10 ways psychedelics causes permanent changes in brain chemistry

Navigating the world of psychedelics can be a bit like exploring outer space. There’s so much we don’t know, and yet, what we do know is utterly fascinating.

One thing is for certain – these substances have a profound and permanent impact on our brain chemistry. It’s not just a fleeting trip, but a journey that can alter the landscape of your mind for good.

In this article, I’m going to shed some light on the top ten ways psychedelics induce permanent changes in our brain chemistry.

1) Neuroplasticity surge

Let’s dive deep into our brains to understand this first point.

Ever heard of neuroplasticity? It’s the ability of your brain to adapt, change and form new neural connections throughout your life.

In a nutshell, psychedelics have been found to give this ability a major boost.

When you take these substances, they trigger a surge in neuroplasticity. This means that your brain becomes more flexible and adaptable, capable of forming new connections that weren’t there before.

This isn’t just a temporary effect while you’re tripping. Research suggests that this heightened state of neuroplasticity can last for a significant period even after the effects of the drug have worn off.

It’s like giving your brain a mental workout and building stronger neural ‘muscles’. The potential implications for learning, memory, and even recovery from brain injuries are astounding.

2) Expanded consciousness

Alright, let’s get a bit personal here.

A few years back, I had my first experience with psychedelics. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of it, but one thing struck me profoundly – how it expanded my consciousness.

I found myself experiencing thoughts and ideas that I had never considered before. It was as if I was viewing the world from a completely different lens.

Studies suggest that this isn’t just a perception but a tangible effect of psychedelics on the brain. They seem to dissolve the usual networks of the brain and form new, unusual connections.

The result? An experience of expanded consciousness that can lead to novel insights and creative problem-solving.

Again, imagine the potential benefits for fields like psychology, philosophy, and even art.

3) Enhanced sensory perception

Ever wondered why psychedelic experiences are often described as ‘trippy’? The answer lies in how these substances affect our sensory perception.

Psychedelics can enhance our senses to a remarkable degree. Colours may seem brighter, sounds more resonant, and touch more intense. It’s almost like the volume knob on your sensory input has been turned up to eleven.

This isn’t just anecdotal evidence, it’s backed by science. Brain imaging studies have shown that psychedelics increase activity in the brain regions associated with our senses.

This hyper-connected state can lead to experiences of synesthesia, a phenomenon where senses merge – you might ‘see’ sounds or ‘taste’ colours.

And here’s a juicy tidbit: Renowned artist Vincent Van Gogh was speculated to have naturally experienced synesthesia, which could explain his unique artistic style. Could psychedelics be the key to unlocking similar creative potential? Who knows! But like always, caution and responsibility are key.

4) Amplified emotions

If you’ve ever taken psychedelics, or know someone who has, you’ve probably heard about the emotional roller coaster that often accompanies the trip.

Psychedelics have a knack for amplifying our emotional responses. Feelings of joy, surprise, fear, or sadness can be experienced more intensely than ever before.

But why does this happen?

Research suggests that psychedelics act on the serotonin receptors in our brain, specifically the 5-HT2A receptor. This receptor plays a key role in regulating our mood and emotions.

By influencing this receptor, psychedelics can trigger a cascade of changes in our emotional processing. This might explain why many people report profound emotional experiences or insights during their trips.

5) Altered sense of time

Time, as we perceive it, can be a funny thing. And under the influence of psychedelics, it can get even funnier.

Many people who’ve taken these substances report a distorted sense of time. Minutes can feel like hours, and vice versa.

But what’s happening inside our heads to cause this?

Well, studies suggest that psychedelics disrupt the normal functioning of our brain’s frontal cortex – the area responsible for our sense of time.

This disturbance in our internal clock can lead to profound experiences and insights. It can make us question our understanding of time and reality itself.

6) Connection and empathy

Psychedelics have a unique way of making us feel deeply connected with the world around us. It’s as if the barriers between ‘self’ and ‘other’ dissolve, leading to feelings of unity and empathy.

