I would have to say no. Can drugs give you cool experiences…even spiritually profound ones? Perhaps. But this would be the same as any glimpse gained through meditation.
I remember that while I was in college I meditated in a courtyard between several of the main buildings on campus. It was a cool fall evening and I don’t recall how long I sat there, but suddenly I felt I was at one with my surroundings. The trees were me, the rocks were me, the buildings were me, etc. It lasted until I got up to return to my dorm room. It was strange, but it was like I was walking on myself and after a few steps the feeling faded. Now this is a fairly classic mystical experience.
From what I have heard of people who speak about their psychedelic drug experiences, sometimes you get a sensation of being disconnected from one’s body and that the surrounding environment is unreal. I have never taken drugs, but I have had this kind of experience through meditation. Other drug experiences include descriptions as psychic death and rebirth, meeting strange entities, grappling with eternity, traveling to different dimensions, and feeling both overwhelming terror and unconditional love. Also, all of which has been experienced by me through meditation.
However, none of my meditations led to enlightenment. I would not even call meditation (as I was doing it) a tool to lead to enlightenment. It was egoic…it was me that was meditating and me that had the experiences. This is the same problem with drug experiences. There was a me that took the drugs and a me that had the experiences. In either case, there is a bit of pride about the experience and a wishing to get it back (or improve upon it).
Enlightenment is seeing through the “me” and the illusions of the mind, which has the effect of ending suffering. Now a glimpse might give you a peek that the “me” doesn’t exist…but afterwards you still really believe the “me” does exist. You still feel that you really are this body/mind/”me”. Otherwise, who would there be to have pride in the experience….and who is the me that would like the experience again?
I get the very same reaction to saying “drugs can not lead to enlightenment” with people who love using psychedelics (in the hopes of enlightenment) as I do with saying “meditation can not lead to enlightenment” with people who love to meditate (in the hopes of enlightenment). Both “egoic” meditation and drugs offer great experiences…glimpses into a different viewpoint perhaps; however, neither really shatters the “me” – for good. The illusion of “me” is never seen through so that the illusion never causes confusion again.
Instead, what I see by enlightenment seekers through meditation or drugs is an invested “I”…I have done this and I have made this progress. However, progress is an illusion…and the idea of progress towards Liberation is in fact the bondage itself. When you believe you are making progress towards enlightenment, you are not really becoming any closer to awakening. Instead, you are reinforcing the illusion of this “me” who is making progress. How does this help in realizing there is no “me”? No “me”…no progress. Both “me” and progress are illusions of the mind.
If you look at the vast numbers of people who get up from meditation cushions or come off psychedelic drug trips, what you see is that by and large they are pretty much the same prior to meditation/drugs as after. They still fear death and resist change. They still are not really happy or at peace (day to day). They still suffer and have problems in life. They still believe in the “me” and seek enlightenment.
There can be profound spiritual experiences that alter your viewpoints and change your life, but it will never get rid of the “you”. That “I” and “me” will still continue to be believed and cause suffering. As a “me”, “you” will be looking to the next drug trip…maybe that one will give final enlightenment. But that is not how it works. This is why drugs can not be used as a tool to reach enlightenment.