Oliver Sacks is one of the most prominent neurologists ever. His book ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat‘ is fascinating, if you’re interested. I was surprised to hear that he’s taken LSD and other drugs, written about it, and discussed his experience here. Thinking about it though, I’m not surprised. Drugs can provide great insight into the mind, which is what Sacks’ life work was about.
I found this quote funny.
Um, also, uh, it, umh, it gave me some… very direct knowledge, if one wants to put it this way, of what physiologists call the reward system of the brain.
He’s talking about getting high. He’s saying that he got high.
This was also insightful, in talking about methamphetamine, speed I’m assuming. He talks about rats who will push a lever to electro-stimulate pleasure centers in their brain, to the point of ignoring food and sex. Then:
For good and evil, I think I experienced a similar sort of thing when taking large doses of amphetamine. It produces intense pleasure – sometimes pleasure of an almost orgasmic degree – with no particular content.
This I think is important. That this is pleasure or experience without content. Drugs are largely bad because society says they’re bad and associates them with bad places, bad people – criminals, jail, etc. If, however, the context is changed, it can be given a different context. Alcohol is legal and – despite being by most measure more harmful that heroin – can be religious (Jewish dinner wine), social (wine and cheese) and fun (having a few beers after work). There’s another study which says loutish, promiscuous behavior isn’t due to the alcohol itself, that this is cultural, and that other cultures change the way people react to alcohol.
So, drugs give feelings, including pleasure, without content. But with content those feelings can be religious, social, or deeply degrading. Hence I, personally, believe in full legalization, regulation, and allowing free people and doctors and shaman or whatever to explore and define what drugs mean or do culturally. The current policy of saying they’re all bad and contextualizing them criminally is just incredibly degrading to humanity.