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Tripping on the High Road: Cannabis & Psychedelics

How Cannabis and Psychedelics Interact
Photo by Gracie Malley for Cannabis Now


Tripping on the High Road: Cannabis & Psychedelics

When it comes to the way cannabis plays off more heavy-hitting hallucinogens, we pretty much have to take the internet’s word for it.

Research on recreational drugs tends to be limited and biased due to prohibitions and stigma, not to mention ethical concerns about giving people drugs in an experimental setting. Despite these obstacles, when it comes to most psychoactive drugs, we have a robust, growing corpora of research.

But the landscape becomes far more barren when it comes to psychedelics, namely magic mushrooms and lysergic acid (LSD). Unlike many drugs that lend themselves to habitual use, psychedelic usage tends to present as a trip — a jaunt away from one’s usual perceptual framework that happen more out of occasional perceptual wanderlust than as a standard accompaniment to a party, a movie or the end of the work day.

A scientist attempting to document changes in enzymes or behavior has a narrower set of options to work from. Thus, one is less likely to come across comprehensive documentations of how the body reacts to cannabis and LSD in concert and more likely to find studies like this one, in which pigeons were given heavy doses of cannabis and LSD and made to distinguish between various colors and shapes. From this research, we learned that tripping pigeons have trouble telling shapes apart, compared to their stoned or sober roost-mates.

Where psychedelics outpace other mind-altering substances is on personal documentation. While very few people bother to chronicle their evenings at the bar or smoking bowls, there are thousands of trip stories out there for the curious, and these have done at least as much for our understanding of hallucinogens as the work done by the scientific community.

Psychedelics and the Brain

First, a word about the term “psychedelics.” It encompasses a growing list of substances, including DMT, salvia divinorum and, by some definitions, cannabis itself.

This article will mostly talk about the two most popular ones, mushrooms and LSD, and how they interact with cannabis. Both activate neurotransmitters associated with serotonin, which can provide a sense of wellbeing, and dopamine, which can bring a feeling of satisfying a need or craving. Both mushrooms and LSD are associated with a heightened sense of awareness, sensory distortions or enhancements that can even drift into synesthesia and a general sense of seeing the world through new eyes — many a college major has been changed due to a powerful trip.

There is a flip side to all this: Bad trips can plunge people into paranoia, despair and a deeply unpleasant disorientation.

Smoking and Tripping

Cannabis tends to amplify the sensory elements and generally smooths out the edges of the trip. People often get nauseous as they come up on mushrooms, and cannabis can help handle those symptoms as well.

Inexperienced trippers should proceed with caution, as cannabis can make a trip much more intense or even reignite its psychedelic aspects during the comedown (though it can also provide a gentler landing). The general note of caution to stay present in one’s own body and proceed into unfamiliar territory with caution applies double here.

Mushrooms: The Next Legalization Frontier?

There was a time when cannabis legalization seemed a distant dream and now it is the law of the land in 10 states with more on the way and federal decriminalization hopefully happening soon. In May, the city of Denver narrowly passed an ordinance that decriminalizes magic mushrooms. That’s the first step in a long uncertain journey for liberalizing laws around drugs other than cannabis, but it shows what is possible in the more liberal pockets of the country.

Colorado was a pioneer in cannabis legalization, and one wonders if they could play a similar role for mushrooms and other drugs.

Advocates can point to the example of Portugal, which decriminalized all drugs in 2001, and has seen significant gains in public health as a result.

Psychedelics are a harsher, more intense cousin to cannabis, and even experienced stoners can be surprised at how the two interact in real time. For many, a bowl or a light edible is an essential companion for a trip, bringing it to loftier heights and an easier comedown. That dynamic is making inroads in the legal and social spheres, where people now feel more comfortable talking about psychedelic use and legalization now that cannabis has cleared the path.

TELL US, have you ever used psychedelics and cannabis at the same time?

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