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Category Archives: Psychedelics
Posted: May 2, 2017 at 11:13 pm
MDMA is consumed primarily for its euphoric and empathogenic effects (Picture: Getty)
New research suggests that psychedelics could be used to lower the risk of suicide.
Psychedelics could be used in treatment for a range of mental illnesses; including depression, PTSD and anxiety according to information presented at the Psychedelic Science conference in California last week.
Substances such as MDMA are being examined as potential remedies for conditions such as PTSD, with an FDA-approved trial taking place later this summer.
Elena Argento, a researcher for the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDs, claims psychedelics could play a significant role in decreasing the risk of suicide in vulnerable groups such as female sex workers.
Ayahuasca, a psychedelic brew made from plants found in South America, shows potential therapeutic qualities.
Argentos research is based on a four-year evaluation on sex workers access to health care conducted by AESHA which included 800 female sex workers in Vancouver.
Participants were asked about their drug use and mental health, including whether they had felt suicidal in the last six months.
Some of the women were excluded on the basis that they were feeling suicide at the time of the initial interview in order to establish a reliable measure of how psychedelics affect new periods of suicidality.
The researcher found that sex workers who had taken a psychedelic at some point in their life was linked to a 60% reduced risk of suicidal tendencies.
While crystal meth use and abuse during childhood remained a predictor of suicidal tendencies.
It should be noted that Argentos study was observational and it wasnt conducted under lab conditions.
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Previous studies have suggested that LSD has proved effective in treating depression and anxiety, though research into LSD as a potential treatment for mental illness have had their progress stunted by Americas so-called war on drugs.
Argento told the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies conference that the next step in her research could be to decipher if specific types of psychedelic or frequency used make a difference to the subjects state of mind.
She said: We didnt separate out looking just at LSD or psilocybin, for example, although thats something we could look at in the future.
There are plans at the BC Center for Excellence to start doing some trials with psychedelics.
Potentially some of the sex workers from AESHA will have the opportunity to be enrolled in these trials of using psychedelics for various mental health issues.
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Posted: at 11:13 pm
(Credit: Future Vectors/Shutterstock)
Depression is challenging to manage, especially since many antidepressants can take weeks to work and simply fail for nearly one-third of sufferers. New research presented in April at the Psychedelic Science 2017 conference in Oakland, California, suggests psychedelic drugs can help people battling depression and other psychiatric disorders that defy conventional therapies.
Drulio Barros de Arajo, a neuroscientist at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil, presented new findings from a study that used ayahuasca a hallucinogenic brew of bark and leaves that groups indigenous to the Amazon use in healing ceremonies to help treat depression. (The study hasnt been peer-reviewed yet but is available here.)
In a 2015 pilot study, Arajo and his team showed that one dose of ayahuasca (between roughly four to seven ounces) quickly alleviated depression in six Brazilian volunteers without serious side effects. Encouraged by these results, he repeated the study in 2016 with 17 volunteers. Again, participants tolerated the psychedelic concoction and experienced relief that lasted throughout the 21-day trial.
But, Arajo says, The main problem with these studies is that we didnt control for the placebo. In drug trials, a placebo is a sham substance with no active ingredients. Researchers use it to suss out the effects of the drug theyre testing from a persons expectation that taking a pill will help them. Controlling for this placebo effect is especially important in depression trials, since studies show up to 40 percent of patients respond to a placebo, though that effect is short-lived.
Ayahuasca before it is cooked and served as a tea. (Credit: Terpsichore/Shutterstock)
So he designed a placebo-controlled study for 35 volunteers whod tried at least two different conventional antidepressants to no avail. They were randomly assigned to receive either a single dose of ayahuasca or the placebo, an inert brown, bitter brew that looked and tasted like ayahuasca. Neither investigators nor patients knew who got what.
People in both groups started feeling better the next day. But a week later, the difference between the two groups became apparent: those who took ayahuasca experienced a substantial drop in the severity of their depression.
Another study presented at the conference, led by Leor Roseman, a doctoral neuroscience student at Imperial College London, reported similar results using psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms.
In Rosemans study, also yet-to-be published, 20 volunteers with treatment-resistant depression received two doses spaced a week apart. The first dose was a teaser to prepare them for the main event a second dose large enough to produce a strong psychedelic experience.
During their clinically induced trips, participants listened to music with their eyes covered to facilitate introspection, while two therapists recorded the participants experience. Of the 19 people who completed the study, most showed dramatic improvements up to a week after the sessions. Their gains persisted for about five weeks, at which point some people continued to improve while some got worse.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University (not associated with the current study) create a comfortable environment during a therapy session using psychedelics. (Credit: Matthew W. Johnson/Wikemedia Commons)
So what was the difference between those who responded well and those who didnt? The intensity of a persons peak experience, Roseman says. This so-called peak experience is associated with several psychological states, including a sense of unity and dissolution of self, positive mood and insight. The more intense the peak (and the more intense these psychological states), the more improvement people experienced.
Collectively, these findings offer a glimpse into the potential of psychedelics. Unlike conventional medications, which tend to dampen positive emotions along with the negative, psychedelics like ayahuasca and psilocybin intensify both the good and bad. This helps people work through their painful memories with a therapist in ways they couldnt before. Its psychedelic drugs power to produce a profound psychological experience, researchers hope, that will put patients on the path to lasting recovery.
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Posted: at 11:13 pm
Can Psychedelic Drugs Treat Anxiety and Depression?
Researchers have experimented with the potentially palliative effects of psychedelics since at least the 1940s, when the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann began experimenting with lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), which he'd synthesized a few years earlier.
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Posted: at 11:13 pm
As anyone whos suffered from depression knows, finding a treatment that works whether that be therapy, medication, or a combination of the two is an arduous process that often feels just as bad as the symptoms of the disorder itself. In short: Depression sucks and the treatments we currently have arent nearly as perfect as commercials for Zoloft would have you believe. But theres some good news: We now have evidence that psychedelic substances including ayahuasca and magic mushrooms may hold the key to alleviating the symptoms.
Discover Magazine reports that at the recently-held Psychedelic Science conference, two studies provided significant evidence that taking a drug-induced trip into ones mind may hold the key to relieving those living with depression of their symptoms. The first study, conducted in Brazil, was a follow-up to a 2015 study investigating whether ayahuasca could mitigate the effects of depression long term. While the original study was promising, its author noted that a major problem was the lack of a placebo. And because all participants received an actual dose of the substance, it was impossible to tell who was benefitting from the treatment and who was just feeling better because they believed they were.
