The controlled use of psychedelic drugs can help tackle depression but could they also “restart the beating heart of ecological awareness before it is too late”.
Dr Matt Adams investigated claims about the potential of psychedelics “not only for improving mental health, but also, remarkably, as a key to overcoming inaction in the face of the climate crisis”.
Some experts maintain psychedelics not only help “reset” brain circuitry but enhance emotional responsiveness and increase “positive feelings of connectiveness to one’s self and others, and to the natural world”.
Dr Adams, Principal Lecturer at the University of Brighton’s Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics, writing in The Conversation, the website for news, comment and analysis, written by academics and researchers, said recent trials of the psychedelic drug psilocybin resulted in positive responses in people with depression or anxiety, even six months later.
He said another study, peer reviewed, claimed the drugs can overcome inaction in fighting climate change: “They enhanced participants’ sense of being connected to nature, an effect that deepened when that experience took place in natural settings. The evidence suggested that direct experience of nature … can underpin enhanced environmental awareness and a desire to care for nature, therefore reducing people’s ‘environmentally destructive behaviour’.”
Dr Adams said there was no ‘magic pill’ that could mobilise environmental responsibility on a mass scale, but the study challenges “the deeply held and often hypocritical cultural assumptions we have about drugs and their prohibition”.
Dr Adams stressed he was not advocating an “unregulated psychedelic free for all” and that the trials were carefully controlled. But he added: “When we lack direct experiences of nature, are we missing a vital component of what is needed to really care for and take action on behalf of the environment of which we are an integral part?
“Maybe, just maybe, the profound experiential connectedness arising from psychedelic experiences in nature is analogous to the application of a defibrillator following cardiac arrest. Perhaps psychedelics could give us the shock that is needed to restart the beating heart of ecological awareness before it is too late.”