Getting High or Getting Fixed?

One of the most fascinating advancements in science thus far must be the rise and proliferation of widespread effective drug use. One has simply to look at the history of medicine to know that only in the past one and a half centuries has medicine saved more lives than it has taken. Before the development of the germ theory of disease or safe, sterile practices, medicine was terrifying. Outdated concepts like bleeding, the humors, and the ingesting of mercury would be balked at in a modern society. But no longer do we leech, amputate, or even simply commit someone to an asylum. We have only to take a tiny little pill, no bigger than a pinkie, and we’re cured. It’s obviously more complex than that, but the utter simplicity with which we can treat ourselves is astounding.

However, the tradeoffs that we are slowly realizing are the unintended side-effects or consequences these drugs have on our brains. In spite of the perceived effectiveness of drug treatments, the mechanism by which it occurs is messier than one may initially comprehend. It has more of the precision of a shotgun than a scalpel. We inject ourselves with varying chemicals and neurotransmitters, and while it may remedy the afflicted area it can also unintentionally affect other sections of the brain as well (i.e. side-effects).

One of the touchy subjects related to drug use has been that of natural psychedelic drugs, like marijuana or mushrooms. The latter has had a more notorious history within the public knowledge, largely owing to the fat that it is a potent psychedelic, However, a recent article posted on The Atlantic suggests that shrooms can be medically beneficial. Psilocybin is the active component of shrooms and can amplify both the good and the bad. In this treatment that the article covers, the process is described as being laid out both by the patient and the doctor so that a clear, intended objective is outlined. Following this is the actual ingestion of psilocybin, and what follows afterwards is unique with each patient. The data is still being compiled, but according to Dr. Ross and his team (the practitioners in question) most of their patients have exhibited a notable reduction in anxiety. 

It is research like this that is crucial in removing the stigma that is so readily attached to alternative medication like marijuana and shrooms. Of course, it must still be taken with care and moderation, but it is important to not discount these substances puely because of their negative cultural connotations.

Link to the article: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/04/chemo-for-the-spirit-lsd-helps-cancer-patients-cope-with-death/360625/

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8 thoughts on “Getting High or Getting Fixed?

  1. It’s really interesting that you mention shrooms as a viable medical treatment. As far as medical marijuana goes I’ve read several articles about it being used as a treatment for anxiety and even autism, and then obviously its notorious use in cancer patients to help induce appetite and decrease stress. I think the medical community has a far way to go before shrooms become an actual consideration. Because the adverse effects are much more notable and extreme than those of marijuana, I’m not sure if medicine will ever get to a place where using psilocybin as a first line of treatment is common. On the other hand I definitely think a lot can be learned from studying psilocybin, and maybe we can synthesis a drug that has similar positive effects while avoiding the negative ones.

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  2. With the impending legalization of marijuana, doctors are fortunately coming around the idea of using marijuana as a natural plant-based cure for many disorders and diseases. This is only the first step in ethnobotany becoming an acceptable cure for many diseases. After all, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, often an array of homeopathic natural herbs are used entirely as a cure to strengthen the body and mind, kickstart cellular healing processes, and promote the release of beneficial hormones and neurotransmitters. Nature has programmed many cures for us that lie in wait amidst the vast cacophony of plants spread throughout the world. Why should we be nervous of the incredible effects these plants can bring if they are safer, more effective, and have more direct effects on pathology than synthetic drugs that are expensive, unnatural, and can have drastic side effects often more intrusive than the disease or disorder itself? I am glad there is potential in using mushrooms in a controlled clinical setting as a therapy for anxiety and autism. I have similarly been performing research on using the sassafras plant (active ingredient safrole) as a treatment for social anxiety and autism. I believe ethnobotanical treatments will soon regain the reputation for healing that they once had among the shamans and healers of old.

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  3. This is undoubtedly a very interesting research topic. In the 1950s, hallucinogenics were being studied as potential forms of medicine for things like addiction, anxiety and depression. The drugs bled into the counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s caused the government to have an immense fear of the psychedelic drugs and their “anti-establishment” association, which translated into the classification of these drugs as extremely harmful and dangerous. Lycergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), a potent synthesized hallucinogenic drug with similar effects to psilocybin, is a class A drug in the United States. Almost every study on LSD from the later half of the 20th century until now aids the idea that controlled doses of LSD in a moderated medical setting can prove beneficial for not only drug addicts, but people with anxiety and depression. Similarly, studies have shown natural drugs like ayahuasca to be extremely beneficial for curing alcohol dependency, and psilocybin for nicotine addictions. Simply because a number of US citizens cannot control their habits and decisions does not mean that these drugs should be ruled out of medicine. Everyday patients are handed barbiturates, benzodiazepines, amphetamines, and opiates, which all can be helpful, but also very destructive when guidelines are not followed. If psychedelic drugs became regulated, not only would it potentially help medicine, it would also help our society mature and possibly stimulate fiscal aspects of pharmacology. The approaching legalization of marijuana portrays a shift in consciousness within the medical sphere and one can only be optimistic for the future.

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  4. It’s really interesting that you mention shrooms as a viable medical treatment. As far as medical marijuana goes I’ve read several articles about it being used as a treatment for anxiety and even autism, and then obviously its notorious use in cancer patients to help induce appetite and decrease stress. I think the medical community has a far way to go before shrooms become an actual consideration. Because the adverse effects are much more notable and extreme than those of marijuana, I’m not sure if medicine will ever get to a place where using psilocybin as a first line of treatment is common. On the other hand I definitely think a lot can be learned from studying psilocybin, and maybe we can synthesis a drug that has similar positive effects while avoiding the negative ones.

    It’s pretty well known that marijuana has its treatments in the medical field, however the use of psilocybin must be a relatively recent proposal. Both have more natural forms of treatment properties compared to the little pills we take for illnesses, but the article mentioned that shrooms amplified good and bad things. This can create a problem in finding a positive use for psilocybin as a treatment in diseases/disorders/etc. If there’s a way narrow down how the component works in a positive way in the brain, then researchers might be able to make something that uses the positive amplification of psilocybin. However, I don’t know if we, as a society, will ever be able to fully move past the stigma of medical marijuana or, possibly, the use of psilocybin.

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    1. I just want to mention that I really liked Madeline Borek’s comment, so the first part of my comment is her response. I didn’t want to have to scroll all the way back up to the top of the page to look at it, and then I forgot to erase it when I was done with my comment!

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  5. I think that this idea of the inaccuracy of the drugs that we use to treat various diseases and disorders really gives teeth to the argument to legalize drugs like marijuana. It seems kind of crazy to disallow something like marijuana when we’re using legal equivalents of illegal drugs all the time. I hope that as we learn more about the potential benefits and medical treatments that could be derived from these illegal substances, we’ll be more willing to investigate them. For drugs like marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms (the benefit of which I had not heard of; so interesting!), I think that legalization decriminalization would go a long way toward changing the public opinion of these drugs, thereby opening up new venues of research to potentially produce some really life-changing treatments!

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