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Psychedelics 101

Within just a few years, psychedelic compounds are expected to be legalized. This opens up a number of opportunities for how psychedelics can be used to heal, to enhance creativity, and to treat conditions. This paper is intended to provide an overview of the psychedelic space for those who are unfamiliar. If all you know about psychedelics is that people have trips, or maybe you’ve tried them once or twice yourself, trust me, there’s a lot to learn. So keep reading. 2020 – A Watershed Year for Psychedelics One of the good things to come out of 2020 was tangible progress towards the legalization of psychedelic compounds. Psychedelics were decriminalized in Oregon and Washington DC, and a small sample of terminally ill patients in Canada were permitted to use psilocybin to ease anxiety. There are clinical trials underway in several countries for the use of psychedelics in treating a variety of conditions, including PTSD. Furthermore, the first companies in the space have begun trading publicly. What Are Psychedelics? All psychedelics are chemical compounds – molecules – that are consumed by humans for their psychoactive properties. Many of these molecules occur in nature, while others are synthesized in laboratories. When someone is writing or talking about psychedelics, there are roughly two types. There are the molecules that are always considered to be psychedelics, such as LSD, DMT, psilocybin, ayahausca and mescaline. The latter three occur in nature, as “magic” mushrooms, a herbal tea from the Amazon, and peyote (a type of succulent). Other chemicals are sometimes considered to be psychedelics, or have psychedelic properties. These include THC (cannabis), ketamine (a common sedative) and MDMA (ecstasy). Each psychedelic interacts with the user in its own unique way, and the effects will vary greatly by user, by psychedelic, and even within each experience. As such there are no hard-and-fast rules about what one experiences while using psychedelics, but in general they convey unique sensory effects and non-ordinary states of consciousness. Safety and Usage As a rule, psychedelics are safe, as they do not cause adverse physiological reactions, and do not lead to dependence or addiction. For most psychedelics, taking too high a dose will mostly result in a very long, intense trip, but if the person is in a safe space they are unlikely to come to any harm. Many of the media reports concerning psychedelics and safety are wildly inaccurate. Often, this is a matter of somebody buying a substance on the street, and not knowing exactly what it is that they are buying. This is especially true of MDMA, which on the street is usually mixed with unknown cutting agents. Legal psychedelics, which are pure, would not carry the risk of street drugs. In a controlled setting, psychedelics ,when used responsibly, carry little risk. As psychedelic compounds are usually illegal, most use today is recreational, as users seek out the unique sensory experiences and shifts in consciousness afforded by these compounds. However, there are clinical trials underway in a number of countries, exploring a number of different use cases for psychedelics, mostly in the realm of mental health treatment and end-of-life care. Even outside of therapeutic uses for specific conditions, psychedelics have been found to lead to “unprecedented positive relief of anxiety and depression.” Legality Psychedelics are likely to be widely available and decriminalized in North America within the next few years. Their relative safety makes them strong candidates for approval for treatment of illness, and it is expected that for some psychedelics approval for recreational use will follow. The current legal pathway is via traditional pharmaceutical approval channels for specific treatments. Why Psychedelics When used with purpose and with care, psychedelics can be incredibly valuable tools. The intense perceptual and cognitive shifts granted during a psychedelic experience can unlock creativity, give one a profound sense of belonging in the universe, a deeper understanding of oneself, and other positive outcomes. The benefits of a single experience can last for years. The positive impact of psychedelics for creatives of all types is well documented, but psychedelics have been transformative for leaders in all segments of our society. Steve Jobs credited LSD for changing his life, describing its impact as “It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.” Micro-dosing of psychedelics, to where the focusing aspects are present but the hallucinogenic ones are not, has been attributed to Silicon Valley’s creativity and output. What’s Next? While psychedelics are generally only legal today in the context of clinical trials, the substantial potential benefits and low downside risk of psychedelics means that they are likely to be legal in a number of jurisdictions by the end of this decade. Psychedelics are unlike the chemicals being used to treat mental illness today, and have benefits even for healthy individuals. As such, legal psychedelics are poised to transform a wide range of professions and industries. For people who are unfamiliar, it is important to source information from reliable sources, and conceptualize how psychedelics might help someone you care about, or disrupt your industry. References Day, M. (2018). Before Apple, Steve Jobs was an acid-gobbling, horticulturalist commune dweller. Timeline. Retrieved from: Lashbrook, A. (2018). Here’s What Happens When a Few Dozen People Take Small Doses of Psychedelics. The Atlantic. 24 Aug, 2018. Retrieved from: Lozano, Alicia Victoria. “Psychedelics as health and wellness aid? Not a hallucination.” NBC. 15 Nov, 2020. Retrieved from: MAPS (n.d.). “5 Mind-Blowing Lessons from Psychedelics Experts.” Retrieved from: Nichols, D.E. (2016). Psychedelics. Pharmacological Reviews 68(2): 264-355. Pollan, Michael. 2018. How to change your mind. Penguin. Rex, Erica. “The Power of Psychedelics.” Scientific American. 12 July, 2020. Retrieved from: #psychedelics microdosing

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