Portland, Chicago, Berkeley, Dallas, Denver, and Oakland are all making moves to decriminalize psychedelic drugs that have been shown to have therapeutic applications.
So in your lifetime, you may see the decriminalization and eventual legalization of magic mushrooms, MDMA, LSD, mescaline, and DMT.
How is this not bigger news?!
It begs the question though… Are these "drugs" actually helpful in treating illness?
Well, to answer that question, allow me to take you on a very shallow dive of what MDMA has managed to do for veterans with PTSD in just one study.
Put your preconceptions and socially conditioned ideas about these drugs aside and try to take in this information as if it's the first time you're hearing about it.
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In 2010 scientists studied the effects of MDMA assisted psychotherapy on 19 veterans and/or first responders with treatment-resistant PTSD. Some of these guys had been experiencing PTSD for more than 19 years. Greater than 57% of the participants no longer met the diagnosis for PTSD after the study concluded. Remember, these people were previously resistant to all PTSD treatment.
The long term follow up had some other findings worth noting:
- Only 2 of the participants that finished the study had a relapse that resulted in unimproved symptoms of PTSD.
- 16 of 19 were attending therapy before enrollment in the study. Only eight were still in therapy during the 2-month long-term follow up.
- Everyone wanted to do more sessions afterward and thought that they would be beneficial.
- 13 of the 19 participants reported improved cognitive function. There are no negative cognitive side effects to MDMA with respect to this study.
- No participants suffered from substance abuse after the initial treatment.
Expert discusses MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD
What is even more telling to me than the numbers are some of the direct quotes from the participants.
- "The therapy made it possible for me to live"
- "The MDMA provided a dialogue with myself I am not often able to have, and there is the long-term effect of an increased sense of well-being."
- "I was always too frightened to look below the sadness. The MDMA and the support allowed me to pull off the controls, and I ... knew how and what and how fast or slow I needed to see my pain"
The picture painted by these quotes is a complex one. The therapy was life changing for many of the participants, but it wasn't easy, as is obvious from this statement by one of the participants.
"...one of the toughest things I have ever done..." That's from someone who went to war. The therapy was on par with combat for this individual.
Anyone who has taken a hard look at their "shit" whether it be from war, an abusive childhood, or just having to live with being human, knows that it can be the hardest thing you ever try to do. Burying it deep down and ignoring it is the easy route.
More than PTSD
Okay, so that's PTSD and veterans, obviously a topic close to my heart and the rest of the We Are The Mighty family, but there is a whole host of other conditions that are being studied/treated with psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms.
- Major depressive disorder
- Brain activity and connectivity
- Smoking cessation
- Emotional functioning of the brain
- Effects on attention, perception, and cognition
- Eye conditions like double vision
- Alcohol dependence
- Religion (this is super interesting)
- Cancer (again, and again, and again)
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
The most interesting aspect of these studies, in general, is that the drugs aren't curing anything. The psychedelics aren't doing the work; the patients are. The psychedelics are simply helping people get out of their own way so that they can help themselves, especially in mental conditions.
The cancer treatments are a little different. Cancer isn't being cured. The studies are looking at whether these drugs can help people with cancer-associated depression and anxiety. Also, it seems to be helping people become okay with dying.
From personal experience, I can attest that these compounds can show you exactly what it means/feels like to die. Depending on your experience and the way you set up the experience, the fear of death could be completely erased.
Do the work
Without going total hippie on your ass, I'd like to leave you with this one idea.
The boom in psychedelic research is great news for humanity. When done correctly with pure substances, there seem to be no side effects whatsoever from these compounds. No side effects is basically unheard of when it comes to current PTSD medications.
The main reason is that these drugs aren't doing much more than helping us let our guard down. The world is filled with a whole lot of really messed up shit that conditions us to protect ourselves. Veterans are one of the most stark examples of what happens when you experience something truly terrible.
You close off. You bury deep. You try to fight the memories. You try to change the past in your mind. You take responsibility for something you had no control over in the first place.
The research on psychedelics is showing us that what actually needs to happen is the opposite of all those things. We need to forgive ourselves, let go, and become okay with moving on. Facing your own death and coming to terms with it helps in dealing with the deaths of others as well.
Sometimes we just need some help to do those things. A properly set up psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy session may just provide the help needed. The opportunity to face your demons may be accessible and legal in a city near you within the next few years.
Share and promote this research if you're on board with helping veterans. The reason this research is being conducted is because of people that care. The system isn't set up to promote this research. We have to speak up to get our brothers and sisters treatments that could change their lives. Visit MAPS for information on how to help and donate to this cause. Share this article if there's someone you know who could benefit from this type of treatment. Comment on Facebook and keep this conversation going. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have had an experience or know someone who has had an experience with these substances that you think would help shed some light on this conversation. We need to be the keepers of our health and the health of our brothers and sisters.
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