9 Things Nobody Tells You about Recreational Drug Use in Your Youth.

Via Kara-Leah Grant
on Feb 26, 2013
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*If these facts aren’t enough to scare you away, try your face on meth.

Because we’ve all been there right? Smoking weed, dropping acid, popping a pill, snorted blow…

It can seem like oh-so-much fun and so very sophisticated when you escape the confines of high school and parents and otherwise well-meaning authorities who always told you drugs were bad.

Everyone’s doing it. Can’t be all that bad. Right?

Well… there’s always consequences. And some of those consequences can be completely unexpected. So if you’re a recreational drug taker, or on your way to becoming one… here’s a few things to consider.

1. Your kids are going to want to know what drugs you did.

It’s difficult to imagine now, but at some point in the distant future, maybe even 20 years from now, your kids are going to be hitting their teenage years. And with that will come curiosity, questions and experimentation.

If you’ve been a recreational drug user at some point in your life, you’re going to face a big choice. Lie about your use to your kids. Or be honest and risk that your honesty and experience means they perceive it as okay to take drugs and potentially do themselves some serious harm.

After all, if you partied hard and took a whole load of drugs and came out a-okay, why shouldn’t they?

Problem is, not everyone does come out okay. Back in my drug-taking days, there was a three month period when two friends died from drug-related incidents. One friend got drunk, passed out on the couch and chocked to death on vomit. Another was boating at midnight doing lines of Special K and fell into the water. He didn’t make it back to shore.

Your kids won’t relate to those stories. They’ll relate to you coming through mostly okay. That’s what they’re more likely to base their choices on.

2. At some point, you’re going to have to come clean, and face up to how you really feel about your drug use.

In the midst of partying and having a good time it’s real easy to believe that you’re just having fun. That you’re living life to the fullest, making the most of your youth, going with the flow, expanding your consciousness, becoming one with nature man.

However, any time we’re using a substance to change our reality, we’re subtly avoiding or denying the reality we’re currently living in and there’s a reason for that. What that reason is will be different for every single one of us, but trust me. There’s an underlying issue or 10 that’s driving your drug use. Eventually, you’re going to have to face those issues.

The longer you leave it, the more you run and hide, the more you avoid and deny, the more difficult it will be when you finally face up to the music. Spend 10 years running, and you might spend 10 years clearing the crap.

3. Some jobs take past drug use seriously.

I’ve been completely up-front and honest about my drug-taking past, but I’m also not going for jobs that make it matter.

Some jobs—like anything do to with the military, FBI, CIA, police, fire—are tough to crack if you’ve got a past history of drug use. Sure, you might be 19 and have no intention of doing anything like the FBI, but you have no idea how your life might unfold and where you might be when you’re 29. Suddenly you might be applying for your dream job and discover that your year of hard partying post-high school rules you out forever.

That’s a hard one to swallow.

4. You’ll no longer fit inside the normal parameters when you go for life insurance.

And because you no longer fit inside the ‘normal parameters’ for life insurance, that means you have to pay more. You may be paying more for life.

In my case, my past drug use and history of psychosis (drug-induced) meant my life insurance cost was 30 percent higher than the normal. That’s a huge extra premium for be paying for the next 50 years or so, all because I had a damn good time in my 20s.

Oh, you could lie, sure. Deny any drug use. But with the way information speeds around the ‘net now, guaranteed if you needed to claim on that life insurance, they’ll be looking for any reason to deny it.

5. For the rest of your life, even when you’ve been clean for years, decades, there’ll always be that part of you that remembers and maybe—just maybe—wishes…

It’s been a long time now since I had a stonking great time while high. But I still remember. I still remember what it was like to have those first few Es. I remember those full moon parties on mushrooms. And I remember lazy days spend by the pool smoking weed. Fortunately, I also remember the come-downs. I remember feeling like I just wanted this to stop now. I remember the cost.

Now yoga, meditation and life gets me high—and keeps me high. That’s enough to keep me off the drugs. But if you don’t have a life filled with natural highs, you’ll struggle when the going gets tough. There will be a part of you that remembers the easy high and wishes… maybe, just maybe…

And that’s dangerous.

6. The consciousness-expanding nature of some drugs means you’ll have to find more time-consuming, laborious ways to get back into that state of mind again.

Cue yoga and meditation practice. I loved taking mushrooms outside in nature and dissolving into a total state of oneness, allowing my mind to expand and expand and expand until I didn’t know where I ended and the world began. Everything looked shiny and new and sparkly and so very alive.

Now I can’t just eat a handful of funghi to get there. Instead, I’m dedicated to my yoga practice, spending time each day disciplining my mind so it can open and expand and I can again feel that sense of oneness with the world.

The beauty of this grounded, systematic way of moving toward Oneness is that it’s not dependent on anything outside of me. It’s something that comes when I connect to the deepest part of me and relax and open. It’s something within me. That can never be taken away from me, no matter what.

But it takes commitment, dedication and discipline.

7. Aging drug users just look….sad. And old.

I see this in friends who still party and drink the way I used to in my twenties. They’ve aged, particularly around the eyes. Wrinkles, wrinkles and more wrinkles. Aging drug fiends like Courtney Love may be able to cover it all up with surgery, cosmetics and soft lighting, but the rest of us mere mortals will have to live with the ravages of drug use on our faces and in our bodies.

Just look at photos of Lindsay Lohan a few years ago and compare them to now. Her drug and alcohol abuse shows. And over time, it will show even more.

When you’re young, the flush of youth keeps you looking amazing no matter how you live. But over time, how you live determines how you look. Your life shows up on your face.

