Prejudice over Evidence? Clouded thinking about psilocybin

In an ABC news article, an expert implies that psilocybin use, over the long run, “can and will’ lead to character deterioration. If there’s any real evidence for that, please let us know. Otherwise, can we back off on the prejudice, please?

ABC News ran an article on the recent Johns Hopkins psilocybin findings.  It ends with this doozy of a quote from Dr. Daniel Angres, associate professor of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center, who argued the use of psilocybin is “too risky”:

“Character can and will deteriorate with the use of substances that have abuse potential over the long run,” he said, “even though initially there may sometimes seem to be ‘positive personality adaptations.'”

Excuse me?  Where is the evidence that psilocybin has “abuse potential over the long run” – if by that the professor means compulsive use – or that psilocybin “can and will” lead to character deterioration?  Can Dr. Angres point to a single peer-reviewed study supporting his statement as applied to psilocybin, or to any of the classical hallucinogens?

If you want to look at the consequences of long-term use of a classical hallucinogen, the Native American Church provide a large-scale case.  Its membership, said to number a quarter-million, uses peyote “over the long run” and has done so for a century.  If there exists scientific evidence linking peyote use and “character deterioration,” please let us know.  The evidence seems to point in the other direction: Congress has found, citing scientific studies and expert opinions, that “peyote is not injurious to the Indian religious user, and, in fact, is often helpful in controlling alcoholism and alcohol abuse among Indian people.” [HR 103-675]

We should be on the lookout for real problems associated with hallucinogen use.  And we could do with a lot less unscientific prejudice, especially from presumed experts.

10 thoughts on “Prejudice over Evidence? Clouded thinking about psilocybin”

  1. Perhaps by “deteriorate” Dr. Angres means that people previously motivated by status and materialism lose those drives and instead shift to focusing on truth and beauty and caring for others?

  2. There is a Sufi saying about academics that a donkey with a load of books is still a donkey.

  3. Of course much ado is made, among the Foxitarians, about how scientists, greedy for grants, allegendly fudge the studies on global warming. But nobody seems to notice how much totally bogus “science” gets funded to agree with the prohibitionists, nor how much real science gets scuttled one way and another, for threatening the Drugs = Evil plank in the American Way. Nobody ever went broke selling Reefer Madness and its spinoffs.

    Count such corruption of science among the many pernicious unforseen consequences of the War on (Some) Drugs.

  4. The Sufi saying is kind. I would put it more bluntly: pigs (ignorance) with language are still pigs.

  5. So what if the Native American Church has made successful use of psilocybin? I can’t think of a safer condition than using a drug as part of a religious ceremony. The article that is actually linked to is about making people more open-minded. “Hey, want to be more open-minded? Just pop some ‘shrooms!” More likely, though: “want to make old grumpy so-and-so more open-minded? Let’s just slip some into his mushroom soup!” Nothing better for mental health than a surprise hallucination, I guess.

    Angres isn’t right, though. Talking about it in terms of character deterioration makes it seem like psilocybin will lead to being a junkie. It won’t. The real threat is psychosis.

    1. I brought up the Native American Church to help disprove the claim that using a classical hallucinogen “can and will” lead to character degredation. (The NAC’s sacrament is peyote, which contains mescaline.)

  6. Psychosis is a possibility, if there is a pre-existing genetic risk, but even psychostimulants can trigger onset of a psychosis. Psilocybin, in normal individuals, is very low risk.

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