4 The Acute Intoxication: Literary and Other Reports

Perhaps the most meaningful way of conveying an appreciation of the nature of the acute cannabis intoxication is through the accounts of some of those who have recorded their own experiences. Among the most articulate of these descriptions are those of some of the nineteenth-century literary figures who experimented with the drug. Their accounts are important not only because they were so successful in putting into words some of the more subtle aspects of the experience, but because they have enormously influenced the general impression of the nature of the acute cannabis intoxication. The effusive descriptions of such writers as Gautier, Taylor, Baudelaire, and Ludlow are, however, often excessive and distorted and frequently have little to do with the moderate use of cannabis (e.g., the smoking of marihuana), for they were written about and under the influence of large amounts of ingested hashish, sometimes admixed with other drugs. Nonetheless, these writings, so influential in creating the Western impression of cannabis, deserve considerable study, just because they do illuminate some of the quantitative and qualitative differences between the intoxication produced by large amounts of ingested hashish and that of moderate doses of smoked marihuana.

It is helpful to regard the French reports of hashish intoxication as offshoots of a literary revolution. Viewed in such a light, many excesses and exaggerations concerning the effects of hashish be- come less puzzling; in many cases it was not the hashish alone, but the excitement engendered by a new approach to literature, com- bined with the intoxication of the writers' already exceptional powers of imagination and narration, that caused the fantastic

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Marihuana Reconsidered
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