Scientists, Doctors Study the Therapeutic Benefits of Psychedelics
But many readers would be surprised to learn that Nobel Laureate Francis Crick received a vision of the double helix DNA when he was under the influence of LSD, or that Apple founder Steve Jobs counts his psychedelic voyages among the "two or three most important things" he's done in his life.
Despite the fact that the federal government shut down psychedelic research some 45 years ago and made its use illegal, 23 million Americans have taken a psychedelic since then, and it's estimated that more than 600 thousand Americans will try psychedelics this year.
Today, there's a recent resurgence of scientific and medical research on the healing potential of psychedelics. Important clinical research on psychedelics is being conducted at Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and elsewhere that may offer new hope and help for cancer patients, cluster headache sufferers, heroin addicts, US veterans with PTSD, and autistic children, and patients with many other medical conditions. There's also renewed interest in psychedelic use as a vehicle for personal growth and exploration, for problem solving, and as a way to trigger artistic and creative breakthroughs.
New interest among academics, intellectuals, scientists, psychologists, medical researchers, and spiritual healers is uncovering and rediscovering beneficial uses for psychedelic substances. Here are seven of them.
Helps you work through emotional and behavioral blocks.
Before all civilian LSD research was stopped in 1966, it was the most widely studied psychiatric drug in the world. Today, in well-administered psychotherapeutic sessions, psychedelics are being used successfully to open up the patient's consciousness; facilitate new insights into the patient's motivations, patterns, and history; and create lasting behavioral change.
Leads to enhanced problem solving in focused sessions.
The use of psychedelics by scientists and other professionals for enhanced problem solving was the subject of a 1966 government-approved research project. When more than two dozen participants--engineers, architects, physicists, mathematicians, and businessmen--were given LSD in a controlled setting, most experienced improved functioning in areas such as an increased ability to see the problem in the broadest terms, heightened capacity for visual imagery, sharper concentration, more access to unconscious data, a firmer knowledge of when the right solution appeared, and innovative insights with real-world applications. Real solutions resulted: new products, publications, and patents.
May improve cognitive functioning and performance at work.
A growing number of artists and businesspeople have been using psychedelics in sub-perceptual--or extremely low--dosages to improve their output, sharpen their focus, and boost productivity and performance. First-person reports of those who have tried micro-doses (10 micrograms of LSD or equivalent amounts of psilocybin) reveal that the effects are measurable and positive, while side effects such as sensory distortions or loosening of ego boundaries are almost nonexistent.
Can result in more creative "brainstorming" in group work.
One study using low-dose psychedelics to trigger creative breakthroughs in a facilitated group session found that group members were better able to "let go of their attachment to their own ideas and let a natural evolution of ideas occur." This could be useful in product development or marketing teams, or among scientists or engineers working to achieve a common and complex mission.
Has promising applications in medicine.
Researchers at Harvard are studying how LSD may be an effective treatment for cluster headaches. At Johns Hopkins, UCLA, and NYU, late-stage cancer patients and their families are getting relief from anxiety after a single session of psychedelic treatment in a safe and supporting setting. LSD and other psychedelics have been used successfully to treat heroin, cocaine, and alcohol addition. And not only here, but also in Germany, Switzerland, Jordan, and Israel, MDMA is being used to help people, especially veterans, overcome the chronically debilitating effects of PTSD.
Brings about positive and lasting behavioral change.
In a landmark study, 67 participants in a single, guided psychedelic therapy session were interviewed by Dr. Fadiman six to nine months later to find out if the experience had a long-term effect in shaping their behavior. He found significant positive changes in areas such as: more attention to their appearance, better personal relationships, an increased sense of self-worth, reduced anxiety, more creativity and appreciation for art and music, closer ties to family, more marital satisfaction, and a more active dream life, among many other lasting changes.
Enables subjects to "meet the divine within."
In a follow-up survey of 113 volunteers who had undergone preparation, one LSD experience, and supportive follow up, 91 percent said they now had a greater awareness of God, a Higher Power, or an Ultimate Reality. Most people reported feeling an overwhelming sense of oneness with nature and the universe, along with a profound sense of tranquility and serenity. Researchers and subjects alike agree with their shaman counterparts that the psychedelic experience provides the crucial, unifying link between humans and their natural world.
It's important to note that the above studies do not focus on ritualistic/shamanistic use of psychedelics for religious or spiritual purposes, nor on recreational use. As more scientific evidence unfolds, researchers will no doubt uncover many more benefits of these age-old substances for our health, personal development, and well-being. You can read more about the latest research on guided psychedelic use in the new book, The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys (Park Street Press, 2011).
About James Fadiman
James Fadiman PhD was one of the people involved with totally legal psychedelic research during the 1960s, and is considered among America's wisest and most respected authorities on psychedelics and their use. He did his undergraduate work at Harvard and his graduate work at Stanford, doing pioneering research with the Harvard Group, the West Coast Research Group in Menlo Park, and Ken Kesey. He is author of The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys (Park Street Press, 2011).
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