Column: Medical use of psychedelic drugs should be legalized

Despite being used since ancient times across the globe, psychedelic drugs remain illegal and stigmatized in the United States. The DEA lists psychedelics as Schedule 1 drugs, meaning they are officially considered to have no more medicinal value than life-threatening substances like heroin. This flies in the face of the actual scientific evidence and medical literature, which has established that psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms have tremendous potential for treating crippling mental afflictions such as depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. Research into psychedelics was interrupted by the War on Drugs in 1970, but modern doctors have returned to the subject and found exciting medical possibilities that warrant further exploration.

In contrast to the government propaganda that decries these substances as life-destroying and dangerous, clinical psychologists writing in the Lancet Psychiatry Journal last year argued that psychedelics are "as safe as riding a bike." Their statement, while perhaps shocking to those who have only been exposed to government claims, is hardly anomalous. There has never been a documented death from LSD overdose, and numerous studies have found that psychedelics do not cause organ damage or neuropsychological issues. Even the dreaded “bad trips” associated with psychedelics are unheard of when the drugs are administered in clinical settings. While the recreational use of psychedelics does pose certain risks, those risks are infinitesimally small when the drugs are administered by medical professionals. 

Given that these substances are very safe when taken in the right setting, it’s a shame that their potential medical benefits are being obstructed by outdated drug legislation. The same drug legislation that once made the medicinal use of marijuana unheard of now threatens to prevent countless patients afflicted by mental health issues from receiving potential treatments for their ailments. 

While the science hasn’t exactly been settled, more and more medical professionals are looking to psychedelics as possible treatment for a number of disorders. LSD has successfully been used in experimental treatments to help patients cope with depression, and the drug has also been shown to be effective in helping patients overcome end-of-life anxiety associated with terminal illnesses. LSD has also exhibited real promise as a way of treating anxiety disorders and helping people free themselves of addictions like alcoholism

Psilocybin is also of medicinal interest, with extensive research into its medical properties being conducted at the prestigious Johns Hopkins medical school. In addition to displaying the same healing properties of acid, psilocybin is described by researchers as having “mystical” qualities, with doctor-prescribed mushroom trips frequently triggering deep spiritual moments. Of the patients given psilocybin at Johns Hopkins, 70 percent rated the experience as one of the top five most significant experiences of their life.

More research is needed before any legislative action is taken regarding the medicinal use of psychedelics, but even a cursory glance at the literature on the topic reveals enormous untapped medical potential in these supposedly deadly drugs. 

Our current drug laws regarding the use of psychedelics are outdated and at clear odds with the research that is being carried out. Psychedelic drugs are powerful tools that, when used in the right setting, can profoundly change lives for the better. As more and more positive research comes out supporting therapeutic psychedelic use, denying the ability of doctors and patients to turn to these substances for treatment is no longer tenable.

Regardless of what one thinks of the recreational use of LSD or mushrooms, it is a fact that these drugs offer solutions to problems ranging from PTSD to alcoholism. Mental health issues are on the rise in America, and psychedelics may offer a safe and effective way of combating these problems. It’s time to drop the unscientific bias against these substances and allow doctors and patients to expand their options for treatment. 

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