What does a Psychedelic Experience Feel Like?
A psychedelic experience can feel like a lot of different things. Sometimes it can produce intense experiences such as visual hallucinations and out-of-body experiences. Some can also experience intensely spiritual feelings such as “oneness” with the universe or with God. Sometimes, the perception of our familiar self vanishes, and this is called ego death or ego dissolution. However, it's important to note that the psychedelic experience is largely subjective1 and psychedelic experiences are influenced by set (one’s mindset) and setting (the environment they’re in).
Psychedelics can cause an increase in emotional empathy and sociability by dissolving the ego and personal walls. They also enhance visual and sensory experiences and can produce consistent geometric imagery. Psychedelics act on serotonin neurons and receptors in the body and brain, which influence every aspect of normal waking consciousness, including sensory processing, emotional responses, and autonomic nervous system functions. However, not all psychedelics produce the same experience, as the effects depend on the neurotransmitter receptors they target. For example, the mushroom species Amanita muscaria alters acetylcholine neurons, leading to the distortion of object sizes, as depicted in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. As opposed to alcohol, psychedelics have few negative cognitive (thinking) effects, and intellectual or memory impairment is minimal.2
Overall, everyone’s experience will be unique and is dependent on the substance, their mindset, and setting.
- Silverstone, P. (2022). What Is the Psychedelic Experience Really Like? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-promise-psychedelics/202208/what-is-the-psychedelic-experience-really
- Psychology Today Contributors. (2023). Why Psychedelics Are Therapy’s Next Frontier. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/202301/why-psychedelics-are-therapys-next-frontier