drugs

Taking a trip

It’s New Years Eve and many will be out to celebrate. Some will plan and expect to be in a form of altered state, a buzz, feeling good in some way shape or form. Common combinations or at least socially sanctioned (to a degree) buzzes involve alcohol, dancing and sex, statistics don’t lie just take a look at the number of people who have birthdays on or around September 30th. While moderation will be exercised many will vomit, pass out, coma and all completely legal we see it as a right of passage for mates to have a near death experience consuming alcohol. But anyone caught getting stoned with the potential side effects of scoffing anything they can get their hands on (watch out for your weetbix campers), while giggling at nothing for hours will be deemed a criminal.

Indeed, anyone seeking to enjoy themselves or the world around them through other sensory parameters are deemed irresponsible, selfish, reckless, unstable psychologically, immature or lacking a moral compass. Desire and pleasure seeking for nothing other than the pure experience is a no-no. In fact we police this better than anything and we do it from birth through to death – we can’t even choose how we transition to the after life.

We’re a confused bunch when it comes to the right to experience our embodiment and all the parameters of that, especially the perception of the world and reality. And yet some brave researchers and scientists are asking why the pervasive fear of things like psychedelics. Palliative care has started to go there with LSD and psilocybin. But there is one substance pushing the boundaries from all angles and that is DMT. Ironically it is naturally occurring in our bodies and it has been nick named ‘The Spirit Molecule’ and there is a good documentary about it with real scientists doing actual controlled studies.

What we can and cannot talk about or explore is limited by available knowledge in the public sphere. Schools take an understandably conservative approach and can only teach critical thinking and decision making around notions of legal and illegal substances. Risk and preventing harm dominate with minimal acknowledgement of the reasons why human beings seek connection and sometimes use molecules to achieve this. I say molecules because that is at its most basic, stripped back beyond the paranoia and politics.

Science fiction has gone for example Neromancer, but my favourite is the spice from Dune, talk about a direct, overt reference to mind and body altering substances! I remember stumbling across some incomplete scenes from Avatar and being surprised at one in particular. It involved the ceremony where Jake becomes one of the tribe. We are led to believe this happens through some body paint with swirly patterns. However this couldn’t be further from the truth, the scene is shamanic in context and seems to allude to a serious out of body experience, one that transcends time and space. Jake ‘sees’ the truth. But for reasons unknown it was left incomplete, yet could have shifted the tone of the movie toward a far deeper understanding of why this culture (albeit an fictional one) had a relationship with nature that was profoundly different to the sky people. Back in ‘real world’ I think the Sky People represent the western military industrial complex with its overarching driving force of consumption and competition.

But it’s NYE, its unlikely anyone will read this, and if they do I just hope they read it with the intention it was meant – not as a judgement. So if you are out there tonight enjoying yourself in whatever ‘pop up’ community you join, look after your friends if they have taken on too many molecules of whatever substance. Suspend judgement of others who choose other molecules regardless of their legality, but don’t suspend action of someone is at risk or in danger. Substances and driving or swimming are risky. Being out of it shouldn’t be seen as a crime but simply taking an internal journey, a trip, and Kiwis love a good adventure. Inner space and outer space and spaces in-between are all territories to be explored. Let’s afford ourselves and each other some room to travel differently at different speeds.

 

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No brainer

Could someone please explain to me why giving a biological molecule to a person who is having a perpetual seizure (so is in an induced coma) that is likely to result in some form of permanent brain damage in the very least is somehow an issue about drug use? Or that in order to ‘preserve life’ and ‘do no harm’ doing nothing is better than taking a risk with something ‘unproven’. Alex Renton is 19 and had been in this state since April and the angst around him receiving cannabis oil blows my mind.

I’ve have had enough of doses of morphine to know how it works on my body. I don’t generally use substances in quantities that radically alter my senses. But when you have a kidney stone that wonderful poppy extract that is also a form of opiate is medicine! To not be passing out with pain and screaming in agony is good for me and everyone around me.

It’s time we treated cannabis with a lens other than recreational drug use. The default association of substance use and addiction is part of the problem. One reason for this is the history and social construction of what becomes ‘popular’ knowledge. This reinforces polarising so the general social discourses and culture repeat this through all media and discussion. Our language is limited to describe things so we fall into binaries that lock our understanding down for good. Many people only have to see an image of a marijuana leaf on tv and they spin out when they should just take a chill pill.

