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Category Archives: Psychedelics
Posted: July 15, 2017 at 11:26 pm
Cannabis is currently not classified or typically thought of as a psychedelic, but some mental health professionals say they would like to change that. It has been suggested that psychedelics such as mushrooms could also treat depression, PTSD, alcoholism, and so on. And psychiatrists also now believe that cannabis has some psychedelic properties that could be beneficial in treating various mental disorders. While this is certainly not news to anyone privy to the vast benefits of cannabis medicine, the study put out by these mental health professionals raises some interesting points.
While attending a recent conference in Londonregarding the science of psychedelics, New York psychiatrist Julie Holland suggested that cannabis medicine could be linked to de-habituation an effect that is experienced by psychedelic drug users. This term is used by some mental health professionals to describe the experience a user might have on mushrooms in which they experience life in a child-like state of wonder, and that things that were once mundane and uninteresting end up becoming enthralling and engaging. According to Holland, some cannabis medicine might cause users to feel the same type of effect, which she believes could be a useful tool in treating mental health issues.
The thing that Im interested in with cannabis is how it does this thing where everything old is new again. That can be very helpful in psychiatry, Holland said in an article appearing in Business Insider.
Holland is currently involved in a Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) study with the goal of determining whether cannabis is an effective treatment for veterans suffering from PTSD.
As with every other much-needed study on cannabis, of course the absurd stronghold of the federal government continually refusing to reclassify the medicine away from its current schedule one designation halts any would-be progress that such research would discover. Despite that absurdity, it is great to see mental health professionals such as Holland being open and vocal about her desire to possibly treat disorders with something other than potentially harmful pharmaceuticals. We need more doctors, nurses, science and medical educators and mental health professionals like Holland to have the courage to come forward and say enough is enough: Cannabis is indeed effective medicine, whether the powers that be like that fact or not.
What are your thoughts on the possible psychedelic properties of cannabis medicine? Do you think there is any merit to these statements? Let us know in the comments.
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Posted: July 13, 2017 at 7:20 am
Lilia Luciano, KXTV , WTSP 7:21 PM. EDT July 12, 2017
When I woke up yesterday morning, I opened the door of my bedroom and walked out to a balcony overlooking the Pacific. I waited to catch a glimpse of the dolphins I had seen the day before and moved on to my meditation ritual.
That was the closest Id get to a mystical experience at the Ibogaine Institute on the coast of Rosarito, Mexico. Upstairs, on the third floor of the house, a man and a woman I had met the day before were laying in a blacked-out room, entering their seventh hour of soul-searching hallucinations. In the house next door, six people had just emerged, changed they said, from a different journey, under the influence of yet another hallucinogen.
Kim, who'd been upstairs, is a 29-year-old with the face of a teenager who has been addicted to heroin for seven years. Just like Colin, also undergoing the Ibogaine treatment in the same room, Kim suffered an accident and became dependent on prescription painkillers. When doctors wouldnt prescribe them anymore, she turned to black market pills. She received a settlement from the accident and said she spent the $90,000 on pills. Finally, she turned to the cheaper alternative, heroin.
Just like Colin, Kim said other programs would detox her on Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, which also has a high risk for addiction and dependence. She said those programs crowd people into bunk beds and although they teach the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, she never even got past the first step. As other addicts I interviewed told me, you become dependent on the Suboxone and the Methadone and you cant really function.
Kim says the Ibogaine Institute doesnt seem like any other 30-day program because they actually work on whats wrong, on the problem of why you use in the first place. She hopes after her treatment, she can return to Connecticut to be a mother to her 6-year old son, now in custody of Kims mom.
The institute offers 7 and 30-day programs to chronic relapsers of drug addiction, PTSD patients, and other disorders. Treatments for addiction begin with Ibogaine, a natural African psychoactive drug, and end with Ayahuasca, a popular South American plant-based hallucinogen.
Scott, the founder of the Ibogaine Institute who says he owes his years of recovery to Ayahuasca, says up to 70 percent of people who have gone through his treatments have stayed sober. According to a 2014 study looking at relapse rates after other residential treatments, 29 percent of people who are opioid dependent will remain abstinent after a year.
Scott says the Ibogaine helps fight cravings and they also integrate heavy doses of therapy, meditation, exercise and a nutritional diet to help people craft a foundation for daily life.
By the end of the treatment they are no longer physically dependent on the heroin, says Scott, who has also integrated the wisdom of 12-steps programs into the treatment. Once the bell has been rung, its impossible to un-ring it. Theyre coming face to face with parts of themselves that they had been unwilling to look at, and because of the journey they are in, theres nowhere to run. We are integrating pieces of ourselves that are at war with each other and once those pieces integrate, it is a lot easier to experience and be able to keep on the path.
He said the reason he's in Mexico is to gather enough evidence to build enough of a case to show the results of the treatment and with that, push for federal agencies to regulate Ibogaine and allow its controlled use in the U.S.
I met Scott at the Psychedelic Science Conference in Oakland where scientists, patients and casual users convened to discuss the benefits of psychedelic drugs and the need for drug policy reform.
I also met Dr. James Fadiman, who is running one of the largest studies on microdosing with LSD.
The major benefit seems to be that theres an improved equilibrium of systems throughout the body, which is why it seems to affect so many different systems," he said.
That sounded to me like a sort of panacea cure for all ailments and it wasnt too far from what Ayelet Waldman told me when I interviewed her at home.
Following Dr. Fadimans guidance, Waldman did a 30-day micro dosing experiment to treat a severe mood disorder and reported her experience in her book, A Really Good Day.
I just wanted to relieve the intensity of my depression and I was profoundly depressed, even suicidal when I started the experiment." she said. "I just wanted to feel better so I said to myself okay you can break the law for 30 days.
She said the treatment helped her more than any antidepressant ever did and it did so without the gnarly side effects. Microdosing doesn't make you hallucinate, as you are only taking between 5 and 10 percent of a typical dose. Ayelet says if the drug wasnt illegal, she would still be microdosing.
LSD and Ibogaine are not the only psychedelics making a comeback and seeking legitimacy in science and health. Magic mushrooms, MDMA, Ayahuasca, and psilocybin, among others, are being studied for their potential benefits to treat a number of illnesses and mental disorders. However, they are all Schedule I drugs which, according to the DEA, are drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies or MAPS, sponsors research on psychedelics and helps scientists navigate the complex pathways of regulation. They are currently conducting one of the most advanced and promising studies in psychedelics by treating PTSD patients with MDMA, also known as Molly.
We found that (MDMA) almost doubled the effectiveness of the treatment," said Allison Feduccia, a researcher at MAPS. "People who were in the MDMA group had significant reductions in their PTSD symptoms two months after completing of the sessions and then also we followed up with them 12 months later and found that 67 percent of participants at that point no longer met criteria for PTSD.
MAPS enrolled 107 subjects across six different study sites in the U.S., Canada and Israel, treating different kinds of PTSD. One study specifically enrolled veterans firefighters and police officers.
