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A Report to the Ford Foundation
THE DRUG ABUSE SURVEY PROJECT
STAFF PAPER 6
Altered States of Consciousness
by Andrew T. Weil, M.D.
The Pharmacology of Consciousness-altering Drugs
Altered States of Consciousness, Drugs, and Society
THE PHARMACOLOGY OF CONSCIOUSNESS-ALTERING
The single most important fact to emerge from research on consciousness-altering drugs in this century is that individual responses to them result from set and setting as much as from the drug itself. Occasionally particular combinations of set and setting completely reverse the "pharmacological action" of a drug as described in a text on pharmacology. For example, with proper suggestion and in a restful setting, amphetamines can produce sedation. Drug, set, and setting, therefore, appear to be interdependent in shaping drug responses; no one factor seems vastly more determining than any other.
This principle is logical enough. No physiological event takes place without a corresponding event in the central nervous system. Therefore, every "bodily" response is actually a psychosomatic response. In the case of medical drugs like digitalis and atropine, no one is very much interested in the psychic component of response, so that we have come to think of these substances as producing constant physiological responses (although there is still enough variation from patient to patient to make their clinical administration a ticklish business). In the case of "psychoactive" drugs like heroin and LSD, the psychic component of response becomes the focus of attention; but, because we do not understand it according to present models of consciousness, we try in vain to make these drugs, too, fit our simplistic conceptions of pharmacology. How nice it would be if we could derive a method of predicting an individual's response to a psychoactive drug from purely pharmacological considerations. But we cannot do so.
Two upsetting conclusions follow from this line of reasoning: First, it is impossible to talk meaningfully about the effects of psychoactive drugs, except by reference to their effects on specific individuals on specific occasions; and secondly, pharmacology is not a useful approach to understanding the effects of these drugs either on individuals or on society. A pharmacologist, of course, would disagree with me, but his view of things would be as biased in its own way as that of the law-enforcement officer who favors continued efforts to stop people from using drugs by means of the criminal law. Most of what is written about LSD and heroin in pharmacology texts is meaningless in this sense: It says nothing about what will happen to you if you take LSD at eight o'clock tonight; gives you no power to help me if I come to you for assistance in breaking a heroin habit; and is quite irrelevant to any considerations of what the United States ought to do about the continuing increase in negative use of these drugs.
What we need is a new science of consciousness, based on subjective experience rather than on objective physiology. The materialistic psychology that has dominated Western thought about consciousness is no longer adequate to the task of explaining the mind in terms that are useful to us. (An especially galling aspect of the drug problem for the medical profession is that psychologically ignorant users of drugs appear to have more practical information about their effects than doctors have.) I predict that, from an experiential viewpoint, many unifying principles of drug states will become visible. In the pharmacological model, there is some unity; for example, alcohol, barbiturates, and minor tranquilizers are grouped together as sedative-hypnotics-a useful grouping, because it alerts us to the danger that drugs like chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and meprobamate (Equanil) produce a dependence resembling dependence on alcohol. But pharmacology offers no clue why the psychological changes of a marijuana high have much in common with those of an LSD trip, or why heroin users may be able to satisfy their need for a certain experience by inhaling nitrous oxide, a general anesthetic.
In the following pages, I will review briefly what is known and what is
not known about the major pharmacological classes of psychoactive drugs-briefly, because,
in view of the limited usefulness of this scheme of classification, it is not worth
discussing, except at the most general level.
Alcohol and the barbiturates are associated with stubborn forms of drug dependence, marked by relatively constant, doserelated physiological changes, some of which become irreversible over time. These changes include tolerance (probably the clinical correlate of the induction of degradative enzymes in the liver) and withdrawal (a syndrome that persists until metabolism readjusts to its predrug state). Unlike narcotics, alcohol and barbiturates cause life-threatening reactions when they are withdrawn from addicted persons. Chronic use of sedative-hypnotics is associated with structural damage to the nervous system; this association is stronger than for any of the other classes of drugs discussed below. Alcoholism is particularly associated with chronic liver disease, possibly because alcohol is directly toxic to liver cells. Barbiturates are often implicated in accidental selfpoisonings, because tolerance to the lethal dose does not develop as fast as tolerance to the hypnotic dose. The minor tranquilizers have been promoted as anti-anxiety agents, but they behave just like mild sedative-hypnotics.
Most persons use sedative-hypnotics to reduce anxiety by substituting a "high" state of consciousness that permits sleep, relaxation, or the mild disinhibition valued in certain social encounters.
