Since the 1960s, psychedelic drugs have been illegal. A wave swept through the United States during the sixties causing a shift in personal views and values. During this period, many people abused psychedelic drugs giving the substances a bad reputation. In order to prevent the spread of the psychedelic movement, psychedelic drugs were made illegal in the United States, as well as in other countries. Although the growing popularity and usage of the substances had ruined the reputation as a medicine, scientists had been studying the effects at that time and the laws put in place had prevented further research.
Many of these researchers saw great potential in these substances, and until recently, were not allowed to run any trials or experiments. In the sixties, serious research had been conducted with remarkable results. Patients suffering with mental conditions saw positive results when administered certain psychedelic substances, such as LSD or Psilocybin, under strictly controlled conditions (Sidney Cohen). Researchers sometimes tried the substances on themselves, revealing a completely new understanding of consciousness.
From recent therapeutic studies, mind-altering drugs, such as LSD, ketamine, Psilocybin mushrooms, ibogaine, mescaline, and DMT, “could be combined with psychotherapy to treat people suffering from depression, compulsive disorders or chronic pain. (Kelland, China Daily)” The sixties era had fogged the truth about psychedelics and there are a number of misconceptions about these substances that result from the lack of education on the subject. The therapeutic value of psychedelics is often overlooked. LSD and Cluster Headaches
In the 1950s, psychedelic agents began to be studied and used in therapy in the United States. In 1938, LSD was first synthesized and its psychoactive effects were first discovered accidentally by Albert Hofmann in 1943. During the 1950s and 1960s, LSD was used in psychiatric research as an experimental drug, as it produced “experimental psychosis”, meaning a temporary psychotic state. The substance worked by altering patients neurotransmitter system. Because of its widespread use among people without serious medical conditions, the government had made it an illegal drug of abuse (CNS).
Toward the end of the 1960s, people began using LSD for recreational and spiritual purposes, forming the psychedelic movement. A number of complications from use during the 1960s resulted in LSD’s illegality, although recreational use did not end. The complications have declined over the decades due to better-informed users, better mental preparation and attention to surrounding conditions (CNS). The leading research program in the world for psychedelic drugs is known as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
This organization researches psychedelic compounds to develop medical, legal and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful use of psychedelics. Its mission is to develop psychedelics into prescription medicine, train therapists and work to establish a network of treatment centers, support scientific research into spirituality, creativity, and neuroscience, and to educate, “the public honestly about the risks and benefits of psychedelics” (MAPS. org). Since the organization is international, studies began in 1986 outside of the United States.
LSD is a major source of research for MAPS. Extensive research revealed a number of benefits, for those with mental disorders and diseases, and for those searching for spirituality or meaning in life. LSD had proven to be a successful medicine for those with cluster headaches, anxiety from end-of-life issues, and post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the most common uses of LSD as medicine is used by those with cluster headaches. Sometimes referred to as “suicide headaches”, the pain is almost unbearable to sufferers, and usually occurs on one side of the face (ScienceNOW).
They are known to occur frequently for a span of a week or two, and then disappear for months only to occur again. The cause of these attacks are unclear, which has been a reason why cluster headaches have been so hard to treat. Although there is no definite cure, treatments for cluster headaches include the inhalation of pure oxygen during the onset of an attack, the blocking of calcium channels with a drug called Verapamil, or taking triptans, which are used to alleviate migraines.
Some of these treatments work, but not at a very successful rate (ScienceNOW). Most of the treatments do not prevent the attacks, but alleviate some of the pain during the attacks. The medicine that has been discovered to prevent the occurrence of these cluster headaches has been LSD. Six patients with severe cluster headaches, under the supervision of German scientist Torsten Passie, were given LSD once every five days for a total of three doses (ScienceNOW).
The patients had reported a reduction in frequency of attacks, and five of patients reported having no attacks for months after the treatment (ScienceNOW). Psilocybin Mushrooms and Anxiety from Life-Threatening Illness Psilocybin is a psychedelic compound found in a species of mushrooms from the family psilocybe. These mushrooms, indigenous to Central and South America, were used as sacraments in religious ceremonies for millennia prior to the discovery of their pharmacological properties in the 1950s (MAPS. org).
When ingested by humans, psilocybin can produce profound changes in thought, perception and emotion, including the facilitation of mystical or transformative experiences (MAPS. org). Psilocybin was used in psycholytic and psychedelic therapy throughout the 1960s until research was shut down in the 1970s. Research halted in the US after the substance was placed in the Schedule 1 category, meaning it was in the most restrictive category of controlled substances. Although the substance had substantial medical benefit, the overuse by those without use for it resulted in its illegality.
Psilocybin Mushrooms have been found to alleviate cluster headaches equally as well as LSD, and have also been found to be useful in treating anxiety. “People experiencing anxiety as a result of facing the threat of continued deterioration in health and impending death may similarly be able to use psilocybin in concert with psychotherapy to promote emotional catharsis and powerful mystical or transformative experiences that enable them to confront or make peace with their fears in a manner that reduces anxiety” (MAPS. rg). Another incredible healing property of psilocybin is the substances ability to cure those with depression. The way that psilocybin reacts with the brain is that the areas of the brain responsible for one’s sense of self is essentially shut down. In a controlled, supervised setting, the substance can be used as a powerful therapeutic tool to treat depression, anxiety, and a number of psychiatric problems (Discovery News).
In brain scans, scientists have found that, “instead of opening lines of communication between sensory-oriented regions of the brain, psilocybin appears to shut down activity in two key area of the brain that regulate our sense of self and integrate our sense of awareness with our sense of the present” (Discovery News). David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College in London, said, “One of the parts of the brain that is markedly switched off is the anterior cingulate cortex, which is particularly overactive in people with depression.
After a trial including fifteen healthy participants with previous experience with psilocybin, the study subjects reported that they feel happier, calmer, and more at peace, more than a year after taking a carefully measured dose of the substance (Discovery News). Illegality of Psychedelic Drugs Due to psychedelic drugs, such as LSD and Psilocybin, being on the Schedule 1 list of banned drugs, medical research in the United States and countries world wide has been restricted. Numerous breakthroughs in science can be contributed to the use of these substances as well as breakthroughs in medicine.
Francis Crick, the scientist most well known for his research on DNA, had discovered the double helix nature of DNA under the influence of LSD. Studies conducted on psilocybin and LSD had led to the discovery of serotonin and many other chemicals within the brain that has further advanced humans knowledge on the brain and psyche. As the United States government continues to warn citizens of their supposed health risks, it has been recorded that over twenty million Americans have ingested psychedelics since the 1970s (Slate Magazine).
Recent studies show that psychedelics can be harmless, as well as beneficial when taken appropriately under the correct circumstances. Prohibitions against psychedelics have even prevented religious ceremonies by sects in New Mexico. If the re-scheduling of these substances can occur, religious groups, with hundreds of years of known use, will be allowed to continue its ceremonies, as well as further progress in research for those suffering from disease and disorders.