Neurons to Nirvana: Understanding Psychodelic Medicines
Directed by Oliver Hockenhull (2013)
Neurons to Nirvana is about the detrimental effects of the War on Drugs on research into the medical and sociological benefits of hallucinogenic drugs.
Psychodelics have been used medicinally and in religious rituals for over 10,000 years. They’ve been used in nearly every culture except our own European culture. Psychodelic plants co-evolved with human beings to enhance our understanding and respect for the interconnectedness of the ecological system that supports our existence. Plants have important investment (to enhance their survival) in interacting with human beings via the chemicals they produce (see How Plants Control Us).
The filmmakers maintain that no brain theory will ever be complete without a complete examination of the the effect of psychodelic drugs. Yet it’s extremely difficult to undertake this type of research in the US or Britain, owing to their archaic drug laws.
Neurons to Nirvana argues the crackdown on psychedelic drugs in the sixties and seventies was motivated mainly by the political threat they pose. This relates in part due to their ability to break down barriers between ethnic groups and social classes and in part due to their ability to disrupt the “consensus trance” created by our constant bombardment with pro-government and pro-corporate propaganda.
The film also makes the point that legalizing psychodelics might be the only solution at this point to breaking through the zombieized mind set that’s destroying our plant. After viewing this documentary, I tend to agree with them.
The documentary divides specific therapeutic effects by drug category:
First discovered in 1943, LSD is the best study because psychiatrist used it in psychotherapy in the fifties and sixties. LSD research would lead to the identification of the neurotransmittser serotonin in 1948. Serotonin pathways play a major role in regulating the speed and scope of neural interconnections. LSD appears to counter the control Serotonin exerts over these interconnections.
With a dose of LSD, patients experience the ability to make new connections. Use in controlled therapeutic settings can enable patients to connect with repressed and suppressed memories and emotions. LSD users commonly report the realization that there is no “other”, ie that all people and things are interconnected.
Research reveals a single dose of LSD to be the most effective treatment for chronic alcoholism.*
Psilocybin (magic mushrooms)
Most psilocybin research has focused on its use in relieving pain and anxiety in terminal cancer patients. Single doses have also been useful in refractory depression.
The DEA made ecstasy a Schedule 1 drug (effectively banning it) in 1985, despite a DEA administrative law judge’s recommendation that it be designated Schedule 3 (closely controlled but available by prescription). It’s an extremely effective as a rapidly acting, non-sedating, non-addicting anti-anxiety drug. Its best known therapeutic effect is as a catalyst for psychotherapy in veterans with treatment refractory PTSD.
Cannabis has a wide range of medical benefits and has been used to treat a variety of conditions for 4,000 years. Queen Victoria used it for period pain and the pain of childbirth. Senior citizens are the most rapidly growing demographic of marijuana users. They use it mainly to treat cancer, pain and nausea stemming from chemotherapy.
It contains more than 100 compounds with medial benefits, with cannabidiol the most widely studied.
Ayahuasca is a drug used for thousands of years in South American shamanic rituals. It’s primary medical use is in psychotherapy for trauma-related depression.
*Igobaine is another psychedelic effective in treating alcoholism, heroin addiction and PTSD. See Why Are We Sending Veterans to Costa Rica, Canada and Mexico