Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Going out on a high

Pharmacists around the world are willing to dish out any number of strong drugs, for any number of reasons – from minor aliments to terminal diseases – but if you want something simply to make you feel good it’s a different story of course.

But why? Why is it morally and ethically acceptable to take drugs if you feel sick or unwell, yet unacceptable merely to take drugs if you feel you need them to move to a higher plane of happiness?

Ritalin for wild kids who ostensibly suffer from attention deficit disorder (ADD) – i.e. they are spoilt brats who don’t get enough exercise and consume junk food all day – yet no legal way to smoke a J (except in very few countries) in order to mellow out.

Yet maybe things are starting to change.

Because scientists in Switzerland are now doing tests to determine the potential benefits of hallucinogens such as LSD and Ecstasy for the terminally ill:

The first clinical trial involving LSD since the 1970s began in Switzerland in June with the aim of using "psychedelic psychotherapy" to help terminally ill patients come to terms with imminent death to improve the quality of their remaining life.

Eight subjects will receive 200 micrograms of LSD - enough to induce a powerful psychedelic experience - and four will be given 20 micrograms. They will then be assessed for anxiety levels, quality of life and pain levels.

Researchers are also investigating Ecstasy, the street name for MDMA, as a possible treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The active ingredient in magic mushrooms, psilocybin, has shown promising results in helping people who are dying from cancer.

Prof Roland Griffiths, who published the study, told the Guardian: "The working hypothesis is that if psilocybin or LSD can occasion these experiences of great personal meaning and spiritual significance ... then it would allow [patients with terminal illnesses] hopefully to face their own demise completely differently - to restructure some of the psychological angst that so often occurs concurrently with severe disease."

Logically, of course, everyone wants to feel happier. And if this can be achieved by taking drugs even if you are not technically ill or suffering from an aliment like depression, then why not?

As for being terminally ill, well everyone is of course. I mean: have you ever heard of someone who will live forever?