There is a trend in America. Our society appears to be increasingly in search of chemical solutions to problems. You cannot watch television without being bombarded with ads for various solutions. They encourage us to "ask our doctor" about their solution to our problem (whatever it may be). The truly aged may remember Mother's Little Helper in 1966. Others may instead remember White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane:
"One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you, don't do anything at all"
The use of drugs is nothing new to American culture. Drug use, drug acceptance, and drug culture have been with us many years. It is glamorized or humored in music, television, and on the big screen.
But, there are some who wonder about the current trend toward greater acceptance of recreational drug use. With the Millennials more interested in dope than alcohol, questions are asked and petitions are signed. "Legalization" is discussed in states, while "decriminalization" is a more accurate label in light of federal regulation.
What do the pills do? What are the long term affects? What price might society pay in the long run (remember when cigarette companies had doctors endorsing their products, which we later learned actually can kill people?) Are we, as a society, simply enthralled with the pharmaceutical solutions to all our problems or maladies? If one substance can gain market acceptance without science or study, what is the justification for regulatory constraint on other substances?
A fascinating recent article on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) website caught my attention: The 'Psychedelics Coach' with Drug-Fueled Career Advice. When one is seeking guidance, how prevalent is the thought "I need some mind altering drugs to help me through this?" Once one starts down that road, needing some recreational drugs for this decision, might one need some more for the next decision? And, on what training or expertise does one stand when claiming to be able to help people safely and effectively trip?
Though this is a BBC article, it focuses on a gentleman in California who offers services as a "psychedelics coach." Psychedelics include "magic mushrooms," and LSD. They are "best known for their hallucinogenic effects." Perhaps not the best path forward when making career decisions? In planning your future, is it really best to somehow chemically detach from reality?
According to the BBC, psychedelics are "fixtures in Silicon Valley’s tech-heavy and success-obsessed culture." They are taken with the intent of enhancing mental acuity in some "altered state," in an effort to accomplish feelings of "humbling," "liberating," and to help "understand . . . potential.”
The path is described as "microdosing," which is "the practice of taking a low dose of the drugs." This is seen as potentially enhancing "creativity, productivity, and general well-being." Apparently, the use of hallucinogens for enhancement dates to the 1950s, and has been linked to such technology luminaries as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The article contends this practice has enjoyed increasing acceptance, but concedes that "there is little data to back up these claims." One wonders if a little LSD is good, how much is bad?
A stated problem with microdosing is establishing the dose. Notably, those who are engaging this process are likely not doing so with the help of a physician. A physician would not prescribe LSD, but might they recommend it? One of the proponents says that finding the right microdose may require "a little help.” Thus, the role of "psychedelics coach." So, those purporting expertise from their own significant experience taking illegal drugs coach others in their use. The coach featured in the article believes that his clients are seeking meaning in their work and see psychedelic drugs as aiding in that search. He seeks to assist others with using these drugs "in a safe, meaningful way."
We live in a society that may vilify or prosecute medical doctors for the advice they render or care they provide. But, it appears that anyone else, without training or license, is perhaps free to "coach" people in their use of recreational chemicals.
When I hear someone suggesting that a small exposure to something may be acceptable. I think of the "slippery slope" arguments discussed in various legal analysis. Lawyers sometimes love to raise the slippery slope. I also think of Mae West's historic quote "If a little is great, and a lot is better, then way too much is just about right!” Would Mae make a good psychedelics coach? How much LSD is OK? Does your answer depend on whether the person taking it is your physician, airline pilot, or plumber? What will increased tolerance of such substance use mean to safety, in the workplace and in general?
The Coach concedes that the drugs are illegal. He notes that they are obtained by his clients for their own use. He finds them "much easier to come by since being decriminalized." He contends that these drugs facilitate people being "more honest and open" with themselves, more objective "about themselves." The key to self-improvement, the coach seems to suggest, is becoming impaired. To make good decisions on a monumental scale (planning your life) is is best to hallucinate?
The BBC claims that there is scientific evidence to support that LSD "unifies" the brain. As such, the ego is diminished and the brain works "in a more unified way." Through that, a researcher in England claims that those who take these elicit drugs come to perceive themselves as more connected to "connection within themselves and with their surroundings." As such, the contention is that there are "potential medical uses of psychedelics" (mental health, addiction, and headaches are mentioned), which have long been illegal in the U.S.
Before we dismiss the potential of medical LSD, we must recall that not long ago the premise of "medical marijuana" was often summarily dismissed. Some might argue, despite the U.S. Government's conclusion that there is no medical use for pot, that "medical marijuana" is now mainstream. Based on anecdotal reports of efficacy, marijuana has become medical. Is there reason to doubt LSD's status or acceptance could similarly commute?
As the American culture has changed, there has been a recent acceptance of dope for both treatment of maladies and recreational use. The blurring of lines has been noted in various discussions. Marijuana has been recommended by physicians because patients claim it is efficacious, with little or no research or science in support. While some substances undergo evaluation and await FDA approval, others insinuate themselves into commonality through illicit use later endorsed or at least acquiesced.
Does our future hold similar promise for psychedelics like LSD? Is the decriminalization a path to more open and notorious use? We have seen the dealers of drugs face criminal conviction for the results in some instances. Will the same be seen for "coaches" who merely advise, counsel, and encourage? It is a curious transformation of society mores that we have witnessed regarding dope. Where the path leads next may be more interesting still. Where will we go next? "Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall."