Why Have I Not Done Drugs? And Should I?

I am an entrepreneurial, adventurous person hungry for new experiences. I enjoy experimenting. I am above-average in my appetite for risk. Why have I not done a single drug in my life? Why no weed, cocaine, LSD, cigarettes, mushrooms, etc?

I am not sure. I know a few other people who are in a similar position and they are also genuinely perplexed.

Some possible reasons:

1. Not doing drugs when young actually was the risk-taking behavior. Most people around me were smoking at least marijuana. There was a lot of social pressure to do drugs. By choosing not to, I risked social alienation while also signaling independence and free spiritedness.

2. Early on I became known as the guy who "doesn't smoke" and therefore a no-drugs attitude became part of my identity. Once an identity forms, it's hard to act in ways that contradict it.

3. My first exposure to drugs was in high school and the people who did a lot of drugs, including marijuana, tended to be the stupidest in terms of raw horsepower and work ethic. I associated weed with those people, and I did not want to be those people.

4. I am unusually health-conscious and I perhaps unfairly lump all drugs together when assuming they harm physical and/or mental health.

5. I am deferential to the law (though I often challenge the authority structure in other situations). I have never been arrested or in jail. While I drank alcohol when under-age, alcohol would soon become legal at age 21 so it seemed less-bad than smoking marijuana, which is always illegal no matter the age.

6. At this stage in life I do not know where I would buy drugs, how much to buy, how it works, how to verify purity, and so on. There is a non-trival logistical barrier.

7. The benefit of drug use is unclear and since I cannot calculate it, I would rather spend my money on other things.

8. I fear addictions. This explains, by the way, why I do not drink coffee.

9. I like to be in control of most situations and I fear relinquishing that control if high on a drug.

Note that I am pro-marijuana legalization from a policy perspective. I could be convinced that we should legalize or decriminalize other drugs. I do not think less of adult professionals who smoke pot from time-to-time though I inexplicably find pot-smoking a turn-off when pondering the sexual attractiveness of women.

Here is a long reflective piece on the experience of smoking cactus, via Nathan Labenz, and it is pieces like this which pique my curiosity.

I am already a pretty happy person with plenty of friends (I don't need them for social life) and while the temptation for new experiences exists it's not strong enough to get me to move the status quo. My main question about drugs, then, revolves around personal utility. Could they improve my relaxation habits when not on the drug? Could they help me focus or concentrate when not on the drug? I am saying "not on the drug" because I have heard that the experience on the drug opens new dimensions that stay with you. Could they improve my ability to introspect? Would being high on cactus for one day, for example, inspire me to think big thoughts while on the high that I could remember and think about post-high?

These are honest questions, and I suspect Vince Williams, among others, will have answers in the comments section.

67 Responses to Why Have I Not Done Drugs? And Should I?

  1. Gabe says:

    Interestingly, this post is a near snapshot of my mindset last September. I hadn’t done drugs – of any sort – and had begun college, where drugs are the norm. And so I debated what to do. I ran through the majority of the questions you posted above, and, eventually, took the plunge to try marijuana. Now, marijuana is the only recreational drug I’ve experimented with, but I can tell you use.

    2. I also was – and still am – the guy who doesn’t smoke. I do it infrequently, and usually for good occasion. And, what’s more, only a small subset of people know I smoke. You don’t have to hide it; you don’t have to profess it either.

    3. I’ve done quite a bit of reading, and you’d be surprised how many successful professionals – including entrepreneurs – smoke weed, even if just rarely. I think smoking – and drugs in general – become a defining, even self-tauted, characteristic of the lazy, while it is a trivial, relaxing, once-in-a-while thing for others.

    4. Other than a slight hit to your cardiovascular capacity, marijuana is not that bad. Much better than tobacco and alocohol. In fact, many (or at least a number of) bodybuilders smoke frequently. No calories, little effect on body composition, and, for those trying to gain muscle, a crude way to stimulate appetite.

    6. Logistics were always my greatest barrier to drugs as well. Experienced friends are probably your best bet.

    7. Trying something new in and of itself can be immeasurable. I wouldn’t say you can derive great utility from marijuana, but I would say it’s a pleasant, unique feeling you get.

    8. I’m addicted to coffee actually. But, weed becomes a problem when you have nothing else to live for. It’s not something I – nor even friends who smoke daily – crave.

    9. I live to be in control. You still feel in control, just with a relaxing vibe around you.

    I’m interested to here from more experienced drug users, too. Especially from those who have gone above and beyond mere weed and alcohol.

  2. kevin says:

    What a great post, if only because it is so out of the box. My reasons: all except the first. I didn’t grow up in SF. My (close) friends didn’t do drugs. Plenty available at college though.

    Where to get the hookup? Ask your friends at University (or drive to Berkeley, you can fit in, just dress in sweats and everything will think you are still a baller).

    Those are 9 great reasons not to do drugs. You may be a risk taker, but I assume these are still calculated risks with some specific payoff you are going for in the interest of ‘personal growth.’

    There are many risky behaviors you may choose not to indulge in, regardless of the culture of people who do it:

    A) Unprotected Sex
    B) Jumping out of airplanes with those wing suits
    C) hookers in Tijuana
    D) Cliff diving

    Etc.

    Looking forward to further comments.

  3. kevin says:

    Sorry, Should you?

    My vote: No. Too risky from an addiction/illegality standpoint. Personally, I’m not interested in things that make reality pale in comparison.

  4. Wow, Ben.

    This is a dream come true.

    I’ll have to get back to this in the morning, and I’ll have plenty to say.

  5. Swoff says:

    For largely the same reasons as Ben, I have never participated in the drug experience although I am a big risk-taker in the travel arena.

    I have often felt like the only person in the universe who hadn’t done drugs, but after a couple of decades, I now feel like I possess some weird sort of special purity.

    Some people point out that a lot of life is wasted by the average person who is hung over or stoned on a weekly or near-daily basis. In the time that the recreational user spends lying around recovering from their headache or other diminished capacity, they could build a side business and gain financial peace, learn to paint beautifully, or teach someone to read. Surely that would be a life better spent.

    On the other hand, every President that we’ve had for the last 18 years was a drug user at some point, and they managed to get a lot accomplished.

  6. Brent says:

    Is alcohol not a drug? You mention drinking it while underage, and I assume you still do, an I’m curious why it doesn’t count.

    There are many, many people addicted to alcohol. Its effects on your brain are arguably larger than those of some of the substances you’re abstaining from (particularly marijuana). Yes, alcohol is not illegal like marijuana or LSD, but then neither are cigarettes, which are included in your list.

    If you consider alcohol a drug, you would no longer be able to say that you’ve never done a single drug in your life, which seems kind of important to you.

  7. Ted says:

    From my experience in public high school and at a decent public university, most people don’t do drugs. I believe studies support this. So I’m perplexed when people think they’re rare or special for not doing drugs.

  8. chrisyeh says:

    I’ve never used an illegal drug in my life, though I’ve had plenty of opportunities.

    Bottom line, no one could ever articulate a good reason to take drugs.

    Some people said that taking drugs relaxed them–I feel no need to be more relaxed than I am.

    Some people said that taking drugs made them happier–I’m plenty happy, and research suggests that you can have too much of a good thing.

    Some people said that drugs could expand my mind–this was the most interesting argument, but I saw no evidence that people who took drugs were smarter or more creative than me.

    Ultimately, there just wasn’t any good reason to break the law or take any health risks. I think it’s a pretty bizarre world where one has to justify a decision not to break the law and risk one’s health!

  9. Lloyd Morgan says:

    I came here to make exactly this comment.

    Not strictly classifying alcohol as a drug that can harm one’s health is a strange distinction that many make. Especially given it’s obvious ability to distort reality.

    Late last year there was quite a furore over drug classifications here in the UK. Vaughan Bell at Mind Hacks has a brief, link-heavy discussion on it if you’re interested in reading more.

  10. Krishna says:

    You fire up a grill only when it runs cold. Yours is smoldering hot. Why bother with all that what lesser mortals lean on? Never fall into the trap.

  11. Dave says:

    Wow, what a monoculture of comments.

    For the contrary point of view: I consider myself an ambitious high achiever. Most of my friends are very capable.

    Used judiciously, drugs can be wonderful. They can change your perspective, and give you amazing memorable experiences, as well as just being plain fun.

    For a normal, non-addictive personality (which is by far the majority of drug users), it’s just a great way to cut loose.

    I drink alcohol more than I use drugs now (I’m in my 30s), but don’t regret any time I have. My experiences are mostly with MDMA, cocaine and marijuana, but I’ve also tried ketamine, LSD and regular amphetamines.

    Also, worth noting that events where the majority are drinking are often far more dangerous than where drugs are predominate.

    Krishna, “what lesser mortals lean on” is utter balderdash. Some people struggle with drugs, most don’t. Many high achievers use and have used drugs, with no ill effects on their long term health or social standing.

  12. Dani says:

    I too never did drugs growing up – never smoked a cigarette, didn’t even drink until 21. Not religious. Here’s the kicker – I was a raver in the late 90s. So, y’know, I certainly saw some stuff and was offered the full gamut of recreational who-knows-what.

    I observed the people around me to decide the course I would take. After being in locations where people OD’d and seeing friends vomit and stumble around and sleep all day, I wasn’t convinced. I did have some friends whom professed incredible drug experiences, and a handful of my smartest and most interesting friends did seem to live in a cloud of pot, but I was never convinced – they still slept more than I did, didn’t seem as productive, and admitted that a lot of their use was to calm down, to feel better. I feel great most of the time, because I exercise and take care of myself and am generally blessed with an equilibrium that folks’ deem enviable. I thought, cost-benefit, why mess with it? I haven’t closed the door to smoking pot or rolling on E one day, but I guess I was never just a joiner – going to do it because everyone else was. I wanted a great reason to risk my lovely brain, and as of yet, I’m not convinced. I don’t think I’m worse off for it.

  13. Krishna says:

    Dave,

    I said that only with regard to Ben whom I’ve been following closely for a few years now. You need venture into surreal when you feel your *real* is decadent or feel it’s out of steam. To me, Ben has demonstrated fertility of thought and gift of the word as befits an aspiring writer of non-fiction, given his age. He is aware of his deficiencies and stops at appreciating it thro his bon mots. I am yet to see the best flow from his tranquil mind and to me again, influence of any external stimuli could only help distort his fine sense of perception and the balanced rhythm of its natural uptake. Why risk flinging his creative discipline into the realms of surreal, when he is doing the exact right things like reading regularly, traveling the world and picking up on curious something to write on each day? He’s already published a book, floated a business, flirted with college education is hacking excellent relationships that sculpts his future. Why the hell does he need drugs? To turn this simple, straight forward blog / or his future work into esoteric BS? That’s the last thing Ben needs. Forgive me if I sound presumptuous.

  14. zeem says:

    I’d like to chime in, and make a discernment.

    Consuming drugs for fun is a very different experience than consumption for the desire of spiritual understanding.

    Everyone has a different experience, so it is really hard to say whether it is useful or not unless you try it yourself.

    A good setting, and a good teacher always helps. These two important variables narrow down the best psychedelic experiences to only a few times in one’s life, unless you begin searching for it.

    Ayahuasca is a very interesting substance. The Amazonian tribals might as well be pharmacists for them to have figured that one out.

  15. Not to be a smart ass, Ben, but that long reflective piece by Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, is not about insights gained by smoking peyote cactus. It’s about insights gained by ingesting mescaline, the psychoactive principal of peyote. – “Thus it came about that, one bright May morning, I swallowed four-tenths of a gram of mescalin dissolved in half a glass of water and sat down to wait for the results.”

    Krishna, you’re waxing poetic here. It doesn’t follow that Ben’s experimenting with psychedelic drugs, if he should choose to, would necessarily turn his blog and future work into esoteric bullshit.

    Let’s define the nomenclature. Alcohol is a very potent addictive mind-altering drug, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise. Ben is already a drug user, and he’s admitted to breaking the law by using his preferred drug while underage in California.

    Regarding the illegality of the psychoactive drugs I recommend, it’s an imposition on human rights and our sapient dignity for the State to dictate what substances an adult may put in his body.

    Many of these drugs are sacraments of flourishing ancient religions, and some of them occur naturally in the human body, especially the brain, as well.

    Using them is a philosophically justifiable act of civil disobedience.

    I will say now, and science will back me up, that alcohol abuse is quantitatively more harmful to body and mind than marijuana or LSD use.

    Here’s Alan Watts on LSD:

    “LSD is simply an exploratory instrument, like a microscope or a telescope, except this one’s inside you instead of outside you. And according to your capacity and knowledge, you can use a microscope or a telescope to advantage. So in the same way, according to your capacity and your knowledge you can use an interior instrument to your advantage… or just for kicks!”

    Amen.

    Here’s The Faithful Scribe on our human rights:

    A Manifesto of Cognitive Liberty

    I am a cognitive libertarian

    and a conscientious objector in the war on drugs.

    To those who consider themselves entitled to determine my mind-states,

    let it be known:

    you have no right to trespass in my mind.

    You have no right to make rules for my mind’s activities,

    to establish its boundaries,

    limit its curiosity,

    hamper its creativity,

    trivialize its highs,

    or medicate its lows without my consent.

    You have no right to normalize my mind-states,

    nor declare my mind broken and fix it without my consent.

    Tell me what you think, but don’t tell me what to think.

    I have my own visions and agenda.

    They’re my business.

    I am sole proprietor of my mind.

    Reality cannot be enforced,

    only constructed,

    perhaps admired,

    certainly denied,

    but these are personal preference settings.

    Realities are options, not required fields.

    If I want to live in a self-made mind, even as a perfect example of unskilled labor,

    I will. I am. So there you have it.

    I stand on the shoulders of shamans, jesters, machine elves, and chemists,

    waiting for Rush Limbaugh to make my day and call me

    the most dangerous alien hybrid in America.

    For a calm, well-reasoned overview of mind-altering drugs, I recommend Andrew Weil’s and Winifred Rosen’s From Chocolate to Morphine.

    For a mind-blowing introduction to spiritual journeys on entheogens, I highly recommend James Oroc’s Tryptamine Palace.

    For what it’s worth, I’m stoned on some excellent herb as I write this.

    Also, I should say that the most transcendent experience I’ve had yet was not on any drugs except those naturally present in my body.

