Case Study: Salvia Divinorum and Bipolar Disorder

By Heretic.Ape. · Nov 18, 2008 · ·
  1. Heretic.Ape.
    1.0 Introduction
    My monkey has noticed a remission of bipolar symptoms since beginning experimentation with salvia around two weeks ago. This blog will be a log of his observations to determine whether the plant is responsible for this remission, contemplations on the potential reasons for such an effect, and general thoughts on the matter.

    2.0 Case History.
    Subject began showing symptoms at around the age of 16 with mood swings, grandiose thinking, and other typical bipolar trademarks. The disorder reached it's fruition when subject was 22 years old. He had a complete breakdown, which he does not remember very well. He came to believe that he was the devil and that he had come to earth to set mankind free from the shackles of the false God and to redeem Truth by a pure form of heresy. If this does not make sense, don't worry, it is typical irrational belief of a delusional manic episode.
    After he had blown all of his money, ruined his credit/been kicked out of his bank, quite his job, and dropped out of school under the impression that such mundane matters were inconsequential, he crashed from the manic episode and fell to a depressive state in which he attempted to cut his wrists but was found by his roommates who made him contact his parents concerning the situation.
    He moved back to his home town to live with his parents while trying to figure out a therapy and maintenance plan. During this time he was put on various combinations of psychotropic medications; mood stablizers, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and anti-convulsants. Some of these medications worked in curbing the symptoms but had numbing properties that subject found unacceptable, feeling that "if you feel nothing in life, you are not actually living".
    After a while of keeping an eye on his moods and thoughts he started going to the community college and moved in with a girl whom he was engaged to marry.
    Following a procedure during which he was taken off all meds for two weeks he again had a full blown mania fugue in which he came to have similar delusions of being a prophet or something and broke of his engagement, quite his job, etc, ultimately leading to him being back with his parents at the age of 27.
    Since then he has continued use of only Valproic Acid to keep from going into full manic episodes but refuses use of anti-psychotics and other medications due to the horrible side effects and lack of helpfulness.
    Over the past year he has been doing fairly well outwardly; he is about to graduate on the deans list, he has a job and he has a fair social life.
    However the scene is not quite so well inwardly. He continues to be plagued by suicidal ideation, shows obsession with finding value and meaning in life, still frequently has irrational thoughts along the lines of being haunted by a demon, being a great spiritual revolutionary, and other mostly spiritual-centered delusions and grandiose thinking (common among bipolar sufferers) and shows avoidance of dealing with mundane matters such as figuring out what to do for a career, and what to do after moving out after graduation (his parents have let him stay with them while finishing up these last two semesters).

    3.0 Enter Salvia Divinorum.
    Subject has long held that psychedelic drugs have great potential to help people with psychological issues. For years he has been hoping to come across a local source for psilocybin mushrooms, as they helped him when he was in his late teens. Also cannabis had proven repeatedly to take him out of swings and irrational thought patterns. However subject no longer is "in the scene" and, living with his parents, smoking pot and growing mushrooms has not been a plausible option for him.
    Following several months of recurrent suicidalism and feelings of extreme alienation and isolationism he decided to try salvia, not really knowing what to expect and not having much hope; thinking it would most likely at least provide an enjoyable diversion.
    He purchased a gram of 10X extract from his local headshop and began experimenting with it. It proved to have effects very unexpected.

    4.0 Initial results
    He does not really enjoy salvia, finding the experience lacking in the spirituality and insight of mushrooms, as well as being rather jarring and unpleasant in general.
    However, during the two weeks following the beginning of his experimentation with the herb, there was a drastic remission of bipolar symptoms mentioned above. He feels as though during the experience he is torn apart briefly and thrown back into his identity, viewing it more objectively, cleared to a large degree of the habitual mental patterns that exacerbate and instigate the mood swings and irrational thoughts.
    His overall satisfaction with life has gone up, though he still faces the same general situation. He has shown an increased interest in his life, beginning to put together concrete plans for post-graduation life (moving, business ideas, etc).
    Subject does not feel "high" but does not feel low and lacks the "numb" feeling that comes with more traditional pharmaceutical interventions.