The new study changed that. In fact, all 35 people involved in the study (all of whom had tried two or more traditional medications), were reported to feel better the next day, regardless of whether they took actual ayahuasca or an inert bitter brew that not only tasted bad but also did absolutely nothing.
To try ayahuasca, though, you might need to travel outside of the United States and stay at an expensive lodge. Plus, there are some unpleasant effects that the folk remedy brings out, including vomit lots and lots of vomit. You want to make a depressed person even more depressed? Tell them that the best medicine (not laughter) could involve them puking their guts out for hours and see how they feel. (Source: personal experience after being told this.) So what to try instead? Well, magic mushrooms could be the answer that you seek.
Wait, though! Before you start scrolling through your phone to figure out which of your college friends is granola enough to go on regular head trips, it must be understood that for the trip to alleviate depression, it must be structured in a certain way. Leor Roseman, a doctoral candidate in the neuroscience department at Imperial College London and author of the study, administered magic mushrooms twice to each participant. The first time was a teaser, Discover reports. The second time? A full-blown trip.
During their clinically induced trips, participants listened to music with their eyes covered to facilitate introspection, while two therapists recorded the participants experience. Of the 19 people who completed the study, most showed dramatic improvements up to a week after the sessions. Their gains persisted for about five weeks, at which point some people continued to improve while some got worse.
Of course, this is only the beginning, and, in several years, well probably be much closer to figuring out if and how psychedelics are truly the answer. For now, though, these studies are an excellent reminder that if you suffer from depression, more help could soon be on the way.
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Posted: at 11:13 pm
Syd Barrett is one of the most tragic stories in rock and roll. As the founder and lead singer/guitarist/songwriter for Pink Floyd, he revolutionized rock and roll and spearheaded the burgeoning psychedelic sound of the 1960s. However, shortly after the release of the bands 1967 debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, something changed. Barretts friends and bandmates claim he became more withdrawn, started playing only one chord during concerts, and even becoming catatonic. After Floyd replaced him with David Gilmour, Barrett recorded two solo albums and then left the limelight altogether until his death in 2006. Most people believe his excessive LSD consumption led to Barretts demise, but recent studies suggest psychedelics can perhaps improve mental health, not ruin it.
The most recent study comes from Brazil and tested the effects of a hallucinogen called ayahuasca on people with treatment-resistant depression. Fourteen people were given the hallucinogen while 15 people received a placebo. Within one week, more people who took ayahuasca claimed their depression went from severe to mild than those who took the placebo. Of course, as David Mischoulon of MassachusettsGeneral Hospital points out, we need studies that follow patients for longer periods to see whether these effects are sustained. However other studies that examined the effect of psychedelics on mental health found similar results.
In a study published in 2016, researches from the New York University School of Medicine gave psilocybin to cancer patients along with psychotherapy to see what effect it would have on anxiety and depression. The double-blind study gave some of the 29 participants 0.3 mg of the hallucinogen while others received 250 mg of niacin, then switched after seven weeks. The results found that psilocybin reduced the level of anxiety and depression better than the niacin.
As far as psychedelic drug usage and psychosis, two studies from 2015 found no link between the two. The first comes from Norwegian clinical psychologists Pl-rjan Johansen and Teri Suzanne Krebs who shifted through National Survey on Drug Use and Health results from 2001 to 2004. Out of the 130,152 respondents, 13.4 percent said they used psychedelics during their lifetimes. After examining the mental health histories of these respondents and calculating weighted odd ratios, the authors concluded, We did not find use of psychedelics to be an independent risk factor for mental health problems. The second study comes from the Journal of Psychopharmacology which also took a look at National Survey on Drug Use and Health results, only this time between 2008 and 2012. The results for a general decrease of suicidal ideation and severe mental distress were significantly less among lifetime psychedelic usage than other hard drugs. These findings indicate, the report concludes, that classic psychedelics may hold promise in the prevention of suicide, supporting the view that classic psychedelics most highly restricted legal status should be reconsidered to facilitate scientific study, and suggesting that more extensive clinical research with classic psychedelics is warranted.
So what happened to Syd Barrett? How did such a promising young talent end up with a look in [his] eyes like black holes in the sky? While no one can posthumously diagnose Barrett, the current hypothesis is he already had a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia and the drugs brought it out of him. As former Floyd bassist Roger Waters told the BBC in 2013, It felt to me at the time that Syd was kind of drifting off the rails, and when youre drifting off the rails the worst thing you can do is start messing around with hallucinogens It definitely exacerbated the symptoms that, loosely strung together, you and I might call schizophrenia. He heard voices. He became incommunicative. He turned into a different person; [his eyes] were black holes in the sky.
The same has been said of another so-called acid casualty in rock and roll, Roky Ericksonfrom the 13th Floor Elevators who, according to the documentary Youre Gonna Miss Me, starting speaking gibberish during the height of the bands popularity. Theres also Daniel Johnstonwho always struggled with bipolar disorder, but soon became obsessed with the end times after taking acid during a Butthole Surfers show.
Like with most drugs, it is safe to assume that when it comes to psychedelics, results may vary. This is why Richard Friedman recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times reminding readers that we dont know how safe or effective psychedelics are because most of the data have been anecdotal or from small trials. However, at this point the evidence suggests that psychedelics can help people with depression and anxiety, but not psychosis, so if you have a family history of schizophrenia, better lay off the acid for now.
Trav Mamone is a queer trans blogger who write about the intersections of social justice and secular humanism at Bi Any Means. They also host the Bi Any Means Podcast and co-host the Biskeptical Podcast.
Posted: at 11:13 pm
Photo: Dixie Sheridan, The Marsh
Adam Strauss in The Mushroom Cure at the Marsh.
Adam Strauss in The Mushroom Cure at the Marsh.
Psychedelics combat psychological issues at the Marsh
If you suffer from OCD or know someone who does, the portrait of the disease that Adam Strauss paints in his solo show The Mushroom Cure will ring all too true. Even trivial decisions are impossible, so paralyzing as to imperil ones career and love life, not to mention ones happiness. Treatments? Hed tried them all: medication, psychotherapy, yoga, acupuncture, even hypnotism.
Except hallucinogenic mushrooms.
After acclaimed runs at the New York Fringe and off-Broadway, Strauss account of his unusual OCD treatment is now in previews at the Marsh, under the direction of Jonathan Libman.
