James Fadiman

Psychedelics And The Self (#242) | James Fadiman on Making Sense with Sam Harris

Check out the Making Sense Podcast Page & Episode Notes

Key Takeaways

  • The question of who should take psychedelics can only be answered by the individual
    • If you feel there’s a reason you shouldn’t take a psychedelic, listen to that
  • Psychedelics are immensely sensitive to 
    • Set: Your mental attitude
    • Setting: Your physical environment and the people around you
      • If you have therapeutic intentions, an indoor setting would be better
    • Life Situation
  • Taking psychedelics recreationally is more dangerous than most people think
  • If you want to have a safe high-dose experience take value from it, it is essential to have a guide, or at least a companion or a designated driver
    • A guide makes it much easier to get out of negative experiences
  • “If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones” Alan Watts
  • Reported benefits with micro-dosing
    • More effective at work and in the gym
    • More creative
    • Enjoyed time with family more than usual
    • Increase arousal
      • Not indicated for people suffering anxiety

Key Books Mentioned

Intro

Who Should Think About Taking Psychedelics

  • The question of who should take psychedelics can only be answered by the individual
  • When people ask James if they should take LSD he answers they shouldn’t
    • If you feel there’s a reason you shouldn’t take a psychedelic, you have to listen to that
      • Yet even experienced psychonauts often feel some sense of fear before psychedelics experiences
      • James compares it to skydiving
  • Scientific literature says that you shouldn’t take high doses if
    • You had psychotic or schizophrenia episodes
    • You are bipolar or have mental disorders
  • James found that these prescriptions are not based on studies, but because scientists don’t want those individuals in their research
    • They involve a higher risk for researchers
    • James privately interacted with people suffering from bipolar disorders
      • They suggested not to take anything on the manic phase
      • But reported psychedelics being helpful during the depressive phase

General Facts on LSD

  • Since the early 1970s, in the United States, 30 million people tried LSD
  • There were no reported deaths
    • It can be considered a safe substance physiologically
  • Many reported very unhappy and difficult experiences
    • It’s dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing, even on moderate doses
    • “These substances will take you places that you do not intend” James Fadiman
  • James moved away from high-dose work because of the potential dangers involved
    • After some terrifying experiences, Sam found that meditation was a safer game to play

The Importance of Set, Setting, and Life Situation

  • Psychedelics are immensely sensitive to 
    • Set: Your mental attitude
    • Setting: Your physical environment and the people around you
    • Life Situation
      • If it is currently difficult, even with perfect set and setting you’ll be in trouble
  • James wrote The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide to tell people how to set themselves up in the best way possible to have a safe experience
  • The main questions to ask yourself are:
    • Do you feel safe?
    • Is it truly safe?
    • Is it private?
    • Do you know the substance you are taking?
    • Do you have an intention?
  • Different settings for different purposes
    • If you have therapeutic intentions, an indoor setting would be better
      • Less likely to be distracted by the beauty of things around you
    • If you want to connect with Nature, it will be better to choose an outdoor setting

Seriousness of Intent, and Having a Guide

  • Many people tend to approach psychedelics from a recreational standpoint
    • Both Sam and James do not see this as the appropriate orientation
    • Taking psychedelics recreationally is more dangerous than most people think
  • If you want to have a safe high-dose experience take value from it, it is essential to have a guide, or at least a companion or a designated driver
    • Someone who cares about you
    • Someone with experience with psychedelics
  • A guide makes it much easier to get out of negative experiences
  • Psychedelic guides are slowly becoming a profession

Different Ranges of Dosing on LSD

  • Doses tend to be subjective and vary depending on individuals
    • Alcoholics typically need more, as their bodies are used to and resistant to psychoactive substances
  • Some approximate ranges
    • 25-50 micrograms: people start reporting mild psychedelic effects
      • Called the “Museum or Concert dose”
    • 50-100 micro-grams: you can do great scientific research
      • Many companies admit obtaining breakthroughs working with this dose
    • 100-200 micro-grams: Used for psychotherapeutic effects
      • Users talk and are guided by the therapist
    • 200-400 micro-grams: Mystical, unity experience
      • Users lose identification with physical and psychological identity, may feel at one with the Universe
      • “Your body doesn’t end at your fingertips” Alan Watts
      • After the experience, some make massive changes in their lives
      • There were cases of alcoholics losing interest in drinking

On Micro-dosing

  • Users can live life as they normally would
  • Starting doses
    • LSD dose: 10 micrograms
    • Mushroom dose: 0.2 to 0.5 grams
    • Users then adjust the dose based on their experiences
  • Micro-dosing is usually done repeatedly over a period of time
  • Like high doses, it doesn’t seem to be addictive
    • After a month of taking a micro-dose every three days, most people ended up taking it less often
    • Some people enjoyed the day they didn’t take the micro-dose more
  • Reported benefits
    • More effective at work and in the gym
    • More creative
    • Enjoyed time with family more than usual
    • Increase arousal
      • Not indicated for people suffering anxiety

Hang Up the Phone

  • James looks for what’s valuable in psychedelic experiences
    • He found it better to focus on a few ones
    • He’s not interested in trying as many substances as possible
  • People who learn what psychedelics had to teach, see their interest in them diminishing over time
  • “If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones” Alan Watts

Experiences on LSD, Psilocybin, and MDMA

  • LSD
    • Trip lasts 8-12 hours
    • Tends to be more powerful than psilocybin
  • Psilocybin
    • Trips last four to six hours
    • Often considered as “kinder” experience than LSD
      • Some say because there’s a “plant spirit” behind it
  • Recent psychedelic research has mostly focused on psilocybin rather than LSD
    • Trips are shorter, making it easier and more cost-effective to study
    • LSD has received tons of negative press in the past
  • MDMA does not make you go beyond your Self, making it less threatening
    • It makes you feel in a really safe space
    • This makes it a great substance to work with traumas and emotional wounds
      • It allows moving traumatic memories in “conventional memory”
    • With LSD you’d bypass the trauma area
      • There’s no research to know whether that affects the trauma

The Difficulty in Dosing with Natural Substances

  • It’s more difficult to assign specific ranges for natural substances
  • On mushrooms, the maximum dose to obtain useful results is within 3 to 5 grams
    • The dose ranges vary depending on the type of mushroom
  • Synthetic psilocybin is making a comeback
    • Companies can make money from it
    • Researchers coming from the standard pharmacology model find it easier
  • Ayahuascheros typically decide the dose based on their intuition of the person’s needs

Additional Notes

Making Sense with Sam Harris : , ,
Notes By Giorgio Parlato

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