Ayahuasca Study Shows Breakthrough in Resolving Intercultural Conflict
Can plant medicines heal long-standing, sociopolitical conflicts? A new study brought together groups with deep-rooted enmity for each other in an ayahuasca ceremony—could this be the solution for a more peaceful world?
Plant medicines, including ayahuasca and psilocybin from “magic mushrooms” have become breakthrough therapeutic modalities for treating depression, anxiety, and addiction, as taboos around psychedelics fade and scientists study their effects in sanctioned clinical settings. And now a group of scientists from the US, UK, and Israel has begun to look at ayahuasca as a tool for resolving intercultural conflict. By bringing together Israelis and Palestinians for a group ceremony, the researchers looked for signs of reconciliation and intergroup contact between the subjects.
Dr. Maya Shetreat MD, is a neurologist and herbalist specializing in plant medicine and psychedelic-assisted therapy. She had this to say about the recent study…
“We should definitely be able to experience significant shifts in identity politics because we know that psychedelic medicines like ayahuasca or psilocybin have these ego-dissolving properties that change the way our brains see us, see our identity, and perceive us as being separate from one another,” Dr. Shetreat said. “So, theoretically it’s possible that any kind of identity issues, whether it be political or otherwise, could be more in a place of resolution because people can see past differences.”
Results of this recent study proved to be profound, with several participants reporting visions in which they re-lived trauma from the perspective of those from the opposite culture. And in one instance, a participant was able to embody a single experience from both perspectives.
But while these results held significant weight for those involved, how does this translate at a larger scale?
“You know we have to ask the question, is it really necessary for everyone to be in ceremony and go through a psychedelic experience in order to create change? And actually, I think there’s an argument that it doesn’t take that many people, not everybody has to be in that role and enter that liminal space. The people who are called and the people who are motivated to engage with the medicine have those revelations, integrate, take action, and actually lead other people to see those connections that other people might not be able to see,” Dr. Shetreat said.
There’s a belief held by many within the plant medicine community that there is a sentience in these plants that has worked to form a bond between indigenous cultures and the modern, western world. Are these plants trying to communicate and work with us to actively heal our collective consciousness?
“Yes, I do think that plant medicines like the ones we’re talking about (psychedelics) do have some intention in their desire to be in relationship with humans and that’s why they emerge in this way.”
In modern society we are bombarded with constant streams of information from the many channels of communication we have access to, but within that comes a deluge of competing values and viewpoints, vying to be heard. How can plant medicine ceremonies and studies like these help human communication in this era?
“I think that this study in particular really demonstrates that engaging with psychedelics, whether it be through microdosing or macrodosing, may be able to help draw people out of that black and white, oppositional, polarized way of being and help them come back into that sense of connection and see beyond the differences that we have. I think it’s a really profound study in that way and I think it’s very hopeful.”
As scientists continue to study the myriad ways in which plant medicines are able to heal psychological trauma and rifts between global cultures, it will be interesting to see how these studies manifest into potential solutions and how they will be received within the mainstream culture. For now, at least we can see their efficacy within small groups willing to participate and open their minds to new outcomes toward peacebuilding.
Bicycle Day 2022 – 79 Years Since Albert Hofmann's LSD Discovery
Eight years before Albert Hofmann first synthesized LSD in 1938, Harry J. Anslinger was appointed the founding commissioner of the U.S. Treasury’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics. While both men were of Swiss descent and their life’s work centered around public drug use, their paths couldn’t have been more divergent. And now for this year’s Bicycle Day, as the tides of drug policy are shifting quicker than ever, their stories are increasingly relevant.
While most consider the United States’ war on drugs to have started with the Nixon or Reagan administrations, author Johann Hari in his book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, urges our reconsideration of the country’s infamously failed attempt at drug prohibition to an earlier date.
Hari argues that based on racism, classism, and other prejudices, Anslinger was largely responsible for creating a zeitgeist of public misconception about nearly every drug, without regard to therapeutic applications or larger societal implications.
And though Anslinger’s tenure ended just before the criminalization of LSD, it was the foundation he set in place that widely villainized the chemical for decades.
But with the recent relaxation around psychedelic substances and the recognition of their potential as powerful healing modalities, Hofmann’s radical discovery may finally be realized for what he envisioned it could be.