Psychedelic Science: The surge in psychiatric research using hallucinogens


Research into the therapeutic potential of illegal “psychedelic” drugs to treat an assortment of mainstream mental health conditions is undergoing a modern-day renaissance.

A host of published studies in the field is showing promise for psychedelics, such as psilocybin — the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms” — to help treat alcoholism, depression, drug addiction and severe anxiety caused by serious or terminal illness.

Other studies are finding that MDMA, also known as the party-drug “ecstasy,” may be valuable in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“These drugs … were researched extensively in the 1950s and the 1960s, through the early ’70s,” says Dr. George Greer, medical director for the nonprofit Heffter Research Institute, which raises donations for psilocybin studies worldwide. “There were hundreds of studies that were very promising.”

But the psychedelic ’60s changed all that.

LSD and other hallucinogens, once confined to the lab, exploded into mainstream culture after the pied-piper of psychedelics, Timothy Leary, urged a generation to try LSD and other hallucinogens as a way to “turn on, tune in, drop out.” Many followed his advice, some with bad results. And that triggered a backlash that led the federal government to criminalize psychedelic drugs in 1970.

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