Why Mental Health Researchers Are Studying Psychedelics All Wrong

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From Salon: “As psychedelic advocates and practitioners with decades of experience, having worked with thousands of people, we believe we need a serious examination of whether the current mental health industry is the place for psychedelic drugs. Looking at the industry historically, there have been repeated claims of breakthrough modalities that would bring psychiatry into the realm of medical science. Yet none of these claims have demonstrated a high benchmark of legitimate authority, and many have even been harmful. While we applaud the efforts that are underway for decriminalization, and are excited by the potential to learn from the wealth of traditional and underground practitioners, much will be lost in the process of medicalization.

. . . If psychedelics hold promise, maybe it is because they do not work in linear ways or provide overnight results. Psychedelic experiences can be expansive. They can lead people on paths of self-inquiry and growth that extend through time and space, bringing forward new challenges and insights that become personal reference points, even years later. As Robert Whitaker points out, ‘That doesn’t fit a medical model that gets you FDA approval. You can’t say, “We have these agents for exploring and coming to think differently about the world.”‘ The necessity of reductive research here is to come up with a strict clinical protocol that will lead to replicable changes for anyone with a given diagnosis. This rigidity belies the organic and expansive nature of the psychedelic experience. ‘If they’re going to be agents of exploration,’ asks Whitaker, ‘why do you need a doctor for that? Why do you go to medical school for that?’

There is a need for research into psychedelics as they present an opportunity to recontextualize how we think about and experience suffering. However, drowned in the media hype of psychedelic advocacy organizations and the mental health industry, there is little public discourse about the potential implications of moving psychedelics into a system with such a problematic history.”

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14 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t know a lot about psychedelics, other than my psych drug withdrawal induced “super sensitivity manic psychoses” were a lot like what I’ve read an ayahuasca or mushroom trip is like, only they both lasted about three months. Thankfully, for me, both my psych drug withdrawal induced “super sensitivity manic psychoses” were good trips.

    I am listening to a pod cast as I type, and one of the guys just said, “living the dream.” That was a common thought during the drug withdrawal induced awakenings to my dream world.

    But I couldn’t agree more that psychiatrists, who like to do ten minute “med checks.” Psychiatry has done nothing but lie to the public – and their clients – for decades, certainly should not be involved in prescribing psychedelics. For goodness sakes, none of my psychiatrists even knew anything about the common adverse and withdrawal effects of their own psych drugs.

    • Let’s See—a Ten-Minute Med Check on Psychedelics— Was it a Good Trip or Bad Trip? These psychiatrists, etc. probably think only in the bad trip is there any progress as that is the one where they will discover why your are so bad in the first place. Thank you.

  2. This is an interesting article. First, I am not sure where Dr. Bruce Levine sees it as popular on the MSM to trash the DSM. Perhaps, an alternate reality exists for many psychiatrists that I am unaware of… Right now, it seems the MSM is still in a position to be on psychiatry’s side. And, as far as studying psychedelics, it just overflows with danger in the nth degree. I know there are many who are suffering, but, I question, why add to the suffering. Perhaps, it is because as a someone growing up in the 60s, 70s, and even into the 80s, I saw too much adverse effects from these psychedelics. The tragedy was these young people lost their dreams and ended up in psychiatric hospitals from “bad trips” or worse. Some, to my knowledge, never could reenter society again. It is horrible enough that the “psych industry” has infiltrated the world with their evil- psychiatric drugs— to overlay this with these psychedelics only shows the growing intense moral and ethical decline of psychiatry. Only Faust can truly see the bargain at this horrific and tragic prospect. Thank you.

    • The real problem for psychiatry in reviving psychedelic therapy is how to ignore and/or denigrate the work of Hoffer and Osmond, who not only gave us the words “hallucinogen” (Hoffer) and “psychedelic” (Osmond), but devised a psychedelic treatment for alcoholism that the Province of Saskatchewan adopted, until the US Drug Enforcement Authority forced it to stop.
      These evil geniuses not only devised this treatment, but also methods of quick initial screening to ensure the safety of their subjects (the infamous HOD test I sometimes mention here in MIA, plus items that can be quickly picked up on during an initial interview).

