Transcendent Compounds, a subclass of Entheogens, are without doubt the safest mind altering substances known to humanity. They are non-toxic, non-addictive and psychologically safe in an appropriate dose, set and setting.
While it is understand that many may doubt my claims on this the science behind these claims is as about as definite as can be. In this post, I will be looking at some of the science and highlighting what research has to say about Transcendent Compounds.
After over seventy years of research, the science is quite clear. There are two excellent reviews of the literature that anybody can read. The first is by David E. Nichols who previously held the Robert C. and Charlotte P. Anderson Distinguished Chair in Pharmacology at Purdue University and is considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on hallucinogens.
Nichols is a well respected scientist and not an apologist, or activist for the use of these compounds and this is reflected in the quality of his work. In his paper, he addresses the possible harms posed by the use of these compounds, including the potential for mental illness and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD).
With respect to the mental illness, he reports that:
“these drugs do not appear to produce illness denovo in otherwise emotionally healthy persons, but these problems seem to be precipitated in predisposed individuals”.
While with respect to HPPD, he indicates that: “the incidence of HPPD appears to be very small”.
Whether you call them Transcendent Compounds, Entheogens, Hallucinogens, or Psychedelics, the great fear since the scaremongering of the 1960s is that the use of these substances will create a population of people who are mentally unstable and a danger to the community. The urban myth website Snopes.com dismisses some of the sillier stories here, here, here and here.
Two very recent studies involving hundreds of thousands of participants have not only demonstrated this concern to be unfounded, but provided compelling evidence that the use of hallucinogens may significantly improve people’s mental health.
In the first study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers examined the data from over 190,000 adult Americans responding to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health during the years 2008 to 2012. They found:
Lifetime classic psychedelic use was associated with a significantly reduced odds of past month psychological distress, past year suicidal thinking, past year suicidal planning (, and past year suicide attempt, whereas lifetime illicit use of other drugs was largely associated with an increased likelihood of these outcomes. These findings indicate that classic psychedelics may hold promise in the prevention of suicide.
This is an important finding, especially, given that suicide is one of Australia’s biggest killers and how intractable it has been to effectively manage. (Personal note: Elsewhere, I discuss how the use of Transcendent Compounds helped me turn my life around during a time in which I was suicidal.)
As if this weren’t enough, recent research involving over 130,000 people by two researchers at the The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) discovered (once again), that not only is the use of Hallucinogens not linked to mental health problems, but it its use positively correlates with a variety of positive mental health outcomes. Their results state:
21,967 respondents (13.4% weighted) reported lifetime psychedelic use. There were no significant associations between lifetime use of any psychedelics, lifetime use of specific psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, peyote), or past year use of LSD and increased rate of any of the mental health outcomes. Rather, in several cases psychedelic use was associated with lower rate of mental health problems.
In a followup study, the researchers once more examined any potential links between the use of psychedelics and negative mental health outcomes. Their abstract is worth reproducing in full:
A recent large population study of 130,000 adults in the United States failed to find evidence for a link between psychedelic use (lysergic acid diethylamide, psilocybin or mescaline) and mental health problems. Using a new data set consisting of 135,095 randomly selected United States adults, including 19,299 psychedelic users, we examine the associations between psychedelic use and mental health. After adjusting for sociodemographics, other drug use and childhood depression, we found no significant associations between lifetime use of psychedelics and increased likelihood of past year serious psychological distress, mental health treatment, suicidal thoughts, suicidal plans and suicide attempt, depression and anxiety. We failed to find evidence that psychedelic use is an independent risk factor for mental health problems. Psychedelics are not known to harm the brain or other body organs or to cause addiction or compulsive use; serious adverse events involving psychedelics are extremely rare. Overall, it is difficult to see how prohibition of psychedelics can be justified as a public health measure.
Given these positive mental health outcomes reported for people who have used Hallucinogens at some stage of their lives, and the undeniably mystical nature of many of these experiences, it is perhaps unsurprising that research has also shown that the administration of LSD to terminally ill patients can result in a significant decrease in symptoms of psychological distress.
In fact, research published in 2014 only confirmed the psychological safety of LSD, with the very first human trials in 40 years revealing that contrary to the scare lore, LSD can actually reduce anxiety associated with life threatening disease. Researchers Rick Doblin, David Nichols and John Halpern are interviewed about the research here.
The Council on Spiritual Practices also has quite a bit of information on Entheogens, including links to recent psilocybin studies that highlight the mystical experiences that people can experience in conjunction with these compounds.
While there is ample scientific research to demonstrate their psychological safety, research has also shown that these compounds can be of significant benefit to persons suffering from a variety of diagnosed medical conditions:
Cluster headaches are reported to be one of the most painful conditions known and there are no reliable treatments. However, both LSD and psilocybin have been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for this condition. From the abstract:
The authors interviewed 53 cluster headache patients who had used psilocybin or lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) to treat their condition. Twenty-two of 26 psilocybin users reported that psilocybin aborted attacks; 25 of 48 psilocybin users and 7 of 8 LSD users reported cluster period termination; 18 of 19 psilocybin users and 4 of 5 LSD users reported remission period extension. Research on the effects of psilocybin and LSD on cluster headache may be warranted.
Whereas most of this research involves the classical Hallucinogens, (LSD, Psilocybin and Mescaline), A recent editorial from the International Journal of Drug Policy, entitled a “Statement on Ayahusaca“, focuses exclusively on the South African brew in which DMT is the main psychoactive ingredient. In this Editorial, the journal’s editorial board and as well as a number of high profile scientists come out forcefully in support of the right to use the brew for religious and cultural purposes.
Furthermore, in 2012, the American Anthropological Association released a special Ayahuasca edition of their journal “Anthropology of Consciousness”. While most of the articles are hidden behind a firewall, there is an excellent article available freely called “Ayahuasca as Antidepressant? Psychedelics and Styles of Reasoning in Psychiatry”. From the abstract:
This article analyzes the academic literature on ayahuasca’s psychological effects to determine how this style of reasoning is shaping formal scientific discourse on ayahuasca’s therapeutic potential as a treatment for depression and anxiety.
Over seven decades of peer reviewed research clearly demonstrate that Transcendent Compounds are not only non-addictive, non-toxic and psychologically safe, but are also of great benefit, both in terms of general psychological well being, but also with respect to a number of very real and very serious medical conditions.
Few would argue that they are perfectly safe (nothing is), but any dangers are certainly within the acceptable limits for an educated and aware population. As I have previously discussed elsewhere, any risk certainly lies within the limits that are already accepted in many of our daily activities.
Irrespective of issues of religious freedom, I would suggest that in a sensible, democratic, well-functioning society, non-addictive, non-toxic and psychologically safe compounds are precisely the sort that we should be promoting as an alternative to the highly toxic, addictive and violence inducing legal alternative: alcohol.
In allowing the use of safe mind altering substances, in controlled environments, governments will be doing more to effectively tackle the scourge of alcohol abuse in this country than any government thus far. While there is some research suggestive of LSD being an effective treatment for alcohol addiction, a person is highly unlikely to use Transcendent Compounds and alcohol simultaneously, especially if using them within a religious and spiritual framework.
In allowing citizens to reduce their exposure to alcohol, by accessing safer compounds, we allow them a greater chance of resisting its addictive and toxic impacts and the severe social and medical harms entailed by its use.
Not only are there no scientific reasons for prohibiting Transcendent Compounds for spiritual and religious purposes, there is abundant scientific evidence that regulated access would be highly beneficial to our community.
Note: I have sourced several of these papers from the excellent Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) website, and one can find quite a few other peer reviewed papers available there.