Entheogeneration: A Utopian Pipe Dream or a Not-So-Distant Future?
The case for a new era of mental health treatments
Entheogenic drugs, more commonly referred to as Psychedelics are, in some circles, an extremely misunderstood topic. Just say the word and a lot of people picture kaleidoscopic colours and stoned teenagers laughing at clouds in the park. Throw in an image of Shaggy and Scooby Do in the Mystery Machine chowing down on burgers and you’ve probably exhausted the collective grasp on psychedelics and what they do. And to be honest, this is completely understandable — these views are based on long-held, limited, and usually pejorative perceptions of psychedelics.
But mounting studies from leading medical research institutions are looking to change that.
Unleashing Human Wellness Potential
What many people don’t realize is that psychedelics have tremendous potential for unleashing both physical and mental wellness. The #DecriminalizeNature movement, for example, is working toward legalizing psychedelics. This past US election saw many states legalize cannabis, and a few states even decriminalized the use of psychedelic plants. It’s now legal in Oregon to do psychedelic therapy, and Canada is in the early but growing phases of allowing people to use mushrooms to treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more.
A Brief History of Psychedelics
To know where we’re headed with psychedelics (and where I’m headed in this article), it’s helpful to know where we started. It’s particularly relevant to note firstly, that many cultures have been using psychedelics since the dawn of time for a wide variety of reasons and that while I make a case for the use of psychedelics in the western approach to mental illness, I do so with the utmost reverence and respect for the traditions and rituals passed down from the pioneers who’ve worked with and studied these planetary medicines for thousands of years.
Because psychedelics are completely natural and grow out of the ground, various religions and civilizations have been using them for medicinal reasons for many centuries to heal mentally, physically and spiritually. There are even theories to suggest that psychedelics helped evolve human consciousness. According to brothers Terrance and Dennis McKenna’s Stoned Ape Theory, we may have evolved as a result of the consumption of some powerfully psychedelic fungi.
These therapeutic hallucinogens have been studied in North America since the late nineteenth century with the discovery of mescaline, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in a variety of cacti like peyote. But a more rapid advancement of these psychedelic studies came in the 1940’s with the accidental discovery and development of LSD by Swiss Chemist Albert Hoffman, who went on to revolutionize the use of psychedelics in understanding mental illness, leading to the development of biological psychiatry in the 1950's.
Hoffman and many others pioneered psychedelic research in the west, often running experiments on themselves to prove the safety of these powerful compounds. Something I’m always conscious of as I dive into my next great exploration, as these self experimentations of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s have led to a much more effective, safe and applicable delivery of these medicines today.
Unfortunately, the field of psychedelic research went dark in the 1960’s, ending a profound era of scientific advancement often remembered for a lack of efficacy when in fact the termination was imposed due to poor methodological standards, unethical research practices and unfounded political backlash (Ellens & Roberts, 2015;Grob, 2000;Sessa, 2016).
From the 1960's to the early 1990's research into the potential healing effects of psychedelics were outlawed and the experimentation and studies went underground, paving way for a resistance movement powered by the hippie generation of the 70’s. For over 30 years an entire field of research was stuck in the archives like a cold case file you could only learn about on A&E.
But the resurgence of awareness and more intentional approaches to delivery and subsequent research into these substances from prominent universities and organizations like MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies) have helped to created a new understanding of how these drugs can be used in modern society. Today’s renaissance is giving us new hope for a culture that has access to an alternative to healing the constructs of the mind like no other generation before us. A generation that could very well be known as the “Etheogeneration”.
Psychedelics Today: The Beginning of a Beautiful Future
Despite the science-based research that has been produced over the last couple of decades, the stigma of psychedelics (and of mental illness in general) continues to persist. But proponents of therapeutic hallucinogens have been working painstakingly hard to dispel this stigma and move us one step closer to a world where we are more accepting of these chemicals as a way to heal from trauma, overcome anxiety and treat depression.
