May 17, 2023
Exploring the Use of Mind-Altering Medicines
During Mental Health Awareness Month in May, we take stock of our mental health and how we care for ourselves.
During Mental Health Awareness Month in May, we take stock of our mental health and the ways in which we care for ourselves. Meditation, mindfulness, sleep, exercise and other techniques are really powerful ways to manage our mental health every day.
Some people who live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or trauma are also finding care and relief in a surprising and controversial place: plants and fungi with psychedelic effects.
At some point in our time on this planet, humans discovered that they could have mind-altering experiences after consuming certain plants and mushrooms. Various communities have used these psychedelics, sometimes linked to spiritual and medicinal practices.
In the 1960s, the U.S. government experimented with a synthetic version of psychedelics called LSD for mind control purposes. (Source: NPR The CIA’s Secret Quest For Mind Control: https://www.npr.org/transcripts/758989641)
However, the results of the LSD experimentation did not support its use for mind control, and psychedelics were banned in the U.S. Despite this setback, psychedelics continued to be used by “hippies” in higher education in California, with notable quantum physicists like Richard Feynman even experimenting with psychedelics. (Source: “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard Feynman p332)
Public policy regarding the consumption of psychedelics has been mostly a black-and-white approach. Most are classified as Schedule 1 drugs, meaning they have no acceptable medical use. (Source: United States Drug Enforcement Administration(dea.gov): https://tinyurl.com/yc2dz3td)
In the 1980s, the “Just Say No” public awareness campaign was launched to stop all illicit drug use in the U.S.
Many military veterans have experienced life-changing events and suffer from PTSD, which leads to high rates of suicide and depression. When standard therapy fails, medical staff resort to older ways of treating mental trauma. (Sources: Stanford University Magazine: https://tinyurl.com/Stanford-Magazine and The New York Times, The Daily: https://tinyurl.com/bdf3sdjz)
One study showed that a veteran treated with magic mushrooms experienced great results and lasting relief from PTSD. Many veterans have claimed the treatment helped them reframe their traumatic memories more sympathetically.
These successful applications suggest that psychedelics could be used (under the supervision of medically trained professionals) to help those suffering from mental trauma.
There is ongoing research on psychedelics, and some pharmaceutical companies are even trying to remove their hallucinogenic effects. As we recognize Mental Health Awareness Month in May, it’s interesting to consider that, in the future, psychedelics may shed their underground use stigma and become a respected tool for treating mental trauma.