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Q: Something really weird happened to us. We will take MDMA or speed on a fairly regular basis. We always use Tigerbalm to massage each other when we take these drugs. This weekend we took the tigerbalm out and about 30 minutes later it was as if we had taken some MDMA. Can the brain be fooled in releasing serotonin by conditioning it?

A: You may have experienced what is referred to as "anchoring", "hypnotic anchoring", "hypnotic suggestion", "posthypnotic suggestion", "state dependent learning", or "euphoric recall". These effects can be intentionally induced or can happen spontaneously (which sounds like the case with your Tiger Balm).

Anchoring techniques are not specifically designed for psychoactive use but are easily adapted to it. In a simple achoring excercise, a person in the desired state of mind does a small gesture they wouldn't normally do, such as rubbing behind their ear or on a spot on their arm. Under a later, different situation, the person could ostensibly "recall" aspects of that state of mind by repeating the gesture. It's a bit more complex than that but there are excellent resources about anchoring on the web.

Hypnotic anchoring, hypnotic suggestion and posthypnotic suggestion would involve the use of more hypnosis techniques. On the page MDMA Psychotherapy: An Annotated Bibliography of Late 20th Century English-language Literature by Reid Stuart, you can read a little about a paper by Arthur Hastings, who researches this phenomenon. The synopsis also mentions the research of Philip Farber, who has done more recent self-experimentation of this sort.

State dependent learning refers to the phenomenon of learning or experiencing something during a
particular mood or mind-state, and having access again to that information when the mood or mind-state is repeated. An example of this is cramming for an exam while drinking lots of coffee, and then drinking coffee when you go in to take the exam. What happened with the Tiger Balm could fall under this category.

Euphoric recall is a term -- usually used in a negative context relation to dependencies such as alcoholism, opiate dependency, or nicotine dependency -- for when a person remembers and changes past events to be better and therefore less destructive (like remembering the pleasure of a cigarette and repressing the knowledge that it can have undesirable health effects). It is sometimes referred to as "repression" or "temptation pleasure". Euphoric recall can also refer to what happens when a person is not high, but they experience some of the high in the presence of other stimuli, like being around other people who are high.

More on MDMA and posthypnotic suggestion:

Farber, P.H. (1999). MDMA and Hypnotic Anchoring. In T. Lyttle (Ed.). Psychedelics Reimagined (pp.87-90). Brooklyn: Autonomedia. [see a brief info about Psychedelics Reimagined]

Hastings, A. (2000). Paper to be presented at Tucson IV 2000 "Toward a Science of Consciousness" Conference: An extended non-drug MDMA-like experience evoked through hypnotic suggestion. Bulletin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies [Online], 10(1), 10. [2000, Aug. 19].

Hastings, A. (1994). Some observations on MDMA experiences induced through posthypnotic suggestion. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 26 (1), 77-83.

Related links:

A view of euphoric recall as related to alcoholism

General info on hypnosis


Another related topic is simply that the mind learns and remembers effects and mind-states that its exposed to. It is not uncommon for people to report experiencing psychoactive drug effects in their dreams and in one's waking life its common to recognize elements of experience which are reminiscent of effects from psychoactives. People experienced with psychedelics often report recognizing states of illness or flu as reminding them of tripping.

While its too complicated to go into here, also check out information about flashbacks and HPPD, some of which involve state-specific memories and recall of psychoactive-related experiences and effects during times where nothing has been ingested. Here's one brief comment on the subject:

An Ask Erowid Answer about HPPD


Asked By : TigerBalmGuy
Answered By : Sophie,earth
Published Date : 7 / 31 / 2001
Last Edited Date : 8 / 1 / 2001
Question ID : 2788

Categories: [ Psychology ] [ Effects ]

Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

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