    I woke paralyzed in the middle of the night and floated slowly to the apex of the loft’s ceiling, where I hung suspended for what seemed like an eternity.

    A blinding jolt of energy surged through my body and I floated slowly back to the mattress.

    I was charged with new purpose, and began to write letters like this. Believe it or not.

    Peace and love,

    Vince Williams

  16. Anonymous says:

    1. Not doing drugs when young actually was the risk-taking behavior. Most people around me were smoking at least marijuana. There was a lot of social pressure to do drugs. By choosing not to, I risked social alienation while also signaling independence and free spiritedness.

    This would seem to be irrelevant now, though doing drugs would signal some things that you might not like, lack of focus probably chief among them.

    2. Early on I became known as the guy who “doesn’t smoke” and therefore a no-drugs attitude became part of my identity. Once an identity forms, it’s hard to act in ways that contradict it.

    Keep your identity small!  :)

    3. My first exposure to drugs was in high school and the people who did a lot of drugs, including marijuana, tended to be the stupidest in terms of raw horsepower and work ethic. I associated weed with those people, and I did not want to be those people.

    I can assure you that you will not become one of those people.  Your identify on the dimensions of work ethic and horsepower are too firmly established to allow it.  (I had a similar worry about trying ayahuasca, which is known for turning people spiritual, but it turned out to be completely unfounded.  No 5-hour experience could make me abandon a scientific-reductionist worldview, and least of all one that I understand to be the product of a chemical reaction.)

    4. I am unusually health-conscious and I perhaps unfairly lump all drugs together when assuming they harm physical and/or mental health.

    Choose wisely.  Don’t do meth, heroin, etc.  Use my vaporizer, eat some brownies (though a bit hard to control dosage this particular way), or similar.

    5. I am deferential to the law (though I often challenge the authority structure in other situations). I have never been arrested or in jail. While I drank alcohol when under-age, alcohol would soon become legal at age 21 so it seemed less-bad than smoking marijuana, which is always illegal no matter the age.

    Full legalization may be on the way.

    6. At this stage in life I do not know where I would buy drugs, how much to buy, how it works, how to verify purity, and so on. There is a non-trival logistical barrier.

    I think you overestimate the difficulty, especially in SF.  I don’t want to assume that I’d be the guy you’d choose to smoke pot with for the first time, but if so…  

    7. The benefit of drug use is unclear and since I cannot calculate it, I would rather spend my money on other things.

    The money is trivial, especially for pot (which I do think should be your gateway).  The biggest cost, as with many leisure activities, is the time.

    8. I fear addictions. This explains, by the way, why I do not drink coffee.

    Again, choose wisely.

    9. I like to be in control of most situations and I fear relinquishing that control if high on a drug.

    Use small to moderate doses (this will leave you very much in control and is therefore key to successful drug use) and experiment with people that you trust enough to guide you that you feel comfortable exploring the state of mind, rather than wrestling to control it completely.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I take mescaline by blending, straining, and boiling the San Pedro cactus, which grows wildly in the US and can be bought legally.  

    In general, I am a big believer in consuming plant matter that contains a drug, as opposed to taking a drug in it’s pure form.  The human body is not built to process pure chemicals (cocaine, heroin, refined sugar, caffeine pills (though these contain fillter), distilled alcohol, etc) but does much better with raw ingredients like coca leaves (a mild stimulant), poppy seeds (too weak to notice), coffee (a crude extraction from beans), fermented juices containing alcohol (wine, beer), and also whole mushrooms, etc.  This idea — that purity is bad for the body — is part of the reason I got out of chemistry.  Being around pure chemicals all the time seemed like a terrible idea.  Michael Pollan applies similar logic to food, quite persuasively in my mind.
    — LSD seems to be an exception to this rule.  It’s apparently harmless and, because the body develops a strong tolerance immediately, it’s difficult to abuse.  I had one of the best days of my life the only time I tried it.

    I still believe that “Reality” IS enforced, not by the state, but by the brute fact that it is reality.  It’s a mistake to conclude that everything exists within the mind simply because perception can be altered.  Experience itself is a physical / chemical process that is governed by the same laws that govern everything else and is fundamentally non-magical; drugs just perturb the equilibrium.  Sleepiness, food coma, intense exercise, yoga, sex, the first really nice day of spring in Michigan, and a bunch of other things have qualitatively similar effects.  (I make this point mostly to show that it is a coherent position for someone who has found a lot of value in drugs.)

  18. Ben Casnocha says:

    Vince, I called upon to you to deliver, and deliver you did. Thanks.

  19. As for me, I have not eaten food. I’ve never even tasted it. Oh, many of my friends have, and I feel a constant social pressure to do it, particularly in cities like San Francisco, Paris, and Memphis, where many people seem to be food addicts. But this is why I don’t:

    1) You can’t read the news these days without taking note of the fact that obesity is becoming the world’s number-one health threat. Sitting down to a hamburger and fries seems like Russian Roulette to me.

    2) As the recent scandals about melamine, e. coli, and salmonella demonstrate, there are no guarantees of food purity — even in the organic-lettuce section at the so-called health-food store. I don’t need those kinds of toxins in my body.

    3) I find the whole “foodie” culture to be obsessive and off-putting. All that talk of “extra-virgin” oil, “fruity” Chardonnays — grow up, people!

    4) Food, particularly in San Francisco, is outrageously expensive. I asked a friend who was raving about some place called Boulevard (an infamous foodie den) how much it cost to eat there, and he said something like $150 a person. You could fly to LA for that, buy 15 new releases on iTunes, or join a gym for two months. Instead, you’re going to spend 45 minutes shoveling dead pig into your mouth?

    5) I’m afraid that if I sit down to a plate of food, I won’t be able to stop eating. Anyone who thinks this is a trivial issue hasn’t checked out the waistlines in the Dallas airport lately. Did you hear about Kevin Smith getting kicked off a plane because they thought he was going to crash it if he got up and walked down the aisle? Self-control is important to me, and food seems like a slippery slope.

    6) With listening to music, reading, exercise, working, traveling, lovemaking, and other clearly healthy activities usually available to me, spending half my day asking myself “Should I check out that new vegan Chinese place for dinner?” or “Fettucine or lasagna after the soup?” seems like a recipe for a wasted life.

    7) It’s pretty clear to me that most people use food to compensate for shortfalls of fulfillment in other areas of their lives. All those heart-shaped candy boxes are just pathetic.

    8) If I sat down and ate a meal today, would I even remember what I’d eaten in six months? People seem to wander around in the street, pizza sauce dribbling down their chins, barely aware of what they’re putting in their mouths. It doesn’t seem like an attractive lifestyle.

    You get the picture.

    My point, Ben, is this. If “drugs” is a monolithic category, then a glass of wine, a shot of heroin, a cup of green tea, a tightly rolled blunt, a fistful of Ativan, a tab of green-dragon blotter, and the endogenous opioids in your own skull are all included in that category. How useful is that?

    Does it help you distinguish between marijuana — a basically benevolent drug with some potential downsides, like a piece of cheese — from Ecstasy, a drug that makes you feel really good, even enlightened in a way, until the following morning, and causes brain damage at high doses? Does it help you distinguish between a high-functioning alcoholic (believe me, you’re surrounded by them) and a kid with a genetic predisposition toward schizophrenia who should never try acid, even once?

