by Federico Soldani – 5th May 2021
The letter below (this introductory text written 31st July 2022, bold added for emphasis) was submitted by myself to the Editor of The New England Journal of Medicine on the 5th of May 2021 – and rejected six days later on the 11th – in response to the Editorial by Jeffrey A. Lieberman “Back to the Future — the Therapeutic Potential of Psychedelic Drugs.” New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 384, no. 15, 15 Apr. 2021, pp. 1460–1461, 10.1056/nejme2102835.
In his Editorial the author wrote: “In The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley described his trial of mescaline as “the most extraordinary and significant experience available to human beings this side of the Beatific Vision. […] The convergence of scientific research and natural substances historically used by Indigenous peoples in healing and religious rituals sparked interest in what the British psychiatrist Sir Humphrey Osmond termed psychedelic (Greek for “mind manifesting”) drugs“.
TO THE EDITOR:
Psychedelics are usually referred to as hallucinogens in medicine, see WHO ICD-11, coming into effect in 2022 (1).
Other names used include phantastica, psychotomimetics, entheogens, schizophrenogenics, mysticomimetics, psychodysleptics, or “club drugs.”
Schultes and Hofmann, fathers of ethnobotany and LSD, respectively, co-authored ‘Plants of the Gods: Origins of Hallucinogenic Use’ (2) and ‘The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens’ (3).
Hallucinogen was to be preferred to the scientifically unsound psychedelic: “Narcotics that induce hallucinations are variously called hallucinogens (hallucination generators), psychotomimetics (psychosis mimickers), psychotaraxics (mind disturbers), and psychedelics (mind manifesters). No one term fully satisfies scientists, but hallucinogens comes closest. Psychedelic is most widely used in the United States, but it combines two Greek roots incorrectly, is biologically unsound, and has acquired popular meanings beyond the drugs or their effects.” (4)
Osmond – who was not ‘Sir’ – first thought of “psychotomimetic,” “psychotogen” and “deliriant,” which suggested mimicry of psychoses. In a rhyme exchange with Huxley he wrote: “To fall in Hell or soar angelic / You’ll need a pinch of psychedelic.“ (5)
The term ‘psychedelic’ was not developed in the scientific literature.
(1) World Health Organization. (2018). International classification of diseases for mortality and morbidity statistics (11th Revision). Retrieved from https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en
(2) Schultes, R.E. and Hofmann, A. (1979). Plants of the Gods : origins of hallucinogenic use. London: Hutchinson. A McGraw-Hill Co-Publication.
(3) Schultes, R.E. and Hoffmann, A. (1980). The botany and chemistry of hallucinogens. Springfield, Ill.: Thomas.
(4) Schultes, R.E. and Smith, E.W. (1976). Hallucinogenic plants. New York: Golden Press.
(5) Osmond, H. and Agel, J. (1981). Predicting the past : memos on the enticing universe of possibility. New York: Macmillan; London: Collier Macmillan.
Evola on hallucinogens (2020) – PsyPolitics (in Italian)
Cyber-psychedelic freedom? (2020) – PsyPolitics (in Italian)
[Photograph at the top, 1828 issue of The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Vol. I., No. 1. The New England Journal of Medicine – Wikipedia]
Last Updated on August 1, 2022 by Federico Soldani