Hallucinogens In Your Medicine Cabinet
    By Sascha Vongehr | August 31st 2010 01:44 AM | 23 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    One of the crazy repercussions of the idiotic “war on drugs”, apart from destruction of innocent lives and whole countries like Mexico and the US, is that you cannot openly buy many quite harmless substances while relatively dangerous ones are freely available.

    An interesting chemical in this respect and also in regards to the philosophy of mind and what we understand to be “truth” is 2-(diphenylmethoxy)-N,N-dimethylethylamine, short Diphenhydramine (DPH). As a sleep aid it is available cheaply in 99 cent stores (in the US). You can also spend a lot of money instead buying the exact same marketed as Benadryl against allergies.

    About five to ten 50mg capsules, amounting to 250-500 mg, constitute a strong dose of DPH for an average person. This dose may not help you sleep – quite the opposite if you make it through the initial drowsiness. Such a dose will make you hallucinate, however, the hallucinations are not the type that you get from LSD or your usual psychedelic tryptamines like DMT or psilocybin, the latter being present in several types of mushrooms, one of which conveniently grows all around my birth place in northern Germany, as there are more cows than people some places, and these mushrooms somehow like to grow in cow dung. Every rainy October they pop out all over like, well, like mushrooms – go figure.

    If you ingest those, you will also get hallucinations, and if they are really strong (say 100 fresh mushrooms), one may lose track of what is real and what is hallucination, but generally speaking, you know the weird stuff is not real. Moreover, if the effects are so strong that you lose track of reality, the accompanying “body load” prevents you from accomplishing much mischief except for sitting in a little heap in a dark corner of the room staying out of trouble. At least on some level one still knows that the monsters are there because of having eaten a blotter or having munched a heap of mushrooms, and this stops you from taking the hallucinations too seriously and go all “I can fly” jumping out the window, which only happens on seventies television shows. In other words, you either know that this is all just a trip that is going to stop in an hour or so, or if you are on the level where you may be trapped in infinitely repeating cycles like a lone horse in a chessboard universe, at that point you likely just lay around wasted on the floor (not, say, drive a car).

    Diphenhydramine and some similar such chemicals are more dangerous. As users on the highly recommendable erowid webpage tell from experience, it can happen that you take a strong dose, and then nothing weird seems to occur at all. For example, a user’s dog may come flying into the room and start discussing about that this lame chemical has no effect whatsoever. And the trees may chime in about that it is a complete waste of time since obviously, everything stays completely normal.

    Only much later, maybe the next morning, people figure that, wait a minute, my dog cannot talk, let alone fly around the room! There have never been trees in front of my window. I don’t even have a dog!

    It should be pretty obvious why Diphenhydramine is thus more dangerous than LSD. But I am not going down that road, because this is a science blog. I am after the scientific value here, and there seems to be something very interesting indeed that people have not researched yet. There is a big difference between just seeing weird things on one hand and on the other hand perceiving weird stuff but having absolutely no inkling to that the crazy is not real. That the Diphenhydramine trip is possible indicates that there is some dedicated module in our brain that is responsible for critically checking, or labeling content with truth labels, much like usually contents in memory have relative time stamps for example. This neural circuit seems to be switched off by Diphenhydramine.

    It occured to me that drugs like Diphenhydramine together with brain scanning techniques could give us another approach on how to explore this “truth labeling center”. If you want to do research on hallucinogens – Diphenhydramine is over the counter (OTC). It should be much easier to get
    your project approved than if you want to use any of the more benign ones like LSD.

    Last but not least, this drug is underappreciated by aspiring dope-head “philosophers” who think that LSD and the other usual suspects, either directly or indirectly via considering their effects, are of philosophical relevance. The Diphenhydramine trip is at least as relevant philosophically. Normal, everyday life is just like it


    I got a cold last year and went to the local pharmacy for some Drixoral.  I am generally against most medicines unless necessary so I don't go that often and Drixoral is the only one that works for me that I know of.   I couldn't find it on the shelves so I had to ask the pharmacist if they had gone out of business and she replied that, no, it was simply a controlled substance now so it had to be signed for at the counter - not prescription, just not on shelves.   Apparently young people had some way of making a drug out of it.

