Back in the day, it seems like there were only a few drugs used that fall under substance abuse. Going as far back as the sixties, LSD, heroin, valium, and cocaine are names that most people are familiar with. Today, in addition to these drugs, there are many new drugs used to get high. They are called designer drugs and have names such as bath salts, molly, K-2, Spice and Vanilla Sky just to name a few. Regardless of your age, did you know that some of these drugs have roots in psychiatry?
LSD may make you think of rebellious hippies in the sixties or even a Grateful Dead concert. However, psychiatrists began experimenting with LSD as a tool in the forties and continued the experiments through the sixties. LSD was initially presented as an aid to produce an “experimental psychosis” as they thought it parallels the mental state of schizophrenics. They thought using LSD in psychotherapy would “loosen the mind” of the patient.
Dr. Timothy Leary, a psychologist, encouraged its use by his famous phrase, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Free samples from its manufacturer, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, also contributed to its wide use. Despite two thousand published papers regarding forty-thousand patients, no medicinal purposes were established and a culture of drug abuse took off.
The military and CIA also got in on the LSD game in the fifties and sixties, using it in experiments with mind control. They were looking for a chemical weapon effective on entire populations. Americans from all walks of life were drugged unknowingly as part of the MK-ULTRA program. Coupled with the widespread abuse of the drug, research came to an end when it was made illegal in nineteen sixty-six.
Since LSD is a hallucinogen, one can somewhat understand the interest in the mind control aspect. Giving someone a “trip” in order to “loosen the mind” during therapy does not. LSD is an unpredictable drug where anyone could experience a “bad trip” of paranoia and terror that could last as long as twelve hours. Even worse, while on LSD, one’s sense of reality is distorted so that stepping out of a window to get a better view of the ground below could be mistakenly thought to be a “good” idea and yet be fatal.
Apparently psychiatrists thought LSD would help one delve into one’s darkest feelings and memories so that the patient could learn and heal. This is truly insane in itself if one considers that what the patient experiences during his “trip” may not even be real so how would the psychiatrist know if his patient was expressing a truth or something his imagination created sparked by the use of LSD?!
Even worse, it is possible long after taking LSD to experience flashbacks without warning, lasting psychosis or severe depression. Clearly there is no logic as to how LSD was a good thing, yet here is an example of a drug that started in psychiatry and wound up in the public’s hands for all the wrong reasons.
Psilocybin, (commonly known as magic mushrooms or shrooms), is currently being studied to treat depression and anxiety as well as for addictions to alcohol and smoking. Since psilocybin is also a hallucinogen, it again poses the question, what is psychiatry trying to do to the mind? Without a medical test to identify and locate the supposed mental illness within the body as one would locate cancer or a broken leg, it appears they are stabbing in the dark to find answers.
MDMA is another drug that is not new to psychiatry. MDMA was used in the fifties for psychological warfare tests. It was then used in the sixties to supposedly lower inhibitions during psychotherapy. It did not have clinical research support or FDA approval. Today it is better known as ecstasy. Ecstasy is not pure MDMA but is cut with other things like caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines or perhaps even rat poison.
Ecstasy is a designer drug because the chemical compound has been altered, thus creating a different effect or “high” and then it can be sold on the street as something else. Ecstasy is popular at rave parties, but today pure MDMA is also being abused and it’s called “molly.” Some use MDMA and ecstasy as interchangeable terms such as in a recent study to see how effective it was in treating PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Twenty-one participants took a dosage comparable to what they would take at a dance club. After two and a half hours of psychotherapy, they took half of what they took before to make sure the effects of the drug continued. They thought the drugs worked to help expose disturbing memories in a safe environment. This trial was actually FDA approved which contradicts a ruling in nineteen eighty-five when the DEA labeled it a Schedule I drug. It was found to have high abuse potential and no medicinal use yet here it is being tested to treat PTSD.
Ecstasy is comparable to taking an amphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. Feelings of euphoria, emotional warmth and empathy are common but so are distortions in time perception and in one’s senses. Confusion, anxiety and depression can last for weeks after taking ecstasy. Increased heart rate, blood pressure and trouble regulating body temperature can lead to organ failure while taking this drug. The risks and adverse side effects far outweigh anything else.
The point is that psychiatry encourages drug use of many varieties. From the days of LSD to today’s antidepressants and antipsychotics, there doesn’t seem to be a drug that’s off-limits. Drugs associated with abuse apparently are fair game. Their approach seems to be to just administer drugs, without any attention to adverse side effects or long-term side effects.
The founder of a group for psychedelic studies was quoted as saying, “it’s not the drug, but how the drug is used that matters.” It is the drug that matters and how it is used. Psychiatry’s solution of curing the mind is in the wrong place. Altering brain function with drugs is not the answer. They have no evidence that undesirable behaviors are rooted in the brain.
A logical approach would to be to look for a physical cause of any supposed mental illness. The source could be in the person’s diet, environment or even just allergies just to name a few possibilities. Only evaluating symptoms followed by treatment with mind-altering drugs is not an effective solution. Psychiatry hasn’t found a cure for anything yet, but they sure have contributed to the drug culture of today.