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Category Archives: Psychedelics

Researchers went to festivals to study psychedelic drugs and found they left people feeling happy and connected hours after the high wore off -…

Posted: January 22, 2020 at 6:49 pm

As psychedelics are being embraced as a potential treatment for mental health conditions, new research suggests that mind-altering substances like 'magic' mushrooms leave people feeling positive and socially connected hours after the high wears off.

The study by Yale University, surveying 1,200 Brits and Americans at six music festivals, provided evidence to support lab-based research that psychedelic drugs can boost wellbeing.

Between 2015 and 2017, teams of researchers set up "Play Games for Science" booths in busy areas at their selected festivals between 10 AM and 1 PM, encouraging people to come and speak to them. Participants spent 15 minutes filling out surveys on their use of psychoactive substances, as well as age, gender, level of religiousness, political orientation and level of education.

Each person was asked whether they'd had a transformative experience at the festival defined as "an experience that changes you so profoundly that you come out of the experience radically different than you were before the experience" and, if so, whether they enjoyed it.

Most of the participants were moderately liberal 30-year-olds who had attended four-year colleges. Some 80% of them drank alcohol at the festival, 50% used cannabis, and 26.6% used psychedelics. (Only 12.3% of festival goers reported taking zero substances.) Researchers only approached people who weren't noticeably drunk, and they put a question into their survey that functioned as a sobriety check, ruling out participants that were too drunk to answer correctly.

The researchers, led by neuroscientist Molly Crockett, found that the results were strongest in people who'd taken the drugs in the last 24 hours, though most seemed to be experiencing an "after glow" hours after the effects of the drugs should have worn off. They found people who'd taken psychedelics were more likely to feel positive, and some even experienced a shift in their moral values.

Crockett's team could not verify which drug each person was taking, how much of it, and whether it was mixed with other substances. But even their general findings were useful, echoing results in previous controlled laboratory studies that found psychedelics make us feel socially connected.

Crucially, they wanted to understand whether participants' expectations affected their 'high'. People taking psychedelics may have wanted or intended to have a transformative experience, Crockett told Insider, and the fact that attending an event might be a transformative experience even without psychedelics.

"We found that psychedelic use is associated with transformative experience over and above expecting and desiring such experiences," Crockett told Insider.

The study did not look at negative reactions beyond asking participants if their transformative experience had been positive or negative.

In the 1950s and 60s, psychedelic properties such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) were the subject of many scientific studies, but they fell out of favor as the drugs became associated with debauchery and hedonism.

Recently there's been a resurgence of scientific interest in the benefits of psilocybin. In 2018, researchers at John Hopkins, America's oldest research university,urged the federal government to legalize psilocybin.

Last year Johns Hopkins launched a center solely dedicated to psychedelics research. This came after a number of studies which looked at the effect psychedelics had on depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

"Something with more immediate effects has a huge benefit as a tool in the therapeutic toolbox," Matthew Johnson, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, who authored his own psilocybin study, previously told Insider.

However, most research on the possible medical benefits of psychedelics takes place in a sterile lab environment, Crockett told Insider. It means scientists still don't have enough evidence to confirm if people will react to psychedelics in the real world the same way they would in a lab.

That's why Crockett led a group of researchers in visiting a bunch of music festivals, where psychedelics are often used to augment the musical experience, to find out what effect psychedelics might have in a natural setting.

"There is still a lot we don't understand about how psychedelics affect the brain and mind," Crockett told Insider. We need more research on how psychedelics "can be used to reduce suffering and enhance wellbeing, and how to minimize risks and potential negative effects associated with their use."

Read more:

Researchers think magic mushrooms could have the potential to treat depression

A psychedelics expert says magic mushrooms will be approved for depression by 2027 here's why

Why psychedelics like magic mushrooms appear to kill the ego and fundamentally transform the brain

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Researchers went to festivals to study psychedelic drugs and found they left people feeling happy and connected hours after the high wore off -...

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Psychedelics and Their ‘Mystical Effects’ in the Real World – Medscape

Posted: at 6:49 pm

Welcome to Impact Factor, your weekly microdose of commentary on a new medical study. I'm Dr F. Perry Wilson.