    So for all those people who are concerned about newer generations, I say not to fear - kids today have figured out how to get sex at a younger age and can make drugs out of my cold medicine.   That's a lot smarter than I was back then.
    That was because of the pseudoephedrine in your medicine - it can be made into methcathione very easily and with a little more effort into methamphetamine. Much of this trend is not about being smarter but about that it is now much more difficult to get what was still legal when our generation was in its teens. You could still openly buy MDMA. Now, all that stuff is forbidden and can thus be used to make huge profits for gangs and terrorism. The teens, they go of course on taking stuff, just now it is either of unknown origin with unknown chemicals mixed in, or it is so called research chemicals - legal but of yet unknown side effects. Or they try making speed at home - ending up with very impure substances that do a lot of harm long term.
    Nice article, but I disagree with your opinion of the War on Drugs. Cocaine is the driving substance of the cartels who bring it through Mexico and into the states. The cartels fight over territory and the violence drives people out of the country leading to illegal immigration. Although often mismanaged the War on Drugs is required to stop a multitude of problems we face in the US. I agree that there is a plethora of easy access drugs we can get in the local drug store, but none are as deadly as Cocaine. Its the cartels that ruin the lives of others, not the US military, this isn't the Mideast we're talking about.

    Cocaine is not the driving substance of the Mexican cartels, which is now methamphetamine (it may be different further south, e.g. Columbia). Moreover, cartels would have no money if not for the prohibition. You do NOT need war to stop the problems of the US. The problems of the US are its idiotic wars - all of them, especially the war on drugs. And there can be only one winner of this war: The drugs! And anyways, cocaine is not deadly - no drug is deadly - war is deadly - read up on the science, not on the hype.
    "read up on the science, not on the hype"

    2nd That, big time!!

    Ask any Jamaican mountain man, who had been happily consuming 'Ganja' until the US decided to increase their drug revenue by destroying the lives of their youth....

    The whole drugs hype really pees me off, as people who've never been around/or in, a big group of youngsters 'off their faces' ....really don't have any concept of life's realities

    I would have thought the Vietnam bodybag stories were enough to at least alert people a little to the propaganda

    We were much better of with naturals like psilocybin 'shrooms

    Still, the idiots always get to make policy, eh?....and then tell us what's dangerous  LOL
    I find that over the counter and perscription drugs can make lovely mind altering combinations

    Tylenol 3s with a muscle relaxant chaser makes you very floaty

    heck, I get buzzed off sudafed cold medicine

    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry, if I missed something, but after reading many of the Erowid experiences, I just don't see what makes this particular high (from overdosing) any different than the others.

    I certainly didn't get a sense that these people didn't know they were high, especially since this is all self-reported, the stories seem to be rather complete with fairly significant recall of events (to the point of where one person is actually writing down times).

    Clearly when one considers that even LSD users have had "bad trips", they also are not aware that their experience isn't real.  This sounds more like individual susceptibility than anything to do with the drug itself.

    The problem with these stories is there's no objective account that can evaluate how "real" or not anyone's experience actually was.  This is especially true when one of the experiences suggests that "Shadow People" are real.
    There are several different theories for what these beings truly are. I have my own theories, but I’ll leave it up to you to fantasize about your own. Is it possible that they are figments of the imagination? Possibly. Usually I myself am a skeptic of these matters. However, thousands of people sharing the same ‘hallucination’? Sober people,
    children? Not likely.
    While the drug may be legal, there are other legal substances that are also quite capable of producing hallucinations and questionable behavior.  I won't argue about the efficacy of the "war on drugs", but I don't see anything particularly onerous about this drug compared to all the ways people manage to abuse themselves.

    I'm just skeptical that the effect of the drug causes an individual to not be capable of perceiving reality.  Most of these individuals are clearly self-indulgent, and I suspect so are their stories.
    Mundus vult decipi
    The erowid site is a reliable source of information, on drugs the most reliable one out there. Of course, none of those user experience reports are much trustworthy or even insightful. It needs a critical mind that looks at many of those and draws conclusions. It may be that my conclusion was wrong and that you are right that it is more individual response than drug specificity. However, I have gotten the impression that there are basically no reports on LSD, tryptamines, even Ketamine, where people are not at some level aware of that they are on a trip. The sort of experience where people think nothing unusual happens at all, that everything is perfectly normal, while actually they are in a total weirdo world at that point, these reports I find only with DPH.
    I should have avoided to created the impression as if all people who take it will go through this effect. Sorry.
    Gerhard Adam
    The sort of experience where people think nothing unusual happens at all, that everything is perfectly normal, while actually they are in a total weirdo world at that point, these reports I find only with DPH.
    I understand and I agree that such a thing would be quite striking.  However, it seems from the reported experiences that everyone knew they were definitely on a strange high.  Moreover, I'm not completely convinced that many of these people weren't already in a "total weirdo world" before they took the drug.  In fact, this would seem to be a significant issue to consider so that one could truly evaluate whether someone was prone to being "deceived" by the drug, or whether one was already in that state before taking it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    What if my mother comes down? I can pretend to be asleep. What if she wakes me up? I won’t be able to explain anything if I can’t talk. I attempt to speak to my dog. After several tries I am to progress from slurred whispers to something resembling normal speech. However I fear that if my mother comes down she will see right through this.
    Another indication that this individual not only knew he was high, but that it wasn't real.  He apparently had enough presence of mind to consider the consequences of being discovered in this state.

