The tranquil euphoria drug users experience is what makes the trip worthwhile.
But as Hank Green, SciShow YouTube vlogger, points out in a video below, hallucinogens like psilocybin may serve as more than a high; they can help treat mental illness. People who suffer from depression, for example, already experience hyperconsciousness. Instead of using “mind-numbing medicines,” Green argues, we should use hallucinogens to target the source: our consciousness.
He explains the fundamental thing that makes us who we are is our consciousness, so therefore anxiety, depression, and other mental afflictions are “distortions of our self-awareness.” How we feel when we’re stressed, for example, may actually just be our minds reacting to a perception of a threat. But unfortunately, treatment using hallucinogens is illegal.
In a study at the Imperial College London, scientists found psilocybin — a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in mushrooms with similar mind-altering effects to LSD — reduced blood flow to the cingulate cortex. In mental illnesses, the cingulate cortex region of the brain overworks, which causes the hyperconscious state responsible for extreme thoughts or behavior.
He explains how in a similar study at the University of California, Los Angeles, in controlled trials for overcoming the fear of transition from life to death, where study participants were given doses of psilocybin, all but one person experienced a reduction in anxiety and came to terms with their terminally ill fate. They were, in fact, able to think more clearly about their concerns. And the results lasted weeks, in some cases, months after.
“Maybe the regulators just need to expand their minds a bit,” Green says in the video, referring to restrictions that hamper research on the matter.