Psychedelic substances have been used by people all over the world throughout history. Whether it is eating mushrooms or smoking plants these perfectly natural substances are believed—by ancient cultures—to help encourage enlightenment and a heightened sense of self.
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But even in the modern world, psychedelic drugs are popular. “Over 30 million US adults have tried psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of health problems,” says clinical psychologist Pål-Ørjan Johansen, who is the author of a new study which investigates the lasting effect of these natural chemical compounds.
For many years, health officials—and perhaps even law enforcement—have advised that these drugs can “rot your brain,” but this study proves otherwise.
Study co-author, neuroscientist, Teri Krebs, comments, “Drug experts consistently rank LSD and psilocybin mushrooms as much less harmful to the individual user and to society compared to alcohol and other controlled substances.”
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Furthermore, the study authors argue that “Concerns have been raised that the ban on use of psychedelics is a violation of the human rights to belief and spiritual practice, full development of the personality, and free-time and play.”
At the end of the day, though, Johansen reminds that, due to the nature and limitations of the study, the researchers cannot “exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others.”
**A psychedelic substance is a psychoactive drug whose primary action is to alter cognition and perception, typically by agonising serotonin receptors. Psychedelics are part of a wider class of psychoactive drugs known as hallucinogens, a class that also includes mechanistically unrelated substances such as dissociatives and deliriants. Unlike other drugs such as stimulants and opioids which induce familiar states of consciousness, psychedelics tend to affect the mind in ways that result in the experience being qualitatively different from those of ordinary consciousness. The psychedelic experience is often compared to non-ordinary forms of consciousness such as trance, meditation, yoga, religious ecstasy, dreaming and even near-death experiences. With a few exceptions, most psychedelic drugs fall into one of the three following families of chemical compounds; tryptamines,phenethylamines, and lysergamides.
Many psychedelic drugs are illegal worldwide under the UN conventions unless used in a medical or religious context, such as medical cannabis or ayahuasca. Despite these regulations, recreational use of psychedelics is common.