Altered States: Crash Course Psychology #10

Altered States: Crash Course Psychology #10

Lemme get your mind right about hypnosis. First of all, it’s a real thing — but it’s
probably not what you think it is. All kinds of hypnosis-esque practices have
been around for centuries, but the Western version of it — including the kind that you
probably associate with people being made to cluck like chickens on stage — cropped
up around the 18th century, that’s when German physician Franz Mesmer started treating
all manner of medical problems by putting patients into a trance-like state, during
which he claimed to align their “internal magnetic forces,” which he called “animal
magnetism.” And many of these mesmerized patients did
feel better, but not because of any magnetism or whatever. Mesmer was inadvertently using
the healing power of suggestion. In addition to his magnetic quackery, other
physicians didn’t appreciate Mesmer’s kitschy penchant for wearing capes and playing
ethereal music on a glass harmonica, and eventually he was discredited. So were his patients just gullible idiots,
or was there something else going on? Well, we’ve previously defined consciousness
as our awareness of ourselves and our environment, and consciousness is at work pretty much whenever
we’re awake, but also while we’re asleep and dreaming. So hypnosis is a good example of an altered
state of consciousness — when you’re fully conscious in the clinical sense, but also
not in what you’d consider a normal waking state. As a person who considers himself only
the product of one of several states of consciousness, this one that I am currently in right now,
it’s worth pointing out how TREMENDOUSLY WEIRD THIS IS! My brain has these other gears
that it occasionally drops into during which, in a sense, I become not me any more.
Altered states can also include things like hallucinations, and the effects of psychoactive
drugs. But these states aren’t as uncommon as you might think. In fact, you’ve probably
experienced an altered state yourself… even if you’ve never taken an illicit drug or
been to a cheesy dinner-theater where the main act wore a glittering turban.
[INTRO] So, personal opinions of Mesmer aside, here
are some facts and fallacies worth knowing about hypnosis. First off, let’s define hypnosis simply
as a calm, trance-like state during which you tend to have heightened concentration
and focus, and in which you’re typically more open to suggestion.
The phenomenon has been observed in lots of empirically rigorous studies, and it’s been
used effectively in treatments for stress and anxiety, weight loss, and chronic pain. BUT! It’s important to understand that even
though you’re more open to suggestion when hypnotized, you do NOT lose control over your
behavior. So, contrary to what you might see in The
Manchurian Candidate or Zoolander, hypnosis can’t make you act totally against your
will and, say, jump off a building, rob a donut shop, or commit a murder most foul. Nor is hypnosis a reliable way to enhance
the recall of deeply buried memories. We don’t file away every single one of our experiences.
We only permanently store some of them, and even they tend to mutate over time. We’ll
be talking all about memory in an upcoming lesson.
Finally, only about 20 percent of us are thought to be highly hypnotizable. Those are the folks
whom a hypnotist could get to smile at the smell of sour milk just by suggesting it was
rosewater. And even though we know hypnosis can increase
your suggestibility, there’s still some disagreement about what exactly constitutes
a hypnotic state, or how it’s achieved. Remember, just because we observe a phenomenon
doesn’t mean that we have a clue about its mechanisms of action, or whether it works
the way we think it works. One popular theory looks at hypnosis as phenomenon
of social influence. This camp suggests that, like actors caught up in an intense role,
hypnotized subjects may begin to feel and act like “good hypnotic subjects” if they
just trust their hypnotist to sort of act like a director and focus their attention.
Other researchers suggest that it has more to do with a special dual-processing state
of split-consciousness called dissociation. Dissociation is a sort of detachment from
your surroundings, which can range from mild spacing out all the way up to a total loss
of your sense of yourself. It’s something we all do to some degree or another, and we’re
often quite aware that we’re doing it. It’s not hard to think of instances where dissociation
might even help us, like when we’re faced with a dangerous situation that requires quick,
reflexive action and not a ton of focus on our own thoughts and feelings.
In this way, hypnosis may ease pain, not by magically blocking pain receptors, but by
helping us selectively not attend to that pain. Clinicians can do this by basically
guiding the patient into a very relaxed, but voluntary state, sort of spaced-out, and then
further guiding them through a series of positive thoughts and suggestions.
So, in legitimate clinical hypnosis, people aren’t being made to dissociate. Instead,
think of them as being asked to dissociate – and some people are better at this than
others, which is essentially what being “highly hypnotizable” means.
So, clearly there’s a lot going on in our two-track brains at any given time, and hypnosis
— as researchers understand it — seems to help us tap into some of that adaptive dissociative
capacity that we all seem to have. But say you’re not so into the idea of someone
feeding you suggestions. Probably the most classic way to voluntarily
enter an altered state of consciousness is by using drugs. Most of us have used some kind of legal drug…
your morning coffee, a beer at lunch, some Tylenol PM to put you the bed… and lots
and lots of folks responsibly use prescription and nonprescription drugs. But of course, some people develop problems.
The more you use a substance, legal or illegal, the less you feel its effects as your tolerance
grows. And soon enough, a two-beer buzz turns into a four-beer buzz or a case-of-beer buzz.
That’s your brain chemistry adapting to offset the drug effect in a process called
neuroadaptation. Keep on that road and soon you’ll risk a
physical and/or psychological addiction to the substance you choose, or the substance
that chose you. And that’s not even to mention serious physiological and neurological damage,
as happens with severe and long-term alcohol abuse.
