In the interest of clarity I have to state this from the beginning: Don't do drugs. They are illegal and the penalties are astronomical. It's also completely insane to take something in an uncontrolled environment without knowing anything about what it actually contains.
I have to point out an excellent review by David Nichols that covers extensively the pharmacological side of classical hallucinogens and some of the social and political aspects.
Lophophora williamsii (peyote), has been used by Native Americans in religious practices for almost 6000 years.
Hallucinogens have an extremely old relationship with mankind dating back thousands of years. They played a significant role in the development of ancient religious traditions. In modern times, however, they are associated with a serious stigma and have been illegal in most western countries since the early 1970's. The motivations for criminalization are complex but David Nichols pins them on ignorance and fear:
It should be apparent ... that hallucinogens have a unique and powerful ability to affect the human psyche. They may alter one’s concepts of reality, may change one’s views on life and death, and can provoke and challenge one’s most cherished beliefs. Therein... lay the roots of much of the fear and hysteria that these substances have fostered in our society.While from comedian Bill Hicks:
I'm glad mushrooms are against the law, because I took them one time, and you know what happened to me? I laid in a field of green grass for four hours going, "My God! I love everything!" Yeah, now if that isn't a hazard to our country … how are we gonna justify arms dealing when we realize that we're all one?Whatever the reasons for criminalization, it is clear that severe regulation and public stigma, especially in the United States, has had a serious chilling effect on research for potential medical uses of hallucinogens. Research in the 1960's and 70's focused on the use of hallucinogens in terminal cancer patients, for the treatment of alcoholism, and in treating obsessive compulsive disorder. While the studies showed some promise, the new criminalization and overwhelming media exposure of hallucinogens all but ended this work. After a nearly 20 year hiatus, research in human beings began again in 1991, following a nearly two year regulatory process. Current ongoing research focuses on using hallucinogenic molecules as a tool for exploring cognitive neuroscience.
The failure of much of modern science to envision hallucinogens as key ingredients in our efforts to understand the nature of consciousness and the human mind is what has allowed society to view these molecules for so long only as dangerous drugs of abuse. It is quite unfortunate that legal restrictions have kept these extremely interesting substances from receiving more extensive clinical study, but there are hopeful recent signs that this situation may be changing.-David Nichols
The group meeting hasn't made it to the website yet but I've uploaded a version here.