Its really a long-term durable effect that we see with this treatment is quite promising," said Feduccia. "This is a very difficult condition to treat with the current medications and therapy available."
MAPS is entering Phase III of clinical trials. If they prove the medical benefits, a cost they estimate will surround 20 million dollars, they can apply for the drug to get rescheduled by the FDA and MAPS will be able to produce it. That doesnt mean Molly will be available to anyone, it would only be part of medical treatments.
Some drug policy advocates say this kind of progress, while good, is not enough to deal with the ill consequences of the war on drugs. Representatives from the Drug Policy Alliance and other advocacy groups stand by the notion that people who want to get high will get high. They also say prohibition creates enormous profits for organized crime groups, endangers the lives of black market drug users, generates violence in the streets and the countries where drugs are produced and has resulted in the mass incarceration of millions of Americans.
Hamilton Morris is the host of Hamiltons Pharmacopeia, a show about drugs on VICELAND. He said he sees freedom of consciousness as a basic human right.
I favor a sort of cognitive liberty stance that people should be able to have the freedom to alter their consciousness with whatever they wish," he said. "Even if it is harmful, even if it is damaging, I think the damage of prohibition I think is far greater than the small number of people that are being helped using these things in a therapeutic way in a clinical trial.
Ethan Nadelmann, who just stepped down as Director of the Drug Policy Alliance says, although Jeff Sessions will make it difficult for psychedelics to reach the level of acceptance that medical marijuana has in the past few years, the overreach by the Federal agencies might push for states to fight back and defend their own progressive policies.
I think the popular consciousness is not there is yet," he said. "We just begun to do some public opinion polling on it where you now have 90 percent of Americans believing that marijuana should be legal for medical purposes, which is up from 60 percent 20 years ago. On psychedelics, there's a growing awareness. But it hasn't penetrated the mass consciousness yet.
That means lobbying and the alternative drug policies that may follow are still long ways away. But for addicts, vets, and people suffering from disorders who could find help in these drugs, the stakes are as high as their very survival.
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Posted: July 12, 2017 at 12:42 pm
ALAMEDA Drug policy debate has raged for decades. And it only has intensified lately with states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana pitted against formidable opposition, especially in the federal government with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling to double down on enforcement.
At least thats the narrative presented to the public. A much different story unfolds behind the scenes, one that extends far beyond marijuana. It involves research into the medicinal use of psychedelic drugs such as MDMA (aka ecstasy or Molly) and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) to treat patients suffering from such struggles as depression, severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Noted Bay Area journalist, author and Alameda resident Don Lattin sheds much light on the subject in his new book, Changing Our Minds: Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy.
This book is about whats happening right now with government clinical trials, Lattin said. The government is open to treatments such as this very controlled. The (Food and Drug Administration) and (the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) have signed off on this.
Lattin, 63, a former longtime writer for the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, has spent years researching the subject.
I interviewed research subjects, researchers and neuroscientists, Lattin said about gathering information for the book. These drugs have a unique quality to help people psychologically or spiritually if theyre so inclined with therapy. Were getting a much better idea of how the brain works.
Changing Our Minds is Lattins sixth book. It serves nicely as a follow-up to his previous two books, The Harvard Psychedelic Club (2010, a California Book Award winner) and Distilled Spirits (2012).
This is really the third book in a trilogy about sacred medicines, he said. The Harvard Psychedelic Club started it, a look at the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. Distilled Spirits is a prequel.
In Distilled Spirits, Lattin blended his own memoir with his research into the lives of three men: English essayist Aldous Huxley, forgotten philosopher Gerald Heard, and Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson. The three got together in the 1940s and 1950s, when, as Lattin wrote, Wilson began a series of little-known experiments to see if LSD could be used to help diehard drunks discover a power greater than themselves.
Changing Our Minds fast-forwards readers to more current times. Of course, Changing Our Minds at the title suggests links to the past too, as psychedelics gained a foothold on the streets in the 1960s. Perceived by many as backlash against the hippie culture, the federal government outlawed the drugs despite arguments for their potential benefits based on earlier research. By the early 1990s, though, the FDA at least partially reversed course and allowed research to resume but without government funding.
The goal (for research advocates and those in favor of reforming drug laws) is for careful, cautious use there has been success working with people with PTSD, for treating psychological trauma, Lattin said. The goal is to reschedule these drugs, not so they can be legal (as over-thecounter medicine and/or for recreational use) but so they can be prescribed by a doctor.
Lattin, who largely covered transportation and the East Bay beat for the Examiner from 1977-88, went on to the Chronicle, where he became best known as a religion writer an experience that dovetails nicely into some of the themes covered in the book. He left the Chronicle through a buyout in 2006, the same year a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed limited use of illegal drugs for religious purposes.
Changing Our Minds explores a transformational movement that advocates the use of mind-altering plants and medicines to promote mental health and spiritual growth, Lattin wrote in the books introduction. It is part of a larger shift in Western culture of people searching for new ways to connect mind, body and spirit. Some seekers make these conscious connections through meditation, yoga, chanting, drumming, ecstatic dance and deep breathing techniques. Others prefer LSD, ayahuasca, ecstasy, magic mushrooms or various combinations of any or all of the above.
Whats happening in many of these circles is the coming together of psychology and spirituality. Even the self-proclaimed secularists in the psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy movement employ rituals that draw from Native American shamanism and the sacramental rites of the Roman Catholic Church. Atheists pound on drums and ring Tibetan Buddhist bells. Medical doctors present MDMA and psilocybin pills to patients with the hushed decorum of Orthodox priests.
Changing Our Minds might not change the minds of those wanting to escalate the war on drugs, but aside from a receptive audience of research and reform advocates, it provides food for thought for those sitting on the fence.
Everyone is taking a different look at psychedelics, that theyre not just for hippies from the 1960s, Lattin said.
For more information about Don Lattin and his work, go to http://www.donlattin.com.
Posted: July 11, 2017 at 10:21 pm
And Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aharon, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before Hashem, which he commanded them not. Leviticus 10:1 (The Israel Bible)
In their search for possible benefits of psilocybin Magic Mushrooms, researchers at Johns Hopkins University put out a call for clergy from different faiths to determine if this natural psychedelic can help man connect with God. Rabbis, even those who have benefitted in the past from this experience, are reluctant, highlighting that the true God experience cannot be confined to a laboratory.
After nearly 50 years of a ban on studying psychedelic drugs and marijuana, scientists are beginning to discover that psychoactive substances bear many physiological and psychological benefits for mankind. Two researchers at Johns Hopkins Bayview, Roland Griffiths and Matthew Johnson, have been studying the powerful effects of psilocybin for over a decade. They discovered the natural substance is effective in reducing depression and end-of-life anxiety associated with terminal cancers. Psilocybin was also found to be effective in helping end addiction.