In 2006, 36 research subjects were given the psychedelic agent psilocybin under carefully controlled lab conditions. The majority reported having a mystical experience, with 21 of 36 rating it one of the top five most personally meaningful experiences of their lives.

Lab-controlled experiments of the effects of psychedelics have repeatedly shown that the agents can induce so-called "transformative experiences"powerful, nearly religious experiences that may even lead to a reevaluation of central values. Lab studies also suggest that they can cause a dissolution of the ego, leading to certain universal "oneness" and lasting positive effects. But let's be honestthe vast majority of people who use psychedelics aren't using them in laboratories.

So where do you go to find people using psychedelics in the real world?

Yup. Burning Man.

You've probably heard of Burning Man, Coachella, Lollapalooza. And if you were a part of Dr Molly Crockett's Yale team of psychology researchers, you could actually gofor science!

Results of the in-the-wild study appear in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team attended six multiday mass gatherings in the United States and United Kingdom and set up a booth to interview participants about their experiences with various substances.

Credit to clever survey design here. They maintained anonymity by creating a unique identifier for each individual. And to make sure that people weren't actively under the influence, they included a few sobriety checks in the questionnaire. Here's one:

Did you catch that?

To ensure that participants would be comfortable being honest about their exposures, they mixed legal sources of exposure into the survey examples. So instead of asking if the participant had been smoking marijuana, they asked whether he or she had used cannabis products (eg, weed, THC, CBD, hemp oil).

The numbers indicate... well, about what you'd expect.

Eighty percent of individuals surveyed had used alcohol at the event, 51% had used cannabis products, and just over a quarter had used psychedelics. About 1 in 8 reported using no substances at all.

The big question was whether those mystical effects seen in the lab would translate to the real world. And, indeed, they seemed to.

Those who had taken psychedelics were more likely to report a transformative experience, more likely to have a positive mood, and more likely to feel socially connected. This was independent of the effect of other agents.

Now, you might think that people predisposed to take psychedelics are also more likely to claim transformative experiences. The researchers tried to disentangle that by asking the participants about their desire and expectation to have a transformative experience. The effect of psychedelic exposure was just as robust even after accounting for that desire.

The transformative experiences themselves were different when psychedelics were involved compared with other drugs. They were more positive and more likely to lead to shifts in one's moral values.

Now, a major caveat is that the survey wasn't really designed to pick up adverse drug effects, so take the Pollyanna-ish results here with a grain of lysergic acid. But still, overall, the drugs seem to do in real life what they do in the lab. And broadly, the effects are positive.

But why are we talking about this? Three reasons.

First, it's a fun study to remind us that science is cool and doesn't have to be done in a petri dish.

Second, it's a study to remind us that some of our patients use drugs that don't come from us. It is part of good medical practice to ask about them and to understand their effects in context.

But most of all, I think we need to start paying more attention to this space. Softening social attitudes toward certain drugs like cannabis and psychedelics have opened the door to more robust research about their effects. And though it's early days, there seems to be some promise here.

Depression is an epidemic in this country. Current therapies are okay but fail in too many patients. I am encouraged that certain previously verboten drugs, like ketamine, are seeing a rebirth as potentially game-changing antidepressants. We should proceed slowly and cautiously in evaluating any substance that has the capability to alter the sensorium so profoundly (and even change our moral values), but we'd be remiss to dismiss them out of hand. So pay attention. And stay groovy.

F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE, is an associate professor of medicine and director of Yale's Program of Applied Translational Research. His science communication work can be found in the Huffington Post, on NPR, and here on Medscape. He tweets @methodsmanmd and hosts a repository of his communication work at

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Psychedelic Events Are Going Mainstream, Where The Much-Maligned Mushroom Industry Focuses On Mental Health – Forbes

Posted: January 18, 2020 at 10:19 am

Psychedelics have been a mainstay for a millennia and appreciated in the counter-culture for decades. In 2020, whether consuming, investing, or both, mushrooms are having a moment.

