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Are Psychedelic Drugs the Next Frontier in Wellness Research?

Anna Hunt, Contributing Writer
Waking Times

Psychedelic substances such as ecstasy, LSD and magic mushrooms have been deemed illegal by the government and have been largely dismissed by the medical establishment although they may offer potential treatment for illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Yet, scientists are now starting to more actively explore the effects that chemicals such as LSD and psilocybin, which is found in certain species of mushrooms, have on the way we humans think and act.

A series of studies is being conducted in England and the United States by the widely respected Imperial College London and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to examine how hallucinations and the feelings of transcendence experienced when ingesting certain psychedelic drugs, such as psilocybin active mushrooms or LSD, can benefit a person’s overall emotional health and well-being.

“Lasting change was found in the part of the personality known as openness, which includes traits related to imagination, aesthetics, feelings, abstract ideas and general broad-mindedness.” – John Hopkins, Sept. 29, 2011

“Scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have zeroed in on the dose levels of the “sacred mushroom” chemical capable of yielding positive, life-changing experiences, while minimizing the chance of transient negative reactions in screened volunteers under supportive, carefully monitored conditions.” – Newswise, June 15, 2011

One of the most recent studies has been conducted by scientists at the Imperial College London in the UK. In this controversial televised study, 26 volunteers were given either a dose of ecstasy or a placebo, and then their brain activity was analyzed by scientists at the college to realize the precise effects of the drugs. Channel 4 in the UK is airing the documentary on September 26 and 27 entitled Drugs Live.

“People become very emotionally tender on ecstasy, which makes you more responsive to psychotherapy,” – Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, one of the experts involved in the Imperial College London study.

Although this type of research may sound radical to some, scientists are focused on seeking new treatments for depression, migranes and cluster headaches. Some of the findings from the study at the Imperial College London invite the possibility that these substances may offer treatment for past physical and emotional traumas.

“It was found that, in the volunteers given the proper drug, the area of their brain involved in positive memories became more active, while another processing negative memories was damped down. We think this would make it easier for patients to revisit a traumatic memory and overwrite or control it,” says Carhart-Harris.” – The Telegraph, Sept. 25, 2012

In the 1950’s and 60’s, many scientists were examining how psychedelic drugs can be used to benefit patients, however, research came to a halt in the 1970’s when the US Food and Drug Administration banned the use of LSD and other substances containing psilocybin. Nowadays, however, there is a noticeable shift in attitude toward these illegal substances, with a growing group of researchers seeking to use the drugs in safe clinical settings to help patients.

“These drugs don’t appear to produce dependence. Their ability to treat a range of addictive psychiatric and existential disorders is remarkable and too interesting not to explore further.” – Dr. Stephen Ross, director of the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse at Bellevue Hospital in New York City

Although funding has not been easy, support has come from organizations such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in the US and the Beckley Foundation in Oxford, UK. Both of these organizations have funded recent research on the effects of the drug ecstasy, also known as MDMA, and how it may alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder. The Beckley Foundation has also partnered with John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, to examine the possibilities of treating cigarette addiction with psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. Initial results from this study have been very promising:

“So far four long term heavy smokers have been run in this study and all have been able to quit smoking and remain long-term abstinent… All participants have shown verified abstinence at all follow up time points.” – The Beckley Foundation

The most recent psilocybin study conducted by the Imperial College London and the Beckley Foundation is offering new insight into the physiological effects that psilocybin has on the brain and human consciousness:

“One of my long-held theories about the brain has been that consciousness is directly linked to the volume of blood in the brain capillaries, and that drugs which intensify mental experiences, like psilocybin, increase that volume. However, the evidence shows a decrease in blood flow… These (communication centers) are the places where all the information from our senses is combined with our memories and expectations about the world. The result is the familiar consistent and coherent view of the world that we think of as normal. So it looks as though what the hallucinogens are doing is weakening that top-down control of our experience and allowing a freer, less constrained but also more chaotic state of awareness to emerge. It may also be significant that the volunteers who reported the most vivid and powerful experiences were also those who had the greatest reduction in blood flow.” – Amanda Feilding, The Beckley Foundation

