“The right to control one’s own consciousness is the quintessence of freedom.”
-Richard Glen Boire
Technology, as you know, has been evolving at breakneck speed. Yet, our consciousness about technology — and, for that matter, ourselves and our individual places in the world — has remained fairly stagnant.
Why is this?
We can only speculate for now…
But, for one, mental health as a “public” issue has been swept under the rug in much of the developed world. In its place, in America at least, we still seem to cherish the absurd game of Keeping Up With the Joneses’ and, of course, Looking Good at all Costs. Butts are botoxed. Lips are inflated. Boobs are pumped. Skin is stretched. Nipped. Tucked. Flattened. Sucked. On the other end of the spectrum, soul-seekers spend thousands to travel to far-off lands in an effort to “find themselves.” Only to find out, of course, that wherever they go… there they are. Fortunately, according to the psychedelic “creative minority” I’ve spoken to this week, a paradigm shift is afoot. And psychedelics, it seems, will lead the charge. For example, according to Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association For Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), psychedelics will help usher in a completely new paradigm for mental health. And the world will be a much happier, healthier place because of it. More on that, though, in a moment.
OK. In case you haven’t been following our daily missives, psychedelics have been on my mind lately. Figuratively, of course.
Which is why I flew from San Francisco to Prague to attend Beyond Psychedelics — the world’s first multidisciplinary forum on psychedelics. (Also, a decentralization conference called Hackers Congress is happening right down the street. More on that, though, next week.) “The aim of the conference,” the website reads, “is to create a platform for global cooperation of various people with a professional or other interest in psychedelics and also from other areas where psychedelics can be — but are not necessarily always involved, like drug policy, harm reduction, mental health, spirituality and religion, ecology, etc. “Generally,” the conference’s website goes on, “we aim to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience at the global level, incorporate cross-cultural perspectives, discuss strategies from the global perspective, and create new synergies. We will discuss existing and also potential role of psychedelics in contemporary society.”
Upon writing, we’re sitting in the venue — a repurposed wastewater treatment plant — listening to Doblin speak about the future of medicine. His biggest prediction? Ten years from today, psychedelic therapy treatment centers will likely be the norm. In a decade from now, Doblin says, America will be awash in centers filled with yoga studios, float tanks, massage beds and, of course, psychedelic drugs. This idea isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. Psychedelic research is on the cusp of exiting the Dark Ages. Soon, psychedelics will bask in the sunlight of truth and shake off much of the stigma surrounding them since Nixon called Timothy Leary “the most dangerous man.” Just as marijuana is now shaking off its stigma, Doblin points out, now that the masses understand the wider implications of pot prohibition — and all of the people suffering needlessly because of it.
Putting it simply, psychedelic drugs, among other things, increase entropy in the brain and create new neural pathways. Not only is this beneficial in general for human evolution (and, Doblin says, possibly even necessary for human survival), it can also mean the difference between life and death for, to name a couple of examples, the chronically depressed and victims of PTSD.
MAPS is currently working directly with the FDA (yeah… I know) to bring MDMA to the market, which has shown, incredibly, according to Doblin, to cure PTSD in two-thirds of patients who undergo 12-month extended therapy. Now, think about that. With, on average, 22 veterans committing suicide each day in America (that’s one every 65 minutes), our vets need all the help they can get. And since the word “cure” doesn’t exist in Big Pharma’s lexicon (Big Pharma has never cured a thing, they only look to control symptoms), it’s time we look forward to greener, and, yes, potentially much weirder, pastures.
Enter psychedelic drugs.
While Rick believes that mass acceptance of psychedelics in society will come through medical benefits alone, William Montgomery of the Cognitive Freedom Alliance, another speaker here, says that cognitive liberty — the idea that each individual owns his or her own consciousness — should be fundamental when we discuss the decriminalization of psychedelic drugs.
Who, we ask, has the right to rule what ideas pass through your mind? Taken further, who has the right to regulate how you use your mind? The proper answer is nobody. Not the DEA. Not Congress. Not anyone.
Cognitive liberty, we find, is the cornerstone of individual liberty. Because if you’re not free to think for yourself or alter your consciousness on your own terms, how free are you actually? If you do not have autonomy over your own brain chemistry, how can you claim to have any autonomy at all? And that’s just the beginning of our conversations here at Beyond Psychedelics. All weekend, we’ll be hearing from speakers who are at the bleeding edge of this new paradigm. For example, Melissa Bone, PhD, of University of Leicester, is discussing how the human rights discussion can shed new light on the War on Drugs.
Stephen Bright, a clinically-trained psychologist, will speak about why we should be honest about the benefits of drug use and go beyond just speaking about harm reduction.
Robin Carhart-Harris, a leading neuroscientist at Imperial College London, will talk about psilocybin for depression.
Jordi Riba, who holds a PhD in Pharmacology, will speak about ayahuasca and its place as an emerging therapeutic tool.
And that’s just on day one. If you want to learn more about the Psychedelics Beyond conference, and keep up to date on what’s happening here on the ground, check out their website right here at this link. For more on what I’m getting into while in Prague, stay tuned. Much more to report coming at Beyond Psychedelics coming soon.
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today