8. It may affect future travel plans.

That minor recreational drug use may result in a minor drug conviction. No big deal right? Until you want to travel. Then it suddenly becomes a very big deal.

I’ve got friends with minor convictions for marijuana use who can’t travel to the U.S.. No worries, they say, I never want to go there anyway. But what they didn’t realise was that to get from New Zealand to say Canada, they have to fly through the U.S., landing in either Los Angeles or Hawaii. That minor drug conviction means they can’t. They have to find an alternate travel route, which can sometimes cost a whole lot more money.

Oh wait, Canada can also deny entry based on a drug conviction. Doh. Where to now? China? You have to register with the Police after you arrive if you have any kind of conviction. That sounds like fun.

Bear in mind too that rules for entering countries change all the the time, and generally they get tougher. You may be able to move around alright now with a drug conviction, provided you don’t want to go to or through the U.S., but that could change at any moment.

9. Drug-use can ruin your mental health.

Okay, this is obvious. And is likely something you’ve been warned about. Take drugs and it ruins your health.

Hard to imagine, or quantify though, especially when results may not show up for years. Sometimes though, there are immediate and terrible results.

I made the dangerous mistake of mixing consciousness-expanding drugs like marijuana, mushrooms and acid with meditation and yoga. Cue psyche-explosion and two episodes of psychosis. That messed up my mental health for a long time. Fortunately, I was able to systematically work through those issues of the psyche and put myself back together with the help of drug-free yoga and meditation. Other people haven’t been so fortunate. Just check out your local residential mental health facility.

Now, those may be nine solid reasons to not take drugs, but I’m not going to tell you that. This is not about telling you what to do. No, what I want to do is make you fully aware of consequences so you can do your own self-inquiry and come to your own decisions.

The next time you’re tempted to smoke weed, pop a pill, drop acid, snort blow… pause. Just for a moment. Take a breath or two. Feel yourself in your body. And ask yourself.

Do I really want to do this?

Do I really want to deal with the consequences that arise from this?

Is this the best choice I can make for myself right now?

And if it is—go for it. Go for it with full conscious awareness instead of being driven by your unconscious desires and needs. And challenge yourself to stay conscious of your experience all the way through, from the initial flush of highness to the darkness of the come-down. Stay with it, stay conscious, feel it all, deeply.

Be fully present to your experience. Be fully present to the consequences.

Now that’s a serious yoga practice.

Like elephant health & wellness on facebook.

Ed: Lynn Hasselberger


Bonus: The Pros and Cons of Smoking Dope:


About Kara-Leah Grant

Kara-Leah Grant is an internationally renowned retreat leader, yoga teacher and writer. Along with fellow Elephant Journal writer, Ben Ralston, she runs Heart of Tribe, pouring her love into growing a world-wide tribe of courageous, committed, and empowered individuals through leading retreats in New Zealand, Mexico and Sri Lanka. Kara-Leah is also the founder of New Zealand’s own awesome yoga website, The Yoga Lunchbox, and author of Forty Days of Yoga—Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice and The No-More-Excuses Guide to Yoga. A born & bred Kiwi who spent her twenties wandering the world and living large, Kara-Leah has spent time in Canada, the USA, France, England, Mexico, and a handful of other luscious locations. She now lives and travels internationally with her son, a ninja-in-training. You can find Kara-Leah on her website, or on Facebook.


85 Responses to “9 Things Nobody Tells You about Recreational Drug Use in Your Youth.”

  1. Sara says:

    great article Kara-Leah. I have often thought about this issue – I cautiously dabbled in drugs in my 20s too, and for me it lightened me up and helped me to drop some of the serious heaviness I had. But I had some unpleasant times too. I have also been saddened to see the effects of drug use on some of my friends – some of them are not right and never will be again after bad drug decisions. I guess some people should never have drugs; and it's funny how they seem to be the people most attracted by them. I haven't had any drugs for 10+ years and i don't miss them.

  2. Hey Sara,

    There's no doubt the consequences of using drugs varies wildly from person to person, depending on their individual make-up. It's been years for me now too, and I definitely don't miss them. I've actually had a dream or two where I've got stoned and hated it, wanting desperately to be straight again… and then I wake up and it's a huge relief 🙂

  3. margi says:

    Very well stated from someone who's been in the deep darkness of the whole thing. I found this insightful.

  4. Hey Margi,

    Excellent – that was the intention.

  5. Powerful article! I have worked in the recovery field for 30 some years and have witnessed the impact of addiction on clients and their families and friends. I currently provide counseling in an outpatient practice. I plan to share this article with my clients and co-workers. Thanks for your insights! I'm also an Elephant Journal columist. Blessings, Edie Weinstein

  6. ginger says:

    The first six I didn't really relate to very much. Seven, eight and nine were spot on though. If you can't admit drugs make you look like crap, you may be on drugs… 😉

  7. oz_ says:

    While there is much practical advice in this article, it is also dangerously misinformed about psychedelics, and perpetuates many of the myths associated with these healing medicines. For example, the idea that LSD causes psychotic episodes. For a less hysterical and more credible presentation, I'd suggest referring to:

    Strassman RJ. “Adverse reactions to psychedelic drugs. A review of the literature”. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1984 Oct;172(10):577-95.

    An excerpt is available here:


    "many of these so called LSD psychoses could be other illnesses that were triggered by the stress of a traumatic psychedelic drug experience"


    "Hensala et al. compared LSD-using and non-LSD-using psychiatric inpatients. They found that this group of patients was generally of a younger age and contained more characteristically disordered individuals than the non-LSD-using group. … Based on their observations, they concluded that LSD was basically just another drug of abuse in a population of frequently hospitalized individuals in the San Francisco area, and that it was unlikely that psychedelic use could be deemed etiological in the development of their psychiatric disorders."