We’ll be delving more deeply into the science of addiction in an upcoming episode, but for
now, let’s take a look at some of these drug families and how they jack you up, knock
you out, make you do dumb things, see imaginary stuff, and generally alter your consciousness.
Psychoactive drugs are chemical substances that alter your mood and perception. They’re
the ones that go right to your brain’s synapses, mimicking the functions of neurotransmitters.
They also work by tapping into the psychological component – in other words, the user’s expectations
about what substance use might mean. Like if you really believe that drinking tequila
makes you more aggressive, and I give you a virgin margarita, your mere expectation
of getting all surly and aggro may actually lead you to punch someone in the neck. That’s
also called the placebo effect. Whether smoked, snorted, ingested, or injected,
we’ll put all of them into three general categories: depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens.
Depressants, like alcohol, tranquilizers, and opiates, do exactly what you’d expect–they
bring the mellow, slow body functions, and suppress neural activity.
Historically, the world’s favorite depressant is alcohol. Beat writer William S. Burroughs
even called it “our national drug.” A little bit of hooch may get the party started,
but not because it’s stimulating anyone. Rather, it’s acting as a disinhibitor, impairing
your brain’s judgement areas, while reducing your self-awareness and self-control. And then because alcohol disrupts memory formations
you may wake up wondering where one of your eyebrows went.
Similar to booze, tranquilizers, or barbiturates, depress nervous system activity and may be
prescribed to ease anxiety or insomnia, though high doses can negatively affect memory and
judgement. And really high doses, or bad interactions with other substances like alcohol, can kill
you. Opiates, like poppy-flower superstar opium
and its derivatives morphine and heroin, work in a similar way, depressing neural activity
and enveloping the brain in a fog of no-pain bliss. The thing is, if a brain keeps getting
flooded with outside opiates, it will eventually stop brewing its own natural pain killing
neurotransmitters, endorphins. The resulting withdrawal is particularly nasty.
Stimulants, obviously, excite rather than suppress neural activity, and speed up body
functions, bringing up your energy, self-confidence, and changing your mood. On the legal end of
the spectrum here, we’ve got caffeine, nicotine, and prescription amphetamines, building up
to the more serious illegal stuff like street amphetamines, meth, Ecstasy, and cocaine.
And you know who loved his coke? Freud. He loved i—t so much—it cheered him up when
we was feeling down, opened up his mind, and turned him into chatty Kathy. He even wrote
his first big publication, “Über Coca” in 1884 about it. During his famous coke years
in his late 20s and 30s, he believed that the drug was a viable cure for morphine addiction.
Which… not so much. Luckily he gave his nose a rest and finally
dropped the habit by his 40s to focus full-time on his cigar addiction. Which is the thing
that ultimately killed him. Cocaine hits the bloodstream in a flash of
energetic euphoria that quickly taxes the brain’s supply of dopamine, serotonin, and
norepinephrine. Methamphetamine also triggers the release of dopamine. You’ll remember
from our lesson on neurotransmitters how these chemical messengers affect our moods, emotions,
attention, and alertness. So when those neurotransmitters are excessively activated, they can become
temporarily depleted, which is what causes that agitated, depressive crash that users
often feel. If you drink coffee every morning, and then
you skip a day, you’ll likely be tired and cranky with a pounding headache. Now multiply
that awful feeling by like thousands and you’ll see why people with coke and meth addictions
might keep chasing that high while their bodies and lives fall apart around them.
In addition to depressants and stimulants, we’ve got hallucinogens, which come in a
variety of plant and fungal forms, as well as synthetic forms like LSD or lysergic acid
diethylamide. Also called psychedelics, these drugs distort perceptions and evoke sensory
images in the absence of actual sensory input. Which means you could end up seeing, hearing,
smelling, or feeling things that are not real. This could be quite nice, if you’re like,
petting baby dolphins or something, but it could also be panic-inducing and generally
messed up, if you think you’ve got a bunch of centipedes crawling under your skin.
The thing is, there are lots of ways to involuntarily hallucinate without the use of drugs. Seizures,
brain injuries, diseases, sensory deprivation, fever, stress, or even extreme grief or depression
can all cause neurological disturbances that spur hallucinations of one kind or another.
Many healthy people have reported experiencing vivid auditory hallucinations when in emergencies,
like, you broke your knee skiing and you wanted to just fall asleep forever in that blanket
of soft snow, but a strong, seemingly audible voice ordered you to KEEP MOVING.
And bizarrely, it isn’t uncommon for people who lose the use of one sense—like vision
or smell–to perceive sights and odors they are no longer capable of sensing as their
brains pull from old memories to produce hallucinations as a way to compensate for that loss.
All this just goes to show that whether you’re a psychologist, neuroscientist, or philosopher,
our various states of consciousness provide a rich, complex world of inquiry to contemplate,
showing yet again, just what a messy and marvelous thing the human mind is.
If your consciousness wasn’t too altered today, you learned what hypnosis is and what
it can and can’t do; how psychoactive depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogenic drugs work on
the brain; and how non-drug induced hallucinations can happen to anyone. Thanks for watching, especially to all of
our Subbable subscribers, who make this whole channel possible. If you’d like to sponsor
an episode of Crash Course, get a special laptop decal, or even be animated into an
upcoming episode, just go to to find out how. This episode was written by Kathleen Yale,
edited by Blake de Pastino, and our consultant is Dr. Ranjit Bhagwat. Our director and editor
is Nicholas Jenkins, Michael Aranda is our sound designer, and our graphics team is Thought

