Extensive research and investigations were conducted with hallucinogens in the 1950s and 1960s. By the early 70s political and cultural pressure forced an end to all related projects. However, in more recent times there is a growing awareness that the psychological, spiritual and existential crises encountered by patients with cancer need to be addressed more effectively.
Studies done between the early 1950s and late 1970s showed powerful and sustained improvements for critically ill individuals. Despite these promising results and findings due to political pressure there was no follow-up research until recently. One particular substance under investigation is psilocybin. Commonly known as the ‘magic mushroom’ scientifically known as 4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine.
Effects are known to be similar to that of Lysergic acid diethylamide LSD, but considered to be more strongly visual and less emotionally intense. Recent clinical examinations of psilocybin have found that it is not hazardous to physical health. In one recent study 36 healthy volunteers were given a high dose of psilocybin with no sustained harmful physiological or psychological effects. Investigators verified previous findings that psilocybin could reliably cause mystical experience leading to significant and lasting improvements in their quality of life. This was also found in another study done on patients with severe OCD which resulted in a major reduction in their core obsessive-compulsive symptoms.
Universities around the world are reviving studies into the area of psychedelics including, ibogaine extracted in a root bark in Western Africa, psilocybin a naturally occurring compound found in more than 200 species of mushroom, ayahuasca or yage found in the amazon rain forest and nicknamed ‘vine of the soul’.
In another massive study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology last year, scientists at Norwegian university for Science and Technology at Trondheim concluded that there is no link between the use of LSD and psilocybin and mental-health problems. The study selected 130,000 participants at random- including 19,000 who had used psychedelic drugs and found no evidence linking such drugs to the onset of any mental disorders. There is a common perception that drugs like LSD put users in danger, but as Charles Grob, Professor of Psychiatry told Nature, “This study assures us that there were not widespread ‘acid casualties’ in the 1960s” this opinion was vehemently used as propaganda.
Another great story coming to light this year is that of Ryan LeCompte a former Marine who believes something like Ayahuasca, pronounced, ah-yuh-wah-skuh, may be able to help cure PTSD. After finding one of his sergeants dead from suicide, and becoming aware of the fact that 22 veterans kill themselves every day, he decided to take action into his own hands and over the course of the next couple of years spoke to over 100 veterans about their meds, dosages and therapies.
His findings soon found what we know to be an all too common fact, that we are too drugged up, overdosed and over diagnosed. “The vets who actually respond to FDA approved drugs are less than 10 percent. The rest come in looking like zombies” said Dr. Sue Sisley, an expert on PTSD in veterans. LeCompte soon stumbled across Ayahuasca therapy, a psychedelic treatment attracting many westerners, from far and wide, to the land of Peru, for a deeply cathartic experience with a shaman.
Brain experts J. L. Nielson and J. D. Megler wrote “Ayahuasca opens the limbic pathways of the brain to affect the emotional core of the trauma in a way similar to affective psychotherapy for trauma, and also impacts higher cortical areas … to allow the patient to assign a new context to their trauma,”. LeCompte said after his trip to Peru “You’re a changed person and there’s no doubting or denying that.” With the sponsorship of MAPS, the non-profit research and education organization into psychedelics, founded in 1986, LeCompte is now planning to do an official study in 2016 looking into how ayahuasca could treat PTSD. For more information on his crowdfunding project and studies into ayahuasca visit the site below.
By Callum Golding