Some people who take hallucinogenic substances experience a persistent effect on their perception, which can express itself for example as mild visual hallucinations and other perceptual distortions. Usually these perceptual effects will not be accompanied by a feeling of intoxication or mental changes.
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In the medical literature, this condition is referred to as hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) by psychiatrists and as permatripping by lay people.
Rarely, this condition may occur in people who never took any hallucinogens.
Symptoms of HPPD
Perceptual effects in HPPD may vary in number and intensity between people and often consist of phenomena such as:
- visual snow – the entire visual field is made of tiny flickering dots like the noise of a detuned analog television
- intensified colors, hue shifts, and difficulty distinguishing between colors
- floaters – small dark shapes that float across your vision
- intensified hypnagogic & hypnopompic hallucinations
- distortions in the dimensions of objects
- palinopsia – trails and after images
- light fractals on flat surfaces
- halos/auras around objects
- illusion of movement
- psychedelic visuals
Besides visual effects, auditory effects can also occur, such as tinnitus.
Many of us, even those with no past of drug use, have experienced some of above symptoms. The difference between normal perceptual effects and HPPD is that they are much more pronounced in HPPD to the point where they cannot be ignored.
Moreover, to receive a medical diagnosis of HPPD, distress must be experienced in regarding to these perceptual effects.
Some have further classified HPPD into two types:
- Type 1 HPPD – the experience of random, brief flashbacks.
- Type 2 HPPD – persistent changes.
Causes of HPPD
What drugs are touted as leading to HPPD? Some common examples include:
- salvia divinorum
Even a single use of one of these drugs (and many others) may trigger HPPD.
How does HPPD happen? And why does it happen to some people and not to others? Science does not yet possess definitive answers to these questions.
HPPD Treatment and Prevention
Neither is there an officially recognized cure or therapy for this condition.
For most people, it just passes on its own within a few months.
Your doctor will probably advise you to avoid use of all recreational drugs, including caffeine, taurine, and nicotine.
If you are less lucky, then you will also be prescribed with antipsychotics. There is no proof that pharmaceutical drugs can help. HPPD does not involve psychosis. And antipsychotics can do more harm than good in many cases.
The most popular drug however that is prescribed for HPPD is an anticonvulsant called lamotrigine (Lamictal).
Other drugs sometimes used include:
- Clonidine (Catapres) – an antihypertensive
- Clonazepam (Klonopin) – a sedative
The Problem with the Medical Understanding of HPPD
First of all, there’s not much research that has been done regarding HPPD.
Moreover, most medical doctors, even psychiatrists, are not familiar with the condition, let alone know how to diagnose and treat it properly. In many cases, as we’ve seen, they will give the patient anti-psychotics and other drugs which can make the condition worse and/or create new problems.
An Alternative Explanation for HPPD
In my mind, the problem starts with the term HPPD: hallucinogen persisting perception disorder.
Instead I would suggest changing the name of the condition to HPPE: Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Expansion.
What’s happening is that the hallucinogen which normally only temporarily expands consciousness and perception, in some cases may cause a persisting expansion.
In the Eastern philosophy, there is talk of a Third Eye. This is a center of consciousness that is usually turned off for most people. When it turns on, you can see visions even if your eyes are closed. It opens up in altered states of consciousness such as Dreaming, Out-of-body Experiences (OBEs), and Near-Death Experiences (NDEs). It also opens up when hallucinogens are ingested. The connection between the Third Eye (as the pineal gland in the brain) and hallucinogenic drugs (similar to our endogenous DMT) has already been made by Prof. Rick Straasman in his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor’s Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences.
For some people who take hallucinogens, the Third Eye mays not turn off again even after the drug has cleared from the system.
I don’t know why it happens, but the approach I’m suggesting here is to not view this condition as a disorder, but as a positive phenomena that should be embraced, a blessing.
In fact, some people describe similar experiences after long meditation practice, especially with energetically powerful methods such as Kundalini yoga. In Kundalini yoga, practitioners attempt to raise the life energy from where it normally resides in the base of the spine and around the sexual organs through the spine and up to the crown where a profound spiritual experience is attained. When the energy passes through the Third Eye chakra, it can induce visual effects and visions.
Any distress caused which may accompany this condition I suggest stems from misunderstanding the condition for what it really is.
My Approach to Dealing with HPPD (or HPPE)
Instead of wanting to get rid of the condition, here’s what I would recommend.
First of all, realize that you’re not suffering from a disorder. Rather, you’re going through a spiritual process. The process has begun and you cannot go back to where you were before, so you must go through with it until it resolves.
How to resolve this process?
Using the Kundalini yoga analogy is helpful. If your energy gets stuck in the Third Eye, causing uncomfortable perceptual symptoms, there are three things you can choose to do:
- Go deeper into working with the Third Eye, which can result in developing skills such as clairvoyance, seeing auras, and astral vision as well as improving creativity and artistic capabilities. This can be done by doing energy work, special meditative practices, and even by continuing use of hallucinogens, preferably with a shaman or experienced trip sitter.
- Ground yourself, bringing the energy down to your base chakra. This can be done by doing physical work, such as gardening, exercise, and hiking in natural settings.
- Finally, you can complete the process by raising your energy to the Crown, where you will experience a full spiritual awakening. This can be done by meditative practices, such as mindfulness and yoga.
You might want to go on all 3 paths or choose just 1 or 2 of them, depending on what you feel is right for you.
For additional suggestion, feel free to contact me. And of course I welcome any replies to my posts, especially by people who have experienced HPPD, so feel free to leave a comment below.