The issue at hand is not about legalizing certain drugs such as LSD and ecstasy for use by the general public, but, whether or not clinical doctors should have the freedom to use the psycho-active chemicals in these drugs to treat disease and mental disorders, with the aim of improving the patient’s overall quality of life. Similarly, as cannabis is now regarded by many as a promising alternative treatment for cancer and other degenerative diseases (and for the side-effects of conventional cancer treatment), psychedelic therapy sessions could become a viable alternative for healing mental disorders and creating well-being.

As a means to assist human kind in reaching its full potential, other forward-thinking researchers might also argue that continued research into the area of psychoactive chemicals is needed for further exploration of the human spirit and the subconscious mind.

The late Steve Jobs once told reporters:

“…that taking LSD was one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life. He said there were things about him that people who had not tried psychedelics — even people who knew him well, including his wife — could never understand.” – The New York Times, Oct. 5, 2011

Perhaps psychedelic drugs are indeed the next frontier in wellness research.


About the Author

Anna Hunt enjoys teaching Yoga, raising her children and being a voice for optimal human health and wellness. Read more of her excellent articles here, and visit her website

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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  • dimitri

    Tom (above) has it right. The psychedelics were “dumped” on an unsuspecting public in the 1960ties and 70ties (by the CIA and other intel agencies?). Despite the sometime positive direction in which they can send a user, the overall long term effect is a distraction from serious spiritual work, and may even negate it.

    Power elites are subtly pushing an agenda to decriminalize pot and psychedelics so that they can reintroduce them on a more massive scale to the general public. The purpose, as with all widely used drugs, is to weaken the mind and maintain control over a zombified, demotivated populace. Huxley’s “soma” predicted this possibility in Brave New World. Watch out for strangers bearing gifts and don’t believe everything you hear and read. Use your gut/heart instincts and stick with them.

  • Provocative and Enlightening Book Dissects the Human Consciousness
    “The Far-Off Land” philosophically evaluates the hallucinogenic drug-experience and
    intends to collect the perspectives of philosophy for better understanding of the human
    consciousness, improve the cure to mental illness
    RIVERTON, Utah – (Release Date TBD) – A credible resource classifies hallucinogens as psychoactive drugs
    that could cause subjective changes in human perception, thought, emotion, and consciousness—inducing
    experiences qualitatively different from those of ordinary consciousness. To gain a deeper understanding about
    this perennially interesting subject, author Eugene Seaich attempts to dissect the human consciousness to
    provoke and enlighten the readers’ mind in The Far-Off Land, a revealing book that presents a philosophical
    evaluation of the hallucinogenic drug-experience.
    This book is a cerebral piece of literature that attempts to discover the broader realities that lie behind
    psychogenic phenomena and seek a pattern that will explain the longing of human being for the Beyond, for the
    otherworldly substance of their intuition. Seaich will take readers on a trip through millennia, offer them
    glimpses of the forthcoming and explore deeper his own psyche—and experiences with LSD and mescaline—in
    order for them to discover a more profound and broader understanding of the mind and human consciousness.
    Guided by a cardinal principle, Seaich captures the philosophical prospects and covers a great background of
    other relevant fields of study that promote psychotropic knowledge to better understand human consciousness—
    and to ultimately improve humanity’s cure to mental illness and even solve life’s mysteries.
    Filled with tremendous meaning and insight, revelations and wisdom, historical facts and quotes from the
    world’s greatest minds and literature, The Far-Off Land is an intelligent and poetic prose that will inform
    readers about human consciousness and inspire them about life, including its complexities, a journey full of
    realizations and value. Stanley Krippner, PH.D. Co-author DEMESTIFING SHAMANS AND THEIR WORLD

    Now available
    An attempt at a philosophical evaluation of the hallucinogenic drug experience.
    By PH.D. Eugene Seaich

    It seems to me that the well-established properties of the hallucinogenic drugs might be well employed to enable us to explore this far-off land, which is in effect our subconscious mind.

