Tweaker "Hears the Voices" of Colors

By Dirk Hanson 04/15/11

A speed freak goes nuts when the colors in his carpet start discussing his treatment prognosis.

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Magic_Carpet_Rid.jpg
Do not take speed and stare at this picture.
Photo via wolfepaw.deviantart

We know that some drugs, like LSD and X, can produce hallucinogenic effects such as pretty colors—enhanced, rippling, dramatic hues and textures. Effects like these are part of what has historically drawn artists and intellectuals into experimentation with powerful psychoactive drugs. But nobody thinks of speed that way. Trucker bennies? Bathtub crank? Good for a cross-country drive or 24 hour’s worth of bad sex, but colors? An amazing case history of methampethamine-induced psychosis involving colors was recently reported by The American Journal on Addictions. A meth-addicted patient had “developed odd behaviors such as boiling animal statues. He was hearing the voices of colors, which were in the carpet. Colors moved around and talked to each other about the patient.” Vaughan Bell, a prominent British research psychologist, reports on the case of the 30 year-old Iranian man from Shiraz at Mind Hacks. Bell calls it a loosely defined case of “synaesthesia”—the intermixing of sensory pathways that, for example, results in some people experiencing numbers or names as specific colors.  But Bell says it might also just be a good old garden-variety psychedelic-style hallucination--rare, but not unheard of, with amphetamines. Still, if anyone needed another good reason to skip meth, perhaps the idea of being ordered around by the colors in your carpet might be enough to give you pause.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]

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