reading? Support high-quality student journalism by donatinghere.
- Are NDEs caused by carbon dioxide overload? And what about psychedelics? - Patheos - June 24th, 2020
- ATAI dives into digital therapeutics to boost mental health care - FierceBiotech - June 24th, 2020
- 'People Should Have the Fundamental Right To Change Their Consciousness' - Reason - June 24th, 2020
- Revive Therapeutics betting on psychedelics and potential COVID-19 treatment Bucillamine - Proactive Investors USA & Canada - June 20th, 2020
- These Psychedelic Drugs May Be Key to Revolutionizing Weight Loss Treatment - Yahoo Finance - June 20th, 2020
- Champignon Brands CEO Dr Roger McIntyre authors studies appearing in two leading scientific journals - Proactive Investors USA & Canada - June 20th, 2020
- The effects of psychedelics on the brain's "consciousness conductor" - New Atlas - June 17th, 2020
- Psilocybin Dulls Activity in Brain Region Linked With Consciousness - Psych Congress Network - June 17th, 2020
- Champignon Brands revamps its brand identity to better reflect its scientific focus on psychedelic medicine - Proactive Investors UK - June 17th, 2020
- Mota Ventures Appoints Roger C. Clinton as Member of Advisory Board to Verrian GmbH - Its Psilocybin Research Subsidiary - Stockhouse - June 17th, 2020
- Cannabis Countdown: Top 10 Marijuana And Psychedelics Industry News Stories Of The Week - Yahoo Finance - June 13th, 2020
- New Psychedelics Stocks and Acquisitions | 2020-06-08 | Investing News - Stockhouse - June 13th, 2020
- Pure Extracts: The Second Wave of Psychedelic Operators - The Deep Dive - June 13th, 2020
- New analysis claims the FDA rushed ketamine's approval for depression treatment - Big Think - June 13th, 2020
- How Liv Vasquez Uses Plants & Food for Wellness and Healing - Thrillist - June 13th, 2020
- Companies are starting to bet big on psychedelic drugs to treat US mental health epidemic - Proactive Investors USA & Canada - June 6th, 2020
- CHECK IT OUT: New from Lady Gaga; take a wild ride; beach reading; and a screen gem - Wicked Local - June 6th, 2020
- Dr. Bronner's Soaps Wants to Protect You From COVIDand Legalize Your Right to Magic Mushrooms - Mother Jones - June 6th, 2020
- 6 celebrities wildest psychedelic trips, as told by themselves - Insider - INSIDER - June 1st, 2020
- Rate and Review: Have a Good Trip - The Independent Florida Alligator - June 1st, 2020
- First-of-Its-Kind Study Hints at How Psilocybin Works in The Brain to Dissolve Ego - ScienceAlert - June 1st, 2020
- Codebase says psychedelic investee Red Light Holland debuts on CSE with ticker TRIP - Proactive Investors USA & Canada - June 1st, 2020
- Todd Shapiro of Red Light Holland on 'magic truffles' and the multi-billion dollar psychedelics market - InvestorIntel - June 1st, 2020
- This Trippy Oregon Theme Park Is A Low-Key Psychedelic Playground - Thrillist - May 15th, 2020
- EGF Theramed Appoints George Anstey to Board of Directors - Benzinga - May 15th, 2020
- Empower Clinics and EuroLife Brands Close Definitive Agreement and Sign Multi-Year Multi-National Licence Agreement - GuruFocus.com - May 15th, 2020
- Have a Good Trip Demystifies Psychedelics - The New Republic - May 14th, 2020
- Investing in Psychedelics - Energy and Capital - May 14th, 2020
- Psilocybin May be the Key to Treating a Range of Health Issues, Including Obesity - Baystreet.ca - May 14th, 2020
- Movie review: Netflix's 'Have a Good Trip' is only a mild high - Eagle-Tribune - May 14th, 2020
- Psychedelics - Alcohol and Drug Foundation - May 10th, 2020
- Celebrities share LSD trips in Netflix documentary 'Have A Good Trip' - Insider - INSIDER - May 10th, 2020
- The Queen of Consciousness Driving Psychedelic Study and Advocacy - Filter - May 10th, 2020
- The 'Billions' Stock Watch: It's Time For Psychedelics And Subterfuge - UPROXX - May 10th, 2020
- Have a Good Trip: Netflix release and cast as celebrities recall mind-bending experiences - Mirror Online - May 10th, 2020
- From "Solar Opposites" to "Midnight Gospel," recent otherworldly animation is worth the head-trip - Salon - May 10th, 2020
- Netflix Reveals Celebrities' Wildest Drug Trips, From Anthony Bourdain to Carrie Fisher - The Daily Beast - May 10th, 2020
- Psychedelic mushrooms for depression: 'This is the one that changed things' - DW (English) - April 26th, 2020
- MindMed wants to develop a drug to help end a bad LSD trip - Fast Company - April 26th, 2020
- Netflixs The Midnight Gospel Is a Profoundly Weird Psychedelic Trip You Want To Take - Mashable India - April 26th, 2020
