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Ketamine hydrochloride, also known as Special K, Kit-Kat, or simply K, belongs to a class of drugs called dissociative anesthetics.

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Mystics, optimists and people of religious faith interpret this as evidence of an afterlife. Skeptically minded neuroscientists and psychologists think that there might be a more terrestrial, neurochemical explanation — that the profound and magical near-death experience NDE is caused by the natural release of brain chemicals at or near the end of life. Supporting this, observers have noted the striking similarities between first-hand s of NDEs and the psychedelic experiences described by people who have taken mind-altering drugs.

Perhaps, near death, the brain naturally releases the same psychoactive substances as used by drug-takers, or substances that act on the same brain receptors as the drugs.

To date, however, much of the evidence comparing NDEs and psychedelic trips has been anecdotal or based on questionnaire measures that arguably struggle to capture the complexity of these life-changing experiences. The analysis, published online in Consciousness and Cognition in Februaryuncovered remarkable similarities between the psychological effects of certain drugs — most of all ketamine, but also notably the serotonergic psychedelic drugs such as LSD — and NDEs.

From category to category, the semantic similarity is profound.

A negative tone emphasising unpleasant bodily sensations was a shared common theme, as well. And, oh, what fun it will be! The new research legitimises the long-standing analogy between the experience of dying and the acute effects of certain psychoactive drugs.

What is a k-hole, exactly?

Links between dying, death, a potential existence of afterlife and certain hallucinogenic plants and fungi emerged independently across different societies, and are also ubiquitous in contemporary psychedelic culture. However, empirical research has been scarce, until now.

To an extent, the also support neurochemical s of NDEs, and especially the controversial proposal that such experiences are caused by the natural release of an as-yet-to-be-discovered ketamine-like drug in the brain adding plausibility to thisketamine is known to act on neural receptors that, when activated, help to prevent cell death and offer protection from lack of oxygen.

That in itself is quite a realisation. The limitations of the current approach, including a reliance on retrospective reports, often decades-old, means, as the researchers put it, that they cannot validate nor refute the neurochemical models of NDEs.

This could have important implications for the pharmacological induction of NDE-like states for scientific purposes, as well as for therapeutic uses in the terminally ill as means to alleviate death anxiety. We believe that the development of evidence-based treatments for such anxiety is a cornerstone of a more compassionate approach towards the universal experience of transitioning between life and death.

They also warn experimenters to be prepared and beware.

As one of the most intense and life-changing altered states known, an NDE is no toke on a pipe after class or work. Gentle medicine could radically transform medical practice. Childhood and adolescence.

Forbeing carefree is intrinsic to a well-lived life. Meaning and the good life. Sooner or later we all face death.

Will a sense of meaning help us? Kristopher Nielsen.

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Ketamine trips are uncannily like near-death experiences. Psychiatry and psychotherapy Consciousness and altered states Ageing and death. Aeon is not-for-profit and free for everyone Make a donation. Get Aeon straight to your inbox our newsletter.

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Lezlie

Thank you for sharing this amazing story.
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