But why stop with just cannabis? LSD is already back on the research list for assisting people to feel at peace when death is immanent (whatever death is). So to be quite frank, it shouldn’t have needed so much effort for this oil to be given. Enough hand wringing Peter Dunne, we know you aren’t out flogging tinnies to teenagers. Just keep your shoes on, you probably can’t throw that high anyway. But I know a guy who can get you some stuff for that.

It’s ‘high’ time we all took a ‘chill pill’

I have a strong case of ‘Kronic fatigue.’ Yes that is spelt correct as I am referring to synthetic cannabis. The mainstream media and blogosphere is ‘buzzing’ with erudite perspectives on legal substances. I don’t want to get started on the idea of banning them until they have been tested on animals to be proven safe, as I fear I might just rant.

I’ve already talked about ‘altered states of consciousness’ in earlier pieces such as ‘Down the rabbit hole.’

I was also surprised and delighted to learn recently that animals like to have these experiences.

This is not the same as putting them through forced testing regimes! So if this is happening in nature, which we are part of (but have done a good job of convincing ourselves we are not) how can we make sense of the sensationalised, emotive and at times distorted information without ‘going out of our minds.’

Part of the assumption around drug use is that people are trying to escape life or numb pain – of all kinds. Yes it can be like this, but I also believe it is more complex, rich and even interesting than simple self medication. Let’s not forget alcohol is a drug in this dialogue as it most definitely alters consciousness.

Here are some things I have been mulling over – as have others but hope it might add to conversations and possibly subvert some of the well worn rhetoric, or over-simplistic ‘hugs not drugs’ type statements. I do have a firm belief however that children and young people most definitely are vulnerable. Their brains and sense of self need careful nurturing and protecting. I want to be clear I am not advocating for ‘anything goes.’

First off we need to stop attaching harm to the taking or using of drugs based on their imposed legal status. We have a default setting that says ‘if it is illegal it is bad or dangerous.’ Making some legal or illegal isn’t always about protecting people from danger. Power, control and politics are big players.

Let’s try to accept that we are all pleasure seekers and enjoy altered states of consciousness. Kids spin to get dizzy, laughing and exercise produce endorphins, and amusement parks reek of adrenaline. The more we try and suppress, deny, or make wrong aspects of self that are natural and healthy – the more harm we do I think.

This might push a few buttons but I feel we need to shift the focus of education away from facts about harm, google has that covered! Scare tactics have proven to be pointless – I’ve looked into it, and only make a difference to those who are already risk averse. Risk takers will still take risks – no matter what graphic consequences you put in front of them – that goes for drugs, sex, driving at high speed. But what to ‘teach’ in a world where information is at your finger tips. We ask young people to put ‘life on hold’ until they are grown up enough. Our challenge is to reintegrate desire, pleasure seeking, and all emotional experiences. Education needs an overhaul in my humble opinion – others have called for it as well. But I think education currently serves other interests.
There are some fantastic innovative teachers battling these constraints. To you I say ‘every conversation changes a person.’

Let’s ask the question, why are we anaesthetising ourselves so much? Surely if we need to escape reality or in that much pain we should be investigating the causes – not just at an individual level as a form of weakness but the more critical ‘meaning of life stuff’ angle. I think this is worth doing anyway, our worshiping of consumption and everything that is built around ensuring we ‘buy into it’ has probably had the most profound effect on humanity.

It would be great if we could look critically at how demonising certain kinds of drugs and ‘saviourising’ (if there is such a word) others has served the interests of very powerful institutions. This has been a well engineered and intentional process. Unravelling some of the historical and political decisions that underpin our current ideas helps to open space to thinking differently.

Finally, I firmly believe we need to be more open to altered states as a concept. Opening our minds to other possibilities and realms has been part of all cultures. Someone speaking out about this is Graeme Hancock. His perspective is so threatening his TED talk was banned – thank goodness for YouTube!

Historically artists used opiates to access other aspects of creativity, enlightenment, inspiration for example part of Samuel Taylor Cooleridge’s Kubla Khan was written after an opium induced dream.

New Zealand is currently wresting with synthetic cannabis as a hot political topic running up to an election…are we ready to take the debate in a new direction? I hope so.
If we are going to insist on being stuck going around in circles – then at least make sure to ‘pass the Dutchie to the left hand side.’