Today, we will adventure down a particularly head-spinning rabbit hole that is the intersection between artificial intelligence and psychedelics. These two novel tools have one fascinating caveat in common: no one fully understands them and what their implications for the future of humanity are. So naturally, we decided to ask AI what it thinks about psychedelics.
For those who are familiar with the scientific evidence that is perpetuating the psychedelic industry, it is easy to say that psychedelics should be legal. However, it is important to keep in mind that much of the world is still wary of these peculiar molecules.
We wanted to get a complete picture of society’s attitudes toward psychedelics. What better way to do that than to ask the digital oracle that can scan through more information in the blink of an eye than our whole team would be able to do all month?
We turned to ChatGPT. The AI chatbot responds to questions by utilizing information available on the internet. It should be noted that although the infamous Artificial Intelligence is very useful, it is not always 100% accurate. However, it does still do a good job of forming summaries based on a vast collection of information gathered online.
We wanted to know what opinion AI would form about the legalization of psychedelics based on its broad knowledge of the internet. We asked the simple question, “Should psychedelics be legalized?”
Here is what it said:
The question of whether psychedelics should be legal is a complex and debated topic. Opinions on this matter vary, and it ultimately depends on various factors, including cultural, social, and medical considerations.
Advocates for the legalization of psychedelics argue for several reasons:
- Medical Potential: There is a growing body of research suggesting that certain psychedelics, such as psilocybin (found in “magic mushrooms”) and MDMA, may have therapeutic benefits for mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Legalization could facilitate further research into their medical potential and allow access for patients who may benefit from these substances.
- Personal Freedom and Autonomy: Supporters of drug decriminalization and legalization argue that individuals should have the right to make decisions about their own consciousness and explore their minds using psychedelics, as long as it does not harm others. They see it as an issue of personal freedom and bodily autonomy.
- Harm Reduction: Proponents believe that legalizing psychedelics would allow for regulated production, distribution, and consumption, which could reduce the risks associated with black market substances. Quality control measures and education programs could be implemented to mitigate potential harms, such as accidental overdose or consumption of adulterated substances.
However, there are counterarguments against the legalization of psychedelics as well:
- Safety Concerns: Critics express concerns about the potential risks and adverse effects of psychedelic substances. While research suggests that they can be relatively safe when used in controlled environments and under professional guidance, there are risks associated with unsupervised or excessive use, especially for individuals with certain pre-existing conditions or predispositions.
- Societal Implications: Opponents argue that legalizing psychedelics could have unintended consequences on society, such as increased substance abuse, impaired judgment leading to accidents or harm to others, and potential strain on healthcare system if misuse of adverse effects become more widespread.
- Lack of Sufficient Research: Some argue that the current scientific understanding of psychedelics is still limited, and more research is needed to fully evaluate their benefits, risks, and long-term effects. Legalization without comprehensive scientific knowledge could be seen as premature.
Ultimately, the decision to legalize psychedelics should be made based on careful consideration of scientific evidence, public health, and safety concerns, individual rights, and societal implications. It is an evolving area of study, and as research progresses, our understanding of these substances may become clearer, potentially influencing the direction of drug policy.
It appears that AI is not interested in taking a strong position on the legalization of psychedelics. Rather, it reflects back to us the debate over psychedelics that has taken place online.
The only part of the answer that was not posed as a repetition of what people have said online was the argument that psychedelics have medical potential. This is not surprising, considering that it is the only aspect of psychedelics that is currently undisputed. Psilocybin and MDMA have both shown incredible potential in clinical trials and will likely both be legalized through FDA approval in the next few years.
The other arguments for and against the legalization of psychedelics are not backed up by quantitative data in the same way. Rather, ChatGPT has analyzed the different opinions available online to give a whole picture of the discussions being had on the subject. This is particularly obvious with some of the counterarguments.
The first counterargument is about safety, which is a reasonable concern with psychedelics. When taken in the wrong set & setting, they do have the potential for harm. Though one of the arguments on the pro-psychedelic side expressed by the chatbot is that legalizing psychedelics would help reduce potential safety risks by providing support and a framework for psychedelic experiences.
Another argument against holding back legalization efforts due to safety concerns would be that several currently available medication options for issues that psychedelics have the potential to treat are more harmful. Psychedelics are currently being tested to treat two indications that are currently being treated by highly-addictive medications: anxiety and chronic pain.
Psychedelics have a low addiction potential due to their lack of physical dependency. Not only do they have a low potential for addiction, but they are actually showing efficacy in treating substance abuse disorders.
The next concern posed was that it would have unintended implications for society. Psychedelic advocates would argue that those implications will include increased empathy and happiness. However, critics are worried that psychedelics will be misused by an increasing number of people if they are legalized. Once again, there is the counterargument that legalization will increase the opportunity for harm reduction efforts. After all, if someone really wants to do psychedelics, the law is not going to do much to stop them.
The arguments for legalization are also a mixed bag of scientific evidence and personal opinion. There is, in fact, ample evidence supporting the medical use of psychedelics to treat mental health issues such as depression, PTSD, and more. However, the argument for bodily freedom and personal autonomy is a moral position rather than a scientific one.
Both sides of the argument utilize personal opinions. However, the stand for legalization has one thing that the counter-arguments don’t— a vast body of evidence supporting the benefits of psychedelics. And that is what has gotten a lot of anti-psychedelic folks to change their own opinion over the past few years.
Many people who have historically been against the use of psychedelics have begun to change their opinions as they become more informed about the growing body of scientific research. This shift is particularly evident in the medical potential of psychedelics.
Studies have shown promising results in clinical trials, demonstrating the efficacy of substances like psilocybin and MDMA in providing relief for individuals who have struggled with treatment-resistant mental health disorders. The evidence is compelling enough that regulatory agencies like the FDA have granted breakthrough therapy designations for these substances, indicating their potential to address unmet needs.
One significant safety advantage of legalizing psychedelics for medical use is the opportunity for increased regulation and oversight. Unlike the uncontrolled environment of the illicit market, legalization would allow for standardized dosing, quality control, and medical supervision. This would allow people to access psychedelic treatment with less potential safety risks.
While AI’s analysis of online discourse reflects the diversity of opinions on the matter, it’s important to recognize that the debate surrounding psychedelics is multidimensional and continually evolving.
As scientific research progresses and societal attitudes change, our understanding of these substances will become more nuanced. The experiences of jurisdictions that have already taken steps to decriminalize or legalize psychedelics, such as Oregon and Colorado, can provide valuable insights into the potential benefits and challenges of such policies.
The intersection of artificial intelligence and psychedelics presents a thought-provoking exploration of how technology and human understanding intersect. While AI may not hold a personal stance on the matter (yet!), its ability to synthesize and analyze vast amounts of information gives invaluable insights into the complexities of this debate.
As we navigate this evolving landscape, informed discussions, evidence-based research, and thoughtful policymaking will play crucial roles in determining the future of psychedelics, their legality, and their potential to positively impact mental health and well-being.