I am no cheerleader for psychedelic drugs

I am no cheerleader for psychedelic drugs
Rick Doblin demands an honest discussion of drugs

Published on 25.03.2008; page kmgab7
in Culture Magazine
from the Basler Zeitung


Rick Doblin is founder and president of Maps, an American association that advocates therapeutic studies with psychedelic drugs, advancing research that has been pigeonholed for almost forty years.

baz: Mr. Doblin, during the whole of the three-day World Psychedelic Forum (WPF), you were the only speaker who also referred repeatedly to the disadvantages of psychedelic drugs. Is there a danger that people put too much emphasis on the advantages?

RICK DOBLIN: There certainly is! Spurred on as we are by our successes in the research field, it is possible for us to overlook the disadvantages. However, if we want to win the publics confidence we must not overlook the disadvantages, otherwise we shall lose our credibility. Nevertheless, that is precisely what happens when governments talk only about the disadvantages of psychedelic drugs.

Do you have understanding for peoples widespread scepticism regarding psychedelic drugs?

Yes. We do not want to make the same mistake as Timothy Leary, whose one-sided positive reports on his studies in the 1950s and 1960s caused a reaction that paralyzed psychedelic drugs research for almost 40 years. If we just become a cheerleader for psychedelic drugs, that is going to be very counter productive.

But thats the impression people got at this Basel forum.

Most of the experts and users present have already experienced bad trips. These drugs function in such a way that they temporarily prevent our psyche from thinking only of survival; they bring out our subconscious. We must accept that there is also a dark side to this. I do not believe, however, that the disadvantages are being deliberately kept quiet. The reason is more because of the enthusiasm engendered and also that only the disadvantages of psychedelic drugs are reported in the media. It is human nature that one then automatically steers a counter-course.

Peter Gasser, the director of the LSD study permitted in Switzerland, cancelled his participation in the WPF, in order not to get even more publicity. Is that an understandable decision for you?

You know, since the 1960s, when all research with psychedelic drugs was stopped, the researchers have somehow been suffering from a trauma. We do not want to experience this setback a second time.

Personally, however, I believe that Gasser is being too careful here. After all, his study did have the blessing of the Swiss Federal Department for Health. Nevertheless, I can understand it if Gasser wants to go public only when he can present results, which means in approximately two years.

Will the medical research lead in the long run to total legalization?

No. That is not our concern. We want to investigate the medical and therapeutic use of these substances. This concerns all psychotherapeutic studies that need materials such as MDMA or LSD only as an aid for opening up. The drug is thus administered under strict supervision. There is no danger of abuse. In future, however, we want to use what we discover to make a contribution to an honest discussion of drugs.

Back to the MAPS Homepage

Two intriguing articles about MAPS’ involvement in the World Psychedelic Forum 2008 were recently published in the Basler Zeitung newspaper. The first article entitled “Of the Enlightened and the De-Narcotised” is slightly critical about the conference, but it notes that Doblin’s comments were balanced, and Michael Mithoefers research was solid. The second article aptly entitled “I am no cheerleader for psychedelic drug” features an interview with Rick Doblin, Ph.D. at the conference.