Not too long ago, the topic of psychedelic medicine was not only taboo but it was potentially career ending. Yet today, in 2023 it has not only become a popular mainstream conversation but it is also saving lives. The resurgence of psychedelic medicine research is providing hope for breakthroughs in mental health treatment. Psychedelic medicines show promise in treating mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD, when used with psychedelic-assisted therapy in unprecedented ways with unprecedented results. However, to avoid the mistakes made in our past that lead to the criminalization of these medicines, we must be aware of the potential risks and approach this new era of research and therapy with deep respect and consideration of the tremendous power psychedelic medicines have and use them in accordance.
Plants and fungi have been used in ancient and indigenous medicinal traditions for thousands of years. Sacred ceremonial medicines have always been at the source of indigenous spiritual practices and culture. Healing often included hallucinogens as a right of passage into adulthood, or used as a spiritual healing agent. The medicine was used to bring people closer to mother earth, their ancestors, and themselves.
In the 1950s to 1960s, psychedelic medicine were gaining a lot of interest within psychiatry and neuroscience, contributing to the emergence of the field of molecular neuroscience. Promising results were reported for treatment of both end-of-life psychological distress and addiction. Classic psychedelics served as tools for studying the neurobiological bases of psychological disorders; including mystical experiences, which are subjective experiences reported throughout different cultures and religions, creating a strong sense of unity and inner awareness. However, the recreational use of classic psychedelics and their association with the counterculture prompted an end to human research in the early 1970s. Many believe this was a highly political discussion.
Today there has been a rebirth and new resurgence in many of these classic psychedelics medicines, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline, and psilocybin. Psychedelics and their therapeutic uses are being hailed by many as a breakthrough in the realm of mental health medicine. These medicines, of which most are still illegal today, represent many breakthroughs in physical, spiritual and emotional healing. Research hospitals and universities are exploring the potential of psychedelic medicine to treat mental health conditions. Clinical trials have demonstrated their ability to produce long-lasting improvements in mood, cognition, and quality of life. As a result, more researchers are investigating the potential benefits of these substances.
People that have been suffering from trauma and mental health issues with an overall disconnection from self and others are becoming increasingly hopeful for what these medicines continues to do for them. The benefits of these substances are raising awareness and are no longer taboo, but rather they are sparking deeper interest and new acceptance. The popularization of psychedelic medicines by mainstream media has also contributed to their growing acceptance and interest. With the help of Netflix and it's eye-opening documentaries, alongside dozens of publications in popular magazines like Forbes, New York Times , and research journals published in the National Library of Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine, and the Journal of Psychedelic Psychiatry; and studies being conducted worldwide in institutions such as John Hopkins, University of Toronto, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and countless others.
Some jurisdictions have taken steps towards decriminalizing plant-based medicines like psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, that should never have been criminalized to begin with. This move allows researchers to study the potential benefits of these substances in a more controlled environment. Overall, while more research is needed to fully understand the benefits and risks of psychedelic medicines, the growing body of evidence supports that they could truly represent a transformational breakthrough in mental health treatment. With careful use and under the guidance of trained professionals, these substances could offer a valuable new tool in the fight against mental illness.
Is Psychedelic-Assisted-Therapy for you?
Education is key, because psychedelic-assisted-therapy and psychedelics medicine is not for everybody. A qualified psychedelic-assisted-therapy and your doctor will help you determine if psychedelics are right for you and which ones they recommend. The right mindset is critical as well as understanding your current mental health, and illnesses along with which medications you may currently taking are all important questions for knowing if psychedelic medicines are right for you.
It's very important to understand that psychedelics are not a magic one pill fits all. For many people it takes weeks or months to prepare them for the experience, and for many they will experience a 2-3 different psychedelic experiences over several months or years. This is very personal journey and it's personalized to your unique needs.
It might be right for you, or it might not and that's okay because there are other options. Altered state therapy is very powerful and has many different ways to be accessed, for some it's not through use of psychedelics and for others is a game-changer.
Barriers to Psychedelic Medicines
In Canada, Psychedelic medicines such as psilocybin, MDMA and LSD are still considered to be illicit, and psychedelic-assisted-therapy is not yet regulated, although there is excellent training opportunity available for therapist, coaches and health care workers there is also superficial training that does not prepare a person for this deep work. Because of these factors it is even more important that individuals do their own leg work, it's important to do your own research ensuring that you know and trust your psychedelic-assisted-therapist and that you are accessing medicines that are of the highest quality, especially medicines in powder form. As a harm reduction approach and to reduce stigma British Columbia has decriminalized personal possession of drugs, and the City of Toronto has put through a similar request to Health Canada. Many states in the United States have decriminalized plant-based medicines and the FDA is completing a 3rd and final stage trial for MDMA to make this available for people with PTSD, although it's uses are much broader.
"Psychedelic plants, fungi and compounds are tools for learning; they place in our hands the keys to learn how to become better humans."
- Dennis McKenna
"Psychedelics have been time tested for thousands of years, and being revered across cultures and continents, speaks to their deep history of beneficial influence. Modern science is now validating what our ancestors knew: psychedelics are essential for mental and spiritual well being."
- Paul Stamets