The History of Psychedelics

When we think of psychedelics, our brain still tends to automatically link magic mushrooms to the 70s, and almost instantly, it conjures images of tie-dye shirts, raging protests, and iconic afros. However, the story of using psychedelics goes way back in history before even the written word, where individuals were solely counting on the fact that whatever the fungus was that they were consuming, it was good and worth the risk of sickness!  

What Are Psychedelics?

According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Psychedelics (also known as hallucinogens) are a class of psychoactive substances that produce changes in perception, mood, and cognitive processes. Psychedelics affect all the senses, altering a person’s thinking, sense of time, and emotions. They can also cause a person to hallucinate—seeing or hearing things that do not exist or are distorted. There are many different kinds of psychedelics. Some occur naturally, in trees, vines, seeds, fungi, and leaves. Others are made in laboratories.

The most common forms of psychedelics are psilocybin, LSD, Peyote, DMT, ayahuasca, and MDMA, but they can be found in other substances. No matter the form it comes in, there is a sure reason that past cultures have utilized beneficial and life-changing properties as they perceive mood and cognitive processes in humans.

Psychedelics in Ancient History 

Now, we know that psychedelics have had their share of shunning and shaming since their discovery, but psychedelics were once counted as something exclusively spiritual as well! The hallucinogenic effect of psychedelics has been utilized in spiritual and religious ceremonies and rituals for thousands of years. According to research, psychedelics may have also had a profound impact on the formation of these societies and religions, as well. 

Written in the Walls

In Northern Australia, rock etched murals with mushroom iconography were discovered and dated back to 10,000 B.C.E, representing the earliest psychedelic-themed illustration. This is then followed to Europe and Northern America; cave paintings were found that displayed psilocybin mushrooms and dated back to 4,000 B.C.E. 

The Greeks & Their Gods

Nothing beats a good Greek mythology tale, and one of these stories states that an Ancient Greek Eleusinian celebration might have involved a special psychedelic beverage. In what is known as “The Eleusinian Mysteries”, the ritual attendees ingested a fluid containing psilocybin mushrooms and Amanita mushrooms, quite a powerful blend! 

These mysteries gained their name because they were shrouded in secrecy at the time, with the risk of death if the wisdom of the rituals was somehow leaked from its attendees. Because of this harsh punishment, some people avoided it overall. The ceremonies were typically attended by upper-class members and prominent intellectuals, artists, and philosophers such as the famous Plato, Homer, and Aristotle.

“The Flesh of the Gods”…

…is what indigenous Central Americans believed the mushrooms to be, naming it Teonanácatl, which precisely translates to that! Many religious myths of the Aztecs, Mayas, and Toltecs reference mushrooms. Their artwork (dating back to 1300-1521 AD) suggests that they believed mushrooms might be used to communicate with the gods.

The Fathers of The Psychedelic Modern Era 

R. Gordon Wasson 

Wasson, a successful banker and big fan of magic mushrooms, traveled through Mexico when he found himself in a Mazatec ceremony. The Mazatec rituals are conducted by a shaman and involve using psilocybin to communicate with God and seek enlightenment, which is not far from ancient cultures’ ideologies. In a 1957 Life Magazine exposé, Wasson coined the term “magic mushrooms,” which drew the attention of a wide range of people, including Albert Hoffman.

Albert Hoffman

Wasson brought back a sample that he then sent to Hoffman, the Swiss chemist who would become known for discovering LSD. Hofmann isolated psilocybin and developed a synthesis for the drug in his lab at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, which then started producing 2 mg pills to be distributed for research purposes.

Timothy Leary 

Leary first read the “Magic Mushrooms article” in Life magazine in 1960 and decided to travel to Mexico and experience it for himself. When he did, he claims to have been irreversibly altered and had learned more about his brain and self than he did in 15 years of school. He then returns to Harvard University and established the Harvard Psilocybin Project to conduct psychedelic drug trials.

War On Drugs

The war on drugs is nothing new and goes back to the Colonialists’ best efforts to prohibit native communities in the Americas from using psychedelics like Peyote and psilocybin. However, psychedelic prohibition was not widely enforced until the twentieth century. 

During the late 1960s, the craze about psychedelic drugs was booming in the streets and the labs but would soon end with the 1971 UN Convention ban on Psychotropic medications. Since 1969, Richard Nixon had made it clear that he wasn’t a fan of psychedelics, and two years later, he decided to do something about it and passed the Controlled Substances Act, initiating his infamous “War on Drugs.” 

This perspective on psychedelics would bring a terrible stigma with a dancing hippie, raging protests, or someone jumping out of a window while hallucinating and wouldn’t come to change until the early 2000s when research began in the medical world. 

Medicinal Developments 

Not so long ago, in 2006, researchers at Johns Hopkins University confirmed what we had known all along: magic mushrooms can be used for good! As a more natural alternative, magic mushrooms can be used to treat various mental health conditions like PTSD and anxiety, especially in terminally ill patients. 

Since then, there has been widespread decriminalization of psychedelics, yet still not reaching its target audience. Backed up with modern technologies and refreshed interest, psychedelics are being studied by scientists and facilities worldwide to see if they can help with common illnesses.

While the process will be turbulent, the legalization of psychedelics is only a matter of time. Scientists are already becoming aware of the benefits they can bring, especially with using psychedelics in moderate amounts. Perhaps, soon, psilocybin will become a substantial part of the regular person’s routine.

Last year, researchers at Yale administered a single dose of psilocybin to mice and found not only an immediate increase in the connection of neurons but a long-lasting one. This study is beginning to improve the outlook for those who struggle with their mental health. It was shown that through the treatment of psilocybin, the neurons lost when struggling with depression were able to regrow their connections in the brain. This, along with the other studies that back up the drug’s effectiveness, is leading the way through the world of mental health in new, non-pharmacological treatments for depression, anxiety, PTSD, mood disorders, and more.  

The Future of Psychedelics 

The future of psychedelics is looking bright! As decriminalization and legalization worldwide become more common, the benefits continue to pour in. They are further proven not only by the individual user but the scientific community as well. In the future, new treatment modalities throughout the mental health industry continue to develop and are changing the approach in therapy for mental illnesses. Those who once thought that the effects of psychedelics would cause you to jump out of a window are now understanding that it may be one of the only things that stop someone from jumping due to the increase in mood and connection to the world in a moment of desperation. The next chapter of development for psychedelics will be that of biotechnology and the discovery of new drugs and their uses. Further applications of the drugs will be developed and studied for their benefits. 

As these changes in treatment come about, the stigma that was once had of psychedelics will change, and systemic changes in the way that psychedelics are classified as a drug and their utilization will come about. We are now able to buy shares of stock in different companies that are developing the use of psychedelics; it’s only a matter of time before they are a staple in every household’s medicine cabinet to promote overall wellness. To find out more information or to learn more about the use of psychedelics, check out the rest of microdosebros.com and the online store to see our many strains of truffles, magic mushrooms, and more! 

References

https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/psychedelics/ 

https://www.visualcapitalist.com/the-history-of-psychedelics-part-1-of-2/ 

https://www.visualcapitalist.com/the-history-of-psychedelics-part-2-of-2/ 

https://timeline.com/the-history-of-psychedelics-and-psychotherapy-fe70f72557aa 

https://doubleblindmag.com/mushrooms/about-magic-mushrooms/history-of-psilocybin/ 

https://canex.co.uk/psychedelics-history-ancient-tradition/ 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050654/