You are getting baked. Veeeeeeerrrry baked.
June 7, 2009 11:44 PM   Subscribe

Can a hypnotist get me high?

Ignoring possible ethics issues on their part, is it possible for a hypnotist to implant a post-hypnotic suggestion that, say, smoking a cigarette makes me feel like I've smoked a joint?

I don't mean a suggestion that I act forgetful and grin a lot. I mean the same (or similar) subjective feeling as marijuana causes.

Given an affirmative answer to that question, are there likely to be ethical conflicts for the practitioner?
posted by Netzapper to Science & Nature (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hi. I went to see a stage hypnotist once and he did exactly that to some people on stage - left a suggestion that smoking cigarettes would be like a joint.

I don't know how well it would work...when I have tried self help nlp or whatever it's always felt like I'm trying to force a positive feeling. But maybe a hypnotist could do it better.
posted by Not Supplied at 1:05 AM on June 8, 2009

A hypnotist could certainly implant a suggestion which would make you behave as if you were high. I'm fairly sure a hypnotist could make you believe you were high. Beyond that, it depends on your view of certain issues in the philosophy of mind.

You might take the view that:
(a) if you believe you're high, you feel high, and
(b) if you feel high, you are high, ipso facto.

But both (a) and (b) are open to challenge. (b) assumes we're defining 'high' by reference to phenomenal states, in line with your question; but if we went for a more medical definition, it seems unlikely that the chemistry of your brain would be exactly the same as when you had become high by traditional means. However, whether a scan would show "high-type" activity or "hypnotised-type" activity, and to what degree is an interesting empirical question which to my knowledge has not yet been addressed experimentally.
posted by Phanx at 2:20 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Phanx: (b) assumes we're defining 'high' by reference to phenomenal states

What else? By 'high', one doesn't mean "wow, my D2 receptors are so totally saturated to the Bmax" but (a set of) phenomenal experiences.

but if we went for a more medical definition, it seems unlikely that the chemistry of your brain would be exactly the same as when you had become high by traditional means.

a)I doubt there's a medical definition for 'high', more likely for 'intoxicated', and that too would be defined with reference to behavior, not blood flows and ligand activity at receptors.
b)it's unlikely that the chemistry in your brain would be exactly the same when comparing with the same drug-taking on another day.
c)if the hypnosis does replicate the qualia of a drug experience then the crucial brain activity would indeed be the same, even if the antecedent activity differs. I, of course, presume a certain linear relation between brain and mind.

As to the OP, if you already have a decent history of actual experience with a drug, then maybe a hypnotist could induce a recall somewhat à la flashbacks. For significantly novel experiences, I doubt it.
posted by daksya at 4:40 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know if this is exactly the sort of thing you're after, but 30-odd years ago, the summer I was twelve, my best friend and I spent really a lot of time lying around her darkened living room listening to her mother's weight loss hypnosis tape. We never bothered with the boring weight loss stuff, but there was a relaxation section that was fan-freaking-tabulous. We were heavier, we were lighter, we were heavier and lighter, we were on cloud eight, cloud nine, cloud ten. It felt amazing. I had nothing to compare it to in the way of recreational drugs, but I'd have been thrilled if dope had felt that good when I tried it years later.

Mind you, at age twelve, our dispositions were uncritical and our belief was total, so we were probably perfect candidates for hypnosis. I don't know if it would work the same way for me now, but I sure wish I could find that tape again.
posted by timeo danaos at 6:13 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Probably, particularly if you're well-familiar with the high of marijuana, because then it's intensely re-living a familiar sensation.

It's an interesting question, as is the reverse: if you were high or drunk, could hypnosis sober you up?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:35 AM on June 8, 2009

It's an interesting question, as is the reverse: if you were high or drunk, could hypnosis sober you up?

Sure, you would just need 1 hour of hypnosis for every drink consumed.
posted by zephyr_words at 6:45 AM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you look at the articles in the hypnosis thread in the blue right now, it seems that a small percentage of the population is extremely susceptible to hypnosis, plenty more people are somewhat susceptible, and others are not susceptible at all. So you really won't be able to get an answer to this question without knowing where you fall on that scale. Or rather, the answer is "It depends, it's different for everyone, but possibly, yes."