These drugs are associated with dependence because (1) they do not affect the source of anxiety; (2) the development of tolerance encourages more and more frequent use; (3) their use in our culture is strongly linked to destructive (especially self destructive) behavior patterns; and (4) people in our society do not know how to make use of altered states of consciousness.
The pharmacological model of- these drugs offers no hope of cure or prevention of dependence on sedative-hypnotics. It can, however, offer treatment of acute toxic episodes and withdrawal reactions. It seems unlikely that elucidation of the exact metabolic derangements underlying dependence will open the way to any pharmacological means of intervening in the course of the disease.
Nothing important is known about the action of these drugs on the mind. Since their major action is depression of neurological activity in the central nervous system, it has been assumed that the "paradoxical stimulation" observed with low doses (the high that precedes the stupor of alcohol intoxication) is the result of inhibition of inhibitory brain centers (which are conveniently postulated to respond to lower doses). However, some researchers have suggested that low doses may have direct excitatory action on nerve cells. That this kind of debate should still be going on in 1970 suggests how far we are from understanding conscious experience in physiological terms. (If alcohol intoxication were looked at by an experiential science of consciousness, it might turn out that the high is not causally related to the drug, which might be a pure depressant, after all.)
It is ironic that we have chosen our one sanctioned intoxicant from this
class of drugs. In no other class is pharmacological action (in this case, on liver and
nerve-cell metabolism) so clearly related to long-range physiological deterioration.
Like sedative-hypnotics, narcotics are central depressants that produce stubborn dependence. Unlike sedative-hypnotics, they are not directly associated with long-range physiological damage or life-threatening withdrawal reactions. Tolerance to narcotics develops faster than tolerance to sedative-hypnotics; hence, visible dependence develops faster. Because narcotics are illegal, their use is much more bound up with antisocial, negative, and, often, self-destructive behavior.
"Addiction" to and "withdrawal" from narcotics have become stereotypes in the public mind, but reality does not often conform to these conceptions. Far from being a physiological constant, dependent on dose and frequency of administration of a drug, the physical craving for narcotics is very much a matter of set and setting. Some individuals, when they find tolerance appearing, work out a method of spacing injections of heroin so that they never become really "hooked," even though they use the drug regularly for years. (The number of such persons is unknown but may be greater than the number of hooked addicts; they often lead stable lives and may never come to the attention of groups concerned with narcotics.) Other people seem not to be able to handle the development of tolerance and quickly go on to experience strong physiological dependence. Similarly, withdrawal reactions from narcotics are strongly shaped by nonpharmacological factors. In a supportive setting with strong positive suggestion, a heroin addict can undergo comfortable withdrawal with no medication other than aspirin.
Narcotics do not affect the primary reception of pain or other sensory stimuli; rather, they alter secondary perception. A person in pain, given morphine, might say, "The pain is still there, but it doesn't bother me." In other words, the pain is perceived through an altered state of consciousness. Pharmacological research on narcotics has been unproductive. In the first place, no real success has been achieved in separating the analgesic and addicting properties of this class of compounds. Secondly, the metabolic changes accompanying narcotics dependence are beyond our present understanding; even if they were understood, there is no reason to think our difficulties with addiction would be any fewer. Thirdly, no purely pharmacological method of controlling addiction has come along.
The problems associated with heroin (death from overdose; hepatitis;
crime; mental and physical deterioration) appear to have no causal relationship to the
pharmacological action of the drug. Rather, they correlate better with features of the
social context in which heroin exists in our country. In fact, the discrepancy between
pharmacology and experience is best illustrated by phenomena accompanying dependence on
drugs of this class.
AMPHETAMINES AND RELATED DRUGS
Drugs that stimulate the central and sympathetic nervous systems include the amphetamines (a chemical class), several drugs that are chemically but not pharmacologically distinct from the amphetamines (like methylphenidate-Ritalin; and phemnetrazine-Preludin) , and cocaine. These drugs cause the release of norepinephrine from adrenergic nerve endings. Tolerance to them develops very quickly, but withdrawal from them, although sometimes a psychological ordeal, has few physiological accompaniments in contrast to withdrawal from sedative-hypnotics or narcotics.
