To begin with, let's look at psychoactive substances, which is a very general term. We consider that psychoactive is considered to be any chemical substance of natural or synthetic origin that when introduced by any means (oral, nasal, cutaneous, intramuscular, intravenous, etc.) exerts a direct effect on the central nervous system (CNS) causing Specific changes to their functions. It is important to know that psychoactive substances are usually classified as depressants, stimulants or hallucinogenic, according to the action they exert on the CNS. These substances are capable of inhibiting pain, modifying mood or altering perceptions to varying degrees. It is currently considered that a psychoactive substance generates a condition of addiction in a person who uses a drug (PQUD) when he suffers withdrawal syndrome when he stops consuming it.
On the other hand consider the psychotropic substances (from the Greek psyche: 'mind' and tropein: 'become'). They are chemical agents (natural or synthetic) that act on the central nervous system, which results in temporary changes in perception, mood, state of consciousness and behavior.
Psychotropics exert their action by changing certain biochemical or physiological processes of the brain. In this sense, most psychotropics act by altering the process of neurotransmission by stimulating or inhibiting activity. Some, like lithium salts, act by modifying the permeability of the neuronal membrane and are used in the treatment of manic-depressive psychosis, for example, allowing to reduce the crises that affect people suffering from this pathology.
Finally, for today, entheogens. They are plant substances or preparations of plant substances with psychotropic properties, which when ingested cause a modified state of consciousness. The term "entheogen" derives from the Greek language, in which entheos means "(having a) god within," "inspired by the gods" and genres, meaning "origin, time of birth." The noun "genos" belongs to the semantic field of the verb gígnomai that means "to become", "to become". Therefore, the etymological meaning alludes to the possibility of becoming inspired by a manifestation of the Transcendent, that is to say God, as well as to the "birth" that this process supposes.
According to these terms, we can delve into the world of Sacred Plants. We speak of plant and fungus species that have been used by humans for thousands of years, sometimes as medicines, others to prepare utensils or for meditative, religious and spiritual purposes; In other words, to connect with the Transcendent.
The ancestral use
On our planet, each culture, each ethnic group or social group within its process of evolution and historical development, has identified, selected and used different plants that produce a passing state of euphoria and comfort, a feeling of increasing subjective well-being. Sacred plants used in ritual and ceremonial contexts, with great ancestral, social and cultural roots sealed by a long historical process. With them, they have given rise to categories, models, ideas, practices, very own that depend on their cosmovision, their social and economic history and the geographical area - nature - where each culture has been established and each sacred plant is present.
In almost all the ancestral communities of any continent has been given the phenomenon of shamanism and with it the use of sacred plants. In spite of different languages and origins, there are many coincidences given by the close relationship between culture and nature, in which power plants occupy a central place.
Some "Sacred Plants" or "Plants of Power" of world recognition are:
- Amanita muscaria, a fungus originating in central and northern Asia.
- Iboga, a plant used by people from Central Africa.
- Species of Datura (drunkenness) used by the primitive peoples of the Mediterranean.
- Cannabis (marijuana) originating in the Near East.
- Poppy (heroin, morphine, opium) has been used since time immemorial in India and China.
In America there is a large group of plants recognized as sacred or of power: Coca, peyote, San Pedro, yag, Don Diego, varieties of borer, snake, tobacco, yopo, psilocybines among many other species Vegetables and fungis. Each species, each variety, is adapted to specific climatic and geographical conditions and different cultures. These plants have been used for thousands of years as a sacred and medicinal resource, as psychoactive ceremonial elements used by ancestral peoples in community relations and to understand the cosmic dynamics of life and the planet.
It is precisely the sacredness attributed to these plants that makes them an object of reverence and worship while giving it a profound symbolic meaning. These sacred plants not only enrich social solidarity but facilitate ritual communication with spirits and divinities. The ritual use of these plants allows the integration of the individual with his family, his community, his culture and his environment. In many cases they were used to recover health, to receive orientation before any important decision, practically in all initiation rites, In almost all cultures, some psychoactive substance appears. In some traditions the use is reserved for those who fulfill the priestly role, in others it is shared with the whole community, always on a special occasion and giving a conducive use to the plant.
