This Is (Literally) Your Brain on Drugs: Views From Inside a Drug User's Brain

By Brett Israel | October 27, 2009 3:58 pm

Researchers want to find out if LSD could help medical research, but first they first need to examine the inside of a brain under the influence of the drug to see exactly what’s happening. National Geographic takes an inside look at their Explorer program:

Using enhanced brain imaging, non-hallucinogenic versions of the drug and information from an underground network of test subjects who suffer from an agonizing condition for which there is no cure, researchers are finding that this “trippy” drug could become the pharmaceutical of the future. Can it enhance our brain power, expand our creativity and cure disease? To find out, Explorer puts LSD under the microscope.

Want to see for yourself? Take a look inside a tripper’s brain:

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Video: YouTube / NationalGeographic

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?
MORE ABOUT: drugs, LSD, the brain
  • B

    Boo. Biased as anything I have ever seen. Why not document one of the far more likely awesome trips such as the one that led to the discovery of the double helix?

  • Spanish

    I can’t see it in spain… :( “This video si not available due to Copyright restrictions in your country”.

  • andrew

    Can’t see it in Canada? Down with copyright restrictions!!!

    Can someone at least give a description of what is in the video… I must say my curiosity is peaked.

  • stratus

    lmao. that’s why i don’t drop random acid around 100 people i don’t trust. it’s also why i don’t hang out with people who would dose me without my knowledge. i think they’re missing the point: it’s not the drug… it’s her d-bag friends. n00b. why not make it so people can obtain LSD with confidence in what/how much they’re getting???

  • mclifford

    what a bunch of bullshit, I have tripped and had “bad” trips. It was intense but I would hardly describe it as a descent into hell. If you are a stupid little girl walking through bad neighborhoods and thinking you are going to be raped at any second, then u probably shouldn’t be taking lsd. You are an idiot. Lsd is not an escape like alcohol. If bad stuff is going on in your life before you take it, you will have a bad trip.

    • scott

      the last time i tripped i actually went to hell—–but before i did i got dressed in my sunday clothes to help my dad work on the tv antenna on top of the house…yes i know but it was 1974…of course he was curious to why i was in a suit and i explained to him i could fly in this paticulat suit—so i took a running start and without hesitation flew off of the roof…it was a two storied house with a sloping backyard which made the trip even longer..for what seemed to be about a minute but was probably closer to about two seconds i actually did fly… it was a fantastic feeling , it was liked time had stopped and i could look around and see all of my neighbors houses and even some of the neighbors that were out for a walk that sunday afternoon….my dad had went on the roof that day just to straighten out the antenna so the tv could show a better picture–what’s weird is to this day i don’t ever remember if he succeeded with that endevor…of course i did succeed in destroying my best suit!!! my brother saved it and showed it to me approximately six months later… that’s when i was finally released from the hospital after nearly breaking every bone in my body… and to be honest with you my life was really close to perfect before that trip and i can assure you it ended up being a very bad trip!!!  being 54 now i feel i can safely say when taking a trip make sure to hide your best suit before departing…

  • Ange Lobue, MD, MPH, BSPharm

    There should be more responsible documentaries on hallucinatory drug research. I suspect the fear-generating narration by Peter Coyote does not represent the views of the Swiss scientists studying the drug.

    The real danger with this fragment from the National Geographic Special is that, as with the effect of “Reefer Madness,” an anti-marijuana film from a half century ago, it misrepresents the experience to many viewers who know better. As a result, “Reefer Madness” became a cult comedy used to discredit the producers and the government, and led to an increase in distrust of “authority,” by American youth, and in fact, an increase in marijuana use.

    America needs to rethink its drug policies. The time has come to discard the absurd and ineffective concepts or “war” on what we don’t understand, and stop using fear-based terror messages in popular propaganda.

    Only through increased wisdom and knowledge gained from scientific examination can we hope to transcend the irrational responses with which we approach the unknown.

