Drugs, recreational

August 7, 2017 — January 14, 2023

Figure 1

Substances that we may take into our bodies to achieve pharmacological effects, but which have not successfully been medicalised are filed here.

My mentioning and citing material to do with recreational or medical use of controlled substances should obviously not be taken as an endorsement of recreational use of controlled substances. I am not qualified to make such endorsements, even if I were inclined to. Indeed, if you are turning to a mathematician for intelligence on legal or pharmacological questions, you should probably inspect your life decisions to see if any other ones you have made recently are similarly suspect.1

So, here are some links about recreational drugs which I find interesting.

Eventually I’d like to speculate about medicalisation, and how drugs for diseases are socially accepted, drugs for things that aren’t diseases are denounced, and what a disease is, is negotiated based on… what? These all interact with the patent system/Big Pharma in amusing ways.

Figure 2

1 Legality and political economy of taking recreational drugs

TODO: Dr Karen Hitchcock had a nice turn of phrase, which I would like to transcribe from the podcast when I have time.

Self (2020):

There are two key problems with books that attempt to be objective about illegal drugs. The first is that for the most part their authors won’t admit to having used such substances for fear their own objectivity may be compromised. The second follows fairly logically from the first: who, precisely, are such books aimed at? If they are targeted at readers who already have a consuming interest in drugs (pun intended), then they are very likely — by definition — to know rather more about the subject than the author; and if they are for people who only have a tangential interest in the subject, why should they want to read about it at all?

This is an adorably Will Self thing to say. However, I have met non-drug-using people who advocate harm minimisation and medicinal uses of fun drugs, so this is soluble. I got into this topic as a kid preparing for high school debates on drug legalization, myself, whe, unlike m of my peers, I was not a recreational drug user. There is, however, a potential confounder here, which is: What if, after researching fun drugs for a while, you come to the conclusion that the dangers are oversold and the benefits are worth the risks and so start using drugs? Doe the fact that you now have skin in the game invalidate your opinions?

OTOH, I feel I can advocate sex work decriminalization2 and find people ready to believe that I am not biased by exchanging money for sexual services, so I think the same logic must also be available drug usage by analogy. (Are there class signifiers at play here? Do I present as plausibly an altruistic white knight for working girls by day but also a filthy drug-loving raver by night?)

Figure 3

Robin Hanson naturally has a model of the role of status in drug bans: Quality Regs Say ‘High Is Good’.

2 Addiction

See addiction.

3 Psychedelics to treat mental illness

What if it was not only fun, it was also good for you? Notwithstanding there is some motivated reasoning here, there is also some research. Here are some options.

Psychedelics may free us from our Pavlovian Prisons. I am curious about the credentials of enthea an advocacy… group(?) for legalisation of psychedelics. They have a some notes on Vinay Gupta’s Cutting Through Spiritual Colonialism. Adultification. Jacob Falkovich, The Great Annealing. Personality change on LSD or magic mushrooms.

Thought Scripts:

Psychedelics seem to facilitate novel thoughts by alleviating our clinginess towards priors, relieving our tendency towards constraint. The frequent rejection we face when we put our novel insights through trial and error or public scrutiny causes us to inhibit ourselves and psychedelics are alleviating the focus on priors, such as addictions and traumas.

See Canalization for more on that.

4 Hallucinogens

See hallucinations.

5 Spirit molecules and mind warping

Psychonauts etc. Universal love, said the cactus person.

6 Practicalities

Figure 4

Roll safe documents the practicalities of taking MDMA with an emphasis on hea;th risk mitigations. Mechanisms of MDMA tolerance and loss of magic.

7 Incoming

8 References

Becker, and Murphy. 1988. A Theory of Rational Addiction.” The Journal of Political Economy.
Bressloff, Cowan, Golubitsky, et al. 2001. Geometric Visual Hallucinations, Euclidean Symmetry and the Functional Architecture of Striate Cortex.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences.
Carhart-Harris, R. L., and Friston. 2019. REBUS and the Anarchic Brain: Toward a Unified Model of the Brain Action of Psychedelics.” Pharmacological Reviews.
Carhart-Harris, Rl, and Nutt. 2017. Serotonin and Brain Function: A Tale of Two Receptors.” Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Dezfouli, Griffiths, Ramos, et al. 2019. Models That Learn How Humans Learn: The Case of Decision-Making and Its Disorders.” PLOS Computational Biology.
Dezfouli, Nock, and Dayan. 2020. Adversarial Vulnerabilities of Human Decision-Making.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dregan, and Gulliford. 2012. Is Illicit Drug Use Harmful to Cognitive Functioning in the Midadult Years? A Cohort-Based Investigation.” American Journal of Epidemiology.
Griffiths, Richards, Mccann, et al. 2006. Psilocybin Can Occasion Mystical-Type Experiences Having Substantial and Sustained Personal Meaning and Spiritual Significance.” Psychopharmacology.
Hart. 2021. Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear.
Hoel. 2021. The Overfitted Brain: Dreams Evolved to Assist Generalization.” Patterns.
Lang. 2019. How to Buy Drugs.” London Review of Books.
McKenna. 2004. Clinical Investigations of the Therapeutic Potential of Ayahuasca: Rationale and Regulatory Challenges.” Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Psychoactive Plants,.
Nutt. 2009. Equasy — An Overlooked Addiction with Implications for the Current Debate on Drug Harms.” Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Olekalns, and Bardsley. 1996. Rational Addiction to Caffeine: An Analysis of Coffee Consumption.” The Journal of Political Economy.
Petri, Expert, Turkheimer, et al. 2014. Homological Scaffolds of Brain Functional Networks.” Journal of The Royal Society Interface.
Santos, Landeira-Fernandez, Strassman, et al. 2007. Effects of Ayahuasca on Psychometric Measures of Anxiety, Panic-Like and Hopelessness in Santo Daime Members.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
Schartner, Carhart-Harris, Barrett, et al. 2017. Increased Spontaneous MEG Signal Diversity for Psychoactive Doses of Ketamine, LSD and Psilocybin.” Scientific Reports.
Self. 2020. Pills, Powder and Smoke by Antony Loewenstein; Say Why to Drugs by Dr Suzi Gage – Review.” The Guardian.
Strassman. 1995. Human Psychopharmacology of N,N-Dimethyltryptamine.” Behavioural Brain Research, Serotonin,.
The Economist. n.d. The God Pill.”
White, James, and Batty. 2011. Intelligence Across Childhood in Relation to Illegal Drug Use in Adulthood: 1970 British Cohort Study.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
White, James W., Gale, and Batty. 2012. Intelligence quotient in childhood and the risk of illegal drug use in middle-age: the 1958 National Child Development Survey.” Annals of Epidemiology.


  1. In fact, I should probably have this disclaimer on many notebooks here, because I have made notes in some really suspect domains. Bessel function D-algebra? What was I thinking?↩︎

  2. In fact, sex work largely is decriminalised in Australia, where sex work can be a middle-class occupation.↩︎