LSD Cured My Eating Disorder

While a great deal has been written about the potential for psychedelic drugs to aid in the treatment of mental illnesses, I have found one condition conspicuously absent from this discussion.

 

Long story short: LSD cured my eating disorder. As a nineteen-year-old college student, I took six-hundred micrograms alone in my dorm room. The next morning I woke up a completely different person and I haven’t skipped a meal since.

 

We ought to look closely at the impact psychedelics have on self-esteem and body image. At most, what I can do is share my story in the hopes that it will spark discussion. While I am not a neuroscientist, I know that the frontal lobe of the brain, an area responsible for the evaluation of consequences, does not fully develop until an individual’s mid to late twenties. This sheds light on some aspects of my story.

 

As a teenager, I was taking ten milligrams of Ritalin daily. I was prescribed Ritalin as a treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and I took it even though I did not believe I had ADHD. I was diagnosed at the age of seven and medicated by the age of ten. By high school, I began to doubt the accuracy of my diagnosis. Unfortunately, by then I had grown an appreciation for the way that stimulants helped me study.

 

Later, I grew to love the way these pills made it easier for me not to eat.

 

As a senior in high school I had come to the conclusion that my appearance was the most important thing about me and that I had better do everything within my power to improve it. But I didn’t want my friends to see me skip lunch in the cafeteria or my parents notice me avoiding the dinner table.

 

In college, no one was paying any attention to whether or not I ate. Life became a struggle against one of the most basic human drives: hunger.

 

 

 

 

I knew that my thoughts and behaviors did not make logical sense, but it was LSD that shed new light on the problem, allowing me to stop what I was doing before it got worse.

 

One Friday night like any other, I decided to trip. I tried to follow the advice of a more experienced friend of mine. He said it was best to have no expectations going into a psychedelic experience. If you have no expectations, you can’t be disappointed.

 

I put three, two-hundred microgram tabs on my tongue, set up my yoga mat in the center of my room, and attempted to clear my mind. I was hoping to be changed in some way, but had no specific goals. I recalled a line from Timothy Leary’s treatise, The Psychedelic Experience. It is parenthetical in the context of the piece, but I’ve always considered it a key point, and a powerful argument: “…at the very worst,” he wrote, “you will end up the same person who entered the experience.”

 

Lucky for me, that’s not what happened.

 

I spent most of the following twelve hours in bed, thinking. It didn’t take long to figure out that this was going to be a rough night.

I tried distracting myself with music. A few seconds into the first song, however, multi-colored patterns of light suddenly came spiraling towards me out of my window fan. I felt a painful sensation course through me. I was overstimulated. I turned the music and lights off, closed my blinds, and got back into bed.

 

I was acutely aware of my foot twitching, my armpits sweating, my heart rate increasing. I felt as if I could see my body even with my eyes closed. My body appeared to me, through closed-eye hallucinations, like an Alex Grey painting – all my veins bright blue. I felt my blood pumping through me. I couldn’t calm myself down. It was extremely unpleasant.

 

Soon, my body began to feel as if it had no outline, no boundary. I got up and paced around in an attempt to preserve the boundary between myself and the world. Everything felt connected but rather than experiencing this as blissful, as many people do, I panicked.

 

I was on the brink of the ecstatic ego death I had read so much about, but it was simply terrifying.

I opened my window and let the cold, February air blow at me. The goosebumped sensations on my arms assured me that I existed. I stretched on my yoga mat in a further attempt to connect to my body rather than lose track of it completely. Then, I thought of something my yoga instructor said at the beginning of each class: “Be kind to yourself and approach each pose with gentle curiosity.”

 

I decided that this guidance would get me through the long, hard night. If I managed to be kind to myself, if I approached this experience with gentle curiosity rather than fear, nothing bad would happen.

 

Later, I had a very different series of thoughts. It occurred to me that I had eaten nothing all day. The next thought came as a reflex, a pattern I had been practicing for years: Good, I thought. You’re losing weight.

 

I had agreed to be kind to myself, but I couldn’t last even a few hours before I broke this promise. I made a more specific, more difficult promise instead: I was going to change. I was going to stop hurting myself.

 

The next day, I was conscious of my thoughts in a way I had never been before. I measured each thought against the promise to be kind to myself, and found that I had no choice but to change my thoughts in order to change my behaviors.

 

The really amazing fact of the matter is, this was easy. It was not the long journey that therapy might have been. Twelve hours was all it took for me to turn my life around, with no outside guidance and no plan.

 

This transformation in outlook also cascaded into a series of healthy improvements. Over the next few years I quit smoking cigarettes, quit taking Ritalin, and stopped taking dangerous drugs at parties. Some credit here may have to be given to my developing frontal lobe, but LSD was the catalyst that sparked these changes.

 

Again, I hope this story leads to further discussion of the potential for psychedelics in the treatment of eating disorders. For individuals who may be interested in the healing power of the psychedelic experience, the only pieces of advice I can give are the gems of wisdom I was lucky enough to receive, which guided my transformation:

 

Free yourself of expectations. Be kind to yourself. Approach with gentle curiosity. And above all else, remember, in the worst case scenario, you will wake up tomorrow the same person you are today.