    “Drugs” are definitely dangerous and destructive, as is “food.” Navigating those vast landscapes at a higher resolution requires knowledge that you can get, and willpower you may or may not have. Welcome to the human dilemma.

  20. Devin Reams says:

    +1 here. Ben, I’m curious why you drink alcohol which can easily be applied to your points #4, 8, 9 above.

    I blame the liquor lobby.. ;)

  21. You have done drugs. Alcohol, and probably some of the minor painkillers, and maybe some of the mildly speedy drugs too eg. sudafed, which is somewhat like drinking coffee. Also probably coca-cola, which is like strong sweet coffee. You’ve also had dreams, which have a lot in common with some drug experiences, especially when vivid/ psychologically significant. And maybe you’ve had a fever which changed your consciousness-sensations too- many mild illnesses can affect mental perceptions.

    It is possible to get useful/ creative insights from altered mental states. That’s why people take drugs for ADHD and depression too- to think better. But if you can learn to maximise your mind consciously, without chemicals, obviously that’s going to be more useful and resilient.

    For most of us, relying on drugs is liable to make us less mentally fit without the drugs- if I drive everywhere, my cycling doesn’t improve. Drugs are work. They require careful management, recovery, and they have side effects ranging from getting arrested to feeling like crap. Maybe worth it for some people, but probably only a small number of people who think they’re worth it!

    And obviously, all of the above applies to alcohol as much as any other drug.

  22. Ebert says:

    If you’re even considering this, I think you want to see http://erowid.org. Because most psychoactive compounds are criminalized, it’s hard to get accurate and comprehensive information on them. Also look up THIKAL and PHIKAL, fascinating reading.

    Really, the experiences of most drugs are not describable to someone who hasn’t taken them. Like trying to describe an orgasm to someone who’s never had one… though not all drug experiences are uniformly pleasant.

    I can’t recommend or dis-recommend drugs. It’s like recommending or dis-recomending traveling to Antarctica. It’s just something out of the ordinary to do with your life, which may or may not give you a different perspective on things. Or be an awesome experience. Or, maybe, be a bad experience.

    However, it’s an open secret that the Valley runs on engineers who like psychadelics of various kinds. I’m with you on stereotypes: I mostly saw stoners in college and thought, ew, drugs. But not all drugs have the same effect… and anyway, they get metabolized and then you’re just you again.

  23. Rebecca says:

    Hi Ben,

    A lot of the points you make resonate with me. As an explorer and a risk-taker, there were many things about drugs that beaconed to me. And I loved them for quite a long time… until they became a drain on my life. This really happened when they became a part of my identity, rather than an activity that I partook in.

    That said, I am an advocate of responsible and calculated use, most specifically for hallucinogenics. The number one thing about using them is to be engaged & excited by the

  24. Ben Casnocha says:

    You guys are right that alcohol is a drug and that several of my stated
    reasons would apply to alcohol. I am guessing that the legality of it makes
    it different in my mind.

  25. Ben Casnocha says:

    A wise comment, Steve, thanks. You are right one ought not lump these things
    together. I would be curious, though, assuming we focused on just one or two
    drugs in particular, to hear how you assess the costs and benefits in terms
    of your own personal usage.

  26. AK says:

    My marijuana consumption has dropped to its lowest level in probably 20 years.  I just don’t have time anymore. 

    What’s interesting is that I’m enjoying it more than ever, precisely because I’ve moderated my use.  I smoke less frequently and, when I do use, I smoke far less in terms of volume. 

    What I enjoy about marijuana is this: It’s a different gear. I tend to be mentally hyperactive and marijuana slices off the margins of my peripatetic brain cycle (the least useful parts) for a little while. I’ve always preferred doing it alone or, perhaps, with one friend who values the effects the way I do. 

    I can imagine that, growing up in San Francisco, you had to deal with the bizarro fetishization of the drug — the culture (I loathe cultures), the identity shit, and all the rest of it.  That’s of little use to me. 

    For me, it’s always been a temporary destination — a place where I can contemplate ideas in a slightly different light. 

    And the food tastes better.

  27. Rebecca says:

    whoops – published accidentally there. :-)

    anyways, you have to be engaged & excited by the prospect of trying the drug, or else the results will not be as positive.

    Below is my case for psychedelic use. I personally do not recommend non-experiential drugs (ie cocaine), as they are centered around feeling great and then feeling crappy without any lessons learned. (In my experience anyways) Experiential drugs, on the other hand, I do think yield lessons that can be applied in life. These reasons include:

    1) The sense of awe, wonder & excitement I experienced upon seeing glimpses into the insane complexity of the mind that is generally under our radar screen. Its wild, crazy and freeing. I continue to feel awe from the power, complexity and larger intelligence accessible within myself.

    2) I am able to feel intuition and inherent understanding in a manner that is so much stronger & more certain than in out daily life. This significantly increased my ability to hear my “gut check” when not under the influence. And that, I think is an insanely valuable life skill.

    3) I often use mushrooms if I have a big decision that doesn’t have a “correct” answer. For example, I want to move to a new city, where should I move to? I find that the mushrooms help me cut through all of the noise of the decision and focus on what really matters. I find this is optimized by a good dose of rationality prior to the trip. Its kind of like giving the subconscious a chance to express its opinion of all the rational processing already completed.

    4) Helps to break away a lot of the cultural assumptions that are so entrenched that they are hard to even recognize. The things that confuse / overwhelm you are pretty informative as to some of the most basic assumptions of life. I really enjoy writing / outlining while on psychedelics. Granted, its never more than the “vomit it up” first draft — but it has yielded some of the most interesting, novel ideas that I have ended up using. (And some completely crazy, bad ones too!) It takes the filter away from you, allowing intense and out-there creativity to come through.

    5) I experience the NOW in a way that is pretty tough for me to get to without drugs. My brain loves to think about ideas and plays and jumps about all the time – which I am SUPER thankful for – but its a totally different experience to have an unparalleled intense focus in the thought of the moment, or the beautiful tree in your vision. Its worth experiencing.

    6) I learned to embrace the loss of control. Like you, I tend to be in control of things and psychedelics helped teach me to let go and experience the ebb and flow of the trip. Although, I am still very much in control in my life, I think that they help me cope more effectively in times when the situation is outside of my capacity to control.

    Anyways, although not a strong advocate, I do recommend trying them. The reason that I am not a strong advocate is because in my experience, people who WANTED to have the experience were the ones who took something away from it. Those who were reticent were significantly less likely to find the value.

    Enjoy!
    Rebecca

  28. The one drug I wish I’d never gone beyond trying once or twice — with a firm “No!” after that — was nicotine. It is insidiously addictive and an extremely hard habit to break, which is a deadly combination. To me, having laws against marijuana while you can buy cigs in every mom-and-pop store is like worrying about the dangers of ferris wheels when there are suicide parlors on every corner.

    In cultures where ritual use of psychedelics is part of the social order, they’re employed for initiation and healing. Psychedelics are very good for those things, but you’ll note that I didn’t say “partying.” Psychedelics are extremely profound. They are not for everyone, like marriage is not for everyone. People with a family history of schizophrenia are better off not fooling with them. But with a very good friend or two in a safe place (Golden Gate Park, Mendocino, etc.), they can provide much food for thought and reflection, and occasionally, the necessary perspective to make a positive course-correction in your life. They have done this for me at times, though most of my psychedelic experiences are probably long in the past.