PsychedeliTech, a ground-breaking new conference, incubator and discovery platform for psychedelic medicine will host Rick Doblin, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) as the keynote speaker at the first-ever PsyTech Summit, a forum for psychedelic science, innovation and investment conference, in Israel.

The inaugural PsyTech conference will take place March 29-30, 2020 at the Hilton Hotel, on the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv.

PsyTech is a division of iCAN: Israel-Cannabis, which together with CannaTech, its medical cannabis events platform, has been a global participant in education and innovation for cannabis therapeutics and products with conferences in London, Sydney, Hong Kong, Panama and Cape Town, to date.

Saul Kaye, iCAN founder and CEO, said, Rick Doblin is an early pioneer and extremely effective advocate for the potential of psychedelics in the treatment of mental health disease and symptoms, including depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD. We are thrilled he will join us at our first PsyTech Summit in Tel Aviv to share his enlightened vision and vast knowledge of the fast-developing therapeutic ecosystem that is about to explode as a wave of new information, research and consumer interest about psychedelics floods the market.

For the first 30 years of MAPS dedicated research, there were virtually no for-profit psychedelic business opportunities, apart from a few ibogaine and ayahuasca clinics and mushroom sales in countries where the substances are legal.

Psychedelics have the potential to impact and improve mental health.

For-profit entities emerging in the field of psychedelics, such as Cybin with microdosed psilocybin products and Mind Med with synthetic ibogaine, are directly due to the success of non-profit psychedelic therapy research, including the lifelong work of MAPS and other advocates.

"The new psychedelic industry will need to focus on public benefit as well as profit in order to avoid a cultural backlash against these historically misunderstood substances," cautions Doblin."I am looking forward to discussing these important issues at PsyTech, Israels first summit focusing on psychedelic innovation," he continued.

The global market for mental health medications was worth $88.3 billion in 2015, according to BCC Research.

Similar to the cannabis industry, psychedelics and medicinal mushrooms will require an ecosystem to effectively drive education, regulation, safety, investment, research and development.

These key issues, as well as personal stories of treatment, will be explored at PsyTech.

The topic of psychedelics is sparking worldwide mainstream interest. People who want to learn more about the companies developing the science of mushrooms can attend a conference in New York, prior to the upcoming one in Tel Aviv.

"This is an exciting new industry and it's just starting to grow, which is whyGMRis hosting a mini-conference on Psychedelics in New York," says Debra Borchardt, Editor-In-Chief of Green Market Report.

TheEconomics of Psychedelic Investing takes place onJanuary 24, 2020 in NYC.

For those who merely want to experience the effects of psychedelic mushrooms in a safe and welcoming environment, Irie Selkirk offers her guests a transformative psilocybin experience complete with farm-to-table meals and a psychotherapist on staff, at her immersion retreat in Jamaica.

With conferences, nascent investment opportunities and infused staycations available, magic mushrooms are going mainstream.

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Psychedelic Events Are Going Mainstream, Where The Much-Maligned Mushroom Industry Focuses On Mental Health - Forbes

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Psychedelics have ‘extraordinarily potent’ anti-inflammatory power. Is there a place for them in mainstream medicine? – Genetic Literacy Project

Posted: at 10:19 am

Research on psychedelics, which have been profoundly stigmatized, highly restricted, and tragically undeveloped for more than half a century, is stirring back to life and rekindling scientific, medical, and cultural interest in these compounds.

In 2008, a psychedelic compound related to the primary psychoactive alkaloid in peyote was discovered to exert extraordinarily potent anti-inflammatory effects at very low drug concentrationsin vitroandin vivo. Additional studies have confirmed the capacity of psychedelics to modulate processes that perpetuate chronic low-grade inflammation and thus exert significant therapeutic effects in a diverse array of preclinical disease models, includingasthma,atherosclerosis,inflammatory bowel disease, andretinal disease.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently acknowledged thepotential of subperceptual psychedelics. To address the high rate of mental illness among active duty military personnel, DARPA aims to discover new compounds that can exert the rapid and robust antidepressant effects of psychedelics without the associated trip.

