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A young hero stands before the tribal council. Thunder echoes from afar, louder than a war drum. The air inside the hut feels cumbersome.
"Not ready," asserts one of the elders with a scared eye.
"Too small," yells the other. "The beasts would swallow this child whole."
The tribe grants their three strongest younglings of age rite of passage into warriorhood at the dawn of each new warmth. This hero is too young for such a ceremony and has not completed the required training yet, but a recent attack by fanged beasts left the village in a bloodbath. All eligible aspirants had died during the raid, as well as other warriors and many civilians.
"Look at those arms; they would crumble under the weight of a spear."
"The wind suffices to knock this tot down."
"You expect this pile of dust to defend the tribe from danger?"
The hero stays still, a steady breath unphased by the barrage of curses, eyes locked straight onto the chief's stern stare. Warriors must withstand the fear of words, no matter how bad they hurt.
The tall man with a large frame marked by war scars rises from his feet and steps forward. His presence fills the room of silence; even the storm seems to quiet down.
"This state of emergency forces us to break tradition today, young one. You were brave during the attack. Pay no attention to the old fools. These jealous monkeys cannot accept that their prime is long gone. Your body might not be ready, but your will is strong, and these demons leave us no other choice. Do you accept the way of the warrior passed on to our ancestors by the high spirits when the world was born?"
The hero's heart beats faster than ever before; fear takes over. A quiet moment passes.
"Well," says the chief, "Did you forget how to speak? "
"No, Great Warrior. Please forgive me. I will honor our ancestors until my death."
The chief bows his head then sits back down. A bearded shaman emerges from of the shadows; sky beast skull hung around his neck and red paint on his face. The wise man hands the hero a handful of odd spotted white stems with dirt-colored caps, the sacred rite of passage that had saved the species from extinction long ago.
The taste is awful, almost sickening.
"Too weak to finish!" yells the scar-eyed elder.
But the hero swallows the last bitter crumbs. The shaman steps forward and smiles.
"You will now see the breath of the spirits. Learn from their wisdom brace yourself to meet the shadow at the end of the journey."
The council leaves the hut. A strange visceral discomfort disrupts the hero several moments later, a combination of stomach aches and a hoard of inner butterflies flapping their wings together. Time slows down; something feels odd. Edges seem sharper. Inanimate rocks vibrate as the colors on the walls shift. Sparks fly when a log crackles in the fireplace. The rain resonates outside as each drop chants a unique melody.
Breath of the spirits
The hero stares both hands in awe as if they belonged to someone else. Nothing makes sense anymore. All concepts and rules taught in training dissolve, replaced by a flood of invisible voices that speak an unknown yet familiar language, near and far. Fear emerges out of the chaos but appears different than usual.
The young warrior sees terror as a reflection in the water parted from the body instead of the usual sensation.
The rain intensifies as a lightning bolt rips the sky apart and leaves a trail of bright white light behind.
Fast forward to 1967
Times are tense. Violent public disorder prevails all over the world. The United States have their feet years deep in Vietnam as the streets of Detroit set ablaze. Union disputes escalate into a revolt against British Colonial rule in Hong Kong. A Summer of Love blooms in an age of riots and fire.
Forget communism; Western Imperial tradition faces a new enemy symbol of rebellion and dissent for authority, worshipped en masse by the long-haired offspring of the Second World War. A wild bunch of flower children rises against the Vietnam War and consumerism, as millions of young people experiment with a promising treatment for psychiatric disorders known as psychedelics after they leaked out of the scientific sphere into the mainstream party scene.
The written words of Aldous Huxley in England with the work of Harvard psychologists Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert amongst many others popularized the use of hallucinogens such as LSD throughout the fifties and sixties, as did the rediscovery of magic mushrooms with their active ingredient psilocybin. The music of famous rock bands such as The Doors and The Grateful Dead also played a significant role in the widespread of the counterculture.
Psychedelics sharpen sensory perception and trigger a heightened sense of introspection. The term comes from the two Ancient Greek words Psyche, which means mind, and Delos, which translates to reveal. Reality distorts for several hours. Users compare their positive experiences with the drugs to years of therapy, but bad trips can happen too with symptoms ranging from vague anxiety to utter terror.
