A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Space Technologies states that psychedelics could be useful to treat astronauts who have spent long durations in space. Entitled “A long trip into the universe: Psychedelics and space travel,” researchers believe that due to the known physiological and psychological effects that astronauts experience while above our atmosphere, psychedelics could be beneficial.
According to Back of the Yards Algae Sciences Founder Dr. Leonard Lerer, and Chief Innovation Officer Jeet Varia, psychedelics could very well be useful to our astronauts now, as well as those of the future who may be sent on long-distance space travel missions.
“We propose a role for psychedelics (psychoactive fungal, plant, and animal molecules that cause alterations in perception, mood, behavior, and consciousness) and in particular psychedelic mushrooms to facilitate extended sojourns in space,” wrote Lerer. “Psychedelics research is in the midst of a renaissance and psychedelics are being explored not only for their therapeutic potential in psychiatry but also for their ability to promote neuroplasticity, modulate the immune system and reduce inflammation.”
The study is one of many to identify the burden and harms of long-term exposure to living in space. According to its authors, there will come a day when we must seek outside of our solar system for resources, and with the rise of both publicly and privately funded space initiatives, and when long-distance space travel becomes a reality, “the next frontier in space travel is ensuring the health and wellbeing of astronauts on long-duration space missions.”
Researchers state that maintaining wellness in space is difficult, and NASA notes at least 30 health risks to humans through its Human Research Program. “Space station astronauts have suffered transient, reactive psychological distress causing sometimes critical lapses in attention, sleep disorders, emotional lability, psychosomatic symptoms, irritability towards fellow crew members and mission control staff, a decline in vigor and motivation, and possibly increased risk of anxiety, depression and psychosis, psychosomatic symptoms, emotional problems, and post-mission personality changes.”
However, researchers of this study argue that psychedelics could be a useful treatment toward some of these symptoms. “Given the psychological pressures of long-duration space travel at an individual and group level, it is useful to consider the potential positive, adaptive effects of the psychedelic experience that include enriched states of consciousness, enhanced cognitive flexibility, heightened creativity, enhanced ability to attribute meaning and value, empathy, enhanced insightfulness, and self-awareness.”
They add that in some cases, astronauts who have returned from space report experiencing “transcendental experiences, religious insights, or a sense of unity with humankind to some extent attributed to viewing the Earth below and the cosmos beyond”—which is not unlike how some people might describe their psychedelic experiences. They even go so far as to suggest that using psychedelics could prepare space travelers to meet other forms of life, if they exist.
Researchers conclude that studies on psychedelics are in the early stages of development, but the benefits shouldn’t be overlooked. “While there is no empirical evidence to support the application of psychedelics in space exploration, we should be aware that our species has a longstanding history of using psychedelics to explore the fluid interface between our inner space (including our consciousness) and the universe or outer space,” the authors concluded.
In April, High Times wrote about former International Space Station astronaut Chris Hadfield, who joined the board of BioHarvest Sciences, a biotech firm involved in medical cannabis, and the company CEO, Ilan Sobel, in an interview with Futurism. “We see the potential ability for valuable minor cannabinoids to be grown at significantly higher quantities compared to its growth on Earth,” Sobel said.
For Hadfield, he says he joined BioHarvest Sciences because of the “the scalability of the biotech platform, and how it can solve a lot of the agricultural problems we face in feeding 10 billion people.” In reference to cannabinoids, those are just “one of the things we grow,” although it’s still a “long ways out.”