by Tom McKay
It turns out that psychedelics aren't just good for turning into an elf and jousting a car.
Psychiatrists, psychologists and specialists in addiction and recovery from traumatic experiences have been investigating the use of hallucinogens in treatment programs, and the results indicate that psychedelics actually have practical therapeutic uses.
And one drug has proven particularly useful.
Repeated studies have found the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms, psilocybin, can help people move past major life issues - like beating alcoholism and becoming more empathetic.
One study concluded that controlled exposure to psilocybin could have long-lasting medical and spiritual benefits.
In 2011, Johns Hopkins researchers found that by giving volunteer test subjects just the right dose (not enough to give them a terrifying bad trip), they were able to reliably induce transcendental experiences in volunteers.
This provoked long-lasting psychological growth and helped the volunteers to find peace in their lives, all without side effects. Nearly all of the 18 test subjects, average age 46, were college graduates. Seventy-eight percent were religious and all were interested in finding a scientific experience.
Fourteen months later, 94% said their trip on magic mushrooms was one of the five most important moments of their lives.
Thirty-nine percent said it was the most important thing that had ever happened to them. Their colleagues, friends, and family members said the participants were kinder and happier; the volunteers had positive experiences ranging from more empathy and improved marriages to less drinking.
Lead author Roland Griffiths told TIME's Healthland that,
What's more, the researchers say that those changes in personality are highly atypical, because personalities tend to be pretty set in stone after the age of 25-30.
According to postdoctoral researcher Katherine MacLean, who contributed to the study,
This is strictly do-not-try-this-at-home.
Maclean says that,
Within the past few decades, interest in hallucinogens has expanded from the counter-culture to dedicated, methodological research.
For example, another study published in 2010 conducted research into whether psilocybin can lend some comfort to terminal cancer patients - finding evidence that it reduced death anxiety and experienced significantly less depression.
According to study researcher Dr. Charles Grob,
NYU's Dr. Stephen Ross, who conducted a similar study, told SCPR that,
Psychologist Clark Martin, Ph.D., who participated in the study as a volunteer, describes his experience below:
As well as participant Janeen Delaney:
As a result of the studies, a joint UCLA, NYU and Johns Hopkins team is conducting large-scale phase three trial next year.
A 2012 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found evidence that psilocybin,
A review of the pyschiatric research performed on psilocybin concluded that the risks of therapy were acceptable and that,
And this year, ZŁrich researchers released a study in which they administered psilocybin to 25 volunteers.
The treatment was found to be associated with an,
So basically, there's at least some hard evidence that this:
...has the potential to be helpful, leading to introspection, self-reflection, and relief from psychiatric conditions.
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies founder Rick Doblin, who works with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, discusses why MDMA might be the first psychedelic to,
So why isn't there more evidence?
The federal government is only now beginning to loosen its restrictions on medical uses of mind-altering substances, and it's doing so very cautiously.
In 2013, a group of psychiatrists released a review saying government restrictions made even researching psychoactive drugs,