Psychedelic Medicine

Mind bending, health giving


| March 3, 2005


Scientists around the globe are revisiting the healing properties of psychedelic drugs such as LSD (known on the street as acid), MDMA (ecstasy), psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and DMT (or the Amazonian shamanic elixir, ayahuasca).

Scientists have been sheepish in researching these sorts of psychedelic drugs ever since Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary unintentionally minimized their medicinal value with 'far out' talk about using them as a gateway to spiritual enlightenment. But in the Nineties, John Halpern, associate director of substance abuse research at Harvard University's McLean Hospital, was compelled to learn more about hallucinogens after overhearing a psychiatrist tout the powers of LSD in treating addiction.

Recently, Halpern celebrated the FDA's approval of MDMA as a way to treat terminally ill cancer patients who are trying to come to terms with impending death. And he hopes LSD will soon be approved as a pain reliever for cluster headaches, which have the same pain level as passing a kidney stone or giving birth.

Halpern, who is currently testing the risks associated with the use of peyote and MDMA, emphasizes that his first goal is to evaluate the safety of psychedelics. He is also studying the use of psilocybin to alleviate distress associated with terminal illness and to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder.
-- Marca Bradt

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