    An attempt at a philosophical evaluation of the hallucinogenic drug experience. It seems to me that the well-established properties of the hallucinogenic drugs might be well employed to enable us to explore this far-off land, which is in effect our subconscious mind. Eugene aims to bring together the perspectives of philosophy Hopefully with the immence background of anthropology, literature, comparative religion, the arts and psychology can someday be brought together with pyschotropic knowledge to better understand our consciousness to ultimately improve humanity cure mental illness and even solve lifes mysteries. Were we to learn its secrets, we would better understand our own desires, and the motives which drive us through life. Still better, the secrets of human history would perhaps be discovered as the eternal patterns of imagination which have shaped our spiritual existence. But perhaps most important of all, to penetrate the well of the past might restore to us that visionary perception which we think to have once possessed.

    The far-off land has tremendous meaning and insight. Intelligently written and poetic. Takes you on journey that feels you full with meaning and insight that leaves you with a sense of awe and mystery attaching to our contemplation of life
    Eric Hendrickson

    It has seemed to me that the well-established properties of the hallucinogenic drugs might be well employed to enable us to explore this far-off land, which is in effect our subconscious mind. Were we to learn its secrets, we would better understand our own desires and the motives that drive us through life. Still better, the secrets of human history would perhaps be discovered as the eternal patterns of imagination that have shaped our spiritual existence. But, perhaps most important of all, to penetrate the well of the past might restore to us that visionary perception that we think we once possessed. Legend and myth are curiously persistent in their suggestion that the human race formerly enjoyed the delights of paradise; actually, I believe that this paradise has been fashioned perennially by each of us from his own recollection of life’s initial innocence, and therefore awaits recreation from the depths of primal memory. If this is true, the strange drugs that the Indians left to us might prove to be
    the very Hermetic Secret sought after by the alchemists.

    In the study that follows, I have attempted solely to analyze my own experiences with two of these drugs, LSD and mescaline. I have not avoided treating them subjectively, since this aspect of the experience especially reveals what is operative beneath the surface of the mind when hallucinogenic-ally stimulated. A cardinal principle has guided my observations: The human mind stands behind all phenomena, organizing, integrating, and interpreting; the nature of its “ ab-reaction” to experience reveals its inner functions, just as our tastes and prejudices reveal our personalities. This principle is not proposed in an extreme Berkelean sense as a denial of objective existence, but as recognition of the essential role played by our total past in experiencing “reality,” ac- cording to the image we bear within us. Nor does the private nature of my experiments preclude a general application, since each of us is an expression of our race and culture; any study of literature or philosophy will show that the same motifs appear continuously in history, illustrating basic insights that we inherit from life: insights both universal and timeless because of the existen- tial problems faced by all. Quite obviously, the hallucinogenic experience is not stereotyped by a single type of personality; the details that follow are only suggestive of certain imaginative processes involved, rather than their neces- sary psychogenic form. Thus, one might comprehend in them a picture of human consciousness in general; for the deeper one penetrates the subconscious mind, the more impersonal it becomes and the closer one approaches the state that existed before conceptual egotism drove us into our separate worlds. There are, indeed, sufficient similarities between the experiences investigated here and those recorded in both psychological journals and the world’s great literature to suggest an essential agreement between all subconscious memories. Accordingly, the present study attempts to discover the broader realities that lie behind psychogenic phenomena and to seek a pattern that would explain the longing of human beings for the Beyond, for the otherworldly substance of their intuition. Whether or not we are successful, it is hoped that fruitful directions for further investigation will be perceived, and the use of our new hallucinogenic tools will be extended to much broader fields than is presently the case.

    Eugene was a brilliant man who had 5 degrees including a Phd in musicology, a Phd in German literature Phd in philosophy and has his master’s in pharmacology and the fine arts.

    Has performed lectures on LSD and psychedelics. And has writings in The University of Utah’s pharmacological journal.