Many of the studys participants reported feelings of unity an interconnectedness of all things sacredness of life, and over 60 percent reported it as the most meaningful experience of their lives. Significantly, those with the most success quitting smoking or resolving symptoms of depression all reported high levels of this mystical aspect. The researchers expanded their study and are now investigating whether psilocybin has another potential use: to deepen the spiritual experience. The experiment involves clergymen ingesting psilocybin in a relaxed and controlled setting and reporting on their experience.
Their call for clergymen received a lukewarm response. Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, the rabbi of Ohev Shalom Synagogue in Washington DC, was contacted by the researchers. For two reasons, he chose not to participate in the study.
I had concerns about the long term effect of putting those substances into my body, Rabbi Herzfeld told Breaking Israel News. More importantly, I dont need drugs to enhance my spirituality. Psychedelics are a shortcut that doesnt last. The only way to have a meaningful relationship with God is to choose a path in life that brings us closer to Him.
The connection between psilocybin and spirituality has a long history. Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound produced by more than 200 species of mushrooms. Anthropologists believe that its mind-altering effects have been used in a religious context for thousands of years, and it is still being used for this purpose in many South and Central American cultures. Though there is no source for psychedelics being used in Judaism as a means of coming close to God, it is not expressly forbidden.
Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser, a Torah teacher and lecturer, grew up in a secular environment in Hollywood California. Rabbi Glaser acknowledges the benefits of psilocybin, but states that it has no relevance to Judaism.
There is a real spiritual benefit to psilocybin, Rabbi Glaser conceded. God put this in nature to give clarity to spiritual leaders from other cultures.
But Rabbi Glaser emphasized that this is clearly not a spiritual path for Jews.
It is significant that natural psychedelics dont grow in Israel and it is not part of our tradition, he noted. That is because we are a nation of prophets, and the real prophetic experience makes LSD look like kiddie vitamins. Because of that powerful ability, we dont have a need for that immediate personal contact with God like those cultures.
Rabbi Yisroel Finman, an American living in Albania, was a teacher and prayer leader in Rabbi Shlomo Carlebachs synagogue in San Francisco called The House of Love and Prayer. In the 1960s the synagogue was successful at attracting young, non-affiliated Jews with an approach inspired by the American counterculture movement. Rabbi Finman, now 65 years old, stated that using psychedelic drugs, including psilocybin, was once an essential part of his spiritual journey. He considered taking part in the Johns Hopkins study but decided against it.
At this stage in my life, that would be going backwards Rabbi Finman told Breaking Israel News. It would have been a nice mental vacation, but I am at the point in my life when I am looking forward, asking myself what is my tikkun (fixing).
Rabbi Finman also feels that the social environment has changed, making the psychedelic experience less relevant today.
When I began taking LSD in 1965, it was not used as a recreational drug, he explained. Using it as a recreational drug is disrespecting what it is. We used it solely as a spiritual experience, and we were careful in how we approached it. For us, LSD was a teacher and it definitely served that purpose. My awareness of Hashem today is absolutely a result of my experiences with LSD.
I would not encourage other people to use it today even for spiritual purposes, Rabbi Finman said. Incorporating it into everyday ritual cancels its benefits. Taking LSD is like walking around in Gan Eden (Garden of Eden), and when you are in Gan Eden, you arent davening. God wants to hear us pray.
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Posted: at 10:21 pm
It may be legal to experience a spiritual or healing journey on magic mushrooms sooner than you thinkif you live in the right part of America. A group called the Oregon Psilocybin Society is pushing for a 2020 ballot measure that would make the Beaver State the first in the nation to legalize psilocybin, the primary active ingredient in numerous species of psychedelic mushrooms, in a therapeutic setting.
Psilocybin is currently listed on Schedule I under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which means it's supposedly got no medical value and is ripe for abuse. Advocates who say the substance is safe and, in some cases, medically useful hope that in the absence of federal movement, states can start loosening restrictions on their own, just as many have for weed.
Oregon's Psilocybin Society is led by Tom and Sheri Eckert, a husband and wife team who runs a therapy practice in the Portland area. The Eckerts say they believe psilocybin could be beneficial to their own patients, particularly those who have been victims of domestic violence. "Both of us have had interesting psychedelic experiences in the past and saw their power," Tom told me.
"We put the dots together, realized this is relatively safe, certainly when done in the right way and following research protocol," he added. "Seeing the incredible outcomes of research really motivated us."
In recent years, research on psilocybin and other psychedelics has been ramping up, producing results that show potential for treatment of disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, addiction, and more. Psilocybin in particular has been the subject of a series of studies performed at Johns Hopkins University, the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and New York University, which have found that it helped reduce anxiety in some individuals facing terminal illness, while increasing feelings of well-being and gratitude.
However, even as attitudes toward pot have continued to warm up, the appetite of the American public for legal psychedelics remains skeptical. A 2016 Vox/Morning Consult poll found only 22 percent of respondents in support of psilocybin decriminalization, with 68 percent opposed. Even fewer thought the substance should be legal for medicinal purposes: just 18 percent. On the other hand, a poll published by YouGov last month found 53 percent of respondents in support of research on potential medical benefits of psychedelics, despite their legal status, with 21 percent opposed. If the substances were proven safe, a whopping 63 percent of respondents said they would personally consider treatment with psilocybin, ketamine, or MDMA, most commonly known as a component in many forms of ecstasy.
The potential for the Oregon psilocybin measure to have a domino effect is real. Voters in California made the state the first to legalize marijuana for medicinal uses via ballot measure, voting yes on Proposition 215 in 1996. Over the ensuing decades, 28 other states plus Washington, DC, authorized medical marijuana either by ballot or legislation, while seven states plus DC have legalized cannabis outright, despite ongoing federal prohibition.
That said, the founders point out there are important differences between the Psilocybin Society's campaign and medical marijuana programsmirroring some of the differences between the two drugs. For one thing, the initiative would not allow for personal possession of psychedelic mushrooms or psilocybinrather, patients could only take it at licensed centers under supervision of a certified facilitator. Facilitators would not necessarily have to be doctors, to avoid conflicts with insurance and nationally recognized accreditation bodies.
And while medical marijuana states usually stipulate a list of conditions that qualify patients for eligibilitycancer, HIV and AIDS, chronic pain, or othersthe psilocybin measure would open the doors of therapy to any adult not contraindicated for safety reasons, without requiring a particular diagnosis. "It's not only amazing for mental health, there's also a lot of potential for self-development and creative work," Tom said. "We're trying to put forth the most reasonable thing we can without undue restrictions."
The Eckerts say they haven't experienced much in the way of blowbackyet. "Hopefully when backlash does come, we can consistently address the subject matter through science and studies to reduce any fear that is there due to stigmatization," Sheri told me.
