Discuss the medical benefits of psychedelic drugs.

Transcending the Medical Frontiers: Exploring the Future of Psychedelic Drug Research by David Jay B

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Transcending the Medical Frontiers: Exploring the Future of Psychedelic Drug Research by David Jay Brown

Prepared by: Mary H. Maguire, California State University, Sacramento Article Kim Schnurbush, California State University,Sacramento

Transcending the Medical Frontiers

Exploring the Future of Psychedelic Drug Research

David Jay Brown

Learning Outcomes

After reading this article, you will be able to:

• Discuss the history of psychedelic drug use.

• Discuss the medical benefits of psychedelic drugs.

• Analyzetheargumentsforandagainstthemedicaluseof psychedelic drugs.

When I was in graduate school studying behavioral neuroscience I wanted nothing more than to be able to conduct psychedelic drug research. However, in the mid-1980s, this was impossible to do at any academic insti- tution on Earth. There wasn’t a single government on the entire planet that legally allowed clinical research with psychedelic drugs. However, this worldwide research ban started to recede in the early 1990s, and we’re currently witnessing a renaissance of medical research into psychedelic drugs.

Working with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psyche- delic Studies (MAPS) for the past four years as their guest edi- tor has been an extremely exciting and tremendously fruitful endeavor for me. It’s a great joy to see how MDMA can help people suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), how LSD can help advanced-stage cancer patients come to peace with the dying process, and how ibogaine can help opi- ate addicts overcome their addiction. There appears to be enor- mous potential for the development of psychedelic drugs into effective treatments for a whole range of difficult-to-treat psy- chiatric disorders.

However, as thrilled as I am by all the new clinical studies exploring the medical potential of psychedelic drugs, I still long for the day when our best minds and resources can be

applied to the study of these extraordinary substances with an eye that looks beyond their medical applications, toward their ability to enhance human potential and explore new realities.

This article explores these possibilities. But first, let’s take a look at how we got to be where we are.

A Brief History of Time-Dilation Studies

Contemporary Western psychedelic drug research began in 1897, when the German chemist Arthur Heffter first isolated mescaline, the primary psychoactive compound in the peyote cactus. In 1943 Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann discovered the hallucinogenic effects of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in Basel while studying ergot, a fun- gus that grows on rye. Then, 15 years later, in 1958, he was the first to isolate psilocybin and psilocin—the psychoactive components of the Mexican “magic mushroom,” Psilocybe mexicana.

Before 1972, nearly 700 studies with LSD and other psyche- delic drugs were conducted. This research suggested that LSD has remarkable medical potential. LSD-assisted psychotherapy was shown to safely reduce the anxiety of terminal cancer patients, alcoholism, and the symptoms of many difficult-to- treat psychiatric illnesses.

Between 1972 and 1990 there were no human studies with psychedelic drugs. Their disappearance was the result of a political backlash that followed the promotion of these drugs by the 1960s counterculture. This reaction not only made these substances illegal for personal use, but also made it extremely difficult for researchers to get government approval to study them.

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