The FDA said both psylocibine, or “magic mushrooms”, and MDMA , the psychoactive drug known as ecstasy, to be a breakthrough therapy for treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), respectively. The revolutionary therapy designation means that the protocol has already demonstrated greater effectiveness than currently available treatments. Thus, the FDA can expedite the approval.
In 2020, the results of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD were so good that the FDA granted Extended access approval, which means that for the first time since it was banned, ecstasy can be used for medical purposes outside of a research study. The results are so good.
Need more evidence of the growing movement to legalize psychedelic therapy? There are millions flowing in commercial psychedelic therapy companies, who expect billions of returns in the market. People notice that you get amazingly good results.
Many non-scientists across the country have turned to the variety of these drugs for personal healing; where they have traveled to South America for psychedelic retreats using ayahuasca, mescaline or other historically sacred herbs in search of healing from trauma, depression and other emotional ailments. Additionally, Americans with cash and access are taking various herbal medications at underground healing retreats here in the United States. Pre-pandemic, thousands of these events were happening across the country every night.
At least one association is dedicated to arranging trips to ayahuasca retreats in South America for U.S. Army veterans seeking treatment for PTSD. The nonprofit paid hundreds of veterans to make the trip, and many returned to praise the drug’s purported curative effects. PTSD, often associated with veterans, is a widespread, chronic and often serious mental health disorder found in survivors of emotional, physical or sexual violence, none of whom knows racial boundaries. Fortunately, MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD is a promising treatment, and FDA approval is likely in the next few years.
The cities of Stanford, Oakland and Denver, as well as the state of Oregon, have decriminalized psychedelics – often referred to as herbal medicines due to their prolonged and intensive use by Indigenous peoples for spiritual healing purposes or medical. Archaeological evidence suggests that herbal remedies have been used ceremonially and safely in the Americas since before the birth of Christ.
Evidence of addiction or other harm from the use of psychedelics is scarce. Plant medicine has shown no serious medical or psychological problems in its 3000 years of use. I have never seen a single patient in a medical or psychiatric crisis due to psychedelics in twenty years of working in the mental health sector – including ten years in emergency medicine. I also never saw anyone who was psychologically or physiologically dependent. Herbal medicines do not work well if the doses are taken too close to each other. In fact, most practitioners do not use these sacred plants more than three times a year. Horse riding is more dangerous than using herbal remedies or MDMA in a supervised clinical setting.
New Orleans is a city of violence, racism, poverty, trauma and loss. Most of the psychotherapy patients in my private practice have survived terrible trauma. Many are victims of sexual assault and many have witnessed the violent death of a close friend or family member. Some also suffer from PTSD linked to the survival of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Others are veterans. Still, I’m concerned that many of my patients and those who look like them will be left out when the FDA finally legalizes psychedelics for mental health purposes.
Traditional herbal remedies and MDMA are said to be prescribed by doctors and only available to those who have access to health care and feel comfortable seeking traditional Western mental health treatment. Too often this means affluent whites. This should be of concern to all Americans who care about mental and spiritual health.
This clinical use of herbal medicine will maintain psychedelic healing out of reach for Americans who cannot afford mental health care. The medicalization of psychedelics will create two separate and unequal how to access healing from trauma, and Underprivileged communities in America can, once again, Be left out.
It is difficult to predict what will happen to Americans who do not have health insurance or who are suspicious of mental health care providers. Promising life-changing treatments may be beyond their reach; and, more than likely, they will do without the benefit of these precious drugs. People of color, sexual minorities, immigrants and low-income Americans will continue to suffer from debilitating depression, anxiety and PTSD, while their affluent, often white, neighbors will benefit from these newly approved treatments.
Eventually, word will spread about the successful trauma, depression and anxiety healing that is available to the well-to-do and middle class. When this happens, the demand for street versions of psychedelics – which may be faked or not contain MDMA or the claimed herbal medicine – will increase as people seek a cure without the benefit of medical follow-up. mental or an experienced shaman.
This will mean legal psychedelics for the rich, while the poor can be arrested and sentenced to jail for using the exact same drugs. If that happens, much of the burden of criminalizing psychedelics will fall on underserved communities in New Orleans and other American cities. People of color and others who do not have equal access to quality health care will suffer the most from our country’s archaic drug laws. We must not let the psychedelic rebirth go by.
My goal is well-being for all. Ideally, anyone suffering from trauma, anxiety or depression should have access to professional care. But I know that’s just not the reality in New Orleans. Unfortunately, people of color are often victims of discriminatory health care practices, even when they have health insurance. We also cannot ignore the historic role of racism and religious bigotry in banning the use of psychedelics. It is possible that psychedelics would never have been banned if they had been used by white Christians. But they were used in what was considered a foreign religion by European colonizers eager to impose their religion on Native Americans. Decriminalizing psychedelics is one step we can take to reduce health care disparities and the burden of uneven drug law enforcement on minority communities. This is not a perfect step, but one that is necessary nonetheless.
Ron Hill is a psychologist specializing in working with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and lives in New Orleans.
The Opinion section is a community forum. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Lens or its staff. To come up with an idea for a column, contact Opinion Writer Amy Stelly at [email protected]