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The Dream Drugstore: Chemically Altered States of Consciousness [Hardcover]

J. Allan Hobson
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1, 2001 0262082934 978-0262082938 Reprint
In this book, J. Allan Hobson offers a new understanding of altered states of consciousness based on knowledge of how our brain chemistry is balanced when we are awake and how that balance shifts when we fall asleep and dream. He draws on recent research that enables us to explain how psychedelic drugs work to disturb that balance and how similar imbalances may cause depression and schizophrenia. He also draws on work that expands our understanding of how certain drugs can correct imbalances and restore the brain's natural equilibrium.

Hobson explains the chemical balance concept in terms of what we know about the regulation of normal states of consciousness over the course of the day by brain chemicals called neuromodulators. He presents striking confirmation of the principle that every drug that has transformative effects on consciousness interacts with the brain's own consciousness-altering chemicals. In the section called "The Medical Drugstore," Hobson describes drugs used to counteract anxiety and insomnia, to raise and lower mood, and to eliminate or diminish the hallucinations and delusions of schizophrenia. He discusses the risks involved in their administration, including the possibility of new disorders caused by indiscriminate long-term use. In "The Recreational Drugstore," Hobson discusses psychedelic drugs, narcotic analgesia, and natural drugs. He also considers the distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate drug use. In the concluding "Psychological Drugstore," he discusses the mind as an agent, not just the mediator, of change, and corrects many erroneous assumptions and practices that hinder the progress of psychoanalysis.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This engrossing scientific analysis of brain chemistry gives a broad survey of the complex chemical and psychic interactions that produce alterations in human consciousness. Arguing that there are clear, although not direct, correspondences between "normal dreaming, the visions induced by psychedelic drugs, and the psychosis of mental illness," Hobson explores in layman's language and with personal anecdotes as well as historical examples the significance, purpose and function of these states for the human mind. Drawing upon a wide range of theories and discoveries such as William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), David Hartley's startling theories of dreaming (circa 1804) and Albert Hofmann's accidental discovery of LSD in 1938 Hobson elucidates such cultural and scientific questions as how Freud's dream theory relates to neurobiology, how Prozac and other antidepressants work and whether human consciousness and memory can be changed. Hobson views the brain itself as endlessly protean and malleable it is his eponymous "dream drugstore." His nonprejudicial, systemic approach to the various effects of brain chemistry is both enlightening and culturally challenging in its radical view of how psychedelics could be used in therapy and research into the causes of mental illness. Never avoiding the hard science behind his theories, Hobson delivers an important, needed addition to the literature on drugs, sleep, mental disturbances and brain science that is highly accessible to the common reader as well as to the scientist.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


"A fascinating book...clear, accessible, and jargon-free."
Varda Peller Backus, M.D., Psychiatric Services

"...highly accessible to the common reader as well as to the scientist."
Publishers Weekly

" accessible and a fascinating read."
Solomon H. Snyder, Nature Neuroscience

Product Details

  • Series: Bradford Books
  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; Reprint edition (July 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262082934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262082938
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,838,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great April 23, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hobson has written yet another very good book on the neurochemical mechanisms of conscious states. Certainly, there is not very much one has not read before on his books like Consciousness, Dream as Delirium or The Chemistry of Consicous States. But still, the book should be read because it cuts into some very deep issues regarding consicousness and neurochemistry, specially with regards to dreaming and sleep research. Now the thing is this book is supposed to be about the action of prescription and recreational drugs, but one gets Hobsons model of conscious states, and only then a little of how it explains the actions of those drugs. THis is not necessarily a bad thing, for models are good foundations for such explorations, but maybe a lot more space should have been given to drugs and their actions in the brain.
Hobsons well known model of conscious states, AIM, standing for activation (high-low), Input output grating (internal or external information sources) and modulation (aminergic or cholinergic) is presented in the book, and is supposed to do the lot of the explanatory work. The model is useful in this sense, but I have doubts about its power to actually explain what consicousness is. Activation seems to determine waking, not consciousness per se, Input determines content, not consicousness per se, and modulation seems to be in the level of processing mode, and not processing itself. IN other words, it is not clear to me neurochemistry is the right level where one can find really interesting causal links, like neural correlates of consciousness. But the reality is that the model is grounded on firm evidence and good science, and does explain many things ABOUT consicousness. It certainly adds important things to the debate.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Big Bite June 2, 2003
By J. Eure
Having completed my honors thesis on the structure and function of REM sleep, I feel that I know a bit about the subject of dreams. I have read myriad scientific articles by J.A. Hobson and even another of his books, entitled Sleep. I got about 50 pages into this one and realized I still may have bitten off a bit more than I could chew. The audience Hobson was aiming at here must be the scientific community because I found myself skipping paragraphs at a time because of the tedious detail of neuro-pathways and receptor information that Hobson plows through with an expectation that the reader will need little or no introduction or explanation of the complex neuroanatomy and chemistry that he discusses. He is a great writer, but unless you are a neurochemist, I would recommend one of his other books on the topic of dreams and sleep.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Free your brain-mind November 13, 2002
This is an intriguing but ultimately frustrating book from one of the leading luminaries of dream/sleep science. With the central thesis being that altered states of consciousness from psychosis to psychedelic intoxication result from the disintegration of boundaries between normally separate brain-mind states (sleeping and waking), this book itself cannot decide what book-state it wishes to occupy. Too cursory to be a book about the neuro-chemistry of dreaming and consciousness in general, too anecdotal to be an adequate discussion of the multifarious effects of various psycho-active drugs (from Prozac to LSD), and too preliminary to be a manifesto for a neuro-dynamic psychiatry, Hobson would like his book to be all these things. While reading it did inspire me to learn more about the actual mechanics of the brain, I felt again and again that what this book really cried out for was a strong editorial hand. There are too many asides, too little sustained argumentation, and in fact, too many goals for this book to cohere and succeed. Succeed at one, you might ask? Hobson is a standard-bearer for an enlightened, scientific realism, who strives to demystify human experience by demonstrating that all transcendent states (from dreaming to tripping) are grounded in the physical chemistry of the brain and, therefore, do not refer to any metaphysical reality. Although science is a long way from isolating or producing the super-specific consciousness effects that we each experience phenomenologically, Hobson believes, and I concur, that it is only a matter of time. Read more ›
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