South Africa, Maverick Life

Podcast: The Psychonauts – psychedelic psychiatry, and magic mushroom on trial in South Africa in 2018

By Leonie Joubert 1 August 2017

South African science writer LEONIE JOUBERT launches into the world of amateur podcasting with The Psychonauts, through which she will explore the “renaissance” of psychedelic psychiatry, ahead of hallucinogenic mushrooms going on trial here next year.

Early in 2018, the Western Cape High Court will be asked to consider loosening up the laws which make it illegal to grow, sell, possess, or use hallucinogenic mushrooms. The legal team presenting the case will argue that the substance is not addictive or dangerous, as the state claims. They will present evidence from a growing body of scientific research which shows that these mushrooms have an untapped therapeutic and spiritual potential, and will argue that it is unconstitutional to prevent South Africans from having access to them.

Listen: Episode One – Tripping The Blues

The Psychonauts will consider the findings of researchers who argue that magic mushrooms could be the kind of breakthrough for mental health treatment that penicillin was as an antibiotic nearly a century ago. It will visit the early research into the potential of psychedelics for treating depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and even alcoholism. This research is so promising, according to some researchers, that they argue that these substances shouldn’t be kept “just for the treatment of sick people, but should be used for the betterment of well people”.

The series dives into the strange new world of psychedelic psychiatry. It stumbles upon an underground movement of self-styled healers and self-medicators. It contemplates whether this could be a new chapter for the environmental movement. And it follows a bid in the South African courts to have hallucinogenic mushrooms removed from a Rogue’s Gallery of illicit drugs. DM

The first episode goes live this week, as the SA Drug Policy Week takes place in Cape Town: www.psychonauts.co.za, or find it in iTunes or a podcast app.

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South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.

On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government - mission accomplished.

And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.

However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

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