Jun 09, 2017 I Micah Hanks

Science and Psychedelics: Maybe It’s Time to Warm Up to the Study Hallucinogens

Mystique. That's one word that comes to mind in association with the use of psychedelic substances these days. Although plenty of others exist too, like illegal, mind-altering, or even dangerous. 

In other words, there are a number of issues surrounding psychedelic substances, some of which may have resulted from stigmatization over time due to anti-drug campaigns, others due to very legitimate concerns over the safety of using mind-altering substances.

Pair all this with the burgeoning questions about whether there is benefit--perhaps even medicinally--to the use of certain psychedelics, and you've opened the proverbial can of worms regarding the legitimization of their use modern society.

But what if there were a legal way that certain hallucinogenic substances could be more easily studied, without increasing the likelihood that certain potentially dangerous drugs would become more prevalent on the streets?

DMT 570x479
DMT, a powerful, naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in numerous plant species, and produced within the pineal gland in mammals, seen here in its crystalline form.

Clinical studies involving certain hallucinogenic drugs have seldom occurred over the years, though when they do, some have brought forth surprising, and even potentially positive results. Certain hallucinogens, for instance, including ibogaine, have been shown to have anti-addictive capacities, which may be helpful in reversing people's substance abuse in other areas. And numerous ongoing studies with psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound present in magic mushrooms, further suggest that they may be effective in treating severe depression, or even anxiety.

Magic mushrooms have not only shown in research trials that there may be benefits to their measured use; according to one recent study, they are also among the safest hallucinogenic substances.

USA Today reported recently on the new figures, citing statistics from the annual Global Drug Survey:

Only .2% of almost 10,000 people who reported taking psilocybin hallucinogenic mushrooms in 2016 reported that they needed emergency medical treatment, according to the annual Global Drug Survey. The survey, of more than 120,000 participants in 50 countries, found that the rates of emergency medical treatment for MDMA, LSD, alcohol and cocaine were almost five times higher.

In a recent interview with VICE, Rick Strassman, M.D., the pioneering DMT researcher discussed the prohibitive issues surrounding Schedule I drugs, calling for a reclassification that might involve an “intermediate schedule between I and II,” which could aid both in preventing ease of access to these drugs by laypeople, but also remove some of the hurdles faced by the research community interested in studying these substances:

"I think that category of clinical reality ought to be combined with a legal category of the scheduling," Strassman said. "People wouldn't be able to possess and give these drugs without special training and without certification and supervision, but if you keep them kind of behind the lock and key of Schedule I, you're also not going to be able to give them to people who might benefit."

Rick Strassman 570x694
Rick Strassman

If certain psychedelic substances were more easily accessible to researchers interested in their possible benefits, we might indeed be able to learn of ways that certain psychoactive compounds might be useful in treating a variety of conditions and disorders.

If it could be done in a legal, socially responsible way, maybe it is indeed time for us to begin lifting some of the prohibitions on these substances--especially with regard to the research community--so that their potential benefits can be properly assessed.


Micah Hanks

Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.

Join MU Plus+ and get exclusive shows and extensions & much more! Subscribe Today!