Why has it taken us so long to do serious research into psychedelics? Answer: The state.
Also who has abused the power of these substances more than anyone? Answer: Agents of the state.
Long ago when LSD and its brethren found their way out of the laboratory (CIA run laboratories in some cases, see the absolutely crazy – literally – story of MK ULTRA) and into the low mountains of Northern California and from there beyond, politicians reacted with profound fear. Was this some Soviet plot to turn on all the country’s youth so they wouldn’t fight in Vietnam and become pinkos? Some thought it was. Was LSD a one way trip to insanity? (It can be for some.) Would psychedelics undermine American society? Would the entire population turn into Timothy Leary and spend their afternoons painting themselves day glow orange and hopping around in the woods? (Some folks did this.) Fear. There was lots of fear. And it wasn’t completely unwarranted.
But then the government shut down research into these potentially miraculous substances. (Also very dangerous potentially it must be said.) They just shut it off in full on draconian big government style. And this is a particular shame as psychedelics were showing serious promise for many people who were suffering with mental illness.
In fact, I remember reading a study in an old tattered book at The Mary Washington College library which detailed the treatment of a chronic alcoholic with LSD. It was fascinating. After one session with LSD the man was greatly helped. I forget the details exactly now but I do remember that the patient’s wife was astonished. I also remember that the patient was given a rose by the therapist which at first withered (in the mind of the patient) but then bloomed again when he was reminded of his family. (It was 25 years ago that I read this book.) I came away wondering why research had been completely killed by government. This was one of the things that contributed to my personal libertarian awakening.
The world has far too much suffering in it. If psychedelics can help to alleviate some of this suffering that would be a wonderful thing. I thought that 25 years ago and I think it now.
(From CBS News)
Appearing on “CBS This Morning” Monday, Pollan was asked how he started in his research into psychedelics.
“I was reading some of these studies which I thought were, frankly, so crazy and implausible – people who were dying of cancer, struggling with depression and anxiety and fear, being, psilocybin specifically, which is the ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms. to help them deal with, confront their mortality. And that seemed so odd to me that I wanted to explore what it was about.
“And I started interviewing these people. They had a single guided psychedelic session; in other words, they were with someone the whole time, they’re wearing eye shades, listening to music. They would have an experience where they went into their bodies, confronted their cancer, looked at what would happen to them after they died, had these powerful spiritual experiences, and they emerged having lost their fear and anxiety in 80 percent of the cases.”
One additional note. Michael Pollan’s documentary Cooked is on Netflix and we highly recommend it to anyone who likes and appreciates food. It is excellent.