In the private sector,Compass Pathwaysis conducting Phase 2 trials of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression.

The time has come to make psychedelics, once seen as out there substances, mainstream and boring again.

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Silicon Valley Is Micro-Dosing Magic Mushrooms To Boost Their Careers – Forbes

Posted: at 10:19 am


Silicon Valley, the home of Facebook, Apple, Google and Twitter, is the embodiment of the hustle culture. It's a place filled with Type-A professionals all desperately competing to start the next big unicorn company that will go public and earn the founders and early employees millionsor billionsof dollars. They also desire to advance their careers against some of the smartest and most talented people in the world.

Professionals in and around Silicon Valley, particularly those 35 years and older, are trying everythingincluding questionable fadsto appear younger than they are, and which may offer an edge for their career. Just because we are in a hot job market and strong economy, it doesnt mean that it's easy for white-collar professionals to succeed in their careers. There is still pressure, anxiety, fear of failure and the need to stay competitive. To improve themselves, weve witnessed the phases of intermittent fasting, cryotherapy, long-term meditation retreats in far off exotic locations, Botox and facelifts for men.

The work world is obsessed with youth for a number of reasons. Older workers earn more money and are deemed too expensive. Management believes they could easily be replaced by younger employees who will cost significantly less. With a hyperfocus on social media and concerns of staying relevant for their customers, those with grey hair seem outdated and dont fit in with the corporate culture, according to some senior management.

The push to stay young and relevant is reaching a frightening level with a new emerging trend. It's reported in the BBC that people in Silicon Valley are taking magic mushrooms, which is really a dose of psilocybin, an LSD-type of drug. For example, $2,000 per month will get you your own psychedelic-trip coach guru. Hell guide you through your mind-altering journey.

Taking mushrooms is a sirens song luring fast-track professionals to boost their creativity and greatly enhance their work performance. It feels like the next level up from asking your doctor for a prescription of Adderall. White-collar professionals and college students alike cite their Attention Deficit Disorder to get a prescribed drug that elevates their adrenaline, sharpens focus and helps people to work better and faster.

Steve Jobs was said to have partaken in psychedelics and playfully derided his rival, Bill Gates, as being unimaginative and suggested that he should drop some LSD. Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoon strip, pundit on YouTube and Periscope and resident of Northern California, claims that he took mushrooms once and it was the best day of his life and he no longer felt any limits to his life and career success. Joe Rogan, the host of one of the most listened-to podcasts and another California resident, is a big proponent of micro-dosing mushrooms and has had numerous guests on his shows, ranging from scientists to MMA fighters, who have shared their positive experiences from micro-dosing.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted two psychedelicspsilocybin and MDMAas breakthrough designations, which permits them to be clinically researched after showing promising potential in treating patients with mental health conditions.

The research is not all positive and include number of drawbacks. One study showed that participants scored higher than usual in connectedness, creativity, focus, happiness, productiveness and well-being. However, it didnt last long, which is counter to the argument that one dose will last long or even change your life forever. There was also an increase in the trait, neuroticism, where emotions become amplified. So, if you feel depressed, it will make it worse for you. Proponents say that one out of a thousand will have a bad trip and could possibly end up with some long-term ramifications. The fear is that you will be that one hapless person.

It's still too soon to tell the long-term benefits or detractions. This trend, like many, may fade and be replaced with a new and better get-successful hack.

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NYC To Host Economics Of Psychedelics Investing Summit – Benzinga

Posted: at 10:19 am

The Green Market Summit, an event series by the cannabis financial news publication Green Market Report, is hosting a half-day event on the emerging trend of psychedelics, focusing on current and future investment opportunities: The Economics of Psychedelics Investing.

The event will offer a program on the opportunities in alternative plant investments, the quickly emerging industry of psychedelic medicines, and the companies looking to capitalize on it.

Research has shown psilocybin can help relieve symptoms of people who experience cluster headaches, treat addiction, and could even be an alternative to typical depression treatments.

This event will educate curious investors as to the opportunities in this industry in its earliest stages. It will take place Jan. 24 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., at 54 West 40th St., New York, NY.

