Many consider drugs to be one of the primary catalysts for some of the world’s best art, music and cultural development. Typically it’s because they stimulate our minds to work in ways we never thought possible, and enhance the positive feelings at a party, making it seem more fun. And their role in America’s peace and love movement of the ’60s is simply undeniable. In short: Drugs, man—a lot of people love ‘em.
Drugs, and their impact on our lives, are a lot more nuanced than a casual bong rip and a ride to the 7-Eleven for some chimichangas (glorious as they are). If you have a headache, you take a laboratory-engineered pill that helps it go away. You’re depressed? Take some Zoloft, bud! You’re anxious? Xanax! Can’t sleep? No problem! Take a couple Lunestas and call me in the morning. Oh, your dick ain’t working right? One word: Viagra!
But what about the party stuff? The illicit substances that you have to get from a street pharmacist instead of a regular one. Weed may be getting more legal by the minute thanks to its medically-proven benefits (and well, the sheer amount of money that can be made from a legalized marijuana industry), but mushrooms, LSD, MDMA, and are far from being available in a legit way. Do they have any medicinal merit?
Believe it or not, according to science—some of them do! Teams of scientists and researchers from all over the world have spent extensive amounts of time thoroughly testing and experimenting with all sorts of drugs, and as it turns out, some of them are more useful than their ability to make us crave tacos at 3 in the morning.
Whether or not you’re a big smoker is pretty inconsequential to some of the incredible breakthroughs we’ve seen in medical marijuana over the last couple decades. We’ve known about its power to help ease the side effects of chemotherapy for a few decades now, but studies on the drug have come an incredibly long way in just the last few years.
Studies have demonstrated that marijuana and its extracts can drastically reduce the effects of epileptic seizures. One study tested 162 patients over 12 weeks with an extract that was 99% cannabinoids (aka: the stuff that doesn’t get you stoned). The study found that 36.5% of patients noted a reduction in seizures that either rivaled or beat the current medication they were taking, and 2% became completely seizure-free. If you want to see something less technically scientific, and more anecdotal, this video is both baffling and extremely powerful.
Studies also show marijuana can significantly reduce or even prevent completely the psychological symptoms of PTSD and depression. While the claims have only been tested in mice, the results are extremely positive. In the PTSD trial, researchers found that administering cannabinoids after a traumatic event stimulated changes in the brain centers that are in charge of storing traumatic memories. In the depression study, scientists found that mice that were chronically stressed or suffering from anxiety also suffered a shortage of endocannabinoids (which affect cognition, emotion and behavior). After receiving cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid levels in the mice were restored, thereby alleviating at least some of the symptoms of depression.
And, of course, recent studies have indicated that marijuana can not only alleviate the side effects of cancer treatment, but that cannabinoids can actually kill cancer cells. They were so conclusive, the National Cancer Institute actually changed the information on its website to reflect the results of the studies.
DMT is a naturally-occurring psychedelic compound that people generally smoke. Recreationally speaking, the high is short, super potent, and is generally described as a kind of out-of-body experience with intense hallucinogenic visions. People who’ve taken it say it’s like being momentarily transported to another dimension.
However, DMT and Ayahuasca (a brew containing DMT used in ancient Amazonian healing and enlightenment rituals for centuries), are more than just party drugs. South American shamans would administer the drug to people because not only was it rumored to have tremendous potential to heal, but also because it was believed to be a gateway to the spiritual world. In fact, it is known to South America’s indigenous peoples as “the teacher plant.”
Medicinally, DMT helps people conquer their addiction problems. In one study, a small group of 12 people struggling with a variety of different types of substance abuse issues took Ayahuasca over the span of six months. At the end of the six months, respondents reported using less tobacco, booze and cocaine, but their cannabis and opiate use stayed the same.
DMT and Ayahuasca have also recently raised a lot of eyebrows for their effect on depression. Though legitimate clinical research studies are still in their infancy, there are a couple of very convincing reports that note the drug’s ability to drastically reduce the effects of depression, even weeks after it is consumed.
If you talk to people about their recreational drug preferences, ‘shrooms are probably the first or second one on everyone’s list. Known for its psychedelic, mood-altering effects, studies on mushrooms have found that the psychoactive drug in them, psilocybin, actually prompts psychological growth.
