Entheogenic substances (entheogens) are a special category of medicine that, properly implemented clinically, will radically boost the efficacy of mental healthcare in the United States. Compared with the psychiatric system as Americans know it in 2019, the difference will be as noticeable as night and day; the entheogenic revolution will redefine society’s perception of what is possible in terms of preventing, managing, curing, and altogether transcending mental illness.
What is an Entheogen?
An entheogen is any chemical substance, plant-based or synthesized, that can cause transcendent, revelatory, spiritually-provocative, and otherwise healing or developmental experiences.
Entheogens have been used by humans throughout nearly every part of the world since before the start of recorded history, for medicinal, transformative, and shamanic purposes.
There are two common themes that all of the above substances share:
- Each of them, when utilized properly, has a vastly greater scope of effectiveness in promoting optimal mental health than prescription drugs, while also being safer and in most cases with fewer negative side effects.
- Each of them, as of summer of 2019, are Federally illegal in the U.S. and use of these substances is generally stigmatized and condescended by the mainstream medical establishment and conventional mental healthcare practitioners.
If Entheogens are Truly Useful, Then Why Are They Illegal and Shunned by Conventional Western Medicine?
Some of the original reasons entheogens are Federally illegal in the U.S. are quite appalling, sometimes comically ignorant, and even nefarious.
Cannabis, for instance, was known and accepted by most North Americans in the early 1900’s, as a ubiquitous medicinal ingredient.
A steady flow of immigrants from Mexico following the Mexican Revolution triggered some anxieties among the populace. Those fears were exasperated by media reports that the Mexican immigrants were bringing with them a dangerous substance called “marihuana.”
The word marihuana sounded so foreign and intimidating, that the common masses didn’t even realize that it was just a manipulative synonym for their already-established medicine, cannabis…
It is no exaggeration that cannabis prohibition in the United States was originally nothing more than a reason to deport Mexican immigrants, and demonize African Americans (while “cleaning up the streets” by putting them in prison).
If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. But it’s also the frank truth.
The official story behind the stigmatization and criminalization of popular entheogens of the sixties and seventies was that they were dangerous substances with high potential for abuse.
LSD and psilocybin (“magic”) mushrooms are some popular examples; those two substances are known for bringing about a temporary “ego death,” an oceanic sense of connection and oneness with humanity, nature, and all that exists, an enhanced sense of empathy and compassion, and (most inconveniently of all for the Government), a tendency to question the established norm and seek out new ways of living and being.
The U.S. Government, embedded by its paradigm of war, exploitation, and meddling frivolously in global affairs, did not know how to process or engage with the blossoming counter-cultural peace movements of that time.
So instead, they shut it down.
This bought themselves some time to reign obliviously and unchallenged in their increasingly-outdated paradigms of hostility, greed, fear, and control.
With prohibition firmly established, scientific research into the positive uses of entheogens was obscured to the fringe.
Meanwhile, the psychiatric industry as we know it flourished, and made a lot of enterprising pharmaceutical companies and their partners in the healthcare industry very rich and powerful.
The mental healthcare system as it is, works well for drug companies. And agencies that prescribe medications.
But does it work for people who actually suffer from mental illness? Sometimes it does. To an extent.
Most prescription drugs, when they work at all, mask symptoms rather than address core issues. Some people manage their mental illnesses for decades this way, accepting that the best they can hope for is to function despite their sickness.
That, of course, works well for the drug companies who profit much more from lifelong customers than they would from cures.
But what if we had the knowledge, resources, and medicines available, to make major depressive disorder a thing of the past?
What if instead of helping people learn to live with bi-polar disorder, we could wipe it from the face of the Earth?
What if post-traumatic stress disorder, schizoaffective, and borderline personality disorder all had systematic, consistent solutions?
In other words. What if we could do better than we’re doing now, by incredible leaps and bounds?
We can. And we will.
The Future of Mental Healthcare
The organization Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been diligently working since 1986, towards a brighter future in mental healthcare. The fruits of their research and advocacy will pay off in 2021, when MDMA is expected to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration for clinical use to treat PTSD.
