Following this post is a fascinating article from the New Yorker published in 2015 on current day use of Psilocybin with patients dealing with terminal cancer. The affect has been remarkable, and is causing psychedelics as a whole to be reconsidered as a therapeutic tool. Before the 1960's when the use of Psychedelics spilled out into the youth counter culture, LSD had for two decades been used with remarkable success by Psychiatrists for treating alcoholism(Bill W. the founder of A.A., had been treated and thought LSD was of primary importance in his beating his alcoholism) depression, and anxiety. Tim Leary's prophet like zeal put psychedelics into the hands of an unprepared youth culture and wiped out their therapeutic potentials in the hands of experts. Their impact on the culture long term can only be termed positive as seen in the blossoming of the awareness yoga, meditation, organic agriculture, the women's movement, environmental awareness and their impact on the arts. However, Richard Nixon, seeing how psychedelics undermined respect in authoritarian power, and how they fueled the resistance of counterculture, placed them on a schedule 1 list that included heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and barbiturates. This list indicates a substance has no medical use and has a high potential for abuse. Since this placement, almost no progress has been made my researchers into the therapeutic use of these substances. In their absence, the use of SSRI anti-depressants have skyrocketed(fueled by the greed of medical corporations)in the response to the worldwide epidemic of depression, and the present epidemic of opiate addiction(also fueled by the greed of medical corporations).
Medical Corporations were never interested and will never be interested in supporting Psychedelic Research because so little of their use is required for long term psychological benefit. Extraordinary therapeutic benefit has been measured in 1-2 sessions, while SSRIs(which are designed to catalyze the brain's production of neurochemicals using a mechanistic logic that doesn't address the causes of sub optimal production) are meant to be taken daily and indefinitely. Therefore there is no bottom line benefit to supporting research of substances that not only are designed to be administered on a limited basis by expert practitioners, but will also cut into the everyday use of the pharaceutical industry's most profitable drugs.
Yet psychedelics have returned to the awareness of the medical community all on their own. The reason for this is because of their stand alone effectiveness. Psychedelics allow users in a supportive environment, guided by experts, to achieve an objectivity on their experience that once attained, remains with them, after the effects of the substance have worn off(which is probably the gold standard for evaluating psychological experience). Psychedelics provide usable, actionable information and experience about the relative position of one's ego(and it's limiting emotional and cognitive habits) that are probably only otherwise available to trained and experienced, long term meditators(I'll post about the identical impact on neural functioning of meditation and psychedelics on this blog in the future. The bottom line is psychedelics allow consciousness to function off the limiting tracks laid down in the brain by years(perhaps by a lifetime) of habitual thinking and feeling.
Psychedelics are experiencing a renaissance right now, because they are proving useful in a culture that places too little value on insight and ecstasy(the experience, notMDMA). LSD will never return as a therapeutic tool because there is too much negative association from the 1960's and 70's counterculture. This, more than anything, is probably Tim Leary's greatest legacy. But researchers have found that psilocybin(the active chemical in Psychedelic Mushrooms) offers a more predictable affect, and shorter experiences, without the hippy trippy cultural associations. During this same time period, in western culture there has been the rise of the ritual use of Ayahuasca.( A brew made from two plants that grow wildly in the Amazon.) DMT, the active ingredient in Ayahuasca is one molecule different from psilocin, which is what the body metabolizes psilocybin into before it passes the blood/brain barrier. So, Ayahuasca reveals itself chemically to be old wine in new skins. But the use of these aboriginal psychedelics(each has been used in their origin cultures for thousands of years) have risen up seemingly out of nowhere, in the medical and lay community for a reason. There is a dearth of experiences that provide an access to a reality that extends beyond the dominant cultural paradigm radiating from the internet at every moment. The internet intimates a dominant modern reality that is proving unsatisfying and depressing in its' high value placement on consumerism and narcissism, the avatar of both, is now President of the United States.
Psychedelic use has risen against this cultural tide before. As their use once appeared up in response to the Vietnam War, and Richard Nixon's war on progress, they are now rising agin in response to the paradigm of mediocrity promoted by social platforms and the relentless chaos that demands to dominate our attention being promoted by the Trump administration. Psychedelics provide the siren call to a deeper reality, both personal and collective. For those battling the hopelessness of a terminal cancer diagnoses they point to a reality that extends beyond the boundaries of this current life. While those using Psychedelics attempting to recreate the benefits found in aboriginal cultures hope to gain a perspective that exists outside their personal and cultural conditioning. Both of these manifestations have arisen in reaction to a symptomatic profound lack in the experience of users. In each instance, it is of utmost importance that these substances are regarded seriously, and if utilized(whether in a clinical situation, or in aboriginal ritual use are considered with the the utmost caution.
Here's the article from the New Yorker.