What are Psychedelics? Ancient history and future possibilities


Psychedelics (serotonergic hallucinogens) are powerful psychoactive substances that alter perception and mood and affect numerous cognitive processes. They are generally considered physiologically safe and do not lead to dependence or addiction.

         Their origin predates written history, and they were employed by early cultures in many sociocultural and ritual contexts. After the virtually contemporaneous discovery of (5R,8R)-(+)-lysergic acid-N,N-diethylamide (LSD)-25 and the identification of serotonin in the brain, early research focused intensively on the possibility that LSD and other psychedelics had a serotonergic basis for their action.

Psychedelics are a subclass of hallucinogenic drugs whose primary effect is to trigger non-ordinary mental states (known as psychedelic experiences or psychedelic “trips”) and/or an apparent expansion of consciousness. Sometimes, they are called classic hallucinogensserotonergic hallucinogens, or serotonergic psychedelics.   True psychedelics cause specific psychological, visual, and auditory changes, and oftentimes a substantially altered state of consciousness. The “classical” psychedelics, the psychedelics with the largest scientific and cultural influence, are

     Mescaline, 

     LSD, 

    Psilocybin,

    DMT. 

     LSD in particular has long been considered the paradigmatic psychedelic compound, to which all other psychedelics are often or usually compared.

Most psychedelic drugs fall into one of the three families of chemical compounds: tryptamines, phenethylamines, or Lysergamides  (LSD is considered both a tryptamine and lysergamide).

Many psychedelic drugs are illegal worldwide under the UN conventions, with occasional exceptions for religious use or research contexts. Despite these controls, recreational use of psychedelics is common. 

     Legal barriers have made the scientific study of psychedelics more difficult. Research has been conducted, however, and studies show that psychedelics are physiologically safe and rarely lead to addiction. Studies conducted using psilocybin in a psychotherapeutic setting reveal that psychedelic drugs may assist with treating depression, alcohol addiction, and nicotine addiction.  Although further research is needed.

List of psychedelic drugs

  • LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide)
  • Psilocin (4-HO-DMT)
  • Mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine)
  • DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine) 
  •  2C-B (2,5-dimethoxy-4-bromophenethylamine) 

Uses 

Traditional

A number of frequently mentioned or traditional psychedelics such as     Ayauasca (which contains DMT), San Pedro, Peyote, and Peruvian torch (which all contain mescaline), Psilocybin mushrooms (which contain psilocin/psilocybin    all have a long and extensive history of spiritual, shamanic and traditional usage by indigenous peoples in various world regions, particularly in Latin America, but also Gabon, Africa in the case of iboga.  Different countries and/or regions have come to be associated with traditional or spiritual use of particular psychedelics, such as the ancient and entheogenic use of psilocybe mushrooms by the native Mazatec people of Oaxaca, Mexico or the use of the  Ayauasca   brew in the Amazon basin, particularly in Peru for spiritual and physical healing as well as for religious festivals. 

 Although people of western culture have tended to use psychedelics for either psychotherapeutic or recreational reasons, most indigenous cultures, particularly in South America have seemingly tended to use psychedelics for more supernatural reasons such as divination.

Psychedelic therapy

Psychedelic therapy (or psychedelic-assisted therapy) is the proposed use of psychedelic drugs to treat mental disorders. As of 2021, psychedelic drugs are controlled substances in most countries and psychedelic therapy is not legally available outside clinical trials, with some exceptions.

The procedure for psychedelic therapy differs from that of therapies using conventional psychiatric medications. While conventional medications are usually taken without supervision at least once daily, in contemporary psychedelic therapy the drug is administered in a single session (or sometimes up to three sessions) in a therapeutic context.

 As of 2022, the body of high-quality evidence on psychedelic therapy remains relatively small and more, larger studies are needed to reliably show the effectiveness and safety of psychedelic therapy’s various forms and applications.

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