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Are We Finally Reawakening to the Profound Healing Properties of Psychedelics?

Legal research on a range of currently illegal drugs indicates they may help cure PTSD, alcoholism and even cluster headaches.

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So, the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t see profit. The government agencies that normally fund health care research, medical research, are still stuck in the prohibition mindset, and they’re not that open to funding studies into therapeutic potential of Schedule 1 drugs. And then, the major foundations that support this research are also still a little bit too consumed by the controversy factor. So, the psychedelics and marijuana, if they are to become prescription medicines, they have to be developed in a non-profit context.  

And so, MAPS is a non-profit organization that is trying to move these drugs through the regulatory system to make them into prescription medicines. It’s not to say that the medical application of these drugs is the only use. There are spiritual uses.  There are personal growth uses. There are recreational uses. There are all sorts of a range of uses. But our culture is most open to the idea right now of treating medical illnesses. So, MAPS has been structured as a way to try to take the path of least resistance, and create legal context in a therapeutic setting, regulated by FDA.  

And, what has been a tremendous benefit goes back to 1992, when Charlie and I were participants in an FDA advisory committee meeting, where the FDA was trying to decide whether they would open the door to psychedelic research or not.  

Much work that was done in the ‘50s and the ‘60s, thousands of studies with psychedelics were conducted with very low level of harm, and with a lot of promise. But, out of the cultural turmoil of the ‘60s, there was a massive counter-reaction that both criminalized these drugs and took them out of the hands of scientists all over the world. And so, for several decades, it was impossible to get permission to do psychedelic research.  

And what happened in ’89, ’90 was, a group of people at the FDA, who were experimenting with new ways to develop drugs into prescription medicines took over the responsibility for regulating psychedelics and marijuana.  And they decided that they would put science over politics. So that, when we think of “the government,” it’s really important to recognize that the government is kind of like our body. There’s all these different parts of it, and some parts of our body could be doing things that other parts of our body are doing the opposite thing.  

The government right now is composed of people at the FDA who, as a result of this 1992 meeting, decided that they would put science over politics. And, at this meeting was DEA, the drug czar’s office, NIDA. And it was a brilliant maneuver by the FDA, in terms of a bureaucratic power grab.  

And what they basically said was that they would put the same kind of requirements that they put on the major pharmaceutical companies on psychedelics and marijuana. That there were no unique risks of psychedelics and marijuana that they didn’t already face in their work with opiates, or their work with methamphetamine, or their work with other drugs that had abuse liability. And they made it seem, to these other regulatory agencies, that if they opened the door to the research and imposed the same kind of requirements that is imposed on the pharmaceutical companies, that nothing bad would come out the other end. And so, the drug czar’s office, the DEA, NIDA, they signed off to this.  

The non-profit organizations that we’ve developed have started getting more resources, more connections to scientists. And at the same time … and this is the key factor, it’s like the Aikido strategy to drug development … is that you use the opponents’ energy sort of against them. You let their own momentum, you know, turn back on them.  

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