A reader writes:
I thought that I would weigh in on the mushroom debate. I am a private practice neurologist who treats patients with neuropathy. Neuropathy is a debilitating and often painful condition in which there is no cure. There is only maintainence therapy that often is insufficient to alleviate pain. I am neither an advocate for nor am I a critique of psilocybin as a treatment for neuropathy – I simply do not know whether it is effective.
What I am critical of is the multitude of errant information on the Internet.
A reader referenced “The Journal of Neurology” on a study that purports psilocybin causes brain damage. I am unaware of this claim, although I know there are a lot of mushroom species that are toxic to our bodies. As a board certified neurologist, I am also unaware of “The Journal of Neurology.” The website references a publishing company rather than a peer-reviewed society that publishes the journal such as the American Academy of Neurology which publishes “The Neurology Journal” – a subtle difference in name. I would challenge the reader to research the claim of the article that psilocybin causes brain demyelination in the National Library of Medicine database – Pubmed. There are no references in this database to support the claim.
I was intrigued to read this dissent regarding the horrors legalized drugs can unleash. The reader had me until this line: "The idea that it gives you some deep insight into the world is bogus."
I've done psychedelics a handful of times. Each time, I have come to know myself better. I've come to understand a lot about where I view myself in terms of humanity, the world, and the universe. I finally was able to come around to understanding, for example, that the debate I'd been having with myself for a long time – whether or not I believe in God – was less important than what I think of the life that exists either because or in spite of God. I know that sounds like old stoner claptrap, but these are insights I either couldn't comprehend formerly or had spent most of my life fighting.
Honestly, the reader's worry about "wisdom" achieved through drug use is well-founded; there is no substitute for gaining knowledge through experiences. Neither is there a shortcut around mediation or healthy living. Psychedelics, I believe, should never be used as such. To me, a trip is more a chance to reorient oneself – to gain a specific kind of perspective while having a ridiculously wild ride. But let's be honest about it, too: taking mushrooms or acid a few times a year is very, very different than holing oneself up in a bedroom for a week and devouring a double hit ever twelve hours.
Your reader is right to say that ignoring the negatives is never going to convince anyone. However, with all the fear-mongering and misinformation about drugs already out there, I don't feel that discussing the positives of drug use (be they marijuana, psychedelics, or something else) is glossing over the negatives; it's simply providing a counterbalance. So long as we are honest that, yes, some drugs (heroin and meth chief among them) are completely evil, and that, yes, some drugs have both negative and positive effects, we can have a real discussion, rather than neutering it with "Drugs are bad, mmmkay?"