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The Science of Psychedelics and Future of Psychedelic Medicine

San Fransisco, CA

History of Psychedelics

Psychedelics have become more and more popular in the world as time goes on and humans evolve. Psychedelics have been used for many years, thousands in fact, for religious reasons and have been commonly used in many ancient cultures. These psychedelic plants however, even though being used for so long, only began to be researched in modern day, until 1960. during the 1970's and 80’s, psychedelics started to become experimented and studied more, after being put to a halt to the first cultural period of a light bulb of psychedelics. These healing plants were starting to really be proven at this time to have true therapeutic progress in a human being.

But even after the first discovery of LSD in 1950, psychiatrists as well as people in the field of psychology, started to use these drugs to treat patients which was commonly called “psychedelic psychotherapy”. But as the research became more and more thorough, the popular plants had a stunning impact on society. Furthermore, as psychedelics progressed into the world of psychiatry during the 1950’s, more and more patients got treated with this type of psychotherapy. For 15 years, 1950 to 1965, psychedelics for the first time were successful in the modern age in the field of medicine, specifically LSD. The psychedelic psychotherapy using LSD served 40,000 patients, and doctors were more successful in treating their patients. There was still caution however when approaching and using these miraculous plants, by treating patients with psychedelics only who were most in need of these plants, patients who had resistance to a therapeutic process or chronic issues. By the 16th year of LSD being used, a million people in the USA, and following that, in the same year, 1966, the psychedelic drug was made illegal. This caused a huge change within the medical field at the time. With many governments tearing down proven research on psychedelics and LSD that it was safe, doctors use of psychedelics decreased, and were forced to move away from LSD and research on psychedelics, because of this new rule. Not everybody gave up though, and in fact, therapists who did not accept the fact that proven research should not have just been stopped all of a sudden, took a step forward and started treating patients with MDMA, more commonly known today as “ecstasy”. MDMA had the same effects and use as LSD, helping with traumatic memories. But like LSD, MDMA became illegal in 1985. Many people had lots of fear about the effects ofLSD and MDMA, and drugs going into the medical field have to be properly examined and studied.

Ancient Use of Psychedelics

Psychedelics started to become popularly used around 1950, and were put into the medical field as a treatment for patients, until 1965. For these 15 years, psychedelics were first becoming popular in the modern age and world. But the truth is, psychedelics are ancient, and have been around for many eras. Many non-western religions used these plants as tools. Psychedelics have been huge for many religions, because they have helped shape religions and grow cultures. Ancient Hindu religions used psychedelics, in fact there is use of the word, “Soma”, which was very likely to be a component of the Fly Agaric Mushroom. Many ancient Greeks made drinks which had components of the famous psychedelic drug, LSD. Western religions, such as Christianity, do not believe in a drug or plant such as a psychedelic, be used to be granted access to god. But no religion or form of worship is necessarily more correct or right than any other. Religion is shaped through beliefs, and even belief in no form of religion can be a religion. But many people did not believe in the mystical experience during the 1960’s, when psychedelics started to become used and popular. People did not believe in the spiritual experience, or that aspect of psychedelics. Overall, many religions anciently used psychedelics to form their worship.

How Psychedelics Work

Psychedelics can impact the neuroscience and cognition of the brain and mind in many different ways, which can be healthy as well as unhealthy. These types of drugs can be used to treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addictions. While psychedelics can have a major effect on the brain, it has compounds that can be therapeutic. Psychedelics do not have to be limited to spiritual experiences or substance interests, or even just to improve focus and energy. These types of plants can have an impact on cognition in terms of memory, attention, social interaction, decision making abilities, and creativity. In the field of psychiatry, psychedelic substances can be therapeutic, but psychedelics outside of scientific use is just known as an enhancer, which is a label that puts a limitation on psychedelics. Many different domains of cognition can be impacted when taking psychedelics, but however, this is not a part of the paradigm of taking psychedelics outside of clinical use, because when

doing so, users only want to keep their brain safe. But, with many parts of the cognition being affected by these plants, it is very important to know and understand a patient’s cognition, before giving psychedelics. This allows one to have a better experience with these drugs, especially during therapy, because the cognition can tell us what may or may not work in terms of psychedelics, and what may give a bad or good experience. Outside of clinical use, dosage and frequency use doesn’t matter to most users, but in clinical use, it matters a lot also based on the cognition. We use cognition to understand things around us, and to identify our surroundings, through gathering and processing information. Domains of cognition could be memory, attention, decision making, and reasoning. Certain tasks in life, or clinically, can be a cognitive process. Tasks can take a cognitive process, but some tasks require a higher, complex cognitive process. These tasks often take multiple domains at once, sometimes even all domains, specifically for creative tasks. Psychedelic drugs such as LSD or DMT, have been proven to cause healthy functioning in the brain. More specifically, LSD and DMT can have a positive effect on cognition and perception through the serotonergic system, affecting the specific receptors which are essential for the brain to be at its best cognitive functioning. Psychedelics can affect each cognitive domain specifically, while impacting them all at the same time, because of psychedelics' relation towards cogintion.