- Professor describes uses and history of hallucinogens - The Daily Evergreen - April 26th, 2020
- Media Central moves to provide coverage on emerging Psychedelics and eGames sectors - Proactive Investors USA & Canada - April 26th, 2020
- This video game does the same things to your brain as magic mushrooms - Happy Mag - April 26th, 2020
- Inborn Psychedelia on White Nights' Into the Lap of the Ancient Mother - Invisible Oranges - April 26th, 2020
- Cannabis Countdown: Top 10 Marijuana And Psychedelic Stock News Stories Of The Week - Yahoo Finance - April 9th, 2020
- Psychedelic mushrooms could affect the brain long after its active ingredient leaves the system - The Next Web - April 9th, 2020
- We Could Be Taking Psychedelics to Help Treat Mental Illness in Just Five Years - Newsweek - April 7th, 2020
- Magic mushrooms to treat depression? COMPASS Pathways pushes forward with U.S. patent for psilocybin therapy - Straight.com - April 7th, 2020
- Key Insights from PSYCH: The Psychedelics as Medicine Report - Prohibition Partners - March 18th, 2020
- Cannabis Countdown: Top 10 Marijuana And Psychedelic Stock News Stories Of The Week - Benzinga - March 18th, 2020
- With No Progress in Therapy, NYC Couple Turns to Psychedelics for Help - NBC New York - March 13th, 2020
- Upscale Psychedelics Therapy Center Opens On New Yorks 5th Avenue - Forbes - March 13th, 2020
- Why Kevin O'Leary is betting on psychedelics - Wealth Professional - March 13th, 2020
- Forget taking a pill a day. Canada is using psychedelics to revolutionize the way we treat mental health and addiction - The GrowthOp - March 13th, 2020
- High Stakes: Will The Legalization Of Psychedelics Mimic That Of Cannabis? Will It Learn From Its Mistakes? - Benzinga - March 13th, 2020
- Scientists Just Proved These Two Brain Networks Are Key to Consciousness - Singularity Hub - March 13th, 2020
- Cannabis Countdown: Top 10 Marijuana Stock News Stories Of The Week - MarketWatch - March 13th, 2020
- Podcast Host Joe Rogan Is Steadily Documenting A Psychedelic Record Of The 21st Century - Forbes - February 27th, 2020
- Empower Clinics to create psilocybin and psychadelics division leveraging corporate wellness and franchise clinic network - Proactive Investors USA... - February 27th, 2020
- The Psilocybin Movement Is Like The Cannabis Movement (Except When It's Not) - Benzinga - February 27th, 2020
- Researchers went to festivals to study psychedelic drugs and found they left people feeling happy and connected hours after the high wore off -... - January 22nd, 2020
- Psychedelics and Their 'Mystical Effects' in the Real World - Medscape - January 22nd, 2020
- Psychedelic Events Are Going Mainstream, Where The Much-Maligned Mushroom Industry Focuses On Mental Health - Forbes - January 18th, 2020
- Psychedelics have 'extraordinarily potent' anti-inflammatory power. Is there a place for them in mainstream medicine? - Genetic Literacy Project - January 18th, 2020
- Silicon Valley Is Micro-Dosing Magic Mushrooms To Boost Their Careers - Forbes - January 18th, 2020
- NYC To Host Economics Of Psychedelics Investing Summit - Benzinga - January 18th, 2020
- The Best FREE Things to Do for the Next Week - My New Orleans - January 18th, 2020
- Photos of the Stuff That Fascinates People While They're Tripping On LSD - VICE - January 18th, 2020
- Rats on DMT hint at the benefits of psychedelic microdosing - Inverse - December 31st, 2019
- BEYOND LOCAL: Would you ever consider psychedelics to treat PTSD? - SooToday.com - December 31st, 2019
- A Trailblazer of Global Consciousness: Ram Dass Led the Way - Psychology Today - December 31st, 2019
- The Psychedelic Renaissance and the importance of drug policy reform - Open Access Government - December 13th, 2019
- Magic Mushrooms Move Closer to Mainstream Medicine As VC-Backed Compass Touts Safety, Positive Mood Alteration - Karma - December 13th, 2019
- Miami Clinics Use Ketamine IV Therapy to Help Treat Depression and PTSD - Miami New Times - December 13th, 2019
- Andy Frasco Talks Finding Emotional Balance With Psychedelics On 'Psychedelics Today' Podcast [Listen] - Live for Live Music - November 30th, 2019
- Will psychedelics be available commonly in the near future? - BPhrm Dv - November 30th, 2019
- Letters to the Editor: Psychedelics on their way - Valley Advocate - November 30th, 2019
- Scientists Have a Fascinating New Map of the Human Brain on DMT - VICE - November 30th, 2019
- Hes a fungi: U.S. health agency asks researcher to give it the lowdown on psilocybin mushrooms - The GrowthOp - November 30th, 2019
- A Magic Mushroom Test Case, and the Man Behind It - OZY - November 30th, 2019