Psychedelic Renaissance: LSD, Ecstasy and Magic Mushrooms Are Helping People Face Death, Cope with Trauma and Quit Booze and Smokes

“The room instantly lit up in a blinding glare of white, white light. I was seized by an ecstasy such as I had never known,” wrote AA’s co-founder, Bill Wilson, of his first spiritual experience.He was dropping acid as part of an informal study supervised by a doctor in the ‘50s, when LSD was legal and the power of psychedelic-assisted therapy was heralded as potentially transformative.

So began a lifelong interest in altered states of consciousness that included extensive experiments with LSD. Wilson claimed that his initial experiences were crucial to his recovery and his belief in his mission to create a community of alcoholics helping one another. He was so enthusiastic that he contemplated advising other AA members to take acid, especially those incapable of feeling “a power greater than ourselves.” Still, he acknowledged the limits of its possible benefits: “I don’t believe [LSD] has any miraculous property of transforming…sick people into healthy ones overnight,” he wrote to a fellow participant in the study. “[But] it can set up a shining goal on the positive side [and]create a large incentive [to recovery.]”

The AA fellowship disagreed. The idea of treating those who cannot control their substance use with another substance seemed, then as now, heretical. The link between spirituality and sobriety, however, remains a mainstay of modern recovery.

Today, some four decades after the counter-culture’s widespread recreational use of hallucinogens led to criminalization of the substances, there’s a resurgence of interest in their therapeutic potential for mental illness and addiction. A dozen or more studies of LSD, psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) and MDMA (ecstasy) are ongoing in the US, Britain, Israel and Switzerland; a handful of others have recently concluded. Most of the patients involved in these studies are in dire straits: vets with PTSD, the terminally ill who have a terror of death, people with treatment-resistant depression and alcoholics.

– Read the entire article at AlterNet.

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