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Psychedelia and Society

Last semester, I took a class on the ethical underpinnings of scientific research. As part of this course, we wrote a final paper on some topic pertinent to research ethics. I’ve been fascinated by the pharmacology and policy surrounding indoleamine psychedelics (magic mushrooms, LSD, DMT) ever since working in a primate lab at Vanderbilt where we investigated the neural correlates of visual hallucinations evoked by these strange compounds.

Currently, they are considered ‘Schedule I’ drugs by the DEA: they have (ostensibly) no known medical uses and a high potential for abuse. After spending so much time learning about the pharmacology, I found this classification to be odd, and I went looking for answers in history. This paper distills my findings about the sociological forces that led us to stigmatize a group of compounds that, for many patients with disorders like PTSD, end-of-life anxiety, or even smoking cessation, could be highly efficacious. Along the way, I discovered that their status as Schedule I drugs is ensconced an a web of culture and geopolitics involving far-flung figures and entities like Timothy Leary, the CIA, and Richard Nixon. Thomas Final Paper


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