    We are now learning that, quite contrary to the 'reefer madness-style' scare tactics portrayed above, psychedelics can in fact be incredibly healing: MDMA is proving more efficacious in bringing desperately needed relief to rape victims and combat vets suffering from PTSD than any other treatment available; ibogaine is giving a fresh start and a new lease on life to those addicted to heroin and alcohol, and ayahuasca seems poised to do the same, psilocybin is almost magically relieving the extreme death anxieties of terminal cancer patients and allowing them to re-establish a quality of life that makes life once again precious and worth living to them; ketamine has helped people who have suffered from *decades* of severe depression – sometimes curing them within an hour! The research on these and other benefits is piling up fast, but you certainly wouldn't know it from the 'conventional wisdom' (aka ignorance) on display in the article above as regards these substances.

    Further, shamanic cultures across the world have been using psychedelics as efficacious healing medicines for thousands of years. Thus, to so obliviously perpetuate the myth that these sacred substances are akin to dangerous street drugs is to demonstrate the cultural myopia for which Americans are so justly famous.

    Is it too much to ask to note that the facts about psychedelics, which are fast emerging from the closet as THE most promising psychological and emotional healing medicines ever discovered, be published along with potential downsides? Such as the fact that psychedelics are extremely low in toxicity and that cases involving overdose and addiction with psychedelics are vanishingly rare to non-existent.

    In generalizing 'drugs' as this article does (which is reflective of our cultural conditioning), rather than looking at individual substances and their impacts, the author fails to further the task of education in this regard. Yet another worthwhile cause marred by hasty over-generalization.

  8. dharma_singh says:

    Interesting post. I agree with some points but will I am going to challenge some as well.

    First, let me give some context. I have taken LSD, and mushrooms literally hundreds of times (however nothing in the past 20 years). Aside from marijuana, I have not tried any other drugs. I switched from drug use to yoga and meditation but that was back when yoga was more associated with Ram Dass and the Beatles than health clubs. Yoga has kept me happy and healthy for more than 20 years, but I also have to give credit my experiences with LSD for providing a spiritual vision to move me to my current path. I stopped because I simply lost interest, I always thought if I ever wanted to take acid or mushrooms again, I would.

    In regards to you 9 points, here's my thoughts:

    1. I will always be open and honest with my boys about drugs. I hope they will be with me as well.
    2. The context of the use is the issue. Recreational use is different than ritualistic use. We were searching for reality rather than avoiding it. Perhaps a little misguided, but our intentions were good.
    3. Jobs? I am who I am.
    4. I have full life insurance and I was honest when I applied.
    5. As I stated above, If I feel the need to do it again I will. But I doubt that will happen.
    6. I don't understand the question
    7. Agreed
    8. I never had trouble with the law
    9. This is an interesting point. I have wondered if certain drugs can trigger a pre-existing condition. There is no question in my mind, certain drugs, especially the hallucinogenics, are not for everyone.

    Thanks for giving me a reason to reflect on this.

  9. abby says:

    I normally love elephant journal articles, but this one feels fear based and misleading. Then again, I have chosen a path where I don't care about qualifying for life insurance or a job with the fbi.

  10. paul says:

    LSD can cause psychotic episodes, as can alcohol. Enough caffeine and a person can lose it too.

    The article is about recreational use of drugs, not therapeutic. Given the proper environment the drugs you mention can be powerful healers but not always. Ignoring the essential distinction between recreational and therapeutic/traditional use is part of the reason these drugs are kept illegal; the only one spreading myths is you. 🙂

    Those interested should check out maps.org which is actively doing research on the therapeutic use of psychedelics.

  11. paul says:

    Thank you for this article. My friends and I all knew we weren't getting any sort of honest information about drugs, and dove, sometimes recklessly, into their curious embrace. Had there been some sort of honesty I don't think we would've been as reckless, and perhaps even had a respect for the drugs and their effects, rather than as a thing to be used.

    There is a lot of new information coming out about the effects of food and drugs (like pot opening neural gateways, but to nicotine not cocaine or heroin), so I am hopeful that better informed youths will not suffer from their own hubris as myself and others did.

  12. oz_ says:

    "LSD can cause psychotic episodes"

    Honestly Paul, I don't find this to be a particularly compelling or well supported rebuttal.

    From the medical literature:

    "LSD was basically just another drug of abuse in a population of frequently hospitalized individuals in the San Francisco area, and that it was unlikely that psychedelic use could be deemed etiological in the development of their psychiatric disorders."

    "the question of the potential role of LSD in accelerating or precipitating the onset of an illness that was "programmed"
    to develop ultimately in a particular individual–in a manner comparable to the major physical or emotional stress that often precipitates a bona fide myocardial infarction in an individual with advanced coronary atheresclerosis. The stress did not _cause_ the heart disease; it was only the stimulus that accelerated the inexorable process to manifest illness."

    "The role of LSD, therefore, in causing or precipitating these symptomatic disorders, is open to dispute."

    "I believe these data, taken as a whole, limited as they are in terms of comparing subgroups (i.e. LSD-using vs. non-LSD-using) of "schizophrenia- like" disorders, point towar, at most, a possible precipitory role in the development of these disorders, in a non specific and not etiologically related manner."

    I recognize that facts are hard things to accept when they go agains what we've been conditioned to believe, and that this is nowhere more true that in this misbegotten drug war. After all, much of the present day hysteria surrounding drugs was initiated by Harry Anslinger, the notorious first 'Drug Czar', who insisted that:

    "There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others."

