Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Can Psychedelic Drugs Help Us to Die Gratefully?

When acclaimed novelist and philosopher Aldous Huxley was dying, his final words were: “LSD, 100 micrograms I.M.”

Huxley’s wife Laura complied with his wishes, and the celebrated author of Brave New World crossed over the post-biological threshold into the White Light with Albert Hofmann’s magic molecules nestled in the synapses of his brain.

The inspiration for this final journey was based upon the work that early LSD researchers had done with terminally ill patients; however, the relationship between the psychedelic experience and the experience of dying, death, and rebirth is ancient, and likely began in prehistory.

Modern cultural links in art and music abound, and it’s no accident that the most celebrated psychedelic rock band of all-time is known as The Grateful Dead.

Some of the most valuable and promising research that’s been conducted with psychedelics has been in the area of treating the terminally ill.

For example, the studies of psychiatric researcher Stanislav Grof and colleague’s at Spring Grove State Hospital in Baltimore, with terminally ill patients, provided strong evidence that a psychedelic experience can be immensely beneficial for people in their final stages of life.

Between the years 1967 and 1972 studies with terminal cancer patients by Grof and colleagues showed that LSD combined with psychotherapy could alleviate symptoms of depression, tension, anxiety, sleep disturbances, psychological withdrawal, and even severe physical pain that was resistant to opiates.

It also improved communication between the patients and their loved ones.

Considering that the dying process is probably the most universally feared of all human experiences, that the death of loved ones causes more suffering in this world than anything else, and that death appears to be an inevitable fact of nature--it seems like it might be a good idea to pay attention to what researchers have learned about how psychedelics can help to ease the dying process.

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