Psychedelics are enjoying the right kind of flashback.
After avoiding work on potentially career-killing drug research for over fifty years, scientists are back to investigating their potential uses in treating debilitating psychological issues such as addiction, anxiety, and end-of-life depression. While the drugs are still considered unlawful by the US government, they’re gradually being allowed back into the laboratory on a case-by-case basis. The initial results have been overwhelmingly positive – good news for a nation struggling to treat a wealth of emotional ills.
The drugs didn’t always have such a negative reputation. Through the 1950s to the 1970s, the US government put an estimated $4 million into research on their uses. Once they found their way into 1960s counterculture, however, the funding began to dry up. It wasn’t long before Nixon agreed upon the drugs – which included LSD, psilocybins, MDMA, DMT, peyote, and ibogaine – into the criminal code with the Controlled Substances Work in 1970. The likelihood that they’d ever be used again for real technological research dwindled to zero.
That is, until now. A report on psilocybins released by analysts from Johns Hopkins College or university in 2006 reopened the field, and today the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Research lists dozens of new studies on different drugs taking place across America and internationally, with positive primary results. The research couldn’t be occurring at a better time: The World Health Corporation reports that 350,000,000 individuals worldwide suffer from depression. Addiction to substances, both legal and illegal, costs the US over $700 billion each year, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Conservative quotes of the percentage of Vietnam, Gulf, and Iraq War veterans suffering from PTSD range from 11-30%.
The existing research is promising. A 2015 study in the Journal of Pharmacology showed that classical psychedelic use actually correlated with reduced lifetime rates of suicidal thoughts (whereas use of illicit drugs were associated with increased likelihood), and anxiety has been successfully treated with the controlled use of LSD and psilocybins. And just last year, a report published in The Journal of Psychopharmacology reported success in dealing with nicotine habit with mushrooms. Possibly the most interesting use of psychedelics, however, is their use in easing depression about dying in terminally sick patients. It’s not well known, but Aldous Huxley got LSD in his last days with his battle with cancer, and his wife’s accounts of his passing may also be known as the ‘most beautiful loss of life’.
Even though America is loosening up when it comes to drugs like marijuana, it’ll be an uphill battle for researchers looking into therapeutic uses for psychedelics. The actual fact that these scientists have managed to reopen the field, however, retains great promise for the future of psychedelics.