Check out Benzinga Cannabis Psychedelics portal.

This emergence of new companies focusing on the promise of mushrooms to treat certain mental health issues is really exciting. Not only from a patient perspective, but also from an investor perspective. It feels similar to the early days of the cannabis industry and I believe that is why we are seeing a lot of parallels between the two, said Debra Borchardt, co-founder and CEO of Green Market Media. Green Market Report has always had its strength in spotting trends which is why we recognized the importance of this new industry.

Attendees will hear from companies like Atai Life Sciences, MindMed, Field Trip Ventures and KCSA Strategic Communications. Topics will cover the parallels between the cannabis industry and psychedelics, micro-dosing and building a strategy around this promising new science.

After the event, attendees and key industry leaders will be welcomed to enjoy a Cocktail hour sponsored by Mattio Communications.

See Also:

Bruce Linton Talks Psychedelics Investments, Microdosing And LSD: 'The Therapeutic Potential Of Psychedelics Is Greater Than Cannabinoids'

The Keys To Understanding Psilocybin's Medical Value, Market Potential

2020 Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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The Best FREE Things to Do for the Next Week – My New Orleans

Posted: at 10:19 am

Credit: Cheryl Gerber

I have known the fabulous and talented photographer Cheryl Gerber since we were both very green young journalists. We once joked that it must have been a kindergarten teacher who first pulled us together, pointed at me and commanded You, write about this, then to Cheryl, You, take the pictures.

It is, therefore, my great pleasure to inform of the release of Cheryls gorgeous new book Cherchez la Femme: New Orleans Women this evening from 6-9 p.m. at the New Orleans Jazz Museum (400 Esplanade Ave., to celebrate the launch of the book and accompanying exhibit. Cheryl, New Orleans native, captures the vibrancy and diversity of New Orleans women in her new book. Inspired by the 2017 Womens March in Washington, DC, Cherchez la Femme includes over two hundred photographs of the citys most well-known women and the everyday women who make our city so rich and diverse. Drawing from her own archives as well as new works, Gerbers selection of photographs in Cherchez la Femme highlights the contributions of women to the city, making it one of the only photographic histories of modern New Orleans women. The book includes 12 essays written by female writers about such women as Leah Chase, Irma Thomas, Mignon Faget, and Trixie Minx. Also featured are prominent groups of women that have made their mark on the city, like the Mardi Gras Indians, Baby Dolls, and the Krewe of Muses, among others. The book is divided into eleven chapters, each celebrating the women who add to New Orleanss uniqueness, including entertainers, socialites, activists, musicians, chefs, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders, and burlesque artists. The event is free and open to the public. Music will be provided by Danny Barker Banjo and Guitar Festival.

Tomorrow night, the Ace Hotel New Orleans (600 Carondelet St, 504-900-1180, is offering a free AfroXotica Dance Class that explores movements of Africa and the Caribbeans with choreography taught by Andrea Peoples, special guest Bill Summers and DJ Ojay. Hype man Kodjo will keep energy high throughout the class, and guests are encouraged to be free and expressive, while getting fit, relieving stress and learning something new. The event is free and starts at 9:30 p.m. but RSVP is required.

Next Wednesday, the Ace will feature a Talk with the Psychedelic Society of New Orleans, which creates a safe space to discuss psychedelics, joining the global effort to offer education on their numerous applications in medicine, science, psychiatry, religion, the arts and more. The event is free with RSVP and begins at 7 p.m.

Next Thursday evening, the Ace will celebrate Big Chief Bo Dollis Jr.s Birthday Bash with the Wild Magnolias in the on-site Three Keys Lounge. Issuing a critically acclaimed LP in 1974, The Wild Magnolias have gone on to perform at Carnegie Hall and the Capitol Center in Washington D.C. Today, the late bandleader Big Chief Bo Dollis Srs wife, Big Queen Rita, and son, Lil Bo Dollis Jr., carry the torch for the band, weaving modern funk into the bands contemporary repertoire while preserving the generations deep music, traditions and rituals of Bo Dollis Srs band. The event is free and open to the public, and begins at 8 p.m.