Memory - Memory plays a huge part in our cognition, and in our brain’s functioning. In a healthy, functioning cognition of the brain, memory can hold certain things or information that was just seen or absorbed, for a short time, and then oftentimes, we forget about these things or information, or it goes into our subconscious. Accuracy is also a huge part in memory, when we forget something, and try to remember it, our accuracy is off, or not a 100% spot on, of the event or information we may try to remember. Psychedelics can affect our memory in our cognition in many ways, and have different impacts. Studies showed that high doses in psilocybin and ayahuasca caused damage to the memory’s functioning. Studies also showed that with lower doses, the response can be changed, and be quicker, but most of the time, the memory stays the same and is not affected when a low dose is taken.If psychedelics are going to be used in therapy and for treating disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), then a lot more research testing has to be done to understand more about how these drugs will affect a human’s brain and cognition, but memory specifically. If psychedelics damage memory, then how will one remember repressed memories that they are trying to uncover or process during therapy? PTSD diagnosed patients often have strong emotions and unstable memories, so how would psychedelics work through that, or affect a patient with such an issue? There is a lot of unanswered questions about these drugs, but psychedelics overall needs more testing and research for cognition and memory specifically,

Attention - Studies show that psychedelics can have positive and negative impacts on attention, and enhance one’s ability to pay more attention. Similar to its effect on memory, psychedelics like psilocybin and DMT, cause impairment towards the attention aspect of one’s cognition, when given a high dose of these drugs. The main issue that caused the negative effect on someone’s attention when given a high dose of psilocybin or DMT, was because the drugs were not able to reduce the stimuli around one, and have them focus and pay attention to one thing. When a human pays attention, they focus on one stimulus without getting distracted by any other stimuli. Psychedelics are known to enhance awareness of surroundings of a user when taken, so it is no surprise that when given a high dose,the results were as so. However, studies also show that when given a low/medium dose, LSD can have a positive impact on attention, and increase one’s ability to pay attention and concentrate on a specific stimulus without getting distracted. However, when given a microdose of LSD, there was no improvement of attention. This also brings up a wonder of if psychedelics could be helpful to improve attention for people with dementia or ADHD. But then again, more research and testing would be needed to be done, to determine this, and to determine whether or not once the psychedelics wear off, if the patient will be able to still experience the same improvement of attention within their cognition.

Reasoning - Decision making and planning skills are needed in our everyday lives, as human beings. We reason when we need to make a tough decision, or if we are cooking something on our own. Overall, reasoning as a human being can use multiple domains of the brain’s cognition, such as memory, attention, cognitive control, and executive function. Unfortunately, when taking psychedelics, one’s reasoning is not well functioning and psychedelics don’t have a positive impact on one’s ability to reason. These drugs, according to studies, psychedelics can increase reaction time, and cause damage towards one’s executive functioning. Psychedelic drugs like LSD, can cause impulsivity. Overall, psychedelics will cause one to simply not be able to function, and complete simple tasks, such as organizing books on a shelf, and will not be able to regulate emotions to reason in a healthy way.

Emotional and Social Cognition - Human beings who are healthy and regulated can function well socially in a society, and can be safe inside a society. Emotional and social cognition are significant to one’s ability to be able to function in a society with other human beings. Studies have shown that psilocybin can decrease one's ability to recognize negative face expressions, but increase the ability to recognize positive face expressions, and can also increase emotional empathy. Studies have also shown that psilocybin can be a factor in decreasing the feeling of social neglect, and social reward. People in an experiment playing a game when under the influence of psilocybin, did not care about the outcome of the game or complained about unfair rules, and were more happy to interact with others. Also when under the influence of psilocybin, the people within the social circle did not feel excluded, and felt more socially belonged. Psychedelics like psilocybin can also be used to treat depression with psychological support, and help patients recognize facial expressions better, as well as feel more joy in doing things, hence a decrease in anhedonia. Overall, psychedelics can help improve social and emotional cognition, by making one more empathic, and help humans have better relationships and generally feel socially comfortable and not rejected or excluded.

