Peace on Drugs
*THIS IS A PAPER I WROTE FOR MY ENGLISH CLASS. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO HELP END THE DRUG WAR, JOIN THE MULTIDISCIPLINARY ASSOCIATION FOR PSYCHEDELIC STUDIES (HTTP://WWW.MAPS.ORG/) TO DONATE OR VOLUNTEER. *
It is a long essay so here is a short summary:
*Psychedelics can have been shown to have medicinal effects like helping relieve PTSD, depression, anxiety.
*Ibogaine helps addicts come off hard drugs and helps diminish withdraw symptoms
*Microdosing is used by professionals in Silicon Valley to enhance creativity and excel in their jobs
*We can’t research these “drugs” when they are illegal. This stifles our scientific/medical progress.
*The war on drugs was created to target minorities and have an excuse to put them in jail
*The use of drugs has stayed consistent for the 40 years we’ve had a war on drugs. Why do we keep doing the same thing if it doesn’t work?
*Grown adults should be able to freely explore their consciousness, without fear of being locked up like a criminal.
*Psychedelics have been used in religious practices for thousands of years. Making them illegal is against our First Amendment right to freely exercise one’s religion.
Peace on Drugs
The war on drugs has been a forty year failure and it is time for change. Not only is having a war on a noun, just ridiculous, it is also ineffective. Over $1 trillion dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and yet the use of drugs has stayed consistent. When we criminalize drugs, it only stops research from being done and creates the profiting of drug cartels. Psychedelics are not just “drugs”, they are a way to connect with yourself spiritually and studies show that they may have medical value. When we make something illegal, we demonize it and this makes people believe that it is dangerous even when it is not. Just because something is illegal, doesn’t mean it is wrong. Adults should be free to responsibly explore their own consciousness with psychedelics without the fear of being prosecuted and treated like a criminal.
Psychedelic substances have been used for thousands of years for religious and therapeutic purposes. Psychedelics were legal until the 1970’s when the government correlated psychedelics with youthful rebellion, social upheaval, and political protest. This threatened their ability to control and manipulate the masses. In the words of Terence McKenna, “Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behavior and information processing.” (Mckenna) Psychedelics bring peace but peace doesn’t bring money.
In June 1971, President Nixon declared a war on drugs. He declared drug abuse “public enemy number one”. Instead of helping people who are addicted to hard drugs, he made them the enemy. Drug addiction is a public health problem and not a criminal problem. The war on drugs is really just a war on people and progress. John Ehrlichman,White House Domestic Affairs Advisor during the Nixon presidency stated:
The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” (LoBianco)
The government realized that psychedelics would cause people to be against the war. Creating the war on drugs was the easiest way to stop the “hippies” from spreading their ideas.
The war on drugs led to psychedelics being classified as Schedule I drugs which is defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. The definition of drug abuse is the ability a drug retains to keep someone dependent on it. Psychedelics are not generally addictive and in fact some psychedelics help in addiction treatment. (Johns Hopkins Medicine) This does not mean that there are no cases of psychedelic drug addiction because it is possible to become addicted to anything from sugar, fast food, etc so it is possible for people to become mentally addicted to psychedelics as well. They scheduled psychedelics as having no medical use even though they have been used to treat depression, PTSD, anxiety, addictions, and have been used to help people come to terms with end of life. (Roni) That sounds like they could be used for medical use in many ways. So therefore is seems odd that psychedelics are Schedule I even though they are not truly addictive and could have medical use.
One psychedelic that is disproving the myth that they have no medical use is Ibogaine. Ibogaine is a lesser known psychedelic and is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in plants in the Apocynaceae family. This plant is being used to treat hard addictions to heroin, alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, etc. Ibogaine acts on dopamine, serotonin and other neurotransmitter pathways strongly linked to addiction and reward. Just one dose, brings near-instant relief from cravings and withdrawal symptoms. So while this plant is a Schedule I drug, it is actually helping addicts come off hard drugs that actually do have a high potential for abuse. (Jacobson)
Psychedelics have many benefits but anything can be potentially dangerous if used incorrectly. A common argument against legalizing psychedelics is that people would take too much and hurt themselves. Taking too many psychedelics in public could possibly be dangerous but this is true for taking other legal drugs like alcohol and opiates. We don’t incriminate alcohol and opiates just because you might take too much. Taking too many psychedelics in public would be just as illegal as being drunk in public. We would have more education in using psychedelics safely and responsibly.
