Psychedelics leave us with amazing experiences, part of which involves revealing our personalities, which used to be otherwise veiled. They also have healing powers, but the big question is whether these are their primary properties. This article will take you through everything you should know to determine whether psychedelics should be considered medicine.
The world is rapidly acknowledging the medicinal potential of psychedelics, and the substances are rapidly entering the mainstream. Also, the taboo surrounding these substances is being lifted. However, is it safe to consider psychedelics as medicines? Continue reading to learn more about these substances.
What Is Medicine?
Medicine is a term that is widely used to describe substances or practices that are used in treating ailments. Here are two definitions to help you understand better:
- Medicine can be defined as the practice that is used in treating an injury or illness. A doctor practices medicine. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, medicine is the study of the treatment of an injury or illness.
- Also, medicine can be defined as the substance, usually a drug, that is used in treating a condition or illness or enhancing the process of recovery from an injury. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, medicine describes a substance, usually in the form of a pill or liquid, that is used in treating an injury or illness.
From a broader perspective, medicine covers the maintenance of good health, as well as the prevention of injury or illness.
Medicine Requires a Problem
Irrespective of how you define medicine, the main thing to understand is that it exists with respect to an injury or illness. Also, preventative medicine is aimed at allowing individuals to avoid issues and maintain good health.
With that said, it’s important to note that medicine should only be practiced or taken with the aim of preventing or curing problems. When there is no real of potential problem, medicine becomes insignificant and problematic in some cases.
What Are Psychedelics?
Psychedelics are a group of psychotropic drugs that have a broad range of effects. The word is from a dialogue between Humprey Osmond and Aldonus Huxley but was later coined in a paper by Osmond. Psychedelics have two etymological parts, which are the psyche (mind) and deloun (to reveal or make visible).
Both words were joined to the modern psychedelic, which generally means mind revealer. This further implies that the substance has the potential to uncover, reveal, or make the mind visible. Therefore, psychedelic drugs can be described as drugs that have the ability to give a person insight and an unusual clarity into their internal world. In most cases, this is regarded as stripping the ego away – the part of the mind responsible for creating delusions.
Psychedelics, when taken in high doses, can cause ego death, resulting in the complete disappearance of the ego. This causes a person to completely lose their sense of self for a period of time. However, it’s worth noting that the effects can range from deeply unpleasant to pleasant experiences, but they are mostly considered to be profound, especially among people who have had these experiences.
Another popular feature of psychedelic drugs is the potential to cause a trip, and this is where the auditory and visual psychedelia emerge from. Most people consider this the main defining factor for the drug. However, another unique thing about them is the insight they provide, even though there are drugs that can cause hallucinations, apart from psychedelics.
Examples of psychedelic drugs are LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, DMT, Ketamine, MDMA, and Salvia divinorum.
Are Psychedelics Medicine?
With everything above, this brings us to the big question – are psychedelics medicine?
The term psychedelic medicine is usually thrown a lot in contemporary conversations, and people mostly consider it to be a medicine. Even though they have medicinal properties, they should not be solely considered to be a medicine. It’s better to place them in a completely separate class of their own.
In the next sections of this article, you will understand why we recommend this, so continue reading.
The Value of Fun
First and foremost, the significance of fun is often underestimated in contemporary cultures. According to Ben Fincham’s book, “The Sociology Of Fun” (2017), fun occupies a paradoxical position in society. Typically regarded as nonessential and unserious, fun is associated with idleness, leisure, and limited productivity.
However, many also recognize that fun brings about immense joy and is crucial for overall happiness. Unfortunately, society tends to view fun as a luxury that can only be indulged in after enduring hardship.
The reasons behind the undervaluation of fun are numerous and complex, but for the purpose of this article, let’s assume that fun holds inherent value.
Building on that premise, it is essential to acknowledge that psychedelics offer an enjoyable experience (mostly). This is the first catalyst that compels us to recognize psychedelics as more than just medicine. Engaging in a psychedelic journey is exhilarating, as it propels us into a world that feels fresh and extraordinary while offering insights into our true selves.
