Can Hallucinations Save the Human Species?0

Psilocybin, psilocin, mescaline, DMT, LSD, ketamine, MDMA, salvinorin A, and ibogaine. This laundry list of hallucinogens does not describe the contents in the car of Raoul Duke or his attorney Dr. Gonzo, but instead, ingredients sometimes found in modern day therapeutic research.

What started in the 1950s and slowed in the 1960s due to legal restrictions has resumed in studies around the world. Researchers want to know whether these mind-altering substances can effectively treat post-traumatic stress disorder, help with symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, provide help in battling addictions, ease the anxiety of cancer patients, or even battle depression.

A recent article entitled “Hallucinogens as Medicine” in December’s Scientific American explores the promise of these therapies. Authors Roland R. Griffiths and Charles S. Grob explore how “in a matter of hours, mind-altering substances may induce profound psychological realignments that can take decades to achieve on a therapist’s couch.” Although the authors acknowledge the risks of hallucinogens — including prolonged psychosis, psychological distress, and alteration of sensory perception to name a few — these substances may be useful in the arsenal of treatments related to major public health problems.

The authors conclude: “Understanding how mystical experiences can engender benevolent attitudes toward oneself and others will, in turn, aid in explaining the well-documented protective role of spirituality in psychological well-being and health. . . . A grasp of the biology of the classic hallucinogens, then, could help clarify the mechanisms underlying human ethical and cooperative behavior – knowledge that, we believe, may ultimately be crucial to the survival of the human species.” [audio:|titles=Comfortably Numb]

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