Little is known about the neurological consequences of chronic, heavy use of amphetamines. Speed freaks who take enormous doses of amphetamines intravenously develop a paranoid psychosis that looks suspiciously organic and may be correlated with depletion of the body's stores of norepinepbrine. (It may just as well be correlated with the prolonged wakefulness induced by these drugs.) To date, there is no firm evidence of actual neurological deterioration resulting from any of these drugs, including cocaine. Although low doses do not change eating behavior in most people (contrary to the claims of pharmaceutical-industry advertising), very high doses do shut off the hypothalamic hunger center and can result in severe malnutrition. The high incidence of hepatitis among amphetamine users has led to speculation that the drug may be directly toxic to liver cells. (If this hepatitis is, indeed, chemical, it may also be due to a common contaminant of black-market methadrine.)
Until recently, amphetamine dependence was considered less serious than narcotic dependence, because it was "Iess physiological." In fact, however, amphetamine dependence is more serious, because it is inherently less stable. When a person begins to use a tolerance-producing drug, he must soon face the problem of trying to stabilize his use in order to keep his life from being disrupted. More than any other class of drugs, the amphetamines foil a user's attempt to reach equilibrium with his habit, because they induce such powerful and unrelenting tolerance. Consequently, users develop erratic patterns of use, such as "spree shooting" and alternation with barbiturates and, eventually, with heroin. The high correlation of amphetamine use with impulsive and violent behavior is consistent with this pharmacological instability.
Abusive oral use of diet pills may be associated with serious
psychological problems but is not accompanied by the physical changes associated with
Hallucinogens stimulate the central and sympathetic nervous systems (some are simple derivatives of amphetamine) but, in addition, induce perceptual changes and the kinds of mental states associated with trance, mystic rapture, and psychosis. Except for the visual hallucinations (in particular, the everchanging, geometric patterns seen on surfaces), most of these effects are common in altered states of consciousness unrelated to drugs. The hallucinogens differ from one another only in duration of action and in relative prominence of stimulant versus psychic effects. Pharmacological research tells us little more about them than about the amphetamines; it offers no satisfactory explanation for the effects of hallucinogens on consciousness. No one takes these drugs frequently enough to get into pharmacological trouble with them. (Tolerance is so rapid that regular consumption is impractical; you can't stay high on LSD for too long at one stretch.) Therefore, the pharmacological body of data is quite irrelevant to our understanding of the difficulties people get into with hallucinogens. Also, there is no indication that use of these drugs is associated with physical damage of any kind, in either short- or long-term use.
Most bad trips on hallucinogens are nonpharmacological panic reactions.
Others are nonspecific toxic psychoses-overdose reactions that disappear when the drug
Marijuana differs from the hallucinogens in two ways: It does not cause hallucinations, and it is not a stimulant. In fact, marijuana has virtually no significant pharmacological actions, which probably accounts for its popularity. It provides a high with minimal physiological accompaniment, so that people who are anxious about it can easily pretend to themselves that they have done nothing to their bodies or minds. For the same reason, it is useless to study marijuana in the pharmacological laboratory, because there is no physiological handle on the phenomenon under consideration.
Except for the possibility of lung disease related to chronic inhalation
of the drug, there is no evidence that marijuana is physically harmful in short- or
long-term usage. No other drug is like marijuana in having so few physiological effects.
For this reason, it seems wise to think of marijuana as a class unto itself, no more
closely related to the hallucinogens than to the sedative hypnotics. Its unique chemical
structure is consistent with this idea.
TOXINS, GENERAL ANESTHETICS, AND SPECIAL SUBSTANCES
Persons who enjoy the altered state of consciousness called delirium (actually, a nonspecific response of the brain to a toxin) will occasionally induce it by inhaling volatile solvents and petroleum distillates such as glue. Repeated use of defiriants appears to be correlated with structural damage to the central nervous system. In addition, petroleum distillates are frequently toxic to the liver, especially when taken with alcohol. Delirium is characterized by confusion, disorientation, and hallucination; it is sometimes called "acute brain syndrome" or "toxic psychosis," and it can also occur in response to overdoses of any of the classes of drugs mentioned above, including marijuana.
General anesthesia is an altered state of consciousness induced by a heterogenous class of chemicals, some of which (ether and nitrous oxide) are occasionally taken for nonmedical purposes. It is instructive to reflect that no satisfactory theory has been proposed thus far to explain general anesthesia in pbarmacological or neurophysiological terms, even though millions of persons have been put into this state under close observation. Because the psychic phenomena of general anesthesia can be reproduced nonchemically (by hypnosis, for example), it is tempting to speculate that this altered state of consciousness, too, would be better understood from the point of view of subjective experience rather than from the point of view of objective pharmacology.
