The Numbers are Depressing
What on Earth are we waiting for before we realise that the solution is staring us in the face? Well waiting is a passive verb and it is increasingly becoming more obvious that the suppression and distortion of information and truth about these sacred medicines (such as Ayahuasca, San Pedro, Iboga and Psilocybin) is more of an active and deliberate thing rather than a passive and accidental one.
Think about it. According to the World Health Organisation, Depression is the number one affliction known to mankind. It is so widespread across gender, culture and age (estimated 350 million people worldwide), that no disease comes as close to get such global status. It might sound as a generalisation but the widespread problem of depression and anxiety are the symptoms of the underlying psychosis and neurosis of modern man which according to Carl Jung arises from a deep ‘Schism or split in our Psyche’.
May sound paranoid (we don’t really care at this point) but who or what is interested in keeping this split in the human psyche? I can think of a long list of contenders but I’m sure it’s hard to ever get to the bottom of it. So instead let’s keep in mind that it is against the interest of many that we become whole, balanced, sane and free individuals which would then be reflected back into a free and sane society. A brave new world is dangerous and we don’t want that do we?
Recent studies and research on the sacred medicine brew Ayahuasca and Psilocybin, the psychoactive substance in Psilocybe Cubensis species (or Magic Mushrooms), although very limited and restricted have yielded undeniable results: Even after one single session, people suffering from severe depression have been able to drastically decrease it for a long period of time afterwards and in some cases it has been completely cured.
Ayahuasca - The Great Healer
People who work with the medicine or those thousands of people who have experienced its powerful effects will all refer to the Ayahuasca brew as the great healer or great teacher among other names. This is something that is hard to relate to if you have never experienced the medicine first hand. For Science and scientists, the realm of the sacredness and ceremonial setting is cast aside and the active molecular compound in the brew (Dimethyltryptamine or DMT) have started to be tested for its potential pharmacological benefits. Well that’s still a good start considering that research is still very restricted owing to the illegal status of the medicine in many countries.
The scientific journal ‘Nature’ has highlighted how in a study carried out by the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil (where the Ayahuasca brew is legal), researchers were able to demonstrate that within hours of intake of Ayahuasca, a small group of six individuals suffering from major depression were able to alleviate the symptoms even for weeks after the single session. A second study by the same researchers increased the number of participants to seventeen and used neuro-imaging to see blood flow and brain activity during the session. None of the seventeen participants had ever had Ayahuasca before. The setting was simple and non-ceremonial – just a dimly lit room with a comfortable reclining chair. Various standard questionnaires designed to test for symptoms of depression were given to the participants ten minutes before the session, multiple times during the session and up to three weeks after. The anti-depressant effects of Ayahuasca was reported from all the participants up to the last questionnaire some three weeks later.
The researchers intend to continue the study by increasing the sample size and doing randomised, double-bind and controlled experiments but the initial indication is more than clear – one of the many healing potentials of Ayahuasca is to rewire neural pathways (hence healing traumatic memories and deep seated fear) and getting people ‘outside of their heads’ and ‘into their hearts’. In scientific language it is referred to as reducing activity in the default mode network, which is usually very active in depression sufferers. In fact depression is mainly when people are constantly overthinking and reinforcing negative thought patterns (which neuroscience associates with activity in the default mode network).
Psilocybin - The Magician
Other studies have been carried out on Psilocybin (such as the ones by Roland Griffiths of the John Hopkins University) with a similar experimental setup and methodology and an even more similar positive results: One single session of Psilocybin has in all cases of people suffering depression alleviated the symptoms for a long period of time and in some cases completely cured. The results are not only promising but smashing.
The Next Steps
Once again I come back to the opening question: What on earth are we waiting for? There are many obstacles – the vested interested of big pharma companies, legislation, political will, public misinformation, the over-sluggish drug trial processes (which can take years for any drug to enter the market) and so on and so forth. What is the likelihood that these natural healers enter into the pharmaceutical market streams? or should they? I for one am not convinced they should be commercialised and channeled through the normal streams from the lab to the factory conveyer belt. This is after all what people around the Psychedelic culture and what Terrence McKenna referred to as the ‘Archaic Revolution’ seeks to address and envision – a brave new world out of the grips of the hierarchical, flattened and reductionistic approach and in favour of a more ecological, interconnected, interdisciplinary and open one.