    • My heart says here, here! My mind has been mapping points of entry for mad minds to mitigate the inevitable. It is coming but hasn’t yet become. Is there room for madness intentionally centered before bastardization ensues? I am hoping to find out. The University of Michigan has some interesting research although ubiquitous in its lacking. Will the general populous of psychonauts conventional experts included reveal themselves as unlikely allies or is it more of the same just another chamber of horrors in the masters kingdom. They are seriously suggesting and investigating the incorporation of DMT-50 into the theraputic catalogue working to synthesize a trip of up to 30 minutes (my god, I thought recalling a transcendence and fractalization of all time and space over less than 8 minutes of astral escape). Yet these are selective to the depressed or PTSD’d as an identity psychiatrized from 10 on under the harsher nihilistic lens of pediatric bipolar generation 1.0 and later psychotic, bipolar, manic, schizophrenic, et al. the forbidden fruit of mind alerting substances loomed and lingered in the years between my childhood containments and my adult capture they became yet another litmus test of my sanity, stability, and ownership over my own mind. Following carceral care containment they were presented as even more unquestionably dangerous than before and I spent little time lusting for an opportunity to call their bluff once more and eager to reignite pieces of myself that for many years have been forcibly darkened and rendered inaccessible in the course of securing my silent sedation an escape from which remained very difficult to escape from even when compliance was temporarily self-imposed. Psychedelics were integral in so much of my ability to hold onto what was left of my soul in the midst of the shadowy violence of care standards I was still enveloped in. For most of the past decade I’ve affectionately referred to them as my brain games and personal training ground to assuage my lingering doubts in my own ability to autonomously explore my consciousness that remain immutable to this day. They evoked the closest thing I yet found to that of an organic episodic escalation in consciousness and from that hollowed space I overcame my fears of madness returning became comfortable in the trends of thinking that in times of distress became unintelligible when spoken or demonstrated and most of all I found ways of breaking the walls to process the floods of grief that must every once and a while be let out to sea. I found paths to forgiveness and reasons for moving forward. Yet never have I nor would I likely feel safe to mention a word of this to any mental health professionalized person under whom I was being “cared.”

      Is ketamine just Thorazine 2.0? Is the benefit to PTSD from MDMA or the conjunction of 2.5 hours of guided therapy over the course of administered treatment? Will there be acknowledgment and reparations for the violent criminalization of indigenous and sacred earth medicines along with this course of modern appropriation? How about the historical record of human rights violations in relation to the illegal administration of such pharmacological compounds to unwitting mad identities in the course of violent carceral containment?

      On a more personal and somewhat impractical note why isn’t the administration of such burgeoning yet eternally existing compounds not considered an ultimate requirement for all persons who dare seek to assume the role of helper, professionalized mental health purveyor, practitioner, commentator or expert or academic? Their utter absence of alterations in consciousness should constitute an internal influence requiring formal disclosures.

      Alas, I feel we must get to them before they get to us.

  3. Putting any drugs into the hands of buffoons that really learned nothing from their environments while growing up and became more stale through their brainwashing, is completely nuts.
    I think it would be best to get shrinks to take big doses of tripping drugs.

  4. I wy as thinking how throughout this thread we are arguing mostly against these psychiatrists, etc. not having access to psychedelics or prescribing them for all their concocted conditions, but, since, no one has been clear and forthcoming as to what is actually in all these psychiatric drugs they already prescribe, how do we know or can be sure that specific “active” or “inactive” ingredients (chemicals, etc.) are not already embodied in these various psychiatric drugs’ concocted damaging, etc. recipes? We don’t know, do we? A big part of this discussion may already be basically mute. Thank you.

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