You might have seen a story this week in the news claiming that “LSD allows users to experience a higher level of consciousness.” If you thought this sounded a little too outlandish to be true, you’re probably correct, as despite the sound of the headline, the science is still out on this matter. While not confirming anything to be true, the study itself is incredibly interesting, and sheds light onto how drugs, good or bad, affect the brain. LSD and other psychoactive drugs are known for their over-the-top highs and vivid hallucinations, but can they really cause such a dramatic change in the brain that it could be called a higher state of consciousness?
The short answer is no. While the body of the study is in depth and thorough, the title was likely designed to spark people’s interest rather than relay a truth or finding. What the study means by a “higher level of consciousness” is simply an increase in the complex activity in the brain. What makes this special is that while many things increase our brain activity, not much increases the complexity of that activity. This is what makes this study truly groundbreaking.
LSD works in the same way that many drugs do. It affects the neurotransmitters in our brain, notably serotonin which is responsible for how we feel pleasure and happiness. In causing a variety of reactions in our neurotransmitters, LSD can cause the complexity of our brain activity to rise. This doesn’t mean people who use LSD are smarter or are achieving some transcendental enlightenment. The study is only capable of measuring the amount of complexity in brain activity, but not the quality of it. Therefore, if you’re not doing LSD, you’re likely not missing out on much.
What this study does show is that certain drugs like LSD may have a place in medical science, allowing us to understand how the brain works more effectively. We may also be able to help individuals with cognitive issues achieve cleaner, more complex thought processes in the future. While LSD may be a dangerous drug in the wild, it’s very akin to other drugs like opioids in that in a controlled and safe environment, they may have their benefits. However, just like opioids, it’s best to avoid them as best you can, and to understand the real dangers they pose.
Further reading: https://www.rawstory.com/2017/04/brain-on-lsd-enters-a-higher-state-of-consciousness/
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