If you are serious about quitting smoking, then get yourself on Champix.
There is a lot of shrill information regarding its side effects floating around on the internet. But as my father pointed out when he prescribed it for me in early 2008, “yes it may have some side effects, but the side effect of smoking is death.”
It is a bizarre cocktail.
In my life, I have never taken anything that has made me more aware of just how reliant your personality is on its underlying chemicals.
In order to work, it has to disrupt your brain’s ‘normal’ dopamine activity, or else the sight or even thought of a cigarette may trigger “feed me, feed me, feed me!” cravings.
I was a heavy smoker for years. Five days into the course, if people smoked around me they may as well have been knitting for all the cravings their smoking triggered.
If you have been addicted to anything in your life, you will surely realise just how bizarre this feeling was. A cornerstone of my identity was utterly removed. Call it a chemical amputation. It felt like there were rooms in my own brain that had been locked and my key no longer opened them.
One of the lesser-discussed side effects of Champix is ‘abnormal dreams’. And fuck me are they abnormal. They’re not exactly nightmares but they are certainly disturbing… you wake and realise your normal functioning brain doesn’t create picture shows quite like that and clearly this alien molecule is behind the stark change to your usual programming.
I recall one evening finding myself in a decaying, overgrown cityscape when some frogmarching dryads appeared -picture demonic, animatronic Ents- and announced that “The Northern Gods were back”. (As a fun addendum to the dream, this was only a few weeks before I lost my job and we decided on a whim to move to London… which is, of course, much further north than New Zealand. On my first trip to the British Museum I buy a set of rune cards whose imagery precisely matched the decaying urban dream realm.)
A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to ask Graham Hancock a question regarding entheogens… specifically whether or not he thought it useful to consider different chemicals as keys to different realms. So:
- Ibogaine: the realm of the dead
- DMT: the ‘classic’ spirit realm
- Salvia: the reptile realm
And so on. He did.
For me, the dream state following the consumption of specific chemicals is almost as compelling as the mental states they create in the first place. I say compelling because we dream without chemical assistance every night, so we almost have a baseline for what falls within a typical dream encounter.
Add a particular molecule and you can end up somewhere else… or meet something else. It’s the difference between going for a snorkel in the cool, sunset waters of your own unconscious and having this happen:
It is interesting to speculate from personal experience that it is the artificial chemicals -like Champix- that seem to send us to the most bizarre places. My dreams felt like I had punched through to somewhere that not many humans had ever been to before. It’s almost as if there is a natural ‘consciousness range’ available to us from molecules found in nature versus those that humans cook up sending them elsewhere. I’ve not had pure DMT before but apparently the experience is vastly different and sometimes more hostile than that usually encountered when administering DMT in the more traditional way (ayahuasca).
In fact, I recall in Breaking Open The Head, Daniel Pinchbeck talking about his experiences on an artificial variant of DMT called DPT:
We were listening to moody techno music. With each change in beat, with each skitter of electrical noise, I saw a brand new and extremely detailed demonic universe swirl before me in cobalt, scarlet, purple gossamer hues. At moments there seemed to be some incredibly elegant yet violently orgiastic party taking place with beautiful females in evening gowns and men in Edwardian top coats in the spacious parlors of a huge and opulent mansion. At other times there seemed to be bat or butterfly-winged creatures -long and quivering antennas, velvet coats and emerald eyes, stiletto talons- rising into otherworldly skies, wandering futuristic cities. I had an impression of tremendous vanity. “I” was being used as a mirror for the DPT beings to admire themselves…
I somehow understood that the DPT realm had evolved over an incredibly long period -millions of years, if time had the same kind of meaning to them as it does to us. I realized there were occult hierarchies, secret cabals, treasuries of wickedness to be studied over millennia. It was obvious that we little human beings have absolutely no idea what’s going on in the cosmos. The word “baroque” doesn’t even begin to describe the jaded emptiness and sublime beauty of that other country….
About half an hour into the trip, past 3 am, I called my friend Tony. “This is total magic, total sorcery. I am watching endless Gothic demon universes mirroring each other… If someone could be at home here, learn to control things here, they could gain so much fucking power they could just walk through the walls of the White House, do anything, but it wouldn’t matter, because they would already be part of such an ancient conspiracy.”
It doesn’t quite sound like the “ahh, we’ve been expecting you” vibe of the ayahuasca realm, does it? In fact, it sounds like a Goetia you can walk around in. It’s also interesting to note that Pinchbeck had a series of really weird dreams following his DPT experience, including this one:
The next night, I had two extremely vivid dreams in which I was pursued by a bearded man. In one dream, I threw a party in an apartment where I once lived. Aggressive strangers showed up and stole books from the shelves. A bearded man came up to me.
“I used to live here,” he said.
“Do you want to come back?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
My post-salvia dreams have been similar to this, if you replace the bearded man with lizards dressed as Mayan priests.
But actually… this is the whole point of apocalypse pharmaka. Orthodoxy’s insistent clinging to the notion of consciousness as epiphenomena in the face of tens of thousands of cases of consciousness displaying non-local effects (even during brain death) looks more than a little ridiculous.
