Psychedelic drugs should be considered medically useful

Psychedelic drugs should be considered medically useful
By Sam Tracy

The Daily Campus, The Independent News Source of the University of Connecticut
Published: Monday, March 29, 2010

For many years, society has accepted the use of potentially dangerous drugs, like opiates and steroids, for medical purposes. Society admits that while they can be detrimental to ones health if taken recreationally and irresponsibly, a trained professional can help patients use these drugs to treat a wide range of afflictions.

Marijuana is currently making a transition from a drug that was viewed as purely recreational for a length of time to one that is now recognized by fourteen state governments as being useful for medical purposes. It is about time that psychedelics are admitted into this group of medically useful drugs.

Psychedelics are a group of drugs that alter the users state of consciousness, changing the way the mind perceives incoming stimuli. The most popular of these drugs include lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and MDMA, a major component of ecstasy. While there are many different subclasses of psychedelics, they all alter the users perceptions of their surroundings.

It may come as a shock that such powerful and taboo drugs could be used for medicinal purposes. But there has been a great deal of research, both in the 1960s and today, that have shown them to be effective in treating many illnesses. Psychedelics can help individuals overcome alcoholism, help terminally ill patients with therapy, and can supplement the therapy of people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Alcoholism is a horrible disease that afflicts nearly 14 million Americans. It can lead to a host of other health problems, including pancreatitis, brain damage, and many types of cancer. Interestingly, early studies of alcoholics using LSD in a controlled medical environment have shown promising results. There was a 50 percent success rate in helping alcoholics overcome their addictions and LSD has been proven to be non-addictive, therefore mitigating any concerns that patients would move from one addiction to another.

Statistics aside, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, came out in support of using LSD to help overcome addictions to alcohol, saying that altering perceptions was sometimes necessary to help patients change the way they think about alcohol.
There have also been many studies supporting the use of psychedelics as a part of therapy for terminally ill patients. A 1965 study at Spring Grove State Hospital in Maryland asked terminally ill patients if their feelings of tension, pain, depression and fear of death had changed after undergoing therapy that included LSD. About one third had very positive results, one third had somewhat positive results and the remaining third felt no change.

If any drug is capable of helping two-thirds of terminally ill patients come to terms with their situations, it should be used to do so. No one should be allowed to prohibit terminally ill patients from doing everything they can to deal with their conditions. The argument that drug prohibition is meant to protect individuals quickly falls apart for patients with only months left to live, as they will not be able to experience the potential long-term side effects of these drugs.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, is currently conducting some promising research regarding the use of MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder. In September 2008, the organization tested twenty-one subjects, all afflicted with PTSD due to sexual abuse or experience in war; the study has revealed positive results.

MAPS is a large and legitimate organization, whose research is far more credible than that done in the 1960s. They follow strict regulations required of drug tests, like using placebos as controls.

Psychedelics are in the same league as morphine and other drugs, when taken for medicinal purposes. While they can obviously be abused, they can also be highly beneficial for people afflicted by terrible conditions. We must overcome the taboo of using drugs that are currently illegal and make sure that any resources we have that could help alcoholics, the terminally ill or veterans with PTSD are put to use. Social stigma should not prevent these people from getting the treatment they need.

This editorial article by Sam Tracy, written for The Daily Campus, The Independent News Source of the University of Connecticut, argues for ending the legal ban on psychedelic drugs in medicine. The author points to MAPS and its ongoing efforts to help heal people suffering from PTSD with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a move in the right direction.