Dissociative intensity scale

This article does not represent an individual subjective effect component but instead serves to model the overall dissociative experience as a systematic progression of levels. Each level of this system aims to both denote the various disconnective, visual, cognitive, and physical effects that occur, as well as characterize the general intensity and feeling of the experience. It should be noted that the specific effects listed within this levelling system may vary in their occurrence, style, and intensity across different substances and individuals. Nonetheless, this article still serves as an accurate approximation for measuring the intensity of a person's dissociative experience. For comparison between the various levels of dissociative states versus the psychedelic experience, please see our equivalent psychedelic intensity scale. Although the scale itself applies specifically to more classical dissociatives such as ketamine, DXM, PCP, and MXE. It does, however, exclude more a-typical dissociatives such as nitrous oxide and memantine. This levelling system can be broken down into 5 basic levels of intensity, which are described below:

1. Subtle

At the lowest level, dissociatives typically induce a small range of subtle cognitive effects which may be beneficial for enhancing a person's sociability, relaxation, and creativity. However, these changes may be difficult to distinguish between that of genuine alterations and the placebo effect. The specific subtle effects which generally occur at this level of intensity are described and documented within their own dedicated articles, each of which are listed below:

2. Mild

At this level, the effects of dissociatives can be generally described as a subtle dulling of the senses and a vague sense of subjective detachment from the external environment. This is also accompanied by more pronounced versions of the cognitive effects which were listed in the previous level. The user may have to pay close attention to the effects of the substance for them to be recognizable, or they may be slightly noticeable but will not insist upon the user's attention. The specific subtle effects which generally occur at this level of intensity are described and documented within their own dedicated articles, each of which are listed below:

Sensory

Cognitive

3. Distinct

At this level, the environment starts to feel physically further away in distance and increasingly disconnected from a person’s sensory perception. Partially blurred and double vision sets in while anaesthetic-like effects such as tactile numbness begin to take place. At this point, motor control, coordination, and balance become somewhat suppressed and mechanical in a manner that is partially compensated for by a feeling of the body being in "autopilot". In terms of sound, the sense of hearing also seems to become vague, muffled, and distant. Accompanying these effects, a number of inconsistent and brief visual distortions may also occur spontaneously during certain dissociative experiences. These distortions can include alterations in perceived distances between objects, visual segmentation of one's vision into glitch like cubes or slices, and changes to the perceived size of one's body or environment. During this level, if one allows themselves to relax while closing their eyes, they may fleetingly find themselves drifting off into a darkened hallucinatory void filled with simplistic shapes, forms, and structures. This is usually a very brief experience which can easily be interrupted by external stimuli such as noises and other general distractions. Depending on the person's level of experience, these effects can be allowed to occupy a predominant role within the person's perception or they may be mostly ignored and made somewhat secondary to other chosen activities. The specific distinct effects which generally occur at this level of intensity are described and documented within their own dedicated articles, each of which are listed below:

Sensory

Cognitive

Physical

4. Strong

At this level, the sensory and cognitive disconnection has completely blocked out one’s perception of the external environment. It is here where the person finds themselves undergoing an out-of-body experience as they float in a variety of directions and orientations through a dissociative hole which can be described as a expansive darkened void containing a wide array of hallucinatory content and structures. These structures are usually formed from solid materials which can take the form of any shape. However, common examples include vast and monolithic pillars, columns, tunnels, blocks, buildings, slides, monuments, wheels, pyramids, caves, and a variety of abstract or fractal shapes. Depending on the dissociative consumed, the effect known as geometry may also occur to varying extents. However, it is worth noting that dissociative geometry rarely exceeds level 4 and is generally far more simplistic and colourless and than that of its psychedelic counterpart. This is the level at which the effects become powerful enough to render the person undergoing them as incapable of functioning, interacting normally, or thinking in a sober manner. At this level, the effects of the substance are clear and can no longer be ignored in any capacity, leaving the user entirely engaged in the experience whether they wish to be or not. In terms of how this looks from an outsiders perspective, the person will usually appear to be heavily sedated and almost entirely unconscious. The specific distinct effects which generally occur at this level of intensity are described and documented within their own dedicated articles, each of which are listed below:

Sensory

Cognitive

Physical

5. Heavy

At the highest level, the dissociation and detachment from their senses and consciousness has become intense enough for a person’s long-term memory and feeling of selfhood to cease functioning. This leads into a state which is commonly referred to as "ego death" due to the way in which the person completely loses their ability to recall and comprehend their own sense of identity. This state of ego loss is accompanied by extremely vivid hallucinatory voids, structures, geometric forms, sensory disconnection, internal hallucinations, delusions, and occasionally life-changing spiritual or transpersonal experiences. The specific distinct effects which generally occur at this level of intensity are described and documented within their own dedicated articles, each of which are listed below:

Sensory

Cognitive

Physical

5. Extreme

The highest level of detachment occurs when a person loses all sensory awareness and normal cognitive functioning. This renders the person unconscious and consistently leaves extended gaps in a person’s memory with large periods of amnesia which are generally impossible to recall once the experience is over. It’s at this level that dissociatives such as ketamine are used in medical procedures for their anaesthetic effects. At this level, the person will experience the effects typically associated with the previously described heavy dosage during the onset and offset of their trip. During the peak, however, they will simply black out and become unconscious for a prolonged period of time that is directly proportional to the dosage consumed. Although this extreme dissociative state may be attractive to certain individuals, it is worth noting that this level of intensity is not only potentially dangerous but also less therapeutic and explorative than the previous levels.

References

  1. Top-down mechanisms of anesthetic-induced unconsciousness (ncbi | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4066704/

Tags

disconnective
dissociative
plateau system

Contributors

The following people contributed to the content of this article:

Josie