As with anything in life, there are important things to consider to be safe while using psychedelics. Set and setting are important factors in having a good trip. Being in a safe and comfortable place will allow you to relax. Being in an area that is unknown or potentially dangerous can led to a bad trip. It is also important in who you surround yourself with while tripping. If you want to have a good trip then it is best to be around people you love or trust. Being with people who are untrustworthy can led to anxiety and scary hallucinations. While having a bad trip, a person may act on what he or she experiences, which can be dangerous for the user as well as for those in attendance.
If psychedelics were legal, we’d be able to do more research to determine the benefits of psychedelics as well as having a safe place for people to do them. There is still a lot we don’t know about psychedelics but scientists do know that psilocybin binds to a receptor in the brain for serotonin, a brain chemical that plays a role in mood, appetite and sleep. Exactly how the drug transforms the whole brain’s pattern of communication isn’t clear. The Journal of the Royal Society Interface published research on how psychedelic drugs work. They hope to use this research so that psychiatrists can someday use psychedelics in a safe and controlled setting to treat such things as depression and PTSD.
The Journal of the Royal Society Interface’s study on psychedelics was conducted by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brain activity of 15 healthy volunteers. They scanned the volunteers brain activity once after they had taken a placebo, and once after they took the psilocybin. They created a map of connections between different brain regions to compare between the placebo and the psilocybin. What they found could lead to many more discoveries. (Ghouse)
The study concluded that, “Psilocybin dramatically transformed the participants’ brain organization. With the drug, normally unconnected brain regions showed brain activity that was synchronized tightly in time. That suggested the drug was stimulating long-range connections the brain normally wouldn’t make. After the drug wore off, brain activity went back to normal.” (Ghouse) The research could ultimately also help answer bigger questions of the mind, the possibilities are endless.
John’s Hopkins hospital is one of the leaders of psychedelic research. It was America’s first research university and is a highly prestigious medical school in Baltimore, MD. John’s Hopkins conducted a study to determine the lasting effects of psilocybin. Lasting change was found in the part of the personality known as openness, which includes traits related to imagination, aesthetics, feelings, abstract ideas and general broad-mindedness. The study leader, Roland R. Griffiths noted that if anything, openness seems to decrease with age. The older we get, the more conditioned we are to be closed minded and set in our ways of thinking. Psilocybin may help change that.
Griffiths says he believes psilocybin may have therapeutic uses. He is currently studying whether the hallucinogen has a use in helping cancer patients handle the depression and anxiety that comes along with a diagnosis, and whether it can help longtime cigarette smokers overcome their addiction.“There may be applications for this we can’t even imagine at this point,” he says. “It certainly deserves to be systematically studied.” (Johns Hopkins Medicine) With the limited amount of research we are allowed to do, we are finding many promising conclusions. Just imagine what we could discover if these psychedelics were legal and we had more freedom to do studies and research.
If John’s Hopkins is finding evidence that psilocybin may create personality change then I wonder what else it has done for humankind. Many theories have been developed to explain the evolution of the human mind. Perhaps one of the most interesting and controversial is the Stoned Ape Theory developed by Terence Mckenna in the 70’s. His theory states that apes “ate their way to higher consciousness.” As food sources dwindled for the apes, they eventually started eating psilocybe mushrooms.
Mushrooms have been known to increase visual acuity which could make them become better hunters. It would also increase sexual arousal which would mean a better chance at having offspring. As the apes ate the psychedelics in low doses, it may have helped them become better hunters and survivors. It may sound like a crazy theory but if we are now finding evidence that mushrooms create a hyperconnected brain and could be used to change the way we think then is it really all that crazy to believe that these mushrooms had an influence on human evolution? Terrence Mckenna observed, “Even as the nineteenth century had to come to grips with the notion of human descent from apes, we must now come to terms with the fact that those apes were stoned apes.” (Mckenna.)
