Updated: Mar 30
In 1971 the UK joined the global effort to tackle illicit drug use and sparked the infamous 'war on drugs'. We were subjected to a propaganda sweep. Drugs have suffered greatly from an 'image problem' in the past decade. Horror stories spread like wildfire, cutting through and solidifying people's opinions on any drug. Psychedelics have been one of the focal points of the 'craze'. Due to their intense and dissociative qualities, it only takes one really bad experience to give you this impression of them. Over-the-top adverts of teenagers having psychotic breaks were used as a scare tactic, as well as gruesome and frankly grim scare stories spreading around young adults' mouths. The first time I ever took acid, a story being told around the campfire was, "I heard this guy took acid and scooped his eyes out". Sounding like ghost stories while settling in for what should be a defining moment in your life could also be the ruin of it. Planting the shadow of doubt inside your head can be a huge risk. However, could these scare stories originate from fact? I would probably admit that they have elements of truth intertwined inside the story. But after generations of the story being told, who could know? We don't know the backstories. We don't know the circumstances or what's occurred for these.
Along with this, Campaigns like 'Just say no' have struck deep, travelled across the pond, and negatively affected Brits. 'Leaders of the free world' have closed off and imprisoned different ideologies they disagree with just because they are scared it could take them out of power and thus give them less control over their conscious Thought. During the summer of love in America, people's ideologies on government were being challenged, along with many opinions on civil rights etc. I believe this developed along with the expanding knowledge that came with drug experimentation within the population, and the government acknowledged this, outlawed it, and declared war on it. Now the prohibition of drugs is ending, and people realise that some drugs positively affect people, especially mental health.
As a species, we have been able to develop surgery and fix everything with our bodies, but our mental health has never seen development. Anxiety tablets and beta-blockers are proscribed to people with mental health issues, but these can delay their symptoms and not address them. When the individual stops taking the tablets, their symptoms return with no sign of improvement. However, some 'illicit' drugs have shown serious positive impacts on people suffering from chronic/ severe PTSD. Big improvement in symptoms to the point they don't need to take anything after. These people have dealt with their issues and overcome them. These results show the significance of psychedelic therapy and that it can't be overlooked or ignored. Our government has the obligation for our nation's welfare to at least trail these drugs and their positive effects on mental health issues.
Within the UK, we need to look at this as an opportunity. We need to start to look at 'illicit' drugs differently. Drugs have fuelled gang violence, and the money that it brings has allowed them to gain power in the community. Gangs have created an image around drugs that is fundamentally wrong, creating associations between drugs and violence when there shouldn't be. This is mainly due to the government; if there's money to be made, people will obviously supply. In some places, gangs have more power than the police. What would happen if these drugs were produced by new businesses and regulated? It would create jobs by creating a supply line, and it could be taxed like cigarettes and alcohol. Giving the government more money to fund hospitals and rehabilitation centres, the areas in which money needs to be focused. Creating deep care within the country for the population. In Portugal, they have 'decriminalised' drugs. This means that a user is declared a patient instead of a criminal; they care about the well-being of their people. This has also led to Portugal having one of the lowest drug-related death per million of the population (Portugal 6 per mil; UK 60 per million.). Imagine if this system was brought into the UK. The population openly and honestly talks about drugs and education over criminalise. The 'war on drugs' is ending, and I'm afraid the government didn't come out on top. In the UK, we are living in an exciting time. If 'Boris' takes a leap of faith and a little bit of time to look at the "exciting potential" within the use of psilocybin and other currently illegal drugs to help the population who are, on average, struggling with being themselves. Mental health issues within the UK are on a worrying rise (1 in 4 people suffer from mental health issues within the year.), and the tragedy of covid hasn't helped; we could still be in for a long road ahead of us. Will this lead to a whole new job sector? Drug journalists? Drug production? Drug testing? New lines of work/ careers could be opened and explored. A new generation of open-minded people.
Psychedelic therapy is an exciting new trend helping many people deal with life. For anyone unaware of what this is, It's the process where someone needing help, mainly due to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD etc., goes to a therapist. Still, while talking about the issues, they use psychedelic drugs to allow themselves to fully address what's going on in their head. All this while the therapist guides you through the process and gets you to address the situation. This whole thing reminds me of a shaman in different cultures worldwide; it's reassuring that we as a culture are looking at these different/ experimental ways to address modern-day issues. Looking to the past for answers for the future. However, due to the illegal drugs, the whole process hasn't been regulated by any governing bodies and is a huge risk. This means that the therapists are breaking the law. So why do these people do it? Is it a profitable business for them, or does it mean that their belief in the process and their 'want' to help someone is great enough to take that risk? I was lucky enough to talk to a psychotherapist and question their occupation. "I use talk therapy to treat people for emotional problems and mental illness…I can work with individuals, groups or families". I found the idea strange, going for a family therapy session and using psilocybin. However, I guess sharing an experience with my family could be a bonding moment, but if any of my family didn't know how to handle what they were seeing, I don't know how I would react. I was curious to find out if this person was doing it out of financial gain or if he was genuinely helping people. "I believe in my work. It's not all about business but rather to help the general public. Though at times I make a profit out of it…. Id charger around $150 for a session". I liked the honesty, but I did suspect there was a bigger financial gain than he was leading me to believe. I found out they were working out of Portland, Oregon, which sadly was outside the UK, but I hope this trend moves across the pond. Or even better, it might already be well practised in the right circles. "For beginners, you start with around 1g-3.5g per dose depending on your tolerance level" Throughout talking to this individual, I felt like they knew what they were talking about but shied away from certain questions. I asked, "Do you have any qualifications or experience in being a therapist or dealing with mental health" I didn't get a response, and the interview got a little awkward. So, I didn't manage to ask everything I wanted to know. But all together, I thought it was an insightful look into this area and left me wanting to know more.
Psilocybin has not been the only 'illicit' drug going under the microscope for its possible benefits. Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) has also shown unbelievable results in treating PTSD patients. MDMA treatment for PTSD has been given the all-clear for research in 2023 (Only in the US). The Thought is strange to imagine, instead of taking ecstasy at a rave. Opening up to people you've never met at a rave is common, so why not move it to a professional setting? Using group sessions, talking about your feelings to the people around you. It would create an intense sense of trust and compassion with the people around you. It would be strange, though, 'Chewing your lips off' in front of a therapist in the middle of the day.
I have so much hope for the future and what is in store for us all, but we have to be the ones to make that change. Every single one of us.
Disclaimer: I would never advise anyone with mental health issues to take psychedelic drugs as treatment/prescription for any mental health issues e.g., depression, anxiety, PTSD etc. psychotherapy is still illegal, and people could be prosecuted.