These plants are considered sacred and it is for this reason that it is more appropriate to adopt this definition, over other terms like "psychoactive, psychotropic, psychedelic or entheogenic plants", as they are based on Western categories to become toxic, damn, forbidden and Even in diabolical. It is also necessary to revise and even discard the denomination of hallucinogenic plants, used professionally in means of communication, by the connotation of pathological state (illness or madness) that carries this word, and that at the same time, adventurously associates these plants with the idea of "Hazardous substances". While there are multiple elements that clearly differentiate sacred plants from substances that generate physical and psychological dependence, this intentionally has not been sufficiently clarified.
To dig deeper I suggest reading "The Plants of the Gods" by the distinguished Swiss chemist who died in 2008, Dr. Albert Hofmann.
The paradigm shift. We lost the link with plants.
By the middle of the eighteenth century the knowledge of practical nature, coming from the magico-religious world of each cultural area, began to be a scheme considered by academic and empirical medicine as a "sanitary fallacy". Ignoring the "archaic" therapists who had objectively effective methods although their foundation was not rational for the modern sciences. Although prohibitionist policies have led to widespread ignorance of the relationship between spirituality and psychoactive substances in human history, today globalization and the digital age have allowed the emergence of new practices of spirituality, a fascinating phenomenon that Has mutated from the original communities and peoples until it reaches an oral and practical transmission of this knowledge to the big cities.
However, disinformation, fundamentalism and the consequences of the Westernization of knowledge remain the great challenge to overcome the global problem generated by the "War on Drugs" and the obstacle that has also involved science and other disciplines.
Despite the obstacles that different disciplines such as anthropology, psychology, theology, medicine, ethnobotany, neuroscience, biology or chemistry have been studying, seriously and systematically, the importance of these plants. In recent years, in addition to scientific interest, there has been a latent attitude of revaluation of the ancestral wisdom of indigenous peoples. In the same way, a search for a true dialogue of knowledge and forms that complement this knowledge with those of the dominant cultures.
Only in the twentieth century were prohibited global policies towards some of these Sacred Plants, due to interests of the hegemonic powers of the corporatocracy of the time. These prohibitionist measures were driven by the US, which continues to invest millions of dollars in them, although internally it is undergoing a process of reform to its local drug policies and although the inefficacy of the prohibitionism to fight the drug traffic has already been clear.
Prohibitionism has generated wide and diverse consequences: from the thousands of deaths annually caused by the nefarious "war on drugs", to breaking with the freedom and wisdom of ancient traditions, causing a deterioration to the ethnosphere and leading to two Types of consumption of psychoactive substances: responsible consumption and problematic consumption, conscious consumption and unconscious consumption.
A) it is a responsible consumption when the person is aware of being choosing to consume that X substance; Who respects it, is informed about its proper use / consumption, knows its effects and consequences, and has a clear motivation to do so.
B) it is a problematic consumption when the substance happens to be the center of the life of the person and it prevents him to live calmly, suffers symptoms of abstinence and happens organizing his routine around the consumption of the substance. Problematic use or substance abuse in general is often associated with a quest to fill an inner emptiness, a quest for well-being. Being a taboo subject is disinformed arguing from a double standard because we all consume some type of drug, probably every day. Many times, without even being aware, people fall into problematic use because of a spiritual vacuum, so they look for substances that give them some sort of internal chemical satisfaction. The problem posed the use of the substance is turned against them by the lack of access to truthful information and appropriate public policies.
There remains for another opportunity the explicit differentiation between legal and illegal substances (and uses).
Plants and fungi are a source of food, medicine and a source of knowledge when we use them consciously and responsibly. The important thing is the link we create with the environment, this includes people, animals, plants, fungi, etc. If we lack connection, education, knowledge, information about them we can not be responsible. This is related to the stewardship of creation, in the Bible we are called and called to respect and care for all creation, not to destroy it and eradicate species, as some pretend by ignorance or interest.
Like all things, plants are neither good nor bad, it always depends on how a person associates with it, whether it knows it and respects it, how it consumes it, what it is for. Finally, I stress the need to change the habit of understanding the "War on Drugs" in El Salvador as if it were the mere trafficking of illicit substances with the phenomenon of gangs and high levels of violence.
It is urgent to analyze, on the other hand, the cultural, historical and socio-economic factors that have led us to this chaotic situation, to an undeclared "Social War" that binds souls to pain and despair. It reduces and encloses sacred plants of the wise creation of God and potentially dangerous chemical substances in the same one calling to him "drugs". It criminalizes the people who use them and violates the essential rights guaranteed in international human rights agreements ratified by El Salvador. That imposes a single reading possible, from a narrow perspective, selfish and based on the interests of a few.
A change of perspective is urgent.