Why I Don’t Do Psychedelic Drugs

EcstacyMollyPills350A couple days ago I participated in a webinar about Buddhism and Psychedelics presided over by Allan Badiner, author of the book Zig Zag Zen.

At the end of the discussion Mr. Badiner referenced something I’d said earlier. I was talking about my previous experiences with LSD. The fourth and final time I took it, I had an incredibly bad trip that scared the bejesus out of me. After our session was over he told me that maybe I wasn’t doing psychedelics anymore just because I was scared of them. He said that if I were to try any again I ought to do MDMA (aka Ecstasy, Molly, “E”, etc.). He said it had opened his heart and made him more compassionate.

So I thought about it, and I asked myself why I do not do psychedelics. Can I answer that question and not just give a knee-jerk reaction? Because if I just said it’s because of Buddha’s Fifth Precept against using intoxicants, aren’t I just like someone who says, “The Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it”?

So here’s why I don’t do psychedelics. Not why you shouldn’t. Why I don’t.

Number One, they scare me. The last time I tripped was an epic nightmare. You can read all about it in my book Hardcore Zen. I spent most of that night in abject terror on a drug I desperately wanted out of my system with no choice but to wait until it wore off. I also lost my concept of time, so even though I understood that I’d be OK again in a few hours, I could not figure out what an hour was to save my life. The concept was still available to my brain, but I could not make any sense of it. So for all I knew I was going to stay high and terrified forever.

But that’s not the only reason I don’t do those drugs. I spent a few minutes after the webinar was over just letting my mind roll over the possibility of getting ahold of some MDMA and trying it out for myself to see what actually happens. Then I realized a few things.

For one thing, I wouldn’t trust any so-called “MDMA” I might be able to get in Los Angeles no matter what the source claimed. At best, it would be something cooked up by some dodgy chemist in a basement mixing up stuff to sell to high school kids. I would not be able to fool myself into believing that the major market for this drug is responsible adults engaged in safe consciousness exploration in controlled environments.

Bull shit. If you’re making MDMA – or LSD, or growing ‘shrooms, etc. – your target market isn’t a handful of people using that suff as a sacrament for religious purposes. Your target market is kids who wanna party. I don’t want to support the people who supply that market or put anything they make into my body.

You might be inclined to counter that by asking if I examine the entire manufacturing and distribution chain of everything I purchase to determine if it was sourced ethically. Obviously the answer is “No.” But that’s irrelevant. I may not be certain whether or not underpaid children in a sweatshop in Malaysia made my shoes, but I do know for certain that any MDMA or other psychedelic drug I might purchase comes from a highly unethical source.

I also don’t want to incapacitate myself for an indeterminate length of time and require someone to babysit me. Because that’s what all the “set and setting” crap that people who are into drug-based consciousness exploration talk about really means. It means someone sober has got to be around to make sure I don’t hurt myself. Who am I to demand someone look after me like I’m a child?

And what about all this stuff where people say MDMA or other such substances made them more compassionate? Does this mean that now that the ravers of the 90s are adults we live in a kinder, gentler world where everybody’s nice because they all learned real compassion from listening to techno music while high on Molly? I don’t see it. Plus, I hung around a bunch of young MDMA fans on a few occasions recently. They were no more compassionate than anyone else I ever met, in fact they were kind of jerks to each other.

Real compassion is a skill. It’s not just a big warm fuzzy feeling in your “heart space.” It’s knowing what to do with that feeling. It’s knowing when it’s appropriate to get all huggy and when it’s not. Because sometimes a hug is the least compassionate response. And sometimes being all warm and cuddly is a way to run away from what really needs to be done.

Also, one of the best reasons not to do those drugs is staring every single user right in the face every single time they use it. After our conversation Allan Badiner very kindly and in the interest of being helpful sent me an email detailing how to use MDMA properly if I ever wanted to try it out. It involved taking a large dose of Vitamin C first, along with magnesium and amino acid supplements both before and after the MDMA. And, of course, the proper “set and setting” which includes the aforementioned babysitter.

The fact that I’d need to do so much preparation indicates to me that maybe I’d be doing something that’s kind of dangerous and probably not actually good for me.

As a Buddhist I would also have to do a lot of mental gymnastics to try to convince myself it was proper behavior. For example, apparently a lot of folks into Buddhist-based drug-induced consciousness exploration like to say that the Fifth Precept was actually specifically about alcohol and can be extended to other supposedly “consciousness restricting” drugs but does not apply to “consciousness expanding” drugs.

No. Sorry. The precept is not against alcohol or drugs. It’s for sobriety. It’s not saying “don’t get drunk.” It’s saying “stay sober.” There is a difference.

Besides, “consciousness expanding” drugs were well known and widely used in India in Buddha’s time for spiritual exploration. There is no evidence the early Buddhists used them at all. The whole argument is so full of holes I couldn’t possibly accept it on any terms.

More to the point, if I have to do a lot of mental gymnastics to justify any action, that is a clue that the action itself is problematic and probably ought to be avoided.

So that’s why you won’t see me at any raves any time soon. Besides, I hate techno music.


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94 Responses

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  1. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon August 4, 2015 at 4:48 am |

    Donkeys cross over.
    Horses cross over.
    Cross over.
    Cross over!

