Over-regulating drugs prevents real health benefits

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When I hear the word “psychedelics,” I’m sure I’m not the only one who recalls clips of movies set in the 1960s where girls with flowing braids dance idly in a haze of fringe, or a group of long-haired men discuss ideology amid “Free Love” posters and thick clouds of weed-smoke. But psychedelics are more than just the tangible equivalent of “free love,” and their use has been linked to specific medical benefits.

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According to “The Guardian,” psilocybins, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” can reset the abnormal brain functioning found in many who suffer from clinical depression. In doing so, psilocybins can alleviate patients’ symptoms and provide them with relief when other methods have failed. The prevailing stigma around drug use in general clearly applies to the public perception of “magic mushrooms” and LSD, but it’s this same misunderstanding of certain drugs that prevents us from making ground in the field of medicine and healing.

History is testament to the fact that when medicinal drugs start being used recreationally, and therefore abused, authority’s first action is to make that substance illegal. It’s somewhat rational to hope that a fear of fines or incarceration is enough to deter citizens from continuing drug use. But this line of action isn’t working, given the increasing rates of drug use worldwide, and criminalizing certain drugs only opens doors for black markets to make profit at the expense of those looking for particular substances.

These black markets thrive on and perpetuate the growing disparity between developed and developing countries. Of the world’s population, 80 percent reside within developing countries but only consume six percent of the opium-poppy, or opium. Sick patients in these nations are often unable to receive relief via opium or morphine due to it being illegal and are urged by doctors to find some on the black market to alleviate their pain.

The argument made to legalize drugs is not a new one; regardless of the specific drug, there will always exist citizens who choose to abuse substances recreationally. This simply can’t be avoided, and though citizens’ choices can be influenced, they certainly can’t be controlled. The issue with legalizing certain substances in the medical realm alone, then, lies with the fact that our inability to control our use of certain substances robs the ailing of the potential comforts they could experience. Psilocybins — along with relieving depression — have helped patients empathize better with loved ones and have fostered more openness in their personalities, a trait that often manifests itself in higher levels of imagination, creativity and emotional health.

These advantages would never be discovered without exploration, just as our understanding of commonplace medications like Tylenol formed after such gambles were taken. Tylenol is one of the drugs most responsible for accidental and intentional overdose, and this fact clearly hasn’t stopped its wide use. All human progress arises from deliberate risk and experimentation, and, provided it’s done so with the consent of those involved, the information we glean from such trials will continue to save thousands of human lives as it always has. Our obsession with regulating drugs in every form and controlling citizens’ personal choices comes at the cost of the ailing and the sick, robbing them of relief and comfort. Our duty is not to those who choose to use drugs in ways that may prove detrimental, but to those whose quality of life requires these same drugs to relieve the pain that prevents them from living life fully. Our actions reflect a useless obsession with monitoring citizens’ choices, one that distracts us from the power we have to improve human life instead. Drugs should be evaluated in the context in which they’re applied, and by limiting our understanding of the way drugs work we limit the advantages they could bring to the sick.

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