MDMA treatment for PTSD will be short-term with sustainable, lasting results, rather than the current insufficiently effective long-term prescription regimes.
The dissociative ketamine is already being utilized by specialized clinics to help people transcend treatment-resistant depression. However, the ketamine infusion procedures are expensive and must be paid for out-of-pocket as they are not yet covered by insurance.
A derivative of ketamine, called esketamine, (marketed as Spravato) was approved in March for use by qualified healthcare practitioners also for treatment-resistant depression, which could be seen as a step in the right direction since in most cases it is covered by insurance, except Spravato’s efficacy pales in comparison to actual ketamine.
Meanwhile, entheogens like psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, Ayahuasca, and lesser-known (but radically functional if utilized in the proper context) substances like dextromethorphan (a dissociative which is also the active ingredient of cough medicine) have the potential to completely reinvent mental healthcare in ways that many people do not yet dare imagine.
But again, if we could easily cure depression, bi-polar, schizoaffective, borderline personality, and post-traumatic stress disorder (and we can), then Big Pharma’s bottom line would depreciate.
Intentionally suppressing the well-being of the general public for the sake of profit should absolutely be illegal.
This applies to all forms of healthcare and treatment, not just mental. We must be able to trust our healthcare providers to make optimum, non-selfish decisions for our health!
Our next step is a new renaissance in the thorough scientific research and advocacy of Schedule I and unscheduled entheogens. MAPS and other organizations such as Entheogenic Research, Integration, and Education (ERIE) have made strides here, but we need to elevate the volume and accessibility of this message.
We also need a system that forces the Food and Drug Administration to do its job in service of the American people.
Currently, the FDA only investigates re-evaluating its position on a controlled substance or determining its position on an uncontrolled one, when they are paid by the company seeking approval. Those fees can easily exceed a billion dollars before a product breaks through to the market.
This causes another unsightly problem: Since the costs to get a new substance approved are so high, drug companies have no financial incentive to develop products that won’t produce exceptional profit.
Ketamine, for instance, is not prime to make drug companies a lot of money, because a) the patent is expired and b) proper ketamine treatment would obliterate depression for most people in just a few months or less, so the consumer would not have to rely on expensive treatments for years and decades to come.
In other words, clinical ketamine treatments would be more effective for more people than literally any treatment on the market, and be more affordable for insurance companies.
The only downsides here would be for pharmaceutical companies and the FDA, but to circumvent that issue we will install a new extension of the executive branch called the Department of Non-Exploitative Industries.
The DNEI will be qualified to mentor drug companies in developing skills, ideas, and incentives for transitioning to a new national standard of making humanity’s well-being the irrevocable bottom line for their businesses.
With no other downsides to speak of, let’s just do this thing.
Of course, ketamine is just an example. There are a great number of entheogenic substances that will benefit our society in a great number of ways.
It’s time to reduce the stigma and dismantle the hysteria. We can do this through education, non-hostile, genuine communication, and thorough harm-reduction strategies.
Ego death might help some, too. You can try some shrooms for that, but only in Colorado for now; otherwise, you’d be breaking the law. DXM is legal though, but please before even considering entertaining that thought, check out Erowid or this Facebook group for essential harm-prevention knowledge.
Another crucial aspect of integrating entheogens clinically is the proper training of healthcare practitioners. This isn’t like with most prescriptions, where they send the patient home and leave it up to them to take their medications. We’d need facilitators to therapeutically guide people through the healing process, and a gentle, atmospheric, balance-affirming setting to ensure the thoroughness of that process.
As a final brief point that we’ll explore more deeply another time, we must also work toward decriminalizing entheogens (and yes, even illegal drugs that may not qualify as entheogens, even if they are relatively dangerous and with a potential for addiction for personal use). Addiction is a heinous problem, but criminalizing addicts has proven to be an unmitigated disaster.
Besides. Did I mention that we can cure addiction through the proper utilization of entheogens?