    One of my very close relatives is an alcoholic, and I have seen the tremendous damage that even common “suburban” alcoholism can cause in the life of a family. I tend to react badly around people who are drinking a lot. When I see smart young people post to their Facebook walls “Commence Operation Get Hammered!” etc. I shudder. I note that many people who are alcoholics themselves take a dim view of casual marijuana users. This is childish hypocrisy.

    Take speed and cocaine if you aspire to becoming an asshole who mistreats your friends while feeling like a king. For a while.

    Exercise, by activating endogenous opioid pathways in the body, is probably the best drug on the market. I need to experience more of it. Not doing so is my biggest health problem for now. You’re way ahead of me there.

    I would say: Trying marijuana a couple of times (which is usually required to have a non-trivial experience with it) in a conscious way is probably not a very risky proposition. Psychedelics require more thought, research, and planning. I don’t see much reason for going near any of the other illegal drugs.

    I would also recommend meditation, which is not quite a drug but is a way of reprogramming the growth of neurons in your brain in positive directions that lead to greater compassion and less stress.

  29. Colin says:

    Re: alcohol as a drug – You can have one drink, or maybe even three depending on your weight, and not be drunk. Same with Coca-Cola.

    However, you can’t smoke a little weed or snort a little coke and not be high.

    Here’s my 2 cents on your questions:

    Could they improve my relaxation habits when not on the drug?

    I think it’s harder to relax without drugs once you’re accustomed to them.

    Could they help me focus or concentrate when not on the drug?

    Again, even if the difference is negligible, I think it’ll be more difficult.

    Could they improve my ability to introspect?

    Some drugs, but only when on them.

    And my recommendations: if you’re going to try something for introspection, I’d recommend the psychadelics: LSD, mescaline, or ayahuasca. Otherwise I’d recommend marijuana or ecstasy for SEX.

    Finally, I’d argue that the more you use drugs, the harder it will become to have a good time / enjoy yourself / relax without them.

  30. However, you can’t smoke a little weed or snort a little coke and not be high.

    This is not a factual statement.

    I’d recommend the psychadelics: LSD, mescaline, or ayahuasca.

    Note that the mescaline on the street is almost never the real thing. How “almost never”? In 20 years of going to Grateful Dead shows, I only saw the real thing once.

    And ayahuasca: The people I know who’ve taken it describe visions of lizards, death, and so on, while puking their guts out. Not the best gateway to psychedelic experience, I’d wager. You wouldn’t give fugu or uni to someone who was curious about sushi. Start with maguro tuna.

  31. Akshay Kapur says:

    Love it. Especially Vince’s commentary. The words just jumped off the page.

    This post is like an answer to a consulting firm interview question. The ones where they ask how many marbles are in a jar. It’s not about the answer, but the reasoning behind the answer.

    You have a well-reasoned mental response for what are generally emotional, peer-driven experiences. Standing your own ground can be detrimental in terms of exposure to experiences, but not if you know what you’re about. Knowing what YOU want allows you to continue your OWN hunt for experiences that matter to you.

  32. Bob says:

    I would be absolutely stoked to hook you up and get high. It is wonderful when someone discovers that they’re stoned. Ideally there would be an informal pothead network in the profession, the stigma is unfortunate. Did you ever read Carl Sagan’s related article?

    link to marijuana-uses.com

  33. Sam says:

    Dave,

    You beat me to this particular point of view that had, until you posted, not been discussed.

    While I knew people in high school who were regular drug users, I abstained, mainly because I was a health conscious soccer player (no we didn’t have required drugs tests). Another reason for abstaining was my understanding that my adolescent brain was still undergoing physical development. And of course living at home was not the most optimal environment to experiment with drugs.

    I’ve always considered myself an openminded person, so upon entering college I heavily researched the physical and mental effects of cannabis. I came to the conclusion that it was a substance worth experimenting with in the right environment. I sought out experienced friends for assistance in acquiring quality cannabis.

    While I’m not surprised I enjoyed the high, I didn’t expect the more subtle influences cannabis can have on the mind. The main influence I enjoy is its affect on my senses. Music sounds better. Food tastes better. Touch sensitivity is heightened (in a pleasurable way; probably why psychoactive substances are commonly used as aphrodisiacs). It isn’t that cannabis physically changes your senses. You still have the same level of hearing, same distinct taste buds, and same quality of feeling (as in touch). Instead, cannabis could be considered to change the way your brain interprets the signals sent to it from your various senses’ nerve endings. Imagine you’ve grown up listening to music with ear plugs in. When I smoke (or eat, though in some ways the effects are completely different) it’s as if those ear plugs have been removed. The music isn’t louder, but I notice so many subtleties in the interaction between the rhythm, meter, and melody. It has especially opened me up to the world of electronically influenced music (possibly because much of the music in this category is created by individuals who have themselves experienced the altered state of mind that psychoactive substances bring about). The most beneficial aspect of these alterations in my auditory perception is that they carry over to when my not high (Ben, this relates to your concern stated in 7).

    I’ve also experimented with LSD, Psilocybin (mushrooms) and MDMA (more commonly known as ecstasy). Likewise, before consuming any of these drugs I heavily researched their history and effects (one of the greatest uses I’ve found for my university’s library, sadly).

    Opinion on LSD: I would recommend trying a more “gentle” psychoactive drug, such as cannabis, before consuming LSD. If one isn’t familiar with the feeling a psychoactive substance has on the mind they may not enjoy the experience. And most importantly, as with any psychoactive drug, a familiar and comfortable set and setting are essential. For me, LSD has had similar effects to cannabis on my outlook on life. Even more so than cannabis, LSD removes all preconceived notions one has of the world. I find this essential in interacting in world that is growing ever more connected. One’s worldview is heavily influenced by the culture and environment they are raised in. When LSD removes all your preconceived views, you are forced to reevaluate the world with an unbiased mind.That is what I’ve found as the most beneficial outcome of my experimenting with psychoactive drugs.

    In response to drugs supposedly removing one’s ambitions and work ethic: I’ve experimented with drugs since first entering college (3 years ago). I run my own freelance web development firm, while working with a government funded startup. All of this while going to school and attaining Dean’s List every semester.

    To end, moderation is the key.

  34. Krishna says:

    Very clinical comments. Vince, if my comments betrayed `waxing poetic’ quality I guess you missed its essence completely.

    The thrust of my comments were to let a young potential explorer navigate his finite stretch of creative contemplation without outside stimuli – even as a combination of part-of-the-package-chemicals, physiological and psychological techniques like masturbation are available to him, that can be liberally thrown in to get the required high as and when he comes close to “losing the picture”. And then still if the trier feels the experience is sub-optimal, let him freak out on external options to try and see if that leads to a desirable experience without deranging side effects. Worse still if one gets to a state that he is not capable of distinguishing the difference.

    Till then I guess Ben can do what he does to get his regular dose of high viz. Reading, traveling, blogging and promoting his enterprise including his first book.

