Psychedelic drugs have been recast as possible solutions to a range of emotional problems. (©Pavel – stock.adobe.com)
Years before Sean Roth underwent ketamine-assisted psychotherapy — an early hint of what a fully legal psychedelic-drug industry might look like — he’d gotten out of a relationship. As he went through more traditional therapy, he decided to go on a 10-day silent retreat. But the meditative process, known as Vipassana, pulled the lid off his past and left his ego bruised. His therapist, with whom he’d become close, died. So Roth took antidepressants. As a side effect, he began obsessing over things.
Then Roth, a 38-year-old owner of a tattoo and piercing studio in the Los Angeles area, early last year tried ketamine therapy, which combines psychotherapy — sofa and all — with the legal anesthetic also used as a party drug. In the days that followed, he lost unwanted weight. He went deeper emotionally with his new therapist. He ran two marathons. Roughly a year into the ketamine treatment, Roth was off traditional, prescription antidepressants.
“It’s just being mindful that you’re a person in this world,” he said of the therapy’s effects. “People care about you. They love you. And they need your love in return.”
With similar testimonials emerging, psychedelic drugs have been recast as possible solutions to a range of emotional problems. Scientists are revisiting hallucinogens like mushrooms, LSD and others as possible therapeutics for depression, addiction, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. And as the coronavirus pandemic fries away the population’s mental health, the possibilities are attracting more money.
Now, psychedelic startups, backed by investors dangling money and stock listings, are jumping in. As they do, they’re also bringing capitalism’s competitive drive to substances rooted in cultures that often avoided it.
Published: August 28, 2020
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