Creativity - During psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety, many people who experience these mental health issues have a lowered ability to be creative, and have a creative thinking process, and be able to think outside the box. Oftentimes, we deal with problems that need solving. When problem solving, at times we have to use divergent thinking to come up with a solution. As humans, we can use creativity as well as analytical and realistic thinking. Studies show that psychedelics can enhance creativity without affecting our analytical thought process. More deeply, psilocybin taken at a normal dose can decrease divergent thinking and convergent thinking, and one’s ability to do so. However, studies show that once the psilocybin wears off, the divergent thinking increased, but the convergent thinking did not. This can show us that psilocybin can be more useful as a drug, past the acute phase of a single dose. Language is a big part of psychological disorders, because oftentimes the way we speak gets affected through anxiety, and severe disorders such as schizophrenia. There is a deep connection between language and creativity, with psychedelics. Found out early on in the research of psychedelics, is that psychedelics can make speech less predictable and have more free word association. Studies have also found that psychedelic drugs like LSD can make people explain more and make more personal statements, which can tell us that psychedelics can be used for psychotherapy. Overall psychedelics can definitely improve one’s creativity. However, there is no research done on how these drugs would affect one in a natural environment, in terms of creativity. More research would need to be done on spontaneous thinking when taking psychedelics, and how that may relate to creativity.

Current Use of Psychedelics in Medicine

Psychedelics have been used for thousands of years, starting with ancient cultures mainly using the healing plants for holistic reasons.

As psychedelics got more and more popular, it became very commonly used for self medication, towards mental health. Specifically for anxiety and depression, psychedelics became very popular towards these mental illnesses. When psychedelics first became discovered in 1950, these drugs were used in psychotherapy for patients in need of intensive care, for about 15 years until the drugs started to get banned. But currently in medicine, there is more research and proven facts, and more safety with the use of psychedelics. Many of these drugs are used to heal depressive disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), suicidal issues, and addictions. When not using psychedelics in a controlled medical way, it can have a negative effect on perception and mental health. But when used in medicine, with the right dosage and study towards a patient’s cognition, there is a very positive use of psychedelic drugs relating to mental health. When first starting out with psychedelics in the field of medicine, the drugs were not as controlled as today, and not as carefully experimented with as the current use of psychedelics are. One very popular psychedelic that has been used in the current field of medicine, is psilocybin. This psychedelic is used to treat OCD, major depression, and alcohol and tobacco addiction. An experiment was conducted with psilocybin to determine the psychological effects of high doses of psilocybin. The patients whom the experiment was conducted on were people with cancer that was very deadly. These patients took a single dose of psilocybin (30g), and all people with the cancer, who were very depressed and anxious because of the cancer being so life-threatening, had improvement in their mental health and reduction of depression and anxiety symptoms. Psychedelics like psilocybin, LSD, or ayahuasca have all been proven to help improve OCD, alcohol addiction, depression, or anxiety.

Future of Psychedelic Medicine

Psychedelics have been used for thousands of years, and first started to enter the medical field in 1950, but around that time, there was not enough safety and research to keep the healing plants in the field of medicine. As of now, there is much more research compared to back then, and much more advanced technology and knowledge. So therefore, what is the future of psychedelics, in medicine? Psychedelics and antidepressants have similarities with each other, as well as differences. In terms of emotion and limbic responses, antidepressants calm down and blunt emotions, and create a rational limbic response. But psychedelics are different, in a way, because when taken there

is more of a focus of heightened sense of emotions, and emotional release. Psychedelics cause users to be very hypersensitive to their surroundings, as well as the environment too. This causes psychedelics to be prone for psychotherapy, because psychedelic drugs are an enhancer, so it can be very helpful to use during therapy. Many psychedelics are illegal, and for this reason, psychedelics have not entered the field of medicine. But, psychedelics have always been known to be a very big “game-changer” in psychiatry. Research on how psychedelics work in the brain, based on the neuroscience of neurotransmitters and receptors. This however, was stopped, because again, of the psychedelics being illegal. As mentioned earlier, there was a study and experiment of psychedelics conducted on cancer patients, with depression. But studies also show that with depression because of the critical disease, patients could not sustain their mental well being with ordinary medication and psychotherapy. However, the depression was not severe, and anxiety and depression is something cancer patients experience commonly. This is why the experiment was conducted, because basic medication could not solve basic depression and anxiety. Many psychedelics are only commonly known to give users a spiritual experience, a heightened state, or a different perception. But, not many look at these drugs as a drug that can be used in the medical field for recreational use. Psilocybin is a psychedelic that is very close to being used in medicine, for therapeutic reasons specifically. This psychedelic is commonly used for depression and anxiety. However, one major issue for this psychedelic is that the drug still has not been tested enough to determine how much of a dose is required for it to work, with safety and accuracy. Generally, when drugs are taken, conventional or psychedelics, can be dangerous when using it outside the field of medicine, but most users only care about their own safety, while in the field of medicine, so much more matters. Overall, many psychedelics need to be tested more and experimented more. Psychedelics like psilocybin show that the field of medicine, and psychiatry have not reached their max potential yet. There is so much more that can be done for disorders, depression, and mental health in terms of psychedelics.

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