    Humans needs to become less fearfully aggressive and more compassionately curious in order to make the next evolutionary leap.


    Ange Lobue, MD, MPH, BSPharm
    American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
    Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

  • Katt

    Thanks Ange!

  • andrew

    So it sounds like this clip isn’t worth watching…

    Good point mclifford, you definitely don’t take LSD to escape, just the opposite. Some kids have to learn that the hard way… (it puts hair on your chest. :)

    And very, very well put Ange!!! I’m going to save that note in text file somewhere… so lucid and succinct!

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  • http://Gizmodo Xinggan

    A bad trip can feel like being in Hell more then any other experience. I once took so much the I believed that I was dead and was surrounded with monsters. I couldn’t even see my own body. At one point I remember that I had been turned into a flying Demon. I ended up wondering into the woods at night time…. alone. I took me two or three days to come down off the stuff completely. Any-one that thinks a bad trip can’t be Hell is greatly mistaken.
    LSD did change my life for the better though, It makes my a little disappointed that the positives of the substance were completely ignored.

  • Albert

    Embarrassing lies from Natl Geo and Discover Magazine.

    Thanks for some sanity, Ange.

  • AlCide

    After four decades, they trot out the same lying bag of fears. It would be humorous – if not so frighteningly pathetic. Strange that something commonly generating such awful experiences should have elicited so many upbeat testimonials. But then, you can always trust the MSM…

  • Frank John Reid

    1) “Reefer Madness,” though it exaggerated some the marijuana panic fostered by Federal drug crusader/empire builder Harry Amsinger [Amslinger? I disremember the spelling], was really more a sex movie. That is, for its era.
    It’s hard for our sexually UNrepressed culture to realize how “electric” a small showing of sexuality can be in a sex-repressing culture. When you watch “Reefer Madness”, remember that the Motion Picture Production Code/Hayes Office, and the Legion of Decency, had in the early 1930s so “cleaned up” Hollywood movies that MARRIED people were insanely always portrayed sleeping in “twin beds” (seperate beds for husband and wife). The Catholic Church, rather puritan sexually anyway, stole a march on American Protestantism by creating and powering these instruments of culturally-approved censorship. (It did something analogous with total-abstenance-from-liquor pledges in the 19th century.)
    In the really-repressed Victorian era, mere hints of sexual practices–as in Bayard Taylor’s play “The Prophet,” or the memoirs of Anna Lenowens (the real Anna of “Anna and the King of Siam”)–had an electric effect on less-naive adult readers. Samuel Butler’s “The Way of All Flesh,” written as the era’s ethos waned, still used the electric mere hint to accuse the Episcopalian clerics of the Oxford Movement (who oft converted to Catholicism) of being gay–as many seem to have been.
    Were Dr. Lobue, et al, less parochial we might not see such naive posts about a movie once shown in seedy theatres that bribed the cops to pass-over supposed “public warning” films, never made by the major studios. Of course, by the 1960s, its salacious bits no longer held any charge….

    2) I’m sure most of the commenters are too young to have any memories of the absolute wreckage that the high tide of the Drug Culture stranded on the rocks. Out of many: in the late 1960s I knew a philosophy grad student who could converse perfectly about sex or apartment rents or the other banalities of life. But when you tried to discuss philosophy, he practiced solipsism–that is, his replies (though quite rational and intelligent) almost always had NO discernable relation to the specific, abstract subject you were talking about. Perhaps there’s a known-condition diagnosis in the nether parts of the DSM…but dropping acid sure helped, even if it didn’t create de novo.

    3) The logic of this closing remark must not be dismissed with any of the old Drug Culture formulas: History shows that taking LSD is a self-invalidating procedure. The question to be asked of LSD users is, “How do you know what it does? You’ve taken it!”

  • andrew

    “3) The logic of this closing remark must not be dismissed with any of the old Drug Culture formulas: History shows that taking LSD is a self-invalidating procedure. The question to be asked of LSD users is, “How do you know what it does? You’ve taken it!””

