The world we live in today continues to grow more anxious and ignorant of their surroundings. Information is indeed a boon for humankind but there’s only so much data we can process in a day. The problem is that we have an abundance of data available which is harming us in ways we can’t imagine. To reduce our tension we seek help from pharmaceutical industries but are they worthy of our trust? No. Then, what is our substitute? Or rather I should say what’s better for us? A possible answer can be psychedelic substances. In the recent past, there have been a lot of studies and experiments in the psychedelic environment which have been successful. These substances can help human beings fight depression, anxiety issues and different brain disorders. And this is just one of the realms of possibilities that psychedelics are capable of.
I will be discussing two case studies carried out by robin Carhart-harris who is a neuroscientist at imperial college. The first study revolves around the story of a man called kirk rutter who was in grief after his mother’s demise followed by a break-up and a car accident. Such events can disturb any human being. Kirk was in depression. He couldn’t think of anything but negative thoughts. He felt guilty, disturbed and sad. He called his condition “an automatic circuit” as he lost control over his thoughts. He had been on a lot of different medications but nothing helped him. Finally, he decided to participate in a study conducted by Carhart-harris. Rutter was taken into a room where the researchers studied his brain activity through magnetic resonance imaging [MRI]. Then harris explained to him about the drugs which he’ll receive and told him he’ll neutralize the hallucinogen if he couldn’t handle it. Then the two practised a technique which’ll help him calm down if he becomes overwhelmed. Rutter burst into tears while doing that. The next day he came back and was handed two pills by a researcher containing a synthetic form of psilocybin [psychedelic substance]. He lay on a bed and put on his headphones and an eye mask. The process began, the first hallucinations that he saw were some Sanskrit words and then he went on to reflect on his grief. He took his eye mask off and noticed that harris had an eye in the centre of his face[of course he’s hallucinating] and harris joked “I might be looking very different to you” they both laughed. Rutter talked about his resentment and discussed his life with harris like he never did before. The next day he returned for the second dose which was stronger. The trip was followed by an integration session where he would discuss his experience.
Rutter went on record to say “ This process made me look at grief differently. It was a realization that it wasn’t helping. Letting go was not a betrayal”. Rutter was depressed for more than 6 years before this study. He was convinced that this experience changed his life for the better. He feared sometimes will the automatic circuit return? But he has some control over it now. 5 years later, his depression has not returned.
The second study carried out by harris included 12 people who were clinically depressed for more than 17.8 years on average. I am stressing over the term “clinically depressed”. They were also given the psychoactive substance available in magic mushrooms called psilocybin. No other medication could help this lad. One week after the oral dose all the patients experienced improvements in their symptoms. After 3 months, 5 of them were in complete remission. Harris said, “this is remarkable in the context of currently available treatments”. These researchers do not claim psilocybin to be the last resort to cure depression. They just claim that this can be done. After all, they were able to cure clinically depressed patients which no other legal medication could do.
The major argument that concerns psychedelics right now is the legalization of the substance. The science community believes that it should be legalized because it can help a lot of people fight their condition. If it becomes legal we can regulate the product and we can also create a safer environment whenever anyone consumes it. Researchers have enough evidence about its therapeutic potential and if this movement is promoted by authorities then it’ll be a huge boon for humanity. Legalization of anything increases the consumer’s safety as it’s labelled and safe for consumption. There are no major arguments against it but some scientists do believe that open consumption of psychedelics can lead to chaos but they have not considered the fact that if it gets legal it’ll be regulated. The scientists have virtually no funding to continue their research on these substances and also the public perception of these substances is very vague and false. Scientists argue that the awareness around this should be increased.
The public perception of these substances is the real problem. People put these drugs in the same category as crack and cocaine which is a very dangerous simplification. Although the majority of people are unaware of these substances but false interpretation dampers the image of the product. Psychedelics are referred to as “party drugs” but they are much more than that. The people who are aware of it are very limited and are unable to successfully communicate about it. Psychedelics needs to step out of its ivory tower and try to spread its importance where people don’t know anything about it. There are some communities in places like Haiti and amazon forest that celebrate the psychedelic culture and fully embrace it. But they are very small in number.
Before 1968, LSD and Psylocibin were legal. There were a lot of reasons for it getting banned. One of the reasons was the irresponsible behaviour of the civilians. People used it without really knowing about the substance. Your environment plays a big role when you are under the influence of psychedelics. If your environment is appropriate then your trip can be very soothing but if it’s not then it can result in psychosis. Some people ended up murdering someone. Although the biggest reason was the tyranny of the US government. Countries that had a well established psychoactive and pharmaceutical industry would’ve suffered huge losses if psychedelics expanded. The USA was one of them. The USA introduced a new classified system called scheduling. Under this system, drugs marked under schedule 1 are dangerous and offer no therapeutic value and the drugs marked under schedule 5 are safe and have some therapeutic value. LSD and Psylocibin were marked under schedule 1 even though enough evidence concluded that these substances have promising therapeutic potential. There was a conference organized between countries that had strong pharmaceutical markets and countries that we’re struggling to establish a pharmaceutical market. You can guess who won. psychedelics became illegal in most parts of the world. President Nixon’s assistant to the president John Ehrlichman went on record to say and I quote “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. Do you understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.” And after that, the criminalization has never stopped.
My opinion on this is every person who can experience these substances should do it. I am saying this because I’ve had some personal experiences with LSD. I have consumed LSD a couple of times and I can say without a doubt that It was the most profound experience of my life. What it does is it makes you reflect on your vulnerabilities. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. You question your rights and wrongs and your worldview. We all are insecure about ourselves but we never take out the time to reflect and introspect. Lsd made me do that. It made me more aware of my surroundings, it made me more empathetic towards people so I can see things from their perspective. And most importantly, it made me resolve the conflicts within me. I had created an elite class system within me that I was hardly aware of. I used to judge and see people through this class system. During my trip, I realised that and immediately made a promise to myself that I will resolve this. That’s why I chose this topic. I was personally affected and I thought I can explain to people what a wonderful thing psychedelics can be. Like me, a lot of people find it hard to deal with their conflicts and I genuinely feel LSD can help them. If there’s such an efficient and wonderful medicine available to us, why don’t we use it for our benefit? There’s a reason we have a DMT receptor in our brain.
I would like to conclude by saying that with proper regulations psychedelics can help human beings increase their quality of life. I’ve given enough evidence to back my statement. All it needs is some support from the government and some positive word of mouth. Soon, there will be a lot of experiments and trials concerning this.