    As I said .... extremely skeptical of these claims.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I have tsken DPH recreationally and I can honestly say you do know that you are "high". Its not really a body high but more like a dreaming while you are awake type of ordeal. Some people report it as being unpleasent, but i say the complete opisite. I find it rather interesting.

    Sure - people react differently. I should have been more clear about that DPH does not have this effect on all users.
    Psychdelicss are often 5ht agonists. Don't say much because there are 12(?) receptor families with many variants. But recent studies have highlighted a linkage between 5 HT agonists and GLU2. No "truth module" but a general perturbation of neuronal synchronization perhaps(synchronous neuronal firing appears to be very important in attentional processes). The substance is an antihistamine(anti-arousal) and anticholinergic, both of which will have "sedative effects".

    The papers re interaction of 5ht and Glu2 are referenced here:


    I've tried LSD and loved it. The last time I laughed so much my ribs were sore for a week. I don't have visual hallucinations, or any cognitive chaos(no wacky thoughts, still coherent and could talk to straight people without them having a clue ... ). Why people are so scared of drugs that alter our perceptions is beyond my perception. To me it is just plain fun, and if stuck on some difficult problems, if you can maintain sufficient attention, some psychonaut travels may help. People cling too much to reality as typically perceived, the poor bastards.

    Yes, Erowid is an excellent resource.

    Psychdelicss are often 5ht agonists.
    The traditional ones, yes. K, not so much. DPH? ...
    I've tried LSD and loved it. The last time I laughed so much my ribs were sore for a week. I don't have visual hallucinations, or any cognitive chaos
    That was not LSD! There is now extremely little LSD around. If you want to have real hallucinogens, you need to go for the so called research chemicals today, not what they sell as "LSD". You will soon find out why there is danger involved without a sober sitter.
    It was LSD Sascha, everyone else around was tripping out having hallucinations etc. I don't know why but I have very atypical responses to drugs. That has happened to me a number of times, people around me "going crazy" and I'm just sitting there lost in thought wondering how the hell to get away from them! I wonder if the lack of visual hallucinations is a result of having monocular vision.

    Well, whether it was LSD then or not (still doubting - very little pure LSD about these days), something then makes you atypical, so still not quite the foundation for telling others that there is no danger. Sure, everybody is different - maybe your mix of chemicals is like somebody trying MDMA after having been a year on Prozac.
    You talk about “truth labeling centers” in the brain. This is precisely why on another blog I mentioned the "man in the pub" as defining the meaning of real rather than merely having a rough and ready understanding of the word.  I would suggest the primitive notions of "real" and "true" are innate. 

    You seem to think that reality suppressing drugs are somehow more profound than traditional psychedelics. However the common factor in most of the tryptamine series is a deep sense of understanding and significance (the euphoria and perceptual changes can be a distraction). It can hardly be a coincidence that depression is associated with feeling there is no point to life - not necessarily that it is too terrible to be endured, just that it is completely and utterly pointless - and depression is typically treated with seratonin agonists. This suggests to me that a sense of significance is also innate, perhaps for no more reason than Darwinian survival too. As Braden says: We see a traffic signal, and we think "stop" rather than "pretty red light."

    "man in the pub" as defining the meaning of real
    I leave it to anybody to define it however they like while I increasingly do not touch it. I only use "directly real", "modal real", etc. or otherwise put "really real" into a straw man's mouth. In articles on physics that is!!! This article here is on pharmacology, meaning it is tacitly assuming a directly real description.
    reality suppressing drugs
    Not sure what that means. You mean DPH suppresses reality?
    more profound than traditional psychedelics. However the common factor in most of the tryptamine series is a deep sense of understanding and significance.
    Precisely! Much like the colors look especially colorful, so the feeling of significance is triggered. A philosopher trips in order to have significance left over when she is sober again and the significance-feeling is only triggered by interesting issues. (This is important! Many fewer people would talk so much nonsense about drugs if they understood that the feeling of significance or terror etc is altered right along with the visual and auditory stuff. That pattern did not look that great at all, but the feeling of greatness came right along with the hallucination. It is not that we cannot remember the pattern we saw - we can, but it just did not actually look that great - it really was just some cheap ass pattern.)
    I only use "directly real", "modal real", etc. or otherwise put "really real" into a straw man's mouth. 
    I wish you'd made that clear before.

