Kristi Panik, MD,
is a psychiatrist in private practice and on the clinical staff of the University Student Health Services at UC Berkeley, Calif.
Psychedelics are among the most interesting and poorly understood of all the psychoactive substances. They produce a variety of complex effects on the brain and mind, including intensification of thoughts and feelings, alterations of sensory perception, and loosening of psychological defenses. Because of these complex effects, psychedelics are powerful probes of the connection between brain physiology and consciousness, one of the most deeply mysterious questions in contemporary science.