For many, the swinging sixties would long reign supreme as the height of the “psychedelic era”, thanks to the hippie movement and the Haight Ashbury scene.
This was the birth of “free love”, and the Gonzo-Journalism experience. People were tuning in, dropping out, and eschewing the cares of their worlds by taking massive doses of mind altering drugs, likely as a way to escape the tumultuous political realities of America in the 1960’s.
Just two decades later, and spurred by this blossoming of an out-of-control drug culture, the 80’s brought us the war on drugs – a controversial solution to an even more controversial problem.
We know now that this war on drugs isn’t working out as we planned. Mandatory minimum sentencing has turned every traffic stop into a minefield of legal and moral dangers, and the nation is responding. Cannabis, for instance, is well on its way to becoming nationally legal with well over half of the states within out union having already decriminalized the plant in one way or another.
Even psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms are getting another look these days, but not for their astral-projection-inducing trips. Instead, certain compounds within the fungus, when taken in tiny doses, seem to show great potential for the treatment of depression.
At Imperial College London, Dr Robin Carhart-Harris is leading one of the first trials to test how therapy using psilocybin mushrooms, which are currently banned in the UK, compares to leading antidepressants.
While he won’t prejudge the results of the study, he says participants describe a cathartic emotional “release” with psilocybin therapy – the polar opposite of antidepressants, which patients complain leave their emotions, whether positive or negative, “blunted”.
It is the first of many studies planned under the banner of the new Centre for Psychedelic Research at London’s Imperial College.
Concerns over the efficacy and safety of pharmaceutical antidepressants has long been on the mind of Americans, particularly so after a vast majority of mass shooters in the US were shown to have been using selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors prior to their evil deeds.
Could psilocybin be the magic answer? There is still plenty of research to be done, but anything that takes money out of the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry is worth looking into.
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