Can psychedelic drugs "throw a switch" on some people and make them permanently mentally altered?

I was reading this story

The Long, Strange Hunt for the Folk Singer Who Thought He Was the Next Messiah

about the history of a musician who descended into madness and some believed that his extensive use of acid on the “hippy trail” caused his mental breakdown.

R LSD and other psychedelics I’ve read they can have profound and permanent impacts on the way users perceive the world the world. This doper talked about how the psychedelic drug turned him from an atheist to a non-atheist.

Ask the atheist psychologist who did ayuahasca yesterday.

Can using psychedelic drugs a few times change your mental functioning and outlook permanently? Are simple people simply more susceptible to it than others? If someone has an underlying issue like schizophrenia will it make it worse?

No, but I hear schizophrenia usually becomes recognizable around the same time (early adulthood) as experimental drug use. Which gives rise to a lot of “acid made him crazy” stories.

But as far as “permanently mentally altered”, yes, that’s the whole point. :wink:

I took some mescaline once. Was supposed to be doing it with a couple of friends of mine but they wound up bailing on me.

So I wound up doing it by myself. I have to say, it was one of the most intense “trips” I ever had. I started meditating for hours. I’m not sure exactly what happened. But it did change me in a positive way. I was able to take a deep look inside myself. It made me realize there was absolutely NO reason for me to be as introverted, shy and lacking in confidence as I was.

When I woke up the next day, I felt like a completely changed man.

IIRC there was actual legitimate psychiatric research (meaning not MK-ULTRA; I’m talking about beneficial science) into LSD and mescaline when they were legal. The name Stanislav Grof comes to mind. Quite fascinating research into the potential of psychedelics to build new neurological structures—as Dr. Cube said, humorously but truthfully, that is the whole point.

I guess many things can leave people permanently altered.

Grrr!'s (weird thing to write) experience, without the use of drugs, is pretty much the enlightenment story of thousands of people. David Carse in Perfect Brilliant Stillness tells how it spontaneously happened to him while terrified in the Amazon rainforest. Here is his acoount.

There was a girl in high school who seemed to have switched from average teenager to barely responsive and very detached from reality. Shortly before she stepped in front of a train to end her life she revealed that she had been given something at a party held by her older brother. So perhaps if permanently is not all that long it can happen.

I heard about a kid who dropped a bunch of acid and stared directly at the sun until he went blind. Sgt. Joe Friday told me.

Steve Jobs asserted that his use of acid was essential to him becoming Steve Jobs. He said he wouldn’t trust a CEO who hadn’t dropped acid.

The Beatles call Revolver their acid album, given John and George’s getting dosed surreptitiously by that swingin’ London dentist and feeling fundamentally transformed. George’s later acid trip in LA, and Peter Fonda’s reaction to it (and John anger at Peter*) led to one of their best songs, She Said She Said.

*worth a read if you don’t know it. Peter was telling the bad-tripping George “I know what it’s like to be dead.” Stupid acid argument ensues :wink:

I’ve tried LSD, mescaline, mushrooms, and the like.

I enjoyed each and every experience, but had no change in my psyche that I’m aware of.

Of course, any intense or profound life experience probably leaves one permanently mentally altered. As may an accumulation of more mundane mental activities; the mind is not supposed to be static.

Yes, though it depends on the person, the circumstances, the drug and the dosage.

Yeah, that’s not exactly an earth shattering revelation, I know. Ask an easy question, get an easy answer.

I’ve taken on the order of 200 trips of some kind or another on psychedelics, the first being in 1983 and the last several weeks ago. Like most life experiences, my use of them changed me and made me a much better person. But that’s not what the OP is asking.

I believe that there are people who are mentally on some sort of edge or tipping point and a trip could push them over permanently.

Dave Barry, in his book Dave Barry Turns 50, writes about “a couple of my friends” who took LSD and it altered their minds, but then they didn’t alter back. “Baba Ram Dass never wrote about THAT”

This is very true. In the same sense that I’m not the same person now that I was in high school, to a much lesser extent I’m not the same person now as I was yesterday, or five minutes ago.

But I do think psychedelic drugs are specifically taken to expand the mind, and not necessarily in a hippy drippy “seeing God” kind of way either. After taking a drug trip, you can’t really view your senses as some sort of transparent window onto the world anymore, you realize that you’re experiencing reality (all the time, even while sober) as filtered through a very unreliable brain. And while you recognize how unreliable that brain can be (and in my opinion, your mind will forever be more “open” than it was, for that reason), you will have identified certain aspects of your own mind that are constant, reliable, and, even in the face of hallucinations and chemically induced moods, still “you”. It’s scary and comforting at the same time, and for most people, a source of permanent personal growth.

That was what happened to my cousin. He wound up having to spend the rest of his life in care facilities.

This is beautiful—in the scientific sense: an elegant explanation. Also a very helpful approach to the subject.

Not just back when it was legal - legitimate research into the beneficial use of psychedelics is still on-going, and is indeed extremely promising.

As for the question of whether or not psychedelics trigger mental illnesses, the most thorough study that I know of is this one, which looked at no less than 21,967 respondents reporting “lifetime psychedelic use,” and reached the conclusion that:

Syd Barrett.

Nah. His withdrawal, as well as his eccentricity, could plausibly be explained by a thousand different things apart from his alleged use of psychedelic drugs.