We humans are constituted to be seekers of a universal vision. Our longing is to see the whole and to comprehend our part in it. This urge rises as we enter adolescence, when our bodies begin to develop the procreative dimension of our nature, and the urge to give birth to new life takes root in the heart. The adolescent is propelled towards a society of peers, bringing into this quest for vision the place of society and the place of self in society. Between the forces of instinct and society, the psychic energies of the adolescent are pressed upwardly, so that the first buds of personality begin to unfold, the self now taking on its own identity, and an attitude toward itself. If carried through naturally, in time, beyond adolescence, shortly after, the vision will emerge and serve to guide a person throughout life towards the vision’s consummation. Both the world and the personality will flower. This sane universal urge for vision, unfortunately, underlies adolescent drug abuse.
Adolescent drug abuse arises out of the urgency for vision, a passion that is more pronounced in adolescence, for experiences are still deficient. The vision does not belong to adolescence. Passion demands insight, but such insight may come only through long experience, and will be more pure if suffering has flowed through many of those experiences. Demanding the vision now, the Grail, the Philosopher’s Stone which alchemist believed would transmute base matter to gold, the adolescent discovers a kind of vision through psychedelic drugs.
Once tasted, psychedelic drugs, if the first experiences of it are overwhelmingly pleasurable or have had a unifying effect on all that adolescent experiences so as to present an insight, a vision (which may be wrong or right), that drug will be sought by the adolescent as often as possible in order to renew the vision and its effects. The difficulty here is that, being based on drugs, the vision requires just that renewal: a true vision sustains itself. Adolescent drug abuse of psychedelics resolves the urge for vision, but now restricts the growth of personality and wisdom.
A vision that requires continual refreshment is not a genuine vision, but an illusion. Psychedelic drugs produce exactly that effect, illusion. Since these illusions are devoid of real structures, the one under its spell cannot operate effectively in the world. The illusions, rather than carrying the adolescent through to fruition, if pursued, must ultimately resolve into emptiness. If not rescued, the adolescent drug abuser will more than likely end as an adult in mental ward.
When treating adolescent drug abuse, we must not lose sight of the originating impulse that the drug has stifled, the quest for vision. It is as important to direct the adolescent back to the quest and to those lines of pursuit that will deliver genuine insight. This can be any number of avenues, from nature appreciation, to art and music, to philosophy, to science, or to religion, those quests which have provided man with the vision of self and world that have sustained humanity over the ages. Recovery means, here, also recovery of the quest.