As weed goes mainstream, hallucinogens are making a scientific and cultural comeback.
Cannabis has passed the tipping point toward widespread social acceptance (and probable legalization). Even prominent judges in states where marijuana is illegal are coming out as users and advocates. And now, if pop culture and scientific inquiry are any indicators, it would seem that psychedelics are re-entering the national dialogue with a marked separation from their perceived hippie past—and that’s probably a good thing.
Today, scientists throughout the country are delving into the trippy world of psychedelics to finally provide some concrete data and potential uses for the long-illegal drugs. Most notable, perhaps, is the work of Charles Grob at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, which was recently profiled in the New York Times Magazine . Grob has been administering psilocybin, the active chemical in magic mushrooms, to terminal cancer patients, with the hope of alleviating their understandable end-of-life anxiety. And it’s been working .
Harvard’s John Halpern conducted recent research that indicates LSD is an effective treatment for debilitatingly painful cluster headaches , even at sub-psychedelic doses. He started a company, Entheogen Corp. , around manufacturing and distributing a non-trippy LSD derivative known as BOL-148 to treat the disorder.
Even Oprah Winfrey’s mag wrote up a story last year detailing a doctor’s use of MDMA, Ecstasy’s main ingredient, as a treatment for PTSD in rape victims. Results from that study indicate that some 83 percent of subjects felt that the use of MDMA helped them overcome their traumas. The same doc is also behind the most recent round of MDMA testing on Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans suffering from the disorder. LSD has also been used to treat the disorder as recently as last year.
Even pop culture’s getting on board. Recently on Mad Men, Roger Sterling’s LSD adventures portrayed a fairly even-handed, hysteria-free experience. Comedians like Joe Rogan , Doug Stanhope and others have come out in support of the use of psychedelics for personal growth and creativity. Even Steve Jobs, hero to millions of geeks and businessmen around the world, gushed about his love for LSD in his recent authorized biography, saying dropping acid was “one of the most important things” he ever experienced.
Of course, humans have used psychedelics essentially since the dawn of humanity to treat a host of medical, mental and spiritual ailments. Noted scientist and philosopher Terence McKenna’s “Stoned Ape” theory even posits that the addition of low doses of foraged psilocybe cubensismushrooms into the Homo erectus diet was a prominent force behind the evolution of Homo sapiens and modern society due to the vision enhancement, sexual stimulation and empathy increase caused by low doses of the drug.
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