Have a great week, everyone. Use it to celebrate the people and the community you love.


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Photos of the Stuff That Fascinates People While They’re Tripping On LSD – VICE

Posted: at 10:19 am

This week, r/LSD a subreddit, as it's name suggests, about LSD made the rounds on Twitter. Among some genuinely useful tips, from people sharing microdosing advice and seasoned veterans passing on their knowledge to newbies, there are also a ton of posts from people mid-trip.

Most of these start out as you'd expect, with questions like, "Why do I all my organs feel like they heating up slowly? [sic]", or a 16-year-old getting existential and asking the group how to go about being more direct with people and taking control of his life.

But then they begin take a more absurd turn, when people start sharing the visuals they're hallucinating. Except, of course, we can't see what they see.

WATCH: High Society Psychedelics

Since the original tweet garnered so much attention, there are of course some more recent posts on the subreddit now that are almost certainly not real. But many of the older ones are and even the joke posts accurately capture an experience that anyone who's taken psychedelics will recognise.

Anyway, here's a selection of some of those posts (regular r/LSD users are already annoyed it's been taken over by people from Twitter, and probably won't be happy we're giving it extra air, but what's done is done and it can't get any worse, I'm very sorry).

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

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Rats on DMT hint at the benefits of psychedelic microdosing – Inverse

Posted: December 31, 2019 at 5:46 pm

Devotees of microdosing dont view the practice as simply doing drugs. Instead, they claim that taking a very small dose of a psychedelic drug can [hold unexpected health benefits](( Microdosing may reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, or boosting ones creativity. But the problem with all of these purported benefits is that theres not enough research to back them up.

In March 2019, scientists took a step closer to unraveling the science behind the anecdotes, when a team led by University of California, Davis assistant professor David Olson tested how psychedelic microdosing affects behavior in animals. They gave male and female rats very small doses of N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), the principal psychoactive component in the hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca. Their results suggest DMT microdosing can promote neural plasticity in key brain circuits related to anxiety and depression. But they also hint at potential downsides that are worth investigating further.

This is #2 on Inverses list of the 25 biggest science stories of human potential of 2019.

I think the most pressing question to answer right now is the issue of safety, Olson told Inverse at the time. Its very possible that while microdosing might have beneficial effects for healthy adults, it could come with severe side effects in other populations.

The study was published in March in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

The team used DMT because they wanted to experiment with a drug thats the most applicable to the broadest range of psychedelic compounds. Olson explained that when other psychedelics like magic mushrooms or LSD are broken down to the molecular level, they are essentially the same as DMT. Because of this shared pharmacology, tests on DMT may be translated to other psychedelic drugs.

Because theres no well-established definition of how big a dose a microdose actually is, the team gave the rats the equivalent of what humans typically use: one-tenth of a hallucinogenic dose. The rats were dosed at an age equivalent to a young adult, since young adults seem most likely to microdose.

The rats received the dose every three days for two months, and, after two weeks, the team evaluated their behavior on the days the rats were not given drugs. When they tested the rats to see if any aspects of their sociability or cognitive functioning had altered, they didnt observe any changes. But they did find that microdosing appeared to alter the rats anxiety and fear responses.

When rats are put into water, the ones who are most anxious and afraid are expected to resort to floating over swimming the earliest. In this study, the rats on DMT had the same reaction as rats on antidepressants who undergo this test they kept on swimming. This suggests microdosing made them less anxious when they encountered a challenge.

In a fear extinction test, microdosing appeared to help the rats overcome fear triggers at a quicker rate than normal, without also impacting their working memory.

But the researchers also noticed two strange, ill effects. Male rats treated with DMT gained a significant amount of body weight, while neurons in the female rats appeared to be breaking down. These results are a little concerning, Olsen said and the team dont know why they happened.

The study highlights just how much scientists dont know about microdosing and the potential hazards it could hold.

As 2019 draws to a close, Inverse is revisiting 25 striking lessons for humans to help maximize our potential. This is #2. Some are awe-inspiring, some offer practical tips, and some give a glimpse of the future. Read the original article here.

