The word “drug” has a negative connotation.
What comes to mind when most of us hear the word drug is that of crime, addiction and violence we see reported in the news or on Netflix shows like “Narcos.” But the word drug can also be associated with the powerful medical qualities millions benefit from such as drugs for the common cold or drugs for heart disease.
As a society, we distinguish which drugs are helpful and harmful to us. Many states are now legalizing marijuana for its medicinal qualities based on a better understanding of the drug and its effects. Scientific research and positive testimony of the drug have helped break stigmas associated with the drug and helped many people suffering from illnesses.
As our growing understanding of marijuana has changed the way we view the drug, so has our interest in understanding psychedelic drugs. Like marijuana, the legalization of psychedelic drugs, such as LSD and mushrooms, is a taboo subject in western society for many reasons.
Early research on psychedelics suggested the drug has beneficial effects on the brain and mental health, providing relief to depression, PTSD and other disorders. The most recent study showed all participants suffering from anxiety improved by LSD-assisted psychotherapy.
During the 1950s, the CIA conducted research on the effects of LSD and believed it could be used for mind control. Research on the effects of LSD was in its infancy in the 60s. People who recreationally used the “turn on, tune in and drop out” drug praised its mind-altering effects. However, the drug was made illegal in 1968, leaving scientific studies on LSD to be legally approved.
Throughout history, cultures have experimented with psychedelics. Native American ceremonies often used peyote, Aztec shamans used psilocybin found in mushrooms and Amazonians used ayahuasca.
During these traditional hallucinogenic trips, users sought healing on a spiritual level and a separation of the consciousness from the ego. After a hallucinogen intake, or trip, the general idea is to acquire a sense of enlightenment, according to the scientific group NeuWrite.
By seeking this enlightenment, many people use psychedelics to make spiritual advancements. Psychedelics have been traditionally used in this way and often were a central part of these ancient cultures.
The science behind the conscious growth a user experiences when taking LSD is due to the drug being an entheogen. This means it is a psychoactive substance that induces a spiritual or out-of-body experience, similar to non-synthetic drugs such as mushrooms.
At the end of 2018, researchers in Silicon Valley began testing the effects of micro-dosing LSD. People who micro-dose take small amounts of the drug, enhancing their focus and positive emotions while leaving them relatively unhindered. The study which is still being conducted, hopes to answer the question: is the drug beneficial, or is it all in your mind?
The most recent study, published just this month, showed participants expected to have a profound experience after micro-dosing. The results, however, showed participants felt more focused and less stressed. These results provide reason for continuation of research on LSD and the unknown benefits of the drug.
The hype surrounding the taboo subject of legalizing psychedelics is understandable considering the small amount of information we have. Similar to marijuana, psychedelics could be proposed as a medical treatment option.
Hopefully as the acknowledgment and discussion on mental health continues to grow, avenues like controlled psychedelic treatment will become a part of the conversation as well.