Rather than opting for a seductive but angelic approach – seeing psychedelics as substances capable of “healing the world” – or a repressive approach based on the fear of seeing these substances become tools for “brain washing”, we must recognize what makes these substances unique among the large family of psychotropic drugs: their great sensitivity to extraphamarcological factors.
Flower power and the birth of eco-radicalism.
Western medicine should create bridges with traditional knowledge holders, researchers say. A new paper calls on Western scientists to include Indigenous voices when researching psychedelics such as the brew known as ayahuasca.
In a large-scale (N = 1487) general population online study, we investigated the relationship between past experience with classic psychedelic substances (e.g. LSD, psilocybin, mescaline), nature relatedness, and ecological behavior (e.g. saving water, recycling). Using structural equation modeling we found that experience with classic psychedelics uniquely predicted self-reported engagement in pro-environmental behaviors, and that this relationship was statistically explained by people’s degree of self-identification with nature. Our model controlled for experiences with other classes of psychoactive substances (cannabis, dissociatives, empathogens, popular legal drugs) as well as common personality traits that usually predict drug consumption and/or nature relatedness (openness to experience, conscientiousness, conservatism). Although correlational in nature, results suggest that lifetime experience with psychedelics in particular may indeed contribute to people’s pro-environmental behavior by changing their self-construal in terms of an incorporation of the natural world, regardless of core personality traits or general propensity to consume mind-altering substances. Thereby, the present research adds to the contemporary literature on the beneficial effects of psychedelic substance use on mental wellbeing, hinting at a novel area for future research investigating their potentially positive effects on a societal level. Limitations of the present research and future directions are discussed.
Psychedelic or consciousness-expanding drugs have been studied by Western scientific researchers as adjuncts to psychotherapy while their plant-based equivalents are used in traditional ceremonial context for healing and spiritual practice. Plant extracts from tobacco, coca, coffee and cannabis, used as sacraments in indigenous cultures have become recreational drugs in contemporary society. Research with consciousness-expanding or entheogenic substances such as MDMA, LSD and psilocybin has focused on their value as adjuncts to psychotherapy. The worldwide underground culture has adopted the use of hallucinogenic plants and fungi, such as psilocybe mushrooms, ayahuasca, iboga and peyote, in small group hybrid therapeutic-shamanic ceremonies as well as large scale events such as raves. Core elements of such hybrid rituals are: the structure of a circle, a ritual space and altar of some kind, the presence of an experienced elder or guide, the use of eye-shades or semi-darkness and the cultivation of a respectful, spiritual attitude.
The resurgence of Western psychedelic research and practice has led to increasing concerns from many Indigenous Nations regarding cultural appropriation, lack of recognition of the sacred cultural positioning of these medicines, exclusionary practices in research and praxis, and patenting of traditional medicines. Indigenous voices and leadership have been notably absent from the Western psychedelic field currently widely represented by Westerners. An Indigenous-led globally represented group of practitioners, activists, scholars, lawyers, and human rights defenders came together with the purpose of formulating a set of ethical guidelines concerning traditional Indigenous medicines current use in Western psychedelic research and practice. A global Indigenous consensus process of knowledge-gathering was engaged which identified eight interconnected ethical principles, including: Reverence, Respect, Responsibility, Relevance, Regulation, Reparation, Restoration, and Reconciliation. A summary of the work is presented here with suggested ethical actions for moving forward within Western psychedelic research and practice spaces.
Therapeutic psychedelic administration and contact with nature have been associated with the same psychological mechanisms: decreased rumination and negative affect, enhanced psychological connectedness and mindfulness-related capacities, and heightened states of awe and transcendent experiences, all processes linked to improvements in mental health amongst clinical and healthy populations. Nature-based settings can have inherently psychologically soothing properties which may complement all stages of psychedelic therapy (mainly preparation and integration) whilst potentiating increases in nature relatedness, with associated psychological benefits. Maximising enhancement of nature relatedness through therapeutic psychedelic administration may constitute an independent and complementary pathway towards improvements in mental health that can be elicited by psychedelics.
A increasing number of studies points toward beneficial effects of psychedelic experiences if administered in the right setting. A smaller number of studies present explanations for why psychedelics have these therapeutic effects. Of these most argue that psychedelic experiences increase neuroplasticity, allowing subjects to let go of unhelpful entrenched beliefs. I argue that (1) psychedelics are likely therapeutic because they help subjects align their beliefs with their respective contexts; (2) relaxation of entrenched beliefs need not occur at higher cognitive levels concerned with the self or ego to be therapeutic; and (3) the proneness toward having supernatural entity experiences can be explained using this contextual approach. I conclude that therapeutic effects of psychedelics are not necessarily tied to beliefs about the self.
In God on Psychedelics, veteran journalist Don Lattin trains his eye on some previously unexamined questions. Why do relatively few people in the burgeoning psychedelic renaissance connect chemically induced mystical states with their own religious traditions? Can sacred plant medicines be a source of renewal for Christians, Jews and other people of faith?
God on Psychedelics takes the reader on a magical mystery tour across the nation’s changing religious landscape, exploring a new kind of trinity that blends psychedelic insight, psychological healing and spiritual revival.
In a recent episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver turned his sardonic attention to patents in the for-profit psychedelic business world. He referenced a Compass Pathways patent application that included claims describing the basic setting of psychedelic therapy, saying, “It’d be like me patenting the concept of wearing a suit while sitting at a desk.”