It seems like an appropriate subject for 4/20. We've got a medical marijuana march today in Harrisburg, a subject that seems like it's a just a matter of time. Doctors should have any tools at the ready that can help people who are suffering or that can aid in overall wellness.
An article in The New York Times last week, took the subject beyond marijuana to hallucinogenics.
As a retired clinical psychologist, Clark Martin was well acquainted with traditional treatments for depression, but his own case seemed untreatable as he struggled through chemotherapy and other grueling regimens for kidney cancer. Counseling seemed futile to him. So did the antidepressant pills he tried.The writer points out that these substances became unavailable for research when the became associated with the counter-culture. If those dirty hippies are saying they are good, then they must not only be of no help, but surely they are so harmful we won't even consider them. The culture war in this country has had an effect on the direction of science.
Nothing had any lasting effect until, at the age of 65, he had his first psychedelic experience. He left his home in Vancouver, Wash., to take part in an experiment at Johns Hopkins medical school involving psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient found in certain mushrooms...
After taking the hallucinogen, Dr. Martin put on an eye mask and headphones, and lay on a couch listening to classical music as he contemplated the universe.
“All of a sudden, everything familiar started evaporating,” he recalled. “Imagine you fall off a boat out in the open ocean, and you turn around, and the boat is gone. And then the water’s gone. And then you’re gone.”
Today, more than a year later, Dr. Martin credits that six-hour experience with helping him overcome his depression and profoundly transforming his relationships with his daughter and friends. He ranks it among the most meaningful events of his life, which makes him a fairly typical member of a growing club of experimental subjects. As a retired clinical psychologist, Clark Martin was well acquainted with traditional treatments for depression, but his own case seemed untreatable as he struggled through chemotherapy and other grueling regimens for kidney cancer. Counseling seemed futile to him. So did the antidepressant pills he tried.
It makes you realize exactly how delicate scientific pursuit is in the face of the social/cultural/political context in which it is embedded. The first sociologist to think systematically about the scientific community and how it works was Robert K. Merton who argued that you cannot separate the scientific revolution from the social upheaval surrounding the battle between Catholicism and Protestantism. what science gets done when is a function of the when as much as it is of the science.
That these experiments are beginning again is a sign of cultural shift. the baby-boomers are old enough now to be non-threatening to the system -- indeed, they are the system -- and this is but one sign of a different zeitgeist, a signal that in certain interesting ways the times they are a-changing.