Doctors reevaluate the role of hallucinogens

The molecule psilocybin, which is found in certain types of mushrooms.

Did anyone see the front page of yesterday’s New York Times? I definitely never thought I’d see the word “hallucinogens” in a headline that made the front page, much less in a positive light. In one of the most interesting articles I’ve read in some time, John Tierney writes about recent experiments psychologists have been performing using psilocybin as an alternative treatment for depression. The description that the experiment’s participant gives is a very bright, uplifting and positive one. He said that the drug helped his depression after the traditional methods of treatment had failed. He also ranked the experience as one of the most meaningful and important of his life, which made him typical of most participants in the study.

The story runs a week before members of the scientific community plan to meet in San Jose for a conference on psychedelic science. I was excited to read this article because I am very interested in studying psychedelics and their possible role in mental therapies. I would love to someday join MAPS and study how to use these drugs in a safe and positive way.

The part of the story that made me most happy was the fact that researchers are being very cautious and careful in interpreting the results of these preliminary studies. They don’t want to make the same mistakes researchers like Dr. Timothy Leary did in the 1960s and isolate themselves from the mainstream culture, nor do they want to become drug evangelists. They simply want to better understand how these compounds work in the brain and how to use them to our best advantage, which is I believe a very thoughtful and responsible reproach.

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