I didn’t experiment with substances in my youth. My parents, religion, school, or any other authoritative body did not direct my decision. Well, that’s not entirely true. My mother was an alcoholic, a pill popper, and a devout wig-wearer. Thus, I couldn’t enter into the situation casually.
When I got my license, I was a proud and enthusiastic designated driver. I spent my high school years with a front row seat to the paradoxical world of drugs.
Drinking and smoking cigarettes were a rite of passage. Some people smoked marijuana, but that was the boogie-woogie “gateway” drug. But then, my friends guzzled coca cola, coffee, fake food, and perfect produce covered in pesticides. Prescription pills were on the rise for ADD, and other “developmental” issues. On television, I saw adverts selling pharmaceutical drugs with the most hilariously hideous set of side-effects that I couldn’t believe that they were actually being serious. I wondered– what classifies a drug? What differentiates a good from a bad drug?
Psychedelics first impacted the culture of the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. They broke down the unconscious mental constructs that direct our lives, and opened up the possibility for a whole new way of life. The psychedelic experience provided maps to navigate trauma, heightened awareness, and inspired groundbreaking works of art. There existed no conclusive evidence that they were destructive. They were simply new – to us – and misunderstood.
Government control, misdirected egos, and a general misunderstanding of these substances brought a backlash of fear and suspicion that resulted in their harsh prohibition. The legalities blocked scientists from simply conducting research to assess the potential value these substances had to offer.
As more and more mental health disorders are added to the list, more and more pharmaceuticals are being created that have turned the mental health into a multi-trillion dollar industry. Though margins are exceptional for the pharmaceutical industry, we– the people–still suffer. Grossly speaking, pharmaceuticals have failed to deal with the real problems underlying these issues. Now, we are in the midst of a mental health crisis.
Psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy are on the verge of breaking into mainstream medicine. MDMA, ketamine, and psilocybin are amongst the many substances that are now currently being used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Fifteen years ago this would have been impossible.
If I were to travel back to high school and approach my younger self, she wouldn’t recognize me. If I sat down beside her and said that she would find the tools to heal with these substances, she would laugh in my face. “Impossible.” If I added that she would also one day be writing for a psychedelic magazine, she would grimace. “A writer? No way.”
Thus I collected the most significant events in psychedelic news this year, to honor how far we’ve all come, how much has changed, and how far we still have to go.
The Year in Psychedelics So Far:
MAPS is underway with phase III clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of Post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans, police officers and firefighters. The results of phase II concluded that 54% of the 103 participants no longer exhibited PTSD symptoms after two MDMA-assisted therapy sessions, an amazing percentage considering the ineffectiveness of traditional methods. Phase III marks the final stage of research that will determine whether or not the FDA will approve MDMA as a legal prescription treatment for PTSD.
The Israeli Ministry of Health begins MDMA-assisted psychotherapy treatment for 50 individuals with PTSD. It is the first step in offering a successful option for a large population in need.
MAPS finishes the first clinical trial of smoked marijuana as a treatment for PTSD symptoms. Results from the study are being assessed and compiled by the end of this year.
The Marijuana Justice Act is reintroduced to end federal prohibition of marjiuana. “The War on Drugs has not been a war on drugs, it’s been a war on people, and disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker.
John Hopkins researchers find that the use of DMT improved depression and anxiety in people who did it in ceremonial community setting. In a study of 362 adults, 80% claimed DMT relieved them from symptoms.
Denver, Colorado makes history by decriminalizing psilocybin.
Oakland City, California unanimously votes to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms and all plant based substances.
Representation Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez introduces legislation that would make it easier for scientists to get psychedelics for research. Unfortunately, it was rejected by the house, but Cortez isn’t giving up: “let’s keep at it.”
TED releases the first official TedTalk about psychedelics with speaker and MAPS founder Rick Doblin.
MAPS therapy training program seeks to teach therapy providers how to facilitate psychedelic-assisted treatment. This month, MAPS is hosting a 7 day training event for providers of color in order to bring psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy to communities of color. This is a much-needed response to their historic exclusion from psychedelics and psychedelic research.