In the age where anything is possible, people are turning to psychedelic drugs and a process called “micro-dosing” just to have normal, productive lives.
Psychedelic drugs have long suffered from an image problem. Lumped in with addictive substances like cocaine and heroine, as well as the “Reefer Madness” type of hysteria over marijuana (which is on its way to being legal again in all 50 states) the benefits of psychedelics have been glossed over, if not entirely ignored. But evidence continues to point to significant mental health benefits to drugs like LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, and ayahausca, the de facto rock star of psychedelics.
A few weeks back, the FDA granted permission for large-scale clinical trials of MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine)—the active component in the street drug known as ecstasy that’s been used with notable success to treat veterans and others suffering from PTSD.
While there have been concerns over the abuse of drugs like MDMA prescribed to mental health patients, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which is funding the recently-approved studies on MDMA, says the benefits far outweigh any risks of incidences of abuse. The group notes that the benefits don’t come from the drugs themselves–which increase serotonin production and a resulting feeling of content happiness–but from the talk therapy that’s done while under the influence of MDMA.
“The medicine allows them to look at things from a different place and reclassify them,” Ann Mithoefer, a psychiatric nurse, told the New York Times.
In certain circles in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco where downing $14 green juices and yoga classes are activities de rigueur, many members of these healthy, artistic communities also turn to psychedelics like MDMA. But it’s ayahuasca, a potent South American plant mixture high in DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine), a highly psychoactive substance (that’s also produced in the human body), that’s become the drug of choice for many.
People travel thousands of miles to the jungles of the Amazon (this author included), to experiment with ayahuasca (pronounced “eye-ah-was-kah”), also known as “the medicine,” or “Grandmother.” It’s also brought into the U.S. illegally, and administered in cities like Brooklyn–about as far from its earthy jungle literal roots as imaginable.
But its presence in modern America, many say, is no accident. A potent healer, some seek out ayahuasca for help with physical issues—the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs reportedly experimented with the medicine while battling cancer. But many are there drinking the unpalatble sludge administered by a trained shaman, to work on those conditions more difficult to define: long-standing family issues, recent break-ups, loss of a loved one, etc.
But these intense hours-long “trips” are not the only ways to benefit from these types of substances.
Micro-dosing—taking significantly small doses of psychedelic substances like psilocybin mushrooms or LSD–is a practice gaining popularity in the U.S. And while it’s technically illegal (psychedelics are Schedule 1 drugs), taking small, hardly noticeable doses reportedly helps users to focus, particularly in work or intense college environments where they may be operating on little sleep, deadlines, and significant amounts of stress.
“The idea is to change, in an almost imperceptible way, your everyday neural functioning for the better,” reports the Times.
“While it’s impossible to gather hard data on micro-dosing, anecdotal evidence suggests that its use is on the rise: The popular podcast Reply All devoted a segment to it last fall; Rolling Stone, VICE, and Forbes chronicled it as a trend shortly afterward; and one YouTube how-to tutorial has been streamed more than half a million times since it was posted in September 2015.”
And while micro-dosing is on trend, others are turning to the drugs in traditionally larger doses in efforts to confront their mortality. Patients suffering from terminal illnesses, reports the Times, have shown lasting relief from depression related to their illnesses.
“About 80 percent of cancer patients showed clinically significant reductions in both psychological disorders, a response sustained some seven months after the single dose. Side effects were minimal.”
According to the Times, cancer-related psychological distress, which can affect as many as 40 percent of patients, “can be resistant to conventional therapy.”
And while psychedelics may still suffer the stigma of irresponsible rowdy hippy past time, they’re proving to be, perhaps more accurately, the “doors of perception” noted by Aldous Huxley after an experimentation with mescaline—tools to help the highly capable human mind retool itself to allow for healing in ways we’re only beginning to understand.
“Honestly, we don’t have to do much,” Mithoefer told the Times. “Each person has an innate ability to heal. We just create the right conditions.”
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