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A Brief History of Psychedelic Use

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

The history of psychedelic use is a complex and fascinating topic that spans across various cultures, spiritual traditions, and legal frameworks. Psychedelic substances, such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and mescaline, have been used for thousands of years for spiritual and medicinal purposes. In this article, we will explore the history of psychedelic use, including its spiritual views, cultural renaissance, and legal frameworks.


Spiritual Views


Psychedelic substances have been used for spiritual purposes in various cultures throughout history. Indigenous cultures in the Americas, Africa, and Asia have used psychedelic substances for spiritual purposes for thousands of years. For example, the use of ayahuasca, a brew made from the ayahuasca vine and other plants, has been used by indigenous tribes in the Amazon basin for centuries as a way to communicate with spirits and gain insight into the world.


In addition to indigenous cultures, many other spiritual traditions have incorporated the use of psychedelics into their practices. One of the most well-known examples is the use of peyote in Native American Church ceremonies. Peyote is a cactus that contains mescaline, a psychedelic substance that is believed to allow people to connect with the divine. Other spiritual traditions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, have also used psychedelics for spiritual purposes.


Cultural Renaissance


The 1960s and 1970s were a time of cultural renaissance for psychedelic use. During this time, psychedelics became popular in Western society, particularly among the counterculture movement. Many people saw psychedelics as a way to expand their consciousness and explore new ways of thinking.


One of the most well-known figures in the psychedelic movement was Timothy Leary. Leary was a Harvard psychologist who believed that psychedelics could be used to promote personal growth and spiritual development. He became an advocate for the use of LSD and other psychedelics, and his slogan, "Turn on, tune in, drop out," became a rallying cry for the counterculture movement.


Legal Frameworks


The legal frameworks around psychedelic use have varied throughout history. In many indigenous cultures, the use of psychedelic substances has been an accepted part of spiritual practices. However, in Western society, psychedelic use has often been illegal and stigmatized.


During the 1960s and 1970s, LSD and other psychedelics were legal in many countries, including the United States. However, after concerns about the safety of these substances emerged, many countries began to criminalize their use. Today, many psychedelic substances are still illegal in most countries, although there is growing interest in their potential therapeutic benefits particularly with the establishment of dedicated research centers in 2019 in the UK and US.


In recent years, there has been a growing movement to decriminalize psychedelic substances. Decriminalization efforts have been successful in several cities in the United States, including Denver, Oakland, and Santa Cruz. These efforts aim to reduce the criminalization of people who use psychedelics and increase access to these substances for therapeutic purposes.


Conclusion


The history of psychedelic use is a complex and fascinating topic that spans across various cultures, spiritual traditions, and legal frameworks. Psychedelic substances have been used for thousands of years for spiritual and medicinal purposes, and the 1960s and 1970s saw a cultural renaissance in the use of these substances. Today, there is growing interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, and there is a movement to decriminalize these substances in many countries. As research into the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics continues, it is likely that their legal status will continue to evolve.

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