Concerted opposition is sure to emerge sooner or later. "This type of drug legalization is the snake oil of the 21st century," Scott Chipman, Southern California chair of the group Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, wrote in an email to VICE. "The movement to 'medicalize' and 'legalize' 'psychedelic' drugs is just one more attempt to move our society toward legalization of all drugs," he says, calling the industry "a dangerous threat to public health and safety."
"We must use the FDA process to determine what is or is not a medicine and not rely on drug dealers, legislators or even public votes to determine medical efficacy," Chipman added. "We call on all citizens to reject drug legalization in all forms."
Meanwhile, as activists like the Eckerts make their move in Oregon, federal change is looking at least somewhat less implausible than it once did. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is in the midst of clinical studies on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a tool to combat PTSD, with a goal of obtaining prescription approval by the FDA in 2021.
"We support any efforts that are educating the public about the beneficial uses of psychedelics as long as the conversation is rounded out with discussion of their risks," MAPS communication director Brad Burge said about the proposed Oregon ballot proposal, adding that "we feel clinical trials and a scientific approach is more likely to create wider acceptance."
While the Oregon measure is focused on therapeutic use, some advocates aren't shy about hoping medical acceptance leads to more widespread legalization. "I'm a believer we need to have a larger conversation about drug prohibition in general," said Mitchell Gomez, executive director of DanceSafe, a group that promotes best practices and harm reduction at electronic music festivals. "Medical use is great because it opens the door for those conversations."
"If you're going to look at the relative risks of classic psychedelics versus the relative risks of hundreds of other things society lets people do, the risk is lower than driving a car, skydiving, swimming, cheerleading, horseback riding," Gomez added. "Mushrooms are much safer to hand to strangers than a peanut."
The Eckerts would love to see a loosening of federal restrictions on psilocybin, but for now are happy to serve in the vanguard of a state-by-state effort. Their group is currently laying the groundwork for a signature campaign to qualify for the ballot, working with the Oregon Legislative Counsel to create sound language for the initiative and beginning educational outreach around the state.
"We're convicted about it, willing to take the challenge and stand up for what we think makes good sense and helps people," Tom said, adding that they've had a lot of contacts by people around the state who are interested in the cause. "We're strengthening our networks, doing more events, developing organization and outreach programs such that it will move into campaign apparatus2020 is shaping up to be a very interesting year."
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Posted: July 8, 2017 at 4:24 am
The Telegraph (blog)
Parliament George and the Psychedelics? Mayor gets playful lesson on hipness
The Telegraph (blog)
But when he called the band Parliament George and the Psychedelics and then George and the Psychedelic Parliament, it elicited chuckles Wednesday from those in the crowd and some of the mayor's colleagues. After Commissioner Gary Bechtel ...
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Posted: July 7, 2017 at 2:22 am
A hub for new developments in the science and application of psychedelics for healing and therapy
Our mission at Psychedelic Times is to share the latest news, research, and happenings around the study of psychedelics as tools of healing, recovery, and therapy. We are passionate about the incredible potential that psychoactive substances such as marijuana, ayahuasca, MDMA, LSD, iboga, psilocybin, and DMT present to humanity, and are excited to share that passion with you.
Psychedelic substances, also known as entheogens, are intimately linked with human culture. From the dawn of human civilization and up to the present, psychedelics have been used and celebrated across the globe as agents of healing, spiritual realization, and personal transformation. There are countless works of art, sculpture, literature, and culture that relate to psychedelic substances, and even today there are native cultures that continue to practice their ancient psychedelic rituals of healing and initiation. Psychedelic experiences have helped to inspire some of the worlds most iconic figures, from Plato, to Steve Jobs, to Kary Mullis, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist who invented the method to replicate DNA, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and attributes his creative insights in part to LSD and marijuana.
Joseph Gabriel Mattia III and Lana Baumgartner are a husband and wife team who work as recovery coaches and agents of growth, health and transformation. They have firsthand experience with the struggles and tragedies of addiction, as well as the hugely beneficial role that psychedelics can play in turning peoples lives around. Their own marriage was strengthened by therapeutic psychedelic experiences on Ibogaine and 5meoDMT that they undertook together at a healing center, an event that inspired them to be trained as recovery coaches and promote the use of psychedelics in healing and therapy.Joe and Lana each have over fifteen years of experience with psychedelics and three years of studying psychedelic therapy. When theyre not working to bring the latest and most noteworthy news about psychedelic therapy here at Psychedelic Times, Joe and Lana offer psychedelic consulting and coaching services including psychedelic integration and referrals for treatment centers and recovery coaching.
Joseph Gabriel Mattia III
Josephs drive to seek deeper meaning and the expansion of consciousness began at a very young age, spurred on by tragic life events including the loss of his father and brother to addiction. As a young adult, experimentation with LSD led him to the revelation that all living beings are sublimely connected, and yet, modern culture promotes separation from nature rather than harmony with it. This led to many years of studying yoga and various other personal development disciplines.
A later encounter with Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) founder Rick Doblin was hugely influential in showing Joe that psychedelics were being studied by leading scientists and their therapeutic uses were increasingly celebrated and understood. This inspired him to embrace his own lessons on psychedelics, to help facilitate therapeutic psychedelic experience for others, and share this knowledge with the world.
Like her husband, Lana also experienced the destructive powers of addiction when she lost her closest family member to a drug overdose. This loss and a series of transformative experiences including her psychedelic sessions with Joe have catalyzed her lifelong journey as a healer, teacher, and recovery specialist.
Lanas mission to help people find health and wholeness is informed by a diverse set of passions including dance, massage, Reiki, yoga, meditation, and nutrition. Her food healing work as a Sensual Foodist has been featured in major media news outlets such as ABC News, Business Insider, and The Huffington Post. With expertise in many alternative healing fields, her approach to health, empowerment and recovery has a broad and multidimensional scope.
Wesley Thoricatha is a writer, visionary artist, permaculture designer, and committed advocate for a more meaningful and harmonious world. Introduced to Eastern spiritual traditions in his teenage years by his grandmother, Wesley would go on to experiment with psychedelics as an adult and have life-changing revelations that brought his philosophical understandings into crystal clear, direct experience. Over the last decade, Wesley has studied indigenous shamanic traditions, exhibited his artwork alongside the worlds leading visionary artists, and been a regular volunteer for psychedelic harm reduction at art and music festivals.
Wesleys goal as an advocate for psychedelics is to help build our cultural aptitude surrounding psychedelic medicines in the same way that indigenous cultures around the world understand and use them for healing, rites of passage, and therapeutic release. He believes that psychedelics are a key leverage point in changing the consciousness of the western world from a paradigm of materialism, distraction, and separation to an interconnected, meaningful, and collaborative one.
We are at an exciting time in history where the stigma surrounding psychedelics is beginning to fade and the realization of their healing properties are being embraced by mainstream science. Scientific research into these substances began in the early and mid 20th century but was halted in the later half of the century due to politics, propaganda, fear, and the War on Drugs. Many of these substances remain illegal and scheduled among the most dangerous drugs, yet that classification and the surrounding stigma is being quickly eroded by the scores of scientific studies that are proving again and again that the benefits that psychedelics offer far exceed the dangers. By and large, they are safe, non-addictive, and have profound benefits that can save and transform lives when used responsibly.