    There are very, very dangerous street drugs out there. Psychedelics are NOT even close to comparable. So to the extent that this article perpetuates that lie using scare tactics, while doing such a poor job of distinguishing which is which, it does a disservice to the very agenda it seems to advance: educating about the perils of drug use.

  13. Hey Edie,

    I imagine you've seen the worst effects and impacts of drug use over the years too…

  14. Hey OZ,

    Thank you for your comment, and for the additional resources. It helps to broaden the discussion.

    If you'd like an article which looks at the individual substances and their impacts from one person's perspective, see this article I also wrote for EJ.

    In it I look at each drug separately – why I used it and what the impact was on me, both good and bad.

    I'm not sure I'm "dangerously misinformed". I write from my own perspective, sharing what has happened to me. I took LSD. I had a psychotic episode. The two things happened one after another. Did LSD cause the psychotic episode? Not all by itself, there were other factors at play in my mind/body etc. Would I have had the psychotic episode if I hadn't taken LSD? Maybe not. Maybe still. Fact is, I wasn't 100% healthy in my psyche at the time and LSD likely tipped me over the edge.

    My intention in writing this article wasn't a "reefer-madness" approach. Nor even a drugs are bad approach. Drugs have effects and results, both good and bad. In this particular article I was looking at some of the consequences down the line that we don't always think about at the time.

    In my experience of taking and being around sacred substances, whatever they were, they weren't being used in a sacred manner. I'm referring to recreational use in this article, not sacred use.

    Thanks again for the additional resources.

  15. Hey Dharma Singh,

    Yes, I agree. Context is everything. The context of this article is recreational use, which is generally partying and having a good time. It is different from ritualistic use. Although the line can be fine… I termed myself a recreational user, and believed I was on a consciousness expanding journey finding out more about life etc…

    I have full life insurance too – it just cost me more 😉

    Different drugs definitely interact with people differently, there are so many other factors involved.

    Thanks for sharing your reflections with us.

  16. Hey Abby,

    I never thought I'd need life insurance either as it's not really my thing. But now, as a solo parent of a young child, I realised I needed to make provisions for his care should anything happen to me. It was somewhat of a shock – me, got life insurance! Never saw the point before.

  17. Hey Regan,

    In observations of myself and other people, often use of drugs has to do with escaping from feelings or reality.

    Not always. Not everyone.

    Therefore if one is using drugs, it's always interesting to inquire into the Self just to check in and see – how am I feeling and is there something in my unconscious or subconscious motivating this action?

    I can't comment on meth because I've never tried it, or seen it.

    Drug use doesn't mess you up forever. It's not even necessarily a bad thing because there's so many variations at play. Drug use always has some kind of impact though, and it's great to be aware of what that potential impact might be.

  18. It is a difficult topic to speak openly and honestly about because it's such a hot topic that can push so many buttons. Often too the information has an agenda – rather than just openly presenting effects, results, outcomes, consequences etc… information is aimed at achieving a result.

    But then, I guess that' s what I was doing with this article. I was curious about the topic area and the kind of discussion it would generate. An interesting one for sure!

  19. MatBoy says:

    Life has many aspects and drugs and mind-altering substances, including caffein and alcohol, are part of the potential mix. True, over-using these substances can make it more difficult to fit into the rigid consumer society of modern, developed economies (got to work for the man to make money to keep up). Some of these substances, however, fit into a slower-paced, contemplative life-style. It seems like there is little value placed on that option today. We need alert minds to work in business, but that alertness does not include much of the human experience. Having experimented a bit I can choose to have or not have some of these things in my life. I do not have an addictive personality so it may just be easier for me to say this.

  20. Hey Matboy,

    Great to point out that caffeine and alcohol are also drugs. And hurray for slower-paced, more contemplative lifestyles, I'm all for cultivating that!

  21. Jim Henry says:

    While there is indeed some accurate and insightful information in this article I personally found it to be very judgemental and not particularly compassionate in it's treatment towards people who had made the decision to use "recreational drugs" and ended up with negative results.

    I work in the behavioral health field and having been a practicing Buddhist for the better part of 35 years at this point and am personally very tired of this tactic of laying on guilt and what if? tactics in attempt to create "premptive treatment" which in my many years in the field I can honestly say I have almost never seen to be an effective means of getting people to avoid drugs and alchohol.

    Education oriented, compassionate and non-judgementaly based treatment have always been the gold standard of sucessful treatment and they remain so today.

    This is about mindfullness and the living in the moment that comes with it not the ever incapacitatiting "what if" treatment.

  22. Olatundji Akpo-Sani says:

    Here is another side. I am 36 years old. I started smoking cigarettes and drinking when I was 16, pot when I was 17 and started taking hallucinogens when I was 17. I have smoked cigarettes and pot for over half my life now and still experiment with hallucinogens on occasion. I do no "look like crap". I actually look much younger than my 36 years. I exercise regularly, eat well and take care of my body and mind. My recreational drug use as a young adult shaped the man I am today. I can honestly say I would not have gone down the paths that I have gone down if it were not for the experiences (both good and bad) I had as a youthful recreational drug user (I even abused a few substances in that time). I have spent most of my adult life working for non-profits with the disabled population and in the schools. I believe in my communities, have life insurance, and know what it is like to be a parent and live with the responsibility of a child's life.

    I thought it odd that sugar is not mentioned in this article? Obesity will kill you just as fast as alcohol (maybe faster) and much faster than Marijuana. Refined sugar will mess with your brain chemistry as much if not more than many psychotropics, and this does not even get into the whole self image issue that can lead to breakdowns and extreme feelings of self loathing. McDonald's gets as much air time as their billions and billions can afford, but recreational drug use is the issue?

