Psychedelics and Older Brains
Most of us over a certain age remember the 1960’s. It was a time of unrest and experimentation for many. Young people were exploring consciousness at a rate never seen before. Perhaps you were one of them.
Then came the War on Drugs and the cultural message was that all drugs are bad! We put them in categories (schedules) that attempted to define whether a drug had medical use, no useful medical purpose, was a marketable commodity, or something to be afraid of and stay far, far away from.
Marijuana is an example of a drug that was added to Schedule 1 (no medical use) that most of us now commonly accept as medically useful for any number of conditions.
Another class of drugs that have been demonized are psychedelics. Even though many of these compounds have been used safely for millennia by indigenous cultures, in the last 50 years or so we have been told how dangerous they are and that we should avoid them at all costs.
The word psychedelic comes from the Greek work ‘psyche’, meaning mind or soul, and ‘de’ meaning manifesting. So, it literally means the soul manifesting. Psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, ayahuasca, San Pedro, peyote, iboga, and other forms of mescaline and DMT show us who we are, heal our hearts, and connect us to a universe of love and interdependence.
Recent research has shown that psychedelics potentially have many benefits when it comes to the brain and nervous system. They have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, and healing the connection between the mind and body.
As we age our brains become more and more impacted by the effects of daily stress, injury, environmental toxins, trauma, and habitual thinking. We get stuck in thought ruts that are deeply ingrained into everything we do.
Over time, these thought ruts become extremely powerful and so much a part of our daily lives that we don’t even know when we are making mistakes in our thinking.
By mistakes I mean following faulty thoughts that lead us far astray from who we truly are - connected and divinely inspired beings who create community, spread love and bring beauty to the world. These faulty thoughts keep us from knowing ourselves, our purpose, and how to move from where we are now to where we would really like to be.
We begin to believe that we are damaged, disconnected, and incapable of fulfilling our destiny and the hopes and dreams we once had for ourselves. Our hearts are broken, and our minds confused.
This is where the intentional use of psychedelics has a part to play. In our modern western culture, we think of these substances as entertaining, and possibly dangerous, drugs; but historically, they have always been considered medicines. They have been used to heal the body and mind from trauma, soul loss, and show the user a better way of living in community and at one with life.
They seem to be especially helpful in healing the brain.
Our brains are made up of neural pathways which have developed over the course of our lives. Psychedelics have been shown to promote neural plasticity and activate neural growth. They can dissolve the negative pathways and facilitate the formation of new pathways. Mental health is enhanced, and healing is promoted, leaving the user happier and with a greater sense of wholeness, belongingness, and purpose.
Because of this increase in neural path production, users often experience healing on levels that they were previously unable to find, levels that may have been so deeply seated that we didn’t even realize we were broken!
This is where the use for older adults comes in. We have simply had more life experiences that have impacted our brains. If there is a way to heal the damage done by modern society, the use of psychedelics may provide the answer. Their ability to rebuild and repair neural pathways is an extremely valid reason for older people to use psychedelics to retrain their brain function.
Psychedelic medicines heal the brain rather than simply control symptoms, which is a likely reason that they remain classified as schedule 1 substances. Since they can’t be patented or profited from, pharmaceutical companies are very invested in lobbying to keep them from popular use, as well as limiting our abilities to research their uses further.
Recently, we have begun to see a renascence of sorts when it comes to these types of medicines. People around the world are undertaking spiritual travel, sitting in ceremony, and visiting centers and clinics to find the healing that has been denied to them through our western politicized systems of medicine. As people are less able to afford western medicine they turn more and more to natural methods of healing, methods that have been tried and found true throughout human history.