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