In McKenna’s theory, he suggests the consumption of psilocybin was done in small doses, where the effect doesn’t quite reach the point of hallucination, but instead reaches the point of heightened senses and boosted energy. These small does, or “microdosing” is gaining more popularity and not just with hippies and apes. Microdosing is being used by professionals in Silicon Valley to enhance their creativity and productivity at work. Smaller doses produce mild euphoria, energy lift or added insight, without allowing you to feel like you are “tripping.” (Gregoire)
If scientists are using psychedelics to become better at their jobs, maybe this is the continuation of the stoned ape theory. Perhaps we are slowly evolving into the next generation of super-smart humans and the mushroom is out catalyst. Many people who have changed our world have done psychedelics and contributed psychedelics to their discoveries. From Steve Jobs, to Bill Gates, to Crick, and Kary Mullis- they were all influenced by the mystical mushroom. In an interview for BBC’s Psychedelic Science documentary, Kary Mullis mused aloud: “What if I had not taken LSD ever; would I have still invented PCR?” To which he replied, “I don’t know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.” (Gonzalez) In the past, mushrooms helped the survival of apes by making them better hunters. In modern times, the survival of our species depends on doing well in our jobs and making discoveries to make life easier. It seems like mushrooms could have helped us survive in the past and now they are helping us thrive.
The most important way that psychedelics can be used is for spiritual connection. Psychedelics have been used as religious sacraments for thousands of years. The Medical Science Monitor conducted a study to evaluate the health of people using drugs like Ayahausca in a religious setting. The results were mostly psychological and physical benefits. If psychedelics can be used for spiritual growth then everyone should have access to them. (Medical Science Monitor)
The right to religious freedom is written in our Declaration of Independence. In some cases psychedelics are legal for religious purposes but current federal law requires some psychedelic church members to have at least 25% American Indian ancestry. Everyone should be allowed to responsibly explore their spirituality. In a case about the use of peyote as a religious sacrament, a judge stated, “The government’s war on drugs has become a wildfire. Today, the war targets one of the most deeply held fundamental rights — the First Amendment right to freely exercise one’s religion.” (Stuart) Seeing these psychedelics as religious sacraments instead of “party drugs” will further their credibility and respect.
Legal systems can’t change human nature. Just as banning sexual activity does not stop sexual desire, outlawing psychedelic drugs does nothing to change the innate need for transcendent experiences. The fact is, no legal system yet has succeeded in changing human nature, and there is no reason to think that that prohibiting psychedelic drugs will be any different. We should legalize psychedelics to allow people to take them in safe places under supervision.
Laws are meant to be amended and changed over time as new scientific proofs and cultural awareness arises. A lot of rules and laws made through history are to further empower those who are in power, and are not in the interest of the people. The law should not dictate what we put into our body, as long as we don’t bring harm upon others or their property. Alcohol is a much larger culprit of this than every drug – combined. In the words of Howard Zen, “Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.” It is time to protest for progress.
I believe that in order to progress the human race, we must protect our right to explore our consciousness freely. Legalization will allow for research and controlled use. These “drugs” were made illegal for illegitimate reasons and it is time for it to change. Psychedelics aren’t just for “tripping”, they can be sacred tools used to connect to our higher purpose. This is a call to action for all users to come out of the “psychedelic closet” and talk openly about the benefits of psychedelics in order to normalize it.
Ghose, Tia. “Magic Mushrooms Create a Hyperconnected Brain.” LiveScience. Purch, 29 Oct. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. <http://www.livescience.com/48502-magic-mushrooms-change-brain-networks.html>
Gonzalez, Robbie. “10 Scientific and Technological Visionaries Who Experimented With Drugs.” Io9. Io9.gizmodo.com, 16 Jan. 2012. Web. 06 May 2017.
Gregoire, Carolyn. “Everything You Wanted To Know About Microdosing.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/psychedelic-microdosing-research_us_569525afe4b09dbb4bac9db8>.
Jacobson, Roni. “Treating Addiction with Psychedelics.” Scientific American. N.p., 29 Nov. 2016. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. <https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/treating-addiction-with-psychedelics/>.
“Single Dose of Hallucinogen May Create Lasting Personality Change – 09/29/2011.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, Based in Baltimore, Maryland. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. <http:// www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/single_dose_of_hallucinogen_may_create_lasting_personality_change>.
LoBianco, Tom. “Report: Nixon’s War on Drugs Targeted Black People.” CNN. Cable News Network, 24 Mar. 2016. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
McKenna, Terence K. Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Rad ical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution. London: Rider, 1999. Print.
“Evidence of Health and Safety in American Members of a Religion Who Use a Hallucinogenic Sacrament.” Medical Science Monitor. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. <http://www.medscimonit.com/download/index/idArt/865802>.
Stuart, R. “Entheogenic Sects and Psychedelic Religions.” Entheogenic Sects and Psychedelic Religions. MAPS, n.d. Web. 06 May 2017.