Psychedelic experiences have long been a source of inspiration for filmmakers and are woven into countless movies. One common go-to element of psychedelic experiences is visual alterations. This may include anything from vibrant, shifting colors and geometric patterns to hallucinations of objects, places, and people.
Perhaps one of the best examples of this is found in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a late-1990s cult classic in which Johnny Depp’s character is checking into a hotel while high on acid. During this sequence, Depp’s character watches the floor turn to mud, a desk clerk’s head transforms into an eel-like creature, and the features on other faces in the room become distorted.
Acid trips are technically LSD intoxication, and while Hollywood doesn’t provide a perfect depiction of what one is like, it captures the elements many people are seeking. During a drug trip, people experience distortions in what they see, feel, and smell. They also often experience heightened emotions such as euphoria. Some people even report that they’ve gained new insight and clearer perspective while under the influence of psychedelic drugs.
Sometimes, when someone is high on acid, they have an out-of-body experience. This phenomenon happens when the person perceives the world from outside their physical body. Those who’ve had this experience may describe being a bystander, watching themselves from another point in the room. This is the experience many people are seeking when they take psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms, peyote, and LSD.
People Are Seeking Psychedelic Experiences
Drug-induced experiences are certainly nothing new, with evidence indicating that indigenous cultures have been using psychedelics for thousands of years. However, present-day users seem to be using out-of-body experience drugs at an increasing rate. The dosage of THC in weed is at an all-time high. This is the chemical associated with effects on the individual’s mental state, and its increasing dose may be a testament to the desire to access out-of-body experiences.
People seek psychedelic experiences for a wide variety of reasons.
An out-of-body high may be the goal of someone who’s using psychedelic drugs entirely for recreational purposes. For some, drugs such as LSD provide a welcome escape from depression, PTSD, or boredom.
Historically, psychedelics have been used in shamanic rituals of indigenous cultures. Today, these drugs are used in the Native American Church and a handful of other religions throughout the world, including some sects of Judaism. In some cases, participants use drugs to experience visions or to induce a sense of detachment and higher understanding.
People commonly use psychedelics to enhance their creativity and find inspiration for art and technology. The Beatles experimented with LSD through the 1960s, Steve Jobs referred to taking LSD as “a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life,” and surrealist artist Salvador Dali once famously said, “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.”
While using out-of-body experience drugs isn’t exactly a mainstream therapeutic treatment, it has been used to treat a variety of conditions. Throughout the 1950s to 1970s, LSD was studied and observed to effectively treat anxiety, depression, alcohol addiction, and PTSD.
These observations fall short of the rigorous studies researchers complete today, but some proponents believe that LSD is an effective therapeutic agent for treating diseases with perceptual disorders such as schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. No large-scale research has demonstrated the efficacy of psychedelic drugs, but small studies and anecdotal reports have suggested that some people may experience symptom relief after taking LSD.
It’s important to note that using psychedelics recreationally is illegal in nearly all states, and psychedelic therapy is not legally available outside of clinical trials with very few exceptions. While Oregon has decriminalized psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms, recreational and therapeutic use is still illegal under federal law.
How Do People Describe a “Good Trip?”
Many people describe the experience of being on acid as dreamlike, so perhaps the easiest way to understand a good trip is to compare it to a good dream. For those experiencing a good trip, the world can seem wonderful and beautiful, and human interactions may take on a deeper significance. They may experience feelings of euphoria. Afterward, the individual may experience flashbacks to their acid trip for weeks or even months. Some report that their experience with LSD positively and permanently changes how they feel about themselves, other people, and the world.
What Is Happening During an Out-of-Body High?
Out-of-body experiences, whether they’re triggered by drugs, traumatic experiences, or significant medical events, are a bit of a scientific mystery. There’s some debate over whether the individual’s consciousness literally leaves their body or if it’s solely a hallucinatory experience. In most cases, the things an individual recounts seeing is no different than what they would be able to see from their physical vantage point, but there have been a handful of instances in which people reportedly provided information that they wouldn’t have otherwise known.
While scientists are still studying what happens in the brain during a drug trip, research suggests that psychedelics work by disrupting communication between chemical systems throughout the spinal cord and brain. Some drugs interfere with how serotonin works. This is the chemical that affects mood, body temperature, muscle control, hunger, sleep, and sensory perception. Other drugs interfere with glutamate, which is a neurotransmitter that sends signals to the brain and nerves.
Is it Dangerous to Seek Psychedelic Experiences?
Despite the positive experiences some people report after taking a psychedelic drug, negative experiences are equally possible. A bad trip can be deeply upsetting to the individual, causing intense feelings of fear. Some people experience paranoia and temporary suicidal feelings, though it’s rare for those on acid to die by suicide. On an emotional level, a bad trip can leave the individual feeling that life is meaningless and the world is a cold, unkind place.
Physiologically, acid can have a lasting negative effect. Many people experience increased heart rates and increased blood pressure, both of which can be serious for those with certain health conditions. More serious side effects may include dehydration, hyperthermia, and dangerous risk-taking behaviors. Research has also indicated that those who use acid are at a greater risk of rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which muscles break down, causing kidney damage.
While psychedelic drugs aren’t generally addictive, those who begin using them during adolescence may be at an increased risk of developing an addiction. This type of drug use can also lead to behavioral addictions and serve as an unhealthy coping mechanism for handling treatable conditions such as PTSD and depression.
Those who have a good experience with psychedelics report that they’ve gained a better understanding of life, other people, and themselves. However, the drug can just as easily leave the individual feeling scared or depressed. Oftentimes, the effects of the drug linger for longer than expected. The unpredictability is likely why most people don’t use psychedelics regularly or on a long-term basis.