Even though OCD is a mind-numbing condition, and Strauss doesnt shy away from that, his script reads like stand-up comedy, which is part of his background. Despite all this effort spent on picking the right shirt, he says at one point, I still havent found the right woman.
The Mushroom Cure: 8 p.m. Friday, May 5; 8:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6. Through June 3. $20-$100. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., S.F. (415) 282-3055. http://www.themarsh.org
Posted: April 30, 2017 at 10:36 pm
"How do you come back from a trip?" asks Sherree Godasi, perched on a round cushion in the back room of a Santa Monica boutique that smells of incense and is covered with Tibetan prayer flags and portraits of Buddha. "One way I love integrating is swimming."
It's a Monday night and there's about ten of us sitting on floor pillows in a circle around Godasi, who is from Israel and wears her long auburn hair in two tight French braids. Godasi is what'sknown as a psychedelic integration coach, and the bi-monthly, donation-based meetings she leads are intended to provide support and guidance after a psychedelic trip induced by hallucinogenic substances. The aim, she says, is to offer a space for thoughtful integrationor the mental processing of a psychedelic experience long after the effects of a drug have worn off. It's an aspect of psychedelic experimentation that's often overlooked in mainstream culture, but that devotees say is equally asimportant (if not more important)than the trip itself.
The concept of integration has been around in some form or another for nearly as long as people have been seeking enlightenment throughmind-altering substances.Modern enthusiasts trace the practice back hundreds of years to Amazonian as well as Native American tribes who took psychedelics in ceremonial settings in search of enlightenment. But in Western medicine, it wasn't until the 1960s that integration became a tenet of the psychedelic therapy movement, pioneered by radical California psychologists like Leo Zeff, a Jungian therapist who saw psychedelics as a tool for self-improvement, and James Fadiman, who co-founded the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto in 1975.
But onlyrecently have coaches, therapists, and healers begun to advertise these services more widely and to the general public. Godasi is one of just a handful of psychedelic integration coaches that openly practices in Los Angeles, but groups like hers have started forming in cities across the country. The rise of so-called integration circles coincides with what many practitioners are calling a psychedelic renaissance, signaled by a new wave of academic research into the possible medicinal benefits of substances like psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient in mushrooms) and MDMA.Godasi and those who seek her services hope that these above ground meetings will help legitimize psychedelics as real forms of medicine and therapy, rather than just party drugs.
"The field is so new and it's so needed because everyone knows people who drop acid or who roll on mollyright, most of us doand these people are experimenting with in fact what are considered extremely powerful substances and medicine," Godasi told me in a phone interview. "Why is there a medical system to assist people who take Advil or overdose on sleeping pills, but not oneto help someone who felt like they met their own god or became completely in love with their friend while taking MDMA?"
If Godasi today considers herself something of an expert on psychedelics, then it was only recently that she was still taking substances "kind of mindlessly," she says. Then an experience at Coachella three years ago shifted her whole point of view. "I took a huge dose of MDMA that completely changed my life and it was hard to get back into this world, you know, with everything that I understand now," she recalls. "All of the new and incredible universal knowledge and downloads that I received and understandings about the nature of humanity" left her crying the whole drive home, she says. But she had no idea what to make of this experience or how to integrate it into her everyday life.
It wasn't until the following year that she discovered integration during a psychedelic conference in LAcalledVisionary Convergence. The idea behind it, presented in a lecture by Berkeley-based clinical psychologist Susana Bustos, immediately clicked with Godasi. But when she and her friend Ashley Booththe founder of the LA-based psychedelic advocacy group Aware Projectnoticed there were few places in the city that offered integration support, they launched their own last year. The result is an organization called InnerSpace Integration, which laid the groundwork for Godasi's integration circles (she has since branched off and now leads them under her own independent brand).
"Because of prohibition, people don't have the kind of support and education to be able to make good decisions about usage," says Booth, who adds that those who go on ayahuasca retreats in Peru, for example, where it's legal, sometimes arrive home to find there's nobody else to talk about their experiences with. "We really would like to create these sort of gathering spaces for people to be able to continue to talk about their experience and how their integration process is unfolding," she says.
Most psychedelics are still Schedule I drugs, with LSD, MDMA, and Psilocybin listed in the same category for abuse as heroin.Which is why Godassi begins every integration circle with a legal disclaimer: She is in no way encouraging anyone to procure or ingest illegal substances. She also instructs the group to avoid naming any medicine providersa preferred term in this community for what others might think of as drug dealersor disclosing the locations where we may have taken hallucinogenic substances like ayahuasca, which in the United States is often administered illegally during group ceremonies in private homes or other underground venues. There's always a chance there could be undercover cops in the room, Godassi says, before alerting everyone to my presence as a journalist. (The members of the group have asked to remain anonymous in this article, many citing potential professional repercussions as a result of their use of psychedelics).
The integration circle is mostly self-directed, and Godasi says she prefers to sit back and observe rather than guiding the conversation. (She also leads one-on-one sessions that tend to be more intensive.) But getting the group to talk isn't always easy, and even though everyone is presumably here to get something off their chests, the room is frequently punctuated by awkward silences. Godasi scans the room, making eye contact and gently posing open-ended questions to find out who recently had a psychedelic experience they're struggling to make sense of. Once the group finally does start to open up, their anecdotes are sometimes prefaced with notes of caution that they've never told it to anyone before. When one person says he no longer relates to his friends after having done ayahuasca, Godasi jumps in with supportive questions intended to provoke dialgoue. "Our entire life revolves around relationships," she says. "So how do you come back and talk to people?" Think of the experience, she says, as"an invitation to reassess where you are."
"James," a50-year-old IT recruiter who asked me not to use his realname,is one of the group's more regular members. He says he experimented with psychedelics recreationally when he was in his teens and 20s, but after getting hooked on methamphetamines, he quit drugs altogether and got sober. "I moved away from the area I was in, I just changed my life and led a suburban life for 20 years," he says. "And a couple years ago my life got shaken up and I started looking for myself again."
That's when he turned to psychedelicsand this time he wasn't just looking to get high. He'd been seeing a psychotherapist for a while, he says, but it wasn't until he started tripping on ayahuasca and DMT that he started to have a breakthrough about who he really was and how to be himselfespecially at work, where he felt like he was always pretending to be a more likable, corporate version of himself. "That process of becoming more at ease with myself, becoming less inhibited, being more comfortable with my own skin, all of those things have been helped immensely by psychedelics," he says, cautioning that while his own experiences have been positive, psychedelics aren't for everybody, nor does he advocate that they'll help anyone else in the same way. "That's where the practice of integration comes in because you learn things about yourself but you have to figure out what those things mean to you and how to integrate them into your life."
