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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Psychedelics
Posted: July 20, 2017 at 3:22 am
Marijuana has been hard to classify, historically. It doesnt fall neatly into any of the other categories, be they stimulants, depressants, opioids, or what-have-you. As a result, its be dropped into a slot all its own. At a recent psychedelics conference in London, New York psychologist Julie Holland suggested a recategorization for cannabis, as a hallucinogen.
Her reasoning, it can cause “dehabituation,” or the ability to see an issue from a completely new perspective. According to Holland, “The thing that I’m interested in with cannabis is how it does this thing where everything old is new again.” Such an experience is very therapeutic. Consider being able to suddenly see a traumatic memory differently, and to frame it in a healthier way.
Currently, not much is known about marijuanas effect on the brain. Some research shows that chronic use can increase the risk of psychosis. Psychosis however, is defined in a very specific way. Its considered either becoming overly paranoid or experiencing hallucinations.
Marijuanas inducement of dehabituation may be useful for clinical purposes. Getty Images.
Some research suggests that chronic marijuana use doesnt cause psychotic disorders, but may be a catalyst to an episode thats already developing. In other words, its those who suffer from mental illness who gravitate toward chronic marijuana use, perhaps to self-soothe. But theyre also barreling toward an episode.
So how would dehabituation work therapeutically? In this case, a therapist would have a patient use marijuana and then take them on a guided trance, in such a way as to install a healthier viewpoint in them. Could such a thing be done?
Some fear marijuana use alongside psychological treatment could trigger a mood disorder such as anxiety or depression. But a well-regarded study recently upended such claims. It may cause problems in the developing brain however, particularly in those between adolescence and age 25. There are conflicting views. If it were cleared, cannabis therapy would have to be performed only on those over a certain age.
Marijuanas psychoactive ingredient, delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can cause neural noise. This is experiencing a stream of random, unrelated thoughts, or even a hallucination. The person feels the effect of neurons becoming overactive inside their brain. These electrical disturbances, in marijuanas case, calm down quickly. Over the course of some minutes, the patient enters an altered state, losing touch with reality and then returns. Most psychedelics meanwhile, last for hours.
Chronic marijuana use may be detrimental to those under age 25. Getty Images.
According to Dr. Holland, “In psychiatry it seems that cannabis is grossly underused and understudied.” Most marijuana studies have looked at it as a way of alleviating the side effects of say cancer treatment or severe epileptic disorders, offering pain relief, dampening Parkinsons, and mitigating the symptoms of other serious illnesses. Few have looked at it for mental health treatment. Some of those studies do show that it may be helpful for treating PTSD, anxiety, or depression.
Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence shows that psychedelics can be useful in overcoming psychological disorders. Research has found that LSD can help addicts and alcoholics overcome addiction. Psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, was shown to helpcancer patients overcome depression and anxiety.Meanwhile, MDMA has successfully treated PTSD.
As a result of these and other findings, medical research on psychedelics has increased in the last 15 years or so. Even so in the US, marijuana and most hallucinogens are considered schedule 1 narcotics under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Therefore, research on such drugs has been limited. Gaining approval from multiple federal agencies is required, to study either one, which can take years. Even so, interest in using both marijuana and hallucinogens for therapeutic purposes is growing.
Marijuana and psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin, may interact differently within the brain, discouraging reclassification. Studies using the brain scans of patients on psychedelics show that their brains make new connections with disparate parts. Different regions may interact with the visual cortex for example, allowing those on acid to smell colors or visualize music. No such equivalent has been witnessed in marijuana users.
Chronic use of marijuana effects the orbitofrontal cortex, the nucleus accumbens, and the amygdala. The first has to do with decision-making and information processing, while the second and third are both part of the brains reward circuit. The amygdala is also the center for our emotions.
Psilocybin mushrooms. Getty Images.
Could neural noise and the experience of dehabituation, no matter how brief, lead to marijuanas reclassification? Probably not. It would be of little value, since theyre both are at the same classification level. Would there be any other advantages in seeing marijuana reclassified?
Not really. What a growing number of researchers, policy makers, and journalists are saying, is that there needs to be a change in the classification of both marijuana and hallucinogens in the US, on the federal level. These drugs arent deadly, have no long-lasting side effects, and arent physically addictive.
