Experts believe that psychedelics are on their way to becoming one of these instruments. The use of LSD, psilocybin (aka “magic mushrooms”), MDMA, ayahuasca, and other psychedelic chemicals in treating depression, PTSD, addiction, and other types of mental illness has seen a rebirth in recent years. There is now a rising interest in bringing the ostensible advantages of these medications to “healthy” individuals — those who do not have documented mental health illnesses — in order to help them achieve more aspirational levels of well-being.
This idea isn’t new, but it is gaining traction. In the 1990s, researcher Bob Jesse supported the use of psychedelics for what he called the “betterment of well people.” It’s an idea picked up by author Michael Pollan, who wrote the monumental 2018 book “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.”
“Who doesn’t sometimes feel stuck in destructive habits of thought? Or couldn’t benefit from the mental reboot that a powerful experience of awe can deliver?” Pollan writes. “One of the lessons of the new [psychedelic] research is that not just mental illness but garden-variety unhappiness may owe something to living under the harsh rule of an ego that, whatever its value, walls us off from our emotions, from other people, and from nature.”
That argument isn’t without pushback. Though attitudes are shifting, psychedelics are still highly stigmatized. Psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, and similar drugs are on the federal government’s list of Schedule 1 substances, which means they are highly restricted, considered to have no currently accepted medical use, and a high potential for abuse. The idea that they can help with serious mental illness is still legally unaccepted and controversial. To think that everyone should be allowed to use them to reach a higher level of well-being? Not on the federal government’s watch.