I’ve heard countless stories from people who’ve taken psychedelics, describing profound experiences of feeling at one with nature, or deeply understanding another person’s perspective.

At the heart of these experiences is an enhanced capacity for empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.

Scientific research backs this up. Studies show that psychedelics can increase our emotional empathy, and even promote pro-social behavior.

In today’s world, where division often seems more prevalent than unity, the potential for psychedelics to foster connection and empathy is truly heartening.

7) Healing and growth

A few years ago, I found myself in a dark place. I was dealing with issues that seemed insurmountable. Then, I encountered psychedelics.

That journey led me down a path of self-discovery and healing. It was a deep, challenging, and ultimately transformative experience.

Psychedelics have been associated with therapeutic benefits for mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. They seem to open up a space for introspection and self-exploration that can facilitate healing and personal growth.

Studies have shown that psychedelics can help reset certain neural circuits in the brain associated with these disorders. They can catalyze a process of change and growth that might otherwise take years of therapy.

But they’re not a magic bullet. They’re tools that need to be used wisely and carefully. Always remember that psychedelics are powerful substances, and their use should be approached with respect and caution.

8) Quieting the ego

We often think of psychedelics as substances that amplify our experiences, emotions, and perceptions. But interestingly, they also have the power to diminish something – our ego.

The ego, in psychological terms, is our sense of self; it’s the voice in our head that says ‘I’. Psychedelics have a unique way of quieting this voice, leading to what’s often described as ‘ego dissolution’.

This may sound a bit alarming, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, many users describe it as a liberating experience. It allows us to step outside our usual self-centered perspective and see the world in a different, more interconnected way.

Research supports this too. Brain imaging studies have found that psychedelics decrease activity in the ‘default mode network’ of the brain, an area associated with self-referential thought.

9) Enhanced creativity

Ever wondered why so many artists, musicians, and writers have dabbled with psychedelics? It’s because these substances can significantly enhance creativity.

Under the influence of psychedelics, the mind tends to think more flexibly and less conventionally. This can lead to novel insights, ideas, and perspectives that fuel creative expression.

Scientifically speaking, this is due to the increase in cross-talk between different regions of the brain. Areas that don’t usually communicate start interacting, leading to unique connections and ideas.

It’s like taking a detour from the usual highways of your mind and exploring the scenic backroads instead. The result can be some truly original and out-of-the-box thinking.

10) Non-specific amplifier

Here’s the most important thing you should know about psychedelics: they are non-specific amplifiers.

What does that mean? Essentially, they amplify whatever is going on in your mind at the time of ingestion. If you’re feeling happy, you might feel ecstatic. If you’re feeling anxious, you might feel terrified.

Psychedelics don’t create experiences out of thin air. They magnify and intensify what’s already there.

That’s why it’s crucial to approach these substances with the utmost respect and caution. The set (your mindset) and setting (the environment) in which you take them can significantly influence your experience.

They’re not party drugs or quick fixes for personal problems. They are powerful substances that can open doors to profound experiences – but only when used wisely and responsibly.

Final reflection: It’s all in the mind

The magic of psychedelics lies in their ability to alter our perception, open new doors of understanding, and instigate profound changes in our brain chemistry.

As we’ve seen, the effects of these substances are wide-ranging – from amplified emotions and enhanced creativity to an expanded consciousness and a quieted ego.

One thing is clear – psychedelics have a tremendous power to transform the mind from within. They are not just about trippy visuals and distorted time perception, but deep, meaningful inner journeys that can lead to growth and healing.

But keep in mind that these substances are not toys to be played with. They are powerful tools that require respect, caution, and responsible use.

As the great psychonaut Terence McKenna once said, “Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behavior and information processing.”

So as you reflect on what you’ve learned today, remember – the power of psychedelics lies in their ability to dissolve boundaries and open up new perspectives. But like all powerful tools, they should be used wisely and responsibly.

Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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