The history of psychedelics is too extensive to cover in just one article – and too interesting to leave out the details. Therefore, we will bring you the history of psychedelics in three unmissable parts, starting of course from the very beginning: cavemen – and possibly much, much earlier.
What Was the First Psychedelic?
The earliest known use of psychedelics dates to 4000 B.C., which is the approximate date of the cave paintings displaying psilocybin mushrooms found in Northern Africa and Europe. However, many scientists believe that humans have been tripping on magic mushrooms since 10,000 B.C. or even earlier. Furthermore, one theory postulates that it was psilocybin that caused the Homo erectus to evolve into the Homo sapiens 1.8 million years ago through the heightened consciousness that psilocybin produces.
When Did Other Psychedelics Appear?
Moving forward, evidence of many other cultures that have used – or continue to use – psychedelics has been found. There is evidence that indigenous cultures in North and South America between 3780 and 3660 B.C. used peyote for ceremonial purposes. Furthermore, there is evidence that between 1300 and 1521 A.D. in Central America the Aztecs consumed psilocybin mushrooms, which they called the “flesh of the Gods.”
Moreover, in Europe in 1500 A.D., Catholic texts condoned the use of peyote as “witchcraft.” Additional evidence of the ancient use of psychedelics can be found in Sanskrit texts of the Hindu religion. Soma, a drink that was said to be consumed by Hindu gods and their priests, was possibly made with a type of hallucinogenic mushroom. The ancient Greeks gave initiates in the Elyusinian Mystery Rites a drink that seems to have included the Ergot fungus, which would later be used to make lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).
Not all the evidence of the widespread use of hallucinogens is ancient history. Many modern-day cultures use psychedelics as part of religious ceremonies. Usually, a Shaman uses these substances along with other techniques, such as drumming and chanting, to help users communicate with the spiritual world. For example, people in the Amazon region still use Ayahuasca, a plant compound containing N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT); North American Indians still use the Peyote cactus, which contains mescaline, and all over the world people use magic mushrooms, which contain psilocybin. What all these examples have in common is the traditional use of psychedelics as part of spiritual rituals and the belief by the community that this use is of great benefit.
The Introduction of Psychedelic Therapy
In the 1800s, scientists began exploring and advocating the medicinal use of psychedelics. This period of experimentation and discovery continued well past the mid-20th century until legal barriers to the use of psychedelics began popping up all over the world. In Germany, in 1897, Arthur Heffter was the first to isolate mescaline from the peyote cactus. A few years later, in France, Jean Dybowsky and Edouard Landrin isolated ibogaine. Again in Germany, in 1912, Anton Kollisch accidentally created MDMA while trying to synthesize another substance. In Switzerland, Albert Hofmann accidentally created LSD in 1938 when he synthesized a potential medicine for the company Sandoz. 20 years later, he also discovered psilocybin, the main active component of magic mushrooms. Finally, in 1962, Calvin Stevens synthesized ketamine in the U.S.
More on the History of LSD
LSD played such a crucial role in the beginning stages of the study and use of psychedelics that it simply requires its own section.
After initial testing at Sandoz, psychiatrists began using LSD for many applications: patients were able to recall repressed memories with great clarity; patients with unremitting neuroses benefited from LSD, and therapists themselves took LSD to understand the experience of psychosis.
Between 1950 and 1965, psychiatrists throughout the world, even in Saskatchewan Canada, used LSD successfully. Approximately 40,000 patients were treated with LSD and more than 1000 papers were written about this psychedelic compound.
Despite the fact that LSD was used on the most resistant and chronic patients, there were significant positive results and few adverse effects. During that time, psychiatrists worked on perfecting psychedelic sessions, which often involved meditation, chanting, and a relaxing environment. One noteworthy example of a psychiatrist working with LSD at that time was Dr. Ronald Sandison at Powick Hospital, Gloucestershire, who pioneered “psychotic”, or mind-loosening, psychotherapy. He incorporated low doses of LSD into ongoing psychotherapy and found that it helped patients access repressed parts of their psyches.
Criminalization of Hallucinogenic Drugs
From this point on began a steady process of criminalization of psychedelics. In 1966, in the U.California was the first to criminalize LSD; this was followed two years later by the approval of the Staggers-Dodd Bill, which made the possession of psychedelic substances illegal. In 1971, the UN stated that psychedelic substances would be controlled substances moving forward. In the same year, The U.S. The Controlled Substances Act came into effect, whereby most psychedelic drugs became Schedule I drug, and the U.K. passed the Misuse of Drugs Act through which most known psychedelics became controlled substances.
Stay Tuned for The History of Psychedelics: Part Two
This was just the beginning! Make sure you don’t miss out on our next article in this historical series, which will cover more on the experimental years of psychedelic testing with both ethical and extremely unethical methods, as well as the results of these early studies. In the meantime, would you like to learn more about the psychedelic drug that might have played a crucial role in human evolution? Click here to shop for psilocybin mushrooms online.