Regular readers of the blog know Bill Van Ornum, a professor at Marist College and a regular contributor to "In All Things" who writes on psychology, spirituality and prolife issues. (Bill is pictured right with his son, William.) You may not know that he also blogs for the American Health Foundation, where he serves as director of research and training. Here is a sample of his latest post on "Street Drugs, Psychiatric Drugs, and Healing":
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times presents an optimistic yearning toward the possibility that certain street drugs offer a hope for healing in the future. "Magic mushrooms, LSD, ecstacy, and ketamine are being studied for legitimate therapeutic uses....In their next incarnation, these drugs may help the psychologically wounded tune in to their darkest feelings and memories and turn therapy sessions into heightened opportunities to learn and heal."
The journalist writing this article cites one published peer-reviewed study, with a small number of patients suffering from advanced stage cancer who reported a three-month improvement in mood, to justify these sweeping conclusions.
I am not even sure if this is halfway responsible journalism. As Edward R. Murrow was fond of saying, there are two sides to every story, and the other side to this story is the incredible addictive potential of any fast-acting substances that alter mood. As noted above, the most valuable psychiatric drugs, those helping persons with severe depression, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophrenia, act slowly and do not produce a rapid high or "rush." Those that do, such as amphetamines, create problems.
A possible unintended consequence of developing more fast-acting psychiatric drugs based on LSD, psylocybin, and so forth must also take into account the pharmacies that would dispense them. Recently the execution-style killing of four people at a Long Island drugstore brought into awareness the risks of running such a business. The shooter was addicted to pain medicine (note: this is not considered a psychiatric medication), but one wonders what security enhancements would need to be taken at the local pharmacy were it to store LSD, mushrooms, and related chemical derivatives? Or if anyone would want to take the increased risk of working behind what is already a risky counter?