But it's not as if he can tell his colleagues and clients about the time he hallucinated that humanoids told him the meaning of life during a DMT trip. Those are the kinds of stories he saves for Godasi's integration circle, where it's not uncommon to hear from people who say they spoke to God, saw the afterlife, or communicated with the spirits of deceased loved ones during a psychedelic trip. These are the types of anecdotes that Godasi says could get a person diagnosed with psychosis or mania if they were to tell a doctor or a therapist about theminstead, she says, most people choose to keep quiet. Others, like James, seek out an integration coach.
As the 90minute integration circle comes to a close, Godasi presses her palms together in prayer and bows her head down, thanking us all for coming and for sharing our experiences. Most of us just met each other tonight, but nobody is ready to leave yet. We all stand in a circle making small talk, and James asks another member of the group where her accent is from. She says she believes she may have inherited it from a past life. Then, as well all linger in the room, she says she can feel that maybe our spirits have exited our bodies and are now communicating telepathically with one another. Everyone staresat each other in silence.
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Posted: April 28, 2017 at 3:19 pm
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, a veteran psychonaut and founder of the Jewish renewal movement, once said: To understand the depth of religion, one needs to have firsthand experience. It can be done with meditation. It can be done with sensory deprivation. It can be done a number of ways. But I think the psychedelic path is sometimes the easiest way, and it doesnt require the long time that other approaches usually require.
Schachter-Shalomi was no stranger to psychedelics. Hed tripped in the 60s with Timothy Leary and Ram Dass (n Richard Alpert), Harvard psychologists who pioneered research into LSD and magic mushrooms. Back then there was a lot of academic interest in mystical experiences and other benefits associated with of those drugs: in one experiment, Leary, Alpert, and psychiatrist Walter Pahnke gave shrooms to theology students at Boston Universitys Marsh Chapel and found that nine of ten reported powerful spiritual highs.
That was, of course before Harvard put the kibosh on psychedelic research, Nixon launched the Drug War, and the whole field went into decades of dormancy. But in recent years psychedelic research has slowly returned to the mainstream with university scientists and nonprofits like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies introducing a sober, FDA-approved, clinical approach. In the process were recognizing how psychedelics can form new connections in the brain and introduce new perspectives, helping patients overcome addiction, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
And so its not exactly surprising that, for the past few months, a handful of religious leaders have been getting high for the first time. The Johns Hopkins and NYU Religious Leaders study includes what will be a total of 24 Muslim imams, Jewish rabbis, Buddhist roshis, and Hindu, Protestant, and Catholic priests who had never done psychedelics before. In study sessions, they are given capsules of synthesized psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, and told to lie down with eyeshades on, while wearing headphones that play calm classical or global music.
Its our thought that the foundational underpinnings of the worlds religions may stem from a common sense of unity and interconnectedness, and that perhaps theres something very similar about them, says Johns Hopkins psychologist Dr. Roland Griffiths, lead author of the study. So what would such an experience mean to someone whos dedicated their life to the study of their own scriptural tradition, teaches spirituality within the context of those traditions, and provides ministry for people in suffering?
A mystical experience in clinical terms is defined by feelings of internal and external unity, transcendence of space and time, ineffability and paradoxicality, sense of sacredness, sense of ultimate reality (noetic quality), and deeply felt positive mood. This supposedly matches the descriptions put forth by saints and mystics over millennia.
With psychedelics, there are two metaphors that people always experience: OMG I found God, or OMG Im dying, says Zach Leary (Timothys son), social theorist and host of the MAPS podcast, as well as his own podcast Its All Happening. Theyre based off the same premise: Do psychedelics have some sort of predefined or predisposed notion that conjures up messages of divinity and God?
These ideas make some people uncomfortable. In our modern western culture, theres an absence of mysticism. Instead we look to science, says Leary.
And yet the evidence is building. What with the dozens of clinical studies demonstrating the efficacy of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, mysticism is all too difficult to ignore especially when the mystical experience is often the mechanism by which patients begin to heal. In the current psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy research, for instance, mystical experiences are helping patients overcome ailments like addiction or end-of-life cancer anxiety.
Griffiths and fellow researchers Katherine MacLean and Matthew Johnson showed in a 2011 study that the psilocybin-induced mystical experience could increase personality openness. In participants who met criteria for having had a complete mystical experience during their psilocybin session, Openness remained significantly higher than baseline more than one year after the session, he wrote.
The professor confirmed the same in a 2015 paper he co-authored. Although biological mechanisms underlying the mystical experience have not been identified, mystical experiences have a clear operational definition, he wrote. And the value of mystical experiences in terms of predicting positive outcomes has been empirically demonstrated.
These changes can turn a life around.
It seems to predict attributions that people make in the long term to positive changes in their life, perception of self, and compassion for others, Griffith says. For instance, reduced craving scores in cigarette smokers are correlated with the magnitude of the mystical experience: the higher the mystical experience, the fewer cravings. In cancer patients, the higher the mystical experience score, the less anxiety and depression theyre likely to report.
Even if we dont understand exactly how drug-induced mystical experiences are helping people, its hard to look past these proven effects.
In the coming years, that could that could force the DEA and FDA to grapple with the concept of legal tripping and it could change what the modern world thinks about mysticism itself.
What were finding is the world itself is not this dualistic Cartesian duality world [with] this duality between the mechanistic, physical, material and the spiritual, ghostly, and abstract, says psychologist Neal Goldsmith, author of Psychedelic Healing: The Promise of Entheogens for Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development. The entire universe is imbued with whatever fundamental stuff, call that God if you want, or subatomic quantum mechanics, but its this sense that the world is not dualistic, but one whole thing. Then it becomes reasonable that matter would have in it a source or magic essence that initiates healing.
Madison is a New York/Los Angeles-based journalist, with a specialty covering science, religion, cannabis, and other drugs.
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Posted: April 27, 2017 at 2:21 am
Photo Credit: Amanda Feilding. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation.
Amanda Feilding was born to British aristocracy,yet her path has been anything but stuffy and traditional.She's an artist and drug policy pioneer whas spent most of her life exploring altered states of consciousness. In the drawn-out hours of her isolated childhood in the towering Beckley Park Tudor outside of Oxford, surrounded by three moats and a vast countryside, the young Countess of Wemyss and March was often left alone to daydream. These hours of childish reverie spurred a lifelong fascination with shifting perceptions of reality.
