A Medical Case for the Psychoactive – Conservative Article
The title of this article may sound like somewhat an oxymoron: a Conservative arguing for legalising psychoactive substances; but I don’t think it is.
My conservatism is rooted in the belief that the government should be limited to serving and aiding the people. That, in the instance of hallucinogenic compounds, Westminster (and other governments) is doing us a great disservice in their banning of them.
The evidence of the mind-blowing benefits of psychoactive compounds on mental health, is, in my view, undeniable: from depression and MDD to end-of-life anxiety and PTSD.
Now, I am not one to try and sell snake oil. This is not a cure-all set of wonder-drugs, the end of all human pain. According to many accounts, the psychedelic process is rather tough. Instead, I believe that psychoactives should be another arrow in the quivers of our psychiatrists.
Enough with the rhetoric, now for the facts.
I cannot make the case for all of the psychedelic options, that would take far too many characters, so I shall stick to Psilocybin and MDMA.
First up, psilocybin. This is the main psychoactive compound in what is commonly termed “magic mushrooms”. This is one of the most heavily researched compounds.
In individuals that are facing terminal illnesses and the understandably associated end-of-life anxiety, “psilocybin treatment was associated with statistically significant antidepressant and anxiolytic [anxiety-relieving] effects”.
Furthermore, this is not for the (immediately) terminal, with the Beckley Foundation finding that for individuals with “treatment-resistant depression”: just two doses of the drug, exhibited positive results in all subjects, even 3 to 6 months hence. Perhaps “treatment-resistant” is becoming a rarer label, now.
Globally, over 250 million individuals suffer from depression. If psilocybin, and compounds like it, can help even the ‘treatment-resistant’, the potential global impact of this method is hard to understate.
Psychedelic treatment can also aid those suffering from PTSD. According to the founder of the Multidisciplinary Disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (or MAPS), MDMA is particularly effective as it can reverse the neurological hallmarks of PTSD. It can: reverse the increased activity in the amygdala (or what produces the feeling of being scared), reverse the reduced activity in the pre-frontal cortex (our ‘logical’ part), and change the reduced activity in the hippocampus (where we put memories into long-term storage), to be more interactive with the amygdala (which helps move traumatic memories into long-term storage).
Again, according to a study by MAPS, among a group of those who had chronic PTSD, 76% experienced such a significant reduction in the severity of their conditions due to MDMA-assisted therapy, that they no longer met PTSD diagnostic criteria. This was 12 months after the final psychedelic-assisted therapy session.
I can offer no anecdotal evidence of my own. I have never tried any substance within this class. However, data is data, and I find the aforementioned incredibly difficult to ignore. In fact, the main opposition to this new (or old?) frontier of medicine, is pure-and-simple dogma. A wicker shield, if you ask me. One hears ‘hallucinogen’ or ‘psychoactive substance’, and one immediately conjures up images of hippies from the 60s, ‘dropping out’.
We have seen a strange amnesia; a sort of ‘hallucinogenic dark-age’, if you will. These compounds have been used by humans, all over the world, for millennia. This amnesia is not purely cosmetic but is depriving — quite literally — millions of people the world over, of an opportunity to aid their failing mental health. Every year of delay, more people are deprived of a method to aid their suffering. To perhaps, even, prevent their own suicide. These are the stakes that render this subject very close to my heart.
So, am I suggesting a sort of legalisation that would make DMT akin to Haribo? Clearly not. Of course, drugs of this potency when used improperly are dangerous; much like a car is incredibly dangerous when driven blind-drunk.
However, screenings, preparations, proper dosage, and after-care, would vastly reduce any issues. These substances should be available to all. However, they should be controlled by those who know what they are doing.
I have a feeling that this crucial psychiatric renaissance may take longer than needed. Those with big stakes in treating mental disorders via the conventional means, have deep pockets, and thus plenty of influence.
I am extremely hopeful that psychedelics can help those embattled with and within their own minds. These compounds may just be the needed reinforcements.
“Psychedelics are to the study of the mind, what the microscope is to biology, and the telescope is to astronomy.” — Dr Stanislav Grof
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Alexander Dennis
Point of Information
It’s high time to legalise psychedelics – A Liberal Response
Alex has made an important and well-evidenced case but he doesn’t go far enough. It is no secret that we are living through a mental health epidemic. A crisis that will only be exacerbated by the uncertainty and social isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Alex rightly suggests that these substances should be one tool psychiatrists could use to ease mental suffering.
