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7 Nov 2021

The Guardian: "Will the magic of psychedelics transform psychiatry?"

The Guardian: "Will the magic of psychedelics transform psychiatry?"


"You could say interest in psychedelics is mushrooming. Last month, in a first for psychedelics since the war on drugs was launched in the 1970s, US federal funding was granted for a psilocybin study, to treat tobacco addiction, following pressure by lawmakers, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This marks a jaw-dropping turnaround for hallucinogenic drugs. Even 10 years ago, they were effectively taboo in many academic fields and halls of power. But as the intellectual rationale behind the war on drugs has become increasingly untenable, hundreds of millions of dollars have been pumped into psychedelic pharmaceutical research. 'Psychedelics are the most extraordinary tools for studying the mind and brain,' says Dr. David Luke, co-founding director of the psychedelic consciousness conference, Breaking Convention. 'It’s a hot-button topic with around a dozen dedicated research centres at top-level universities around the world.'


Academic and scientific enthusiasm around psychedelics has been increasing amid exasperation over the lack of advancement in psychiatry. 'It has not progressed as a field of medicine relative to others for decades, and many psychiatrists have been deeply frustrated,' Luke claims. Yet there appears to be a set of long-ignored tools to treat causes rather than simply addressing symptoms, and psychedelics could do for psychiatry what the microscope did for biology, he says. 'They work to treat the underlying commonalities of a range of mental illnesses and potentially prevent their occurrence, too.'


Unfounded claims that psychedelic drugs have no medical uses, as the US Congress once declared, and are fundamentally dangerous, kept research endeavors in a straitjacket. Possibly more accurately, there were concerns that the drugs prod people into becoming more rebellious. 'It’s not that psychedelics are dangerous, it’s that they give you dangerous ideas,' says Dennis McKenna, ethnopharmacologist and author. 'That was the basic reason why there was such an overreaction and clampdown, because it was such a turbulent time with the Vietnam war.' Politicians rather than scientists or clinicians were in the driving seat behind systematically suppressing research, and usage."


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