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BEYOND LOCAL: Would you ever consider psychedelics to treat PTSD? –

Posted: at 5:46 pm

This article, written byAnne Wagner, Ryerson University, originally appeared on The Conversation and has been republished here with permission:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition, triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying or threatening event. Symptoms can include re-experiencing the trauma, avoidance, nightmares and severe anxiety. Living with PTSD can feel devastating, permanent and life-defining.

The path to relieving suffering can also feel overwhelming diving into past pain, memories and experience to understand and move through them can be horrifying, especially when your system is screaming for you to avoid them. Peoples defence systems can be so strong, their narratives about the world so stuck, that the best treatments we have available do not work for everyone.

Thats where the synthetic psychoactive drug MDMA (3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine) comes in as a supportive catalyst to a therapeutic process.

MDMA has been showing excellent effect for the treatment of PTSD from many different causes including military combat, sexual assault and childhood abuse over the past decade, coupled with an inner-directed, supportive model of psychotherapy.

This therapy combination has received breakthrough therapy designation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. It is currently being tested in a large, multi-site randomized controlled trial, sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

How MDMA works in the brain

MDMA is a drug that alters mood and perception. In non-clinical settings, it is a common recreational drug known as Ecstasy (E) or Molly.

MDMA works on numerous neural structures (especially the amygdala and pre-frontal cortex) and enhances the secretion of hormones and neurotransmitters namely serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and oxytocin, among others.

The drug can produce joyful, blissful experiences and, in the context of PTSD treatment, can allow for a revisiting of traumatic memories, emotions and context with greater ease and less avoidance than would be possible without the drug.

MDMA-facilitated psychotherapy embeds the use of MDMA within a psychotherapy treatment for PTSD, therefore providing a deeply evocative template to be able to work from to move the seemingly immovable presence of the trauma.

Revisiting traumatic memories

As a clinical psychologist and researcher, Ive focused my work on trauma and relationships for the past decade. As the founder of Remedy, a mental health innovation community, and an adjunct professor in psychology at Ryerson University, my goal has been to illuminate treatments for trauma that can have deep, profound and lasting effects. This is what inspired me to work with MDMA.

Our team recently conducted a pilot trial of cognitive behavioural conjoint therapy (CBCT) for PTSD in combination with MDMA, with six couples in Charleston, S.C. The therapy was successful in reducing PTSD symptoms in the majority of couples and improved their relationship satisfaction.

We are now preparing to run a pilot trial of cognitive processing therapy (CPT) with MDMA and a larger randomized controlled trial of CBCT with MDMA that will take place in Toronto, pending government and regulatory approvals.

Preparation and integration

Cognitive behavioural conjoint therapy, a treatment for couples, has demonstrated excellent effect in reducing symptoms for people with PTSD, and also for their intimate relationships and their loved ones.

Cognitive processing therapy, a treatment that focuses on meaning-making about a trauma in order to unravel thoughts and feelings that are stuck, is one of the approaches that has received the strongest recommendation in international treatment guidelines. It was also recently featured on NPRs This American Life.

We test these highly effective trauma-focused treatments alongside the catalyst of MDMA, to see if it offers an additive or potentiating effect.

Sessions with MDMA are daylong, occurring two or three times over the course of several weeks or months, depending on the study. Research participants are accompanied by two therapists.

The therapeutic work done before the MDMA sessions prepares clients for the experience. The work afterwards integrates the experience, using the template of the MDMA session to scaffold new learnings and new ways of potentially understanding their traumatic experiences.

A life-saving legal medicine?

The large randomized controlled trial sponsored by MAPS is designed to collect enough evidence on the safety and efficacy of MDMA in treatment to make it a legal medicine.

As evidence accumulates for MDMAs effectiveness, there is the possibility that MDMA will become legal a medicine to be used in psychotherapy and prescribed for PTSD.

The ability to use it in practice will be potentially life-altering and life-saving for people living with PTSD.

Anne Wagner, Adjunct Professor, Psychology, Faculty of Arts, Ryerson University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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