‘Psychedelic Renaissance’ Entirely About Corporate Greed

There’s a lot of money to be made selling cures for the psychological wounds inflicted by the very system which enables that sale, writes Caitlin Johnstone.

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to a reading of this article.

“Money has begun flowing into companies intending to monetize psychedelic therapy as new research has increasingly shown that blowing one’s mind can alter it for the better,” reads an article in The Los Angeles Times titled “Money is pouring into psychedelics. Meet the mystical hedge fund investor bankrolling the boom.”

“This scientific and commercial excitement rests on research showing that psychedelics can supercharge mental health treatment for PTSD, depression, anxiety, addiction, and other chronic ailments of the mind, enabling patients to dive deep, confront their traumas and — a rarity for mental illnesses — return healed,” the article reads. “That goes for synthetic chemicals such as MDMA and ketamine as well as plant-derived drugs such as psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms), the South American plant brew ayahuasca, and the West African root-derived substance iboga.”

LA Times’ Sam Dean shares the personal journey of hedge fund investor Sa’ad Shah and his involvement in what has become a multibillion-dollar psychedelics industry long before even the legal infrastructure necessary for such companies to turn a profit is in place. We learn of Shah’s experience with ayahuasca, his interest in mystical traditions and personal growth, and his conviction in the shift that has for the last few years been known as the psychedelic renaissance.

And then, about halfway down the article, we get to the actual meat of the matter:

“Shah welcomes big pharma and big institutions to enter the fray in the interest of spreading the chemical gospel far and wide. He sees the financial and therapeutic potential for psychedelics not in the cannabis model, which would make psychedelics broadly available for retail purchase, but in the pharmaceutical mode — psychedelics as prescribed drugs, with patent rights, administered in medical settings.”

That “with patent rights” bit right there is behind the so-called psychedelic renaissance we’ve been hearing so much about: “favoring the FDA regulatory route over the Oregon route,” as a psychiatrist cited in the article put it. It’s being driven not by the need to free human consciousness from the prohibition-induced coma it’s been under since the sixties so that we can collectively navigate through the many existential hurdles our species is fast approaching with wisdom and insight, but by the agenda to make rich people even richer by forcefully controlling psychedelic substances via the pharmaceutical industry.

And I’ll take it a step further and say that the recent mainstreaming of psychedelics is also due to the fact that the abusive nature of capitalism is causing a widespread mental health crisis that our rulers have a vested interest in preventing so the slaves will keep turning the gears of the machine.

Terence McKenna once said,

“Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”

But this is changing. We’re now seeing support for psychedelic use from the same plutocratic class and its corporate media who always work to maintain the status quo upon which their kingdoms are built.

Netflix has released multiple documentaries extolling the benefits of hallucinogenic substances for personal growth and healing. Every few days there’s a new mainstream article or news segment about the latest study showing the undeniable mental health benefits of this or that psychedelic substance for this or that psychological ailment.

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So, what changed? The situation changed. Global capitalist institutions are acutely aware that Western civilization is in the midst of a mental health crisis that only looks likely to get worse, with depressionanxiety disorders and substance abuse skyrocketing on myriad fronts for years. The increasingly widespread use of antidepressants has not led to an overall decline in symptoms and prevalence of mood disorders in the U.S., Australia, Canada, England and other wealthy countries. In America young people have been growing progressively more depressed and anxious for over 80 years, and no one knows why.

Well, I could hazard a guess why.

I would guess that continually pummeling people’s minds with messaging that they are inadequate if they don’t look a certain way, own the right products and make enough money is bad for their psychological health.

I would guess that hammering people with bootstrapping fallacies and telling them that they’re the problem if they can’t keep their head above water in a system that’s rigged against them drives people a bit crazy.

I would guess that a nonstop barrage of mass media propaganda shamelessly lying to people and telling them that everything’s fine when it clearly isn’t and that endless human butchery by the military is perfectly normal takes a toll on their psychological wellbeing.

I would guess that a population growing poorer and poorer and having more and more of its power taken away from as serfs under a corporate oligarchy would be alienating and depressing.

