Some spiritual adherents use the term bodymind to denote a view of the body and mind as an indivisible unit. The interdependence of body and mind supports this view: Changes to the body can bring changes to the mind, and vice-versa. This opens up new possibilities for the way psychedelics may affect and evolve the body in the future…
As an example of how processes with mental origins can affect physical function, emotions like fear, anxiety, and sadness have been shown to raise glucose levels in the blood, while laughter influences the immune system and may help counteract the effects of diabetes.
This body-mind connection goes a long way in explaining how psychedelics, while known mainly for their effects on consciousness, can improve physical health. For instance, according to one recent study, psychedelics may help reduce the risks of cancer, heart conditions, and obesity.
As the inevitable legalization of psychedelics draws nearer, we’ll be seeing an upsurge of scientific inquiries into the physical benefits of these endlessly intriguing compounds. Right at the top of the list is the great promise they’ve shown as cures for addiction.
Breaking the Habit
Whereas many purported cures for addiction involve the replacement of one addictive substance with another, a single dose of a non-addictive psychedelic can sometimes bring long-term freedom from chemical dependency.
Some of the earliest known searches for an entheogenic cure for substance addiction centered on LSD. Inquiries into LSD’s potential as a cure for alcoholism began soon after its discoverer, Albert Hofmann, took history’s first acid trip in 1943.
Researchers like Humphry Osmond and Abram Hoffer got “startling results” when using LSD to treat alcohol addiction, with 40 to 45 percent of the participants in one study still sober a year later. Along with his own LSD experiences, statistics like these made a believer out of Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson, who became a staunch advocate for the use of LSD in treating alcoholism.
The U.S. government began cracking down on LSD research in the mid-’60s, prompting Senator Robert F. Kennedy to comment in a congressional hearing, “Perhaps to some extent we have lost sight of the fact that [LSD] can be very, very helpful in our society if used properly.”
Here in the post-prohibition age, researchers are putting Kennedy’s claim to the test. For instance, one study from 2012 linked a single dose of LSD to a six-month-long decrease in alcohol abuse, and this 2020 study builds a strong case for the use of LSD in the treatment of alcoholism.
Psilocybin, too, has been studied as a potential cure for alcohol dependency. In a Heffter Institute-supported study at the University of New Mexico, ten volunteers who suffered from alcohol addiction underwent one or two supervised psilocybin sessions in conjunction with conventional therapy.
“Abstinence did not increase significantly in the first 4 weeks of treatment (when participants had not yet received psilocybin), but increased significantly following psilocybin administration,” the paper reads. “Gains were largely maintained at follow-up to 36 weeks.”
Psilocybin is also being examined as a potential cure for addiction to cocaine, crystal meth, and nicotine. Results in the latter area are particularly impressive: Six months after completing a psilocybin-based program for quitting smoking, 12 out of 15 participants (80 percent) were still abstinent. By comparison, standard smoking cessation therapies have reported success rates of approximately 35 percent.
With opioid-related deaths rocketing out of control, the West African shrub-derived compound ibogaine, with its unsurpassed ability to stop opioid addiction in its tracks, is another of psychedelic science’s brightest hopes.
Clinical trial results and innumerable personal accounts bear witness to its anti-addictive powers. Scientific researcher Howard Lotsof has claimed that it can cure hardcore addiction within two or three days, and Hunter Biden—yes, the son of President Joe Biden—credits ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT with helping him quit drugs, including alcohol, for a year.
Numerous users of both peyote and huachuma (San Pedro cactus) have claimed that these sacraments have the capacity to cure alcoholism and drug addiction. Science is beginning to show a renewed interest in the medicinal value of mescaline, the psychoactive ingredient in both of these plants.
Ayahuasca is another entheogen that may aid in recovery from addiction. In light of the fact that reduced amounts of serotonin have been found in the brains of addiction sufferers, aya’s ability to raise serotonin levels suggests that further research in this area may well be warranted.
The Trip That Heals
Ayahuasca’s possible anti-addictive value is just one of its reported health benefits. According to a recent study, its users tend to have less sleep problems, lower body mass indexes, and fewer cases of hypertension and high cholesterol than average. 56 percent of this study’s participants also credit ayahuasca with enabling them to reduce their use of prescription drugs.
DMT, the psychoactive component of ayahuasca, is also being studied for its capacity for neuroprotection and neurogenesis. Specifically, researchers for Canada’s Algernon Pharmaceuticals are testing this molecule’s possible ability to rebuild the brains of stroke victims.
If these trials prove successful, stroke patients may receive microdoses of DMT the moment they enter the ambulance. This could open the gates to future research on DMT as a cure for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other such disorders.
Ibogaine and psilocybin are also being studied as potential treatments for Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. The latter of these compounds, along with LSD, has been shown to bring relief from migraines and cluster headaches as well.
Various patients have claimed that the aforementioned huachuma can bring healing and relief to sufferers of cancer, cardiac disease, diabetes, hepatitis, and other serious conditions. This cacti is also reportedly an antimicrobial agent, capable of fighting several types of penicillin-resistant bacteria.
Lastly, as acceptance and accessibility of these medicines begins to grow, it’s likely that more and more people will be exploring the use of MDMA and other psychedelics for sexual enhancement. In these times of turbulence and uncertainty, who couldn’t use a little sexual healing?
Damon Orion is a writer, journalist, musician, artist and teacher living in the mountains of Santa Cruz, California. More of his work can be found at DamonOrion.com