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My grandfather was a death row doctor. He tested psychedelic drugs on Texas inmates. – Texas Tribune
Posted: July 5, 2017 at 9:24 am
Editor's note:In this special contribution to The Texas Tribune, Austin writer Ben Hartman tells the story of his search for the truth about his late grandfather, a prison psychiatrist on Texas' death row who performed little-known medical experiments on inmates in the 1960s.
Eusebio Martinez was polite even happy as he entered the death chamber that August night in Huntsville in 1960. He may not have understood his time was up.
A few years earlier, Martinez had been convicted of murdering an infant girl whose parents had left her sleeping in their car while they visited a Midland nightclub. Hed been ruled feeble-minded by multiple psychiatrists and had to be shown how to get into the electric chair.
As he was strapped in, a priest leaned in and coached him to say gracias and a simple prayer. Just before the first bolt knifed through his brain, Martinez grinned and waved at the young Houston doctor who would declare him dead a few minutes later.
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That doctor was my grandfather.
For three years at the end of his life, Dr. Lee Hartman worked as a resident physician and psychiatrist at Huntsvilles Wynne Unit. From 1960 to 1963, he witnessed at least 14 executions as presiding physician, his signature scrawled on the death certificates of the condemned men. All of them died in the electric chair Ol Sparky a grisly method that left flesh burned and bodies smoking in the death chamber as my grandfather read their vital signs.
I had always known from my father that his dad, who died before I was born, worked for the prison system as a psychiatrist.
But I had no idea that hed worked in the death chamber, witnessing executions. Or that hed been involved in testing psychedelics on prisoners to see if drugs like LSD, mescaline and psilocybin could treat schizophrenia. Or that hed been hospitalized repeatedly during his lifelong struggle with depression.
And I didnt know the truth about his death at age 48, when he was found on the staircase of his house in Houstons exclusive River Oaks neighborhood.
My obsession with my grandfathers life grew from my fathers sudden death from a stroke at his Austin home in 2014. Last summer, I came back to Austin after 14 years overseas and began searching for clues about my grandfather in the state archives, in Huntsville and in boxes of old family keepsakes kept by my aunts.
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I reported on crime and police and prisons for several years as a journalist in Israel, and now I wanted to investigate a mystery in my own family tree. I wanted to learn about the man whose story had always seemed more literary than real a Jewish orphan from the Deep South who fought in World War II, sang in operas and became a successful doctor before tragedy cut the story short.
I wanted to know the man my father was named for, and to use the search as a way to beat a path through my grief over my own fathers death.
Through my grandfathers personal papers, newspaper clippings and long-buried state records, I found a man brilliant, thoughtful and sensitive who witnessed great human drama and suffering in the Death House, and in the process became a determined opponent of capital punishment. He outlined his thoughts in a collection of diary entries and a 19-page handwritten treatise I found in my grandmothers old keepsakes.
The death penalty, he wrote in 1962, is irreparable.
My grandfather was born in Greenville, Miss., in 1916, one of two twin boys placed in foster care after their father died of yellow fever and their mother moved away.
The boys ended up at the New Orleans Jewish Childrens Home and attended the elite Newman School down the street, just like hundreds of other Jewish orphans of their day.
My grandfather and his brother went on to graduate from Louisiana State Universitys medical school. Along the way, my grandfather trained as an opera singer, met my grandmother, started a family, served in the Army Air Corps as a flight surgeon during World War II, then returned home to his family and started his medical career. For a decade he worked as a small-town general practitioner in Louisiana and East Texas.
In 1957, he moved to Houston and enrolled in the Baylor College of Medicine to study psychiatry, a major mid-life career move that, according to my father, was partly motivated by my grandfathers desire to understand his own battles with depression.
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Within a few years, he had gone to work inHuntsvilleas part of a contingent of Baylor College of Medicine psychiatrists sent to the Wynne Treatment Center, a diagnostic unit for mentally ill inmates that had opened the previous year.
It was part of an agreement between Baylor, the Houston State Psychiatric Institute and the state prison system: The schools provided psychiatrists who could treat and counsel troubled inmates, and the prison supplied inmates for experiments.
For three years my grandfather shuffled back and forth betweenHuntsvilleand Houston, where hed established a part-time psychiatry practice in Bellaire and in his spare time sang on stage as part of the chorus of the Houston Grand Opera.
Early in my research, I was searching an online newspaper archive for my grandfathers obituary when an unrelated article stopped me.
The United Press International wire report from May 1962 is headlined: Stickney Dies In Electric Chair.
At 12:26 a.m. Stickney was strapped into the chair. He made no last statement, so to speak. Three charges of 1,600 volts charged through his body. At 12:30 a.m. Dr. Lee Hartman, the prison doctor, pronounced him dead.
Twenty executions were carried out inHuntsvillein the three years my grandfather worked there, and he wrote about the 14 he presided over.
He has the same erudite, wordy writing style of my father, peppered with historical references and written in handwriting eerily similar to that of his son. Each entry begins with the date and the dead mans name, race, crime and victim. In small print above the list, he wrote 1500 volts X 15 sec 200 volts X 30 sec 1000 volts X 15 sec 200 volts X 30 sec a morbid list of the fatal series of shocks in the death chamber.
All 14 of them seem to have had an effect on him, but none more than the execution of 24-year-old Howard Stickney, charged in May 1958 with the murder of Clifford and Shirley Barnes in Galveston. Stickney fled the country, only to be arrested the next month in Canada and extradited to Texas, where his youth, his flight from justice and his fight to clear his name made him an instant cause clbre.
His death row file at the state archives is testament to his celebrity letters and postcards from admirers, clergymen and students at the University of Texas Law School who filed appeals on his behalf.
My grandfathers diaries are full of entries about Stickney. On Nov. 10, 1961, he wrote Howard Stickney tonite followed by an entry further down the page detailing the throng of reporters crowded outside the death chamber.
Stickney in shroud before door to execution room and we were all on our way to execution chamber when phone rang, the entry reads. Apparently a complete surprise to Stickney, who broke down, prayed and wept.
The call, at 12:32 a.m., came from a judge who had granted a 10-day stay of execution.
My grandfathers diary entries at times combined the grisly and the mundane. On April 18, 1962, he detailed the execution of Adrian Johnson, a 19-year-old black man convicted of murder who asked Is there a hood for my head? before he was strapped in.
Johnson said Hi, how ya doin to one of the prison guards in the room before the first shock came through, causing his head to smoke and leaving 3rd degree burns on his leg, the entry says.
Above this entry he wrote in all caps SEDER? perhaps remembering plans for the Passover meal that night.
