“Psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is to the study of biology.”
After spending a few days surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the psychedelic research community, I’m convinced now more than ever that a psychedelic renaissance is underway. The revolution, it should be known, will be synthesized.
As mentioned last Friday, I’m in Prague — what is essentially the birthplace of psychedelic research — for the world’s first global multidisciplinary psychedelic conference, Beyond Psychedelics.
The Czech Republic’s liberal attitude toward drugs (absent disastrous results, shocker) makes it a perfect place for such a dynamic and eclectic conference.
Legalizace, a popular magazine in Prague littered the tables of the conference…
So… why am I here?
My initial interest in the amazing potential of psychedelics is actually deeply personal.
In 2012, just after moving to Baltimore from Ohio, I discovered that people were being dosed with psychedelic drugs for therapy at Johns Hopkins University, only a half a mile away from my apartment.
Interested, I dug deeper and found that similar studies were taking place all over the world, all with incredibly promising results. And, since, this trend has only accelerated.
Drugs previously regarded by much of academia as being reserved solely for harebrained hedonists looking to fry their brains are doing things in controlled studies which Big Pharma promises to do, but always falls embarrassingly (and disastrously) short.
Mike Margolies and Teri Krebs, Psychedelic Stories
I wasn’t fully thrown down the rabbit hole, though, until I came across one article on the Johns Hopkins website titled, Psychedelic Drug Use Could Reduce Psychological Distress, Suicidal Thinking.
And that’s where it hit home.
On January, 11, 2007, my mother, after several years of unsuccessfully treating her manic depression with a kaleidoscope of “medically acceptable” pharmaceutical drugs, committed suicide.
Over time, as a result, to say the least, I became no fan of Big Pharma and, in general, the way our white-coat “professionals” deal with mental health in America.
Kilindi Lyi,High Dose Into Darkness
Moreover, many members of my family have suffered, and some still do suffer, from drug and alcohol addiction. And many of these addictions help support the same sick-care system which, I believe, only served to exacerbate my mother’s psychological dis-ease.
It’s a vicious cycle. And psychedelics, I am convinced, can help destroy it.
#PsychedelicsBecause compassion. Humans are suffering and psychedelic drugs can help.
Psychedelics hold incredible potential to hack at the root of mental dis-ease, including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse and, yes, suicidal thoughts.
Marijuana and Ibogaine activist, Irvin Dana Beale
Over 50 years ago, Stanislav Grof was one of the first to speculate that psychedelics have the ability to make conscious the unconscious drivers of human behavior, thus giving individuals the opportunity to take control over these drivers (often for the first time in their lives) and ‘rewrite the code’ as they see fit.
“In one of my early books,” Grof wrote in the foreword to Albert Hofmann’s LSD: My Problem Child, “I suggested that the potential significance of LSD and other psychedelics for psychiatry and psychology was comparable to the value the microscope has for biology or the telescope has for astronomy.
Paul Austin of The Third Wave blog speaking on the benefits of “microdosing”…
“My later experience with psychedelics,” Grof goes on, “only confirmed this initial impression. These substances function as unspecific amplifiers that increase the cathexis (energetic charge) associated with the deep unconscious contents of the psyche and make them available for conscious processing. This unique property of psychedelics makes it possible to study psychological undercurrents that govern our experiences and behaviours to a depth that cannot be matched by any other method and tool available in modern mainstream psychiatry and psychology. In addition, it offers unique opportunities for healing of emotional and psychosomatic disorders, for positive personality transformation, and consciousness evolution.”
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With the help of emerging tech — namely our newfound capabilities in brain scanning technology — we now know that Grof’s early speculations hold truth.
Psilocybin Research from Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
For example, psilocybin (AKA the “magic mushroom”) and LSD have been shown to suppress a highly-interconnected region of our brains called the Default Mode Network (DMN), which acts somewhat like a “central command.” Robin Carhart-Harris, a researcher at Imperial College London, likens the DMN to the “capital city of a country.”
“The Default Mode Network,” Amanda Feilding, founder of the UK’s psychedelic research hub Beckley Foundation, told Psymposia magazine in an interview, “closely corresponds with Bart Huges’ conception of the ‘ego’ as a top-down controlling mechanism. The brain is not a free-for-all among independent systems but a federation of interdependent components, that are hierarchically organised. The DMN sits at the top of this hierarchy, exerting a top-down control on activity in other brain regions that feed their information into this network, to be either repressed or routed onwards.”
When the DMN is too active, depression, dependence and suicidal thoughts normally persist. Psychedelics, interestingly, serve to calm the DMN and allow for a temporary flattening of the hierarchies of the brain.
Just as our overly-centralized governments all too often get in the way of human progress in general, our overly-centralized brains, if the DMN is too active, lead us to suffer the same fate on an individual level. (It’s compelling to speculate, on that note, that governance is simply a reflection of the way the masses process information. But that’s a topic for another day.)
Psychedelics, simply put, have a way of helping to temporarily decentralize our brain processes, allowing us to take more control over our own minds and, ultimately, our lives.
Rick Doblin, Mainstreaming Psychedelics for Cultural Change
As mentioned, incredibly telling research is starting to gush out of prestigious institutions proving that psychedelics could, if we let them, play an important role in human health, well-being and, yes, evolution.
Case in point, here’s just a taste of what I’ve discovered over the weekend:
- Ayahuasca, a brew used as traditional medicine in the Amazon among the indigenous, creates neurogenesis in the brain — stimulating the birth of new brain cells. “Potential applications,” Feilding writes, “would range from treating neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders, to redressing brain damage associated with stroke or trauma.”
- Psilocybin has been shown, time and again, to help treat depression. Oftentimes, too, the effects are felt long after the “trip.” Many participants of one Johns Hopkins study, in fact, called it one of the most important experiences of their lives a full year after the study.
- MDMA, as mentioned in Friday’s episode, is showing enormous promise in treating… and potentially even curing… PTSD.
Since my initial foray into psychedelic science, I’ve met people all over the world who’ve had incredibly healing and life-changing experiences while under the influence of psychedelic drugs. Many of them would only admit as much in hushed tones and confidence that I wouldn’t reveal their “dirty little secret.”
This is a problem.
Psychedelic drugs hold an unwarranted stigma in society and, because of it, people who have had incredibly transformative experiences are often too afraid to speak openly about them.
This fear is irrational. It was instilled into us through propaganda of the worst kind because, frankly, psychedelics are one of the biggest (if not the biggest) threats to the current monolithic power structure.
More than anything, the stigma of psychedelic drugs is the Great Halter of Progress in what could be the most important work for the future of humankind.
Fortunately, this work isn’t going untended.
Towards a Global Psychedelic Society: Strategic global grassroots meeting…
I have several major takeaways from Beyond Psychedelics. Here are, in my opinion, the most important three:
1.] Psychedelics are an important tool and catalyst for individual and suprapersonal social change.
2.] Removing the stigma of psychedelic drugs and being able to speak openly and honestly about experiences and research is necessary. Try it.
3.] We are on the verge of a psychedelic renaissance so massive that in as little as a decade, it’s possible that psychedelic therapy will be commonly available and the preferred choice. (Too bold? We’ll see.)
Psychedelics are embedded into our history and may’ve played, we are beginning to understand, a crucial role in human evolution. The time is ripe for them to crawl out of the darkness.
The psychedelic renaissance is now. The revolution will be synthesized.
[Ed. note: To learn more about the Beyond Psychedelics conference, and check out all of the great work they’re doing, click here.]
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today