Drug users who are deprived of their usual drugs sometimes resort to
special substances like nutmeg and morning-glory seeds to get high. Many natural products
of very diverse pharmacology have been so employed, and it seems likely that set and
setting determine whether they produce pleasant altered states of consciousness, sickness,
or, indeed, no effects at all.
ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS,
DRUGS, AND SOCIETY
The general thesis of this paper is that drug experience can be understood only if it is viewed as an altered state of consciousness rather than as a pharmacological event. A subthesis is that this approach will make it possible for society to reduce significantly the problems now associated with the use of psychoactive drugs.
All of us experience occasional states of consciousness different from our ordinary waking state. Obviously, sleep is such a state. Less obviously, perhaps, are daydreaming and movie watching unusual modes of awareness. Other distinct varieties of conscious states are trance, hypnosis, psychosis, general anesthesia, delirium, meditation, and mystic rapture. In our country, until recently, there has been no serious investigation of altered states of consciousness as such, because most Western scientists who study the mind regard consciousness as annoyingly nonmaterial and, therefore, inaccessible to direct investigation. Their research has focused on the objective correlates of consciousness instead of on consciousness itself. In the East, on the other hand, where nonmateriality is not seen as a bar to direct investigation, much thought has been devoted to altered states of consciousness, and a science of consciousness based on subjective experience has developed.
It would make sense to study all forms of nonordinary consciousness together, because they seem to have much in common. For example, trance, whether spontaneous or induced by a hypnotist, is in many ways simply an extension of the daydreaming state in which a person's awareness is focused and directed inward rather than outward. Except for its voluntary and purposeful nature, meditation is not easily distinguishable from trance. Zen masters warn their meditating students to ignore makyo-sensory distortions that often take the form of visions seen by mystics in rapturous states or hallucinations similar to those of schizophrenics. And, curiously, the state of being high on drugs shares many characteristics with these other forms of altered consciousness, regardless of what drug induces the high.
It is my contention that the desire to alter consciousness is an innate psychological drive arising out of the neurological structure of the human brain. Strong evidence for this idea comes from observations of very young children, who regularly use techniques of consciousness alteration on themselves and one another when they think no adults are watching them. These methods include whirling until vertigo and collapse ensue, hyperventilating and then having another child squeeze one's chest to produce unconsciousness, and being choked around the neck to cause fainting. Such practices appear to be universal, irrespective of culture, and present at ages when social conditioning is unlikely to be an important influence (for example, in two- and three-year-olds). Psychiatrists have paid little attention to these common activities of children. Freud, who did note them, called them "sexual equivalents"-which they may be, although that formulation is not very useful for our purposes.
As children grow older, they soon learn that experiences of the same sort may be had chemically-for instance, by inhaling the fumes of volatile solvents found around the house. General anesthesia is another chemically induced altered state of consciousness that many children are exposed to in their early years. (The current drug-using generation was extensively tonsillectomized, by the way.) Until a few years ago, most children in our society who wanted to continue indulging in these states were content to use alcohol, the one intoxicant we make available legally. (Incidentally, there are some good reasons that alcohol may not be a wise choice for sole legal intoxicant-apart from its devastating medical effects.) Now, large numbers of young people are seeking chemical alterations of consciousness through a variety of illegal and medically disapproved drugs. It is possible to see this change as primarily a reaction to other social upheavals-and, certainly, much has been written about the social causes of drug use. It may be more useful, however, to consider what many drug users themselves say: They choose illegal drugs over alcohol in order to get better highs. There is no question that social factors influence the forms of drug use in a society, or that changes in patterns of use of intoxicants go along with major cultural upheavals, but we must remember that every culture throughout history has made use of chemicals to alter consciousness.* Instead of looking for explanations of drug taking in a foreign war or in domestic tension, therefore, perhaps we should pay more careful attention to how we allow people to satisfy chemically their innate drive to experience other states of awareness.
Most societies, like our own, are uncomfortable about having people go off into trances, mystic raptures, and hallucinatory intoxications. Indeed, the reason we have laws against possession of drugs in the first place is to discourage people from getting high. But innate, neuropsychological drives cannot be banned by legislation. They will be satisfied at any cost. And the cost in our country is very great, for, by trying to deny young people these important experiences, we maximize the probability that they will obtain them in negative ways-that is, in ways harmful to themselves and to society.
