When it comes to substance use and abuse, our society is built upon a bedrock of hypocrisy. Ours is a society which demonizes psychedelics and celebrates alcohol, despite the fact that alcohol is not only a drug, it is also a poison to the human body, classed as a “Group 1 Carcinogen” – making it as carcinogenic as HIV, asbestos, plutonium, and mustard gas. Isn’t it funny how we use the colloquialism “drugs and alcohol,” as if the two were separate things? Alcohol is most certainly a drug.
Alcohol is closely linked to many forms of cancer as well as a wide variety of diseases and illnesses. It causes millions of deaths per year, is closely linked with assaults (and sexual assault), enhances many social and relationship problems, is highly addictive, and contributes to a large proportion of crime and costs to the economy. But it makes for great business, and brings in so much cash in many different ways. If the media were totally objective, they’d be reporting on the detrimental effects of alcohol like this:
We drink alcohol at nearly every single social event or gathering we attend, whether it be a birthday party, a child’s party, a wake, marriage, public holiday, or sporting event. We drink just because it’s the weekend or because we had a long day at work. And why? The most common (usually unspoken) reasons are “social lubrication” or escapism. We are trying to escape from feelings, emotions, memories, reality, or the troubling aspects of our lives. Often we need it to have an interesting conversation, to make human interactions more appealing. What a world we live in, that we should need an escape so badly. There are so many people addicted to alcohol at least on some level.
And we normalize this behaviour for our children, drinking around them without a second thought, not considering how we are silently passing this mentality on to them. We live in a society which celebrates this madness. It’s sold everywhere and seen everywhere – advertisements, television, all kinds of media. It is causing harm to many people and killing many more, yet we parade it around like it’s “normal.”
Yet on the other hand, our society generally fears and demonizes – for the most part – naturally occurring plants and fungi which are well known to expand consciousness and be psychotherapeutic in certain instances. There are thousands of books written by poets, philosophers, professors, artists, and contemplatives on how amazing they are. When was the last time you saw a book about how good alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine is?
There is this fear and stigma created by the media and governing bodies that psychedelics (such as psilocybin, LSD, peyote, and mescaline) cause mental problems. Turns out it couldn’t be further from the truth. A meta-analysis published recently in one of today’s most prominent scientific journals, Nature, found no such link, and in fact stated that “psychedelic use is associated with a lower risk of mental health problems like psychosis, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and general psychological distress.”
Not only that, many of these plants are being used in psychotherapy to manage and even cure the problems that our legal drugs are causing, especially alcoholism, and mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Psychedelics have never caused a single death, as they are not a poison like most of our legal drugs. So we celebrate and revere the drugs that make us sick, stupid, and dead, and we fear and demonize those that expand our minds and heal our illnesses.
Here is an amazing article written by acclaimed author Michael Pollan in (finally!) a fairly mainstream publication on exactly how these substances work to alleviate disorders, illnesses, and what I find the most promising – the fear of dying. It truly is an amazing read if you want to see which way the field of psychotherapy is heading.
“I think it’s obvious that the psychedelics are demonized and illegalized by our society because somewhere in our society are controlling minds that realize that these substances have the potential, have the power to unpick the controlling hierarchy.”