Welcome to the world of Psychedelics


The history of psychedelics.
This blog discusses the origins and history of psychedelics. If you want to know more about what psychedelics are, read this blog (what is psychedelics).

For many, the history of psychedelics begins in the 20th century, when Albert Hofmann, a Swiss researcher, synthesized LSD in 1938. He first tried it himself in 1943, which was reportedly the first human experience with LSD.

After this event, research on psychedelics went through a great development. Research was conducted on the effect of LSD in alcoholics, its effect on anxiety in people with cancer, and people began conducting experimental research with LSD in psychotherapy.

In the 1950s, a Wallstreet banker named Gordon Wasson went to Mexico where he first experienced psilocybin. He wrote an article about this that appeared in Life Magazine in 1957. After this, Albert Hofmann and his team synthesized psilocybin and much research was done on this drug as well.

In the 1960s, extensive research was done on the effect of psychedelics on the brain, hormones and their effects in psychotherapy, resulting in about 8,000 scientific publications on the subject. At the same time, abuse of psychedelics was increasing, especially in the United States, and the government there began to introduce strict regulations.

In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act was introduced in the United States, classifying psychedelics as Schedule I drugs, meaning they were considered illegal and had no accepted medical uses. In the 1970s, there was still research on psychedelics, but it was greatly reduced, in part because “double blind” studies were the norm. This means that both researchers and participants were not allowed to know whether they were taking a psychedelic or a placebo.

In the 1980s, there were fewer than 10 publications a year on psychedelics.

The 1990s saw a renewed interest in the use of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes. Research slowly resumed and in recent years has increased dramatically.

This period of renewed interest in the therapeutic application of psychedelics is also known as the psychedelic renaissance. There is growing recognition of the potential benefits of psychedelic substances for the treatment of conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD and addiction, as well as for personal growth and spiritual development. Scientific research and clinical studies have shown that psychedelics can show promise as complementary treatment options. However, little is still known about the potential risks.

Phase 3 clinical trials are currently being conducted in several countries around the world, particularly with MDMA, psilocybin and ketamine. Phase 3 clinical trials are the final stage of scientific research before a drug can be officially recognized as a drug, research is then done with humans to demonstrate its effectiveness as a drug.

In Australia, MDMA is now recognized as a drug and may be used under strict regulations. The request for the application of MDMA as a medication for people with PTSD has been submitted to the FDA in the United States. A number of states allow the use of psilocybin as psychedelic assisted therapy. It is expected that in the coming years, more countries will follow where the use of psychedelics will be recognized and allowed as a therapeutic agent.

However, the origins of psychedelics go back much further. The use of psychedelics has a long history within various indigenous cultures around the world. They have been used for centuries in religious and spiritual ceremonies, for healing and rituals.

Examples of psychedelic substances that have been used for centuries include ayahuasca in the Amazon, peyote among native American tribes and mushrooms containing psilocybin in various cultures. These substances were traditionally used for spiritual growth, healing and gaining insight.

The use of psychoactive plants can be traced to religious rituals of African (e.g., Bwiti), South American (e.g., Amazonian), North American (e.g., Aztec) and Central American (e.g., Mayan and Incan) indigenous cultures.

While specific rituals, practices and beliefs vary considerably among indigenous groups, there are also notable similarities. Psychedelics are considered a sacred vehicle, they were usually administered under the guidance of an expert spiritual leader and carefully passed down from generation to generation.

Within indigenous cultures, the origin of a physical illness is often considered to be the result of spiritual power, rather than physical. Therefore, treatment often includes psychoactive rituals that bring people closer to the spirit world. In this tradition, some modern researchers prefer to call such drugs “entheogens” (referring to someone who becomes inspired, often in a religious or spiritual way), rather than using the term “psychedelics,” which is a Western term primarily associated with experimental research conducted primarily by white people.

For this article, I used information from several lectures from my training as a psychedelic therapist at the Integrative Institute for Psychiatry in the United States.

In addition, I used the article by George, J. R., Michaels, T. I., Sevelius, J., & Williams, M. T. (2020). The psychedelic renaissance and the limitations of a White-dominant medical framework: A call for indigenous and ethnic minority inclusion. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 4(1), 4-15. https://doi.org/10.1556/2054.2019.015

Saskia is a GZ psychologist, yoga and mindfulness teacher living mostly in the Netherlands. She works both in her practice in The Hague and online. Her own journey to inner peace began when she was a teenager and has led her to study psychology, Buddhism, yoga and psychedelics. She founded House of Awareness to combine and share all her knowledge and inspire others to take an inner journey.

Photo credit: JR Korpa via unsplash

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