Psychedelics Help Science – Part 1

I was online recently. I have a Google News tuned to psychedelic as a word, and so I read interesting things on Shroomery and Bluelight and Nexus, and there was a wonderful comment. The question was – “do psychedelics turn your brain to mush?” And there was a fairly active debate, but down in the comments was this: “the info I’ve had seems to show that drugs alone”, “aren’t all that’s at work in the sort of mind-expanding and creative experience people have.”
That’s why when outsiders try other cultures’ drugs without the rituals and cultural context they often fail to achieve the same sort of insight.

In some lab experiments they found directing people back toward the specific task or problem really can help. So like most things, it’s a tool that has to be properly used to be effective.”
I’d say that’s probably the best summary of what I’m going to talk about that I’ve ever read.
And particularly, I love that understanding of set and setting in the somewhat different way of talking about cultural set and setting. And as you all know, the cultural set and setting for creativity is that it’s wildly successful for artistic creativity, whatever that means, but from the research side, it’s very hard to get anyone to agree that the paintings you did afterwards were so much better than the paintings you did before, let alone having art critics agree on anything else.
But if you think about it, it’s maybe not an accident or coincidence that the rise of the personal computer, which gave rise to the creation of Silicon Valley, out of which emerged Burning Man, was concurrent with psychedelic use and research.

A relative of mine working for a small company during the “we’ll hire anybody to do anything” boom, that bubble of companies, he approached his boss and said,”I’d like this particular bunch of days off,” and his boss looked at him and said, “See you on the playa.”
But what we do know is that using these materials for enhanced problem-solving is not well-understood, and a very under-researched area.
But there are established methods using psychedelics that open minds to useful solutions to real and solidly scientific problems.

I was part of a group that established the basic guidelines of set and setting, substance, dosage, as well as whatever else was necessary.
Really, to dissolve the barriers to problem solution, that looks like what was the fundamental issue.
It is what’s in the way, what’s between you and a solution when you are a serious scientist in the particular area of interest. So again, it’s not “take psychedelics and you can understand quantum mechanics.” But if you understand quantum mechanics and you take psychedelics, you may really understand quantum mechanics.

So I’m going to just go through it and describe some of the ways in which we worked, and then give you, hopefully, some cases, some remarks by individual participants, which is really where the action is. If I had a PowerPoint here it would say “how can psychedelics be used to facilitate problem-solving?”
And if you look at the creativity research, there’s lots of creativity research, and there’s lots of theories and there’s lots of methods, many of which are actually good. What’s fascinating is, the useful, good methods are remarkably under-used. Things we know work for almost every form of creative problem-solving, that can make groups work better and so forth, are unbelievably under-utilized in education, industry, government, the medical world, and even in the military.
See, the military is a kind of place where a lot of research can go on because nobody can stop them. So they’re the above-ground version of what a lot of you are doing.

I got interested, with some other people, in problem-solving, which is really narrowing the scope.
A problem is something, in this case, that can be measured, proved, built, patented, manufactured, so we’re talking way into the material world. We are definitely not talking about answering the problem of why does God exist and those things which you worry about.
And so our criterion was, “is the problem solved, at the end of the day”, “is the problem solved or closer to a solution?”, “Has an obstacle been overcome? Was the intervention, in this case psychedelic set and setting, “the reason for the solution?” Because over the years, people have said, “Well, I’ve looked at your research, and how do you know that it was the intervention that you did”, “that was responsible for a creative breakthrough?” And my answer was, “Maybe it wasn’t; do it some other way.”
I’m not going to fight you. Because there are always the people that say, and you’ve heard it,
“Well, aren’t there natural ways to do this?” and I think, “What’s unnatural about a plant?”, “What’s unnatural about something that someone produced in their laboratory?”
I mean, are there unnatural molecules? Anti-atoms?
But when we were looking at this in the late ’60s, no one had tried to use psychedelics for this kind of hard science problem, and if you went into the indigenous traditions, there was nothing there, really, either.
Most of the indigenous traditions were using their psychoactive substances for diagnosis and divination, an almost always the major works was done by the shaman, not by the person coming in with a problem.

What we had going against us was the possibility that this really couldn’t work, because what we do know, and think of your own experiences: Diminished capacity for logical thought processes, is that fair?
During the time of use reduced ability to direct concentration, inability to control imagery, anxiety, and agitation, sometimes, constricted verbal and visual communication abilities: “What’s happening?”

(Continue to part 2)