    5.0 Tentative explanation of results
    It is thought that perhaps the effect of smoking salvia in aiding remission of subjects bipolar symptoms may be due to the temporary break-down of ego. As subject comes "back from salvia-land" and becomes aware of himself again, he feels much more objective, establishing basic things--"I'm this person, in this general life situation, etc".
    Subject likens the principle to electro-shock therapy for extreme depression: the brain is sort of rebooted. The mental-emotional clutter accrued by habitual perception and thinking are to some degree wiped clean.

    6.0 Conclusion
    Thus far he has smoked Salvia perhaps 5 or 6 times. He never looks forward to smoking it and personally finds it's recreational use to be next to nihil though the experience is very interesting in terms of metaphysical acrobatics. But he will continue to test for continuing correlation between remission of symptoms and use of the substance.

    We'll keep any interested parties posted on the progress.

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  1. Heretic.Ape.
    At six days after last administration effects seem to be wearing off. Increase noted in subject's moodiness, however not to a pronounced degree. Also noted decrease in motivation and interest in general activities. Could indicate oncoming depressive state, or could simply be due to physical illness (subject has had mild flu).
    Subject will redose tonight or tomorrow and note apparent influence on affect.
  2. Phungushead
    Tell monkey I said good luck, and am very interested in what happens long term here. If he ever needs someone to talk to....
  3. Heretic.Ape.
    ^ Thanks Phungus

    Brief preliminary notes on 20Nov Dose.
    Focus on "which of us is real" persist within trip itself. Inexplicable. Reminiscent of the notion of an individuals cells arguing that they are the identity, while the person says "no you're just pert of it: I'M the real deal here". Except in this case the subject is akin to the cell.
    Subject feels no real concern over whether the trip experience has any real metaphysical validity nor what may be the psychological explanations (though I'm sure he'll have a field day with them later).
    Upon coming back down he tends to think it is strange that THIS (this person sitting in this room listening to music) is IT. It seems a little absurd, though he cannot describe after the effects recede why this is so.
    Subject attempted to note his mood after but the notion of having a "mood" seemed a little absurd to him as well. It appeared that mood was composed of many purely situational little elements that only become meaningful in any way, beyond watching a candle flame flicker, through the fact that individuals usually have a habitual mold that is ultimately purely mental, that lends a sense of continuing, coherent and substantial moods (as well, perhaps, for other elements of identity).

    All of one's coherent being is contingent upon what logical predicates are established. These are, of course, not always in agreement with one another, having been built up at different times, under different situations, etc, but it becomes the tendency to attempt to view them all as non-situational, leading to countless instances of conflict ("why did I do that?").
    I will not try to make any sense or reflection on the subjects thoughts but leave them purely unexplained and provisional, open to further consideration, for the time being.

    The original thesis that the salving properties of salvia on bipolar symptoms continues to be that it loosens one's identification with these basic predicates of identity, leading to a distancing from the consequential psychological tangle that are the natural product of them.
  4. ~lostgurl~
    Wow, great experiment hun, looks like you have made a lot of headway in dealing with this illness! Way to go :)
  5. Heretic.Ape.
    Brief update: subject has now been in remission for roughly one month. :)
    Salvia dosage: roughly one bowl smoked per week (after first week of attempting to get used to the substance... which never happened, lol).
  6. Heretic.Ape.
    After rather much mental trepidation due to being afraid of smoking, subject smoked a bowl.
    Disappointment. No big scary monster of an experience involving reality and identity being torn to shreds. Must not have smoked enough.
    The experience start along and got to the part monkey recognized from last time where perspective goes all abstract and different realities claim their place as being subjects identity... but this time subject just found himself thinking "no you're not, I am" in a laughing sort of way, like the other perspectives/entities were just being silly. He recognized this game and knew the answer.
    The first time subject tried salvia it scared the shit out of him and took him completely off guard. The second or third time he let himself go completely for the first time and was totally taken out of himself and through a metaphysical rollercoaster ride, coming back down laughing hysterically like a truly insane man, but ended up feeling an unbelievable gratitude afterward, like he'd been allowed to peek behind the curtain of reality.
    The most recent couple of times he was on dextromethorphan when he smoked and went gladly onward into even crazier places than he was already hanging out at. The last time he identified with one aspect of reality and came to realize it was dying--that he was dying. This made him a little sad and scared for a moment, then he though "well, I guess some part of all of this has to die and I'm in that part. Oh well." Then at coming to terms with the death he was cycled through the twist of death into other places more beatific.
    But still he was afraid to smoke tonight. Originally he was going to smoke this morning but chickened out. Deciding to face his fear he asked Mother Salvia to be kind and set off only to get to the gate of total metanoia and realize normal identity is still fully intact. No ego-death.
    Ego death is part of the tentative hypothesis for salvia's efficacy in dealing with bipolar symptoms.
    Today subject found himself drawn again toward spirituality and feeling a certain existential unease. Thus he approached tonights session with a mixture of preconcieved hopes / reasonings.
    First was that the spiritual impetus and existential itch may be indicative of bipolar symptoms coming back.
    The other was based on these "symptoms" as he hoped for some metaphysical or spiritual revelation from the experience and felt let down when none were forthcoming.
    Trademark objectivity of thought immediately following session is present. Subject usually comes down feeling a little like he was dumb to expect the plant to do whatever he set out for and views his motives with a certain degree of detachment although he retains a connection to them.
    Subject wishes he had some mushrooms for a nice entheogenic experience of beauty and revelation.
    Ah well. We'll see how things keep going for him. At least he's still not suicidal, but he was hoping for a little happiness rather than just the absence of outright despair (which was in its self a happy experience at first, but he's adjusted to that).
  7. Alfa
    Have you considered other compound that target Kappa-opioid receptors?

