I grew up in the 1990s, the era of mandatory D.A.R.E. and Just Say No. Local law enforcement stepped inside the classroom to instruct us kids, their message clear: "All drugs are bad."
My dad, Dr. Charles Grob, one of the country’s leading clinical researchers studying the potential benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy, didn’t agree. As the director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and with the approval of the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration, he’s led several investigative studies of drugs branded by D.A.R.E. in my youth as “bad,” including MDMA (“Ecstasy” or “Molly”), psilocybin (“shrooms”), and ayahuasca.
His colleagues—many of whom I’ve known since I was very young—have added marijuana, ketamine, ibogaine, and even LSD to their impressive roster of studies as well. Investigation of these substances had previously been shuttered, thanks in large part to Timothy Leary’s Pied Piperism during the 1960s, but the 90s initiated a renaissance of government-sanctioned psychedelic research that continues to this day.
The results of recent studies have been positive. Take psilocybin, for instance. In studies positing that psilocybin can reduce anxiety for end-stage cancer patients, ease the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and treat alcohol abuse, the data is encouraging. Psilocybin, if used appropriately, could be a viable medicine. Or, consider MDMA. Dr. Michael Mithoefer’s study using MDMA-assisted therapy to treat individuals suffering from PTSD found reduced symptoms in 83 percent of subjects in the active treatment group, versus 25 percent of subjects in the control group. The pilot study’s success has led to approvals for a new follow-up study treating military veterans suffering from PTSD.