Are You Ready for Pharmacopia?

We are entering a new era in the consumption of drugs.

Posted Sep 05, 2018

For as long as there have been people, there have been drugs, and there is little reason to believe that will ever change. In fact, there is sufficient evidence to make the case that we are entering a new era in the consumption of drugs, one I called Pharmacopia. Social norms are colliding with scientific breakthroughs that will make the future a golden age for naturally and chemically induced altered states, I believe, with both legal and illegal forms of Pharmacopia to become mainstream. 

For a glimpse of the future of drugs, there is no better source than VICE, the edgy media outlet that covers, in the editors’ words, “everything that matters.”  With regard to our druggier future, Max Daly of VICE lists three certainties:

"Certainty #1: Until the planet explodes, melts, or drowns, humans will want to get intoxicated;

Certainty #2: People who supply these intoxicants, particularly banned ones, will pocket a load of cash; and

Certainty #3: We will be blindsided by a new drug phenomenon, a bolt from the blue, that everyone will pretend they knew was coming.”

There is little doubt that a wave of "nootropics," or smart drugs, is coming our way as a means to help people do whatever they want to do better. Top scientists agree that within five or ten years, there will be a host of substances designed to enable users to “learn, think, relax, sleep, or simply to forget, a bit like the creepy, hangoverless pleasure drug Soma in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World,” as Daly put it.

In addition to this category of “soft” drugs, Pharmacopia will consist of a group of harder mind benders, with much of it available for purchase online. (Like many staple businesses of the past, the local drug dealer is rapidly being disintermediated.)  There is already a thriving “dark market” on the Internet in which a variety of drugs including MDMA, LSD, liquid mushrooms, and good old marijuana can be had.  (Buyers and sellers communicate via the encryption messaging system Tor, with Bitcoin the payment method of choice.) The FBI, Europol, and various other law enforcement agencies shut down larger drug sites from time to time, but they soon pop up again under different names.  In fact, more online drug sellers are moving their operations to the “clear” web and market their goods via a subscription model as a kind of Drug-of-the-Month Club.  The online drug business is “tipping over from early adopters into the mainstream,” noted Mike Power, author of Drugs 2.0: The Web Revolution That’s Changing How the World Gets High, believing, “it will get bigger, easier to use, and more widespread.”

As marijuana becomes legal in more states, in part because of its proven medical benefits, harder psychedelics represent the next wave of drugs to become mainstream for both therapeutic and recreational use. Research has shown that MDMA can help ease the effects of PTSD among veterans, for example, and that psilocybin mushrooms can be of value to terminal cancer patients. Beyond a greater role in medicine, Pharmacopia will result from a greater recognition of the individual’s right to do what one wants with his or her own mind. "It’s a fundamental right to explore one’s own consciousness,” explained Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, seeing “freedom of thought” as just as essential as our other freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

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