100 thoughts on “Altered States: Crash Course Psychology #10”

  1. Haha. You can ask people to dissociate. I wouldn't dissociate for money! I took a medication many years ago and I had dissociation because of it, and haven't shaken the feeling for years.

  2. I am a bit disappointed in your cursory pass over hallucinogens. The category you have defined as hallucinogens shows so much promising research for treating those suffering from ptsd to cluster headaches, even showing promise in improving recidivism rates among those released from prison. Not too cool guys. Otherwise great work!

  3. I was just watching scenes from transpotting. then some how wandered to this video 7:34 shows….This cant be some coincidence. something about aura leads me to certian things. It happens to me everyday

  4. You'd think Freud would have been the one to invent Coca-Cola since Coke was invented as a drug to stop the Morphine addiction of the inventor John Pemberton.

  5. As a recovering drug addict, I must say this is a v well done video. If you can talk about drugs and NOT trigger an addict to use or desire them, you did a good job.

    PS: loved the Fear and Loathing and Trainspotting references.

  6. Just want to say that opiates do not work on everyone. I found out post-surgery that they have zero effect on pain and caused no euphoria at all. Just general confusion with high doses.

  7. What about a drug like weed that doesn't make you perceive things that aren't there or bring you up or down, but just makes you feel… different. Would that be a hallucinagen though because your perception of how reality feels is different. Also LSD despite also having sensory hallucinations has this quality

  8. How do you explain hallucinations that are novel? No memory of this reality? And how is it explained why there are shared hallucinations/themes? My take is the jury isn't in on this. No research has been done after the entire class of drugs became illegal. Check out MAPS. They are the only organization with the authorization to study psychedelics and their new discoveries would astonish you. I bet there are alot of Vsauce fans here. He did an episide where he went to Puru to participate in an Ayahuasca ceremony. And he did scientific tests during. We must challenge all scientific assumptions with a healthy debate and study.