A rescheduling would allow for more research, so we can better understand how they affect human health, and if these drugs can be leveraged effectively for clinical purposes, with minimal side effects. Despite obstacles, Holland and colleagues are working on a study which will assess whether or not marijuana helps reduce PTSD symptoms. Veterans have been claiming it does since the Vietnam War era.
To learn more about the use of psychedelics to treat psychological issues, click here:
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Countdown To (Legalized) Ecstasy! Rick Doblin, MAPS, & the Psychedelic Renaissance [Podcast] – Reason (blog)
Posted: at 3:22 am
Reason.com”The experiences I’ve had with psychedelic drugs, namely psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD, but particularly MDMA, have been personally transformative for me,” says Mike Riggs, a reporter for Reason and the author of a blockbuster new story about how medical and psychiatric researchers are using psychedelics to help their patients. “Not frequent use, but kind of taking these drugs and then having really intense, in-depth, long conversations with intelligent people about how to get better, just how to get better as a person, as a human being, how to be a better neighbor, how to be a better friend.”
It was that experience that led Riggs to study groups such as The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and its founder, Rick Doblin. “Doblin is a totally fascinating guy,” Riggs tells me in the newest Reason Podcast. “He started MAPS in 1986. His journey of studying and advocating for the use of psychedelic drugs in therapeutic settings began in the late 1960s or early ’70s. He was kind of a guy who, for a long time starting when he was in college all the way to the mid-’80s, he was a guy who’s like, ‘We can get this to where it needs to be in terms of legitimacy simply by talking about it and simply by doing it.’ And so in the 1960s and 1970s, there’s some underground psychedelic therapy work in which psychiatrists who either participated in the research in the 1950s with LSD continued secretly. And then going into the 1970s when MDMA was kind of rediscovered by this chemist named Sasha Shulgin. MDMA wasn’t illegal. It hadn’t been banned. So psychiatrists were able to use it as kind of a research chemical.”
The tale Riggs tells isn’t one of wanton hedonism or Dr. Strange-level trips. Rather, it’s one in which doctors and patients are working together against the backdrop of a decades-long war on drugs to figure out new and effective ways to treat PTSD, depression, and other maladies with currently illegal substances. And more amazing, how Doblin and crew are on the verge of changing the way that the government regulates drugs.
Produced by Ian Keyser.
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This is a rush transcriptcheck all quotes against the audio for accuracy.
Nick Gillespie: Hi. I’m Nick Gillespie and this is the Reason podcast. Please subscribe to us at iTunes, and rate and review us while you’re there.
Today, we are talking with Mike Riggs. He’s a reporter for Reason. He writes for the magazine, the print magazine. He writes for the website. And he occasionally appears in videos at Reason TV. Mike, thanks so much for talking to us.
Mike Riggs: Yeah. It’s my pleasure.
Gillespie: All right. So, you’ve got a kind of blockbuster story coming out, or out at Reason.com, which is about how after 30, 40 years, 50 years, almost 60 years, psychedelic drugs are being taken seriously by all kinds of medical researchers, psychological researchers, et cetera. Explain, briefly, what the thesis of your story is.
Riggs: The thesis of the story, I would say, is basically that while most people who follow drug policy reform kind of broadly or generally think of it as using ballot initiatives for drugs like marijuana to basically kind of legalize through mobilizing the citizenry that there’s an entire alternative path that’s being pursued by psychedelic researchers. People who are studying the medical applications for LSD, psilocybine, MDMA, and some other drugs like that. Their path, they have never tried the referendum approach. They’ve never tried getting legislatures to pass laws to decriminalize or legalize these drugs. The trajectory they chose was instead to go through the FDA. Let’s jumped through all the hoops. Let’s dot all the I’s, cross all the T’s, and that’s all the trials necessary to have the FDA approve these substances as pharmaceutical drugs. The benefit of this is that it basically removes democratic politics from the drug approval process-
Gillespie: And democratic, small d there, right? I mean, you don’t have to-
Riggs: Yeah, yeah.
Gillespie: You don’t have to get 50% plus one or two thirds or anything like that. What you are doing is you’re going to the gate keeper institution that says, “Here are good drugs that pharmaceutical companies and doctors will create, and doctors will prescribe. You’ll pay a co-pay, et cetera.” As opposed to basically the model for medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, increasingly.