Photo: Amanda Feilding. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation. Photo by Robert Funke.
Now in her early 70s, Feilding has spearheaded some of the most groundbreaking psychedelics research in the history of modern science. Despite seemingly insurmountable government resistance due to the global war on drugs, which has demonized any substances that might alter our minds, Feildings 50 years of work has helped to re-legitimize the study of mind-altering substances. She continues to work to shift the global mindset toward a more realistic and rational approach to drugs.
Photo: Amanda Feilding through a looking glass. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation.
When she was 16 years old, in 1961, after the nuns charged with her education refused to allow her books on Buddhism, she says she decided to leave school and find my own education out in the big wide world." Without any money, she traveled and ended up out on the deserts in Syria where she lived with the Bedouin and all sorts of adventures happened.She met dervish dancers who introduced her to cannabis, and studied comparative religions with Robert Charles Zaehner, a leading British professor of religion whod written the book,Mysticism Sacred and Profane.
Five years later she was introduced to LSD, and says the experience started a new phase in her life. Another big shift came about a year later, in 1966, when Feilding met artist-scientist Hugo Bart Huges. Huges studied medicine at theUniversity of Amsterdam, but wasnt awarded a medical degree because he was a vocal advocate of cannabis use. Huges introduced Feilding to trepanation, the ancient practice of drilling a hole in ones skull in order to improve cerebral circulation and alter consciousness.
[He had] fascinating hypotheses and it gave me a whole new take on myself, and humanity, why we are such a neurotic species, and how we come to create the incredibly wonderful things we do, Feilding said.Eventually, she performed trepanationon herselfand made a short art film titledHeartbeat in the Braindepictingthe process.
Photo: Young Amanda Feilding. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation.
Ultimately, Feildings own experiences in consciousness exploration convinced her that humanity could benefit from realistic research into psychedelics and altered states. In 1998, she founded the Beckley Foundation, a drug science and policy think tank responsible for innovating the first study looking at LSD in humans in more than four decades. The foundation also conducted groundbreaking brain imaging research showing the effects of LSDandpsilocybin(aka "magic mushrooms"),anda recent successful study of psilocybin for addiction cessation.
When she founded the Beckley Foundation almost 20 years ago, Feilding brought well-known scientists, including Albert Hofmann (the "father of LSD") and Alexander Shulgin (the biochemist responsible for resynthesising MDMA, aka ecstasy or Molly) onto her scientific advisory board.
While Feilding is a countess, her family actually had very little money, and her decision to call her organization a "foundation" was a bit of a misnomer, she says.
Foundation sounds as if it's a monied body which gives out funds," she said. "I hadn't realized that when I chose the word foundation, I just thought if it sounded rather founded in the establishment, it would make people feel safe and take me seriously."
Feilding spoke in depth to AlterNet about her storied life as one of the first modern women to use mind-altering substances to explore her consciousness, and her work in the field of psychedelics science, an area that remains heavily male-dominated. She discussed why she thinks psychedelics could be one potential solution to humanitys self-destructive tendencies, and how these drugs could save the world by shifting the way we relate to ourselves and our planet.
The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
April M. Short: Exactly how did the Beckley Foundation come about, and how has its focus shifted over time?
AF: In the '60s, psychedelics weren't illegal. I got to use and know them very, very well, because that's really what I was studying and I've always used myself as a laboratory. I found I could titrate them and use them by controlling the blood glucose level, and in my opinion, improve performanceimprove what I did. That was very exciting. Then they became illegal, which was obviously a terrible mistake. Then we had all of those terrible things which came out of that approach: Intolerable suffering caused around the world; people's lives being ruined by being shut up in jail, by being killed, by violence and corruption and disease. Every bad genie in the bottle was allowed out because of that mistaken decision to criminalize these basic compounds which, if used wisely, are very useful.
During that period, one couldn't really talk about drugs because they were too taboo.At that point I tried to get out to the public the value of not being in that everyday level of consciousness necessarily all the time; the value of seeing things from a different perspective. As you couldn't talk about taking psychedelics or you'd be shut up in jail or something, I talked about trepanation, which is an ancient operation done since 10,000 years ago to alter consciousness, but at a much lower level than psychedelics.
Photo: Amanda Feilding in 1970. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation.
Probably it achieves the level of a child under the age of a teen. It's a very slight lift, but I used that as a metaphor for the alteration of consciousness. Then in [the mid '90s] the war on drugs became so ridiculous and it was so obvious one couldn't do any research until one tried to reform it, so I set up the Beckley Foundation.
I actually had first called it the Foundation to Further Consciousness, then I changed the name to the Beckley Foundation, to do two things. One, to reform global drug policy and try to get it based on scientific evidence, based on rational approach and regulation of these substances. And twomost importantly, because this was my passionto explore the phenomenon of consciousness and its altered states, and how these states can be brought about and used to the optimum benefit of the individual and indeed society.
That is still my aim, because I think knowledge of consciousness and how we can change it is fundamentally interesting to mankind. Basically, if we can enhance our consciousness, maybe we can use that enhanced consciousness to help us survive. It might help us also be healthier and happier.
That really became my life's work, which it had been before. With the Beckley Foundation, I realized I could be more effective. Being a femalewhich is always a slight disadvantage in these worldswithout any letters after my name, since I left school at 16... I thought I'd be more effective if I was a foundation.
I got a very impressive board of internationally recognized scientists who very kindly said they'd be on my scientific advisory board, including Albert Hofmann, Sasha Shulgin, and a lot of top English ones, like Colin Blakemore and David Nutt.
Photo: Amanda Feilding with Albert Hofmann. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation.
Then I set about the tourings. I was horrified particularly by how, in the drug policy world, cannabis, although it was 80 percent of global illegal drug use, was never mentioned at the U.N. or other state meetings. They never mentioned it, although it sustained the war on drugs. Because, you couldn't spend billions of dollars on something one percent of the world did [i.e the other drugs], it was cannabis that built the percentage up to whatever it was.
The two substances that I knew could be used beneficially, cannabis and psychedelics, were prohibited and locked away in Schedule Ithe [category for] the most highly classified dangerous substances with absolutely no medicinal value. Which absolutely was not true. I knew from years of experience that these substances have immense medicinal and psychological value, so I really concentrated on bringing them into focus, while at the same time trying to show how utterly misplaced the prohibitive approach to drug policy was. To do that, I held meetings with as many intellectuals, thinkers and leaders in that area as possible, in the House of Lords.