    The truth is we ALL look for ways to alter our consciousness (if not chemicals then yoga, meditation, or running – it is part of the human experience), and ANYTHING done to the point that it becomes the priority over our relationships and responsibilities is problematic. These are the lessons that should be taught, and this has nothing to do with recreational drug use. By pointing the finger at recreational drug use this very important and fundamental lesson is over looked and brushed aside.

    I do not think the author is wrong though. She is stating what the effects of early and later drug use has been for her, but presenting it as the universal experience is a bit ingenuous and in the end may alienate more youth than it might help.

  23. paul says:

    Honestly Oz, quoting again (this time without sourcing it) from a 30 year old study that itself was evaluating the difficulties of studying psychedelics, is hardly support for whatever argument you're trying to make about LSD not causing psychotic episodes, and had you read more than a snippet of the actual study you would know that it does nothing but discuss the many episodes of psychosis in the literature and the methodological difficulties of psychedelics (it's called Adverse Reactions to Psychedelic Drugs A Review of the Literature after all), and his conclusions are the same as what I said- that in a non-clinical setting the adverse reactions are accentuated, "The setting (i.e., the place and people present) needs to be specified. Early reports of adverse reactions occurring in controlled supervised settings were marked by a very low frequency of occurrence, and whether or not the setting was unsupervised could have a powerful effect on the frequency and nature of adverse reactions."

    The conclusion of the study begins:
    "Adverse reactions to this class of psychoactive drugs [psychedelics] can be conceptualized as occurring along a temporal continuum with acute panic reactions that often resolve spontaneously within a day, and chronic undifferentiated psychotic, treatment-resistant cases, at the two ends of the spectrum. In between exist "LSD psychoses," lasting longer than 1 to 2 days after the ingestion of a psychedelic compound, and "flash backs," transient recurrences of some aspects of the original LSD experience after an intervening period of normality. … With the available data, it appears that the incidence of adverse reactions to psychedelic drugs is low, when individuals both normal volunteers and patients are carefully screened and prepared, supervised, and followed up, and given judicious doses of pharmaceutical quality drug. The few prospective studies noting adverse reactions have fairly consistently described characteristics predicting poor response to these drugs. The majority of studies of adverse reactions, retrospective in nature, have described a constellation of premorbid characteristics in individuals seeking treatment for these reactions where drugs of unknown purity were taken in unsupervised settings."

    Earlier in the paper he suggests psychedelics may bring to the fore preexisting conditions:
    "…In other words, many of these so called LSD psychoses could be other illnesses that were triggered by the stress of a traumatic psychedelic drug experience. … I believe that what is being studied here is the question of the potential role of LSD in accelerating or precipitating the onset of an illness that was "programmed" to develop ultimately in a particular individual"

    "Drug-induced psychotic patients were found to have better premorbid histories and prognostic indicators than the nondrug groups."

    A note from a chapter of Strassman's DMT: The Spirit Molecule (2001) of interest here:
    "More recently, Doblin brought to light a highly stressful negative reaction to psilocybin in the famous Good Friday study. The original 1966 article (Walter N. Pahnke and William A. Richards, "Implications of LSD and Experimental Mysticism," Journal of Religion and Health 5 (1966): 175-208) described mystical experiences brought on by psilocybin in Harvard Divinity School students. However, we heard nothing about the inebriated fellow whom research team members chased through campus, pinned against a door, and tranquilized with an injection of antipsychotic medication! See Rick Doblin, "The Good Friday Experiment: A Twenty-Five Year Follow-Up and Methodological Critique," Journal of Transpersonal Psychology 23 (1991): 1-28."

    The book discusses Strassman's decades of study around DMT, and presents psychedelics as working from the start on multiple levels, that they "exert their effects by a complex blending of three factors: set, setting, and drug." These three are respectively the person and their various baggage/ physio-psychological profile, the various environmental factors the drug is taken in, and the drug itself (different psychedelics cause very different experiences). Focusing on just the drug is completely disingenuous when discussing psychedelics- and misses their character entirely. He concludes a chapter on Pain and Fear saying, "DMT is a potentially dangerous drug. For that reason, we must think long and hard about using it in ourselves and on one another."

    In short: psychedelics can mess you up, so if you're so inclined do everyone the favor of finding a guide/helper. That psychedelics can mess you up should be obvious to anyone who has tried them or been around those on them, and while many people do not have lasting adverse reactions with psychedelics, there are those of us who should stay away from them, if not drugs altogether, be it for genetic or psychological reasons. I think most of the misuse (be it recreational or diy spirituality) are due to blind attempts at self-medication (akin to binge-eating), and if psychedelics are not treated with respect, if they're not done in a safe setting with people who are trained to deal with it, the user may find themselves less a trip and more a mess.

  24. paul says:

    (cont) That you read Grant's personal stories and experience as a "scare tactic" is disgusting. I think you know this. I don't understand why you thought I was presenting a supported argument or why anyone using them would bother distinguishing their lies from their scare tactics, and I don't understand the hostility to noting the very real dangers of psychedelics. I also wonder about the prevalence of depression/ low serotonin with youthful "experimenting" with psychedelics- but too I mention that to be a pill.

    Are opium and cocaine less dangerous than psychedelics? For me cocaine definitely was, and opium too in part because of accessibility and cost, but mostly because I found them boring. What makes them more dangerous than psychedelics is that they are addictive and less intense. But psychedelics were for me far and away more dangerous. Crack, speed and meth had no appeal. And I knew to stay away from heroin not only because of what I saw it do to my (now passed) friends, but because I knew I would like it. (This is not to say I was a heavy user; excepting booze I really don't tolerate these things like others can.)

