I’ve been fascinated by placebo’s for some time now, and how they occupy this boundary space between Science, Witchcraft and Shamanism. Placebo’s are as powerful and effective as some drugs when it comes to the treatment of the body (in some cases more effective where no present drug has been found). But what about for recreational purposes?
It has been shown previously that you can get drunk on placebo’s. I was interested to research into whether it’s possible to get “high” on placebos.
I have also observed in Egypt, drug and drink free dancefloors that were more frenetic and active than those I’ve seen in the West fueled by alcohol and stimulants. I was curious as to how much of our behavior is based on permission. The permission to let go is granted through alcohol or other drugs, each with their own spin of expectation (eg. Cocaine = confidence, Alcohol = an absence of shame, ecstacy = affectionate + must dance). These expectations can also create a psychological crutch that is not healthy and creates dependency. Potentially a placebo could also become such a crux, however an accessible and harmless ritual known to be the product of our own mind is a preferable alternative to other “Social Lubricants”. As I get older even a couple of beers leave me with a hangover, so the ability to leave this pain behind certainly has appeal.
I don’t believe in lying or deceit so I was also curious to know whether it was possible for people to get high on placebos even if they knew they were taking them.
I decided to find out this weekend, at the Summer Wonderland festival at Gut Moeglin. I can’t claim it to be a scientific study as it was in an uncontrolled environment and Alcohol was freely available. However the effects requested were not ones that could be provided necessarily by alcohol alone.
I prepared some small “preparations” connected to different rituals of drug taking.
An ink dropper, with water, tabasco sauce and vanilla flavouring
Some Dried Field Mushrooms (non magical variety)
Diamond shaped licorice sweets (aka Black Fs)
Thyme Capsules (aka Time Capsules)
I wore my wedding Galabeya, bowler hat and carried a cane to create a modern shaman vibe.
Getting peoples attention was easy enough, as I slipped into my role promoting Zeinab’s Tarot Readings and taking payments with contributions to our Tarot for Social Transformation project. However the biggest promotion came from my “customers”.
Word quickly spread, despite the fact that I clearly communicated that I was dispensing Placebos. I invited people to tap into their own mental powers over their bodies and themselves. I also told them that placebo’s work even if you don’t believe in them. Something backed up by this study.
I asked people to clearly state their intention, what they wanted the Placebo to do prior to them taking them. This also gave me the chance to pick a ritual and a “drug” best suited to the expected high.
I used Laughter Balloons as a “gateway drug” to the placebo experience. Based on the “Festival Ritual” of Balloons filled with Laughing Gas, I invited people to fill a balloon with their own air and the intention to laugh. Before they breathed back in I told them to let the desire to laugh overwhelm them. This admittedly is a combination of placebo and suggestion – a powerful combination.
We rolled around on the floor in hysterics.
Throughout the night, people brought their friends back and asked me to “sort them out”. I gave some others pills to distribute, and try it themselves. I had become the Placebo Dealer.
The experience was profound, the majority of users reported experiencing the desired effect they intended. A couple of people even came to hug me to thank me for the experience.
What people wanted varied, from the desire to relax, to be grateful, to be calm, to be focused and alert, to more abstract desires of interesting conversations and interactions. I had something for everyone, as I could create on the spot.
For myself I have since been able to “self medicate”. I’ve tried “Focus”, “Alertness”, “Patience”, “Awake” and on the last day “Body Comfort” to let go of my English discomfort of Nudity – after naked swimming, I walked comfortably around naked and took a nude stroll on the hilltop.
Apparently the placebo effect is getting stronger, with Major drugs companies struggling to make drugs that are more effective than Sugar Pills, and even Surgical Interventions are no better than their Placebo Counterparts.
Shamans and Witches have been onto this for years. What interests me is how can we harness it’s power further and make it accessible to all. We should be asking how we can make Placebos more effective, rather than focusing on making chemicals that beat them, but since Placebos are available to all it would mean the death of the pharmaceutical industry – something worth aspiring to.
Perhaps recreational placebos, and rituals can be our gateway experience to self healing and self improvement. Once we become conscious of how to tap into our own minds to pleasure ourselves, then we become aware of how we can also treat ourselves. If Placebos are equal to more expensive medicines prescribed by an expensive system, isn’t it time we explored how we could safely DIY?
Plus we can have a damn good time without danger, and without excluding others on grounds of religion, physical condition, or social attitudes to drug taking (one of the joy’s of this weekend was that I could get my pregnant wife “high” without fear of damaging my offspring). No risks, no hangovers, no comedowns, just a good high you can switch on as you wish.
I hope to take this further and make a larger scale Placebo Party, where there are only Placebos available. If you’re interested to take part or help organise drop me a line.