Psychonautics (from the Greek ψυχή psychē [“soul”, “spirit” or “mind”] and ναύτης naútēs [“sailor” or “navigator”] – “a sailor of the soul”) refers both to a methodology for describing and explaining the subjective effects of altered states of consciousness, especially an important subgroup called holotropic states, including those induced by meditation or mind-altering substances, and to a research paradigm in which the researcher voluntarily immerses himself or herself into an altered mental state in order to explore the accompanying experiences.
There has been a desire to discuss medication burning within for a while. This is my humble attempt to explore the reasons why I take medication and the effects I experience while on those drugs.
I’m dedicating this series to Peter Hardie, my favorite voyager.
Let the meek inherit the earth. The brave get the ocean.
The first ADHD drug I took was Adderall. I got it in a strange way, completely because I asked for it. I was seeing a therapist with my wife and he recommended I get some kind of treatment for the ADHD, settling on that drug because he took it and liked it. My primary care prescribed it when I asked without a lot of discussion or rumination over the side effects, etc. In general, that primary was my least favorite but I appreciated that he didn’t question my request for treatment. He respected my needs and moved ahead with what I asked for. This was way before my bipolar II diagnosis.
Chemistry: Adderall is made up of two drugs that are, for lack of a better term, amphetamines. The risks of addiction are moderately high and I am sure I don’t need to tell you the stories as they all made the news. 25 percent levoamphetamine and 75 percent dextroamphetamine, though it is definitely 100 percent stimulant. Drugs like Adderall work by increasing the dopamine, a chemical messenger that communicates feelings of pleasure and makes you more motivated. It’s (supposed to be) a slow and steady increase but… it definitely didn’t feel that way.
Ride: That first dose was wild. I took it and felt nothing for the first hour. I went for a walk in the neighborhood and right as I hit the intersection of Forest Glen and Georgia, I could feel the drug starting to take effect.
At first I got the sweats and felt a little jerky. After that, it was like I had discovered an instruction manual for life that had been held back for years. I remembered things I had long lost and struggled less with mundane tasks. Listwork got easier and I saw When I would settle into the dose, I found that the drug would get really rough with me around lunch. It almost felt like it was beating my mind into order even if I cooperated. Plus, when it would wear off I would get really angry for no reason. But because I was getting med management through a primary and a therapist, I didn’t discuss the feelings with anyone really. I just thought they were part of the whole experience so I laughed (haha wtf) it off. When I finally switched to a different drug, it was such a relief.
Brainfeel: It was my first ride, so I like to compare it to Sidney Bechet: emotional… reckless… and large. While masterful and an awakening of what ordered thinking can do for the mind and spirit, the drug can feel aloof and self-centered. Bechet’s broad vibrato and warm second act aside, he got into gun and knife fights on the regular. Can’t abide by that… I’ve got enough problems.
Verdict: I dropped it for another, though I don’t regret it. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.