The US government which had funded much of the research coins the substances as fuel for the counterculture's upheaval and ban their use at once, threatened by the cognitive liberation of the youth.
Positive findings on the healing applications and consciousness-altering properties become rubbish, and the drugs get criminalized by 1968. Other countries follow the lead, which shuts down the European psychedelic science hub, and most of the research on their safety and efficacy halts. Only a few programs remain with little to no access for academic endeavors.
Another hopeful psychedelic treatment known as MDMA arises during the eighties in psychiatric and counseling settings. The substance becomes famous for recreation use as LSD had a few decades ago, so the Drug Enforcement Administration created by President Richard Nixon when he declared war on drugs pushes for its criminalization. They allege psychoactive compound an imminent public threat to accelerate the process.
MDMA joins the Schedule 1 rank which restricts availability for research and shows the substance holds no accepted medical use and has a high abuse potential, the same as heroin. Possession can land someone three to fifteen years in jail with fines that range from $1,000 to $300,000. The sentence is worse for dealers and manufacturers.
Psychedelic activists unite throughout the decades to counter the prohibition and raise awareness of the dire need to expand the scientific investigation. These organizations strive to produce and distribute educational content that will promote the therapeutic use of the substances as a better alternative to the harsh restriction laws.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) founded by Rick Doblin in 1986 distributes over twenty million US dollars to fund research and education on controlled substances over the decades. The new task force helps scientists through the entire research process and works with major governmental regulatory agencies in Europe and the United States to ensure proper ethics and procedures.
Their primary focus is in the use of MDMA as a complementary treatment to psychotherapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The US Pilot study started nine years ago and has now reached the third phase of trials after a ground-breaking agreement with the Food and Drug Administration in August 2017, which only begins if enough evidence of effectiveness accumulates in the preliminary tests on humans. Several hundred to three thousand subjects will participate in this stage of the agency's Drug Development and Review process.
Other projects include studies on the psychoactive compound Ibogaine and opioid addiction. Matt and Kristi Bowden of Stargate International funded the ongoing research published in the prestigious American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse with a 25,000$ grant.
"This study took place at an independent ibogaine clinic in New Zealand. Its purpose was to examine the safety and long-term effectiveness of ibogaine treatment for opioid addiction severity and quality of life in 20 to 30 patients. " - MAPS
The medicinal properties of cannabis also interest the task force, but research within the United States is impossible due to the monopoly held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse only engaged in the adverse impact of the plant.
Doblin explains how the government has a monopoly on the supply of the plant for FDA-approved research, which restricts its availability for scientists. He mentions the struggles to acquire cannabis for a vaporizer study.
"We're the only people in America that can't get 10 grams of marijuana. " - MAPS
Amanda Fielding is another prominent figure of Psychedelic science who founded the Beckley Foundation in 1998. Her United Kingdom-based think tank and United Nations accredited NGO strives to improve the science and politics of psychoactive substances. Fielding's portfolio includes over forty books and a high volume of work ranging from reports to policy papers, along with several scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals.
She believes obstruction of the research deprives patients of sound treatments.
The Law Enforcement Action Partnership is an organization meant to gather police officers in support of drug policy and criminal justice reforms that promote alternatives to arrest and incarcerations. They want to look beyond the criminality and address the real underlying issues with a range of solutions. Their measures seek protection of human rights with reduction of violence to rebuild trust and public respect for law enforcement.
These societies are amongst the plethora dedicated to the cause. The latest scientific progress and media attention towards the drugs suggest significant changes are on the way. Psychedelics have come far since the initial ban, but the battle is far from over. Further research will be needed to convince federal and medical authorities of their potential as a treatment for multiple psychiatric disorders.
Awareness widespread through critical media outlets is necessary to reverse the negative stigma created over time. Someone in need might avoid the treatment because of a groundless perception created out of a knee-jerk response to the counterculture, or fear of legal repercussions. Several outlets ranging from The Washington Post to The Guardian, and Forbes published the latest news on MDMA as a potential treatment for PTSD to their millions of readers.