Why are altered states of consciousness important? Primarily because they seem to be doorways to the next stages of evolutionary development of the human nervous system. We commonly assume that a major division of our nervous system (the autonomic system) is involuntary-beyond our conscious control -and that this leaves us open to many kinds of illnesses we can do nothing about (for example, cardiovascular diseases). Yet, hypnotized subjects often show an astonishing degree of autonomic control, to the extent of developing authentic blisters when touched with cold objects represented to them as being red hot. And Yogis frequently demonstrate voluntary control of heart action and blood flow that astonishes physicians; they themselves ascribe their successes to regular periods of meditative effort, asserting that there is no limit to what consciousness can effect through the "involuntary" nervous system. In addition, creative genius has long been observed to correlate well with psychosis, and much of the world's highest religious and philosophic thought has come out of altered states of consciousness.
At the very least, altered states of consciousness appear to have potential for strongly positive psychic development. Most Americans do not get the chance to exploit this potential, because their society gives them no support. The prevailing attitude toward psychosis is representative. We define this experience as a disease, compel people who have it to adopt the role of sick, disabled patients, and then ply them with special kinds of sedatives that we call "antipsychotic agents" but that simply make it hard for them to think and to express their altered state of consciousness in ways disturbing to the staffs of psychiatric hospitals. The individual learns from early childhood to be guilty about, or afraid of, episodes of nonordinary awareness and is forced to pursue antisocial behavior patterns if he wants to continue having such episodes. Negative drug taking has become a popular form of this kind of behavior.
I implied earlier that alcohol may not fulfill the need for alteration of consciousness as well as other drugs. Like all psychoactive drugs, it does induce a high with positive potential. (A vast body of prose, poetry, and song from all ages testifies to this "good side" of alcohol.) The trouble, however, is that an alcohol high is difficult to control; in drinking, one slips easily into the dose range where the effects become unpleasant (nausea, dizziness, uncoordination) and interfere with mental activity. Marijuana, on the other hand, maintains a "useful" high over an extremely wide dose range and allows a remarkable degree of control over the experience. But, as with other drugs, set and setting determine the effects of marijuana by interacting with the drug's pharmacological action. Unfortunately, current social factors create strongly negative sets and settings, thus increasing the likelihood that users will be drawn into the negative side of consciousness alteration instead of being encouraged to explore its positive potential.
By focusing our attention on drugs rather than on the states of consciousness people seek in them, we develop notions that lead to unwise behavior. Users who think that highs come from joints and pills rather than from their own nervous systems get into trouble when the joints and pills no longer work so well (a universal experience among regular consumers of all drugs) : Their drug use becomes increasingly neurotic-more and more frequent and compulsive with less and less reward. In fact, this misconception is the initial step in the development of drug dependence, regardless of whether the drug is marijuana or heroin, whether it produces physiological dependence or not. And dependence cannot be broken until the misconception is straightened out, even though the physiological need is terminated. (Hence the failure of methadone to cure addicts of being addicts.) By contrast, a user who realizes that he has been using the drug merely as a trigger or excuse for having an experience that is a natural and potentially valuable element of human consciousness comes to see that the drugged state is not exactly synonymous with the experience he wants. He begins to look for ways to isolate the desired aspect of the chemically induced state and often finds that some form of meditation will satisfy his desire to get high more effectively. One sees a great many experienced drug takers give up drugs for meditation, but one does not see any meditators give up meditation for drugs. This observation has led some drug educators to hope that young people can be encouraged to abandon drugs in favor of systems like the transcendental meditation of Maharishi Mahesh.
Society labors under the same delusions as dependent users. It thinks that problems come from drugs rather than from people. Therefore, it tries to stop people from using drugs or to make drugs disappear rather than to educate people about the "right" use of drugs. No drug is inherently good or evil; all have potential for positive use, as much as for negative use. The point is not to deny people the experience of chemically altered consciousness but to show them how to have it in forms that are not harmful to themselves or to society. And the way to do that is to recognize the simple truth that the experience comes from the mind, not from the drug. (Once you have learned from a drug what being high really is, you can begin to reproduce such state without the drug; all persons who accomplish this feat testify that the nonpharmacological high is superior.) Ironically, society's efforts to stop drug abuse are the very factors causing drug abuse. There really is no Drug Problem at all, rather a Drug-Problem Problem. And it will continue growing until we admit that drugs have a positive potential that can be realized.