I had a series of very good conferences which looked into these key issues and they were quite influential. We produced reports; an important one is calledCannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate[published 2010] which was the first one to address cannabis policy on a global level, for both health and policy/how it is controlled.
It had the world's leading drug policy analyst, who was Peter Reuter, and Robin Room. They were people the U.S. government and the U.N. went to for advice. The report found that cannabis should be decriminalized, definitely, and regulated. It made a big difference at certain high levels, like the policy director of the U.N. said it made all the difference.
What I tried to do was hit key issues, and then try to find the very best people to write about them and get them out there. But it wasn't really what Iloved doing. What I loved doing was research into consciousness. How these psychoactive substances work in the brain, and to what degree the hypothesis of the changing blood supply and changes in neural activity underlie the changes in levels of consciousness.
Photo: Feilding (center) in the House of Lords. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation.
When brain imaging came about, which was in the '90s, incredibly recently, that's really when I decided I should set up the Beckley Foundation because as a foundation I could much more easily get into the brain imaging world than as a private individual.
I ran it on almost no money at all, and actually have been running it ever since, 18 years, and it's been, I would say, successful at helping reform global drug policy. It's really brought about quite a lot of important changes. I've done several of these very important seminars, then in 2011 I wrote a public letter which was signed by nine presidents and 13 Nobel Prize winners, etc., saying the war on drugs must end. I think that was quite influential.
All the time I was also doing scientific research and entering into collaborations. When I found a scientist who I thought I could work with, I suggested that we collaborated, and over the years we've had some wonderful collaborations.
We've done some very exciting research. In the last year, just to give you an example, we did the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme,which I set up with Professor David Nutt about 10 years ago, when he was still at Bristol. Then he moved to Imperial, then it became the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme. This year, we did the first brain imaging study using LSD in human subjects. It took me 50 years, basically, to achieve that goal, which is really rather ridiculous. But it was very fascinating because it showed many of the hypotheses that we had held in the '60s were true.
One of the marvelous images in it shows the communication of the brain, comparing placeboordinary everyday consciousnesswith the LSD state. This is focusing on the visual center, and in the ordinary state there is a little area of activity in the visual center and the few related centers closeby. Whereas, in the heightened state of awareness, the whole of the brain is lit up with activity. It's a very visual expression of what is happening in the brain, on a psychedelic (see illustration).
Image: LSD brain scan comparing activity in the visual center on placebo vs. LSD. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation.
What is exciting about our research is gaining a better understanding of how the brain works, and the system called the default mode network, which is a network superimposed above most other networks and is very dominant in times of non-activity. It's a network which contains several key hub points which act as sensors, to repress certain impulses and control what enters consciousness and what doesn't.
In other words, it's the physiological basis of what in the '60s we termed the ego, the condition reflex mechanism which directed the blood to where it was needed. It's giving a much deeper picture of what we were looking at in the '60s when I first had my realization about how fascinating mechanisms of the brain are. It's very exciting.
Another [study], also through the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme, was the first study to use psilocybin combined with psychotherapy in the treatment of chronic, treatment-resistant depressionthat means people who have been depressed for 20 years and none of the available treatments have helped them. In that category of people there's a high level of suicide, it's a horrible state to be in.
It was a small pilot study, 20 people. It was a 67% success rate. That was very high, that was after the first week then it dropped off slightly to 43% at three months, then stayed there more or less for a bit.
What the research shows is the use of psychedelic enables a change to happen. That, and other research shows that the blood supply to the default mode network, the superimposed controlling mechanism, is reduced. The inhibiting effects of this network over the rest of the brain is lessened, so the whole of the rest of the brain kind of rises, like an anarchical state of happiness, and celebrates by communicating with itself, with each other.
There's a massive cross-communication in the brain which is normally kept repressed. You can see it some rather wonderful illustrations we've done in our research of two circles. One has got a bit of connectivity happening and the other is a mass of connectivity (see illustration).
Image: The subject on the right was given psilocybin, showing increased connectivity in the brain. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation.
Mental illnesses like depression, addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, OCD, etc. are based on two hub centers of the default mode network becoming hyperactive in their conversation between each other. It's like, "I'm so depressed," or, "I need another drink," or whatever it is. That becomes the fixed pattern and what the psychedelic seems to do is, by depriving the energy from the default mode network, that grip, that repressive grip is lost and it enables the brain to shift into a new setting. A freer, looser, more open setting.
People remark, questionnaires and things, there's an afterglow to a psychedelic, which can often make them more open, more happy people. Other people, family members and so on, also report this, that there seems to be a deep level of change, of the person being more open.
It's small research at this point, but we supported research at John Hopkins of overcomingnicotine addiction, tobacco smoking addiction withpsilocybin. That was a study we started years ago, and that had an amazing 80 percent success rate, and is now undergoing a bigger more controlled study.
What it indicates is that something furiously interesting is happening, and we should really quickly try to make up for the lost time and research this on a bigger scale. Then, more importantly, provide access to psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for people in need. That can spread both from, most obviously, people suffering from all of those terrible afflictions which can ruin lives, to the other end of the spectrum which is helping people with marriage problems, wanting to break through into a new area of spirituality, transformation, or overcoming neurotic blocks. There are all sorts of blocks which are kind of based on this rigid thinking that sets into the default mode networks.
Image: The areas that contribute to vision are moreactive under LSD (right), which was linked tohallucinations.
There are two main hub centers, which psychedelics seem to shake free and enable the person, the self, to go to a deeper level of the personality. To approach the trauma, get through the layers of repression, which protect the trauma and protect the person from the suffering which is held within the trauma, the memory of the trauma. It is good for the personality to free the trauma and let it go.
AMS: Right. They let [the trauma] get processed without activating those fear centers and other triggers in the brain.
AF: Funnily enough I was talking last night to a very interesting psychiatrist who had given psychedelic psychotherapy in America before it was illegal. He said you could do two years normal psychotherapy with a psychedelic in one sitting. You just got to a deeper level of a person.
It's criminal for the authorities to make it so difficult to research these things. It took me, you could say, 20 years before I was able to do a brain imaging study of LSD. Of course psychedelics can be dangerous when misused, but not that dangerous. Of all the drugs, tobacco and alcohol kill far more many people. Alcohol kills far more people than all illegal drugs put together. It's wrong to deprive people, not only to ruin people's lives by putting them in prison and all the other horrible things which happened, but also to deprive people of possible treatment. Basically ancestors have always used these substances as medicines, and it's not good enough that the U.N. is saying they have no medical applications and are deeply dangerous, because it just isn't so. They do have medical applications.
