Pubdate: Thu, 15 Mar 2007
Source: New Paltz Oracle (SUNY, NY Edu)
Author: Allan Erickson


Major kudos go to Justin Holmes for his excellent letter, Psychedelic
Experiences Enhance One's Life (Issue 14, March 8 ).

Psychedelic (entheogenic) experience, when viewed in a
spiritual/religious sense, is arguably humanity's oldest spiritual
practice. Indigenous people worldwide have for millenia utilized
naturally occurring substances to alter consciousness.

While experience teaches that a respectful approach to mind-altering
substances is vital to safe use, the current anti-drug sentiments do
anything but promote safety. The "zero-use" mindset is founded upon a
dangerous platform of puritanical absolutism that bears no resemblance
to reality. Prohibition of any intoxicant will produce only failed
policies - our early 20th century prohibition of alcohol should
provide reminder enough of that.

Every continent of our planet contains certain plants, roots, cacti
and fungus that have long been safely and effectively utilized for
both spiritual and mental health reasons. Should unsupervised,
experimental consumption - especially by children and teens - be
tolerated? Hardly. But facts show us that tolerance coupled with
truthful education is far more effective in drug harm reduction than
is the muttering of the simple minded "just say no" mantra coupled
with punitive laws.

While it is absolutely true that not everyone should consume salvia
divinorum, or psilocybin, or peyote. There is no basis in the logic of
punishing those whose personalities lead them to experimentation. The
failure to distinguish between substance use and abuse is a trait of
certain policy makers which is far more dangerous to the public at
large than is the very limited danger of a plant like salvia
divinorum. And any danger from the plant lies only in its effects
remaining unknown to the inexperienced and curious among us.

In traditional social consumption, psychedelics are used under the
direction of a guide, most often in a ceremonial setting. The ancient
wisdom underlying such use of psychedelics has been echoed by our
modern world. The psilocybin study results from Johns Hopkins'
psychopharmacologist Roland R. Griffiths and his colleagues found that
"with careful preparation, you can safely and fairly reliably occasion
a mystical experience using psilocybin that may lead to positive
changes in a person."

Most interesting to me is that these study's results echo exactly what
indigenous people have known for generations. Because we consider
ourselves "modern," I suppose it makes sense for us to rediscover
knowledge that has long been here. In many ways this whole scenario
reminds me of Columbus and his "discovery" of the Americas.
Psychedelic consumers, hopefully, are not today's Arawak.

Allan Erickson, Drug Policy Forum of Oregon 
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