PSYCHEDELIC DRUGS HAVE A LONG HISTORY
The psychedelic drugs used by Woodstock-era hippies and some of today's
rave-going teens have a far-reaching history in medicine.
Hundreds of years ago, American Indians experimented with psychedelic plants
like the peyote cactus, which they embraced as a tool for religious
exploration and spiritual ecstasy.
Mexicans ate certain hallucinogenic mushrooms in search of a higher
consciousness and doorways to "psychotherapeutic healing."
During the mid-20th century, scientists began studies aimed at tapping into
psychedelic drugs' potential to be useful in conjunction with psychotherapy.
American and European studies conducted during the 1950s and early 1960s
showed a promising future for psychedelic drugs in the medical
Some psychiatrists believed the drugs could be especially useful in helping
patients tap into repressed memories and cope with past abuse or traumatic
events. But their progress came to a grinding halt when widespread use of
LSD, a synthetic hallucinogenic drug, came to prominence during the 1960s.
After that, tougher state and federal drug laws and public fears over the
rise of recreational drug use made it difficult to get research funding for
similar studies, said James Bakalar, an attorney who lectures in the
department of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts.
Valuable research and potential treatments have been lost as a result, he
said. "There has to be a better understanding of not just the risks but also
the possible value," said Bakalar, who co-authored a book in the late 1990s
that called for further scientific research on the potential benefits of LSD
as a therapeutic drug. "Both sides of the story have to be told," he said.
That may happen now, with Dr. Michael Mithoefer's work in examining the
potential role of the designer drug Ecstasy in treating people suffering
from post-traumatic stress disorder.
It is believed that in a medically controlled environment, psychedelic drugs
can work much like a high-octane truth serum, causing people to open up
about, and deal with, things they wouldn't ordinarily be comfortable talking
Bakalar noted, however, that the psychiatric community remains hesitant to
integrate psychedelic drugs into therapy because the process of recovering
traumatic memories is fraught with the potential to "create false memories
Source: Post and Courier, The (Charleston, SC)