Drugs like heroin and cocaine have a direct stimulatory impact on the brain. Hence their appeal to human beings is easily explainable. What is not, however, is the appeal of drugs like LSD and psilocybin.
They are psychedelic in nature and create an altered states of consciousness. As a result, an unusual pattern of thought process and sensory perception is experienced. These are the most noticeable symptoms of poisoning and illness. But the question arises: why do humans indulge in activities that can risk their own lives? They not only buy these expensive drugs but also risk incarceration dealing in these illegal drugs.
One explanation could be that these drugs provide the easiest approach to transcendental and religious experiences. As many religions advocate, a transcendental experience is essential to shape our religious ideas.
Such experiences also help in human evolution. Anthropologists have reasoned that religious people are more cooperative than the non-religious ones. Intake of drugs in a group, creates a bond even among strangers. Hence the religion can now expand and have more number of followers.
The Guardian states that “Immediate reduction in depression and anxiety for up to eight months seen in patients with advanced cancer given a single dose of psilocybin.”
Almost 12000 years ago, one of the first city states of the Middle East thrived because they believed in “Big Gods”. There is always a fear of being watched by an invisible but omniscient power. It makes people more morally inclined, even if it is out of fear. Such people are less likely to commit actions that would involve personal gains and think more about the community that they belong to.
Religion makes people believe in a larger than life reality. Ideas such as life after death, a universal cosmos and more, help people to develop a stronger connection with each other in the society. Such a connection is important as it makes people more cooperative. As a result, they do not work only for the sake of immediate gratification. If one is able to fraternize with the society and their religious group, they would automatically stop seeing distinctions between the ‘I and the other’.
When we look at the concept of religious cooperation, the appeal of psychedelic drugs becomes clear. The transcendental state creates a mimetic sense on the mind and in turn initiates human cooperation. Such drugs stimulate quick transcendental experience.
If it is in human nature to pursue such drugs, then no legal system can change it. One group would say that if such drugs are no different from other religious practices like praying, chanting, fasting. All of them help in achieving transcendence and create an alternate consciousness. However another group, the purists, would condemn it. They believe that use of drugs for such an achievement lacks discipline.
The use of psychedelic drugs, as many have experienced, can provide some kind of comfort to the depressed and terminally ill. However it does not guarantee positive impact on everyone. Moreover, a ban on the use of psychedelic drugs would only increase its illegal consumption. Like it is the case at many places with cigarettes and alcohol.
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Image Art: Cameron Gray