  35. Patrick says:

    Wow Ben, your posts always make me think, and this one even more so than others. I’d put myself in a similar category (graduated early from uni, found a way to visit 30+ countries on an intern salary while in school, quickly moved up the ranks in an IT strategy consulting firm, having my first book published later this month, etc.) and have had similar thoughts as you on drug use.

    I probably drink more than I should and also enjoy nicotine every now and then (don’t smoke, but will occasionally use snus). In college I smoked pot a few times, but never really enjoyed it, probably because it was always mixed with alcohol. I’ve been around so-called “harder” drugs, yet while I’ve been tempted to try, I always have an irrational belief that if I snort that cocaine or pop that pill, my heart will just suddenly stop. Probably unfounded, but not knowing what will happen to me when taking the drug has been my biggest deterrent.

    For you…trying cannabis or a hallucinogen a few times probably won’t hurt and might yield significant personal benefits. While all of the above comments are incredibly insightful, ultimately it will be your personal decision and something from within that either leads you to experiment with a mind altering or causes you to avoid it. I’m sure whatever decision you make will end up being the right one, so just be sure to keep us blog readers in the loop as your thinking on this subject progresses!

  36. Lindsey says:

    Hi Ben,

    This is a really interesting post, but I think you are neglecting an important consideration as you make your decision. I also have never done drugs, for basically all of the same reasons plus one that is even more important to me than all of those you listed here: the moral/ethical dilemma involved.

    I’m not talking about the fact that drugs—-with the exception of alcohol—-are illegal (we could have an entirely different and interesting philosophical discussion about the relationship/non-relationship between laws and morals/ethics, but it would be ultimately irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make), but rather that because they are illegal, drug creation and the ensuing multi-level drug distribution scheme usually involve violence, intimidation, and corruption in some form or another—especially in urban communities with fewer resources, which are often the main source of many different drugs that the more affluent people use. Many of the drugs at the University of Michigan, where I went to school, for example—-especially the ever popular marijuana—-made their way there from Detroit, and while the affluent drug users in Ann Arbor are, for the most part, safely insulated from the effects of the trade, the people who live in and around the earlier links of the supply chain (whether or not they are part of the trade itself) are not so privileged. . [Side note: I’m reading a great book right now about the drug trade in Detroit that I’d recommend: “Getting Ghost” by Luke Bergmann.]

    Yes, I’ve definitely heard people say something to the effect of, “I only smoke pot from this guy who grows it organically, and only sells exclusively and directly to peaceful hippies who use it themselves.” Maybe that person exists. I can concede the fact that theoretically, there could be a situation where someone grows or produces drugs and distributes them in a way that harms no one but the user (who chooses to engage with them). And if they do exist, admittedly I wouldn’t be surprised if you could find them in San Francisco:). But I think that that situation is far, far from the everyday reality, and that those claims of harmless drug distribution are mostly just BS to make people justify/feel better about making a decision to participate in something that is destructive to people they aren’t connected to (much like we use all sorts of BS to make ourselves feel better about shopping in stores or buying brands that we know for a fact to have supply chains that exploit people we will never meet and destroy communities and/or an environment that we will likely never see).

    I know that because of this, many people would argue that drugs should be legalized, and that way the supply and distribution could be regulated. Perhaps that would solve—-or at least diminish—-the problem. But the reality is that as long as drugs are illegal and thus (at least to satisfy the lion’s share of the market) must be grown/harvested/created in a way that begets violence and corruption—-violence and corruption that are often endured by people who are removed from but no less affected by the people you will ultimately buy from—f-or me personally outweighs any of the other considerations.

  37. Ben Casnocha says:

    Good thoughts, Lindsey. Indeed, as Americans consume ever greater quantities
    of marijuana and other drugs, blood is shed on the streets of Mexico and
    Colombia and elsewhere to service our drug hobbies.

  38. Jordana says:

    Drug use is a personal decision and I find this forum a little unusual but I’m kind of glad I can throw my two cents in here. One thing that stuck with me was an interview I saw of Macaulay Culkin on 20/20 where he he answered a que about his drug use with “Ya, you have to try it, at least for curiosity sake.” This stuck with me for some reason and has led me to try many a things including Marijuana. Nothing heavier, as many friends have warned me that taking anything more serious, like Heroin and Cocaine can lead to serious addiction, even trying it just once.
    I found that Marijuana felt different each time you take it. I can definitely see how this can be considered a gateway drug, as you need to incrementally take more and more to achieve the same feeling. And I agree with the point Dave stated, in which it feels like a sensory overload, which for me became increasingly uncomfortable. Food, touch taste and sound was incredible. Side-effects for some (including myself) was severe paranoia but many don’t feel that way. This paranoia feels all encompassing, often lastly for hours.

    If you haven’t had the inclination to try drugs before, you probably won’t do it now. You are also losing your window of opportunity to blame your experimentation on a youthful endeavour since it becomes increases unacceptable to be experimental as you get older.

  39. Cory O'Brien says:

    I figured this topic would generate a lot of great discussion, and I haven’t been disappointed! Reading through the comments, it’s amazing to see how varied people’s opinions are on the matter.

    As someone who has also avoided drug use so far in my life, I was interested to see how many of the points that you shared were things that I had also considered when thinking about drugs. It makes me wonder if you need to have a number of those thoughts in place to not experiment with drugs, as just having one or two wouldn’t be enough.

    I was also interested to read how you were ‘perplexed’ by your lack of drug use, given your adventurous nature and your hunger for new experiences. Again, I have shared that feeling of perplexity due to my strong desire to try new things and have new experiences, and because of that, have always wondered if it was just that I happened to go through a very effective anti-drug class, or happened to pass through life without having the personal connections that would lead me towards drug use. Now though, it seems as if the answer is more likely a combination of the factors that you mentioned, the strongest of which is a desire to stay healthy so that I can continue to try new things and enjoy other experiences.

    As many have mentioned though, I’m interested to hear what you finally decide, so be sure to keep us in the loop with an update to the blog post.

  40. Anonymous says:

    You’re a bright kid. Be careful.

    I’d suggest experimenting with exercise and a good dance partner rather than drugs or alcohol. Shirtless jogging in public would be the exception. If shirtless jogging is part of your exercise regime, then something is wrong.

    Peace…

  41. Julia says:

    Ben, I’m neutral on whether or not you should try drugs other than alcohol (although Steve’s commentary is hilarious!).

    I probably would have avoided using drugs in high school for the same general reasons you listed above, but at the time I was also aware that if I had been caught with drugs, the gossip mill in my town would have pinned the blame on my mom’s homosexuality. (Rebellion isn’t fun when you don’t get credit for your own decisions.)

    Today, I have simple but personal reasons for not experimenting with illegal substances. I had an episode of major depression a couple of years ago and have since become much more sensitive to the relationship between how I treat my body and how I feel.

    Caffeine is a perfect example. I do consume caffeine (mostly because I love tea and coffee), but I can feel how easy it is to throw my body offtrack. If I’m already feeling low and I have some strong coffee, it makes me more emotionally volatile. Similarly, I enjoy alcohol in moderation, but I notice a slight dip in my mood in the day or so after drinking it. Even certain kinds of food can produce a spike-and-drop in my energy/mood. (Exercise, by contrast, improves my mood in the short- AND long-term.)

