UserWiki:David Hedlund/Placebo

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  • Berkeley native Sasha Shulgin's fascination with the relationship between mind and chemical matter began, oddly enough, in the Navy during World War II. A severe infection on his left thumb required surgery. Before he went under the knife, he was handed a glass of orange juice, at the bottom of which he noticed some undissolved white crystals. Convinced it was a sedative, Shulgin drank the juice but resolved to stay alert. He promptly blacked out. Upon waking, he was surprised to discover that the knockout drug had been nothing more than sugar; his mind had tricked itself over the simplest of placebos. Shulgin resolved right then to devote his career to the relationship between drugs and the human mind." -
  • Adrenaline caused a calm and relaxed state in volunteers told they were receiving a sedative. If told that the experimental drug was stimulating, volunteers felt the more typical anxiety and energy.[DMT, The Spirit Molecule, p30]
  • Niacin produces clear physiological changes and thus was used as a psychoactive placebo. -
  • Rituals
   Nevertheless, indigenous ritual use indicates dose levels for T.
corymbosa, and I. violacea which are far lower than that perceived as
necessary to effect hallucinosis in members of modern Western cultures.
In Mexico, the only place in the world where the ingestion of morning
glory seeds has an established tradition of shamanic usage, a
hallucinogenic dose is said to be only thirteen seeds, a ritual amount
based on religious numerology rather than chemical analysis.
  To further confuse the issue, despite the higher concentration of
alkaloids in the Woodrose seeds, the trip is generally experienced by
Westerners as both somatically unpleasant and not particularly
psychedelic. In glaring contrast, Mexican shamans routinely ingest (to
us) subthreshold doses of a much less potent species to encounter
full-blown allies from the imaginal realm who aid them in their
diagnoses. What accounts for the discrepancy?
   Assuming good will and a desire for accuracy on the part of all
informants, one can only speculate on the significant disparities
separating the reports of Indians from Westerners. Perhaps the first
notable difference is that the Indians use their drugs ritually in a
religious and healing context, whereas Westerners are generally
recreationally or scientifically oriented. Perhaps there is some
relationship between religious belief, per se, and concepts relating to
homeopathic medicine which make the use of only thirteen seeds
effective in an indigenous context and not in Western settings. Then
there is the fact that the genetic make-up, as well as the growing and
harvesting conditions associated with each plant, often result in wide
variances in potency, considerations which apply to every species
discussed in this book.
  The presence of so many anomalies in the literature and folklore of
psychedelia favors an alchemical interpretation, that is to say, the
consciousness we seek to alter is at least as important as the substance
we use to alter it with. The same key may open many different doors,
but what might lie behind each portal will remain indeterminate until

[Psychedelic Shamanism, p145]