John Hopkins School of Medicine researchers gave the drug to 18 volunteers who participated in five eight-hour sessions where they were given the drug in varying doses in order to determine what its effects would be. Each of the 18 volunteers was college-educated, and all believed in spiritual experiences (although only 78% participated in “religious activities”).
Though the sample size was admittedly small, 94% of the people who participated in a follow up survey conducted 14 months after the first study said it was one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives. More so, their friends, colleagues and family members (awkward) reported that the experience had made their ‘shroom-tripping friends kinder and happier.
Other studies have concluded that psilocybin succeeds where conventional depression medication falls short. Their study included 12 volunteers diagnosed with chronic depression (an average of 17.8 years), none of whom had responded well to standard medications. Within just one week of receiving an oral dose of psilocybin, the patience reported a strong improvement in their symptoms. Within three months, five of the volunteers—nearly half—were in complete remission.
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, known more colloquially as Molly, Mandy or Ecstasy, was first synthesized in 1912 by the German pharmaceutical company Merck. Since its first “discovery,” people have been absolutely fascinated with and blown away by MDMA’s effect on the human psyche.
Of the MDMA studies conducted over the years, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the idea that the drug works wonders to alleviate the effects of both PTSD and severe, untreatable depression. While there is an array of PTSD studies from which to select, the information is pretty similar: Give people MDMA and they don’t just feel better, they get better.
One study noted that after just three MDMA sessions, 85% of participants no longer had any PTSD symptoms whatsoever. And after a 3.5-year follow up, many of those participants dramatically reduced and even stopped taking their PTSD medications completely.
While ketamine is used primarily for anaesthetic purposes, it is also a massive party drug that people take because not only is it a muscle relaxer and painkiller, but it provides a euphoric, sometimes even mild hallucinatory experience, even in lower dosages. People report feeling fuzzy, tingly and a dissociative-but-aware, near-out-of-body experience while on the drug.
Over the years, Ketamine has found a massive following in the psychiatric community for its medicinal uses. Ketamine has been used to treat otherwise untreatable bouts of clinical chronic depression in some patients, and has even been used successfully to inhibit suicidal thoughts in others.
At this point—probably because of the drug’s availability to clinical doctors—there is a massive library of studies that question whether or not ketamine is a viable option for people suffering depression, and the answer is typically a resounding yes.
In trial after trial, doctors report that in low dosages, ketamine is extremely effective in treating severe depression, and that its side effects are few, but its results are great. There’s even an entire “Ketamine Advocacy Network.” Go figure.
For literal decades, people have claimed lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a miracle substance that’s healthy for the body and mind. Of course, everybody knows that’s not always true.
Nevertheless, everyone from the CIA to clinical psychologists have spent a tremendous amount of time and effort trying to study the sometimes mystifying effects of LSD, particularly on the human brain.
Most recently, a study by Swiss scientists tested 12 terminally ill patients who were, for all intents and purposes, about to kick the bucket. The participants in the study universally found that higher dosages of LSD helped them cope with their circumstances and had profound positive effects on their anxiety.
In a story from The New York Times about LSD’s resurgence as a therapeutic medical treatment, the leading doctor on the study, Peter Gasser, put the results into perspective quite plainly: “Their anxiety went down and stayed down.”
Ahhhh, peyote. Native Americans have prescribed it for everything from tooth pain to spiritual enlightenment, and while that may sound more than a little ridiculous, there’s research to back it up. Harvard researcher Dr. John Halpern is a popular source to discuss the effects of peyote on the human psyche for medicinal effects because he has spent quite a large amount of time studying and researching it.
In a 2005 study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Halpern found that not only did his team find zero evidence that the Native Americans whom he studied had any neurocognitive issues from their life-long use of the drug, but that they even outperformed the average on several sections of the Rand Mental Health Inventory tests (typically used to diagnose psychological problems and determine mental health).
Halpern has also studied peyote’s power to fight against more serious addictions to things like alcohol and even heroin, and saw positive results. Of course, it’s just one of many studies that have concluded that peyote (and its naturally occurring alkaloid, mescaline) do help in the treatment of addiction.
Peyote is one of those drugs that hasn’t been studied too in-depth by American medical organizations, so there aren’t a lot of widely available studies or clinical trials. However, there are plenty of outside sources that talk scientifically about the physical health benefits of peyote as a pain reliever. Applied directly to the afflicted area in a solve (usually made from bees wax), or ingested orally in lower doses, people find it to be a powerful inhibitor of things like joint pain, toothaches and muscle aches.