In the recently released fourth season of Stranger Things, the 1985 song “Running Up That Hill” saves Sadie Sink’s character Max from the monster Vecna by pulling her out of the Upside Down and back to the real world. This may be a metaphor for how music can help young people escape some of the horrors of their teenage years — or just clear evidence of the sheer power of Kate Bush.
And as Twitter user @eoinalexxander recently pointed out, getting stuck in the Upside Down sounds a whole lot like being in a K-hole. So what are the odds our favorite 1980s ballads could pull us out of that, too?
A K-hole is an experience that occurs when you take enough ketamine to induce psychosis. When this happens, the thalamic reticular nucleus located near the center of the brain “stops functioning properly and leads to an excess of dopamine released,” explains physician Lawrence Weinstein, chief medical officer of American Addiction Centers. “The excess dopamine released due to thalamic dysfunction also causes dopamine to reach the prefrontal cortex, which is an area of the brain responsible for reasoning and decision-making, and the striatum, or the reward center.”
Since a K-hole is associated with an overactivation of dopamine receptors, there’s really no way out of it. “Ketamine is an anesthetic, and much like anesthesia, time is the way in which the effects fade,” Weinstein says.
Alison Draisin, a psychotherapist and psychologist who provides ketamine-assisted therapy, agrees, equating a K-hole to an ego death. “From a clinical perspective, the K-hole is where ego dissolution occurs,” Draisin explains. “When you’re in it, there’s no getting out of it — not with a song, not with an elixir, not with anything else. You just have to ride it out.”
Unfortunately, this holds true for how much Kate Bush you play along the way, too. So keep running up that hill, buddy, and we’ll see you on the other side.