Legalising these substances is becoming even more pressing given the increasing number of people who require psychological help and the limited resources available. However, I would go further than framing this argument as purely medical.
I’m not a psychonaut, but I support an individual’s choice to take mind-altering substances regardless of a psychiatrist’s assessment. Alex correctly notes that humans have been taking these substances forever. Until the planet ends, humans will keep wanting to get high. Not only will they keep getting high, but I think they should keep getting high! Psychedelic experiences can be mind-expanding and enjoyable. This should not be forgotten when discussing the legal status of these substances.
Like Alex, I’m not suggesting that everyone should be taking psychedelic substances without any guidance or regulation. But, the evidence suggests that psychedelic substances are safe in the right environments and not addictive while studies on LSD have shown no evidence of long-lasting negative effects.
We need to change the rhetoric around psychoactive substances. With legalisation comes better regulation and understanding. A legalised and regulated market would allow vendors to sell psychedelic substances to adults. With enough public awareness and respect, people could use these substances as a small part of the full human experience.
Legalisation removes the attraction of partaking in illicit activity. These substances would only be used by people with a genuine curiosity, rather than thrill-seekers attempting to defy the law. It is important to emphasise that these substances can cause fun, enlightening, and insightful experiences.
Treated with their deserved respect, these substances could be used without fear to help mental health and enrich human existence. In a world where mental health is deteriorating, we must do everything we can to help. We need to legalise psychedelic substances and we have to do this now!
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Hannah Rashbass
Legalising psychoactive substances would be the best way to manage the usage – A Labour Response
Today, we have sophisticated labs working 24/7 to open new doors of knowledge to provide the modern and sophisticated versions of herbs, chemicals, and venoms that we term as medicine. However, before all these vast medical centres and testing labs, the origin of medicine was less organised and rather simplistic.
It was either perceived as the magic or sorcery of a ‘psycho’ in society or it was regarded as the wisdom of an old man in society. Whatever the reason, the usage was to trigger the healing process. The best example is the case of a retired Lutheran pastor referred to as “Babu ” in Northern Tanzania. He gained a good fortune by using a mixture of herbs that was being used by many ethnic groups, linking it to heavenly revelation and selling it for a small price. This is just one recent example of how natural herbs are traditionally used, branded, and regulated for business.
Over time, as medical science has improved and sophisticated, a number of ‘healing herbs’ have been labelled as illegal and out of reach for an ordinary person. And, regardless of their results, once it becomes illegal, their usage is regarded as criminal.
I will not go into the medical details of psychoactive drugs as we have already been enlightened by Alex. Instead, I will talk about the ethical and moral aspects of regulating any drug. I strongly agree that substance overdose is incredibly harmful and threatening. So, instead of keeping these drugs out of the legal reach of an ordinary person, a much better solution is to legalise them and regulate the dosage.
The biggest hurdle in this would obviously be from the big stockholders in the medical market. The bitter truth is that a permanent solution to a medical condition would never be good for business; medicine is a great market to develop a fortune as people never hesitate to spend money when their life is at stake, giving you life-long customers. So, a one-time, permanent solution medicine will never inspire stockholders to invest. In fact, on the contrary, they would use all their might to keep anything that poses a threat to their market out of the legal reach of people.
Keeping such drugs illegal means that people can still access them but without proper regularisation. Without a proper prescription, this can be very harmful as the dosage and age limit cannot be considered. And so, ironically, a drug that is supposed to save lives could pose risks to lives.
Keeping them out of legal reach also triggers another human instinct – curiosity. It is only natural that human beings are attracted to something that has been banned. They may even harm themselves by not knowing the consequences of the substance.
The countries which have ethnic groups still practising their traditional healing methods, also have a large population using the traditional healing substances. These have great potential but they are not up to modern medical standards and so, are not regulated.
Ultimately, corporations and governments need to show empathy and care a little less about their businesses. It would then be obvious that the sensible option is to legalise psychoactive substances as it could aid the human healing process in conditions such as PTSD and depression. All it needs is a little effort and a lot of empathy.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Shamamah Dogar
Hello, I’m Alexander Dennis, and I am going into my third undergraduate year at the University of Exeter. I study Politics & International Relations, with a possible year abroad hanging in the balance. My particular interest in politics really started in early 2016: yes, it was ‘Brexit’. I was at once intrigued, and confused, by something so critical. From that baptism, I have become somewhat addicted to political discussion, intrigued by issues ranging from drugs policy to taxation. So I followed my nose: I applied for a degree in the subject.