Riggs: Yeah. And so, the plus side is you don’t have to worry about a legislature sabotaging this or having some kind of campaign finance war where it’s who can spend the most on advertising. The downside is that it happens much more slowly. California passed it’s first medical marijuana law in 1996. We’re just shy of 20 years later and marijuana, is across the country, revolutionized. Meanwhile, the process that psychedelic researchers have gone through, started in about 1986. It’s now 2017. None of these drugs are yet legal.
Gillespie: What is the status? I mean, the drugs in America are put, since the Nixon years, they’re put on different schedules including a schedule one drug, which it’s got a high potential for abuse and no known medical use, right?
Riggs: Yeah, that’s true.
Gillespie: Where is LSD, psilocybin, Ecstasy or MDMA, and the like? Because what’s interesting about these and LSD is obviously, or not obviously, but probably the most famous, but that drug was legal until 1966. Ecstasy was legal until 1986. Are any of these drugs, are they in something other than schedule one?
Riggs: No, they’re all in schedule one. But the one exception is ketamine, which I think is on schedule two or schedule three. And that’s only because it was used for a very long time as a surgical anesthetic before anybody realized that it had dissociative properties, which dissociation kind of fits under the umbrella or psychedelic side effects, though it’s not really a psychedelic drug. But everything else is in schedule one.
Gillespie: Walk us through. What is LSD good for besides just tripping your balls out?
Riggs: The argument, and this argument was made a long time ago, Aldous Huxley in “Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell,” wrote about LSD. Albert Hoffman, who was the chemist at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals who studied LSD. Basically, going back to the ’40s and ’50s and ’60s, the argument has been that psychedelic drugs, and the first one that anybody really tried was the LSD, kind of stops you from being who you are for long enough for you to change who you are. As an adjunct to psychotherapy, if you’re working with someone who’s seeing a lot of people taking LSD and worked with a lot of people who’ve taken LSD, this is not actually as scary as it sounds. If you’re somebody who has a substance use disorder or you’re a binge eater or you’re depressed or you’re anxious or you’re-
Gillespie: And an alcoholic, right?
Riggs: Whatever you want to say.
Riggs: Yeah. That was the first one, that was the big one was alcoholics, was the idea that there was something underneath the alcoholism, that there was some sort of psychological issue that if you could just sort of pause a person and say, “Let’s start from scratch.” Again, there’s really no other drug or really any other medical therapy or modality that says, “Let’s just make you somebody else.”
Riggs: That’s kind of what the psychedelic model is.
Gillespie: And then, what about psilocybin and ecstasy? Why are medical researchers or and what’s interesting, you went to the MAPS conference. Rick Doblin, the kind of grand poobah of MAPS. These are not people who are, they’re not silly people, they’re not superficial people. They’re talking about how do individuals use drugs like we all use other training regimens or diet or whatever, meditation, courses in education to better ourselves or to understand ourselves better. That’s what these people are about. What about psilocybin and ecstasy? What do those do for people in a therapeutic setting?Riggs: If we can just leave the chemistry aside a little bit because it’s kind of complicated for both drugs, but at a basic level, psilocybin and MDMA are both being used in patient populations that are experiencing anxiety related to a traumatic experience. For a lot of the studies with psilocybin, they’ve been used in patient populations that either have a terminal illness or a life threatening illness. In a lot of cases, that’s cancer of some sort.
And then for MDMA, it’s a lot of the clinical trials involve people who have PTSD as a result of military service or sexual abuse. The basic idea’s that while on these substances the patient is just able to confront difficult concepts, difficult memories, without re-experiencing the panic and anxiety and lockdown that they feel when they re-visit those memories when their sober. This is one of the idea of triggering for people with PTSD is that whenever they’re confronted by something that resembles this really traumatic experience, you hear about people coming back from Afghanistan or Iraq who hear a car backfire, a door slammed really loudly, and suddenly they’re back in Fallujah.
MDMA allows them to sort of re-visit these really hard memories and talk about them and think about them and create a demarcation, maybe a wall, a compartment, where that memory, they’re able to disconnect it from this sort of unintentional feedback loop of emotions where every time that memory is evoked, they then have to experience panic or anxiety or fear. And so they can consider the memory, they can be reminded of that experience without feeling all this other stuff.