    If you have any actual statistics, I would be interested to see them. From MAPS another survey of the literature (from 1998) with the similar laments about methodology and lack of good data http://www.maps.org/research/abrahart.html

  25. paul says:

    I think it's not just cultural stigmas and motivations you mention but the experience itself that makes drugs difficult to talk about. How do you "explain" being drunk when the state itself is a distortion, let alone a more psychedelic experience? And of course, when it's for escape (even just to let off steam, relax, etc) it's not always easy to talk about what we're trying to get away from. (Other times not so much 🙂 )

    Informing (and including the nuances and biases) for the sake of informing is a lot different (and better on the whole) than "informing" to support an ideology or agenda; thanks again for bringing these issues up, it's reminded me of many patterns and habituations precedent and consequent to my own experiences with food and drugs.

  26. Over 60.amazing says:

    Kara-Leah…thank you…great article. One thing that wasn't mentioned is the singling out of the lost time. The lost time of precious years and then only to arrive at very middle age and a big WTF! And, I know for girls craving a male's attention….this can be the very, very wrong crowd to fall in with, no matter how brilliant, how "functioning" and successful those friends are…..you need to make your own way…not drift in their wake.
    Luckily, I was very clear to my son about drugs and quit smoking when he was three. He's a "staright arrow" , but it sure made my life less stressful with him eschewing everything I did not.

  27. Jeff says:

    Very nice article. I like to joke that I experimented with marijuana for twenty years. I can't say that I suffered serious effects, but I had a few friends who fell prey to the "gateway" drug scenario. And several suffered life-changing consequences in their health. I never felt the need to try other drugs. I flirted with disaster a few times, notably a few times at work while employed by the nuclear industry. What a dumbass. My wife and I gave it up before any of our partying friends: one part maturity, one part financial stress, but mostly the realization we were still buying it for others more than for ourselves. Social acceptance, habit, and a longing to stay 18 forever.

    We came clean with our daughter years later. She seemed a little shocked at first. But we had a great father-daughter moment last summer. She had gotten the part of Chrissy in a performance of "Hair" and became immersed in the way of life so common in the 60s and 70s. I asked her what she thought now about life in my youth. She just laughed.

  28. Hey Jim,

    Thanks for your comment. It certainly wasn't my intention to lay on any guilt at all, nor to be non-compassionate towards people who choose to use recreational drugs. If what I wrote came across like that then it's my own lack of skill in writing.

    My intention was to bring more mindfulness to the choice, which as you say, it what truly makes a difference in all our choices.

    Perhaps I didn't achieve this though.

  29. Oh great point – sugar is definitely something one can use, abuse, be addicted to and it changes our chemistry. Could be a future article in there.

    I wasn't intending to single out recreational drugs per se, but to chose one area of life to focus on. At other times I've written about how we use yoga & meditation as a form of escapism. I can only put so much into one article though and narrowing the focus often helps.

    Perhaps I could have been clearer in pointing out that these are all possible consequences – I didn't intend to suggest that everyone who takes recreational drugs will have all of these things happen to them. How each of those consequences unfolds will be different too.

  30. Hey Over 60.amazing,

    No, I don't feel like I lost any time in my experiences, as I learned so much. I would never trade them for anything and am glad of the path I've taken. That said, I was 29 when I mostly stopped, and so wasn't anywhere near middle-age and had plenty of time to heal from the experiences.

    I guess that points to the fact that the actual consequences are different for everybody – some may lose time, others may not. Some may age more, some may not…

  31. Hey Jeff,

    Seeing the experience of others can be sobering – literally!

  32. Great discussion guys – and love all the quotes from the literature. Between you, you've added some great depth to this article and given people further jumping off points for exploration.

    Thank you.

  33. oz_ says:

    Paul, this was much better than "LSD can cause psychotic episodes" – will give it more attention when I have more time. Thanks for putting some effort into this response. 🙂

  34. MatBoy says:

    I think it is important for young people who are breaking out of their parents' nest to experiment with many things to see just what the world is made of, to know more about the limits of human experience. Only then they can make better informed choices about what they want to have in their lives.

    It takes strong parenting to guide our children through this phase: a mix of involvement and advice and of staying in the background, offering support, trusting and waiting to see how things turn out. I experimented more with climbing and somehow lived to see my 30th birthday. I would worry more about my children doing this than smoking pot with their homies.

  35. johnny says:

    hi(gh) everyone!

    this piece is beautifully illustrating the 'drug problem' in western society. i think the real problem with drugs is that people mistake the map for the territory. i have found that a drug will not lead you down any particular path.. the drug will simply take you down whatever path you choose. you are not choosing to try cocaine and then try meth, you are choosing to chase the feeling of being high. these choices tend to be unconscious, and it's why you are feeling so much fear and regret, my dear Kara-Leah. in your youth, you experienced great trauma and death surrounding your drug use. your fear for your children is now deeply rooted in this, and you even felt the need to reach out to the community to save us from experiencing the same suffering as you.

    you write from a place of prevention, which i think is why many members here have attacked you. they simply do not share your fear of drugs. the personified example was LSD, and it is no surprise to see psychedelics defended in the spiritual community. the case in point is how acid can aggravate existing underlying psychological conditions, but i have always been confused as to why this is a bad thing.. if i am bi-polar or schizophrenic, i'd like to know about it so i can treat it properly.

    then, someone mentions the super dangerous drug called sugar! see, the real problem is not the drug. it is the perception of the drug and how it is used. anything in excess is toxic, including water. you can drink too much water and get water poisoning. no one is saving the kids from water, though. this is because there is proper rhetoric and education surrounding the issue of water. but when it comes to drugs.. they sell us drinks & smokes, and throw is in jail if we put anything else in our bodies. how is that fair? there is so much anxiety and fear being created by the stigma surrounding drugs.

