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Hallucinogenics aren’t just for hippies: new studies research the aid of ‘acid’

Hallucinogenics aren’t just for hippies: new studies research the aid of ‘acid’

Hallucinogenics aren’t just for hippies: new studies research the aid of ‘acid’
March 08
14:00 2022

In and out. In and out.

With every breath, the inflation of your lungs becomes more strained. A rush of heat floods your body. Dewdrops of sweat cover your forehead. Your only concentration is the next labored breath of air.

In and out. 

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting roughly 40 million adults each year. Mental illness plagues its sufferers, while debilitating symptoms often prevent them from living normal lives. 

The University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School — the first of its kind in the typically red, anti-drug state of Texas — is researching a new method of treatment for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder: psychedelic drugs.  

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was first developed by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman in the late ’30s. By the ’50s the drug, commonly referred to as “acid,” became a hallmark of experimental psychotherapy. But eventually a governmental resistance to hippy counterculture halted the manufacture of LSD and illegalized its distribution. 

In the ’90s, academic intrigue in hallucinogenic drugs returned and patient experimentation resumed. Since then, several universities have opened programs that lead the research of what the Drug Enforcement Agency classifies as substances with “high potential of abuse,” or Schedule I drugs.

LSD, ketamine, psilocybin mushrooms, MDMA and marijuana are being distributed in controlled studies to treat the most severe cases of mental illness. The Center for Psychedelic Research and Therapy at UT Austin will focus on the uses of mushrooms, ecstasy and other herbal hallucination-inducing substances. 

A common misconception of these research programs is the way they are run. There are no prescriptions, no daily dose, no morning tabs. Instead, the patients are given small doses two or three times a week for several weeks and lead through therapeutic techniques by a licensed physician. 

One of the most notable effects of hallucinogens is the out-of-body experiences described by the users. A new level of consciousness and a developed sense of self-awareness are the greatest attractions of these substances. Researchers believe they can use these heightened senses to unveil the reasonings behind each patient’s mental illness and elevate the sufferer to a deeper understanding, hopefully to a point of recovery

Universities across the nation are studying other impacts of the drugs, assessing how they can be used to treat other conditions, such as substance abuse. Findings in the initial studies of the ’60s suggested that nicotine addictions could be reversed with LSD. Johns Hopkins University, the United States’ premier research facility, is using psilocybin to treat alcoholism, anorexia, and even Alzheimer’s. 

The University of North Texas is one of 146 research universities in the United States. There are currently seven different labs in the university’s psychology department. Several of those studies focus on anxiety, depression, PTSD, and substance abuse. The DEAR Lab, a study at UNT directed by Dr. Casey Guillot, lists its research focus as, “disposition, emotion and addiction research, with a current focus on anxiety and smoking.”

While the university does not have an active study that includes the research of hallucinogenic drugs, several of them could potentially benefit and contribute to the research that is rewriting what it means to “trip.” Hallucinogenic research would be just another way UNT proves it deserves to be regarded as an esteemed university. 

The powers of hallucinogenic drugs as medical treatment are undetermined, but are academically and invariably agreed to be unlimited. One day, with the use of a drug the government feared, sufferers of anxiety will find it just a bit easier to breathe.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Alyssa Fields

Alyssa Fields

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