The History of Psychedelic Medicine

Psychedelic substances have been used by various indigenous communities for both therapeutic and community purposes for many centuries. They have been used in various communities in different ways such as in initiations, rites of passage or for other personal, social and healing works.

As we all know, the European colonizers relied on tactics and strategies that were built on breaking and disrespecting beliefs of different peoples and massacring cultures as a whole, in an attempt to ‘civilize’ them.

The arrival of colonizers in the South and North American continents began the demonization of psychedelic substances and as a whole, the use of plant medicines. Instead, they advocated for the use of Western medicines, which are not necessarily bad. However, they do not treat the root cause of the problem, just the symptoms the problem brings.

Discouraging plant based medicines and the use of psychedelics as a therapeutic agent carried on centuries later, translating into a full-fledged war on drugs. In 1970, the then President of the U.S., Richard Nixon, signed the Controlled Substances Act that listed LSD, MDMA as well as other substances as dangerous drugs that possess low medical benefits and very high addiction rates.

However, in the recent past, clinical trials have discovered multiple psychedelics that can be used to help treat mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Moreover, the FDA recently granted MDMA-assisted psychotherapy “breakthrough therapy status”, for the treatment of PTSD in 2017. Then in 2018 and 2019, the federal agency granted the status to 2 different treatments; one that used psilocybin to help manage major depressive disorder and another that used psilocybin to help manage treatment-resistant depression.

This shows the progress that has been made in terms of medicalization, gradual destigmatization and decriminalization of the substances as well as acceptance of the substances as alternative therapeutic routes.

Despite the positive strides and the growing interest in psychedelics and their many benefits, it seems that psychedelics use, which was demonized in the past, has now shifted into the cultural appropriation realm.

It should therefore, come as no surprise that in a review of psychedelic studies that was carried out between 1993 and 2017, researchers discovered that more than 80% of the study participants were white.

Why, you might ask?

Well for one, for many years, the war on drugs was waged on people of color, with many black and brown individuals being arrested for possession and incarcerated for unreasonably longer periods of time, as compared to their white counterparts. A penalty that one might argue was based on their race as well as the bias of the justice system.

It therefore makes complete sense that most people of color have been conditioned to see psychedelics as not for them, despite the numerous benefits they offer.

Psychedelics companies like Pure Extract Technologies Inc. hope that the stigma and racial disparities evident in the use of psychedelics ends soon so that all can benefit from the therapeutic attributes of these substances.

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