Psychedelics, hidden for decades in the shadows, are back in the light. Research studies at universities like UCLA and NYU have ushered in a new era not seen since the 1950s and '60s, when psychedelics were a common psychotherapy tool for psychiatrists like Humphry Osmond, who gave psychonaut Aldous Huxley, author of The Doors of Perception, a dose of mescaline in 1953.
Mushrooms are the safest of all the drugs people take recreationally, according to this year’s Global Drug Survey.
MDMA could be on the market legally by 2021
Medical ecstasy isn't far off Kripos_NCIS via Flickr CC by ND 2.0 In small studies around the country, a handful of researchers have been investigating how MDMA-assisted psychotherapy can help heal the psychological and emotional damage caused by sexual assault, war, violent crime, and other traumas. Now, federal regulators have approved the drug for use in…
When Rick Doblin founded his psychedelics research and education organization in 1986, he was a young therapist-in-training and proud Vietnam War draft-resister. The organization was his response to a decision by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to list MDMA (aka Molly or Ecstasy) as a Schedule I, felony-offense drug.
The first words Zoe Helene ever said to her husband Chris Kilham, an ethnobotanist who is the “Medicine Hunter” on Fox News, were in reference to a boar’s tusk bracelet clasped around his wrist. The tanned white man in the Hawaiian shirt had a “wild vibe about him.” He was fidgeting in his chair behind a booth at the bustling Natural Products Expo East trade show in 2005, which Helene, who worked in natural products communications, was attending for business.
To get the public on board with the violent, expensive and ultimately unsuccessful war on drugs, the government has had to spin some pretty elaborate stories about drugs and their users. The goal has been to strike fear into people about the looming dangers in order to justify militarizing against them.
Psychedelic drugs can explore regions of the mind that would normally remain unexamined, transporting us on mystical tours of our inner psyches and reshaping our perspectives on the world around us. They have inspired great music, literature and paintings as well as enormous scientific and technological breakthroughs (like the discovery of DNA structure and Steve Jobs’ creation of Apple). However, psychedelic experiences can also go dark. In the snap of a finger, an esoteric wandering through Alice’s Wonderland can turn into a terrifying passage though Dante’s Inferno.
Aggravating an already frightening experience, a so-called bad trip in the wrong setting can land you in the hospital or behind bars, since most psychedelics are Schedule I, criminal drugs according to the federal government. But what if drug use was seen not as a reckless crime or mental illness, but a part of human nature, as demonstrated throughout history? What if, instead of locking up people for their inherent drive toward personal exploration, growth, or self-transcendence, we helped them examine and navigate the psychological traumas psychedelics can bring to the surface? And what if we took that one step further and figured out scientifically how to use the powerful psychoactive effects of these substances to treat psychological afflictions like depression and anxiety?
These questions drive a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based nonprofit called the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to seek answers. For decades, MAPS has conducted government-approved psychiatric studies using psychedelics, and worked to shift the way we deal with psychedelic drug users to a more practical, public-health-oriented approach that won't land people with debt-inducing hospital bills or dark marks on their permanent records. Its aims are to develop psychedelics, and marijuana, into prescription medicines and to educate the public honestly about the risks and benefits of those drugs. Since its founding in 1986, it has turned over promising results with government-approved studies on illegal drugs including MDMA, LSD, psilocybin and others.
Lawmakers in nearly a dozen states in 2014 enacted legislation that promised to provide patients, particularly those suffering from intractable epilepsy, the opportunity to use cannabidiol (CBD) – a nonpsychotropic plant cannabinoid recognized for its anti-convulsant properties. The problem? So far, patients in none of these states possess the ability to legally access the compound. And there is no indication that this situation is going to change any time soon.
That is because CBD remains classified as a schedule I prohibited substance under federal law. (Congressional legislation, HR 5226, to amend CBD’s status was introduced in July.) As a result, multiple federal agencies -- including the FDA, DEA, NIDA (US National Institute of Drug Abuse) and PHS (Public Health Service) -- must all sign off on any clinical investigation of the non-psychotropic cannabinoid, including state-sponsored research studies. In addition, NIDA remains the sole legal provider of CBD in any FDA-approved clinical trial.
To date, state-sponsored efforts to either gain access to NIDA’s limited CBD stocks or to license the cultivation of high-CBD plant varieties have been unsuccessful.
For example, researchers at the University of Kentucky recently acknowledged that the preliminary cost of conducting FDA-approved clinical trials on CBD, as encouraged under the state’s new law, could be as much as $10,000 per participant and that the process of designing and approving such trials “could likely take months, if not years.” That’s a far different story than the one spun by Kentucky lawmakers this past spring when both chambers unanimously passed the state’s CBD-research bill (and, in the process, elected to kill an alternative proposal seeking to outright legalize the possession and distribution of whole-plant cannabis).