hallucinogenic drugs to treat trauma

There is a fantastic article in the Globe and Mail. This is quite a long piece so I will focus on the highlights.

  • the article comments on the fact that North America is inundated with powerful pharmaceuticals that are perfectly legal, yet highly addictive and widely abused
  • the focus of the piece is on the validity of using hallucinogenic drugs for therapeutic purposes as they have been scientifically proven to enable insight, create empathy and assist in long-term recovery from trauma.
  • At UCLA psilocybin – the active ingredient in magic mushrooms – is being used to reduce anxiety in end-stage cancer patients.
  • At the University of Ottawa, a researcher is studying ketamine as an alternative to shock therapy for severely depressed patients.
  • In New Zealand, the hallucinogenic African shrub iboga has been reclassified as a promising treatment for opiate addiction
  • like many psychoactive drugs, MDMA  is derived from natural sources: an oily liquid called extracted from sassafras plants
  • MDMA is an empathogen: It opens your heart, releases you from shame, and puts you in the present moment.
  • there is hope that MDMA can help survivors of childhood trauma and individuals suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • hundreds of thousands of soldiers are believed to be currently suffering from PTSD
  • apparently more soldiers commit suicide after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan than were killed there in combat
  • David Nutt  a psychiatrist at Imperial College London has controversially stated that taking MDMA is no more dangerous than riding a horse

While the article was well written and informative, I have two minor concerns:

  • the first is that the reporter uses the terms MDMA and ecstasy interchangeably which is inaccurate, as ecstasy is derived from MDMA
  • the conclusion attributes a fear of altered states of consciousness in Western culture to the lack of support towards using hallucinogens for therapeutic purposes, yet psychopharmacological products also alter consciousness although in a mind numbing rather than mind expanding way – I would suggest that this hesitancy is more a result of our belief in science over nature


There was a related piece published in 2012



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