I would guess that working long hours at meaningless gear-turning for an amoral corporate machine while being inundated with artificial mainstream culture manufactured in Hollywood, New York and Langley is soul-destroying.

So, our mental health is deteriorating, the solutions that our systems have been offering are not working, and in fact it’s likely that the deterioration of mental health is due primarily to the abusive nature of those very systems. But the capitalism machine still needs workers, and those workers won’t turn the gears if they can’t get out of bed in the morning.

So desperate measures have been called in. Give the gear-turners tightly controlled doses of psychedelics, enough to get them functional but not enough to awaken them to the reality of their enslavement, and hopefully you’ve built some systemic scaffolding which enables their minds to put up with the relentless mass-scale psychological abuse that the status quo requires.

And made a massive fortune in the process. There’s a lot of money to be made selling cures for the psychological wounds inflicted by the very system which enables that sale.

This is why nearly all of the chatter we are seeing about psychedelics is about fixing people’s psychological problems instead of helping them to attain self-actualization, transformation, transcendence and enlightenment. It’s not about waking people up, it’s about turning them from broken cogs into useful cogs. It’s not to free them from the machine but to help them better serve it, while also serving the interests of clever pharmaceutical investors.

Psychedelics are useful not for the hallucinations they provide but for the hallucinations they remove. At the shallower end of the pool, they can help dispel the psychological illusions which feed into our depression, anxiety and PTSD. At the deep end they have the potential to remove our fundamental hallucinations about ego, mind, separation and consciousness. The gamble appears to be premised on building a high fence to keep everyone playing in the shallow end of the pool, where they are useful.

But, as people often point out to me whenever I highlight this, that plan can easily backfire. You’re not dealing with something mundane and predictable here, you’re dealing with the most uncharted terrain in human consciousness. There’s a lot of wiggle room for miracles in that space.

If psychedelics were anything other than a threat to the status quo they wouldn’t have been banned for half a century and the CIA would still be dosing the public with LSD. It will be interesting to see how this thing unfolds. Maybe this time they finally bit off more than they can chew.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium.  Her work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking her on Facebook, following her antics on Twitter, checking out her podcast on either YoutubesoundcloudApple podcasts or Spotify, following her on Steemit, throwing some money into her tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of her sweet merchandise, buying her books Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative MatrixRogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.

This article is from CaitlinJohnstone.com and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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12 comments for “‘Psychedelic Renaissance’ Entirely About Corporate Greed

  1. Mina
    October 6, 2021 at 12:40

    In France they are now opening CBD shops on every street corner. Does not augurate well.

  2. Corinne
    October 6, 2021 at 05:16

    So why are the young more and more depressed and anxious? It cannot be down to poverty. In the 50’s and 60’s, America had unprecedented prosperity, yet people were more and more dissatisfied. So, for a possible explanation elsewhere, maybe we should read people like Zygmunt Bauman on individualism, the victory of the ephemeral over the permanent, and post-modern alienation.

    As for the problem being possible to solve though prescriptions of hallucinogenics, I beg to differ. We should remember the societies which were based on hallucinogenics, namely the pre-Columbian civilizations of southern America. Does it look like they had reached a particularly high plane of consciousness?

  3. Stephen Blobaum
    October 5, 2021 at 15:51

    Terrence McKenna is a prophet!

  4. Dr. R.k. Barkhi
    October 5, 2021 at 14:59

    Reply to Ian

    Thank you for your comments which exactly describe what I remember. Combining them with her article provides a pretty well rounded overview of the current situation which now apparently includes or will include Crapitolist interests. I also appreciate the heads up from the author.

  5. Surrealisto
    October 5, 2021 at 09:16

    Psychiatrists used to harrass and persecute people for using psychedelics ‘on their own time” -maybe because it was drug dealers making money off it, not them.

  6. John Perry
    October 4, 2021 at 21:26

    Maybe psychedelics can cure us of capitalism and market solutions.

