Observations In Human Subjects

Most of our information about drugs and the ways in which they alter sensory behavior in people comes from individual reports (called anecdotal) rather than from well-controlled laboratory studies. People have reported vivid images, changes in perception, and hallucinations after they have taken mescaline or LSD. Synesthesias—a mixing of the senses, such as "the hearing of colors'' or "the seeing of sounds''—may also occur. One of the first descriptions of LSD's effects is recounted as follows:

I was seized by a peculiar sensation. . . . Objects, as well as the shape of my associates in the laboratory, appeared to undergo optical changes. . . . With my eyes closed, fantastic pictures of extraordinary plasticity and intensive color seemed to surge toward me. After two hours this state gradually wore off (Julien 180).

Although these sensory disturbances stop within a few hours, some people experience confusion, sensory distortions, or poor concentration for longer periods of time. For some people, drug effects recur long after the drugs have left their systems—these brief episodes are called flashbacks.

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