Thursday 31 July 2014

Placebo Effect & The LSD Prank

Placebo Effect & The LSD Prank by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul
“If the Thinker thinks “holy water” from Lourdes will cure its lumbago, the Prover will skilfully orchestrate all signals, from the glands, muscles, organs, etc. until they have organised themselves into good health again.”
— Robert Anton Wilson, Prometheus Rising

Along with meditation, neuroplasticity, intuition and psychedelics, the Placebo Effect is one of the various mind-over-matter topics investigated in my book. The following is a related joke, which we can now call an experiment that my friends and I took part in when we were about 20-years old.

One night, we were a total of five people and we were going to a friend’s house. Having always been a prankster, I convinced my buddies to pretend that we are all tripping on LSD. Once in the house, we started to act tripping and happened to do quite a good job.

The next step was sharing the fake stuff with our friend. So I asked him for scissors, hid a pack of cigarettes in my pocket, and headed to the bathroom. I then took the side carton we often used for joint tips when the two upper ones were gone and cut it up to many square ‘hits’ and put two on my tongue before going out to join the group. I stuck my tongue out for my unwary friend to see, pretending that it’s my fifth hit for the night ― something I could have done. And then gave him two. 

The guy bought the whole ridiculous act. I remember him going to my friends and telling them to stop me from taking any more because I will really lose my head. We were pretty convincing. In his defence, however, there was also a psychological aspect to it; for all of us did psychedelics at the time while I was known to love LSD in particular. There was no legitimate reason to doubt such a night. Let alone doubting five of your close friends who are indeed acting trippy just as well. Oh boy.

One of us would start with some fake laughter then when we make eye contact and remember that our buddy truly got deep into it, so we start laughing for real, and then he joins in. This psychedelic loop kept repeating itself for what seemed like a long time. Just as if we were up there on acid.

We spent a few hours at his place; smoking up, acting up, and having lots of wicked fun. Then at some point we all went home except one who was spending the night at our friend. His excuse that he will be going to bed by 5 am is that he took some Rohypnol (Flunitrazepam) which were big in Egypt in the 80s and 90s when people took them recreationally, not as a date-rape tool.

Little did I know, but our ‘tripping’ friend stayed up till the next morning. He actually called me home by noon, sharing that when he looks at himself in the mirror he can see his face in black and white. He was absolutely convinced that he had a psychedelic experience the night prior. And I kept playing along. Yep.

Note that this is someone who has done acid as well as other psychedelics and different drugs before. And though I wouldn’t call him a psychonaut, he knows well what they are as he has visited the magical realm multiple times. However, aided by our little skit, the power of suggestion and the placebo effect here made his mind and body believe that he was tripping, inciting them both to act accordingly.

The remarkable thing is that a week later, I could not shut up and was too excited to see my friend's reaction once he would find out. So I decided to tell him about the farce. Four of us original five were there, but he would not believe me or them. He had then concluded that it wasn’t the strong type, though it was indeed LSD. Well. I sincerely tried to convince him but he wouldn’t listen, so I simply just dropped it ― pun intended. He probably still believes it until today.

On that same note, many years later a couple of friends and I were discussing Placebo Effect in general and this article in particular. One of them said, she wholeheartedly acknowledges the power of the mind and belief because she experienced it herself. So, apparently one day she had withdrawal symptoms after doing heroin for multiple weeks or months when her friend gave her a certain medication to ease her pain. She took it, felt better, then went to sleep. Only the next day they found out that she took a simple aspirin instead of the pain killer, by mistake, in the dark. And again here, the withdrawals went away as she was able to sleep; simply because her mind registered that she should feel better after taking the pill, so she did feel better. Wicked crazy huh?

This experience reminded me of my own addiction years. Because I had noticed that the heroin withdrawals almost disappeared whenever I would be going to meet the dealer; even speaking to them on the phone seemed to do something up or in there ― illuminating certain areas of the brain while enticing some neurons to fire. Maybe “almost disappeared” is a stretch, but certainly the pain and discomfort are alleviated. Knowing that you will be getting your fix soon, the mind gets one up there way before ingesting the drug.

Remarkably, one more person told me the same happens to him, only this one was hooked on cocaine. “Once that baggy is in my pocket, and I can hold it in my hand, I am already high or getting there,” he stated.

The Placebo Effect is a physical and psychological phenomenon, which naturally means that it affects everyone differently. While the anecdotal examples shared above are my own experiences and those of my friends, the research, studies, and findings in neuroscience, neuropharmacology, psychology are everywhere. No longer believing in the term “placebo” due to its association to certain derogatory connotations without actually being one in and of itself seems like a logical fallacy. Mainly because it is not a mere belief or opinion, but rather a fact with a whole lot of evidence to back it up. The mind-body neural connections and the relationship between both are indeed there.

All that said, the process has little to do with the type of drug. The mind along with the neurochemical connections it forms throughout the years remains notoriously powerful. Thank the Heavens for neuroplasticity and Epigenetics for showing us that nothing is caste in stone.

More about memory formation and how it affects our behaviour and decision making can be found in the last exposé,
The Intertwining of Pain and Pleasure

And more about the history and early days of acid can be found in my earlier dense exposé: The LSD Experiments of the 1950s and 60s [Videos & Documentaries]

Delving into the alluring topic of the Placebo Effect offers us clear insights into the workings of beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and intents. Placebo shows that our brain and perception have a profound effect on our body chemistry; consequently on our physical health as well as our experience of reality as a whole. It is so mysterious, it could be looked upon as an energetic phenomenon which works when the mind and heart (intent) match the energy of the result ― or the healing ― we wish to achieve. So the act of believing that we’ll heal, or trip, helps making us heal or trip in real; or at least speeds up the process in the case of the healing. This magic is poetry in motion.

Fascinatingly, more than two decades later science came to support our story. New research published in Psychopharmacology showed that placebo can indeed induce psychedelic effects, including perceptual alterations. In simpler words, subjects tripped following ingesting a sugar pill, which they were made to believe was a psychedelic drug resembling psilocybin found in magic mushrooms. 

To boost expectations, confederates subtly acted out the stated effects of the drug and participants were led to believe that there was no placebo control group.” So just like our little Zamalek skit in the late 90s, the ones in charge of the study played along to make it believable. Ha.

Another reported finding from the same study was that participants with no previous experience with psychedelics were more likely to feel the fake effects of the placebo, or some of them, compared to those with previous experience ― with 70 percent of the first group and 50 percent of the second. Still quite the significant numbers.

As seen, placebo shows that our minds have immense, perhaps unfathomable powers capable of manifesting the reality we wish. Aided by appropriate context and convenient expectations, it occurs when we align our frequency with the desire. Placebo is equally a reminder that if we want things to change, we should simply change the way we look at them.

Placebo Effect & The LSD Prank by Omar Cherif, One Lucky Soul


The Intertwining of Pain and Pleasure

Funny Drug-Related Stories

Funny Drug-Related Stories 2

The LSD Experiments of the 1950s and 60s [Videos & Documentaries]

Surviving the Madness of Sakarana — Hyoscyamus muticus

Opiated Then Hatin' It

Amphetamine, Methamphetamine, and Crystal Methamphetamine — A Psychonaut’s Review

Out-of-Body Experience and Ego Death on a “Heroic Dose” of Mushrooms

My Correspondence With a 31-Year-Old Reader Before He Passed Away

The Egyptian Man Who Kept a Piece of Hash in His Stomach for Four Years

Animals Getting High: Weird Nature ― Peculiar Potions [Documentary] 
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