Psychedelics are a waste of life

From the original article on January 17, 2021. Author: Scott Locklin.

Psychedelic enthusiasts are an irritation of modernity. People make wild claims about these substances. These claims are mostly demonstrably horse shit. I write this in the hopes that I’ll influence some young people to at least examine their choices. I don’t think psychedelics are the worst thing in the world, but they’re definitely not a good thing. I think their use is bad for moral character, and I think it is trivially obvious that civilization has decayed since their use became popular and widespread.

My bona fides: I’ve used the things on and off from teenage years to my mid-30s, primarily for entertainment, but I also attempted various “man optimized” tricks with them that are presently popular. I’m a scientist, at least somewhat capable of reasoning and looking objectively at myself and others. I’m allergic to bullshit; even very popular bullshit -maybe especially popular bullshit. Psychedelic enthusiasm is popular bullshit.

I’m not even going to get deep into “psychological studies” because, as we all know by now, these are almost entirely bullshit: until recently they were saying you’d grow broccoli-like tumors on your noggin if you took the things. Now that enthusiasts who enjoy the things (instead of literal CIA mind control assassins and other government weirdoes) are involved in the “research” they’re being touted by irresponsible people as the next CBD oil panacea (and yes, CBD oil ought to be considered on all fours with snake oil unless you have some otherwise untreatable epilepsy or nausea). That’s the main reason I’m writing this: the enthusiasts are almost entirely unopposed at present. Not only are the enthusiast “researchers” unopposed, but people who are personal enthusiasts are generally unopposed and have unearned social status. I confuse the shit out of these people, because I have a fairly extensive history of use, but still maintain they’re about as personally useful as sniffing glue.

I’ll rely on a few statistics from the literature, but mostly I’m just going to rely on the humble tools of experience and rudimentary common sense. I won’t address their use in alleged treatment modalities for depression or whatever other than to vaguely doubt they’re any more effective than something like benadryl (which is apparently a pretty good anti-depressant, even if it does make your brain into swiss cheese taking it long term). I’d argue that the types of improvements in outlook measured as a positive outcome of psychedelic use would be similar for any novel, extreme and unfamiliar experience; most of which are less obviously bad for you. While you have Berkeley dipshits like Michael Pollan actively shilling for this nonsense, other Berkeley lumpy-head dipshits who are vastly more intellectually honest and scientific in their reasoning are at least raising doubts. It boggles me one need to credulously rely on “studies” -you just need to look around to know the irresponsible Pollans of the world are selling snake oil.

People who use the things on a regular basis think they bring back profound insights, because the drugs make looking at a flower feel profound. Yet, the actual insights brought back by people on their “trips” tend to be the type of thing a bit of self reflection would take care of, like “I’m mean to my family sometimes, and that’s kind of shitty.” I’ve yet to hear of any sort of improvement in creativity or even a single interesting idea anyone has ever brought back from psychedelics. Amphetamines have a vastly better track record of being useful stimulants for creativity; the last half of Paul Erdos career was fueled by benzedrine, as were those of countless musicians, engineers and writers. There are many people who claim dropping acid made them more creative. But none of the people who make this claim are observably more creative than people who didn’t drop acid, and 99.9% of them are more mush-headed and self-regarding, which does seem to be a cognitive side effect of these drugs.

The feelings of profundity are another thing that irritates me. If trippin’ balls is the most profound thing that happened in your life, you lead a sheltered life. I’d put it at best on the same level as going on a roller coaster or committing a minor crime as a law abiding citizen. I can think of any number of life experiences which were, for me, vastly more profound than tripping balls: sex, hunting in the forest (a primal altered state; every sense razor sharp), looking at nature through a microscope or telescope, old time religion, violence, falling asleep, travel, newborn babies, heavy deadlifts, seduction, auto accidents, looking at the night sky, fighting, learning calculus and linear algebra, prolonged lack of sleep, love, dreams, even a really nice bottle of wine is more profound than muh trippin balls. I mean, psychedelics are different from these experiences, they’re just not that amazing. I’m pretty sure (never tried; heard stories) taking a shitload of dramamine or robotussin is actually more amazing, and probably about as good for you.

The people who use aren’t good advertisements for their habits. While I know some who are heavy users, and some large fraction of my close friends are novelty seekers who have tried or used at one point or another, and everyone’s favorite burnout living in his cool apartment over mom’s garage is Joe Rogan, there are a lot of deserved stereotypes about people who use. Generally they’re more credulous about stupid things; astrology, weird nutrition, Q-anon, alien visitations, privilege theory, Russians under their bed, lost civilizations of ancient astronauts, magic crystals, whatever. I mean, that’s actually kind of cool: in principle you can talk to such people about anything. Except, perhaps, the idea that the church of psychedelics is worshipping a false god. The stereotypical “burn out” psychedelics user (who, admittedly, also probably smokes hella weed -which, if it needs to be said here, is also obviously bad for you) has all of the symptoms of pre-frontal lobe lesions; poor emotional regulation, apathy (drop out maaaaan), poor attention span and poor ability to concentrate and solve abstract problems, bad memory, poor impulse control. I’m not saying everyone that uses such drugs has brain damage, but a lot of users who identify with use of the stuff sure act like they do. On the upside, poor impulse control people are fun, and psychedelic users who are beyond hippy couch potato tier tend to do stuff which is more adventurous than most.

