Do Psychedelics Drive You Crazy Or Keep You Sane?

March 11, 2015 3:55 PM

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Psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin (found in “magic mushrooms”), and mescaline (the active ingredient in peyote) were once called “psychotomimetic” because they were said to simulate the symptoms of schizophrenia. At first that purported quality inspired hope that psychedelics would help scientists understand the roots of mental illness. But after these drugs escaped from the lab in the 1960s, their reputation as “insanity chemicals” inspired fear that they would drive people crazy, maybe for good. That fear, in turn, inspired scare stories about acid droppers who fell to their deaths after trying to fly, tore out their own eyeballs, or stared at the sun until they went blind.

The psychotomimetic slur continues to influence public policy, as reflected in the fact that LSD et al. are still prohibited in virtually all circumstances by laws that prescribe severe penalties for suppliers. A study published this month in the Journal of Psychopharmacology casts further doubt on ...

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