    Given my awareness of how caffeine, alcohol, sleep, food, exercise, and other physical factors affect my mental well-being (and my knowledge of how awful it is when I ignore those factors), I prefer to focus on keeping my mental state constant and balanced rather than seeking out temporary highs I’m not already familiar with.

    It’s taken me a while to learn that most of the things that my peers say make them feel good actively make me feel BAD. I used to feel like I had to prove something. Now, I’m much clearer with myself about what I actually like and want versus what other people say will be fun. Drugs? Eh, don’t think they’d be fun. For you, though, it might be a different story.

  42. Sean S says:

    That Carl Sagan piece pretty much sums up extremely well many of the beneficial effects of marijuana. The effects will be different for everyone; for Sagan, the drug allowed him to access areas of his brain that were not accessed while he was not on the drug, and in doing so allowed him to perceive his world differently than he does on an everyday basis while not on the drug.

    I’ve had similar experiences with marijuana, and as such enjoy it, though perhaps that enjoyment is due to the fact that I don’t have an opportunity to do it often. It’s a nice experience, though the experience is different for everyone; for some it’s more profound than for others. You can’t know what type of experience you’ll have, but ya know, if I were to give any advice, I’d say give it a try and see what it’s like. If it’s a negative or neutral experience, you’ll feel no desire to try it again; if, on the other hand, it’s an enjoyable experience, then simply have the will power to understand that just because something is enjoyable is not an excuse for abusing it by doing it to excess, especially if abuse can have detrimental effects.

    In either case, whether you like it or not, the experience will be one in which you’ll appreciate, either through the experience itself, or through the knowledge that you’ve tried it and therefore quenched your curiosity.

  43. Parabanger says:

    How weird that you’re not curiuos enough to try, eg, marijuana.

  44. kevin says:

    Well said, Chris! Even more impressive since I assume you were sober when you wrote it!

  45. kevin says:

    Yeah, we all learned in High school that a drug was anything that altered your state of consciousness or normal bodily function as wikipedia puts it. Obviously that includes all OTC and rx’d drugs.

    But we all knew what Ben meant. Clearly, Marijuana and other illegal drugs are a different class than alcohol (even if may people think MJ shouldn’t be) and cultural norms and perceptions towards alcohol are much different than those ‘harder’ drugs.

    It’s an easy and clear distinction, most easily made by Ben’s point number 5 above.

  46. Krishna, my friend, the poetic expression of your writing is one of the things I most enjoy about you.

    I do get your point, and I don’t think I missed the essence of your comment.

    Perhaps I was too short in my reply.

    Please accept my apologies.

    You asked, “Why the hell does he need drugs? To turn this simple, straight forward blog / or his future work into esoteric BS? That’s the last thing Ben needs.”

    I still don’t think that if Ben experiments with weed or psychedelics it means his blog and future work will inevitably turn into esoteric bullshit, as your rhetorical questions imply.

    I am delighted by your reference to “physiological and psychological techniques like masturbation”.

    I try to liberally throw them in to get the required high as well, and I’m proud to say that I seldom feel the experience is sub-optimal.

    I confess that I’d love to freak out on external options more often, however.;-)

  47. danny says:

    anyone who thinks this much about it won’t have fun smoking pot

  48. I get a whiff of the condescension of the moral crusader from your comment, Lindsey.

    The real moral questions are why the American people allow their taxpayer dollars to be wasted on this futile socially destructive war on drugs, and why they don’t demand the legalization of all drugs, which would kill the profit motive for the Mexican and Colombian cartels immediately.

    Even such an old beelzebubian prince of rhetorical Hell as William F. Buckley, Jr. advocated in The War On Drugs Is Lost for the legalization of all drugs. He was curious enough to try smoking marijuana, but outside US territorial waters, of course.

    I would say with Buckley, unaccustomed as I am to such an exotic exercise, that “it isn’t the use of illegal drugs that we have any business complaining about, it is the abuse of such drugs.”

    The “calculus of pain and pleasure introduced by the illegalization of drugs” is intolerable in a nation that aspires to civilization.

    And really, what earthly incentive does the DEA have even to try to win this unwinnable war on drugs, if that were possible, since the victory would occasion its demise, or at least a reduction in its huge budgets?

    Here’s Buckley in all his Mephistophelian eloquence (2004):

    “Legal practices should be informed by realities. These are enlightening, in the matter of marijuana. There are approximately 700,000 marijuana-related arrests made very year. Most of these — 87 percent — involve nothing more than mere possession of small amounts of marijuana. This exercise in scrupulosity costs us $10-15 billion per year in direct expenditures alone.”

    And as he argues with impeccable logic, “to stop using it does not close off its availability.”

    Your comment actually makes a very good case for legalization, though that doesn’t seem to be what you’re after.

    You seem more interested in pretending to some moral purity that doesn’t exist.

  49. Krishna says:

    Vince, Thanks for clarification.

    I like the way Ben brings up random topics from the myriad of sources he alone can track and keep up. A drug altered mind, should not influence the character of this blog, I feared. As regards his health and experience aspect, Ben is grown up enough to discern.

    But to you Vince, let me not dare alter your passion and instincts and whatever drives you to write so well all those sharp stinging comments. To that I use a favorite quote “A little madness in the spring is wholesome even for the king”.

    Remember the keyword is little so that you don’t go over the edge and those lovely comments keep coming :-)

  50. Leela says:

    I consider myself a high achiever and I reckon I’ve tried (at least once) just about every mainstream drug with the exception of heroin.

    Some experiences were really good, some sucked but I don’t regret any of them overall.

    I actually suffer from a modicum of social anxiety so cocaine and ecstasy were really illuminating in that I got to experience what is was like to *not* be socially anxious. And actually knowing what that felt like meant that it was easier for me to get into that state when I was not on drugs.

    And I am a bit of a control freak and probably a bit too judgemental so being out of control gave me more empathy for others who maybe didn’t have their shit together as much as I thought they should.

    Also I am a thinker and probably too much in my head so having that switched off really helped to me get in touch with parts of myself that would ordinarily never see the light of day. I feel more than I admit to, I’m not the mentally tough fortress I like to think I am and I am glad I faced up to that. I think it made me a more whole, humble if potentially less impressive person.

    There are other paths to these realisations rather than drugs of course. But they were useful shortcuts for me.

    PS: A couple of caveats, I don’t have an addictive personality and I’m a very infrequenct user, I do think prolonged and regular use f*cks people up. They’re the ones who look old before their time.

  51. Ben Goertzel says:

    Ben,

    Since you’re a sane, thoughtful and introspective person, I suspect you would benefit a LOT from taking LSD a few times, in comfortable surroundings, accompanied each time by at least one individual who is experienced with the drug.

    It will very likely open your mind to different ways of perceiving and understanding yourself and the world, which are extremely hard to come by otherwise without years of sustained effort at meditation or other such practices.

    Comparatively, marijuana is an extremely uninteresting drug. It’s intense on roughly the same level that alcohol is, though the particulars of the effect are quite different. It’s relaxing and fun but won’t blow your mind. LSD will blow your mind — and almost surely in a good way, IF you have the right mindset and the right setting when you take it.

    You would also find DMT very interesting, I think — it’s qualitatively different from LSD. But it’s a “more advanced psychedelic” in a way, and one should start with LSD.

