This is your brain on acid (seriously)
“The study of psychedelics is “bringing psychotherapy and medicine together,” says David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London and a co-author of the first imaging study looking at the effects of LSD on the human brain. “Drug-assisted psychotherapy is going to be the great advance in the [field] next 20 years… Parts of the brain which haven’t been allowed to talk to each other for 30, 40 years can talk to each other again, huge amount of crosstalk. We call this the entropic brain or the much more flexible brain. We think that’s what underlies the experiences that people have during the trip, even got good evidence for that, but also explains why afterwards people often feel different and better because they’ve been allowed to … actually the brain’s been allowed to work in a slightly different way for the first time, perhaps ever.”
Zach: You were the chief drug advisor in England. Something happened, could you just tell us that story? Dr. Nutt: For nine years I was the head of the group that assessed drug harms for the government and over that time we did an enormous amount of research into the comparative harms of drugs. As a result of that I discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that alcohol was actually the most harmful drug in the UK. The drugs that politicians like to get hysterical about like cannabis and MDMA, Ecstasy, are comparably much less harmful. So then I started explaining that to the government saying, “Well, our drug laws are wrong. Actually putting people in prison for cannabis possession is not fair because alcohol is more dangerous.” They did not want to hear that. They said, “Stop saying that.” Zach: They sacked [fired] you for looking at the data and giving your analysis. Isn’t that your job as the Drug Advisor of the government? Dr. Nutt: Well, I thought it was my job, yeah. I thought my job was to evaluate evidence and make recommendations, but they said, “Oh no, no, he’s doing more than that. He’s trying to change government policy.” I said, “I thought that’s what all scientists did.” If the evidence suggests the policy’s wrong then we want to change the policy, once you been sacked you’ve got no comeback. Although, of course, what did happen was that it brought the whole issue of drug harms and comparative harms in the public domain. There was an enormous outcry and a lot of scientists wrote petitions saying they should reinstate me. I became famous and the whole drug debate went viral. So for the first time we actually had a proper debate. The government shot itself in the head really because it went from drugs being something you didn’t talk about to drugs being something everyone wanted to talk about.
Original Article (Reason):
This is Your Brain on Acid (Seriously): New at Reason
Artwork Fair Use: Public Domain