It thus falls to us to not only go looking for the tiger sharks in our heads, but to seek out verification of the shark’s independent existence.
But this is an apocalypse pharmaka post… it’s about chemical assistance.
You could, for instance, do exactly what Duncan and Alan did.
Or you could go down a standard multi-vitamin route to start:
Many report increased lucid dreams by loading up on amino acids (like choline) and vitamins before bed. Some safe ones, as long as the dosage is controlled for, are arginine, ornithine, phenylalanine, and the B vitamins.
All of these, as well as your average multi-vitamin, may also enhance dreams though the work of antioxidants and by providing the raw material for neurotransmitters associated with the waking/sleep cycle.
Then of course there is the more-or-less completely unscheduled Mexican dream herb, calea zacatechichi.
I haven’t been able to get any effects out of it so far from trying both the tea and smoking it, else I’d review it. Apparently this is quite abnormal and I’m starting to suspect that this has more to do with my current disrupted sleep patterns and less to do with the herb. (It may also just be a dud batch.)
However, I received a tip that the easiest thing to do is crush up a couple of grams of the leaf, put it in some capsules and take them half an hour before going to sleep. The plan is to try this out at the end of the month. If it works, I’m going to invest in some extract and experiment with taking it at 3am after four hours sleep.
In the mean time, I do happen to have a successful field report from another plant that appears to lack any underlying chemical reason for its chemical effects:
Egyptian blue lotus
Here’s an old, low-quality documentary where the fresh blossom is administered to two annoying subjects in a manor house.
Blue lotus flowers were found scattered over Tutankhamun’s body when his tomb was opened in 1922. The flower is frequently depicted being offered to the gods or smashed right up in a priest’s face.
Evidence of the lotus flower being consumed as a psychotropic in the ancient world is pretty compelling. But let’s not forget the Ancient Egyptians seemingly liked to get pretty baked, so the blue lotus’s mild effect on its own is probably only part of the story:
Since the blue lotus is often portrayed in ancient art and hieroglyphics alongside mandrakes (Mandraga officinarum) and poppy flowers (Papaver spp.), it is highly possible that these images represent an iconographic recipe – a psychoactive ritual drink consisting of lotus buds, mandrake fruits and poppy capsules has been speculated by academics and researchers.
There is a great article that goes into detail on the mythological significance of the lotus in Ancient Egypt as well as its contemporaneous references to its effects here.
Obviously I don’t have access to fresh flowers, and indeed when my package arrived the pouch was positively bulging. So, based on the administration in the video above, I opted for a wine combo.
It was a Friday night, there was an abundance of lotus flower and it possibly doesn’t work once the flower is dried, especially if it’s old. So I megadosed by making a really strong tea with a whole handful of the dried flowers. It tasted disgusting but that was probably my fault. I’m sure if you made it with ‘tea amounts’ of lotus flowers it wouldn’t be so rank. After upending the tea, I chased it with a large glass of Tempranillo.
There’s no other way to describe the feeling of its effects coming up other than “as a component”. It felt like half an effect… like a plant spirit looking for its dance partner. This is completely anecdotal, of course, but I’m now leaning heavily toward the idea that it was combined with something else in addition to the wine.
Like the jerks in the old video, I definitely felt chatty and euphoric. It was great. In fact, it felt remarkably similar to coming up on MDMA. The effects also add circumstantial weight behind the idea that it was used in love/sex magic.
I was aware they were animate and that they were watching. It felt like them noticing me noticing them.
I thought for a while about which post in the series the blue lotus experience belongs.
It’s certainly not an hallucinogen.
And just speaking about its odd effects isn’t much of a post. Then the memories of the really strange dreams came floating back up… deserts and rivers and pyramid cities underneath a setting sun.
Now there are several ‘woo free’ ways of understanding this dream experience.
- An unfamiliar chemical and nothing more.
- A fixation on Ancient Egyptian symbolism during the day decompressing during my sleeping hours.
Then there’s the last one. The woo one. The one that reminds me of something Grant Morrison said in Talking With Gods:
“By mistake this one night I found myself in the palace of the scorpion gods and it was horrible. Just these big things with kinda human faces on scorpion bodies. They told me I had to get a tattoo at the base of my spine with a scorpion on it… which I gave to King Mob.”
The lotus experience wasn’t quite like an encounter with a third party in the same way as the scary Champix dryads. (But then blue lotus is natural?) This was more an accompanied flyover of a familiarish location I had clearly never been to before and found very soothing.
Soothing is good. All too often they aren’t. But you know what?
Even if they are terrifying, it’s still oddly nice to encounter that enormous tiger shark at sunset. The alternative -that it’s just you snorkelling endlessly around your own head- is in many ways much less soothing.
[Disclaimer: This blog mentions ghosts, wizards, aliens, Atlantis, spells and fortune telling. If you consider any of that to constitute medical advice then you need to have a good, long look at how you are living your life.]