Psychedelic science makes a comeback.
Scientific publications, therapeutic breakthroughs and cultural notes suggest that the historical reputation of psychedelics – such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline (from the peyote cactus) and psilocybin (mushrooms) – as dangerous or inherently risky unfairly a more optimistic interpretation has overshadowed.
Recent publications, such as Michael Pollan & # 39; s How to Change your Mind demonstrate the creative and potential therapeutic benefits psychedelics have to offer – for mental health challenges such as depression and addiction, in institutions for palliative care and for personal development
Large scientific journals have published articles that show evidence-based reasons for supporting research in psychedelic studies.
These include evidence that pscilocybin significantly reduces anxiety in patients with life-threatening diseases such as cancer, which improves MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), also known as ecstasy) results for people suffering from PTSD and that psychedelics prolonged openness of a feeling that is both therapeutically and personally enriching.
Other researchers investigate the traditional use of plant medicines, such as ayahuasca, and investigate the neurological and psychotherapeutic benefits of combining indigenous knowledge with modern medicine.
I am a medical historian and research why we now think that psychedelics can play a valuable role in human psychology, and why we refused that hypothesis more than 50 years ago, during the heyday of psychedelic research.
What has changed? What did we miss earlier? Is this just a flashback?
Healing trauma, anxiety, depression
In 1957 the word psychedelic officially entered the English lexicon, introduced by British educated and Canada-based psychiatrist Humphry Osmond .
Osmond studied mescaline of the peyote cactus, synthesized by German scientists in the 1930s, and LSD, a substance produced in the laboratory by Albert Hofmann in Sandoz in Switzerland.
During the 1950s and 1960s, more than 1,000 scientific articles appeared while researchers around the world questioned the potential of these psychedelics for curing addictions and trauma.
But at the end of the 1960s, the most legitimate psychedelic research came to a standstill. Part of the research was considered unethical, namely mind-control experiments conducted under the auspices of the CIA.
Other researchers were discredited for either unethical or self-enlarged use of psychedelics, or both.
Timothy Leary was perhaps the most notorious character in that respect. After being fired from the University of Harvard, he launched a recreational career as a self-proclaimed apostle of psychedelic life.
Drug regulators struggled to find a balance between a desire for scientific research with a growing need for recreational use and some claimed psychedelics abuse.
In the popular media, these drugs symbolized hedonism and violence. In the United States, the government sponsored films to frighten viewers for the long-term and even fatal consequences of taking LSD.
Scientists struggled to maintain their credibility while the popular stance began to shift.
interpretation begins to change.
A revival of psychedelics
In 2009, the British drug adviser David Nutt reported that psychedelic drugs were unjustly banned.
He argued that substances such as alcohol and tobacco were in fact much more dangerous to consumers than medications such as LSD, ecstasy (MDMA) and mushrooms (psilocybin).
He was thus discharged from his advisory position, but his published claims helped debate on the use and abuse of psychedelics, both in scientific circles and in policy circles.
And Nutt was not the only one. Several renowned researchers began to join the chorus of support for new regulations that allowed researchers to explore and reinterpret the neuroscience behind psychedelics.
Studies ranged from those to the mechanisms of drug reactions for those who reviewed the role of psychedelics in psychotherapy. 19659002]
In 2017, Oakland, California, organized the largest gathering so far of psychedelic scientists and researchers.
With participation in more than 3000 participants, Psychedelic Science 2017 brought researchers and practitioners together with diverse interests to revitalize psychedelics. – from filmmakers to neuroscientists, journalists, psychiatrists, artists, policy advisers, comedians, historians, anthropologists, indigenous healers and patients.
The conference was co-organized by the leading organizations that focus on psychedelics – including the multidisciplinary association for psychedelic studies (MAPS) and The Beckley Foundation – and participants were exposed to pioneering research.
Measurement of reaction, no experience
As a historian, however, I have been trained to be cynical about trends that claim to be new or innovative. We learn that we often forget the past culturally or ignore the parts of the past that seem beyond our borders.
Therefore, I am particularly interested in understanding the so-called psychedelic renaissance and what makes it different from the psychedelic heyday of the 1950s and 1960s.
The historical tests were carried out in the very early stages of the pharmacological revolution, which read new methods for evaluating efficacy and safety, culminating in the randomized controlled trial (RCT).  However, before this approach was standardized, most pharmacological experiments relied on case reports and data accumulation that did not necessarily involve blinded or comparative techniques.
Historically, scientists wanted to separate pharmacological substances from their organic, cultural, spiritual and healing contexts. – The RCT is a classic representation of our attempts to measure the reaction rather than to interpret the experience.
I dissolving the drug from an associated ritual may have previously conveyed an image of progress, or a more sincere scientific approach.
Today, however, psychedelic researchers begin to question the decision to excise the drug from its indigenous or ritualized practices.
In the past 60 years, we have invested more than ever in psychopharmacological research. American economists estimate the amount of money spent on psychopharmacological research in the billions per year.
Rethinking the scientific method
Modern science has focused on data building – measuring responses, identifying neural networks and discovering neurochemical ways.
It has certainly departed from larger philosophical questions about how we think, or what human consciousness is or how human thoughts evolve.
Some of those questions inspired the earlier generation of researchers to embark on psychedelic studies in the first place.
We now have more advanced tools for advancing the science of psychedelics.
But psychedelics have always inspired the harmony between brain and behavior, individuals and their environment, and an appreciation for Western and non-Western traditions that inform the human experience among themselves.
In other words, scientific pursuits must be linked to a humanistic tradition – not only to emphasize how psychedelics work, but why that matters.
Erika Dyck, professor and Canada Research chair in the history of medicine, University of Saskatchewan.
This article was originally published by The Conversation. Read the original article.