Futurity

How underground groups use psychedelic drugs for healing

An expert explains how people use hallucinogens for healing and why people are reconsidering old ideas about the drugs.

For a new study, researchers interviewed 15 individuals who have facilitated plant medicine ceremonies for thousands of people.

In guided sessions or ceremonies, facilitators administer drugs like ayahuasca or psilocybin to people looking to alter their consciousness and improve their mental health.

Little research exists on how people in this underground world are using hallucinogens—which piqued the interest of Caroline Dorsen, assistant professor at the Rory Meyers College of Nursing at New York University and a researcher with the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research.

“…plant medicine facilitators conceptualized plant medicine use as almost the polar opposite of drug use, even though there is some overlap of substances ingested.”

A series of recent studies suggests that psychedelics may be useful for alleviating depression and anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. A 2017 book by Ayelet Waldman chronicled her experience microdosing (or taking a very small amount) of LSD to treat her mood disorder. More recently, Michael Pollan’s new book on the science of psychedelics—in which he personally tries LSD and psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, in guided sessions—has enjoyed four weeks on the New York Times best-sellers list since its release last month.

This renewed interest in the clinical use of hallucinogens is no surprise to drug researchers, given the long and complex history of psychedelics. Plant-based hallucinogens have been part of ceremonies around the world for centuries.

During the 1950s and 1960s, there was considerable interest in the potential for psychedelics to treat mental illness and substance use—in fact, researchers published more than 1,000 scientific papers during this period showing the promise of certain drugs. But with the late ’60s and early ’70s came a political and social backlash against all drugs, which abruptly halted research on psychedelics in the United States.

The resurgence of interest in psychedelics among medical researchers in the past decade has led to new findings and ongoing clinical trials using LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, and other drugs. While this research is taking place in clinical settings, however, the underground—and understudied—community of people is helping others to use plant-based hallucinogenic drugs.

Here, Dorsen explains what she learned in speaking with people active in this community.

The post How underground groups use psychedelic drugs for healing appeared first on Futurity.

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