There’s a documentary currently on Netflix (UK) titled Neurons to Nirvana: Understanding Psychedelic Medicines. It presents a compelling case for scientific research into the usefulness of drugs like LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA, Ayahuasca, and Cannabis in treating mental as well as physical ailments.
The documentary has a strict focus on scientific research, and it doesn’t advocate recreational use of drugs, instead it encourages use within controlled conditions. There are a number of well respected researchers and psychologists who appear on the documentary, and many are conducting clinical trials to ascertain the potential health benefits of psychedelic substances. Many believe that these drugs can treat conditions like PTSD, addiction, and the psychological stresses caused by late stage terminal illnesses.
There’s a sense that these researchers have tapped into something that Western society has shunned, or forgotten. The naturally occurring substances used by indigenous peoples around the world are illegalised in favour of cigarettes, alcohol, and state sanctioned pharmaceuticals.
Limiting Medicinal Treatments
The drugs that our doctors and psychiatrists prescribe are limited by archaic laws, regulations, and the fall out from the War on Drugs, and we have a negative perception of psychedelic substances. We’re taught that there’s more than a semantic distinction between medicine and drugs. There’s a disconnect between the natural world, and contemporary civilisation, and it seems that we’re missing out on vital tools.
MDMA can be used to treat depression, social anxiety, and problems of self worth, Cannabis can be used to treat cancer, and psychedelics like LSD and Ayahuasca have the capacity to change our perceptions on consumerism, individuality, and unhealthy aspects of Western living like competition and conflict.
But these tools are locked away, and we’re not allowed to access them. Draconian laws and middle of the road politicians who have never interacted with these substances stand in the way of compassion and logic. The documentary suggests that these medicines could greatly alleviate suffering, and could help us to resolve personal issues, and in turn find a better sense of peace, and acceptance of ourselves and those around us.
Medicinal Plants and Chemicals
In the West we use psychedelic drugs recreationally, and many of us use them for escapism. But that approach misuses the potential of the medicinal aspects of the plants and chemicals we’re ingesting. We have to take these drugs out of the contexts that propaganda and prohibition have placed them within, and we have to examine them with fresh eyes, and minds free of legalities, rules, and regulations.
Neurons to Nirvana presents a far more convincing case than I can. But I feel strongly that we’re ignoring aspects of our reality, we’re negating the potential of nature, and we’re preventing ourselves from experiencing things that could make our lives better. More people die from cigarettes, alcohol, and legal drugs than from banned and controlled substances.
It’s time to rethink the narrative we’re given, it’s time to consider that there are alternatives to the myths we’re sold. Recreational drugs and mind altering substances have more good in them than fags and booze, and their potential is squandered. Hopefully future generations will look back at this blip in history and feel no surprise at the scale of conflict, the lack of empathy, and the religiosity of our times when viewed in the context of prohibition.
Locking Up Empathy and Understanding
We have the answers to many of our problems but we’re not allowed to access them. The rhetoric is strongly worded, and most of us will never interact with the substances that we’re told can harm and kill us. But there are truths shielded from us, there are natural plants and chemicals that we’re not allowed to consume, and we’re suffering because of arbitrary rules laid down by people with a vested interest in keeping things the way they are.
You can’t patent naturally occurring psychoactive substances, there’s very little money to be made from them. But there’s great scope for compassion, for healing, and for easing suffering. Surely those are better traits to have than profit, greed, and solipsism.
Do we have the potential for salvation? Do the plants we illegalise hold the keys to unlock better peace and understanding? Those are questions we can’t answer yet. But things are changing.
The US government recently acknowledged that cannabis can prevent cancer, there’s research into the potential of psychedelic substances treating mental health problems, and people are receiving experimental treatments that rely on magic mushrooms and MDMA. But it’ll take a bigger shift in our collective consciousness before we can access the healing properties found in psychedelic drugs.
The insidious nature of propaganda ensures that we have to change our perception of psychedelic substances before we can use them to influence and heal our bodies and minds.
It does not seem to be an exaggeration to say that psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy.
– Stanislav Grof (1980)