    Not the history of the research done with LSD that I’ve read. Not with the experience’s me and my friends have had.
    Question… when you drink alcohol do you what it does? By your logic you can’t know anything that’s happening to you because it is happening to you.???

    You’re first two points are worthless.

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  • Matt

    This is actually a really good program that is really positive towards LSD. They just took the one part that made it seem bad and posted it. This actually is important s**t to know though. Trip in comfortable settings with people you know and trust or else your trip can go to hell.
    [Moderator: edited for language]

  • Chelsea Coudriet

    Let’s just say that I agree 100% with this video. DO i think the tone of it and the information provided should be a little different, yes. I think it’s not okay to treat people like lab rats unless they want that for themselves, my question is who are these tests being done on? Germany has a long laundry list of test subjects being pretty INHUMANE if you know what i mean lol. Leonardo Dicaprio nay not have been too far from the truth with that one movie he made “Shutter Island” I think Alice is disgusting and I hope she wakes up. My friend made acid for years and just recently he stopped because our close friend from high school ate his teeth while he was tripping and had to go to the dentist to get fake ones put in. The after effects they are talking about all happened to me. I tripped on time. 2 hits. In a car on a road trip to Tennessee from Florida. I thought it would be a good idea because for the $15/hit it provided me with 18 hours of entertainment and I did not mind that at all. Plus it was the perfect opportunity ya know? Who wouldn’t want to trip in the ideal setting? Safe with friends, no one else was tripping. We rented a Tahoe and put 2 inverters in the car cigarette lighters flipped up the first row of seats and got a 22″ monitor, an xbox, and used a friends android phone as a router so we could run xbox live on the road. Let’s just say even though I was in the “IDEAL” setting I will NEVER trip again. I can’t smoke weed anymore. lol. It triggers my brain to hallucinate and have like flashbacks i guess. Which is odd because after my trip I smoked weed like 40 times and it didn’t start until after that. I am only trying to provide you with useful information. I wouldn’t lie I have no reason to. All I’m saying is that Acid and I aren’t ever gonna be friends again lol I don’t care who trys to tell me different I used natural hallucinogens as well i.e shrooms and I <3' ed them. I never had a bad trip on them. Ever. But the experienced acid dealer did them with me and he HATED it lol. He said he couldn't control himself. It's a little funny to me now but then I had no clue what he meant because I never tried Acid. I only want to provide my opinion so some 18 year old contemplating this realizes that bad things can happen, the effects sometimes are lasting and don't go away all at once. It's been 4 months since my trip and I am STILL pushing that crap out of my system. Everyday though it seems like my mental disorientation seems to fade. My sense of reality, self awareness, and sense of time have started to come back but still don't be so BIAS in your opinions because you could be encouraging kids to do something you don't even realize and that's "sick".

  • Ray

    what we need to re-think….is why does a rational person need to TRIP to begin with….If your reality is so bad that you need to leave it..(and you’ll always have to return), than maybe you should concentrate on improving your reality…At best, its only a temporary solution to a long term problem. Folks, we make our own reality or we create our ablity to exist within it. We dont have much control over things in this world but the one thing we do have control over is our own choices and what we will do with what we’ve been given. Dont waste what precious time we have on chasing shadows….God Bless

  • kingofearth

    what we need to re-think….is why does a rational person need to GO ON VACATION to begin with….If you life at home is so bad that you need to leave it..(and you’ll always have to return), than maybe you should concentrate on improving your home life…At best, its only a temporary solution to a long term problem.

    Does tripping make more sense now? It’s not about escaping reality, it’s about having a fun experience and seeing reality from a different perspective. The myth that people use drugs to escape reality isn’t true for most drug users. They use them because it’s a fun experience. And in the case of LSD, you can learn a lot about yourself and the way you perceive the world.


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