Hypnotism is widely used to help influence and control emotional and mental states, and I'd imagine that the feelings we get when we are high would be no exception.
posted by hermitosis at 7:33 AM on June 8, 2009

Best answer: I think it could be done. At a resort once, I joined a hypnosis group just out of curiosity and a sense of adventure, being on vacation and all. During the hyposis, the hypnotist gave us the suggestion that whenever we were feeling stress in our day-to-day lives, we could press our middle finger and thumbs together, and bring back the relaxed feeling we were currently experiencing in that room.

I can tell you that it still works for me, almost ten years later. I don't presume to know why or how, and if it's just my imagination then awesome for me, the result is still the same. A release of stress.

So yes, being that uber-relaxed and high can be interchangable feelings, I'd say it's possible. And if the hypnotist is going for "relaxed and care-freee" instead of "baked", then I see no ethical issues.
posted by agentwills at 7:50 AM on June 8, 2009

If you're talking about the belief and subjective experience that you're high, that could definitely be done. I had a friend in college who was an amazing hypnotist, though he only worked with small groups of our friends. I've seen people become "invisible," unable to remember their SO's name, able to speak only in blank verse, etc. One common theme is that while the hypotized have lowered inhibitions, it doesn't seem possible to force someone to do something they find unethical. And my friend's ethical standards were pretty high, too. The only post-hypnotic suggestion he ever left was along the lines of "tonight, you're going to have best sleep of your life and tomorrow you'll wake up absolutely refreshed."

Short answer: yes, it could be done, but I don't think it would be ethical to do so.
posted by HumuloneRanger at 8:35 AM on June 8, 2009

As hermitosis suggests, results can be expected to vary from person to person. In any case, the standard approach to this is based on reliving old experiences; the more of them you have had, and the more intense they were-- and the more committed you are to being able to paying attention to the sequence of your internal experiences and reliving them-- likelier, the better and faster you'll be at this. (And repetition matters a lot; not just repetition of suggestions, but repetition of attempts. Think of going into trance and doing wacky things with your body-mind as a learned skill, one you can improve at... because that is what it is.)

Here's the procedure in broad outline:

posted by darth_tedious at 9:54 AM on June 8, 2009

Given an affirmative answer to that question, are there likely to be ethical conflicts for the practitioner?

For some, but probably quite few. Even a fair number of rigid No-Satan-Leaf-Stimulants-for-You-Buster types could probably reframe this in their own minds: "By teaching people how to get high by inhaling oxygen, I'm freeing them from their habits!"

In fact, smarter addiction counseling probably *would* incorporate approaches like this.

Someone concerned about a practitioner's qualms could just call from a pay phone and ask directly, at the very beginning. Remember, inducing a given state via imagination is completely legal.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:02 AM on June 8, 2009

Best answer: Using meditation, hypnosis, fasting, chanting, and other non-plant based methods for altering states of consciousness is an ancient tradition. Using leafs, molds and fungi is more popular these days since they're more reliable and easier (esp having bred the concentrated forms) but you can absolutely "get baked" on nothing more than the power of suggestion - much of alcohol's initial power is probably just that. Of course, you have to believe in the placebo effect for it to work...

I remember reading descriptions of hypnosis, I think in Charles Tart (who I know is discounted by skeptics, but the actual descriptions, like the patients in Freud, are more interesting than just numbers / theories) that sounded seriously trippy - being hypnotized to see the world like a living impressionist painting, and so forth...
posted by mdn at 1:42 PM on June 8, 2009

Response by poster: The general consensus seems to be that, in fact, it might be possible to do exactly what I'm asking for.

Just a little followup, since the discussion seems to revolve around two things:

a) I'm not concerned about the actual brain chemistry changes. I would just like to feel stoned without the hassle and expense of procuring illicit botanicals. The only thing I'm interested in is the subjective phenomenal experience. This isn't for SCIENCE!, it's for my head.

b) I am an experienced (read:chronic) pot head. I can actually almost feel high on demand already. I just need some help getting all the way there.
posted by Netzapper at 4:24 PM on June 8, 2009

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