With science now backing a correlation between proper drug use and positive mental health, what can America learn from the Dutch ideology of drug legalization and mental health advocacy?
Amsterdam has the most coveted drug-scene in the world. The use of specific Schedule I drugs (psychedelics, marijuana) is “legal” for use. Distribution and drug trafficking laws are kept under keen supervision to prevent the country from falling into the “narco-state” category. Schedule II drugs (opioids, MDMA/amphetamines) are illegal both in use and distribution; however, cocaine, ecstasy/molly, and MDMA are popular amongst Dutch party-goers. While not all drugs are legal in the Netherlands, its loose laws allow certain loopholes and leniency with the use of popular “soft” drugs like weed and psychedelics.
As discoveries on certain drug’s positive impact on mental health emerge, the world is opening up to the possibility of legalization. The Netherlands’ lenient regulations are a result of their understanding of these positive mental health effects. Decriminalizing certain “harmless” drugs creates space for proper regulation and taxation on the government’s part, as well as removing the taboo, making the act less dangerous/secretive and better for the country as a whole.
“Magic Truffles” are among the most influential legalized substances that define the Dutch drug scene. These truffles are commonly sold in “smart shops,” the Netherlands’ equivalent to a combination dispensary/coffee shop. While psychedelic truffles are legal, their counterpart, psychedelic mushrooms, are not. “Magic mushrooms” became illegal after the suicide of a 17-year-old while on them, however, a loophole in the law allows a specific type of saprophyte to be legal, truffles. While their effects are similar to the user, their differences lie in their shape and growth. Mushrooms grow above ground with exposed roots, while truffles grow underneath the ground and sometimes are the fungi that magic mushrooms grow from. They grow in moist conditions and have a spongy/chewy texture.
The immediate effects of psychedelic truffles usually result in “distorted thinking, visual alteration, and distortion [hallucinations], quickly changing emotions, spiritual awakening, nausea, unusual body sensations,” among other things. Yet, it is important to remember that the effects differ from person to person, and so do their hallucinogenic experiences. Some might enjoy the feeling while others may not. However, it should be pointed out that psilocybin, the psychedelic substance found in magic mushrooms/truffles, is notorious for being connected with positive mental health.
In a study done in Cologne, Germany, and Maastricht University in the Netherlands, they found that the psilocybin truffles’ effects could last for up to seven days after consumption. “The study, ‘Sub-acute effects of psilocybin on empathy, creative thinking, and subjective well-being’” according to psychedelicreview.com.
For those that are not comfortable with the intense trip that comes with eating magic truffles, studies have shown that microdosing psilocybin has similar effects on the mental state. Microdosing involves taking a small amount of psilocybin, enough to feel the effects, not literally see them. Truffles range from 0.61%- 1.78% psilocybin in anywhere from 5-21 grams, whereas you only need about 3 grams of pure psilocybin to microdose. A study done by Dutch scientists in partnership with the Psychedelic Society of the Netherlands conducted a trial to see how microdosing can affect a person’s mental stability and cognitive well-being. They found “an increase in divergent idea generation on the AUT, as evidenced by a significant increase in fluency, flexibility, and originality scores, as well as an increase in convergent thinking on the PCT after intake of a microdose of magic truffles.” Meaning that microdosing does, in fact, have an extremely positive effect on creative thinking and makes “daily grind” just a bit easier.
While the study did not find that micro-dosing has a specific effect on mental health as a whole, there are retreats designed to administer truffles/microdosing to help patients look inward and think about themselves in ways they usually do not allow themselves introspectively. The Psychedelic Society hosts monthly trips to The Netherlands to allow those open to the experience to “live lives of greater love, authenticity, and freedom” through self-reflection at the mercy of psilocybin. TPS offers four, five, and six-day retreats into nature with daily yoga, vegan meals, individual sessions before and after administration, and psilocybin itself. All the days are designed to allow you to experience personal introspection to the best of your ability, given your allotted time. If you are interested in learning more about the program, click here to visit their website.
In recent years, scientists have noticed the effects that popular animal-tranquilizer drug, Ketamine has on certain mental disorders when appropriately administered. Tharcila Chaves, a scientist in collaboration with the University of Groningen, stated that “a single dose of ketamine alleviates depressive symptoms within minutes in patients who have failed to respond to two or more conventional antidepressants and these effects are sustained for one week to months.” Chaves even mentioning that Ketamine has been proved to help those who have PTSD, bipolar disorder, OCD, and chronic pain, she also goes as far as to claim that conventional therapy is a statistical failure, and the rise of ketamine clinics are the early signs of “the beginning of a new paradigm in the mental and physical pain management.”
Government Funded Drug Safety
Due to The Netherlands’ leniency on drugs, the government has programs and organizations set in place to protect those that choose to do harder, Schedule II drugs. These organizations provide a safe, private environment with clean needles (and proper disposal of them), Narcan available, as well as health professionals on standby should something go wrong. The Dutch Ministry of Health is aware that a large portion of their population does these harder drugs; therefore, they feel a moral duty to protect them/guide them when they need it. Netherlands Drug Consumption Rooms (DCR) began in 1994, to get drug-related use off the streets and into a controlled environment. DCRs are popular amongst regular drug users, because of the safe and clean space the DCRs provide, the rules are often abided by out of respect and community agreement. Consumption Rooms have been keeping drug use off the streets for almost 26 years and have saved countless lives from accidental overdoses. These locations allow users to feel protected, even while battling the harsh grip of addiction.
More passively, the Dutch government has funded an educational YouTube channel called DrugsLab to educate those on drugs, their effects on the person, and safe usage. Showcasing usage of The Netherlands’ most popularly used drugs, DrugsLab sought to inform their viewers of the science behind the drugs as well as the same drug’s effect on two different people, showing an honest representation of what drugs can do to someone in a safe environment. After hitting 1 million subscribers, the channel stopped producing content. Yet, the channel is archived online to allow the information to be easily accessible to curious minds. To see what the channel has to offer, click here.
The Netherlands has pioneered drug legalization and has become a prime example that the “War on Drugs” should not be seen as a battle, but more so accepting to a different ideology. While “harder” drugs such as heroin and methamphetamines are dangerous to society, marijuana and psychedelics have proven time and time again to be more beneficial than once believed. As Western culture begins to take notice of the positive mental health aspect legalization brings, will America follow in The Netherland’s footsteps? Or will the fear and taboo of what we don’t understand hinder our nation’s ability to make peace with the “War on ‘greater love, authenticity, and freedom.’”