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[Vol. 2] Psychedelic Medicine: New Evidence for Hallucinogenic Substances As Treatments
by Michael J. Winkelman & Thomas B. Roberts (Eds.)
Book Reviews
Reviewed by Bruce Sewick, 7/14/2008

Volume II of Psychedelic Medicine provides an in-depth transpersonal perspective of how psychedelics may facilitate spiritual healing. This is most apparent in considering how psychedelics can help addicts recover. As I reviewed this section I was struck by the parallel philosophy that is shared with AA. Much like AA, the psychedelic approach to healing addictions is a spiritual cure. Addiction can be looked at as an addict’s misguided attempt to self-initiate into the “other world” i.e., one’s spiritual dimension. Evidence suggests that psychedelic-assisted therapy can provide an organized, controlled and guided way to access this world in a non-addictive way. One of the most rigorous and prestigious research studies of note, that supports this hypothesis, was the work done at John Hopkins University in 2006. Psilocybin occasioned powerful, spiritual experience similar to a mystical experience in the volunteers who participated in this study. This suggests the possibility of a chemically facilitated spiritual cure. Treatment results from clinics using ibogaine and ayahuasca to treat opiate addicts does support the theory of a cure by providing the transpersonal experience while substantially diminishing withdrawal symptoms.

This volume also tackles some of the contraindications to psychedelic use that need to be discussed. These contraindications set both physiological and psychological limits to prevent a tragic outcome. Anyone who has a mental illness with psychotic features that might be exacerbated by psychedelics needs to be ruled out. Certain medical conditions (e.g. cardiovascular problems) and the use of some prescription medications are also contraindicated. There may be some dietary restrictions when using specific psychedelics. These substances need to be taken in a supervised setting for these reasons. There are protocols that need to be followed and precautions taken, a difficult task in casual recreational use.

Politics aside, what are some conclusions of past and present psychedelic research that could lead to acceptance and integration of these substances in society? First and foremost, altered states of consciousness and transpersonal experiences can be therapeutic. Stanislav Grof hypothesizes that the mind has a natural tendency to move toward transpersonal experiences (holotropism) as a way to self-actualize. Psychedelics can facilitate this, and may promote a dramatic change from a single experience. Secondly, as Dr. Roberts posits, the mind is capable of many different mindbody states (think computer programs). These states can also be amplified/modified by combining them. It is important to emphasize, as the book does, that no one is advocating psychedelic experiences outside of clinical or laboratory settings. These controlled settings provide the structure and ritual that have made the use of psychoactive substances by indigenous people non-problematic.

Timothy Leary incited the establishment by his phrase: “turn on, tune in, drop out”. Many feel he was responsible for the bad publicity that ended up demonizing psychedelics. Now 40 years later, I feel we are in the second stage of a three-stage process of psychedelic re-evolution. The first stage ended in demonization, now we are in the reconceptualization phase, and eventually will move to the integration stage. Psychedelics have reached middle age, as have my fellow baby boomers. It is up to us, with the help of scholarly research and publications like these volumes, to educate society about the value of psychedelics. We need to help psychedelics reach maturity as we ourselves age. These time-honored substances might help us get to know ourselves and assist with the transition to the “other side”. The clock is ticking…

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1 Comment »

  1. Start a REVOLT!!

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