    Is there any research on Salvia divinorum and Bi-polar disorder?

    If not; Have you considered emailing Rick Doblin / MAPS about this?
  8. kalininin
    what eloquence!
    if its that hard to get psylocybin, one could try morning glory seeds, these can be obtained quite easily in most parts of the world...
  9. Felix Guattari
    I find the ego-death model interesting; the chemical basis for such a process (and thus the 'ego' itself) is the harder question though. The ego-death phenomenon is interesting in that it appears that it can be evoked by several biochemical pathways - through kappa-opiod receptor activity, through 5ht agonism and through NMDA antagonism, but all of them seem to produce similar after effects.
  10. Heretic.Ape.
    After around a month since last breakthrough dose subject is having mood swings again. He has been bouncing between ecstatic fluidity to sharp agitation and hopelessness.

    Various experiments have been conducted with methods for inducing non-breakthrough experiences: tincture, quid, and smoking pure leaf.

    The inadaquecy of these methods which lack the aspect of ego-death supports the original hypothesis of ego-death itself being the curative component of salvia treatment.

    Tonight subject will smoke extract again to induce a full-fledged salvia experience. Observations will then be made over the next week as to the influence on affect.

    Alfa: never thought of contacting MAPS, though monkey has considered writing up a formal APA paper on findings once the experiment has produced what he feels are fairly conclusive results. Perhaps he will send the paper to them.

    kalininin: Subject attempted hbwr seed extraction of 10 seeds a few weeks ago with no effects. Later he ate the rest of the seeds (roughly 40), also without any effect. Must have been bad seeds. He will give it another try some time.

    Felix: A thought that comes to my mind is that ego is not necessarily tied up in one particular pathway or area of the brain: it is the overall picture of coherence that these take on in concert. Disrupt any one of them enough and the whole thing will break down.
    Just a thought...
  11. Felix Guattari
    There's a fascinating log on another forum detailing treatment for bipolar disorder with low-dose mushrooms (.5 grams every eight hours). I obviously can't post the link here but PM me for the link if you're interested.
  12. Heretic.Ape.
    ^ sounds interesting.

    Monkey found some HBWR seeds last year. He ate a few of them and meditated for several hours (after a long rather tantric sort of sublime sex with his partner--"tantric" in that the primary focus of his experience was a melding and dancing of energies that lifted one another into higher, more ecstatic frequencies, and ejaculation never occurred nor focused on. One of the finest sexual experiences of his life, but I digress).
    He found that going through a similar and much more long-lasting and powerful ego death via the LSA + "tantra" + meditation combination.
    He then simply used meditation as an upkeep, which led to a couple months of elevated mood, less stress, heightened psycho-physical poise, and sense of meaning and value in life.
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