    In articles on physics that is!!! This article here is on pharmacology, meaning it is tacitly assuming a directly real description.
    Interesting reversal of roles!
    You mean DPH suppresses reality?
    Touche! No, I mean that from the way you describe it, it screws up the reality mechanism not reality itself!  THAT would be a real trip :)

    Much like the colors look especially colorful, so the feeling of significance is triggered. 
    Probably the other way round actually. But I haven't got the circuit diagram so I'm just guessing.

    Many fewer people would talk so much nonsense about drugs if...
    ...if physicists didn't put them up to it?
    There is a great but dated text on drugs and animals - Intoxication by Ronald Seigel(1989). Lots of interesting stories, like how tigers would attack children carrying durian, an intoxicant in Sumatra, and apparently they love the stuff as do many other animals. This story is one of my favourites

    "A wild grizzly bear was once darted with ... ketamine ... but the dose was insufficient to know the bear and down and retreated to the protected ledge high on a mountain ... Alone in the privacy of this retreat and sfafe from absuive effects, he seemed to enjoy the grand view. He sat on his haunches, swinging his head from side to side, silently taking in the landscape.

    The stuff on tripping spiders spinning webs is also worth a read.

    Seigel makes a brave claim, by "brave" I mean it could get him in trouble with moral crusaders. He states that intoxication is a biological drive, it is not unique to humans, far from it. From an evolutionary perspective I do find it fascinating that so many species will seek intoxication in spite of the obvious risks. Why this urge to change the adapted state?

    Intoxication is not the problem, the problem is addiction. Addiction cannot be solely a function of a drug's neurologic effects. Have a look at a sadly neglected study - Rat Park. Previously morphine addicted rats, when placed in this Park, which is more like Rat Heaven(something like enriched environment), would stop drinking the morphine tainted water, they couldn't get the other rats addicted because this environment mitigated against addiction formation. No-one really wants to address because it implies the best thing we can do for addicts is remove from the social circumstances and make their lives much more comfortable. It goes against the current medieval mindset that permeates so much of our culture. Yeah, and damn those Calvinists-Puritans, damn them all to hell! Deprivation, particularly as experienced in childhood, does induce developmental changes that the literature suggests will predispose a mammal towards addictive behavior. 1 in 7 USA citizens in now on food stamps and it has enormous numbers of people in jail with a huge percentage of these being drug related crimes. Half the Russian male population are alcoholics. Two of the most powerful nations in the world have staggering drug related problems. Perhaps if they had put as much effort into improving their societies as they did into building those powerful fighter planes(and yes the F22 and Sokhoi Pak FA are magnificent aircraft) and other klling machines they would now not be faced with a public menace that costing both their countries so much.

    We don't need this stupid war on drugs we need an intelligent war against addiction. Such an intelligent war will not be won through prohibition, it will be won by recognising that the seeds of addiction are not just in a pill but also in the personal history of the individual.

    As long as society is a rat park, that study will not be mentioned by the establishment. It is true - in my experience, heroin addicts are not addicted to the drug so much as to the lifestyle giving them an aim to live for every day, friends that keep it "real", ... .
    ....and this stops you from taking the hallucinations too seriously and go all “I can fly” jumping out the window, which only happens on seventies television shows. ...

    The late great USA comedian Bill Hicks has a wonderful hit at this. Better to see him than me paraphrase. Enjoy.

    See ....

    i know i'm bumping an old thread,but i found this very interesting. I have taken shrooms as well as dph,so i may have some insight for you on this. Look up trip reports on erowid for belladonna,henbain, or datura( i believe the active chemical is scoplamine),and you will see they mirror trip reports for dph quite closely. The difference is that with datura the loss of your ability to determine reality iseems to be more profound. My experience with dph is that,although alot of normally odd things happening around you seem perfectly normal,you at no point in time forget your tripping. You do see some silly things,but the high tampers more with your thought process and memory. You get what i call blank slates, where every 30 seconds or so your brain farts and you cant remember what you where talking about,or even thinking. You stay aware of your intoxication because the ever present reminder that you have no idea whats going on from moment to moment. Even if on dph you for some reason thought you could jump out your window and fly,long before you made it to the window you'd be comfused as to why you got up in the first place. From what i've read the same cannot be said for scoplamine, as it seems users often see themselfs floating up to the ceiling and have a sense of flying. In fact that's where the story of witches flying on brooms comes from, apparently they'd spread a paste of the herbs on their broom to be absorbed between their legs,and would be given the feeling of taking flight.