by rocki17000 on February 10, 2017 - 2:52pm
Magic mushrooms, sometimes referred to as "mush" are a class of psychedelic drugs used mostly for pleasure and for the hallucinations it can cause. The drug is praised by its users for its positive effects, both immediate and on the long term. There can however be negative consequences ranging from a feeling of anxiety for a few hours, to a full on psychosis and long term psychological damage. Most of these negative side effect occur when too much of the substance is ingested.
The active ingredient in mush is called psilocybin and is responsible for most of the desired and undesired effects. Some people have reported that their overall quality of life had increased or that it had helped them quit smoking and drinking. Although this evidence is only anecdotal, some medical experts are trying to get grants and permissions to perform tests with psilocybin on human subjects (1). The obvious ethical dilemma here is "Should we let medical experts test an illegal drug that can possibly have serious side effects on its subjects?"
There are the obvious arguments against it; the substance is illegal, it can have long term negative effects and most existing evidence is only anecdotal or has been gathered from a small sample. There have been documented cases of individuals essentially losing their minds after ingesting magic mushrooms. It is important to note that those few people were heavy users and had a history of mental illness in their families. Furthermore, it can be tricky to convince the general population of the benefits of such a study. It can be argued using ethical relativism that since most people think of a dangerous and illegal drug when thinking about magic mushroom that it would be immoral to proceed with such tests. This is would be a valid point of view as they have been shaped by their culture, time and location in the world which again according to relativism is perfectly logical and acceptable (2). (lmao)
However, according to the principles of virtue ethics, psilocybin should be tested on a larger scale to find out once and for all if it has medicinal value. In this ethical system, motives matter more than outcome. Since the motives of the scientists that would be testing the substance are pure as they want to help the world by finding a new cure to vices such as alcoholism and addiction and to negative aspects of life such as depression. It does not matter if it turns out that psilocybin is ineffective or even dangerous because the motives behind the testing are virtuous (3). This cause is virtuous not only because it seeks to further humanity's knowledge but it also falls beneath Christopher Peterson and Martin E.P. Seligman's 6 contemporary virtues: Wisdom/Knowledge, Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance and Transcendence. Knowledge because it could provide previously unknown knowledge about the substance, courage because they would want to accomplish this goal in the face of opposition, humanity because it could help people who are in dire need of a cure for their illnesses, justice because it would improve communal life by decriminalizing a potentially beneficial substance, temperance because it could cure people of their addiction and transcendence because it can provide hope to people of a better life (4). Another key factor in virtue ethics is whether the person performing the action has a good moral character or not. In this case, yes. The scientists who would be testing the substance are highly trained and professional. They would be doing this because they know that it is the right thing to do so they would have a solid moral background making them in turn virtuous.
In conclusion, it would be a much better plan to proceed with the experiments as they fit perfectly within a virtue ethics system despite a few drawbacks. It should even be considered a loss for modern medicine to not test a substance that looks so promisable!
(1) "Magic Mushrooms." GINAD - drugs. GINAD, n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 2017. <http://www.ginad.org/en/drugs/narcotics/346/magic-mushrooms>.
(2) Waurechen, Sarah. "Slides_Relativism ethics." 31 January 2017, PowerPoint file
(3) Waurechen, Sarah. "Slides_Virtue ethics." 7 February 2017, PowerPoint file
(4) Van Hooft, Stan. Understanding Virtue Ethics. N.p.: Routledge, 2014. Print.