    i appreciate you reaching out and sharing your story, but i don't see it the way you do. i think one day, like many others, you hit a speed bump in your psychedelic journey and called it quits. seeing your friends fall down and not get up is a harsh experience. i have been there, too. and as i prepare to start a family, i happily long for the day where i can share these beautiful, deep and sometimes dark experiences with my children. the truth has already been told.

    one last thing.. you took a pot shot at psychedelics when you said 'becoming one with nature, man..' and i must take exception to this comment. connecting with mother earth is a most sacred feeling. whether you reach these states through meditation or through psilocybin is irrelevant. please do not belittle these experiences.


    you linked an article.. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/04/getting-ou

  36. johnny says:

    oops! what i meant to say about that article you linked is that she seems to have gone through a similar experience as you, but with a different view of psychedelics.. she says:

    Mushrooms: A favourite for a long time. Organic. A sensory explosion. A consciousness explosion. Extraordinary sense of oneness with the natural world. Total wonderment at the stars, at forests, lakes, rivers and canyons. Worlds upon worlds upon worlds opening up. Until the issues of psyche began to arise, changing the nature of the trip. What was fun became a psychological process with support necessary. Unshed tears from childhood breaking through. Understandings of family dynamics arising. Unresolved or expressed grief coming up. Nothing recreational about this anymore… something much deeper going on.

    LSD/Acid: Similar to mushrooms but far more intense. Metallic. Can still taste it. Dangerous. Oh so dangerous. The warnings were clear though. Always on good terms with my dreams, six months prior to LSD-induced psychosis, there was a dream clearly warning me of this event. Where mushrooms had softy begun to expose the unresolved issues of unconsciousness and psyche, LSD flung open the doors of perception and marched out all weaknesses for minute examination. Wasn’t ready for that. Didn’t understand. Collapsed mentally and emotionally.

    so as you see.. some drugs are not drugs, they are meditations. quite common to see LSD grouped together with Special K, but those two are about as dissimilar as LSD and sugar. the word psychedelic means 'mind manifesting'.. your subconscious is projected out for you to see. Special K does not do this, nor does sugar.

    save the kids from meth & coke, but teach them wisely about opening their minds 🙂


  37. MsElaineous says:

    You're really reaching with this article. RECREATIONAL drug use (as in sometimes, for fun or otherwise) will not cause most of these problems. It depends completely on the individual! You mentioned you had a drug induced psychosis episode, which leads me to believe you might have a little more fear about drugs than other people. You know people who have died from drug use, many people do. But each person is so different with their reactions & experiences. I know many people in their thirties who still smoke pot regularly or every now & then something else to enhance an experience. It's a chance to break free of the norm. They're not ugly, aged ruined financially or burnt out. You come across as preachy & scared, maybe a little conservatist?

  38. 53Yogini says:

    I've noted many of the responses challenging your article are from people who have obviously survived and thrived the experience of mind and body altering substances. I wish I could be so positive, although I too have found my way here in good health. My road and I'm sure many of those who defend their usage contains friends and acquaintances who were not so lucky. Be thankful for the strength of your mind and body. Being honest with my children has been a carefully crafted conversation based on their maturity. I'm grateful my children have found their path of joy by indulging in activities outside of their bodies. And I have been fortunate to have an open line of communication with them. There is no harm in the presentation of this article by the author. The article may not speak to you, but there are others who need to hear these words and think about the path they're on. It will be a great day when we begin to understand the gifts of our world and how to effectively apply them to those in need. Everything in moderation according to the definition of moderation for each individual!

  39. Shwaggss says:

    Hi , number 5, that you wrote is a winner.
    That’s all you needed to write. The only way to get off an addiction is to trade it in with another. In this case you’ve done it with yoga. That’s awesome. And it’s totally worth it. Trading in drug addictions which can have or lead to problems 1-9 plus a lot more not listed here, is the only and best way to do it. Each person in their culture will be able to figure out their legal healthy and proper high to trade in for. Good luck

  40. Ciaran Edwards says:

    Hi Kara-Leah

    First of all thanks for posting a great article – from its popularity and reactions it's obviously proving to be good food for thought and debate. I'd also like to weigh into the discussion with my experience and opinion.

    I'm currently a fifth year medical student and although I haven't completed my psychiatric medicine run I have had personal experience with drug induced psychosis/schizophrenia in youth. My father died last year from complications of liver failure after 40 years of be treated and institutionalized for schizophrenia. Two years ago one of my brothers also died – committing suicide after 10 years of suffering schizophrenia. Both my father and brother had their schizophrenia triggered by drugs. The effects of losing a father and brother to drug induced schizophrenia were as you can imagine tragic for both our family and friends.

    You could argue that both my brother and father could have developed schizophrenia even if they did not experiment with drugs. I also agree with some other contributors that there are many other ways to harm your health (for instance sugar, or just about anything in excess). I'm not against drugs taking as a whole, for some they can be therapeutic, advance spiritual growth or be just plain fun. However the point I want to make is that perhaps we could be doing a better job of raising awareness about increased risk for some people to develop psychiatric illness after taking drugs. The evidence is there. What we know from research (if you want references let me know) is that;

    (1) There is a genetic component to schizophrenia (and bipolar disorder). If you have a close family member who has one of these conditions then you are likely to be at a higher risk of developing the disease yourself.
    (2) Adolescents that have a tendency towards anxiety, depression may also be at a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.
    (3) A 'prodrome', or early signs of psychosis in adolescents may be heralded by changes in perception, cognition, language, motor function, will, initiative, level of energy and stress tolerance.

