Psychedelics have gone mainstream with the passing of Oregon’s measure 109 for regulated psilocybin therapy in the November 2020 election.
And that’s big news. This is something I am very excited about as a pharmacist from Oregon who has been tracking the campaign. I have been watching since they began collecting signatures to get on the ballot. As the vote drew near I helped the campaign making voter calls to drive support for the campaign.
Psychedelics are like cannabis, but bigger.
Much as the cannabis industry has boomed, this measure passing in Oregon is likely to be the first step in a true psychedelic renaissance for the United States. And it could not have come at a better time as far as I’m concerned.
If you are a pharmacist who is excited about the wealth of opportunity that more widespread acceptance of psychedelics could provide – and our potential to do good work in healthcare with them – now is the time to be jumping in head first.
As I have had the pleasure to share with many people over the last few months, I have been interested in psychedelics much longer than I have been interested in pharmacy. The profundity of these chemicals, the gestalt that has developed around them over the course of the 20th century… There is a reason they’re called magic.
Pharmacists must show how and why we need to be evolved in the rapidly evolving psychedelic landscape.
If such powerful drugs are to be integrated into our modern system of medicine and therapy, pharmacists should be involved. We have many unique abilities suited to this area. Our ability to interact with and understand populations “where they’re at,” our abilities to focus on practical harm reduction strategies, and expertise we can offer the medical community and surrounding industries. Pharmacists must stake their place at the table.
There are more pharmacists interested in and supportive of psychedelics than you might think.
I’ve never considered myself quite the norm for what is traditionally the very conservative field of pharmacy. I had blue and green hair throughout as a pharmacy intern (before colored hair was widely accepted and your grandma did it). I have a deep love of and appreciation for music and art. My friends have more often been artists or musicians than fellow pharmacists. I’m hip to the scene, you dig?
So, it’s no surprise that psychedelic substances and the culture surrounding them have held a prominent place in my psyche. Learning about them as a pharmacist in training only brought my appreciation to new levels.
My favorite instructor was the pharmacologist who was not a pharmacist. He boldly stated these substances are safe and there is no reason for them to be classified based on their potential for abuse (we rapidly build tolerance to classical psychedelics) or potential for harm. Learning this solidified my wish to see greater acceptance of psychedelics. Most experts aren’t really scared about immediate harm from psychedelics, at least not once true education about them occurs.
I have only really had one foot in (or is it out?) the closet regarding my appreciation for psychedelics and their power to do good. With the passing of the measure for a regulated psilocybin therapy now heading into a two year rule making phase in Oregon, I will fully step out.
Though pharmacy is seen as a very conservative profession, when you get talking to people, you’ll find that many are much less conservative than you’d think (and I don’t mean that in a political affiliation way). Psychedelics are quite an area of interest for more pharmacists than you would guess. I’m hoping that with shifting cultural attitudes, more pharmacists will come out in support of these drugs.
Pharmacists understand drug safety but we may have some cultural biases to overcome.
Even for those pharmacists who may have negative associations around psychedelics and those who maintain perhaps cultural biases towards those who use them, it’s hard to argue with pharmacology and their general safety as well as the fact that rapidly building human tolerance makes clinical abuse and dependence nearly impossible.
You see, whether or not you endorse the use of psychedelics as mind altering substances, most American adults already do endorse our human penchant for altering our own reality, in the form of alcohol.
You’ve heard it before in the cannabis arguments – why is alcohol ok but not cannabis?
We seem to be coming to terms with this especially as even more states have passed recreational cannabis rules after the 2020 election cycle.
So what’s the stigma around psychedelics for? I mean, I get it. The hippie burnout imagery is strong. But perception, as psychedelics can teach us, is hardly reality.
The use of psychedelics has profoundly impacted some of the most creative minds of the last 100 years. And, legal or not, modern uses of psychedelics in the form of microdosing is popular and accepted, even encouraged in some of the creative circles of places like Silicon Valley. It’s not just mystics and hippies who use psychedelics, regardless of what the media tells you.
Drugs, drugs experts and the human experience
As a drug expert, psychedelics are the most exciting compounds in the context of humans, spirituality, and the biological basis of consciousnesses. In other words, the human experience.
So, while cannabis never really excited me, psychedelics do. Sure, cannabis can relieve pain and ease symptoms of suffering. But cannabis doesn’t show the potential to ease the root causes of pain, like trauma and depression.
A New Era of Mental Healthcare?
In an time where there seems to be more mental health issues and suffering year by year, despite increasing standards of living I think it’s time to open our minds to what these drugs can do for us. Couple this with our growing consumer focus on delivery and access to goods and services where the consumer demands – which is often outside the scope of traditional healthcare, and especially in their homes.
Do we need to re-envision what it means to take a trip to clear our minds?
I play a mean devil’s advocate. Sometimes, in trying to make a point to someone else, I convince myself even further.
So, in trying to explore how most of us view our own mental health I had this conversation a few days ago with someone who is on the fence about acceptance of the use of psychedelics:
I said, do you think people taking a weekend trip to the country to get away and clear the mind can provide a positive impact for one’s mental health? They said, sure.
For high doses of psychedelics, commonly referred to as “tripping” or “taking a trip” is it really that different?
Would access to psychedelics not provide a novel and egalitarian method to help anyone in need of the stress relieving and mind clearing properties of taking a trip? Why does it have to be to a destination when it can be in our own minds?
Don’t get me wrong, psychedelic trips can go bad. But you can crash your car on the drive to The Poconos too… and nothing ensures a weekend trip to a location goes well either. There are also industries and facilitators providing support to people so they are not alone during their use of psychedelics. And this can be expanded upon.
I’m aware my penchant for hyperbole is presents overly simplistic scenarios. But, in seeking to overcome stigma and our preconceived notions, it can be quite helpful.
Now, I’m going to avoid getting into a political conversation about who already has relatively “accepted” access to psychedelics.
As psychedelics go mainstream, I urge you to explore your own preconceived notions around these substances.
It seems there is deepening trauma to our collective psyche and a growing divide among people. I think we should embrace the positive effects of the substances that human cultures have used since our beginnings. We have evidence they can help to heal trauma, they can increase creativity, they can increase empathy and sense of social connection to others, as well as decrease our negative perceptions of ourselves.
Those all sound like positive goals to pursue. If there are drugs that can help that, all the better.