In contrast, medicine generally does not provide this level of amusement. Medicinal interventions aim to prevent or alleviate problems, but they are not inherently enjoyable experiences. Ideally, most individuals would prefer not to rely on medication and only utilize it when necessary for curing or treating ailments.
Although psychedelics can indeed be employed for therapeutic purposes, many people choose to partake in them solely for fun, even when they are in perfect health, disregarding any medicinal benefits.
Psychedelics Offer More than Healing
With that said, it’s worth mentioning that psychedelics have more potential in addition to their healing properties. Medicines return us to a healthy and normal state. As mentioned earlier, the aim of medicine is to restore health while reducing the unpleasant effects of an illness or a condition.
Another thing to understand is that medicines are not aimed at taking us further than a normal, sober state. However, this is exactly what you get with psychedelics, and it’s, in fact, the main reason why people use them.
It’s worth noting that a healthy and happy person can still use psychedelics and benefit from the experience they get. That’s not the same with medicines. Even though medicines can be used for preventative purposes, they don’t provide immediate changes to life.
This also doesn’t imply that everybody, happy, healthy or otherwise, should use psychedelics. The main thing to note is that people who are happy and healthy will also find value in these substances.
The joy and significance of psychedelics lie in their ability to induce a trip, encompassing both the mind-expanding aspects of the high and the altered perception one experiences while under the influence of these substances.
Regardless of whether one view tripping as a mystical encounter or simply a unique and modified state of the brain, few individuals who have experienced it under favorable circumstances regard it negatively afterward.
Although tripping may possess therapeutic benefits, attributing it solely to a medicinal experience or perceiving it as merely a side effect of a drug with medicinal value would overlook its true essence.
The psychedelic state is a rare and extraordinary realm that can only be accessed through a select few substances, and it holds profound inherent worth.
Psychedelics as Medicine
With everything above, it’s worth noting that psychedelics have medicinal value too. Studies also show that they have the potential to treat different conditions, most of which relate to mental health conditions, including addiction.
Psychedelics for Depression
Psychedelics have shown great potential in the field of depression treatment. According to a study at Johns Hopkins University, the majority of participants experienced long-lasting anti-depressant effects from psilocybin, even after a year of treatment.
However, it is important to note that this study had a small sample size of only 27 participants, limiting its generalizability. Nonetheless, when combined with other research, the evidence suggests a consistent trend.
The exact mechanisms by which psychedelics alleviate depression are still not fully understood. There are several possible explanations. Firstly, the mind-expanding effects of these drugs, particularly when used in conjunction with psychotherapy, may help individuals identify and break free from old patterns and confront issues that they may otherwise avoid.
On a physiological level, there is still much to discover. One theory proposes that psychedelic substances bind to the 5-hydroxytryptamine 2A receptor (5-HT2AR), potentially enhancing neural plasticity. Although neurotransmitters like serotonin also bind to these receptors, they do not appear to have the same impact on neuroplasticity.
What sets psychedelics apart is their ability to cross the cell membrane. This allows them to enter neurons rather than solely binding to receptors. Research referenced earlier indicates that compounds crossing the cell membrane are associated with increased neuroplasticity.
Psychedelics for Addiction
There is ongoing research into the potential use of psychedelics in the treatment and management of addiction. These studies also explore thier potential application for substance use disorders (SUD). It’s important to note that the exact ways in which psychedelics may help are not fully understood. However, it is believed that they might have similar effects on neuroplasticity as they do on depression.
Additionally, changes in brain network connectivity, reward, and emotion processing, social connectedness, insight, and mystical experiences are thought to play crucial roles in facilitating individuals’ ability to alter their relationships with addictive substances (RiKeser, Herdener, & Preller, 2022).
Psychedelics: Medicinal, But So Much More
While psychedelics can certainly serve as medicines in specific situations, reducing their significance solely to their healing abilities overlooks their broader potential. Medicines typically address and resolve health issues, aiming to restore individuals to a normal state of well-being.
Psychedelics have been observed to not only achieve this in certain cases but also go beyond. They help in facilitating transformative experiences that offer unique insights and profound revelations. As a result, psychedelics should be recognized as distinct entities from traditional medicine. Also, they should primarily be appreciated on their own merits before considering their medicinal applications.