In its efforts to mainstream psychedelics, the biomedical model runs the risk of proclaiming and defending particular dogmas and orthodoxies. These raise the risk of stifling inquiry into the full psychedelic experience: its mechanisms, meaning, and optimal applications. In this week’s post, I discuss the state of this mainstreaming effort, and suggest how to prevent its successes from prematurely closing the psychedelic mind. The biomedical research model has been extraordinarily successful in re-introducing psychedelic drugs to the larger scientific community and popular culture. Moderate doses, strict attention to non-drug factors, and a modest relationship with the media all have contributed...
“Myth,” “arguably bullshit,” and “deserving a decent burial.” These are some of the published statements by reputable scientists reacting to various claims made about DMT. Usually, these words are used to attack “pseudoscience,” the kiss of death for scientific theories that lack merit, are patently false, and objectively falsifiable. Several theories about DMT have aroused these strong reactions. In this week’s post, I suggest that some of these reactions are appropriate whereas others are not. The psychedelic theory of schizophrenia’s decent burial, 1976 After DMT’s discovery in mammalian lung in the 1960s, psychiatric researchers sought a relationship between endogenous DMT...
Creating a field of psychedelic medicine opens the window to potential benefits and risks by increasing their accessibility. Rescheduling psychedelics out of the highly restrictive Schedule I is necessary for this to occur. Additional issues of public health policy must be determined, and who takes the lead in shaping these policies requires careful attention. Momentum is building to carry outside of the ivory tower biomedical research’s positive and measured, yet preliminary, findings of psychedelics’ benefit for a number of conditions. This goal is generally referred to as creating “psychedelic medicine” or establishing “psychedelics as medicine.” Medicine, more-or-less different than, but...
Backlash against the wider biomedical availability of psychedelic drugs is likely at some point. However, we may take steps that minimize causes of a potential backlash. One of these steps is to avoid overreaching. Any failure to maintain intellectual rigor and honesty in such a highly controversial field will not serve the research community well when media coverage turns negative for any reason. The worst thing we can hear is: “You were not honest in portraying benefit and risk.” I see at least three phenomena related to the biomedicalization of psychedelic drugs where overreach could come back to haunt us....
The psychedelic religion of mystical consciousness
Since 1996, Dr. Strassman has been exploring models for the DMT effect focusing primarily on the Old Testament concept of prophecy. Prophecy is a spiritual experience which takes into account the apparently external, free-standing nature of the DMT "worlds," in which one's sense of self is highly preserved and interactive. The Old Testament concept of prophecy provides an alternative to other models that borrow more heavily from Eastern religious systems, and those of Latin American shamanism. The notion of prophecy also deals directly with ethical and moral concerns, adding a crucial element to our ability to understand and integrate the content of the psychedelic experience. He is developing these ideas in his next book, The Soul of Prophecy, due to appear in 2013.
Dr. Strassman is currently Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. He is also President and co-founder of the Cottonwood Research Foundation, which is dedicated to consciousness research.
Rick Strassman MD performed the first new human studies with psychedelic drugs in the US in over 20 years.
His research involved the powerful naturally-occurring compound, DMT – N,N-dimethyltryptamine. Led to this substance through his earlier study of the pineal gland as a potential biological locus for spiritual experiences, he administered several hundred doses of DMT to approximately 60 volunteers between 1990 and 1995. He wrote about this research in the popular book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, which has sold over 100,000 copies, has been translated into 12 languages, and is now available as an audio-book. It also inspired an independent documentary by the same name, picked up by Warner Bros distributing in Fall, 2011. With three distinguished collaborators, he co-authored Inner Paths to Outer Space, which looks more carefully at the common "other worlds" experience that volunteers frequently reported during his research.
The most extensive scientific study of the mental and perceptual effects of a psychedelic drug since the 1960s.
author of Ayahuasca: Consciousness and the Spirits of Nature
A dazzling journey through psychedelic drug experimentation and a tantalizing peek into a new model of how the brain and mind work. Strassman’s research points toward a physiological basis for spirit and its interaction with the human body; his data suggests that our brain chemistry allows us access to other realms of existence just when we need it most, and his story recounts both the dangers and promises of entering this brave new world.
Editor, Journal of Near-Death Studies
DMT: The Spirit Molecule points the way beyond the present impasse of the reigning 'drug abuse' paradigm.
author of The Age of Entheogens and Hallucinogenic Plants of North America
This book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the mind, philosophy, the nature of reality, and spirituality.