Hallucinations Aren’t Evil

Hallucinations are often referenced as an inherently negative symptom of a mental illness. This framing of hallucinations is then used to demonise the hallucinations one may experience while under the influence of certain psychoactive substances, especially those generally referred to as ‘psychedelics’.

Regina v McEwen; Regina v Simpson; Regina v Simpson; Regina v Marcovich Matter Nos 60535 /96 [ 1998] NSWSC 1005 (12 March 1998 ) (AUSTLII)

Professor Johnston stated that Nexus profoundly affects human beings following oral ingestion. It alters sensory perception. The effect depends on the size of the dose. Hallucination means an altered sensory perception, for example, seeing strange visions or hearing noises (or voices), an altered sense of smell or an altered sense of taste. Hallucinatory drugs affect thought, perception and mood without causing marked psychomotor stimulation or depression (T 2206). Hallucinatory drugs alter the perceptions as to what is real. It is sufficient if one of the major sensors is changed. The consumer sees something which is not there or has an altered perception about something which is there. Professor Johnston’s views were based on a comprehensive study of the scientific literature available, his own extensive scientific knowledge and material on the Internet. He had exercised special caution as to the latter because it could not be verified. He thought that, when considered with the other sources and materials, the volume of the material on the Internet from so many people was of some weight notwithstanding not being able to question them or test what they asserted. The details which many had supplied had been helpful in evaluating the material. He had also relied on his scientific skills of analysis and assessment. Professor Johnston pointed out that experiments on humans with Nexus are illegal.

Professor Johnston did not think it was useful to distinguish between an altered perception of something which is there and of something which is not there. He though that in both instances the point was that there was an altered perception of the world. He disagreed with the proposition that hallucinations applied only to perceptions of something which is not there. Professor Johnston thought that it was necessary to look at every alleged or possible hallucination where there was an altered perception of something which is there on a case by case basis. One example given in one of the dictionaries relied on by the appellants is where a person thinks that everything is very much smaller than it is. The person’s sense of scale is markedly astray, eg, everything might appear to be Lilliputian.

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