Drugs! Psychedelic drugs! Psychedelic drugs that might be able to help people? I’ll admit, when I first heard about the idea behind this article I was a little bit skeptical. When I was growing up, I was always taught by everyone who was supposed to know these things – my parents, my sixth grade teacher, my high school health teacher – that drugs, especially psychedelic drugs, were bad for you. When you took them, you became addicted, or your world got really screwed up, or left pinky finger fell off. “What about legal drugs?” I would ask. “Well,” they would say, “legal drugs are okay. As long as you take them with a prescription in moderation.”
The truth is, though, that the line between legal and illegal drugs is almost completely arbitrary. As I read in the article, “Healing trip: How Psychedelic Drugs Could Help Treat Depression,” some illegal drugs, psychedelic mushrooms in particular, can actually be extraordinarily beneficial. On the first page of the article, the author, David Derbyshire, talks about how a dozen people with depression will be given psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. According to initial studies, psilocybin can help “suppress the part of the brain often hyperactive in depression called the medial prefrontal cortex (2).”
That’s not all the article talks about, however, the last half of the article reads almost like a pseudo apology for illegal drugs. Derbyshire starts by describing how some drugs, such as LSD, other hallucinogens, and cannabis, were labeled as so-called “schedule 1” drugs (schedule 1 means these substances are dangerous with no medicinal benefit – this means that it is much harder to research them because there is so much red tape –) while other, far more addictive drugs, such as heroin, were classified as “schedule 2” drugs (schedule 2 means that these substances are less dangerous and have some medicinal benefit – and are thus easier to research.) The problem is, though, that because schedule 1 drugs are so hard to research, it becomes exceedingly difficult to get them relabeled as a schedule 2 or 3 drug and their potential benefits go unnoticed.
Derbyshire goes on to talk about four currently illegal drugs that could have some major medicinal benefits: LSD, cannabis, psychedelic mushrooms, and ecstasy (MDMA).
According to the article, when someone is on LSD, their brain rearranges itself. Different parts of the brain that don’t usually communicate connect with each other, which can help break cycles of addiction and depression.
There are two major chemicals in cannabis: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – the latter of which could offer treatment for some health problems without the psychoactivity involved in getting high. – Unfortunately, most cannabis that people encounter is marijuana off the street, which is quite high in THC (pun intended) but low in CBD.
The article’s section on psychedelic mushrooms contained surprisingly little hard facts. (Part of this could be due to the red tape surrounding it. Then again, the red tape might be there for a reason.) It has the potential to combat depression and addiction and could help cancer patients come to terms with their addiction.
The last drug talked about in the article, ecstasy, could help patients with PTSD relieve their traumatic experiences easier, which could make therapy for these people much easier. Also, because ecstasy creates feelings of affection and goodwill, it could be used in couples therapy or to help combat end-of-life anxiety.