The first time he drank ayahuasca, an infusion of psychoactive plants considered sacred by Amazonian Indians, Hamilton Souther felt himself falling into a spinning vortex of total insanity. The California native was deep in the Peruvian Amazon and the dark visions were coming hard and fast. He saw hummingbirds with 30-foot wingspans. A bush turned into a wild boar and began screaming obscenities at him. He puked. He pooped. He prepared to die.
The 2008 World Psychedelic Forum was an almost shockingly respectable affair. Held in Basel, Switzerland, in a spacious convention center next to the five-star Swissôtel Basel, the event drew 1,500 visitors for a two-day symposium on the past and present state of psychedelic thought and research. Despite flashes of eccentricity and DayGlo, you could have easily thought you were at a conference for alternative medicine or some abstruse but uncontroversial hobby.
It’s been almost 50 years since a generation of young people were urged to “Turn on, tune in and drop out.” with the aid of psychedelic drugs. But at least one hallucinogenic drug remains legal and widely available — and it’s become popular with today’s teenagers. The drug, an herb called Salvia divinorum, is not new. Historically, it was used by the Mazatec Indians in Oaxaca, Mexico, for religious or healing rituals.
Brain-imaging studies performed in animals at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory provide researchers with clues about why an increasingly popular recreational drug that causes hallucinations and motor-function impairment in humans is abused. Using trace amounts of Salvia divinorum – also known as “salvia,” a Mexican mint plant that can be smoked in the form of dried leaves or serum – Brookhaven scientists found that the drug’s behavior in the brains of primates mimics the extremely fast and brief “high” observed in humans.
From Koolhaas and Balmond’s 2006 floating Serpentine Pavilion to Felicity Scott’s reappraisal of art-architecture activists Ant Farm in her book Architecture or Techno-Utopia, we have recently been reminded of that potent band of time between the end of the sixties and the start of the seventies.
Ayurveda is making major inroads into area sexual treatment. Drugs with herbal ingredients to treat erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation will soon be tried on humans after they have shown positive signs on animals. If proven successful, this would help Ayurveda, which usually guards the processes and ingredients of its preparations as secret, gain acceptance as an evidence-based medical system.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy has been spending millions of taxpayer dollars on advertisements and printed material declaring that marijuana causes cancer. The truth is just the opposite – marijuana can prevent cancer. Recent research has shown that the cannabinoids found in marijuana can not only halt the spread of cancer but can also kill cancer cells.
I am deep in the Amazon rainforest, anxiously losing my mind as the world begins to disintegrate. Around me, all sense of distance is wrapping itself up like spatial origami, slowly shrinking until an entire dimension has disappeared. A moment ago, I was surrounded by 200 people dressed in white and singing like angels, but now they occupy the same space as me… if that makes any sense.
Eleven states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, leaving those busted to face only tickets and fines instead of a criminal record and possible jail time. But most of them decriminalized in the 1970s, with Nevada being the most recent addition to the list in 2001. This year, thanks to a carefully-crafted initiative campaign by the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy (CSMP), which follows two years of groundwork-laying by local activists, Massachusetts may be the next state to take the step.
From Amazon jungles to the American Plains, British mental wards, Swiss labs, New York mansions and Grateful Dead shows, the history of hallucinogenic drugs is as fantastic as the visions the drugs produce. Wade Davis is a modern-day anthropologist, author (“The Serpent and the Rainbow”) and protege of one of psychedelia’s most intrepid forefathers — Richard Evans Schultes.
Cultural anthropologist and author, Dr. John Broomfield, looks a little like a modern-day Indiana Jones, and he has a novel way of finding solutions to society’s pressing humanitarian dilemmas. Dr. Broomfield has spent much of his life travelling the globe studying the ancient shamanic practices of the world’s indigenous cultures: the methods he says our tribal ancestors used to resolve problems before mankind became complicated.
Alex Grey paints souls. His work shows human bodies — rendered with medical-illustration precision — wrapped in layers of sacred energy. Whether you believe Grey’s work depicts the reality of divine auras or a particularly vibrant artistic license doesn’t much matter. His paintings have an uncanny effect on viewers,