Trying to rip-off a Philip K. Dick novel "Now Wait for Last Year" in which characters take a drug that allows them to "time-travel" though there's much debate about whether or not its authentic time-travel, traveling to parallel realities, or simply very specific hallucinations.

Question is, are there in any ways in which a time-travel drug could be passably plausible. If not, are there any ways in which a drug could induce extremely specific kinds of hallucinations like a time-travel hallucination that could be passably plausible? Plausible? Ridiculous and silly?

  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like the drug "Flashback". A drug first written about by Dan Simmons in the Hyperion Cantos. He also wrote an entire story revolving around it called, of course, "Flashback". Though I haven't read it. The people simply relive memories from their past in vivid detail. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Nov 24 '15 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ I believe there's also a drug like that in Code Geass, though it's been a while since I watched it. Sounds like it's a more common thing than I thought it was. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Feb 7 '18 at 14:20

As hallucinations? Sure. Your brain can be convinced of all sorts of things given the right chemical cocktail. See The Anathema's answer for more on that (it has science words and everything!).

As actual glimpses of the past? Why not. There's an awful lot of information stored in the universe that we don't have any (cognitive) access to. A drug that kicks some of the activity in your brain into a hyperentangled state in the dimension of quantised handwavium that lets you pull information about the past out of seemingly unrelated events (especially ones that you remember but haven't really thought about before) is possible.

As actual glimpses of the future? Depends on your time travel paradigm and your philosophical stance on the nature of cognition. If your 'self' isn't tightly coupled to your body, and you don't mind paradox resolution, then you can manage it. Otherwise the drug you've invented will either not work, blow up the world on the first pass, or it's called 'rohypnol' and the person telling you that you just time travelled has stolen your wallet.

You did time travel though! To the future!


When mentally placing yourself in the past or future, different regions of the brain are active.

Past & Future: The left hippocampus and posterior visuospatial regions.

Future: The right hippocampus, right frontopolar cortex, and the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.

And when aligning future events with one's goals, the ventral medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex are active.

If there is some way to stimulate these respective regions and remove any sort of semblance of presence and self within the present, I feel it's reasonable to think it could be indistinguishable from time travel to the person who received this stimulation. This would qualify for your hallucination type of time travel. It would be literally indistinguishable.

There's a great paper on PubMed called Schizotypy and mental time travel. which summarises that "those scoring highly on positive schizotypy reported a greater sense of 'autonoetic awareness,' defined as a greater feeling of mental time travel and re-living/'pre-living' imagined events."

All you have to do is stimulate the right areas of the brain, through the drug or otherwise.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm assuming that this is relating to sensations of being in the past or future, not that I can actually time travel with a well placed 9 volt battery to the frontopolar cortex (awesome as that might be)... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Nov 24 '15 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ Dang it. I was just getting ready with the power drill and the crocodile clips!! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Nov 24 '15 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that's the route I was going. My thoughts were taking what we know about the brain and how to emulate time travel sense-wise, since our brains are the source of what we perceive to be reality. $\endgroup$ – The Anathema Nov 24 '15 at 17:15

The easiest answer is a drug which causes the user to experience an event in their own past in excruciatingly vivid detail. I believe such a drug showed up in the TV series Continuum (which, ironically, had an actual time travel plot device).

To the user it would feel very much like time travel, albeit along their personal timeline, so they couldn't witness the birth of Christ or assassinate Hitler, but it could potentially let them "undo" mistakes in their own lives (little more than alleviating guilt or shame, but the effect could be strong enough to make real change in the person's personality and behavior), similar to the idea of hypnosis therapy.

  • $\begingroup$ But it only changes their own subjective memories? No-one else is affected? $\endgroup$ – Tim B Nov 24 '15 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ In this case, yes. If you want a drug that actually does time travel, things get Complicated. The first question you'd have to ask yourself is what rules time travel plays by: inevitable, changeable, or branching. The former means that anything the user does, they already did. The second is "classical" time travel (and as a drug this would cause all kinds of devastation). The last you brought up yourself as alternate timelines. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Nov 24 '15 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Draco18s: Don't forget all the different nuances in interactions between time travellers! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Nov 24 '15 at 17:09

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