English Comp 1 essay, Final Paper: “Psychedelics, The Healthy Option?”


In now way do I advocate the use of Illegal substances for recreational use. This paper was attempting to question why such things have been made un lawful when there are scientific evidence to say that they aren’t as harmful as we’ve been lead to believe.

Direct link to GoogleDrive Document Here.



Nathaniel Branham

James Davis

English Composition 1


Psychedelics, The Healthy Option?

Psychedelics have gotten a bad reputation. LSD, Magic Mushrooms, Peyote Cactus, basically anything that could –in high enough doses– make you see strange and often wondrous things have been shunned by the law abiding, conservative population segment of America. Why? Because they are illegal. Because, someone up on Capitol hill decided that psychedelic experiences were bad for you. However, new research is coming to light that states “…psychedelic use was associated with lower rate of mental health problems” (Krebs).

The thought among supporters of the drug community is that seeing visions of a hallucinogenic nature actually strengthens the neural pathways and promote creativity.  There actually is a psychedelic compound, called ibogaine, that has been a valid treatment for opioid addiction. (Opium, and heroin.) However, past research –especially studies made in the ‘60s and ‘70s–  was tainted by the researchers being high themselves and further tainted by individuals such as Timothy Leary who was caught stealing  LSD from harvard University and giving it to some of his students. In 1966, because psychedelics like LSD had leaked out of the scientific community and into the hands of less than scholarly people, LSD misuse had become an unavoidable problem and it’s possession was made illegal (Sessa).

It wasn’t until 1988 when Switzerland briefly and limitedly lifted the research ban on psychedelics that research was finally resumed. From ‘88 to ‘93, Swiss scientists conducted psycholytic-psychotherapy on mental patients using LSD and MDMA (Ecstasy) . Likewise, from 1990 to 1995 US scientists performed extensive studies with DMT, a short lasting but strong psychedelic agent. Also, in Russia, a double blind placebo test on heroin addicts using ketamine saw abstinence from the drug for up to two years after the initial treatment (Sessa).   The most exciting studies, however, are the ones using ibogaine to treat opioid addictions.  Ibogaine is an indole alkaloid found in bark of the African shrub Tabernanthe iboga, and is alleged to cure opioid addictions. Alper, Lotsof, Frenken, Luciano, and Bastiaans observe and summarize thirty-three different cases of opioid detoxification with ibogaine, under non-medical conditions (R.Alper).

It’s not all roses and sunshine, specifically in the case of LSD.  Lysergic acid diethylamide has a number of effects across different species. The LD50 , lethal dose for 50% of users, of LSD in rabbits , for example, is 0.03 mg/kg i.v. The LD50 for humans is unknown, as there has not been a recorded case of LSD overdose in humans. “Eight individuals who accidentally consumed a very high dose of LSD intranasally (mistaking it for cocaine) had plasma levels of 1000–7000μg per 100 mL blood plasma and suffered from comatose states, hyperthermia, vomiting, light gastric bleeding, and respiratory problems. However, all survived with hospital treatment and without residual effects” (Passie). That was one of the highest doses recorded and all they had was, more or less, superficial. That’s not to say that LSD isn’t toxic, it’s just that we haven’t found a dose high enough to actually kill someone.

It does go without saying that there is an inherent danger with psychedelics, and that’s driving while using them. Driving under the influence of LSD is a terrible idea. Aside from the obvious legality issues, LSD and other psychedelics can: impair speed of reaction, cause panic attacks, cause users to overestimate time intervals, and also temporarily impair visual memory (Passie).

In the non-scientific realms, psychedelic substances play a major role in  shamanistic and counter-culture practices. They also are a huge enabler for parapsychological studies, the study of events and phenomena outside the regular realm of accepted science; as psychotropic and psychedelic material, in large enough doses, cause the user(s) to experience Out of Body Experience (OBEs), Extrasensory Perception(ESP), and general hallucinations with varying degrees of perceived reality (Luke).

Interestingly enough, these aforementioned effects of “The bad trip” have no long term mental health effects. Looking at population data from ‘01 to ‘04 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, researchers Teri S. Krebs and Pål-Ørjan Johansen from Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) looked at lifetime usage of LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline and cross referenced those numbers with those of mental health breakdown instances. What they found was of the 103,152 respondents to the study,  21,967 (13.4%) said they had used the aforementioned psychedelics at least once in their lifetime.  And in that 13.4%, they looked for “…symptoms of eight psychiatric disorders (panic disorder, major depressive episode, mania, social phobia, general anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, post traumatic stress disorder, and non-affective psychosis), and seven specific symptoms of non-affective psychosis.”  Krebs and Johansen took all extraneous sociodemographic variables into account. To name a few; “Illicit drug use, risk taking behavior, and exposure to traumatic events.”   According to  Krebs and Johansen, “…psychedelic use was associated with lower rate of mental health problems” (Krebs).

The topic of psychedelics has always been a tricky one. Between uninformed naysayers and the overall legality, or lack thereof, it’s very hard to take a stand and go against the conservative party line of “All substances that make you see things are of Satan! Repent!”  In the research this writer has done, there is next to no scientific findings that support the prior allegations. In fact quite the opposite.  From a logical perspective, psychedelics (as defined as being LSD, Psilocybin, Mescaline, Ketamine, MDMA, DMT, and Ibogaine.) aren’t addictive and they expose your brain to a new way of looking at the world; if only for a little while. A body builder does a list of things to make sure he builds muscle, exercises and stretches his body. If learning new things is exercise for our brain, should we not likewise stretch it as well?






Works Cited

Krebs, Teri S., and Pål-Ørjan Johansen. “Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study.” Ed.

Lin Lu. PLoS ONE 8.8 (2013): e63972.

Lüscher, Christian, and Mark A. Ungless. “The Mechanistic Classification of Addictive Drugs.” PLoS

Medicine 3.11 (2006): e437.

Baggott, Matthew J. et al. “Investigating the Mechanisms of Hallucinogen-Induced Visions Using

3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA): A Randomized Controlled Trial in Humans.” Ed. Antonio Verdejo García. PLoS ONE 5.12 (2010): e14074.

Sotnikova, Tatyana D. et al. “The Dopamine Metabolite 3-Methoxytyramine Is a Neuromodulator.” Ed.

Alessandro Bartolomucci. PLoS ONE 5.10 (2010): e13452.

Alper, R. ; Howard S. Lotsof; Geerte, Kenneth. “Treatment of Acute Opioid Withdrawal with

Ibogaine.” American Journal on Addictions 8.3 (1999): 234-242.

SESSA, B. “Can psychedelics have a role in psychiatry once again?” The British Journal of Psychiatry

186.6 (2005): 457-458.

Passie, Torsten et al. “The Pharmacology of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: A Review.”

CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics 14.4 (2008): 295-314.

Luke, David. “Psychoactive Substances and Paranormal Phenomena: A Comprehensive Review.”

International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 31.1 (2012): 97-156. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

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