Research like this, this, this, and this, have shown particular benefits for treating a variety of diseases of the mind. For many, this is incredible news. There are many treatments and therapies for these conditions today, but maybe none as natural as psychedelics. With prescription drugs becoming more prevalent than ever and sparking alarm, the demand for more natural treatments is growing.
When you consider one person dies every 40 seconds as a result of suicide, it’s clear that mental wellness is a major public health issue and any treatment showing positive results and improvement deserves recognition and validation — especially if all other treatments have been exhausted. Given that constant antidepressant use is becoming less effective, and might actually be more likely to cause harm than create a beneficial change, it’s refreshing to see some new options presented to us.
One of the most common therapeutic hallucinogens being studied today is psilocybin, which is found in many varieties of mushroom. More commonly referred to as “magic mushrooms”, this psychedelic can help with everything from anxiety to addiction, and can even help prevent suicidal tendencies.
Psychedelics like psilocybin work to increase brain “plasticity”, meaning they influence an individuals ability to change the way their brain is connected, making one more malleable to the world around them and able to adapt more quickly to difficult and ever-changing environments. The growing evidence of this neurological restructuring makes a case for these types of treatments as a vital resource for improving a wide-variety of mental health conditions. There are also active research studies showing that psychedelics like psilocybin combined with more traditional mental health treatments may work wonders in individuals with treatment-resistant disorders and more extreme traumatic mental illness.
The effect of psychedelics on the brain isn’t completely known yet, but in a broad sense they tend to induce feelings of transformation, revelation, rebalancing, euphoria, and releasing built-up pain and anguish. These are all incredibly beneficial to those suffering from the paralyzing constructs of the mind. When you compare this with the often reported feelings of numbness and emotionlessness that occur from prescription drugs to treat mental health conditions, the difference is eye-opening, for it is clear today that the only way out of these depressive states is through, and repressing emotions can lead to prolonged symptoms and worsening disease.
The Ascension Into The Entheogeneration
Psychedelics have come a long, hard-fought way and their future in medicinal treatments is looking up. With more and more governments and countries jumping on board and funding research, the stigma of psychedelics is fading and people are eager for a new treatment for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Research is looking at almost every mental health condition to determine if therapeutic hallucinogens show improvement in their symptoms.
Progress is slow. Some countries have made zero progress. But while some governments, like in Oregon, are legalizing entheogenic plants in supervised health settings, it’s still a step forward. The fact that Canada is now allowing terminally ill patients to consume magic mushrooms to help cope with the anxiety of death is incredibly promising.
These small acts, changes and intentional movements, in a short amount of time, are creating a groundswell leading towards an age of awareness. A world where suffering is more understood, where depression is something we’ve conquered; a culture more connected than divided, and an era where science and spirituality finally merge to create the next evolutionary step in the great awakening of collective consciousness. It’s a bold concept, but not that farfetched when you look at the advancements being made each and every day.
Lawmakers, spurred by #DecriminalizeNature movements, are finding it harder and harder to ignore the research and are beginning to relax their stance on psychedelics. Voters are clearly in support. There are more and more companies cropping up worldwide funding the research and driving the development of psychedelics. It’s becoming very likely that psychedelics will follow the path of legalized cannabis and drop the stigma. It’s also possible that the use of psychedelics could increase very quickly prior to legalization, just like we’ve seen with cannabis. While I believe this is an important step forward, I also understand the risks.
When it comes to natural, holistic therapy that blends Eastern and Western medicine to create scientifically validated treatments for mental illness, psychedelics are exactly that. The anecdotal evidence of their benefits are groundbreaking, and the research is there to back it up.
The future is bright for therapeutic hallucinogens, and the beneficial evidence is growing rapidly. The entheogeneration is upon us and we’re progressing much faster than in centuries past, creating a clear path forward to a future where healing out loud from individual mental anguish is not only permitted, but encouraged; a planet that is working together to create prosperity instead of one divided, keeping us in the dark.
This post is part of my $100,000 journey into re-building my mind, body, and inner-self through a series of uncommon experiences that completely transformed my life. Head over here to view more.
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