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The pursuit of knowledge and advancement of medical research are among the many victims of the War on Drugs. Just as marijuana prohibition is now being dismantled under the juggernaut of reason, so too will the prohibition of psychedelics.

For thousands of years, cultures around the world have explored the mystical experience provided by psychedelic substances, using mescaline, ayahuasca, and magic mushrooms for religious ceremony and healing purposes.

In the 1940s, western medicine began realizing the potential for psychedelics to treat addiction and psychiatric disorders. Tens of thousands of people were treated effectively, and psychedelic drugs were on the fast track to becoming mainstream medicine. But the beast of oppression reared its ugly head.

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In 1967 and 1970, the UK and US governments cast all psychedelic substances into the pit of prohibition. People were waking up to the fact that governments intended to keep the world in a state of war, and that governments were working to keep the populace sedated under a cloak of consumerism. The collective mind expansion of that era came to a screeching halt under the boot and truncheon.

Now, as people share information globally, instantaneously, on a scale unstoppable by the state, we are resuming the advancement of medical research on psychedelic substances. Scientists are challenging the irrational classification of psychedelics as “class A” (UK) or “schedule 1” (US) substances, characterized as having no medical use and high potential for addiction.

“But no evidence indicates that psychedelic drugs are habit forming; little evidence indicates that they are harmful in controlled settings; and much historical evidence shows that they could have use in common psychiatric disorders,” says James Rucker, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience

The hurdles created from the baseless Schedule 1, Class A prohibition make research extremely difficult. It can take two years to get the necessary license for trials, and everyone involved—the manufacturer, the hospital, the researcher—has to have this license. The drug must be locked in a safe and bolted to a wall in a locked room within another locked room, as if it’s some kind of dangerously toxic material. Prohibition also makes procurement ten times more expensive, making funding more difficult and pharmaceutical companies uninterested in making the precise products needed for study.

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Despite all this, modern research is showing once again that psychedelics can treat disorders such as depression, anxiety, and addiction. The drug of choice for clinical studies is psilocybin—the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”—which is not as strong and long-lasting as LSD or mescaline.

A clinical trial carried out by Tony Bossis and Stephen Ross at New York University in 2014 showed astounding results for advanced cancer patients suffering from anxiety.

According to Ross, cancer patients receiving just a single dose of psilocybin experienced immediate and dramatic reductions in anxiety and depression, improvements that were sustained for at least six months.

{The patients} were saying things like ‘I understand love is the most powerful force on the planet,’ or ‘I had an encounter with my cancer, this black cloud of smoke.’ People who had been palpably scared of death—they lost their fear. The fact that a drug given once can have such an effect for so long is an unprecedented finding. We have never had anything like it in the psychiatric field.

Roland Griffiths and Katherine MacLean at Johns Hopkins carried out studies prior to this, finding that psilocybin brought about mystical experiences in subjects. The “completeness” of this experience (according to the Pahnke-Richards Mystical Experience Questionnaire) closely tracked improvements in personal well-being, life satisfaction, openness, and positive behavior change for up to 14 months after the experience.

Griffiths also conducted a study using psilocybin to treat smoking addiction, with striking results. 80% of the subjects remained abstinent for six months after treatment, a far better success rate than any other existing nicotine-replacement therapy. One subject said, “Smoking seemed irrelevant, so I stopped.

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An analysis of trials from the 60s and 70s showed that LSD helped people overcome alcohol addiction as successfully as any treatment to date.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is helping to understand the mechanisms of how psychedelics can treat addiction and depression. Stimulation of serotonin 2A receptors by psychedelics decreases activity in certain areas of the brain, especially the “default mode network” (DMN) which is involved in our ingrained thought patterns and behaviors. Decreasing DMN stimulation can allow people to break free from destructive brain patterns.

An exhaustive survey carried out by Johns Hopkins Medicine supports the conclusions of clinical research, finding that “A history of psychedelic drug use is associated with less psychological distress and fewer suicidal thoughts, planning and attempts…

Fascinating research using fMRI shows that, under the influence of psilocybin, the brain enters a pattern of activity similar to the dream state. Primitive areas of the brain linked to emotions, memory and arousal become more synchronized, while higher-level thinking and the “sense of self” become unsynchronized.

After 40 years, it appears that another brick in the wall of prohibition is beginning to crumble in the face of science and logic. Eminent schools of medicine, along with organizations like the Heffter Research Institute and the Beckley Foundation, are challenging oppression and bringing psychedelics back into mainstream medicine.

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Justin Gardner is a peaceful free-thinker with a background in the biological sciences. He is interested in bringing rationality back into the national discourse, and independent journalism as a challenge to the status quo.