Photo: Amanda Feilding giving a speech. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation.
It's urgent that countries, individual countries can do this. They don't have to wait for the U.N. They can reschedule cannabis and psychedelics into a lower schedule, which frees up doctors to be able to prescribe them and scientific research to be able to be done with them. That is a very first step to take in drug policy. That, and decriminalizing all drug use, basically. It doesn't do anyone any good by criminalizing it.
I think maybe we're getting a little bit nearer to those steps, and that's very exciting. I think maybe the older generation, more of them who have experimented with psychedelics in their youth, and in the younger generation they've grown up to kind of see more clearly that it's all been a little mad, this overreaction to these compounds which are treated as if they are more dangerous than nuclear weapons. They're protected in a higher grade of security than nuclear weapons.
That's what I've fought for the past 50 years, is how do you take these wonderful fruits of the gods, you could call them, out of this misplaced prison box they've been shut up in? To teach society that they have great value, they need to be treated with respect, but they can uplift man and bring out the nobler qualities and increase creativity and love the neighbor, love the world. They're capable of I think making man and woman the noblest creatures that they can be kind of thing.
Hopefully it's getting unraveled. People will benefit at many levels, beginning with maybe helping treat these horrible illnesses which are becoming a plague. I also think that very low dose of LSD could be very beneficial for conditions of cerebral insufficiency, like dementia and Alzheimer's. Indeed, it's been shown they can have amazing effects at clearing cluster headaches, or treating cluster headaches.
There are these different areas where we can, with the best science, work out how to improve things. That's what I find very exciting to be involved in.
AMS: Given your background as a British countess, how did you first become interested in psychedelics, the war on drugs, consciousness and all of the things youve spent the last 20-plus years focused on?
AF: I had a fairly interesting, but in many ways very beautiful upbringing, but in complete isolation at the edge of the moor. I had nothing much to do except kind of think about consciousness and life and death, all those sorts of things. That became my passion, the subject of consciousness in its altered states, that was always my passion for some reason, from a very early age. Then I started studying Buddhism, Hinduism, Eastern religion when was about 10. I got rather obsessed with them.
I started out studying, then Iexperienceda change in consciousness, first when I was 16 through smoking cannabis, and then five years later when I first experienced LSD. That was a major change. Then about a year later, I met this scientist, Hugo Bart Huges, who had these new hypotheses about the brain, the physiology underlying consciousness, how the distribution of blood changes with different levels of consciousness. The level of consciousness is dependent on the cerebral circulation, and obviously the brain function, which follows. [Meeting him] was a very changing element, because it also enabled me to understand how one could live and work at this elevated level of consciousness.
It was a new way of looking at consciousness, physiological basis to consciousness. This is pure hypothesis, but I think probably we'll find that quite a lot of it is true: the underlying action of the psychedelic substance is to increase the blood supply and neuroactivity in the brain.
Photo: Young Amanda Feilding. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation.
At first I couldnt see how you could sustain an altered level of consciousness, [like LSD]. ... I found that by keeping your glucose, blood sugar level normal [while on LSD]you could do that by eating vitamin C, so the body can make adrenaline which puts glucose into the bloodsuddenly you can do all those cognitive tasks also, but at a higher level. That was very, very exciting. I could think, talk, I read the complete works of Freud, I did all sorts of things which you wouldn't normally imagine doing on LSD. You can do them with extra inner psychic energy, and that was very exciting.
At that point, I realized that LSD is a tool you can use to enhance your consciousness. For me, that was a major breakthrough. I thought, humanity could be incredibly brilliant, but in some ways its suffering from a lack of consciousness.
AMS: Right, humanitys basic flaw.
AF: We overcompensate for it by all the brilliant things we do, which are totally amazing, but underneath it all we are somehow faulted, sad, suffering, and doing horrible things. Horrible and stupid things. It has always been my passion to try to understand better why is humanity suffering in this way? Why does it impose this suffering upon itself?
Humanity's been developing ways ever since we stood uprightsport/adrenaline, standing on the head, fasting, deep breathing, yogic exercises, eating psychoactive substances, even getting pregnant gets you high. There's all sorts of different ways. They're all techniques we've evolved, which can enhance, can increase the volume of blood in the brain and the action of the brain cells.
Anyway, that became my particular passion, and my aim was to find doctors to research this information.
What can be more fascinating than the core of what we are? In a funny sort of way, it's not really a subject anyone is interested in, least of all science.
Photo: Amanda Feilding, 2012. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation.
Now, consciousness has become an acceptable subject but expanded or altered consciousness is way beyond the path. Until maybe now. I think just now this last year or two, possibly, the tide has turned. Possibly a realization is breaking through at some level that these compounds, which alter our state of consciousness, can actually be interesting.
I think they're highly interesting, because I think our survival depends on our consciousness.Therefore the more we can know about how we work, and how we might be able to adapt it, the better for the individual and also for society. Anyway, that became my gain, in a way, to try to learn more.
AMS: Its interesting that just as were facing drastic climate change and a threat to life on this planet as we know it, psychedelics research and consciousness exploration are experiencing a kind of renaissance. Scientific study of psychedelics and consciousness is becoming more and more acceptable.
AF: Right. In a way, it's very tied up. LSD was discovered roughly the same time as the atom bomb, a kind of internal complement to the atom bomb. I think the '60s explosion of the culture of LSD has been very denigrated, but actually there are a lot of good new concepts that are working their way through society, like healthy eating and spirituality. The philosophies of the East, caring for the environment, compassion, all of those sorts of things came out of the '60s and LSD.
Then came this terrible hand of neurotic repression, because, after all, society is just a projection of the internal world, which is the brain controlled by the ego. Or as it is now called, the "default mode network, which is the repressing structure or network within the brain. Then we had the awful closing down with the war on drugs. It's really deprived patients in need of possible treatment for 40 or 50 years, and now I think were slowly coming out of that period, hopefully.
AMS: Could you explain a little more what you mean by repression?
AF: Really, it's repression of directing the blood supply to where it's most needed, to the center where you have to perform, to decide, whatever that is. But it's controlled by understanding and it turns into repression of thought. Repression of parts of the brain, and consciousness, so whole parts of the brain get deprived of blood supply, their function is kept low.
