I agree/disagree with this.johneffay said:Unless, of course, they take enough to give them a habit or tip them over into psychosis
I have a real problem with the distinction being drawn between recreational and spiritual drug use. Whilst I broadly agree with Padraig's claims about drugs and capitalism, I simply don't understand this comment:
Why would such an approach make more sense? Isn't this simply buying into the idea that altering your brain chemistry allows you to see the world more clearly? If you think that religious rituals actually do this, then I suppose that is at least consistent, but I would suggest that the use of mind-altering substances in the context of such rituals is simply a more efficient way of brainwashing individuals into buying into the religious elements being pushed. In fact drug use in such contexts has a lot in common with the effects that you identify within capitalism.
Something that always amuses me about the 'drugs are spiritual' argument is the way in which certain drugs are held up over others as vectors of spirituality for no good reason, e.g. the plants versus laboratory products argument: If the stuff made in labs has a more intense effect, how could it fail to be more spiritual? I think the whole thing is basically down to people over-romanticising the chemicals of their choice.
Furthermore, there are some forms of drug use which are never seen as spiritual, but why not? Perhaps you can argue the case for things like tranquilisers cutting you off from the spiritual, but how about glue? Intense glue sniffing can create sensations easily on a par in terms of derangement with low to medium grade LSD, and yet nobody claims that Evostick was given to us by God to aid in our evolution.
I agree that there is too much made of the distinction between recreational and spiritual use - within modern psychedelic culture there is a strong strand of "psychedelic elitism" which values certain drugs and ways of using them more highly than others, and is extremely derogatory about other ways of use. I don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with recreational drug use, and experiences can be both recreational and "spirtual" at the same time.
As for Gek-Opal's comment (that you've misatributed to Padraig), I suppose the point is to be involved in ritualistic drug use which is outside of the context of capital. I think you're also making some unwarrented assumptions about the nature of the "religious" background that these rituals use. Taking the most prominant drug used in such contexts, ayahuasca, the indegenous use has nothing in the way of "religious elements being pushed" as we would understand them. Even in the various syncretic churches which use ayahuasca as a sacrement, such as the Santo Daime or the UDV, it is perfectly possible to partake of the ritual use without subsrcribing to the religious beliefs of the church - the emphasis tends to be on personal mystical experience (although note I am not endorsing these churches - I remain dubious of any organised religious groups).
As for why some drugs are deemed less useful than others for facilitating spritual/personal enlightenment, most psychedelic enthusiasts refer to "integration" - that is, how well the insights and experiences you have whilst under the influence can be applied in your everyday, non-drug life. The principle distinction to be made is between psychdelics and non-psychedelics. Stimulants (coke and amphetamines), tranqs (benzodiazepenes etc) and antidepressents (SSRIs etc) fall into a different class altogther. Psychedelics are distinguised both by pharmacology and subjective effects - although there is plenty of argument about which of these two is most important for categorising them.
Thus drugs which produce powerful, but confusing (and generally incommensurable with ordinary experience) states, such as solvents and ketamine, are looked down upon. These drugs usually have a high addictive componant too.
Ayahuasca, mushrooms, MDMA (outside the rave enviroment), LSD, mescaline, and various synthetic phenethylamine and tryptamine derivatives, are regarded as more useful in this sense, but note the context and setting is very important - moderate, careful use with long gaps to ponder and intergrate are favoured over the reckless abandon of using psychedelics as a means of escape (or to make the experience of capitalism bearable, like Padraig says - although this is not often stated explicitly).
All the above is not my personal position - It's just a strong vein of thought that persists within contemporary psychedelic culture. I would agree that plenty of people over-romanticise particular drugs or methods of use too, and this plays a huge part as a major componant of drug experience is shaped by your expectations and "set".