  2. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote August 4, 2015 at 9:08 am |

    I was talking with a friend of mine about the comprehension of the long or short of inhalation or exhalation, that old hand-me-down. He proceeded to tell the story of a friend of his, who stayed up all night studying for an exam, and on the way to the exam hall tried to fart but didn’t. Soiled himself, completely (shades of the tale of the alchemist in the sacred grove).

    I wrote my friend this morning, to say that with regard to the mental gyrations of attempting to fart, “I find there are similarities with my comprehension of the long and short of breath, except that when I actually find this practice occurring the farting takes care of itself without a thought.” Yes, I’m lucky, sometimes!

    “Mental gyrations of attempting to fart”- that’s interesting. Yes, the exercise of equalibrioception and proprioception would seem to be involved. That’s what I recommended to my friend, though I know we all must mix our own medicine.

    “Cross over, cross over“.

  3. Fred Jr.
    Fred Jr. August 4, 2015 at 2:58 pm |

    Red Rover
    Red Rover
    Grand Canyon
    Cross Over !

  4. Mumbles
    Mumbles August 4, 2015 at 5:59 pm |

    Whassup? Is this the new deal? Still takes years to load, meh.

  5. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote August 4, 2015 at 9:36 pm |

    My friend sez to me:

    “Practicing” equalibrioception and proprioception doesn’t make “sense” to me. I’m not falling over.

    … I mentioned some time ago that I’d read about neuroscientific research (in “Why God Won’t Go Away, Brain Science and the Biology of Belief” by Andrew Newberg) on advanced Tibetan meditators that showed how, when they went into samadhi, the part of the brain that produced awareness of the body or self, as a separate object in space, completely shut down…

    I sez to my friend, ‘In a review of “Why God Won’t Go Away, Brain Science and the Biology of Belief”, we find:

    For people interested in states of unitive consciousness, Chapter 6, “Mysticism: The Biology of Transcendence,” is the mother lode of the book. Since reading it, I’ve found myself applying their neurotheological insights to various reports of mystical experience,including my own entheogen-occasioned ones. Of special importance are two areas of our brains that give us our spatial senses: the orientation association area in the left cerebral hemisphere, which mediates our sense of self, the body’s edges, and our ego location; and the orientation association area in the right hemisphere, which locates us in the world outside ourselves and gives us our sense of what is not part of us. Depending on whether these areas are hyper-aroused, normal, or quiescent, we have vastly different perceptions of our selves and their boundaries.

    That’s all I’m talking about. I’m just saying that once I checked in with my sense of pitch, yaw, and roll, and with the consciousness generated by my proprioceptors (and beyond), I could free my mind in one place.’


  6. Shodo
    Shodo August 5, 2015 at 5:56 am |

    I reckon we shall never read what Dharmahuasca on ayahuasca and practice now…

  7. Dharmahuasca
    Dharmahuasca August 5, 2015 at 6:27 pm |

    Actually, I see this is finally back up. In fact, I will soon start a topic on this on Ayahuasca.com I’ll give an email address tomorrow to let you know when this will happen if you (0r anyone else) wants to connect with me.

    And I will post here again now that its back.


  8. Dharmahuasca
    Dharmahuasca August 6, 2015 at 7:09 pm |

    My email for anyone interested in continuing the conversation on ayahuasca.com
    is dhammahuasca@gmail.com

    I will post a follow up here hopefully on the weekend.


  9. johnkj
    johnkj August 20, 2015 at 5:13 am |

    I can’t believe someone calling themselves a teacher and offering a full extensive tour of meditation retreats would offer up such a shallow piece of writing that includes a video of peoples reactions on MDMA in a night club and something along the lines of “at best, the people who manufacture the LSD sell it to high school kids.”

    I can empathise with the difficult experience and trip-sitter – I myself rarely take psychedelics if at all, and consider myself an avid dharma practitioner, but this really didn’t go beyond an exclamation of why they’ve made up their mind and done in such a fashion as to trivialise the taking of them. It’s not so much what was said, but how it was said.

    I don’t want to get all ad hominem or personal, but i’ve noticed a tendency in “hardcore dharma” movements to speak with a harsh abruptness and finality under the guise of a “punk attitude” which really comes off as egotistically naive, rather than hardcore.

    On the flip side of this ugly spiritual secularism, I don’t see anybody in these entheogenic circles trivialising the practices and rituals commonly used in buddhist organisations with silly youtube video’s and a mockery of the state of imprint vulnerability that comes with powerfully strong meditative experiences “set and setting crap”. Meditation teachers are precisely “baby-sitters” as you so compassionately put. I myself have dealt with a person having a psychotic break down on meditation retreat as a helper.

    If you’re offering a meditation retreat (a set and setting) with an attitude like this, how on earth can you help someone having a strong identity-dissolving experience on the cushion when it’s framed as “baby sitting” ?

    I wouldn’t usually comment like this and apologise if it’s come off as harsh, but the amount of articles i’ve read over the years from people within meditation communities who have taken a fifth precept and then proceed to write articles about psychedelic usage and why they don’t find it compatible with the dharma is quite common and comes off as quite insecurely defensive.

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