    Taking some of these factors into account we might want to consider any potential extra risk when deciding to experiment with drugs in our youth or help inform those around us who are making these decisions. Hopefully this article and comments will not 'scare' people into not taking drugs but assist in them making an informed choice when deciding to do so. Having personally experienced what can go wrong with experimenting with drugs I want to come from a place of love and compassion, not fear, to prevent other lives being affected by drug induced schizophrenia.


    Ps (I miss those Island Bay yoga classes Kara-Leah)

  41. Hey Johnny,

    Thanks for your comments – great to read. That other article you mentioned:

    "what i meant to say about that article you linked is that she seems to have gone through a similar experience as you, but with a different view of psychedelics.. she says: "

    Was also written by me. Does that change things? Is it possible for me to hold many different views about drugs and drug use? Well… yes. There is no definitive experience. It's always different – the person, the context, the drug type, the particular dosage etc…

    This article was one slice of perspective, one way to look at things. I could just as easily write an article from the other side and write about all of the positive aspects of recreational drug taking in your youth that no-one tells you about. Both hold true.

  42. Great point – what is recreational anyway? How does one define that?

  43. Hey Ciaran,

    Great comment – thanks for sharing your story. I miss those classes too!

    The psyche is a fascinating thing, and the better informed we are about how is acts/responds to life and substances, the better for all of us.

    There is a real difference between coming from a place of love & compassion, and a place of fear with regards to sharing information. Something to be mindful of for sure!


  44. visionshare says:

    Very good response to a quite faulty thesis. I too took pretty much any drug that came along, always staying away from hard drugs and settled on grass. Over 40 years ago I completely quit all illegal drugs which was then only grass, for the sake of staying out of jail and desire to have better job prospects to contribute eventually to a family. I never suffered any withdrawal symptoms, and never heard a good or factual reason why I shouldn’t smoke grass at many of the times that I might enjoy a drink, other than the nonsensical laws stemming from the hysterical 50‘s McCarthy era which in later years served to keep down the number of brown-people on the streets.
    When my son was almost thrown out of college for weed I spoke with him in a heartfelt way about the stupidity of loosing his educational loans and the education which he so wanted over weed. Both my son and daughter know full well my experience and feelings about my abundant drug use. Both have finished school successfully and are now building happy adult lives.
    I think we all should be mindful of the ways we enjoy other people and aware of the limits of recreational activities for ourselves and others. I cannot in good faith support the disastrous war on drugs and in particular the needless banning of MJ, done for mainly superstitious reasons and fear of community shunning.

  45. Nan says:

    Very thought-provoking article, and some great comments too! One thing I'd like to add, for anyone who thinks their drug experience is all love-the-world nature-bliss-y: I have seen ganja plantations in the rainforest. It's pretty horrible to see the forest ripped apart to plant a few acres of weed for us. And once it's harvested, a new area is cut down and planted because the soil can't take monoculture. I imagine it's the same for many plant-based drugs, that have to be grown far from legal agricultural areas.

    ''Trip guns" are used around these plantations to shoot anyone who might come to steal a crop. They accidentally kill deer, ocelots and tapir as well.

    The illegal drug industry is one part of an underworld economy that requires guns, ammunition, gangs and other bad things. not all of the people involved are evil henchmen. Some are starving and desperate, some are innocent bystanders, and some are just the consumers who fund the business.

  46. zanelle says:

    Sorry but I disagree. Life ages you if you let it. I have smoked pot for over forty years and it enhances my life. It truly is medicinal if it is used in moderation and relaxation. Smoke a bit and rethink your position please.

  47. Emma says:

    Hi Kara, thank you for your perspective. I totally respect your experiences given the real impact that substances have had on your life and on others' lives. There is definitely some risk whenever one chooses to alter her reality, especially if it does not end in a positive way and can have life long consequences. However, I also want to point out that each individual's experience in relationship to substances is very unique and personal-spiritually, physically, psychologically, biologically. For example, another perspective is that many people (including myself) have experienced incredible learning and growth from the experimentation and exploration of substances, particularly psychedelics. Many people have done so with no adverse effects and have changed their lives from what they've learned with the support of psychedelics. I think that yoga and meditation can also go hand in hand with "consciousness awareness" around the exploration of substances. Be well~~

  48. Mark Mullen says:

    Sounds a bit preachy for a yogi. Does this purity include no coffee or booze…both drugs…and pharmaceuticals for those psychoses? I have found most people who preach on this subject A) have spotty pasts they are trying to get past and B) use a ton of drugs in daily life…just the ones they or their doc or Phizer thinks are hunky dory.

    These kind of soapbox things are often better received when told from a personal perspective rather than a judgmental one.

    Shifting consciousness can be good…and can be done with organic juices, yoga, and meditation. Yet in a society that promotes drug use as a cure-all for physical and mental and egoic ailments, it is unlikely people will suddenly be turned in their tracks by born-again drug users offering unsolicited advice.

    Still, it's all one facet of truth…one that resonates with my experience as well…just the delivery seems a bit AA-ish, which can be off-putting. Just sayin… : )

  49. charlie says:

    How about the effect it has on your unborn children? I bet that wasn't on your mind as you bend over to snort another line in the toilet… Its not just the drugs, its what the drugs are cut with, those chemicals and the effect they have on the users brain and DNA.

    As the father of an autistic son I have been exposed to the effect on the entire LIFE-CHANGING effect that these toxins, retained in the body like "pennies in the jar", have had on innocent young humans who just had the misfortune to be born to a previous drug user.