The most important aspects covered in the chapter are near death experiences and drugs and consciousness. The two aspects help give a clearer understanding of how the human brain functions when it comes to the effects of drugs and stress on the brain. The discussion on near-death experiences is important as it offers some insight into what these events are and why they occur. People from all over the world have reported near-death experiences where they felt as if they were no longer inside their bodies. Most of them report how they felt as if they were floating above their bodies and were about to embrace the light before they were brought back to life.
Most of the people who report such experiences have come close to death during physical traumas or cardiac arrests (Schnaper, 1980). Skeptics believe that such experiences occur when the brain is under considerable amount of stress. They cite that the same activities that occur during these near-death experiences are similar to hallucinogenic experiences, especially those caused by drugs. Even children who have been resuscitated after appearing dead for more than thirty seconds claim they have near-death recollections.
According to the critics, the near-death experience is nothing more than a stressed brain reacting to a lack of oxygen. Oxygen deprivation switches off the inhibitory cells of the brain, increasing the neural activity in the visual cortex. The result is a seemingly growing patch of light and tunnel vision (Siegel, 1980). Thus, the near-death experience is simply a hallucination owing to deprived levels of oxygen in the brain.
Many people do not agree with the proposition that near-death experiences are simply hallucinogenic occurrences. They argue that unlike drug-induced hallucinations, the people who go through near-death experiences tend to change their lives afterwards. They are kinder, more loving, and willing to take their time to solve problems rather than get into a panic attack.
The other aspect, drugs and consciousness, helps us understand how drugs contribute to hallucinogenic experiences in human beings. The discussion has helped us determine the different types of drugs as well as how human beings get addicted to them. Most drugs mimic naturally occurring hormones in the brain to a point where the drug-user cannot live without the said drugs. Furthermore, the discussion also offers some insight into the reasons behind addictions. Some people get addicted to drugs while others do not owing to biological influences, psychological, and socio-cultural influences.
Another aspect that should be covered in this chapter is how certain drugs increase intelligence among human beings. Several studies indicate that marijuana use can actually increase the intelligence quotients of its users (Gumbiner, 2013). The chapter should discuss how this is possible and whether it is ethical to legalize marijuana among other drugs owing to this astonishing find.
Gumbiner, J. (2013, Mar 19). Marijuana and intelligence: Does long-term use of cannabis make you dumber? Retrieved on 30/5/2016 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-teenage-mind/201303/marijuana-and-intelligence
Schnaper, N. (1980). Comments germane to the paper entitled “The reality of death experiences” by Ernst Rodin. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 168, 268–270. (p. 127)
Siegel, R. K. (1980). The psychology of life after death. American Psychologist, 35, 911–931. (p. 127)