Ever wonder how it can be that psychoactive plants used safely for thousands of years by Native Americans have suddenly become so dangerous that they need to be criminalized for our own protection?

While they might not be that surprising to anyone legitimately interested in entheogens, there are several reasons these drugs will remain illegal and taboo in our society for a long time to come.


Money and corporate greed could be the biggest obstacle to legalization and acceptance in our society.

Thanks to medical studies, we have a decent amount of evidence suggesting that psychedelic plants and chemicals have many potential uses in treating both physical and mental disorders.

Most people are well aware of the medical uses of marijuana and the controversy surrounding it, but a few brave and open minded scientists are stepping up and making similar claims for hallucinogens. Controlled studies suggest that psilocybin mushrooms may be used to permanantly treat medication-resistant depression after one time use. Low doses of LSD have successfully been used to treat severe alcoholism, and have possibly saved the lives of those participating in the study. The same goes for ibogaine, a psychoactive often used to treat heroin and meth addiction when all else fails. Some scientists hypothesize that controlled amounts of hallucinogens or Cannabis could allow autistic children to function normally, a feat that modern medicine has completely failed to achieve.

This would pose a major financial problem to the health care industry, which relies on expensive or long term treatments in order to make money. When a pharmaceutical corporation looks at a promising new treatment, they are generally less concerned with how effective or dangerous it is, but whether it will be popular enough to make the same profits as current treatments.

It wouldn't very profitable if a doctor could legally prescribe one dose of "magic mushrooms" to a person suffering from depression, as compared to expensive antidepressants that require daily use for months or longer and cause unbearable side effects that then require more medications to counteract.

Likewise, drug companies wouldn't be too happy if addicts were to use LSD or ibogaine temporarily and make a full recovery, as compared to the more commonly used long term prescriptions and maintenance therapy. Many medications currently used to treat alcoholism are just as habit forming and dangerous for recovering addicts! But you can bet somebody is making a decent profit from them.

The same issues apply to hallucinogens that are still legal. One can buy Salvia divinorum leaves for a bargain at most online ethnobotanical shops, where more emphasis is put on the life changing experience rather than the cost. It's sad but true that in our society, things aren't valued based on what positive use anybody can get out of them, but on how much money they can be milked for.

Negative Myths about Drugs

Part of the problem with hallucinogens and their failure to be accepted in society can be blamed on the persistent (and completely inaccurate) urban legends and myths surrounding them.

Which urban legend is your favorite? Is it the the one about pot killing off your brain cells and causing cancer at twice the rate of cigarettes? The one about the kid that did mushrooms once and now thinks he's a glass of orange juice? Maybe you've heard about the widely spread "Blue Star tattoo" hoax.

Some urban legends concerning drugs began with a tiny grain of truth that gets warped and twisted as they snowball out of control. Everyone knows that hearing something "through the grapevine" isn't the most reliable method of getting information, yet these same people are the ones accepting and perpetuating myths.

Even respectable news agencies have contributed to the spread of hoaxes and urban legends about hallucinogens. One wonders why, if they are required to do research and base reports on facts and evidence for everything else, they don't do the same before broadcasting "horror stories" about drugs.

Respectable websites where a person can find nonjudgemental, fact-based information about drugs remain far and few between. Instead, what a person often gets in the search results are biased rants about how psychedelics will "fry your brain" the first time you use them, or stories about a "friend of a cousin's hairdresser" who did drugs once and ended up in a mental hospital forever. These resources are really worthless for, say, a botany student trying to write a technical paper about the Mazatec Indians and history of Salvia, or a chemistry major writing about the structural similarities of LSD and ergot.

It is not yet illegal to talk about drugs (legal or not) in an objective manner, but it might as well be based on the negative attitudes most people harbor towards them, as well as complete denial of proven scientific facts.

Miseducation is major barrier to acceptance of hallucinogens in our society. Even if they were to be legalized, they would still remain taboo and looked down upon until people took it upon themselves to become educated with information backed by real science instead of spreading urban legends.

Here are some pages with common urban legends and the science behind why they're only myths

Misuse/Overuse of Hallucinogens

It's true that not everybody posesses the maturity required to safely use hallucinogens and accidents happen. Unfortunately, these are the people that make it into the public eye while the responsible users remain quietly obscured.

For every reckless case that makes it into the news for indulging wildly and taking dangerous combinations or doses of substances without doing the research first and ending up ruined for life, there are countless individuals that safely use moderate doses of hallucinogens with good intentions and have no problems. These people are usually smart enough not to advertise the fact that they use taboo or illegal substances.

For the one case of a suicide by a Salvia user (not even formally proven to be tied to Salvia), there are multiple psychiatric case studies of people experiencing relief from depression after moderate Salvia use. Yet these being unspectacular and routine, they do not make it into the news.

It's a lot easier for a legislator or concerned parent to visit Youtube and watch a few videos of teenagers using Salvia irresponsibly than it is for them to visit a legitimate research website and read a scientific paper about the effects and mechanisms of Salvinorin A on the brain, or the documented history of the plant among Mazatec culture.

The popular media likes nothing more than chasing ambulances and reporting widely exagerrated horror stories over more realistic news. And sadly enough, their audience probably wouldn't continue watching if the shock news was replaced with the boring truth.

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