Switching Psychedelics: From Cannabis to Reading

All, Journal

Terrence McKenna remarked that he once quit Cannabis and “..took up reading in the evenings.”

I am making this same switch, having realized that the worst effect of Cannabis – beyond its dampening of the dopamine receptors – is that I don’t read when I am high. Not that I haven’t enjoyed reading ‘Don Quixote‘ and many other books while stoned, but I don’t think Cannabis is in any way a performance enhancing drug for the consummate reader.

And, frankly, I’d rather be a bibliophile than a stoner, which isn’t to say being a stoner hasn’t been rewarding – Cannabis has certainly helped me blaze a trail to my inner-self, and it has most definitely served as both a medicine and a form of harm-reduction from other, more bullshit intoxicants (See: alcohol). But I would much rather read than get high.

As an experiment, I abstained from Cannabis yesterday, and, last night, instead of my usual Saturday every night Cannabis festival, I read two books. And the joy of laying on the couch, eating mandarin oranges, and getting lost in great fiction easily eclipsed any Cannabis high. After all, books are my original love – what saved me growing up. And I remembered the anecdote from Terrence McKenna, about how he quit Cannabis and the only thing he noticed was that he read more.

Now, I have been on the fence about my Cannabis use for some time, having come to be a heavy user (An ounce a week). And it is not that I don’t love Mary Jane. It’s been a life saver to me – a life giver, but there came to be a couple things that bothered me about my usage. The latest and last straw was this reading revelation.

But the other big wake up was reading some of the studies that have been done on heavy Cannabis usage in relation to dopamine (Google ‘Cannabis dopamine studies’ to read for yourself).

In one of the studies, researchers wanted to measure the dopamine responses of heavy Cannabis users against non-users. To measure this, they administered methylphenidate (Ritalin) to both groups. Now, typically, any type of amphetamine is going to send dopamine levels through the roof – only, for the heavy cannabis users, the researchers saw very little dopamine response. They were so surprised that they checked to make sure the Ritalin wasn’t expired. And it wasn’t – what was happening, was that the dopamine pathways in the heavy Cannabis user’s brains were simply deadened from their Cannabis usage (Cannabis acts directly on dopamine, this is what causes the “high”).

It reminds me of a friend of mine who once remarked to me that without weed, he couldn’t even enjoy food or sex. In essence, it had hijacked his brain’s reward system. But dopamine is bigger than reward – it’s also motivation (To get the reward). And when you have this very low level nirvana or samadhi happening every time you get high, well, that kind of becomes the focus in life. And eventually, your brain just wants that – and nothing else really matters. Trust me. I know.

And ironically, when I learned all of this about Cannabis and dopamine, I had planned to write some long post about how I was quitting Cannabis to regain the full function of my motivation and reward pathways – only, I liked smoking too much. So I kept on: knowing that I was blunting my brain’s natural wiring and killing my own pleasure and motivation. Hey, I could still write on it, and even program on it. It was only having made the connection with Cannabis cock-blocking my reading that I drew the line. Reading is simply too pleasurable, too fulfilling, too much of a part of me to do anything that hinders it.

Cannabis is a psychedelic. Now, psychedelics have been a cornerstone of my development (Namely Mescaline), and I have definitely used Cannabis in a psychedelic fashion – but I mostly just used it to maintain. Because when you smoke a quarter pound a month, you need to maintain. And I wish it were something I could just pick up on a blue moon and put down, as I do with the classic psychedelics (Mescaline, DMT, LSD, Psilocybin), but from my experience, it’s just too damn easy for me to smoke all day, every day. And it’s not like I sit here rubbing potato chip grease on my shirt, buried in filth – no, I can keep the house clean, get my work done, hike on it, do yoga on it – hell, Cannabis has been the muse for a lot of stuff I have written here.

But I have to read. So I’m not smoking any more. Further, I think I’ll probably see an increase in the output of my fiction (thank fuck!). Not to mention the recovery of my dopamine receptors and an increase in my quality of my REM sleep.

Look, I have a distillate vape very near to me I would love to hit right now. My sleep is fucked up (Thanks Mary Jane), but I can’t stand the idea of self-medicating so heavily, particularly at the cost of such a deep passion of mine (Reading). And, not only as an individual, but as a writer: I have to read. It’s a passion that’s part of my job, my existence.

And I have been really passionate about Cannabis, but there are seasons in life for things. I also know that should I really need the medicine that Cannabis provides, it will be there for me. Trust me, when I’m dying, I’m going to be smoking .5g dabs of rosin. You bet your motherfuckin’ ass. But Cannabis as a lifestyle isn’t serving my passions (Reading, and I suspect writing).

One other thing that comes to mind is a clip I watched where Elon Musk talked about working 100 hour weeks. Now, I don’t want to burn out (Been there, got burned out, ate a cocktail of shitty head shop pseudo-psychedelics, lost my shit and smashed my laptop). No, I don’t want to overwork – I will not – but I also want to accomplish things. I’m not only a writer, I’m a tech entrepreneur. And, ya know, having been unsuccessful, I can’t help but think that has negatively impacted my relationships. I don’t want to project too much here, but anyone who has ever been left by a partner when they are down and out, so to speak, knows what I am talking about.

I want to build the foundation where my material failures don’t doom my relationships (Biting my tongue on other opinions here). But habits are the foundation for any success in life. Not that you can’t be a stoner and be great at anything, and even successful at it, but the rules of life are different for everyone. We have to stay in our lane in life.

Success and health really come down to the ability to adapt, grow, and learn. And what I suspect is going to happen in the coming days and weeks, is that I’m going to discover a lot more endurance and productivity for the things I need want to do. So, where I once burned out, I think I’ll find more gas in the tank (Dopamine in the brain).

And I’m so glad I discovered this. Because one thing I know is that you have to replace bad habits with good habits. This is why this is so monumental for me.

I haven’t even considered the money I will save, but suffice to say, it will be a nice chunk of change every month. The first thing I am going to do, is buy Volume II of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, of which I just finished the first volume of (PF Collier, 1910).

All in all, I am relieved. To have found the proper thing (books) to fill the void in me. How beautiful. To trade my adult addiction (canna) for my childhood addiction (reading). What a total fucking upgraaade.

And on a personal note, I gotta say: when people discount you and basically write you off, and you are on your own, in what could be perceived by them as a low point for you, it REALLY F’N motivates you to upgrade yourself in ways that are going to radically transform YOUR life – for you. There is a reason success is the best revenge. And it’s not because people believe in you. It’s because they don’t. I’m like Connor McGregor, in that doubt – and particularly the kind I’m talking about – is a great motivator for me. It’s not enough on its own to move me, but it’s certainly icing on the cake for the results to come. As it should be. My reality is mine; I’ve always believed in myself, even despite my brooding and John Adams-esque bouts of insecurity (Oh where is my Abagail, my Portia Adams). This is just the next logical step, and I’m cheering for myself every goddamn minute.

On a final note, the word ‘psychedelic’ means mind-manifesting. By this etymological definition, I think books are absolutely psychedelic, and probably one of the best. So, I’m only trading one psychedelic for another – one that I believe is far more potent.

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