Since LSD was discovered in the 1940s, there have been studies on the effectiveness of psychedelic medicine ever since. And before psychedelics were banned in the 1960s, substances such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms showed remarkable potential for treating disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction.
When the government decided to ban psychedelics in the 1960s however, all research regarding their potential for medicine was banned along with them. For decades the psychedelic substances that had the ability to naturally help with things like depression and anxiety were highly unavailable for any kind of clinical research.
The Traditional Use of Psychedelics
Long before people began to tune in and drop out in the early 60s, psychedelics were used in medicinal and spiritual ceremonies. People of indigenous cultures found that certain plants contained certain attributes that helped them to heal on both a physical and mental level.
Native Americans have used cacti that contains mescaline (peyote, San Pedro, and Peruvian torch) for years. One thing they found with the use of mescaline? It has a very powerful effect against alcoholism. Ayahuasca has been used by natives of Peru for centuries as it contains DMT, a powerful hallucinogen endogenous to the human body that has shown to heal on both a spiritual and physical level. In Africa the Bwiti have used Ibogaine for centuries in both rites of passage ceremonies and as a powerful spiritual healer.
Certain psychedelic substances have certainly withstood the test of time. And although deemed dangerous by the FDA, this hasn’t stopped people from using them to receive the healing they provide. While the FDA claims there isn’t enough research to re-categorize substances like LSD, DMT, psilocybin, peyote, MDMA, and Ibogaine, there are others who strongly disagree.
New Research on Psychedelics as Medicine
Founded in 1986, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been doing everything they can to see that psychedelic substances and marijuana are seen for the potential they hold for medicine. MAPS has conducted several studies on substances such as LSD, Ibogaine, MDMA, and psilocybin.
A completed double-blind, placebo controlled study of LSD by MAPS has shown promising results when it comes to this substance used in therapy. They found “positive trends” in the reduction of anxiety after only two LSD-assisted sessions. In other studies of LSD conducted in the 1950s through the early 1970s, LSD showed substantial promise as a treatment for alcoholism.
MAPS is currently studying the long-term effects of Ibogaine in order to collect considerable data that shows the effectiveness of Ibogaine as a treatment for addiction. Results have been promising, yet Ibogaine still remains illegal due to the psychoactive properties which it contains.
Different Ways Psychedelics Act as Medicine
LSD has shown to be especially effective at treating both anxiety and alcoholism. A 2012 study of clinical tests done in the 1960s and 1970s show that LSD significantly reduced alcohol abuse with the effects lasting for months. This may be because LSD binds to certain serotonin receptors in the brain that are linked to consciousness and emotion.
MDMA (or ecstasy) has proven to be excellent for both PTSD and anxiety. One trial found that 60 percent of people that took ecstasy for PTSD showed favorable results when it was coupled with psychotherapy. In the brain, MDMA encourages neurons to release several different neurotransmitters that help one release more oxytocin which can help reduce fear while inspiring trust.
Ibogaine has recently become one of the most favored alternative addiction treatments available. With the ever-increasing rise of heroin addiction, Ibogaine holds great potential in helping countless individuals who have succumb to this epidemic. Ibogaine has shown to reset neurotransmitters back to their pre-addicted state and vanquish physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms in many different types of addiction.
Used for depression, OCD, anxiety, and cluster headaches, psilocybin (or magic mushrooms) is another hallucinogen that shows great promise as medicine. Several clinical trials have showed that psilocybin decreases depression and anxiety in clinically ill cancer patients. In the brain, psilocybin binds to serotonin receptors and is why it is believed that it is an excellent tool for elevating one’s mood even after its hallucinogenic effects wear off.
The Long Road to Psychedelic Medicine Legalization
While there have been countless efforts, studies, and trials done by many different doctors and scientists, the fact that these substances are very illegal hasn’t changed. And although there’s hope for a different future, it doesn’t seem that the FDA will be taking them off the list of dangerous substances any time soon.
There is definitely potential for abuse with many of these substances and when they’re used outside of a controlled environment, the potential for something to go wrong is clearly evident. From “bad trips” to uncovering undeveloped psychological problems (like schizophrenia), the negative consequences that can arise are something that keep psychedelics from becoming legalized.
Asking the FDA to reconsider the legality of some of these substances could take decades. The process to reclassify drugs is a very long and multifaceted process. Look how much work has gone into declassifying marijuana. It’s likely that any approval from the FDA to look at psychedelic substances in a different light will take decades.
In the right setting and under the right circumstances, psychedelics hold immense potential to help people heal on a multitude of different levels. As we continue to move forward, people that stand behind these substances and the medicinal power they contain will continue to research, educate, and inform of their benefits.
As a whole, we’ve come further in the past decade or so than we have in over 30 years when it comes to research and studies of different psychedelic medicines. With continued clinical trials perhaps we’ll soon see the well-deserved resurgence of natural medicines that contain the ability to help individuals heal and lead happy, more fulfilled lives.