Psychedelics may be the oldest psychoactive compounds known to humankind. Substances such as psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, and ayahuasca are known for their mind-altering effects and have been used for thousands of years for religious and medicinal purposes. Cannabis is psychoactive, but can it produce the intense psychedelic experiences associated with these other psychopharmacological substances? With a high enough concentration of THC, cannabis can create a mildly psychedelic effect.
How Cannabis Can Become Psychedelic
The term psychedelic is loaded with connotations that evoke images of wild, irresponsible, or dangerous experiences. However, the term’s origin comes from a place of beneficial scientific discovery. The word psychedelic was coined in 1957 by Humphrey Osmond. Psychedelics referred to substances that had “mind-manifesting capabilities revealing useful or beneficial properties of the mind.”
Psychedelics have been distinguished from other substances because of “their capacity reliably to induce states of altered perception, thought, and feeling that are not experienced otherwise except in dreams or at times of religious exaltation.” In addition to creating those effects, psychedelics are identified based on the receptors they interact with. A substance that binds to serotonin 5-HT2A receptors as an agonist or partial agonist is classified as a psychedelic. The compounds in cannabis do not seem to bind with those receptors, so cannabis fails to meet that part of the psychedelic definition. However, cannabis can produce states of altered perception, thought, and feeling that can seem dream-like or spiritual. In this regard, the effects of cannabis can be mildly psychedelic. Cannabis can cause strange thinking, old things to seem new, ordinary things to seem extraordinary. The more THC, the more intense the high will be. However, even the most potent strains of cannabis will produce experiences that can at best be described as only mildly psychedelic.
No amount of cannabis is likely to take you on an extreme psychedelic trip, one including intense hallucinations or even a total loss of reality.
Are Psychedelic Drugs Safe?
Despite their powerful effect on the brain, psychedelics are widely considered by the scientific community to be one of the safest drugs targeting the central nervous system. They are not addictive. There is little to no evidence of overdose deaths following the ingestion of normal doses of LSD, mescaline, or psilocybin. Similarly, the side effects of THC (the most psychoactive compound in cannabis) are usually mild and, for the most part, temporary. In fact, the evidence supporting the medicinal uses of psychedelics is much more abundant than indications of their danger.
The openings of Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research and John Hopkins Medicine’s Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research in 2019 are tangible proof of this. The first of its kind in the United States, the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research will examine in the efficacy of psychedelic compounds such as LSD and psilocybin (the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms) on the treatment of disorders including depression, addiction, and anorexia. A 2016 Pharmacological Reviews article cited evidence that certain psychedelic substances can provide “unprecedented positive relief of anxiety and depression” and “positive benefit in treating both alcohol and nicotine addiction.” When it comes to cannabis, the psychoactive component of the substance is risky for patients who are predisposed to developing a psychotic disorder. Some studies show that there is a complicated link between cannabis and schizophrenia. On the one hand, it may trigger the disorder. On the other, it can mitigate the symptoms of schizophrenia.
The link is even more uncertain because there are too many confounding factors to determine its conclusive existence. For example, people who have psychotic disorders may self-medicate with cannabis, making it difficult to determine if the association between cannabis use and the onset of psychosis is causal or reactive. It is a “chicken or the egg” kind of question. Researchers aren’t sure what came first—the schizophrenia or the cannabis. Outside of this risk factor, the therapeutic properties of cannabis are vast. THC and CBD, the two most abundant cannabinoids in the plant, can produce the following beneficial effects in consumers:
- enhanced mood
- pain relief
- appetite control
- creative thought
- anti-proliferation of cancer cells
Whether or not cannabis is a safe substance depends on each person’s medical history and personal reason for consuming it. It is a discussion each individual should have with their doctor before using cannabis for medicinal or recreational reasons.
5 of the Most Psychedelic Cannabis Strains
Sinsemilla, cannabis strains containing high levels of THC, is known for producing intense psychoactive effects in consumers. Some users would describe those effects as mildly psychedelic. Here are some strains that may cause a psychedelic experience.
Girl Scout Cookies—With an average 27% THC test, Girl Scout Cookies is a potent strain that can produce a relaxed and happy high. Some report using the strain to treat chronic pain, inflammation, stress, anxiety, and depression.
LSD—LSD has an average THC content of 20%, making it 8% more potent than typical strains. As its name implies, LSD produces a potent high that some claim relieves depression and pain while promoting euphoria and relaxation.
Do-Si-Dos—Like Girl Scout Cookies, Do-Si-Dos has an average 27% THC test. Do-Si-Dos is a hybrid with Girl Scout Cookies and Face Off OG for parents. The small buds are coated with cannabinoid-laden trichomes. It has been described as a powerful pain reliever, energizer, and mood booster.
Wedding Cake—The average THC content for this strain is 20.5%. Wedding Cake, also known as Pink Cookies, may cause altered thinking and increased perceptiveness. Some users have experienced significant pain relief, relaxation, and euphoria after consuming this strain.
Jack the Ripper—The average Jack the Ripper will contain about 15% THC. Although this is lower than the other strains listed here, it has many fans because of its potent effects. Jack the Ripper may cause an energetic and euphoric high that some have even described as psychedelic.