British author Graham Hancock explores the depths of the psychedelic universe in an anthology of work from twenty-two writers titled The Divine Spark. The collection includes the connection of psychoactive substances to consciousness and their impact on evolution throughout history, from ancient tribal rituals at the birth of civilization to modern day scientific research.
" I suspect the real breakthroughs in our understanding of consciousness are going to come from an entirely different direction. That direction, controversially, has to do with psychedelics - which as many of the contributors to the divine spark argue, offer the spectacular potential for the investigation of the 'hard problem' of consciousness. " - The Divine Spark
The website Erowid is an online library which links over sixty thousand documents on the matter.
Tim Ferriss is another famous writer who preaches the wonders of psychedelics. His podcast The Time Ferriss show has been downloaded over 150 million times since the first episode aired in 2014.
" The billionaires I know, almost without exception, use hallucinogens on a regular basis."
The author of The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide, James Fadiman featured on the podcast's 66th episode to discuss the immediate and long-term effects of psychoactive substance at various doses.
The world is a different place today. There seven and a half billion humans on the planet. Chronic depression and anxiety have replaced sabretooth tigers. Pocket-sized devices connected to an invisible network can now display the wealth of human wisdom in one finger swipe, yet mental illness is on the rise despite record consumption of antidepressants and other antipsychotic medication.
The current pharmaceutical model of mental health care is obsolete, unable the stop the chronic disease juggernaut whose rates soar higher every year. New paradigms must fix this broken system before the population sinks into darkness. Psychedelics can serve as critical building blocks in the creation of a multi-disciplinary approach to reverse this epidemic that affects one in four people and drains trillions of dollars worldwide every year.
Loneliness pervades in this digital era, and the damage to the body and mind is measurable. Scientists noted decreased activity in the brain regions associated with reward and empathy in lonely subjects, as well as disturbed sleep patterns and immune system breakdown. The crisis is now a more significant threat to the species than obesity.
Professor of psychology at Brigham Young University Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D. says there is "robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase the risk of premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators" in a press release reported by Science Daily.
Alone time should be peaceful, not detrimental. Supervised psychedelic introspection could serve as a reliable therapeutic tool to bridge the void that isolates someone from the self and fuels the underlying loneliness.
Opioids also destroy lives everywhere. The prescription painkillers kill ninety-one Americans each day and often lead to heroin consumption to feed the addiction of those who cannot sustain the abhorrent price of long-term use. Sales of these legal pills have quadrupled over the last fifteen years to generate a $24B market.
The United Kingdom hosts the highest proportion of Europe's heroin addiction. Psychoactive compounds like Ibogaine and the plant mixture known Ayahuasca could help these people treat their substance abuse and prevent several overdoses.
Loneliness and opioid dependence have a substantial impact on the planet's well-being. Hallucinogens seem like the ideal therapeutic tool under the right conditions to overcome these severe disorders and reverse the epidemic's momentum.
Mobile technologies offer new opportunities to expand the realm of psychoactive science. Patients and practitioners can catalyze the process with Bluetooth connected devices that acquire and share accurate real-time data anywhere in the world. Social media networks serve as the ideal means of educational content distribution. Users can connect amongst themselves and discuss ideas or experiences. Cutting-edge brain imaging innovation now provides novel insights on the dynamic between the brain and psychoactive substances in the context of disease.
What a time to be alive. The psychedelic community must make the most of the most significant revolution in communications since the invention of the printed press to topple the restrictive laws of the past. Consciousness freedom is on the line. Education efforts are imperative to overcome the challenges ahead, but the future seems brighter in the light of recent scientific and technological breakthroughs.
Understand that psychedelic trips are not a magic solution to problems. They are tools in a long, relentless journey unique to each, like a compass and a map. None of these consciousness vessels will replace the action or effort needed to move forward, heal, and evolve.
The power is in our hands. A new and improved psychedelic coming is underway, and the timing could not have been better.
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