  7. Aaron
    October 4, 2021 at 19:06

    That’s an excellent poem exposing the hypocrisy of popular culture and the exploitation of our misery by the likes of the Sacklers, Zuckerberg, etc., as well as the horrible maddening effects of this Kafkaesque reality. Last night I watched Mad Max Fury Road and a line really stuck with me when he says “Hope is a mistake” because if something is unfixable and we are told to just do this or that to feel better and solve the problem, that futility eventually leads to insanity. It’s better to just educate oneself and stay clean and sober and learn about history and know that those who came before us, while they had more reason for hope admittedly, they faced the horror with courage and a stiff upper lip. We must call a spade a spade when they are lying to us and gaslighting us and particularly millionaires selling us hope and a “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” rags to riches b.s.

  8. William H Warrick III MD
    October 4, 2021 at 18:53

    I live in Gainesville Florida and there was a big Psychedelics Conference here a couple of weeks ago and I thought it was strange, but Psycilopsybin Mushrooms were a big thing back in the ’80s and before because they grow in the cow pastures and that along with Gainesville Green made Gainesville the biggest party school throught the ’60s and ’70s. Now I know what was behind it.

  9. Jonathan
    October 4, 2021 at 18:46

    #1 – From the subtitle: “There’s a lot of money to be made selling cures” – No, there is not a lot of money made selling cures. There’s a lot of money made selling treatment. Psychedelics are actual cures for the problems that plague our human psyche.

    #2 – Good luck getting the cat back into the bag after the Oregon model shows its legs in the coming years.

    #3 – The evidence of benefit from Oregon’s efforts will be clear for all to see, and Uncle Bens rice is the easiest way to grow your own if your state doesn’t follow suit. Just look it up on Reddit.

  10. Fortuna
    October 4, 2021 at 17:16

    Psychedelic Therapy as a Replacement Therapy is only
    possible in a crazy world.
    Sure,just convince your
    patient they are disordered.
    Any disorder now becomes
    removable with mind and soul altering drugs.

  11. Ian
    October 4, 2021 at 16:44

    I posted this comment on Caitlin’s substack as well. I had some involvement in the movement towards modern day psychedelic science and medicine and feel that some of her essay, particularly the title, are a mischaracterization.

    Though there is a lot of good stuff here, I definitely take issue with the title as the “Psychedelic Renaissance ” was long underway before any financial actors or corporate interests showed up. Many people on the research side of it were doctors and scientists who had their work shut down in the 60s and 70s and were looking for a path the revive it with cultural legitimacy that someone like Timothy Leary couldn’t endanger. And basically for the most part of 20 years non-profit groups like MAPS, Heffter, and Usona laid the ground work with the motives of legalizing and normalizing psychedelic use by tackling trauma and mental illness.

    When the work was near completion, and these nonprofits had driven MDMA and psilocybin close to legalization through a medical pathway, a bunch of venture capitalists and for-profits like Compass Pathways started trying to patent and control the rights to even basic things like “set and setting”, attempting the poses the legal psychedelic within the “wellness” industry. This is obvious quite ominous, though it mostly pertains to psilocybin at the moment.

    Silicon Valley types believe a lot of hype and sooner or later will discover that psychedelics don’t do what they thought, and can’t be controlled. Some may be set up to make money out of offering psychedelic retreats etc. But to say that the “Psychedelic Renaissance ” is Entirely about corporate greed erases 95% of the scientific work and individual donations over the last 20+ years. I’ve heard the term used as far back as 2010, when zero for-profit interest existed. This was referring g to a renaissance in academic/clinical work with psychedelics and a loosening of cultural prohibition. Caitlin’s title is like saying Machu Pichu is entirely about corporate greed because like everything else, has become commercialized with tourism. The threat to even things like psychedelics is real that capitalism gobbles up anything that is good and turns it into a commodity. Will this spoil them, or will the psychedelics themselves turn out to be the stronger actor?

    • Steven Wrubleski
      October 6, 2021 at 00:45

      There is a reason Caitlin’s article has “Psychedelic Renaissance” in parentheses. I think you are both in agreement. She is not referring to the period you spoke of before financial actors and corporate interests showed up.

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