    My name is Eric Hendrickson. Grandson of Eugene. And The far land was left to me when he died. I was destined to receive this book and its gives me great purpose that I get his work out there for the world to see.

    Please Invite your friends to this group…

    Thank you, for your support.

    Eric Hendrickson.

  • Tom (another)

    My experience with LSD (15 trips in my teens) is that while offering a psychadelic and pseudo-mystical experience, is that it shattered the fine, delicate balance between my spiritual bodies, wreaking havoc on my energy system that has taken many years to clear up. Yes, I’m glad I experienced the universes between my ears, but now I find meditation infinitely more valuable. But LSD being dumped on society served the purpose it was intended for … it totally distracted a generation away from stopping the wanton disregard for life through war. that continues to this day.

  • Alice DeLorean

    Every time I see that ‘safe clinical setting’ euphemism, it gives me the giggles. All the same, testimonies of patients like Cary Grant revealed that positive outcomes with LSD were common back in the day of clinical investigation.

    Albert Hoffman experienced LSD in full understanding of its potential and lived happily ever after to the age of 103. His ergot compounds are known to assist childbearing. It was the control system that destroyed trust in human potential. Many clinical professionals understood LSD in their time, and tried to provide good set and setting for patients to liberate themselves.

    The hippies’ sacramental usage seems about the same as traditional native practice, and should not be disparaged fundamentally because it was conducted outside clinics. The Tarahumara do not need clinics any more than the Peruvians need them for set and setting to use their religious sacraments. It is only the dominator/terminator cultures who are spiritual babies and know so little of themselves inside, while destroying the planet around them.

  • Tom

    I read and I read and I read . . .
    The Void, the Dharma, the long Indian words . . ?
    Alphabet soup.
    Even more confusion . . .

    Summers day
    Endless woods
    Relaxing beyond belief.
    Merging with the earth like a log.

    Goodbye cruel world
    I am dead
    Hardly breathing
    Endless time

    And later
    Seeing this heaven with the eyes of a child.

    Bach Violin Concertos.
    Vivaldi mandolins.
    Pink Floydd Echoes

    Birds’ pure sharp tweeting
    The evening breeze through the leaves like the surf on the shore.
    Too much too much to comprehend with your reason
    Yet you comprehend
    Tears streaming in sadness and happiness

    One thing is clear
    Your life is changed for ever.
    The path is new
    The Only “re birth”

    Drinking alcohol
    is like pouring syrup into a swiss watch.
    Please read Tim Leary – “Psychadelic Prayers.”
    Been there. Done that.

    Part 2

    It is people trying to control other people, that are the problem.
    Predators and prey.
    Ah! Nature red in tooth and claw.
    Now humans with soft-soap smiling deceit.
    We have not come very far, have we?

    Trusting family and friend
    Then a tender trap lands you in the poo
    But their hands are clean.
    “OH dear! I AM sorry . . ”
    Stifled giggles

    Right dickheads
    It’s an eye for an eye
    With interest . .
    No matter WHO you are . . .

  • Bonnie Camo MD

    Dr. Humphrey Osmond was the originator of the term “psychedelic”, meaning mind-manifesting. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) had recently been discovered by chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann at Sandoz pharmaceutical company in Switzerland, in 1943. Drs. Hoffer and Osmond experimented with using it to produce an artificial psychosis, in order to learn how to better treat schizophrenics. (This was before LSD was promoted by Harvard professor Timothy Leary and became popular among the Hippies in the 1960’s.) Dr. Osmond discussed his research in correspondence with Aldous Huxley, in 1956. They were trying to come up with a neutral name to describe this sort of drug, to replace terms like hallucinogenic and psychotomimetic. Huxley wrote to Osmond, suggesting “phanerothyme”, meaning soul-manifesting, with the couplet:

    To make this trivial world sublime,
    Take half a gramme of phanerothyme.

    Osmond wrote back with his suggestion:

    To fathom Hell or soar angelic,
    Just take a pinch of psychedelic.

    He had no idea how widely this term would come to be used.

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