As another psychedelic renaissance begins to take flight, it seems that myths and misconceptions rise to meet it. As a molecular pharmacologist studying cannabinoids and psychedelics with training in psilocybin-assisted therapy, I believe it’s vital to dispel these misconceptions.
Whether you are a consumer, an investor or simply interested in navigating the chaos that surrounds this burgeoning industry, below are a few mind munchies (aka food for thought) intended to provide some accessible guidance and insight.
There are publicly traded psychedelics companies that don’t sell psychedelics.
This is not a ploy — this is an avenue to ask for permission to do research, cultivate or produce. Anyone could, in theory, conduct an investigation on psychedelics. They can create a company, apply for a research license and generate data. Basic research underpins these endeavors. Much of the medicinal chemistry and basic research is outsourced to international contract research organizations. There is a recent push for investing in research for the development of intellectual property.
Psychedelics are more than LSD and Mushrooms.
The main focus on naturally occurring psychedelics has been on a few dozen species identified in North and South America. For example, the Western world knows of roughly 100 species of psychedelic mushrooms. Is this a bias from our bioprospecting or a true distribution of psychedelic plants and animals?
I hesitate to mention the vast collection of psychedelic flora and fauna that grow and live around us, which could encourage their overuse by humans. Any advancement or discovery in this realm should be done responsibly to mitigate the risks to these species. Modern history has focused on a small population of natural producers of psychedelics when in reality this is a vast area with opportunities.
Beware of psychedelic gimmick ventures.
Before you start a psychedelic venture or adventure, keep in mind that there are many psychedelic gimmicks that have long preceded the current “shroom boom.” As Alan Watts is purported to have said, “Anybody who tells you that he has some way of leading you to spiritual enlightenment is like somebody who picks your pocket and sells you your own watch.”
The emergence of e-psychonauts and online purveyors of entheogenic products has created controversies and misconceptions. When it comes to marketing and online drug sales, fact can be difficult to separate from fiction.
One fascinating example is the Sonoran Desert toad, which is often discussed as an ancient psychedelic. While toads have been revered by ancient cultures, this particular backstory of toad licking was conjured up by purveyors of 5-MEO-DMT. Because of this misinformation, the Sonoran Desert toad has become an unregulated commodity whose populations have been threatened, if not endangered. These toads could be “licked” out of existence. Their venom-derived medicine is brutally extracted while the toad’s environment is also being destroyed by illicit market influences. Conservationists have pleaded with the public regarding the threats to this species.
The future and evolution of psychedelic creatures on the Earth are very uncertain and precarious. Will we allow this amphibian to continue to evolve as a living psychedelic organism? Or will the lineage of psychedelic toads end with our generation?
Taking psychedelics doesn’t make you a better or more peaceful person.
Another myth being commercialized is that psychedelic drugs will make you a peaceful, righteous human. The notion that the world’s problems would be solved if more people took entheogens is a hallucination in and of itself. However, there are countless examples of psychedelics that prove time and again that psychedelics, in and of themselves, are not used to facilitate “peace” — with some experts calling the trend a “false promise.”
For instance, researchers believe Vikings could have used psychedelics for “unearthly abilities” before going to war. Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson credited toad venom, or DMT, for inspiring a return to fighting at the age of 54. Scientific literature is filled with examples of hallucinogenic experiences that are not innately “peaceful.” In my research experience, when a psychedelic therapy session confronts trauma or ego death, it isn’t always a tranquil experience. There are also oppressive, racist groups that seem to be linked to overuse of psychedelics.
The use of these substances does not suddenly turn people into peaceniks. Taking psychedelics will not inherently make someone better at things they do not already know how to do well. Mostly, they will just get better at taking psychedelics. Practice is the path to mastery.
We live in an exhilarating time for psychedelics. Society has begun searching for drugs that act outside the common psychedelic serotonin receptors, the targets of LSD and mushrooms. Almost anyone can join the search, provided we are careful about navigating the gap between speculation and science. In short, there’s a lot of promise, so let’s avoid the traps and do things responsibly.