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What Can Neuroscience Tell Us About the Potential of Psychedelics in Healthcare? How the Neurophenomenology of Psychedelics Research Could Help us to Flourish Throughout Our Lives, as Well as to Enhance Our Dying

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Health-related psychedelic research should focus on helping us flourish, not just remedying ill-health or addiction. We don’t know enough about how psychedelics could enhance human flourishing. Factors promoting health-through-flourishing include finding meaning in life, spiritual practices, comfortable levels of social bonds, emotionally/physically satisfying sex in a long-term monogamous relationship and control over one’s daily life. Psychedelic research could find more.

Neuroscience anchors psychedelic research into disease and disorder, e.g. addiction, PSTD, migraine, anxiety, pain etc. Neurophenomenological psychedelics research could illuminate relationships between health, ASC/NOSCs and cognitive liberty to promote human flourishing. If we accept the self as an epiphenomenon of subsystems within the brain, we ‘know’ ‘unconsciously’, but are not aware of, many things which affect our lives profoundly. These include control over identifying, remembering and forgetting our states of mind and how to move between them. A prerequisite for integrated investigations into ASC/NOSCs is the establishment of a taxonomic knowledge base which lists, categorises and characterises ASC/NOSCs to enable us to choose specific states of mind and move securely among them. Or, in other words, to enable us to exercise our cognitive liberty safely.

I believe that human health and flourishing would be enhanced were we able to direct our states of being by consciously choosing them. Given the promise of mindfulness techniques to enhance our health, happiness and spiritual growth, constructing both personal and generic classifications of salient ASC/NOSCs makes sense. Laws need to change. The neuroscience of pleasure, love, spirituality, decision-making, pattern recognition and location of meaning should inform health-enhancing psychedelic research while promoting flourishing through cognitive liberty.

As part of cognitive liberty, our end-of-life choices should include how we die. In other words, our idea of the good death should include access to psychedelics. Dying high is increasingly likely to become a popular choice as baby boomers age and place their economic clout behind the reform of end-of-life laws as well as drug laws. Achieving such crucial legal changes depends partly on the ability to produce research to anchor evidence based law and policy. Research into psychedelics, ASC/NOSCs and the neurobiology of the dying process is essential.
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Keywords: Altered states of consciousness; enhancing dying with psychedelics; enhancing human flourishing with psychedelics; moving between states of consciousness; near death experiences; neuroscience of psychedelics; non ordinary states of consciousness

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2014

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