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Evolution to Revolution: A Brief History of Psychedelics

Ashley Priest

by Ashley Priest

June 1, 2021 03:30 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Evolution to Revolution: A Brief History of Psychedelics

Psychedelic therapies may just be making mainstream news media outlets, but people have known about these amazing plant medicines for thousands of years. Psychedelic drugs, if you will, are not always created in a laboratory. In fact, the planet Earth produces some of the most potent, powerful psychedelics known to humankind.

When a lot of people think of psychedelic plants, they think of a special fungus that is found among us. There are an estimated 180+ different species of psilocybin mushrooms. But mushrooms aren’t the only way to enjoy natural psychedelics. There are also other forms such as iboga bark, peyote cactus, ayahuasca, and more.

So just what is the story when it comes to natural psychedelics? How long have they been around for and when did they become frowned upon and criminalized?  There are two answers. The short answer is psychedelics have been around for thousands of years and have been demonized in certain cultures throughout time, more particularly in modern-day times by the United States federal government.

The long answer involves science, research, and a theory or two. Many people believe that psychedelics helped influence the evolution of humankind and the way we perceive the world around us today. History of humans utilizing plant-based drugs for medicinal and ceremonial purposes dates as far back as 4000 BC where some of the first cave paintings of psilocybin have been found in North Africa.

This History of Psychedelics Around the World

Indigenous cultures of both South America and North America have utilized peyote for ceremonial use since as early as around 3600 BC. In Central America from 1300 through 1500 AD, researchers have discovered evidence showing that the Aztecs ate magic mushrooms, AKA psilocybin mushrooms. The Aztecs called these mushrooms “Flesh of the God’s.” If you lived in Europe around 1500 AD and enjoyed psychedelics, you better have kept it on the low because early Catholic texts consider the use of peyote witchcraft. If I’m not mistaken, witchcraft could get you burned at the state, dunked and drowned, or one of many other torturous horrendous acts in order to save your soul.

The Stoned Ape Theory

There is a theory by an American ethnobotanist called the “Stoned Ape Theory”. This theory basically focuses on the notion that early proto-humans discovered magic mushrooms while foraging for food. Consuming these would have greatly changed their brains and could have ultimately led to the increased intelligence in humankind amongst the animal kingdom. After all, at one time, we were just Neanderthals wandering around, kind of like The Croods. Terence McKenna, along with his brother Dennis McKenna traveled the world studying various forms of plant-based medicines along with other things such as Tibetan paintings and hallucinogenic shamanism, butterflies, ancient ruins, and more.

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The Discovery of LSD

Another psychedelic hallucinogen that has loads of research around it but is man-made is LSD. The story goes the year was 1938, one year after the beginning of marijuana prohibition, a chemist working for a pharmaceutical company by the name of Sandoz Pharmaceuticals stumbled on to lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD for short. I say stumbled on because the chemist, whose name is Albert Hofmann, was attempting to make a stimulant. He made a stimulant all right, just not the kind of stimulant he anticipated. LSD proved to excite animals it was tested on. However, not being the stimulant he was looking for, he set the work aside.

Almost half a decade later, he went to research LSD some more and accidentally took his first hit or dose. What he experienced is referred to as a “radical shift in consciousness.” The Golden age of psychedelic therapy research started shortly after Hofmann’s discovery of LSD and its effects. Hofmann dedicated the rest of his life to researching LSD. For the last two and a half decades of his life, he took microdoses of LSD. Hofmann lived to be 102 years old before vibrating on to his next journey in 2008.

The Evolution and Criminalization of Psychedelics

Mescaline was isolated from peyote in 1897 by Authur Hefter, ibogaine in 1901 by Edouard Landrin, and Jean Dybowsky, MDMA in 1912 by Anton Kollisch, LSD by Hofmann in 1938, psilocybin by Hofmann in 1958, and ketamine by Calvin Stevens in 62.

There are loads of research papers from all sorts of reputable controlled studies supporting the use of psychedelics for many different medical circumstances. However, as always, the United States federal government didn’t like the idea of people being able to make themselves better or attempt to make themselves better without paying their dues to a doctor and the pharmaceutical companies that run our nation.

In 1966, California criminalized LSD. In 1968 the United States passed the Staggers-Dodd Bill criminalizing psychedelics. In 1971 the Controlled Substance Act, the same one that targeted so many people for cannabis, also targeted all psychedelic drugs, moving the majority of them into the schedule 1 status with cannabis. In the same year, the UK joined the United States by passing the Misuse of Drugs Act. It’s almost as if they knew something they didn’t want the rest of the world to find out.

As you can see, psychedelics have been around for thousands of years. It wasn’t until over the last eight decades or so that a small group of people decided they should be prohibited for everyone. This same asinine group of people is still running our country today. You think we would have had enough of this by now. It is more than time for a positive change in the right direction that supports the will of the people over the private agendas of greedy politicians. Luckily, that change is happening and laws surrounding psychedelics are also starting to be reformed for the good of all.

Note: Veriheal does not support illegally consuming therapeutic substances but acknowledges that it transpires because of the current illicit status, which we strive to change by advocating for research, legal access, and responsible consumption. Always consult a physician before attempting alternative therapies.

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