Deepak Chopra and the New Psych Revolution

The neuro-expert on how the latest research could change how we think about psychedelics

Deepak Chopra (Chopra photo by Michael Allen / Background by Zeke Barbaro / Getty Images)

The last frontier of the mind-expanding drug counterculture: taking psilocybin, LSD, mescaline, MDMA, ketamine, and DMT has surfaced in the popular consciousness for primarily therapeutic reasons. These drugs, currently, are being researched and some are mobilized in psychedelic therapies to treat addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, chronic pain, and more. Along with sobriety, the psychedelic therapy movement is the fastest-ascending tool to help quell the mental health crisis. Psychedelics will eventually be monetized as alternative medicines or under the looming banner of Big Pharma: our friends at Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and Pfizer, for example.

Add to the list of those interested in their medical potential Dr. Deepak Chopra. A neuroendocrinologist by profession, a celebrity of New Age culture, a prolific author, and a homeopathic medicine mogul, he’s engaged with psychedelic therapy and its potential impacts, and his new miniseries Open Minds promotes the movement.

“[Psychedelics] will ultimately be part of everything that we do in mainstream medicine.” – Deepak Chopra

Why now, after almost a century of knowledge about psychedelics’ properties, are they brought to the fore of mental health research? According to Chopra, “The general interest brought by professionals and the lay public into looking at alternative means of healing, both mental distress and physical illness, and also the general interest in what is expanded reality.

“As people are looking at holistic ways of healing and looking at also self-regulation in the body and looking at how to manage stress, it’s becoming very clear that chronic illness, only 5% is genetically determined,” Chopra explained. “Everything else is basically how you live your life and how you actually find meaning and purpose in your lives.”

With his backgrounds in how the brain regulates hormonal activities in the top of our central nervous center, meditation, and holistic medicines, Chopra sees these disciplines integrating with psychedelic exploration to push beyond just therapies and healing. He’s wanting to look at understanding terminal lucidity, forever altering human consciousness, and allowing us to get in touch with our souls. “As medicine becomes holistic and we treat not just the physical body or the brain, but also the mind, emotions, relationships, our relationship with nature, psychedelics will give us insight into further mechanisms of self-regulation, healing, homeostasis, and loss of the fear of death.”

These are esoteric goals. Yet while Chopra spoke to me of his vision of a utopian plane of existence, in a way, where a certain amount of chronic human suffering and pain are alleviated, he was also grounded to the fact that there will be hiccups as this movement is taken from the underground to the mainstream. I take this as the pedigree of a true businessman, because after all is said and done, psychedelics and the psychedelic therapy movement are soon to become a lucrative marketplace: not unlike the cannabis, alcohol, and tobacco industries. He said, “I have enough faith in how our collective cultural and scientific advances take place that this [psychedelics] will ultimately be part of everything that we do in mainstream medicine and the healing professions, there will be mishaps here and there, and we have to understand that the counterculture movement was a necessary part of this evolution.”

Chopra views his role as a conductor, an educator spreading the gospel, bringing the pieces together to make a whole. He doesn’t claim to be an expert, but a proselytizer for public awareness of the possibilities, research, and science behind psychedelics. He urges us to “take out the biases, look at the science.” In other words, do away with qualifiers like “alternative” medicine: Why not just “medicine”?

There shouldn’t be any argument that we are indeed in a mental health crisis, where traditional effective treatments are lacking to say the least. As a whole, we are under- and overprescribed, misdiagnosed, overstimulated, and somewhat isolated in a world of hyperconnectivity. Chopra says that we have reached a “critical mass” with the psychedelic therapy movement and it is no longer tenable for it to remain underground. As this movement ascends it is crucial to see who will eventually control the reins in being able to legally and responsibly provide these therapies, and the motivations behind them. “That’s the ultimate goal, to get people aware of what works, to get certification programs, to get it part of the mainstream movement.”

One has to wonder if psychedelic therapy’s early success has been because it hasn’t been part of the tangled mess that is our current health care system. Just underneath the radar is maybe where some things are at their purest, and in turn most successful, but then access is always the question; why should only some have access when it has proven to do so well for others? Like most new technologies and medical breakthroughs it is too early to tell, and we will have to wait to see how everything unfolds. However, the fact that this topic is becoming part of popular consciousness and debate speaks volumes. Maybe all those micro doses that have been floating around for years are finally starting to manifest change in ways we never imagined.

Deepak Chopra at SXSW

Open Minds: Innovations in Consciousness, Psychedelics & Mental Health

Sun 12, 11:30am, Convention Center, Ballroom A

Expand Your Mind About Expanding Your Mind

How Psilocybin Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

Fri 10, 11:30am, Convention Center, Room 16AB

Paul Stamets has advocated for clinical testing of shrooms for decades. Are we finally ready?

Women in Psychedelics Talk Psychedelics for Women

Sun 12, 2:30pm, Convention Center, Room 9AB

Could MDMA be the next step in women's health?

Beyond the Hype: The Business of Psychedelics 2.0

Sun 12, 2:30pm, Convention Center, Room 8ABC

Like Big Weed, is the future of pharmaceuticals in a new ketamine industry?

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SXSW 2023, Deepak Chopra, psychedelics, psychedelic therapy

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