The Difference between Legalization and Decriminalization

Legalization refers to changing the status of a substance from illegal to legal. This means a person no longer faces arrest and prosecution for personal use and possession. At the federal level, psychedelic substances and cannabis currently reside on the list of Schedule I controlled substances. Changing this designation would require rescheduling by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Clinical trials may prove that a psychedelic substance is effective for medical conditions. As a result, the FDA’s Controlled Substance staff would make a recommendation to the DEA about which category the newly approved drug should be placed in. In this case, safety data and rating for potential misuse and dependence is the basis for this reclassification.

But there’s a catch if MDMA-assisted psychotherapy or psilocybin therapy pass through clinical trials and are designated into Schedule II-V. This doesn’t mean that recreational Ecstasy or magic mushrooms would automatically be moved out of Schedule I. The DEA can differentiate between an FDA-approved medical treatment versus the same drug used in different contexts.

When a substance achieves decriminalization, this means it is the lowest priority of law enforcement. So far, Denver decriminalized psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Additionally, the three cities of Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Ann Arbor decriminalized all entheogenic plants and fungi. These successful local initiatives state that personal possession and use of these psychoactive substances would be the lowest priority for arrests and prosecution. However, state and federal laws still prohibit these substances.

What role (if any) should psychedelics play in recovery and the treatment of addiction

Whether they like it or not, those closest to a person undergoing psychedelic treatment for addiction play an integral role in the recovery process and need to understand how their actions contribute to the final outcome. Recruiting their support or finding a community of people that are equipped to facilitate one’s growth is therefore essential. This support network may be made up of family and friends, psychedelic mentors, or a counseling group.

First and foremost, the function of this group is to encourage the person in recovery to explore and discover their true self without reigniting old narratives by passing judgment or making demands. Very often, the relatives of a person undergoing ibogaine treatment expect recovery to occur automatically once withdrawals have been removed and are somewhat disappointed when that person requires more time to fully find his or herself and develop the awareness that is needed to start making better choices in all areas of life. These expectations can be extremely damaging as they deny a person ownership of their own recovery; as soon as that person feels pressure to recover on someone else’s terms, they become driven by the shame of not living up to expectations. When this occurs, they lose the capacity for conscious decision-making as their thoughts, feelings, and actions are now dictated by the subconscious pain associated with letting family members down and the negative self-image attached to this.

Ultimately, integration is all about learning to live in freedom from the conditioned narratives that mobilize the pain behind addictive behaviors, and any people, places, or situations that impede this are detrimental to the chances of recovery. Surrounding oneself with people who are able to comprehend and support this process is therefore essential. This may involve educating one’s friends and family about the role they play in the recovery process or contacting an experienced psychedelic counselor who can advise on how to refine one’s immediate social environment.

Taking entheogens can be like air travel: people do it all the time, it’s usually fine, but when it’s not fine, it’s sometimes very bad. We’ve been there. And that’s where an experienced GUIDE can make the difference in the outcome.
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