A comedian explains why we need to challenge the stigma of psychedelics

magic mushrooms
Sam Woolfe

US comedian Shane Mauss is about to embark on his biggest tour to date. A Good Trip is a science-based psychedelic comedy show. In a recent interview about the tour, Mauss explained one of his aims – to erode the stigma surrounding the use of psychedelics.

Challenging public perceptions

Mauss wants to enable people to think about psychedelic substances in a different light. He said:

The show isn’t about getting high and doing something stupid like most drug humour. The show is about using humour to highlight the potential meditative benefits of psychedelic experience as meditative, therapeutic aids.

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Of course, that doesn’t mean that he won’t talk about the weirdness of psychedelic experiences. In the show, he pays special attention to a compound called DMT. Mauss said:

DMT is the weirdest thing that I’ve ever experienced in my life. It’s about the most powerful psychedelic that there is. It’s such an intense experience that it can’t be put in the same category as something like LSD or mushrooms. I talk a lot about it at the end of the show but I would sound like a lunatic trying to explain it in a couple of sentences.

But the main thrust of the show is about using humour and science together to de-stigmatise psychedelics. Firstly, Mauss touches on his personal experience with psychedelics as a way to challenge public perceptions about what these drugs actually do. Mauss emphasises:

On a personal level, psychedelics have seemingly cured the chronic depression that made my inner world miserable for 20 years. They’ve also helped me be a more thoughtful and creative person.

As previously reported at The Canary, these substances are not without their risks. Although even difficult psychedelic experiences can end up being positive in the long run.

Focusing on the evidence

Mauss also maintains a scientific approach when talking about these experiences. In his podcast ‘Here We Are’, he hosts weekly interviews with scientists from around the world. He has spoken to psychedelic researchers such as Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelics Studies (MAPS), a non-profit group which is working with the US Food and Drug Administration to legalise MDMA (Ecstasy) for the clinical treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Mauss’ focus on evidence-based thinking informs a lot of his material. He said:

My show is about moving toward a more reasonable society that allows these things to be tested. I’m an advocate for scientific research.

He added:

People have lots of different opinions. This is why we research things. Are psychedelics bad? Show me the data.

The renaissance of psychedelic research

Since the Controlled Substances Act (1970) in the US, and the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) in the UK, it has been a regulatory challenge to study psychedelic drugs. But recently, we have seen a revival of research into psychedelics.

For example, a recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that a single dose of psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms) can lift the anxiety and depression felt by people with advanced cancer. An earlier clinical trial showed that two doses of psilocybin was enough to lift severe depression in 12 volunteers.

The anti-depressant effects experienced by Mauss appear to be testable and reliable. Also, his belief that psychedelics changed his personality for the better holds for other people as well. A study revealed that a single dose of psilocybin can create long-lasting personality changes. Researchers found that it increased participants’ ‘openness’, which includes “traits related to imagination, aesthetics, feelings, abstract ideas and general broad-mindedness”.

Other research with psilocybin demonstrates that it is effective in treating addiction. Other psychedelics are also being studied for their ability to fight addiction, including ibogaine and ayahuasca. And an analysis of studies published in the 60s suggests that one dose of LSD can help alcoholics give up drinking.

Comedy as a cure for stigma

Highly influential comedian Bill Hicks often joked and talked about the benefits of psychedelics in shows such as Relentless (1992) and Revelations (1993). He also attacked the scaremongering and prejudices surrounding such experiences. And like Hicks, Mauss is trying to challenge people’s pre-conceived ideas about psychedelics. He is attempting to demystify the psychedelic experience – making it easy for people to digest – through a creative blend of comedy and science.

Get Involved!

– Support MAPS, The Beckley FoundationThe Psychedelic Society, and Transform.

– Read other articles from The Canary about drugs.

Featured image via Wikimedia

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