The Psychoactive Drug Revolution: Developing New Treatments for Addiction and Other Disorders

The resurgence of research into the therapeutic potential of psychoactive entheogenic substances is helping scientists develop new treatments for post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and addiction. Recent clinical examinations of psilocybin have indicated that it is helpful treating these disorders and has no long-term physical side effects; other entheogenic substances are showing similar results.

An article in Scientific American declared:

“Psychoactive drugs are poised to be the next major breakthrough in mental health care.”

Indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples have used entheogenic substances in their natural form for over a millennia. Natural plant based psychoactive drugs were (and still are) used by shaman for a variety of purposes including physical and psychological healing, opening consciousness, as well as communing with the divine.

The reaction against psychoactive entheogenic substances in the west comes from the counter culture revolution in the 1960s and the association of hallucinogens and “tripping” with hippies. This association has relegated substances that have shown promise in helping people overcome major psychological issues to Schedule I, where they cannot be tested for potential medical uses.


Immediately after Albert Hofmann discovered the psychoactive properties of LSD in the 1940s, research on psychoactive drugs began. Consciousness-altering drugs showed promise for treating anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and addiction, but government conservatism caused a research blackout. Lately, however, there has been a resurgence of interest in entheogens as possible therapeutic agents.

Drug research

Although psychoactive drug research to treat mental health issues is gaining momentum, scientists say that restrictive drug policies are continuing to hinder their progress. In the U.S., LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, peyote, and ibogaine (a psychoactive derived from an African shrub) are all classified as Schedule I illegal drugs, which the U.S. government defines as having a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical application. The resistance to research in this area continues despite scientific evidence supporting the efficacy and safety of using entheogens in a clinical setting. In a report released in June, the Drug Policy Alliance and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychoactive Studies catalogue several ways in which they say that the DEA has unfairly obstructed research on psychoactive drugs, including overruling a judicial review in 1986 that recommended MDMA be placed on a less restrictive schedule. The report recommends transferring responsibility for drug scheduling from the DEA to another agency or nongovernmental organization without a history of antidrug bias, such as the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

No matter how it happens, until the drugs are reclassified, bringing psychoactive drugs from research into clinical settings will be a battle, despite promising results.


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