  9. Psychedelics brought me here, opened my eyes up to learning and understanding the world around me. More than i could describe with words in a youtube comment, they have changed my life in the best way possible.

  10. If Derren Brown's "The Assassin" isn't fake, hypnosis can in fact be used to make a person murder someone else.

  11. I would like to cite Derren brown. He layered hypnotic programming and made someone into an assassin EXACTLY like zoolander. Tell me I'm whatever kind of fool you like and then go look it up and be amazed as a panel of clinical psychologists are baffled by someone doing something they said was impossible.

  12. Disappointed with this episode. I know it's crash course so I'm not expecting something super in depth, but psychedelics were misrepresented and he spent a total of like 11 seconds describing the entire category. He spent more time talking about Freuds Coke use. This is kinda ridiculous as this episode is on altered states and no other compounds have as big an impact on altered states as psychedelics. He also said they let you see things that are not "real", but to make this claim he needs to first define the word "real". Though this may have been done to avoid getting into a philosophical rant.

    Also, he forgot one of the most important ways of reaching altered states. Meditation. With meditation one can reach altered states on par to that of psychedelics.

  13. amphetamine hamster

    Sigh… to all people who angry that he didn't talk about your favourite substance:
    Most of the drugs DO THE SAME THING to the extent, so it's only logical to place them into categories (which is done in the video) and it's pointless to discuss every deviation. Especially when video is 11 minutes long.
    So, yes, it's interesting for example why marijuana usage may induce wide range of behaviours depending on who when and why smoke it, but it's totally fair that in that video Hank talk about broad categories and mechanisms and not all and every drug that out there. Because science. )

  14. There are many components to covert hypnosis training. One place I discovered which succeeds in merging these is the Hyper hypno blueprint (check it out on google) definately the best blueprint that I've seen. look at the interesting info .

  15. Hallucinogens split up to three groups; psychedelics like LSD, dissociatives like PCP or Ketamine and delirants such as daturia or DPH.

    While delirants so far have shown no real therapeutic usage and most of the times will just turn you crazy or kill you, these are the only group of hallucinogens, that cause real hallucinations on a basic level.

    The distortions you experience on psychedelics and dissociatives are mostly pseudo-hallucinations and synaesthetics. Besides, the optical distortion is just a small part of a trip and sadly mistaken by a lot of people, that never did psychedelics or dissociatives. Only on very bad trips or extreme high doses, users won't be able anymore to differenciate between the psychedelic effects and reality.
    while both groups can offer a lot of benefits in psychotherapy, they are a two handed sword: psychedelics may cause serious psychatric disorders and I'm not only talking about psychosis, but also can change your personality drastically. Some people may call most psychedelics psychological and physical safe, but in my hard raving time, I've meet quite a lot of people with serious problems linked to psychedelics. Dissociatives on the other hand could be a good treatment against depression, but they also cause physical harm, may make you lose your mind and are highly addictive to a certain group of people.

    nevertheless, it's just narrowminded to talk about hallucinogens like Crashcourse did in this video.

  16. omg you talk fast… ๐Ÿ™ I understand what you re saying but its too much info too fast ๐Ÿ˜ž (english is not my 1rst language… thanks anyway… i will see this some more times in order to not missing something importante

  17. Wow.. So hallucinating about my ex means I was grieving really bad. It happened when my mom was putting the groceries in the car. She bended down and I saw him walking towards me, I blinked, and he was gone. ๐Ÿ™ this was about 2-3 yrs ago

  18. Hi CrashedCourse, with the legalized testing of psilocybin mushrooms, can you PLEASE do a video just on psychedlics and how they have cured a lot of depression and addictions? Thanks!

  19. WHEN DID ALL OF THOSE UNIVERSITY STUDENTS TURNED INTO WORLD-CLASS PROs OF DRUGS/shrooms/hallucinogen/LSD????? BE ashamed of yourselves :/

  20. if he didnt talk so much and only said what we needed to know, these videos would only be 5 minutes long and i could cram faster.

  21. I love your channel and wanted to be smart with hallucinogens too but I will only state that when you were talking about opiates you meant opioids, as opiates are naturally occuring opioids from the opium poppy plant. Also, even the "harder" drugs can be used safely when in the right hands (I am for example using methamphetamine for studying – I have ADHD – when I am out of modafinil). Sadly, one of the "harder" drugs is being misused everyday and sometimes even glorified. Anyway, keep the good work!

