If you were busy creating street lamp kaleidoscope with your fingers, you may have missed the announcement that Johns Hopkins Medicine has opened a Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. There,researchers will focus on how psychedelics affect behavior, mood, cognition, brain function, and biological markers of health. Examples include the effectiveness of psilocybin as a new therapy for opioid addiction, Alzheimer's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, post-treatment Lyme disease, anorexia nervosa and alcohol use in people with major depression.
I predict a pretty high success rate — since if you have ever taken psilocybin, you know that for about six or eight hours you feel like the luckiest person on the planet and don’t care much about ANYTHING else except just how satisfying it is to be doing just what you are doing at that very moment. This can include pushing traffic light buttons for an hour or two to change the world from red to green to yellow -- or marveling at the genius of city planners to put that fire hydrant in that exact place so you would be lucky enough to come upon it and admire its design, color and, yes, location.
For some people, taking psychedelics can be a profoundly life-altering experience (well beyond fighting your way up to the front row at a Coachella venue), especially since they tend to use higher dosages at Hopkins than your typical recreational score -- and the researchers are there to reassure you, not respond to your desire to hear the Moody Blues’ “On the Threshold of a Dream” for another four hours. In fact, they hope to leverage that experience into a lasting cure for whatever ails you.
If all of this sounds familiar, it is because Timothy Leary, a Harvard psychologist, starting exploring the therapeutic potential of psychedelics in the early 1960s, only to become so enamored with his personal experiences with LSD that he left academia and became an advocate of tripping -- to the point that President Nixon once described him as "the most dangerous man in America." Meanwhile, psychedelics stayed illegal while millions of college kids tripped their brains out (and frankly, still do).
So, it’s going to be pretty funny to acid heads nationwide if Hopkins declares psychedelics a valuable treatment that ought to be legalized. Or at least made available in “medical clinics,” like THC is in California. “GET OUTTA HERE!!!” “No man, I swear, you just have to show ‘em yer card, man.”
You know that progress is being made when Netflix announces it has picked up “Yellow Submarine” and Harry Nilsson’s “The Point.” And your kid comes home from school and asks you who Peter Max was.
We will have arrived when casual Fridays include tie-dyes and peace symbols. Turn on, tune in, drop out.