I suppose it may have been toxoplasmosis; no pictures of him with cats before LSD.

Ernst Junger‘s novels got worse in literary quality after he dropped acid in 1948 too. Marmorklippen (1939) might have been his peak because of the foment in his life and his advancing age, or it might have been because he started punching holes in his brain later with his scientist friends. Can’t say, but I can definitively say that his literary style and creativity absolutely didn’t improve with use. Das Abenteuerliche Herz (1937) practically was psychedelic in its intensity (years before his use of psychedelics); he never wrote anything that visionary again. Mind you, I think Eumeswil (1977) is a work of towering genius and I like much of his other postwar work as well, but his later work is complex, ponderous and doesn’t have the rays of artistic power that the earlier stuff does. Maybe the poetry is a young man’s flowering, and the old man is more of a thorn bush: but the point I’m trying to drive home here is acid absolutely didn’t nourish the flower -we must at least consider the possibility that it may have killed it.

In the US, rate of use is somewhere around 15-25% depending on the population segment and the survey. If there were some increase in creativity or insight or artistic or improvement in technical/scientific change or personal awareness and social intelligence, this effect would be observable by now. We do not live in a time of great creative foment; the last 60 years since their introduction to Western Civilization have been vastly less creative than the previous 60 years. Very little to no great art, a dark age in architecture despite vastly more capabilities, chaos in interpersonal relations, even technology beyond improvements in lithography (a field noteworthy for lacking in dope fiends) has basically stalled for decades. On the other hand we do live in a time of widespread paranoia, credulity, political unrest, mass hysterias, mass mental illness, social decay, and declining standards of living. Pretty much exactly what you’d expect if a significant fraction of the population turned their brains into swiss cheese; just like your grandpa told you would happen. I’m not blaming psychedelics for the mess we’re in. I’m just inviting you to notice that things are at least not observably getting better despite widespread usage, and in fact are obviously getting worse, so the idea that psychedelics do something obviously and profoundly positive must be considered false when applied as a mean field theory.

The stuff is known to cause immediate personality changes after one use. Opinions obviously differ as to whether these changes are an improvement. This stuff was popularized by CIA mind control experiments after all. Do you think the spooks wanted people to be awesome independent minded supermen, or more mush headed and controllable? Think hard! Spooks are the ones who made it popular. Pretty sure cultures without psychedelics were more awesome than those where psychedelics have strong influence. Let’s take examples from architecture:

Wine and prayer.

Peyote and howling at your spirit ancestors.

Psychedelics are still used as models of schizophrenia and inducing schizotypical thinking in people. Again, schizotypicals who act like they have pre-frontal lesions can be fun at parties, but do you want to be that guy? Would you like to risk permanent or at least persistent (for years) visual field disturbances? What about the people who experience complete psychotic breaks? We all know people who never came back in some sense from these substances, or who had severe mental illnesses afterwords. Enthusiasts will tell you some non-falsifiable happy horse shit about how they would have experienced psychotic breaks anyway, and the drugs just made it come out sooner. This is incredibly stupid, and only the credulity induced by psychedelic use could make one take it seriously as an argument. Sure, very few to no people actually die from taking such things, but losing your soul and becoming a shambling, muttering lump of flesh is arguably worse.

Microdosing is just as weaksauce. I tried it before it had a name, back when I was consumed with late undergraduate work. It was a terrible mistake. When you’re working to the limit of your mental abilities, such as trying to learn physics while working a full time job as a podunk redneck of dubious educational background, you notice when things are helping or hurting. Microdosing hurt, a lot. It is a nice stimulant; strong feelings of well being, and you don’t need morning coffee. It absolutely shreds your short term memory, and makes actual reasoning vastly more difficult. I tried lots of things to get an edge; at the time ginko and gotu kola were touted, and they might have had a mild effect which helped. Microdosing LSD definitely hurt; ridiculously obviously so. I was talked into it by a guy I knew who was gonna take a year off to microdose and learn topology. Rather than becoming Perleman or Grothendeik as he no doubt intended, he of course disappeared, literally never to be heard from again. I know people believe it helps them, but it’s entirely a subjective feeling; the science is pretty clear on this: no observable improvement on any axis. The risk/benefit ratio is vastly more obvious with speed and modafinil; both drugs help in the short term, but are ultimately probably rat poison. There is no microdosing version of Paul Erdos. The probability that you, as a special and unique snowflake, will be that microdosing Paul Erdos are basically nil. Not that you should want to be Paul Erdos; he was a genius, but he seemed to have a fairly miserable life.

Psychedelic use stinks of neoliberal suburban despair. It’s a shitty chemical induced bugman religion; a primitive and subjective one that produces no art, no beauty and no ideas of consequence. People get into this sort of thing because they’re bored, unimaginative and live in a shitty society; same as muh cummies sex degenerate people, except even more inward looking and pathetic. Widespread psychedelic use has brought no beauty or order to the world; it doesn’t make people better or more compassionate, it just makes them more compliant, subject to absolutely ridiculous conspiracy theories, and resigned to their fates as semi-lobotomized neoliberal bugmen. That said, if you still want to use such things, have at it. I don’t think you should be in jail (people who sell probably should be, and Michael Pollan ought to be flung into a volcano just on principle), but I reserve the right to make fun of you for being a credulous dipshit.

ps: even though I make fun of him for being a sperdo with a noggin even lumpier than mine, this relevant SlateStar blog is pretty useful and good:

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