The horrors of execution by electric chair dart across his pages in language that is sparse and direct. Such as in the case of Howard Draper, Jr. Negro rape of white woman - heart beat 5 min. after final shock, or George Williams, a young black man executed for murder, whose heart beat two minutes after the last shock.
In November 1961, he witnessed the execution of Fred Leach a 40-year-old schizophrenic who he examined and diagnosed as severely disturbed. My grandfathers assessment of Leachs sanity appears on a bench warrant contained in the condemned mans file in the state archives, but it wasnt enough to spare Leachs life.
He witnessed back-to-back executions in 1962 on frozen January nights. And the entries in his diary and the treatise became longer and more detailed, revealing a sense of growing anger and distress.
First came Charles Louis Forgey (only white man I know of executed for rape rare) put to death on Jan. 10, 1962, on a 14-degree night that saw Huntsvilles streets covered in ice and sleet.
My grandfather wrote that Forgey was hyperventilating so greatly that he staggered before sitting in chair Few tears on face as he entered room. Said wait a minute before gag placed in mouth and then said God bless you all after being strapped into chair. 1st shock at 12:02 pronounced dead (by me) at 12:06 very livid 2nd and 3rd degree burns on scalp and left leg and much smoke, more than usual from crown (of head) possibly due to cold. Crown still hot on roller after death. Everyone in good humor and rather jocular.
The next was Roosevelt Wiley, a 29-year-old black man convicted of murder, who was electrocuted on the coldest day in 25 years.
Lord bless all these men, Wiley said, as he prayed while being strapped into the chair, and moments later: Forgive them God for what they are doing, and God I pray that someday this will be over.
Finally, in late May 1962, comes the diary entry on Stickneys last night on earth. The newsmen were kept outside the chamber; my grandfather was one of several men inside with Stickney, including a priest who visited with the condemned man as he smoked a cigarette in his final moments.
I kidded about tranquilizers I had in my packet and he asked for some if I make it. At 12:24, warden returned no stay, Stickney quietly sat in chair. 1st shock at 12:25 dead at 12:30.
In a margin above the entry, he wrote: Dignity and grace, shook hands with several guards while waiting, didnt want to take coat off.
After the execution, my grandfather consented to interviews by TV and radio stations before making his way home to try and sleep, with the aid of a sedative.
Very shook up and angry over whole cruel mess, he wrote.
In the 19-pagetreatise, my grandfather laid out arguments for and against the death penalty and made it clear where he stood.
The death penalty has a brutalizing and sadistic influence on the community that deliberately kills a member of its group, he wrote, adding that it allows law-abiding citizens to vicariously indulge in vicious and inhumane fantasies under socially-acceptable guises.
The death penalty is not applied impartially. There is such surfeit of these cases that to mention them would be redundant. The poor defendant is obviously at a disadvantage and frequently receives the extreme penalty while the wealthier accused escapes a prison term. There is well known discrimination on racial or class lines.
He ends with a rhetorical flourish: It behooves us all to remember that we are all singly and collectively responsible for the execution of capital offenders and we should solemnly ponder the striking words of [English poet] John Donne Any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.
In the photo, a man lies strapped to a gurney, with wires running from his head and body to a large, table-sized machine covered in knobs and switches. A heavyset doctor with glasses stands next to the foot of the gurney, observing the readings on the machine.
The caption reads: Bodily functions of insane convict are measured. Dr. Lee Hartman, Baylor Psychiatrist, injected inmate with LSD.
The photo accompanied a Houston Chronicle article from May 15, 1960, headlined, New Drug That Causes Insanity Used on Prisoners Who Volunteer.
The article is a fascinating window into a time before LSD became synonymous with hippies, when it was being explored as a boon to mankind in the words of the newspaper reporter and even the Texas prison board apparently saw potential therapeutic benefits to using hallucinogens on problematic and troubled inmates.
Dr. C.A. Dwyer, a prison psychiatrist atHuntsvilleand a colleague of my grandfathers, is quoted in the article saying that the tests were meant to figure out what part of the brain LSD affected, in hopes that it would lead them to the location where mental illness also resided. If LSD mimicked mental illness, the doctors reasoned, then finding a drug to counteract its effects might also lead to what Dwyer described as a vaccine for schizophrenia. They used a machine called a physiograph, which recorded prisoners brain waves, heartbeat, electrical skin resistance, pulse, blood pressure and respiration.
Dwyer said they would need tests from thousands of subjects to complete their work, and while the inmates who volunteered received no credit on their sentence or monetary reward, a letter, detailing their efforts, is made a part of their records, and will be considered, I am sure, by the pardons and paroles board.
Details on the extent of the program or the results of the testing appear nowhere in my grandfathers papers. In fact, the only mention of it amid his voluminous accounts of the death chamber is a one-line diary entry: Go to Huntsville tomorrow Bring LSD.
Around the same time that he wrote that, he submitted an application to join the Texas Medical Association in October 1962. On the line for research activity, he wrote: clinical investigation of new drugs for the treatment of mental and emotional illness.
An open records request I filed with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice seeking more information about the LSD tests and other experiments in Texas prisons was answered with a letter saying there was no information responsive to your request.
In the end, it turned out almost everything I was looking for was at the state archives in Austin and in boxes of family keepsakes.
In the state archives, I found the minutes of a prison board meeting held on May 9, 1960, at the Rice Hotel in Houston just six days before the article about the LSD program appeared in the Houston Chronicle.
The document is titled Experiment: Baylor School of Psychiatry, and describes how Dr. Marvin Vance of the Baylor program presented a plan to use four inmate volunteers to test LSD. The Baylor doctors have stated that there is no organic or physiological danger in using the drug, the minutes note. The board approved the hallucinogen experiments which eventually involved giving inmates LSD, psilocybin and mescaline.
My aunt and my father both told me my grandfather sampled drugs before he gave them to his patients to gauge their safety though I suspect this was also a means of self-medication. My aunt told me that after my grandfathers death in 1964, she and my grandmother disposed of the medications he kept at home including a vial of liquid LSD they poured down the sink.
Over the past several months Ive tried to find people who worked with my grandfather in Huntsville, or descendants of those people who may have records. Ive come up empty, save for one man who made a passing acquaintance with him at the prison, an encounter that left a powerful impression.
Dr. Kanellos Charalampous was a psychiatrist and professor at Baylor in the early 1960s who worked at the Wynne Unit with my grandfather and authored a large number of psychiatric studies, including several dealing with hallucinogens and illicit drugs and their potential as therapeutic agents.
When I called him at his home in Houston, the 86-year-old doctor said he only remembered meeting my grandfather once, when Charalampous first arrived in Huntsvilleone night in January 1962. They stayed up late at my grandfathers house, drank a beer and visited some, but the next day Charalampous left for Houston and said he never saw my grandfather again.
His memory seemed spotty, but he told me my grandfather was a manic depressive. It was obvious if you were around him, he said. Then he pointed me to his biography, which had been published online in 2015.
