The medicalisation of psychedelics
Love was never meant to be contained.
Due to proven therapeutic success psychedelics are perceived by an increasing public perception in a new light that shines through the discrediting propaganda fog of the last decades. MAPS played a big role in this by freeing war veterans from PTSD (with the help of MDMA) and taking away the end-of-life anxiety of dying people (psilocybin). As long as the medical way is used as a trojan horse to change misconceptions about these substances and to change their public position for the better, it is a clever and meaningful approach. However, voices repeatedly appear with the viewpoint that a psychedelic experience should take place exclusively under medical-therapeutic supervision. Whether the focus on medicalization is seen as a tactical concession to the ruling system or whether one stands behind it dogmatically – this discourse has concrete effects. Form and content of a discourse influence the participants’ perception of its subject. As a regulated social-communicative practice, a discourse determines which life-world order is the right one.
The concentration of the decriminalization discourse on therapeutic success according to rational scientific standards causes a discursive desolation in regard to what psychedelics actually have to offer. It is accompanied by inappropriate drought, a dull rationalization of the phenomenon of its opulent effect. Within this discourse the psychedelic substances are functionalized and determined for only a specific purpose. They are used to remedy a firmly defined deficiency. The sovereignty of administration is attributed to doctors and therapists who have undergone a strict western rational training. However, the thematic restriction to such a western-rational (supposed) professionalization does by no means do justice to these substances.
The implication of the psychedelic experience is so profound that it cannot be rationalized. It can be used for therapeutic purposes, but cannot be reduced or exclusively functionalized for this purpose. It is far too deep, diverse, unpredictable in the best sense and transcendent. Instead of remedying a lack condition, as it is the goal of western medicine, psychedelics are ideally able to show that there has never been a lack. Why don’t we turn the tables? Psychedelics do not have to be integrated into the predominant medical system – it is the predominant medical system that should acquire psychedelic wisdom.
Western mechanistic medicine works within the dichotomous paradigm of health and illness. It is considered to make sane who is insane. A disease is closely defined not only in the physiological but also in the psychological-psychiatric field. Anyone who does not meet a certain percentage of symptoms does not have the disease according to the arbitrarily set threshold value. This conceptualization of suffering may be useful for communicative purposes, but it cannot be taken into the space that gets opened by psychedelics. Arbitrary human settlements that have become fixed definitions and conditions are exactly what becomes abolished within the psychedelic experience. Here in Germany the need for therapy is a legal question. In § 120 of the General Social Security Act, mental illness is defined as an “irregular state of mind”. Does this sound like a system that would be appropriate to be granted the sovereignty of interpretation about who can and who cannot have a psychedelic experience?
The psychedelic healing potential emerges from the initiation of an unusual state of mind in the first place. Not only within the horizon of a psychedelic experience can’t the notion of a tightly definable psychopathological disease be maintained. Psycho-emotional deficiency is inevitable in a society driven by competition and pressure to perform. Our society is pervaded by empty sensory overstimulation, narcissistic idolatry of superficiality, self-centered devaluation mechanisms, mindless optimization mania and a narrow-minded pursuit of profit. The system that structures our coexistence is alienating and this alienation affects everyone, only the degrees of alienation are different. If there is no right life in the wrong one, as Adorno claimed, in a wrong environment everyone is inevitably emotionally injured and presumably traumatized. The dual scheme of ill/healthy is invalid if everyone is psycho-pathologically affected. In almost every human being there are energetic blockages that can be directly processed in the high-energy state conveyed by psychedelics. There is no need for a medical diagnosis to have a need and a desire to open the mind and the heart.
Generally, there is no one who cannot benefit from the psychedelic experience. This does not mean that everyone is ready for it at any time. It is about the fact that its depth and epistemological consequence could be a gift to everyone as long as one is ready for it. It concerns the level of senses, the level of emotions and above all the level of mysticism and spirituality. With the temporary elimination of mental conditioning, the space of consciousness opens up and we can see the world for what it really is: spiritual. We have the opportunity to recognize ourselves –on various relative levels that were previously inaccessible and on the absolute level. This exploration of the existential-spiritual dimension and ultimately non-dual state is probably the most valuable revelation within the human realm. A mystical experience has nothing to do with medicinal attributive pathologization, it is everyone’s birthright. Taking a psychedelic can induce a fundamental experience within minutes if not seconds that even people who have been meditating in a monastery for 30 years often don’t undergo. Psychedelics in this context are neither an abbreviation nor a cheat, but – applied in the right way – a powerful supplement to the practice of self-enquiry and meditation.
An essential factor of the psychedelic experience is creativity. Due to the accompanying re-connection of brain areas, its creative potential seems endless. It opens the mind for new perspectives and unknown perceptions. This aspect doesn’t only concern the field of art. There are also scientists and entrepreneurs whose groundbreaking ideas were related to psychedelics. In Silicon Valley today, it is even common practice to promote the development spirit with microdoses. A psychedelic can blow a fresh breeze over every path of life. Contents of everyday life or even the entire biography can be viewed from a new perspective. Even the most everyday things can be admired again with the carefree eyes of a young child. Phenomena of nature are perceptible through the psychedelic lens in a way that is not possible for everyday perception. This does not mean that one can’t thoroughly marvel at the infinite beauty of nature soberly. The psychedelic play of forms and colours, however, has its very own charm. The purity of the gaze, which the psychedelic anchoring in the Now can entail, is otherwise not accessible to many people, since their view is compulsively superimposed by everyday thoughts.
Then there is the approach of using psychedelics exclusively for recreational purposes. One can discuss whether or not this kind of use is appropriate for the psychedelic reservoir, but it is not reprehensible per se. Under appropriate conditions these substances have a concrete enrichment potential and can make various activities such as cinemas, music events, sports or sex even more special than they already are. There’s no limit. This does not mean that these substances should be taken as often as possible. On the contrary: less is more. However, the education necessary for a correct use cannot be the task of conventional medicine. Not only the current statutory withholding, but also a possible restriction of the use to western medical mechanics is a crime against the freedom of consciousness and self-expression.