A Brief History
Psychedelics are used in ancient civilizations. Indigenous cultures around the world, from the Amazon rainforest to Native American tribes, have used substances like psilocybin-containing mushrooms, peyote, and ayahuasca in their spiritual and healing rituals. These substances were believed by many to be able to connect people to the Divine, to facilitate self-discovery, to provide insight into reality, and to connect them to their spirituality.
Modern Psychedelics and consciousness emerged in the middle of the 20th century, when compounds such as LSD and psilocybin (lysergic acids diethylamides) were synthesized and evaluated for their therapeutic potential. In the United States however, their widespread recreational use led to them being classified as Schedule I controlled substance in the 1960s. This effectively halted most research for decades.
Psychedelics can induce altered states, characterized as intense emotions, profound insights, and perceptual shifts. These effects, which can be either positive or neutral, are commonly referred to as “trips”. The type of experience you have depends on many factors, including your mindset, the location, and dosage.
During a trip to the psychedelic world, users can expect to experience:
Altered perception: Colors and patterns can appear. Sensory perceptions can merge to create synesthesia.
Ego dissolution: Some individuals experience a loss in their senses of self. This leads to a sense of interconnectedness.
Many users have described spiritual or transcendent experiences that led to a stronger sense of purpose.
Recent scientific research has reignited interest on the therapeutic potential for psychedelics. Research shows promising results for treating many mental health conditions including depression, anxiety PTSD and addiction. The therapist will guide the patient to a structured psychedelic session.
Psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) has been extensively studied. One study suggests that individuals with terminal illnesses or depression can benefit from a single psilocybin assisted therapy session. They may experience a lasting improvement in their mood and reduced levels of anxiety.
MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), often classified as an empathogen rather than a classic psychedelic, has shown remarkable success in treating PTSD when used alongside therapy. It helps patients deal with traumatic memories.
Safety and Regulation
While psychedelics’ therapeutic potential is promising, there are risks associated with their use. Psychedelics are capable of causing challenging experiences. In rare cases, however, they can trigger psychosis, especially in those with a mental illness predisposition. It is important that their use be monitored by professionals in controlled environments.
In response to the growing interest in psychedelics by the scientific and medical communities, certain jurisdictions have started to decriminalize and legalize the use of psychedelics to treat medical conditions or for recreational purposes. Regulating psychedelics is still a complicated issue. Responsible use and harm reduction remain important factors.