Psychiatry may be on the verge of a revolution, sparked by the resumption of systematic scientific studies of the therapeutic properties of substances known as psychedelics, some of which became illegal from the 1970s onwards.
The difficulties and taboos associated with the advancement of psychedelic science seem increasingly overshadowed by the positive results of clinical tests pointing to the potential benefits of these substances in treating mental health problems as varied and serious as they are Depression and Post Traumatic Stress and Chemical Addiction.
This virtuous cycle, in which a generation of neuroscientists, psychiatrists and Brazilian researchers take part, has been called the psychedelic renaissance and is at the center of “Psiconautas – Viagens com a Psicodélica Brasileira”, a new book by Folha’s journalist and columnist. Marcelo Leite, now available from Fósforo-Verlag.
Marcelo, doctor of social sciences and reference in scientific journalism, is above all a subject of suspicion.
“Grimace, grimace, grimace smell,” he jokes, who became interested in the subject when he received notification of a psychedelic science conference to be held in Oakland, California in 2017, and to his surprise there were no guests only renowned Brazilian scientists, but also participants in important US universities.
“I thought it was folkloric, but I realized it was serious,” he recalls, reporting on the scientific event for this folha and ultimately having a personal experience that was motivated by the presentations at the congress .
At a meeting in the hotel room of one of the participants in the meeting, Marcelo was introduced to MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), the big star of the panels and debates at the Congress.
MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, the drug icon at the rave parties of the 1990s, has been studied for its potential to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and will now have to be approved by the FDA in 2021 and 2022.
“I’m a curious person and I’ve decided to give it a try. And my personal experience was very informative about the therapeutic nature of the effects of MDMA, ”he recalls.
Serious and reserved, Marcelo says he actually “experienced a connection he didn’t even know about,” which seemed very useful for a therapeutic process.
A professional and personal journey of discovery began that included experience with other psychedelics such as Ayahuasca or Santo Daime, psilocybin and LSD, as well as journalistic coverage of a rapidly growing field of study in which Brazilian scientists excel in his psychonautical research.
Among them are the neuroscientist Sidarta Ribeiro, who signs the foreword of the book, the psychiatrist Luís Fernando Tófoli, the biologist Stevens “Bitty” Rehen, the physicist Dráulio de Araújo and the doctor Bruno Rasmussen Chaves.
The group, which Marcelo already knew from previous reports that had nothing to do with the subject, was joined by other internationally renowned Brazilian researchers in the field, including the anthropologist Bia Labate and the neuroscientist Eduardo Schenberg.
In a poll published this year in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Brazil is the third country to produce the most impact studies in the field of psychedelic science after the US and the UK.
The first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study was carried out at the Brain Institute of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte to investigate the therapeutic effects of a psychedelic against depression.
The results of the ayahuasca study have shaken the international scientific community. The publication was rejected today by more than ten journals and is now one of the ten most cited studies in the field of psychedelics.
It’s not for less. According to the WHO, there are 300 million people worldwide with depression, 100 million of whom are resistant to conventional antidepressants.
In “Psiconautas” Marcelo mixes the portrayal of characters between scientists and patients who have undergone the tests with personal accounts of their own travels, focusing on the effects of the same substances on their perception and emotions, which gives colors more color gives technical excerpts from the studies and creates an even greater fascination for the effects of psychedelics in a family of receptors called 5-HT.
With this combination, the book demystifies a subject that has been the target of decades of anti-drug campaigns that have spread more panic than information.
“I want to break down prejudices and misinformation. And that people who are resistant to the subject and who have grown up and have heard that these substances destroy life can see them in a new way, ”he says, who is preparing a course on the subject, of four classes and virtual Transmission will have.
For the author himself, the psychedelic journey was a subjective learning – “Psychedelics are tools of self-knowledge,” he says – and objectively.
“I didn’t know that psychedelics were not addicting or that there was no LSD overdose in history.”
To illustrate this latest discovery, Marcelo tells the story of a woman who mistakenly ingested 550 doses of LSD and did not die. When she returned from the 12 hour trip, her chronic foot pain was gone and she was able to stop the daily doses of morphine she was taking.