    Not trying psychedelics is sort of like not trying sex — you really can’t know what you’re missing, because it’s qualitatively different than anything else you’ve experienced.

    It’s true that some folks have had bad experiences on psychedelics — but those folks were either profoundly mentally unstable before taking the drug; or else took the drug in a non-relaxing setting (like out in the street, or at a wild party at somebody else’s house, etc.).

    I’ll be happy to discuss the matter more in a less public setting, if you’re ever curious.

    BTW I’m a “Type A” personality — a scientist, entrepreneur, workaholic, etc. I’m not a “slacker.” I do think psychedelics can improve your creativity and enhance your work life in some ways — but I also think that to focus on that is to miss the point. The point is that they can help you see your whole life — including yourself, your relationships, your work life and everything else — in new and richer ways.

    — Ben Goertzel, PhD

  52. Scott Lewis says:

    I was similar to you in high school and I hardly ever drank until 19 when it was legal for me here in Canada. I never smoked pot until college and didn’t try anything else until I was 26 or so.

    I can definitely say that my experience with drugs has had an effect on me. It has opened parts of my brain which may or may not have remained locked and dark. It’s hard to know, but the intensity of the variety of experiences has led me to think that the benefits have outweighed the costs for me.

    If you’ve got everything you say you’ve got without em. Good for you. Don’t worry about it, but if you want more variety of experience it’s out there.

    If you want a low commitment as in 10-30 minute high I’d recommend getting some Salvia Divinorum and smoking it. It’s actually not illegal in Canada, though I’m not sure about the US.

    Cheers!

  53. Just Some Guy says:

    You should be proud of yourself for having avoided nicotine, alcohol and other nasty addictive substances. And I envy your freedom from caffeine (curse you, Bean of the Devil)!!

    I drew the same conclusions as you about my school days “stoner crowd” – but since I was part of it, I concluded that /I/ must be a low horsepower unit! It took me years to realize that I was forcing myself into a stereotype. It’s ironic, really. I blame Cheech and Chong.

    But you are almost certainly missing part of the human experience if you deny yourself the opportunity presented by psychedelics like LSD.

    I say “almost”, because there are still other ways to reach these states of consciousness (and benefit from the insight they provide) – but they’re so difficult (expert meditation, fasting, etc) that few people will ever achieve them.

    There simply isn’t any way to really view your experience as a being objectively, without some sort of biochemical assistance. You’d think you can do so intellectually, but that is an entirely different exercise.

    LSD is one, for sure, and since no one else here has mentioned it I’ll bring up Salvia Divinorum. Ignore the jackass kids on YouTube – it is not a party toy, it’s a serious Entheogen from antiquity. I mention it because properly used, it can take you as “deep” as LSD (and deeper) – but only lasts under 10 minutes, is a simple unprocessed plant, and is still legal in most states. Of course the usual disclaimers (set, setting, sitter) apply.

  54. Ted says:

    For what it’s worth, my cousin died of heroin. Remember, some drugs can kill.

  55. andres says:

    Same reasons I don’t find drug use interesting –including coffee and alcohol, specially fear of addiction for something maybe not so “cool.”
    In competitive sports I don’t think you can get “in the zone” using drugs.

  56. Anonymous says:

    Ben, don’t listen to Ben. A lot of smart and hyperactive people are socially encumbered by what seems to be excessive use of psychedelic drugs. A sizable portion of their productivity is channelled into the dust.

    Sex and drugs are both intense, potentially enjoyable esperiences, but sex is a need that is built into most people’s system, while drugs are relatively crude hacks. There is probably nothing wrong with trying LSD once or twice, or with an occasional joint, but outside a serious therapeutical setting I dont think that the risks outweigh the benefits of more intense or regular usage.

    A good point could be made that the average (regular) recreational drug user is not acting responsibly, and so the results are atypical for smart, responsible fellows. Yet, I am not convinced that enlighted (regular) LSD consumers are more happy and productive than the same stratum of the population would have been without the experience. Is there any study out there? Could there be?

    With cocaine, the situation is different, because it shifts your personality, towards results and away from doubts. Good for productivity, but turns you into an asshole. Your call.

  57. Thom Blake says:

    Ben Goertzel is right on the money on this one.

  58. Gioiam says:

    Thank you for this post, but I have to ask…who is this Vince Williams? I followed the links in search of more writing, but at the end there is only a blog from a year ago.

  59. Ben Casnocha says:

    I don't know very much about him! Hopefully someday he will post more about
    his background.

  60. Thanks for your interest, Gioiam, but “who is this Vince Williams?” sounds so clinical, like something the detective Philip Marlowe might ask Jessie Florian.

    I get higher quality, more interesting feedback from people when they have fewer preconceptions about who I am.

    That way, they’re more likely to respond to my ideas, rather than “this Vince Williams”.;-)

  61. Colleen says:

    You are not missing anything. Stay just the way you are. I was extremely anti-drugs for most of my life, and only tried this in my 30’s, after a bad divorce. I was with a new group of friends, and this was the norm. The result: I actually get severe migraines if I smoke this drug. Marijuana does not affect everyone the same way. I am normally a happy, bouncy, light and goofy person… Frequently, people say I don’t need it because I am already “enlightened”. Perhaps you too are already a happy, deep thinker who loves life, and you just don’t need to waste your time, money or thinking on trying something you really don’t need in life. No, it will not give you some different view of the world… Really… it’s not worth it. Again, you are not missing a thing.

  62. m says:

    Yes they can affect you once you are no longer on them, sometimes in ways you desire, and other times in ways you don’t.

    Not all drugs are addicting and not all people have addictive personalities and even of those who do not all have tendencies toward substance addiction.

    Not sure if you drink, but doing drugs is really no different. Some people do it socially, some try it once and never again, some become addicted etc.

    The only difference IMO between drinking and doing drugs is that some drugs are illegal (not all though) and drinking is not if you’re of age, and that each substance makes you feel a certain way. Alcohol produces one effect while another drug produces another. Depending on your personality and brain/body chemistry you may have affinity for one over another or for none at all.

    As for the law, well not all pot smoking is illegal. Don’t you live in CA? Heard of medical marijuana? Whether the law should determine what we put in our own bodies is another matter.

  63. Mar says:

    Never thought I’d be hearing naive realism being used as justification for getting one’s “kicks” but I guess in a kind of way that is what naive realism is all about.

  64. Mar, I believe using mind-altering drugs like coffee, tea, or marijuana is more about the pursuit of happiness than about “getting one’s kicks”.

    I’m not drawing any conclusions about the reality of sense data.

    I’m just asserting my rights to cognitive liberty.

    It pleases me to interpret my empirical experience of levitation as a wave function and my perception of being jolted by ‘energy’ that felt like an electric shock as spooky action at a distance.

    These are hardly the hallmarks of informed common sense.

    I will admit that it’s fun.

    By the way, do you happen to work for the CIA?;-)

  65. I don’t know very much about him! Hopefully someday he will post more about
    his background.

  66. M.J Sid says:

    This is ridiculous.

    You have identified an irregularity in your makeup. You possess traits that would snuggle drug use, and yet they remain unrealised. Now you need to organise the buffet, and begin taking your medicine one by one. SF, nuff’ said. It is much easier to regret abstinence, ignorance is not bliss.

  67. I am so confused about it.

    Thanks.

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