n common patterning of functioning in all of these people, a common
pattern superimposed on their individual uniqueness, we may hypothesize something to explain this
common pattern. This hypothesized something might be a common personality trait, belief system,
physical attribute, or, in terms of our interest a common state of consciousness. Particularly, if we know
that all the observed individuals ingested marijuana just before we began observing them, we will be
tempted to say that the common pattern of functioning we observe is the result of their all being in a
state of marijuana intoxication.
Note, however, that it is the empirically observed common pattern of functioning1 that is the crucial
defining operation of the state of consciousness; the fact that they had all ingested marijuana serves
secondarily to specify something we think to be a cause of the hypothesized state of consciousness.
What, then, are the properties of this hypothesized state of consciousness, marijuana intoxication
How do we discover these properties
Clearly the way to answer this is to give marijuana to a number of people and observe what is
common in their experience and behavior. Unfortunately, the observation process is much more complex
and full of pitfalls than we would expect.
Much of our usual experience with the effects of drugs on consciousness misleads us into expecting
fairly simple relationships. If, for example, you give a strong dose of barbiturates or other sedatives to a
person, he almost always goes to sleep. Hence we describe the state of consciousness (or lack of it)
induced by barbiturates as a barbiturate-induced sleep. There is little variability across subjects, and our
observational process is simple.
With a psychoactive drug like marijuana, on the other hand, the variability across subjects is very
high, and the observation process itself may systematically bias what we observe, as will be detailed in
the next section. It may even turn out that different people might experience different states of
consciousness from using marijuana, that is, the observed patterns of experience and behavior fall into
several distinct patterns rather than a single pattern common to all individuals. We generally consider
alcohol intoxication, for example, as a single state, yet on a second thought there are clearly some
individuals who have very different experiences with alcohol from those the majority of us have. A drug
may thus stimulate a reorganization of functioning, but the nature of the new pattern may be determined
by factors other than the nature of the drug per se.
Let us consider in detail the question of why a given individual, taking marijuana (or any other
psychoactive drug, for that matter) at a particular time and place, might experience the particular things
that he does.
VARIABILITY OF DRUG-INDUCED STATES
Our common experience with many drugs inclines us to think along the line that "Drug A has effects
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