Thanatology And Psychedellics

Thanatology And Psychedellics

What happens when we die?
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Death is an experience that every human consciousness must undergo, but no one knows exactly what happens. There are religious beliefs of course, but even the devoutly religious can't claim to know exactly what lies ahead. This is where thanatology comes into play. The psychiatric side of this often overlooked science attempts to answer the question of what we experience at the time of deathh. Interestingly enough, people who have undergone extreme psychedelic experiences claim to know the answer to this question. With more research into these fields and substances, maybe humanity can finally know the answer to its oldest question: what happens after death?

Rick Strassman, in his piece Spirit Molecule, describes how at the moment of death, the pineal gland likely releases a large amount of DMT. Some say (based on anecdotal evidence) that because of hallucinogens’ effects of time dilation, suggestibility, and euphoric visions, the viewer may see exactly what they expected to see upon their death. In essence, if you believe in heaven, you’ll see heaven; If you’re worried you’ll be punished, you’ll see hell. Of course, the evidence supporting the “dump of DMT” at the time of death is controversial. It’s currently impossible to prove or disprove this claim, and no further study has been made as to its legitimacy. However, regardless of the cause, it is an undisputed fact that near death experiences (NDEs) often result in hallucination.

In Clifton D. Bryant’s "Handbook of Death and Dying" he puts forth that a buildup of carbon monoxide can produce similar effects to classical hallucinogens (peyote, psilocybin, and LSD). He compares Timothy Leary’s trip reports with Moody’s NDE model, and quotes Jack Provonsha, a specialist in ethics, and the study of hallucinogenic drugs comparing the two because “altered psycho-chemistry is often accompanied by heightened levels of suggestibility.” (143). This is to say, the brain is in very similar chemical imbalance at both the time of death, and while on a hallucinogenic substance. As a result, by studying this state, neuroscientists can uncover if not what happens after death, what the last thoughts are before it.

In continuation of the studies done in the 1960’s on psilocybin, in particular the infamously poorly conducted studies by Timothy Leary, Dr. Roland Griffiths created the Johns Hopkins Psilocybin Cancer Research Project. They have been doing some exciting research on the role of psilocybin and relief of death anxiety. They first released a paper positively correlating mystical-type, religious experiences with psilocybin, resulting in the scientific community viewing experiments in such taboo areas in entirely different ways.

One of their current projects is on how psychedelics can soothe death anxiety, but the experiment isn’t finished so there is nothing published on the subject yet. However, Dr. William Richards explains the study in this lecture, and some very optimistic papers have been published here regarding their other experiments with this drug. What they are attempting to do, is alleviate peoples fear of death by showing them exactly what will happen. When their patients are on heavy doses of psilocybin their brains are in a similar chemical state to how they will be when they die. This soothes anxiety because people report that there is nothing to be afraid of. They believe they've seen exactly what lies ahead.

With continued research, great leaps can be taken in the field of psychedelic therapy. These drugs have been shown to cure a great many ailments, and for the past fifty years the only thing preventing this research has been public ignorance. It is my hope that in the upcoming years more research can be conducted in this field to find the answers to some of mankind’s greatest questions. More research into this field could help find the answer to "the hard problem" (what makes us conscious), if there is a collective intelligence, if absolute morals exist, and of course, what happens after death. Thanatology has been around for hundreds of years, but it seems like now, science is on the cusp of combining the mystical and the logical. Arthur C. Clarke’s famous “3rd Law” states that, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Wouldn’t it be great to scientifically prove the soul, something mankind has always seen as magic?

Cover Image Credit: Alex Grey - Collective Vision

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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I Joined WW Freestyle And Here Are 10 Ways It's Positively Affected My Life

Healthy Habits = Happy Tummy

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I know its a stereotypical New Years resolution, but this year I took myself seriously and decided to join WW Freestyle. It is a great program and 100% worth the price, which ranges from $3-$15/month. My parents and older sister have been doing it for a few years now so I decided to hop on the weight loss train.

It's probably the best decision I have made this year. It's not even the end of January but I feel more confident than ever, but that's not all!

Here are ten things WW Freestyle has done for me...

1. I eat MORE than I did before!

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And not just fruits and veggies!

Before WW, I was eating two meals a day, sometimes one. I thought that would help me lose weight, but if anything I gained. It was hard and I tried every "one special trick" in the book, but nothing worked.

Now I get X amount of daily points and I find someday's I'm looking for more food to use up all my points (which is very important). Not only do I get daily points, I get BONUS/weekly points that have to be used by the end of the week, so if I want to indulge or splurge, I can! Sweet treats here I come!

2. I look in the mirror with confidence!

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I only joined two weeks ago and I already feel more confident and beautiful, and I haven't even lost much weight yet! Just the idea that I am on my way to a healthier body inside and out gives me a boast of much needed self-confidence.

3. Its teaching me healthy habits.

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Before choosing to just swing by Starbucks or McDonalds I now think, "do I have points for that?" and since I can't check my phone while driving, I then decide it'd be better to just go home and eat a hearty and healthy dinner.

And hey! If I do have the points you can best bet I'll be indulging in some chicken nuggets and fries!

4. I've become part of a new, amazing community

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With the 6-month package I purchased, I get to attend weekly meetings! They are such a great support group and the leader of the group is amazing! It's a no judgement zone and even if you gained weight, its okay to share because its a learning and growing experience.

The environment of the meetings is so welcoming. And even if you just get the digital package, there is an online community as well that you can be a part of.

Everyone there is on the same or similar journey as you and the success stories keep you going because that could be you!

5. It's inspired me to exercise more!

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I used to barely ever exercise. I sat around all day on my computer procrastinating exercise. But now! I'm back in the pool swimming laps and attending a free water aerobics class up at Eastern!

I swam for 6 years of my life and its great to be back in the water! It's bringing back my lung capacity which has significantly dropped over the years of no exercise and I can feel the difference in my breathing.

You should never diet alone! Always, always get some sort of exercise at least 3 times a week. The weight comes off faster and you feel so much better.

(My article about being on the swim team)

6. I walk a little taller

And its not just the new confidence! Losing weight makes for a better posture as well! As a girl with a weak lower back, WW Freestyle has helped me so much already.

7. I feel healthier

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I can breathe easier, I'm lighter on my feet, and that's just for a start! I used to have really bad stomach/digestive issues but they haven't bothered me in the two weeks I've been a part of WW Freestyle.

Knock on wood, but I hope that they'll stop for good. Healthy habits = Happy Tummy.

8. I've started being more open to dating again

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Four years of low self-esteem and not liking who I see in the mirror is rough. With this new confidence, I joined a few dating websites to get myself out there again and it's going great!

Look out world! Here I come!

9. I'm discovering new foods I've never had before!

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Another great resource that comes with the WW Freestyle app is unlimited healthy recipes! I'm trying new foods for low points and feeling healthy and satisfied.

10. Its given me so much more energy!

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If only two weeks with the program has given me this much energy I can't wait to reach my goal!

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