The topic I would like to focus on this semester is the use o hallucinogens in medicine. As someone that has been taught all their life that drugs will inevitably kill you, I find the subject of using drugs for the exact opposite to be really fascinating. By learning from the research of the benefits and consequences of hallucinogens, I will create a conclusion with the research I will accumulate for this paper. Therefor, to prove to myself against the stigma of drugs, I will further research the topic of hallucinogens in medicine.
Hallucinogens like psilocybin are surrounded by a huge stigma that shrouds peoples’ minds from using them. In Jan Hoffman’s article, A Dose of a Hallucinogen From a ‘Magic Mushroom,’ and Then Lasting Peace, controlled doses of psilocybin are given cancer patients to reduce stress. This is due to the release of serotonin in the brain to create a euphoric state of mind. The article followed Octavian Mihai who was diagnosed with cancer. He took small doses of psilocybin and eventually he lost all fear and anxiety of cancer. Mihai was on the verge of suicide from his diagnosis, but the hallucinogens practically saved his life to help him out of depression. As we all can image or can experience, being diagnosed with a life threatening disease can be terrifying for ones self and their conscious. Using drugs like psilocybin can create an out of body experience to help the patient realize a sense of self awareness. The drug, psilocybin has been illegal in the United States for over forty years, but the cases like Mihai’s are making researchers in institutes like New York University, Heffter Research Institute, and University of California, Los Angeles sympathize for the use of the drug and now testing it in cases of post traumatic stress syndrome and alcoholism.
Although the hallucinogens can create benefits for these patience with psychological illnesses, there is also a reason why the stigma exists in the first place. In Luisa Dillner’s article, Is it safe to take magic mushrooms?, she states that taking hallucinogens can cause a “bad trip” that can create depersonalisation and panic. However, the case of a bad trip was only found in 0.2% of a study done by the 2017 Global Drug Survey. This is supported in Carhart-Harris’ research on psychedelic drugs. Harris does agree that the use of hallucinogens can be beneficial for people who need the drug to function normally. However, the hallucinogen can potentially be very harmful to teenagers that are still developing because it can make them psychologically vulnerable. Therefor, the use of hallucinogens can be beneficial or highly consequential depending on the severity of its use.
Personalities among people older than 25 to 30 years old are hardly likely to change. Among the studies of psilocybin, Katherine MacLean states that the substance is one of the rare ways that we can actually change the adult personality after the brain has fully developed. This can be viewed in both positive and negative angles. Under MacLean’s tight supervision, she tested 51 patients and 30 out of 51 patients experienced a profound life-changing experience. Although over half of the patients got a positive experience from the test, the other 21 had no note worthy experience. This drug is not recommended to be taken under uncontrolled supervision due to the risk that the consumer may experience a “bad trip” that can cause heightened anxiety and stress. Due to MacLean’s control of the experiment, she was able to counteract the drug to keep the number of “bad trips” to a minimum to avoid altering the patient’s personalities. This goes to show that psilocybin can be incredibly beneficial in a controlled psychedelic experience, but when taken without supervision can lead to abuse and a negatively altered personality.
Hallucinogens like psilocybin or LSD are also used through microdosing. Microdosing is a controlled form of taking the drug in order to experience the same effects from using the drug, but in a safer, more controlled manner. In an article by Carolyn Gregoire, Everything You Wanted To Know About Microdosing (But Were Afraid To Ask), she states there have been hundreds of testimonies to microdosing including a particular ivy league student who used this method to help her be more productive and defeat writers block.