Many non-Western societies have experimented with this alternative. The primitive Indian tribes of the Amazon basin, for example, make free use of drugs but have no problems of abuse. That is, although these groups use a multitude of hallucinogenic barks seeds, and leaves, no one takes the drugs to express hostility toward society, to drop out of the social process, to rebel against his parents or teachers, or to hurt himself. These Indians admit that their world contains substances that alter consciousness; they do not try to make them go away or to prevent theiruse. They accept the fact that people, especially children, seekout altered states of consciousness. And, rather than attempt to deny their children experiences they know to be important, they allow them to have them under the guidance of experts in such matters, usually the tribal shamans. Recognizing that drugs have potential for harm, the shaman surrounds their use with ritual and conveys the rationale of this ritual to his charges. Furthermore, the states of consciousness induced by drugs in these remote areas are used for positive ends, and are not just lapsed into out of boredom or frustration. Some drugs are used only by shamans, for communing with the spirit world or for diagnosing illness; others are used by adolescents in coming-of-age rites; still others are consumed by the whole tribe as recreational intoxicants on special occasions.
I am not suggesting that we return to a primitive life in the jungle,
but I do think we have much to learn from these Amazonian peoples. One reason we are so
locked into wrong ways of thinking about drugs is that no one can see a goal worth working
for, only problems to work against. The Indian model is an ideal -not something to be
substituted overnight for our present situation, but something to be kept in mind as the
direction to move toward. Let me list the three chief features of this ideal system as
proposals for our own society:
1. Recognition of the importance of altered states of consciousness and the existence of a normal drive to experience them. There is a considerable lack of enlightenment in scientific circles concerning the nature of consciousness, in both its ordinary and its nonordinary forms, and there would doubtless be resistance from the professional community to these propositions. But, because consciousness is, above all, a matter of inner experience, most laymen are quite willing to accept these ideas. Many adults have simply forgotten their childhood experiences with altered states of consciousness and recall them vividly as soon as they try to. Therefore, I think the possibilities for re-education are good.
As thinking about drugs moves in this direction, society will become
less and less inclined to try to frustrate the human need for periods of altered
awareness, so that the role of the criminal law in this area should diminish. At the same
time ' there may be a culmination of the present efforts of younger scientists to bring
the study of altered states of consciousness into the "respectable" disciplines
and institutions. A very great body of information exists on these states; it simply needs
collecting and arranging, so that we can begin to correlate it with what we know
objectively about the nervous system.
2. Provision for the experience of altered states of consciousness in
growing children. Rather than drive children to seek out these states surreptitiously,
we must aim to do as the Indians do: let children learn by experience under the watchful
guidance of an elder. "Drug education" in the United States means thinly
disguised attempts to scare children away from drugs. True education would let those who
wanted to explore consciousness do so without guilt and with adult support and
supervision. Such explorations should include drug experience, because drugs are
legitimate tools for altering awareness. Because they have a potential for negative use,
they cannot be used wantonly but must be used in certain prescribed ways, at certain
times, and for certain purposes. Thus, we must develop a "ritual" for drug
experience analogous to the Indian tribal rituals. We will also need analogs of the
shamans-persons who, by virtue of their own experience with altered states of
consciousness, are qualified to supervise the education of the young.
3. Incorporation of the experience into society for positive ends. It
is not enough that we come to tolerate alterations of consciousness. We must put them to
use for the good of individuals and society. We have come to think of drug experience as
an escape from reality; but, if it is so in our society, we have made it so. People who
can openly and purposefully spend time away from ordinary consciousness seem superior when
they function in ordinary consciousness. They are healthier, both physically and
mentally; they lead more productive lives; and they can become numerous enough to
constitute a great natural resource in any society. In addition, they may be utilizing
their nervous systems to their fullest potentials goal most of us are far from reaching.
To these three aims, I would add a fourth, not derived from the Indian pattern:
4. Encouragement of individuals to satisfy their needs for altered consciousness by means that do not require external tools. Any tools used to alter consciousness-not just drugs-tend to cause dependence, because they delude people into believing that the experience comes from them rather than involuntarily from within the mind. To guard against this tendency, therefore, we must educate people and not try to do away with the tools. Our goal should be to train people to live safely in a world where there are things with potential for both harm and good, to show them that inimical forces can be changed into friendly ones. To do this, we should not try to shield young people from things that may harm them; they must learn by experience. Perhaps it is possible to convince adolescents that meditation is better than drugs as an approach to altered consciousness, but they will not believe it unless they have been through drug experience and seen its limitations for themselves.
I will conclude by affirming my belief that this system is a real
possibility and not a hopeless, unattainable ideal. As such, it is well worth working
toward. The first step need be nothing more than to stop what we are now doing to prevent
us from reaching the goal. And that is nearly everything we are doing in the name of
combating drug abuse.
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