This is what we've observed in our very recent research on the default mode network, on the brain energy, looking at changes in how the networks of the brain control our consciousness.
Now through our research, which is what I intended, were finding out to what degree the different thoughts are reality. That's very exciting.
AMS: How did you get involved in the drug policy side of things?
AF: Ive always thought, even before they became illegal, it was quite obvious it was a crazy mistake to criminalize these compounds, and indeed all drugs. It just drives them underground, and has all sorts of terrible consequences, which it did have. Now, hopefully, people are beginning to recognize these harms on a bigger scale. That's why I got involved in drug policy, because I realized I couldn't do any scientific research into these areas until we actually changed drug policy. It was really impossible to get near them.
AMS: You mentioned being a woman in the research world without all the letters after your name. I recently spoke with Katherine McLean, who has done a good amount of research at Johns Hopkins University on psilocybin, psychedelics and the consciousness of well-being. She made it very clear to me that typically, women are less vocal in general when it comes to consciousness and psychedelics, and all of the things we're talking about today.
Would you talk about why you think that might be, and your own experiences and choices as a woman in this arena?
AF: Yes. I think there's no doubt, generally, the consciousness and the outside world is male dominated. I think that's a projection of the ego, which is a controlling mechanism based on repression, controlled by the world. I think on the whole, males are more controlled by the world than females, who tend to be more intuitive and emotionally motivated. Not necessarily, but maybe as a general gender.
In my own home life, women, the female was always equal. I wasn't brought up with that feeling of intellectual inferiority by being female, but I notice it very much in the male world. I used to say what I wanted to say to my partner, and ask them to say it for me if I wanted to get it noticed.
Photo: Young Feilding. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation.
Particularly, we are very much a world which is controlled by symbols. If you don't have the letters after your name, you can't expect to be taken seriously that you know anything about the subject. I tend to work behind the shadows, and try to talk through people who do have the letters after their name because then they're taken more seriously.
The aim is to change society for what I consider the better, which is being freer and more open. Indeed, it's more like what our research is showing us, that's why it's rather exciting, this imaging research that we're doing at the moment mainly at the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme, is that when you reduce the repressive part of the ego, the default mode network, there is more general activity. There's more possibility of creative, of putting together an original idea. Seeing something in a new way, and obviously that can turn into chaos.
One doesn't want it to go too far, so there's a happy medium where you have a bit of extra stimulation that's still under the control of the ego. You need control to be able to concentrate. I think the best is a balanced male-female interaction, actually.
AMS: I've thought a lot about feminine and masculine qualities of psychedelics and various plants that are psychoactive. The things we label in society as masculine and feminine, I think are brought out in a more balanced way often when people ingest these substances and are brought to these different levels of consciousness. Do you agree, and could you speak to that if it applies?
AF: Yes, I do think so. I think they have a tendency to lift a person above their lower conditioning into a slightly higher, more elevated level of consciousness which is slightly above those verbal conditioning of right and wrong. In that way, I think psychedelics are wonderful aid to relationships. I think a gentle dose of a psychedelic can help a couple see each other's points of view more easily, because the restrictions imposed by the thinking of the ego's default mode network are kind of fairly male in their verbal controlling repressive approach.
Not to say that females aren't also flawed, but a loosening, a general loosening, that can be to everyone's advantage and in overcoming conflicts like between warring nations, it's more easy to see the other person's point of view when you raise a little higher up the mountain in the psyche.
I think that's to be gained. I think in the male-female dance, I think both are slightly different qualities and the ideal is a blending of the best of the both.
As a female in a male-dominated society, I have noticed how one's words are taken less seriously because one's female.
AMS: Right. Things are still so male-dominated. There are so many examples to show that patriarchy is still very much alive and well in the whole western society model. Maybe because of that, or relating to that, I've noticed a trend in my personal experiences interviewing people about psychedelics, especially plants, that they bring out this so-called feminine energy. The intuitive, compassionate, dreamier, more encompassing approach to the world. That, in turn, becomes this leveling, balancing effect.
AF: I absolutely agree. Just as the atom bomb is the expression of the male mind working at its most excessive, psychedelics enhance the female approach in a sense of being freer and looser and more intuitive. More multitasking, more of the different areas of the brain are communicating and functioning. That is a fact.
Amanda Feilding. Photo by Robert Funke. Courtesy of the Beckley Foundation.
What our research has done, one knew these things long before the science was done, but the science is a kind of modern religion and it shows the data on which people, the male brain, can finally believe it because it's shown through scientific data, if you like. Everyone who took a psychedelic long before brain imaging still had the realization that it's an experience of consciousness where the controlling constrictions and repressions of the ego are turned off.
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Posted: at 2:21 am
Anyone whos had a spiritual experience on psychedelic drugsbe it magic mushrooms, acid, mescaline, etc.can relate to the feeling of breaking through, and transcending ones ego and the pettiness that we tend to get caught up with in day-to-day life.
Some call it a higher state of consciousnesswhich, to those those who arent familiar with this experience, may sound like a load of hippy-dippy BS.
But its more than thatpsychedelic substances really do cause the brain to enter this higher state, according to a new study by a team of UK scientists.
[A higher state of consciousness] has a very specific meaning in terms of this study, and that meaning can get a little conflated with the hippy idea of a higher state of consciousness and psychedelic drugs, study author Anil Seth of the University of Sussex told Newsweek.
In their study, Seth and his team sought to measure the mathematical diversity of brain activityin other words, how unpredictable the activity of the brain is, Seth explained.
Researchers studied the brain activity of people given LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and ketamine.
When someone is unconsciouswhether theyre asleep or sedatedthis is thought of as a lower state of consciousness. Seth and his team guessed that brain activity would become more diverse, or unpredictable, in someone experiencing the opposite of thatand they were right.
This study brings psychedelic research a step closer to understanding just how substances like these can have a therapeutic effect for people struggling with depression, schizophrenia, and other mental health issues.
If we can understand the brain basis of hallucinations then well understand a lot more about hallucinationsand not just about psychedelia but also schizophrenia and other conditions, said Seth. Well also understand a lot more about how our visual experiences in the normal world happen.
Some doctors already use ketamine in a psychotherapeutic setting. The drug has been shown to be effective in treating depression, PTSD, and other conditions, according to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
As for psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, research from scientists at NYU Langone Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University have found it to be an effective tool for treating depression and anxiety in terminally ill individuals.
By studying the changes in brain activity caused by these drugs, we are gaining a better understanding of what exactly is happening in a persons brain as their consciousness is expanding.
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