Halfway through the book, Charalampous recalls his first night in the Wynne Unit and his visit with the psychiatrist in residence at the prison.
We had a pleasant visit, enjoying a beer until, at midnight he explained he did rounds on the inmates at 2 am; during the day the temperature rose making the place unbearable. Obviously, I did not accompany him and going to the prison only once a week I did not meet him again until the trustees told me a few weeks later that he had stopped making rounds. I learned this talented man, also a great musician and vocalist, was a manic-depressive who injected himself with large doses of Thorazine to achieve a euthymic state in the days before lithium. A year later, this unfortunate colleague committed suicide.
There has always been uncertainty about my grandfathers death. He had suffered from heart problems earlier in his life and my aunts had always blamed heart disease for his death. My aunt, Marie Geisler, remembers very clearly watching the Beatles American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show the night before my grandfather died, and how cold and weak he seemed.
It had only been a year since he finished his stint at the prison, and a few months since his stay at a mental institution in Galveston one in a series of hospitalizations for the depression that haunted him.
My aunt told me she came home from school to find him lying dead on the landing of the stairs in their River Oaks home, a bottle of morphine on the floor next to him. A few days before, he sang in a performance of Verdis Otelo.
I dont know what role his time in Huntsville played in my grandfathers death. On his headstone in Austin are four simple words: scholar and compassionate healer. That was the man I set out to find after my fathers death, and what Ive pieced together is a picture of a troubled, brilliant man who showed great care for others if not always for himself.
My grandfathers obituary in the April 1964 Journal of the American Medical Association cites acute myocardial failure. His Harris County death certificate tells a different story: It lists the cause of death as barbiturate poisoning (pentobarbital) decedent took an overdose of pentobarbital.
Decades later, that very drug would be used in lethal injection executions in Texas and more than a dozen other states.
Ben Hartman is an American-Israeli journalist originally from Austin. Twitter: @BenHartman
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Posted: July 4, 2017 at 8:28 am
Research has shown that some psychedelics can help treat certain mental health conditions, but stigma is stopping the drugs from doing any good for mental health care in Asia.
Despite research showing that psilocybin and MDMA can alleviate PTSD, clinical depression, substance addiction and end-of-life anxiety, the social stigma around illegal drugs is simply too strong for even researchers to look into the drugs as treatments.
"In Asia, the stigma against psychedelics is so strong that few, if any, researchers have asked for government permission to explore their therapeutic potential," says Brad Burge of MAPS, a US-based nonprofit that advocates for MDMA research in psychotherapy.
However, Forbes reports that some experts warn against what they believe is fighting fire with fire.
"There is little to no evidence that those substances in particular would be more effective than more traditional psychopharmacology, and they come with significant risk," said Brian Russman, deputy clinical director of The Cabin Chiang Mai, a Thailand drug rehab center. "As there is no money in experimental or hallucinogenic drugs and it would be fairly unpopular from a political or public standpoint, I can't see those type of drugs gaining much traction."
But places like South Korea, home to the second-highest suicide rate in the world, needs new solutions soon. China, Japan and South Korea regularly rank poorly in global wellbeing and happiness indexes.
Psilocybin has been shown to alleviate symptoms of major depression, particularly relief from cancer-related depression and existential anxiety. The drug is also being explored as a possible treatment for alcohol addiction.
Studies on MDMA suggest that it can help treat patients disturbed by severe trauma or PTSD, including military veterans and victims of sexual assault. New experimental studies are underway to examine if MDMA can improve the lives of autistic adults suffering from social anxiety.
The stigma of these drugs prevent any bold researchers in Asia from carrying out studies on a large scale, which disallows the studies from meeting clinical standards. This perpetuates these drugs public perception as illegal vices rather than legitimate treatment tools. While using narcotics to treat the mentally vulnerable is risky, advocates say that earnest efforts must be made to support mental health care in Asia.
Posted: at 8:27 am
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings caused a flutter last year when he said that in the future, entertainment could be replaced by pharmacological substitutes (read pills). Why make visual and auditory stories when they can be generated directly in your head?
Anyone who has tuned into Silicon Valleys heartbeat wouldnt be surprised. In the recent past, the collective gaze of the Valley has fallen on a new platform to play around with: the human body and mind, and pharmacological tools are a big part of it.
Unlike Reed Hastings vision of recreation, Silicon Valleys chemical obsession is in pursuit of hacking the mind beyond its limits. Startup warriors in the Valley are wielding pharmacological weaponry in their battle for supremacy in the domain.
The newest trend, however, involves chemistry with a coloured past psychedelics. This time around, psychedelics may have less to do with astral planes and more to do with the mundanity of work. Is this the beginning of a new trip for all of us?
They call it microdosing. Reams have been written about it, but herere some basic facts:
LSD, psilocybin (street name: magic mushrooms) and marijuana are the usual weapons of choice. A microdose is about 15-20 micrograms, about a fifth of the recreational dose that causes you to trip. It doesnt stop you from engaging in your daily routine. You dont switch off from reality. Instead, you become sharper, creative and more social.
At least, thats how the anecdotes go.
A microdose is about 15-20 micrograms, about a fifth of the recreational dose that causes you to trip. It doesnt stop you from engaging in your daily routine. You dont switch off from reality. Instead, you become sharper, creative and more social
If all this sounds extremely unscientific, it is. Today, microdosing is more a fad but its fast becoming a reality. Startup founders, CEOs, programmers, designers, etc are all taking little doses of psychedelics, some daily and others once in a few days, and claiming positive results. Stories from microdosers claiming that it has helped them solve a difficult problem or crack a complex game level are common.
Interest in the trend is on the rise. The microdosing subreditt today has more than 17,000 subscribers compared to a couple of thousands back in 2015. A search for microdosing books on Amazon throws up more than 20 results with titles such as The New Psychedelic Revolution: The Genesis of the Visionary Age and A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life.
One of the more popular books is The Psychedelic Explorers Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys by James Fadiman, the man who may have laid the roots of the current microdosing trend.
Fadimans history with psychedelics is long. In 1966, he published a study linking creative thinking and hallucinogens. But what kickstarted the current trend was his microdosing cheat sheet a manual for interested users that he created in 2010. And his book documenting the benefits.
He was peeling off from the suggestion of Albert Hoffman, the father of LSD who lived to a prime age of 102 years, that small doses of the substance have a positive impact on mental health. Fadiman has since been building an informal study group and receiving user reports documenting the effects of microdosing since.
Claims such as lost my usual anxiety and more focused and in tune are common to find in forums discussing the experience of microdosing
The majority of the feedback from his study is positive. Users report an uptick in performance and mood. Blogs and tech media are filled with magical stories of improvement in mental alertness and happiness levels. Claims such as lost my usual anxiety and more focused and in tune are common to find in forums discussing the experience of microdosing.
Its part of a larger trend. A trend of using nootropics, biohacking and numerous other calibrated lifestyle hacks in an attempt to achieve an ideal physical and mental state. Can this bring psychedelics out of the shadows and into the mainstream?
