Throughout history, psychoactive drugs have been seen by certain people as medicinal, philosophical, spiritual, and evil, all at once.
With contemporary technology, these drugs have shown potential as therapies for various mental-health issues, as well as possible tools in explaining human consciousness.
The drug ketamine, popularly known as “Special K,” is already popular in clinical trials, used as an anesthetic in humans and animals. Research has also proven its effectiveness as a fast-acting antidepressant and treatment for bi-polar disorder.
Marijuana – the ubiquitous “gateway drug” whose illegality has been debated and challenged for decades – is already legal in many countries and US states for medical use, treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and glaucoma, among other illnesses.
The biggest obstacle to the research of psychotic drugs as medicine is the traditional, conservative attitudes of lawmakers and certain sectors. Sponsors are wary of getting involved; regulations make testing impossible. In the end, despite promising hypotheses, the potential life-improving substances are relegated to the murky, criminal underworld.
There are several scientists who are working against the stream, conducting human research on psychedelic drugs – particularly LSD, ketamine and psilocybin – in order to determine their utility as treatments in medical therapies and trying to gain more knowledge on human.
David Nutt, of London’s Imperial College, is a professor of neuropsychopharmacology. He has made the completely novel, modern step of looking to crowdfunding (on the Walacea platform) for his innovative, controversial research on LSD.
“Despite the incredible potential of this drug to further our understanding of the brain, political stigma has silenced research,” Nutt argues. “We must not play politics with promising science that has so much potential for good.”
Nutt is currently conducting studies in which subjects are administered doses of LSD and analyzed using fMRI and MEG imaging systems, which both measure brain function differently.
Nutt – who is currently waiting for more funding before he can continue his work – believes that LSD most likely has an effect of reducing blood flow to the brain, which temporarily inhibits activity but, in the long run, increases connectivity. LSD could help revive regions of the brain that have been deteriorated by disease. Additionally, the drug could increase creativity because of communicating brain regions that previously operated independently.