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Neurochemicals – The Path Forward in Health

By Erick Ponce - Grupo Promotor de la Industria de Cannabis - GPIC


By Erick Ponce | President - Fri, 04/29/2022 - 09:00

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Hiding in plain sight, exacerbated by the pandemic for sure but long coming before it, with both global and local cues, a new paradigm is brewing. Many may call it the revolution of mental health or a return to a human-centric worldview, but I’m sure it goes beyond that. It is the uprising of the purport of humanity, focused both on the person and its community.

Many of us, who have been working intimately in the pharmacology and health industry for many years, have been long aware of depictions of such a revolution. Long has it been dismissed, with names like alternative medicine, pseudoscience or, simply, illusions from a junky community.

I am, of course, talking about our interaction with and manipulation of neurochemicals and the consciousness-altering states they produce, induced through psychology, neurobiology, pharmacology, technology, and physiology.

We have been consciously experimenting with tweaking our mind and body through our neurochemistry as a medium not only to achieve happiness and exhilaration for decades but as a tool for wellness, mental health, and betterment of ourselves as species.

It is not, then, difficult to observe the cues. The rise of mental health awareness, the popularity of “biohacking” technology and enhanced availability of euphoria-inducing extreme sports and destinations are some examples; another very direct approach, of course, is the global trend of legalization of psychotropics and psychedelics in different countries around the world.

As I have been presenting in my previous columns, the social, economic, health-focused movement toward the legalization of cannabis worldwide is but a stepping stone to something bigger, something beyond the “you are sick then you get medicine” approach; it is a complete transformation of health and wellness, focused on the individual as a whole, something beyond just a physiological experience.

For example, a very common question in the discussion about the personal benefits of cannabis is whether or not cannabis makes you more creative.

There is quite enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that cannabis use does indeed increase human creativity. Steve Jobs, an undeniably creative mind, once said: “The best way I could describe the effect of cannabis and hashish, is that I would relax and activate my creativity.” Other regular users claim that cannabis induces a state in which they experience unusual and original thoughts.

The importance of such questions lies in the expectations embedded in the very essence of this search for altered states of consciousness, not as a goal in itself, but as a medium to achieve something more.

The appeal is very tangible, too. In a business-first, stress-filled world, where we often value personal sacrifice through “all work and no play,” we are starting to hear more about pursuing creative problem-solving through lateral thinking or “thinking outside the box,” not only to achieve better or faster results but also to tend to personal growth.

And who wouldn’t want to find connections between ideas we have never thought before? This creative thinking, personal growth, and deep-insight potential to fundamentally change who and how we are is intimately linked not only to advances in science and technology but in our deep desire to become more.

Anandamide, dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine, oxytocin, serotonin. The list goes on. Hand in hand with science, we now know that these neurochemicals are not only responsible for a state of well-being in our bodies but also responsible for our innermost desires.

Only by chasing those desires the need for harmony and wellness within our anatomy  ⁠ will we now know how balancing body and brain functions let us access these compounds. We now know how such neurochemicals, either endogenous (produced within our body through physical activity like exercise, meditation, or sex), or exogenous (the intake of compounds like phytocannabinoids or psilocybin), can help the process of healing pain and injury, expand creativeness and insight, as well as aid against trauma.

In a direct case for such uses, many health professionals and officials are sounding the alarm that mental health disorders are the next big challenge, a pandemic that has been long-coming. The WHO’s definition of mental health is that, “It is more than the absence of a mental disorder; it is the ability to think, learn, and understand one's emotions and the reactions of others. Mental health is a state of balance, both within and with the environment.”

Led by new clinical research and promising results with psychedelics, our mental health will take a front seat in this journey, and we must be prepared for the ride.

We are not upholding the idea of a drug-fueled hedonist approach to personal growth and wellness. We are just stating that no matter how hard we want to look the other way, thanks to the advancement in research and information sharing, as well as awareness of mental health and psychopharmacology and a continuous search for personal betterment, we no longer have an excuse to keep ignoring the deep mechanics of how our brain, our body, and our desire works.

Collectively, we are braving a new paradigm. We must educate ourselves and be prepared for what’s coming; it is our right and duty to know our mind and body beyond the confines of taboo and prohibitionism.

Photo by:   Erick Ponce

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