Humans and psychedelics go back a long way. Our history of the last 10,000 years is dotted with close contact with psychedelics like opium, mescaline, cannabis and magic mushrooms. They were cultivated and used everywhere from South america to Europe to Asia.
Some even believe that psychedelics could have aided in some major cognitive milestones in culture, society and religion. Closer home, the Vedas contain copious references to the sacred, ritualistic soma, a potion that can provide a lightness of being, wisdom and happiness (in some cases immortality). Psychedelic-led transcendence have been part of spiritual experiences around the world.
Also read: Boheco wants to weed out the stigma around this cannabis cousin
But in the modern era, psychedelics exploded into our consciousness in the mid-nineties after Albert Hoffman synthesised LSD in his lab in 1938. After two decades of gestating in research labs and in elite homes, psychedelics flamed out into the world in the early sixties.
In the counter-culture era, psychedelics became a way of life. Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream, sang John Lennon, cajoling his listeners to cut the cord with the boring reality. Writers, singers and musicians exhorted the capability of the drug to produce revelations. Rock n roll put psychedelics on steroids.
It escalated quickly and occasionally things went wrong. The public panicked. Governments reacted with bans and strict regulations. But despite the controls, psychedelics continued influencing art and music. They became synonymous with breaking the shackles of big government, big military and big corporates.
But, they had a huge brand problem as they came to be linked with the strange, excessive culture of the 60s and 70s. That was, until, they found their way into a new cult that was (perhaps unknown then) designing more powerful addictions for the coming millennia using technology.
People are organic machines that can be fine-tuned for magical perfection. This is the thought process that drives Silicon Valleys persistent attempts at pushing the limits of its own mental prowess
Thus began the revival of brand psychedelics in the circuits of Silicon Valley.
People are organic machines that can be fine-tuned for magical perfection. This is the thought process that drives Silicon Valleys persistent attempts at pushing the limits of its own mental prowess. Its position as the dispenser of world-changing innovations has amped up the intellect as the most-valued resource of the modern era.
The rock stars of the modern age wore turtlenecks and hoodies, built personal computers and eclipsed even the Beatles in their fan following. For these demi-gods and those working with them, expanding the mind became a necessity and they turned to chemistry. Steve Jobs spoke in glowing terms about how LSD helped open up his mind and improve thinking.
Slowly, but surely, psychedelics are shuffling from the cord-cutting-with-reality recreational camp into the personal improvement camp. Theres increasing evidence that LSD and some other psychedelics may be less dangerous than cigarettes and alcohol.
Over the last 20 years, the US Food and drug administration (FDA) has approved research on the medical and therapeutic effects of psychedelics with promising results. LSD could have a positive impact in treating anxiety in patients with terminal illness, post-traumatic stress disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders. One study found that psychedelics could help reduce domestic violence among those with substance abuse problems. Another medical trial study in the UK is attempting to understand if LSD in small doses can cure depression.
Slowly, but surely, psychedelics are shuffling from the cord-cutting-with-reality recreational camp into the personal improvement camp. Theres increasing evidence that LSD and some other psychedelics may be less dangerous than cigarettes and alcohol
Yet, evidence is thin and dosing psychedelics for cognitive enhancements is even less understood. The fact that the Fadimans unscientific study based on self-reported results may be the largest body of research on this subject says something.
Governments and corporates have been largely unwilling to fund research even from a clinical benefits point of view. When the UK governments chief advisor on drugs, David Nutt, spoke positively about drugs and their clinical benefits, he was fired, leading him to claim that the way governments ban research on drugs is akin to the wrath Galileo faced from Catholic church for his research.
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But dramatics aside, theres been a steady chipping away of the taboos surrounding mind-altering substances. The legalisation and regulation of cannabis in the US is a case in point. UK, Thailand, New Zealand, Canada and more countries are soon to follow.
Could the microdosing movement reframe the world view on psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin? Will it become as common as sipping on coffee for stimulation?
When it comes to psychedelics, its the fear of the unknown that keeps us circumspect. And theres only one place thats made an attempt to imagine a future with them: science fiction.
Weve obviously got to talk about Brave New World. Aldous Huxleys nightmarish future where drugs and technology make us all sheep to be controlled by the powerful elite resonantes with possibility. Soma, the happiness drug in the story, disconnected people from reality, poisoned them and softened critical thinking.
Yet, a couple of decades after he wrote the novel, Aldous Huxley himself got sucked into the world of psychedelics (first mescaline, then LSD). He wrote about his experiences in the book The Doors of Perception where his tone had changed into one of appreciation of the ability of psychedlics to offer new insights. Huxley became such a proponent of the substance that he requested he be injected with LSD on his death bed.
Does this mean his dystopian imagination was unfounded? Or was it an ironic display of the very dystopia with Huxley becoming a slave to the drug?
The spectre of a Brave New World rises whenever we hear about using drugs for moral improvement. Prozac is known to reduce aggression and oxytocin increases empathy. If drugs could reduce deviant behaviour like violence, racism, etc, and governments get increasingly interested in them, will they be used as a tool of control? Perhaps they can start by chemically correcting those in the prison system.
Other writers have written about drugs causing altered world views. Philip K Dick, who employed psychedelics personally and as a plot device, often painted mind-bending escapes that hopped between transcendental knowledge to revelation of dark and decayed emotional states. His book, A Scanner Darkly, however, is a descend into the hell caused by drugs a dire warning on what substance abuse could cause.
Prozac is known to reduce aggression and oxytocin increases empathy. If drugs could reduce deviant behaviour like violence, racism, etc, and governments get increasingly interested in them, will they be used as a tool of control
Frank Herbert, the American science fiction writer best known for Dune, employed drugs as powerful tools that could generate prophetic visions and bend space-time in the series. He too, was not restricting psychedelics to just his novels.
Which of these worlds will psychedelics help create? A dark, dystopian one where were without control or one that provides us with elevated perceptiveness.
Stanislaw Lem, who outdoes Philip K Dick in mind-bendery in his book The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy, paints a world thats solved most of its problems with pharmacology. It feels utopian and dystopian at the same time. Which is the point Lem makes.
Imagine if someone from the past gets a glimpse of the things we do in the modern era. Theyd see us driving around poison-spewing, people-crushing metal monsters that zip on our roads. Or, look at us staring into screens all day long, lost and hooked. It may well seem like a complete dystopian nightmare. Yet, for those living it, it wouldnt nearly be as frightening.
We have some way to go before well all be shooting down smoothies laced with LSD. Could such small sub-psychoactive doses even make a difference? It is all just a placebo effect? What if we develop tolerance for small doses, leading to escalated dosing? Could we develop an addiction from prolonged use, leading to dependence?
Science needs to catch up and give answers. Given our long history with psychedelics, perhaps it is time.
Lead visual: Angela Anthony Pereira