Leafly: Healing With the Psychonauts: Psychedelic Medicine Goes Mainstream

Summary: Leafly brings awareness to the rise of acceptance for psychedelic healing in the mainstream, mentioning that this year’s convention of the American Psychological Association will be hosting a panel on “Psychedelics and Psychology”. The article reflects on the history of psychedelics in America and how organizations like MAPS “kept the lights on through the long, psychedelic dark age.”

Originally appearing here.

Plant medicines and psychedelic healing are getting serious attention from many quarters of the mainstream these days.

Michael Pollan’s book How to Change Your Mind has been on the New York Times bestseller list for nine weeks.

Ayelet Waldman is microdosing and having A Really Good Day, and rom-com audiences have been subjected to Ben Stiller’s laughable-yet-so-not-funny Ayuhuasca trip in While We’re Young.

More significantly, next month, the American Psychological Association will host a panel on “Psychedelics and Psychology” at its annual convention, the first of its kind in the organization’s history. Tripping balls is becoming legit.

A smorgasbord of doctors, shamans, veterans, academics, psychonauts, and therapists gathered last month at UCLA to talk about psychedelic drugs and their potential to save humanity from itself.

This was the Los Angeles Psychedelic Science Symposium (LAPSS), the first conference of its kind to be held in a major Los Angeles academic institution. Its mission: to make Los Angeles a hub of psychedelic information and research, and spread the word about the healing powers of psychedelics.

To that end, the event brought together rock stars of the entheogenic world, including Dennis McKenna, James Fadiman, Gabor Maté, and James Oroc, with lesser-known researchers, therapists, and everyday people whose lives have been saved by Schedule 1 drugs. The goal of the Los Angeles Psychedelic Science Symposium, according to event coordinator Wallis Back, was to provide opportunities for the world’s leading experts in the field of psychedelic science to educate a diverse audience with current evidence-based research, in addition to medicinal and therapeutic applications.

How Tim Leary Derailed Clinical Use

The history of psychedelics in America is complicated, but essentially has two arcs. The first began in the 1950s, with the flowering of psychedelic research and cultural acceptance. Major LSD studies were conducted at Harvard and Stanford, more than a thousand research papers were published, international conferences seriously discussed the clinical use of psychedelic drugs. CBS even ran a glowing special report on the promise of LSD. But then Timothy Leary, the Harvard-researcher-turned-counterculture-clown, started flinging tabs of acid around like rice at a wedding and ruined it for everyone.

Canadian physician and author Gabor Maté, addressing the LAPSS conference last month, likened Leary and his hippie brethren of the ‘60s to Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. “The sorcerer used potions and incantations to do good,” Maté said, “but he knew how to control those forces, he knew how to marshal them in the service of positive outcomes. In his absence, Mickey, without his training, without the expertise or wisdom, starts releasing these forces and they wreak all kinds of havoc, because it’s not the right context. In the ‘60s a lot of people started using psychedelics like Mickey Mouse.”

Some people had bad trips and got hurt. President Nixon declared Timothy Leary “the most dangerous man in America.” By 1970, psychedelics had been categorized as Schedule 1 drugs (determined to have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse) by the DEA, and federal funding for research was withdrawn. Scientists who were just figuring out how powerful and useful psychedelics really were had to either give up their research or do it in secret.

Gabor Maté: Inside the Psychedelic Experience

The Canadian physician and author addresses the attractions of psychedelics and the problems of trauma and addiction in this 2016 talk.

The Underground Era

Psychedelics went underground but did not go away. In the meantime, other parts of the landscape shifted: Globalism and the internet brought indigenous plant medicines like ayuhuasca, iboga, peyote and DMT to Western attention. Those drugs have been percolating through American psychedelic culture for about a decade, creating converts in their wake.

Perhaps most significantly, the conversation about medicinal psychedelics is now taking place because a space has been opened for it through the mainstream acceptance of cannabis as a legal and legitimate medicine.

Forty years after going underground, the conversation around psychedelics is coming back into the open. Organizations like the Los Angeles Medicinal Plant Society (LAMPS), and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which co-hosted the Los Angeles conference, kept the lights on through the long, psychedelic dark age—and now are helping bring research and knowledge to thousands of interested clinicians and patients.

The LAPSS is one of many such conferences that have taken place in 2018 alone. As the LAPSS was taking place in Los Angeles, a similar conference was unfolding in Prague. A recent article on the American Psychological Association’s website states that “research studies have continued to point to the possibility that the benefits of these illegal drugs may outweigh the risks in certain scenarios.”