    Btw. alcohol withdrawal is one of the worst possible withdrawals, including deliriant-like hallucinations and rapid physiological changes that might actually be lethal. It's not a toy, despite being used like that but weed should have been on its place for a long time.

  22. look at this one here: we know somehow that before we were born there was nothing. but how can be know there was nothing if we weren't there as well being automatically conscious of nothingness – because let's say if we truly didnt exist when dead and without body/person/mind then we wouldn't know that there was nothing before birth – hmm so it's truly funny – but somehow even for nothingness or somethingness – there first needs to be consciousness for it to exists :O

  23. let's say you suddenly felt huge pain – then the pain passed and you are like "wow I was in so much pain previously" – for this to be acknowledged you first need to be consciouss – if you weren't consciouenss first and then in pain second – then you wouldn't even know there was huge pain there for a time – in the same way lets say before you were born – there was nothing – but you must have been there in some form to still know there was nothing ๐Ÿ˜€ because if you weren't there to be conscious of it then you wouldn't even know there was nothing before birth – you would just be born and not ever think about before birth because you would have no data of it – but since are able to say "there was nothing before birth" then this implies that you must have been there as consciousness of the situation but probably you weren't there as person/mind/body. it's truly tricky – and also ps: many people are afraid of death but we already were dead – so whomever was born will die and whomever is dead will be born xD funny stuff

  24. Evidence:ย  Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have had ''bad trips'' upon taking hallucinogens.ย ย  Acid Head Reaction:ย  ''Oh no!ย  Hallucinogens are GOOD!ย  It's just people who took those 'things' (which can't have been the GOOD hallucinogens… and ALL hallucinogens are GOOD) who are the problem!''

  25. If you're going to be balanced, you really should have given psychedelics their own dedicated episode. They really deserve way more than a few passing comments. If you have a conversation on altered states you need to discuss DMT, LSD, and Psilocybin mushrooms in much more depth

  26. i know its like 3 years late but for all the people arguing about psychedelics, hallucinogens, and such: he's out here helping us pass the ap exam, in which case the things in the video help, and not much indulge on the explanations of the drugs themselves because this isn't a drug episode, it's a states of conciousness one. Of course, i do understand he shouldn't have said "aka psychedelics" for hallucinogens, but that's so people who arent familiar with the harder term recognise a more common term.

  27. You don't ACTUALLY see things that aren't there on psychedelics. -_- Unless you took a HERO dose. Also, you guys completely missed the opportunity to explain that psychedelics are the ORIGINAL psychologist's tool to heal the mentally ill. No BS SSRI's, only real serotonin and mind-blowing experience where you can actually work through your problems during ego death instead of just sweeping them under the rug, numbing you, and calling it "fixed."

  28. Is there a sort of fastly repeating insect-like clicking noise, when the words "Neuro-logical disturbances" shows? Or am I hallucinating? It sounds a bit like the grudge monster, or slurping a thick-shake.

  29. LSD isn't only synthetic. It's just as natural as any other fungal psychedelic and can be isolated from Ergot, which was also likely the cause of the Salem Witch Trials.

  30. PhotoSmith Photography

    1: I thought Freud was injecting coke? I know Sherlock Holmes was injecting coke.
    2: You forgot animal hallucinogens, animal opiates (frog comes to mind for both. Although their is a case which reindeer are involved however it because of what the reindeer are eating, I believe mushrooms, which is then taken into the herdsmen through eating of the deers liver and then subsequently through drinking of the piss of whomever at the liver. As nearly all the alkaloids pass through the person and are able to be used again. pretty sure itโ€™s the deer liver but maybe the deer piss instead of or alternatively too
    3: German scientists found oxycodone to be rather unique in that it causes stimulant effects as well as the normal opiate ones. In fact they warned that because of this it could pose even greater risk of addiction and overuse. Funny see as Purdue claimed oxycodone to be non addictive around ummm i dunno 50+ years later or more.

  31. 5:12 so with tolerance to a drug, does that mean the drug works less? Or are you just less aware of the effects?
    I ask this because I am in my teens and Iโ€™ll have to take a drug for the rest of my life. And I am worried that the drugs effect will go with age.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *