From a cursory reading of this article and long transcript of a serial presentation by panelists who are all scientists working in some way with psychedelics (including marijuana), here’s my takeaway:
The edge between science and psychedelics is gradually being breached, and with it, comes fruitful discoveries about the capacity of these “drugs” to heal from various physical, emotional, mental and spiritual disorders. These discoveries open the doors to what one might call mystical medicine.
Physiologically, it appears that at least some of these naturally occurring substances decrease blood supply to those parts of the brain that structure, distort, and limit perception into ideas, beliefs, world-views, while increasing blood flow to the centers responsible for inner and outer perception. Result: the usual unconscious habits induced by cultural programming to clamp down on the multidimensionality of experience temporarily dissolve, opening us to the vastness of being.
Anyone who took LSD back in the late ’60s and early ’70s knows about this effect. I sure do. That very first “trip” dissolved my rigid Roman Catholic belief system and opened me to the cosmos. I never looked back.
Slowly but surely, we may be reaching success in a determined and long-time legal effort to unleash the curative powers of psychedelic drugs in America. There is a tremendous need for alternative approaches to the existing models of drugs and therapy. Tens of thousands of soldiers have returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with symptoms of PTSD. Many alcoholics and drug addicts fail to find success in 12-step programs. Research shows that psychedelics have the potential to help many of them, as well as the victims of rape, molestation and family violence.
But for years, scientific inquiry into the curative powers of psychedelic drugs has been blocked by political fears, the result of drug hysteria generated by anti-drug forces, law enforcement and Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” campaign. Many industries, particularly the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries, and in some cases the prison guard unions, have employed a phalanx of well-connected lobbyists to protect the financial interests of their clients, regardless of the negative effects on the rest of us.
There was a time in America when scientific research was not so hindered by politics; when elected officials didn’t constantly look over their shoulders, fearing conservative attacks of the lowest common denominator. Those “good old days” were the 1960s, when relatively unfettered research begin to tell the promising, occasionally startling story of the profound potential of drugs we refer to as psychedelics, or hallucinogens. Some are part of natural ingredients, while others are a product of creativity in the laboratory.
Most of these drugs we recognize by their common names: LSD, psilocybin, MDMA or ecstasy, ayahuasca, Ibogaine, and other lesser known concoctions. And we shouldn’t leave out cannabis, as there is much research as well as anecdotal evidence of how marijuana can help users.
Back in the ’60s, thanks to lab workers, doctors, chemists, and adventurers, many psychedelic drugs escaped from the labs and found their way into wider use. These drugs moved into the culture because they were mysterious, pleasurable and caused profound introspection. They spread first to elites around universities and in urban areas, and then to artists and musicians and then to the kids, who rolled them out far and wide like a huge tribe of Johnny Appleseeds. They created an influential niche in the culture.
There was an explosion of creativity, cultural change, and of course, a few bad trips. Steve Jobs, the Beatles, John Coltrane, Jack Nicholson, Ram Das, Andrew Weil and many others experienced and shared their own personal magical mystery tours.
I came of age during this period. I experienced the excitement and the often eye-opening insights of the culture of drugs, music, and yes, social change. Like many, I thought we had seen the future, and it looked very bright. But we were so wrong.
This explosive cultural shift scared the shit out of the rest of the country. Scare stories and anti-drug propaganda were cranked out, excess highlighted, and before long virtually every one of these drugs was declared not only illegal, but profoundly so; drugs labeled Schedule 1, categorized as very dangerous and with no redeeming medical benefit, despite research that showed the contrary. Even pot, far less harmful than alcohol and most prescription drugs, was defined a “hard drug” in many parts of the country. In the past few decades millions of Americans have been arrested or thrown in jail for weed.
These drugs were pushed far underground, and some, like LSD, become almost impossible to find. Research into the properties of these drugs came to a halt. And that is the way it has stayed for close to 40 years, the so-called war on drugs dominating the American psyche, sowing fear and misinformation, and not incidentally, filling the prisons, helping to create the prison-industrial complex and protecting various vested interests as millions of people suffer.