Last, but certainly not least, is marijuana, which is more widely used than all the other psychedelics combined, and is currently at the center of a national debate about its legalization. Although the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse highlighted the many risk of marijuana,14 studies have pointed to the myriad medical uses of Cannabis.15,16 An editorial in Nature Medicine recently urged that regulators reconsider the tight constraints on marijuana research.17 Some of the medical applications of marijuana include:
- psychiatry (anxiety, PTSD)
- neurology (severe epilepsy, tremors in Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, pain of multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, and progression of Alzheimer’s disease)
- oncology (nausea and pain of chemotherapy, reduction of metastasis)
- ophthalmology (decrease of intraocular pressure in glaucoma)
- autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, lupus).
However, as a schizophrenia researcher, I am wary about marijuana’s high risk of triggering psychosis in young adults with a family history of schizophrenia spectrum disorders.18
The above are examples of how psychiatry is finally recognizing the therapeutic value inherent in traditionally “evil” street drugs that we euphemistically refer to as “recreational drugs.” Even methamphetamine, the universally condemned and clearly harmful drug, was recently reported to be neuroprotective at low dosages!19 Could our field have suffered from a blind eye to the benefits of these hallucinogens and ignored the possibility that some persons with addiction who use these “recreational drugs” may have been self-medicating to alleviate their un-diagnosed psychiatric disorder? We need to reconceptualize the pejorative term “mind-altering drug” because of its implicitly negative connotation. After all, alteration may indicate a favorable, not just a deleterious, outcome.