Gillespie: Well, talk a little bit about MAPS and Rick Doblin.
Riggs: Yeah, so Doblin is a totally fascinating guy. He started MAPS in 1986. His journey of studying and advocating for the use of psychedelic drugs in therapeutic settings began in the late 1960s or early ’70s. He was kind of a guy who, for a long time starting when he was in college all the way to the mid-’80s, he was a guy who’s like, “We can get this to where it needs to be in terms of legitimacy simply by talking about it and simply by doing it.” And so in the 1960s and 1970s, there’s some underground psychedelic therapy work in which psychiatrists who either participated in the research in the 1950s with LSD continued secretly. And then going into the 1970s when MDMA was kind of re-discovered by this chemist named Sasha Shulgin. MDMA wasn’t illegal. It hadn’t been banned. So psychiatrists were able to use it as kind of a research chemical.
Doblin had met all these people. He’d heard great stories about therapists working with these drugs. He said, “This should be enough. We’ve got all these M.D.s, a lot of them affiliated with academic institutions. A lot of them have been in practice for a long time. They have great medical records. They haven’t been sued out of existence. They haven’t had their licenses revoked. This should be enough to get the government to recognize these as therapeutic drugs.”
As we know, most every therapeutic drug that also happens to make people feel good, MDMA worked it’s way into the recreational community the same way that LSD had and other drugs like that. And so, when the DEA decided to crack down on MDMA in the 1980s, the evidence that all these psychiatrists put forward and that Doblin helped organize and deliver to Washington D.C. really didn’t move the needle. The DEA engaged in years long battle with all these therapists throughout the 1980s and by the late 1980s had won the battle. And so, these drugs were added to schedule one.
Gillespie: One of the things that is fascinating about ecstasy or MDMA, excuse me, is and I say this as somebody, I was in college from ’81 to ’85, ecstasy was free and legal, or it wasn’t free, but it was very cheap and it was legal. But it was seen as an anti-social drug because you would have such intense feelings and emotions. You would just stay in a room with yourself and your girlfriend or boyfriend and touch fingerprints. You wouldn’t even go outside because you didn’t want to. You were exploring yourself. It was a very introspective drug. Once it was banned, it became the ultimate party drug and the rave drug and then everybody … One of the reasons it was banned is because it turned people dangerously anti-social. After it was banned, it became the rave drug of choice. Kind of fascinating.
How do the phrases set and setting fit into the broader kind of psychedelic research that you’ve been covering?
Riggs: Yeah. Set and setting is probably the most significant contribution from Timothy Leary to the contemporary movement. Leary, in the 1960s, was a big advocate of LSD. He worked at Harvard and lost his job because he was giving drugs to undergrads. He coined this idea of set and setting, which is set is mindset. So how you’re thinking about a drug or what you’re going to do on the drug before you do it. And then setting is the physical setting that you’re in. Psychedelic therapists still use this language today. Mindset, you want to prepare a patient for the experience that they’re going to have when they’re on one of these drugs. And then setting is you want to make sure that they feel safe and comfortable and that there’s nothing in their immediate physical environment that’s going to upset them.
It’s also terminology that’s used by recreational users. I mean, there are all kinds of forums on the internet from Bluelight to Reddit where users will say to other users, “Hey. I was thinking about using this psychedelic drug at event X, Y, or Z.” And then there will be a conversation about whether or not that’s a good set or setting based on how the drug affects the mind. It’s very interesting. There’s a sort of an element of planning and preparation for psychedelic drugs you generally don’t see with things like marijuana or cocaine just because the potential for a really bad experience if you’re not thinking ahead and you’re not being prepared is so much more real for LSD or psilocybin than it is for marijuana.
Gillespie: Well, then, it’s also the trip lasts longer. It’s like planning a golf outing or a long horseback ride or something where with cocaine you’re not talking about minutes. You’re talking about, an LSD trip could last anywhere from 4 to 12 to 24 hours.
Riggs: Yeah. LSD lasts an incredibly long time. MDMA is on the shorter side. It’s maybe two hours, two and a half hours. Psilocybin’s somewhere between. But yeah, these drugs all last much longer than marijuana and certainly much longer than cocaine, which peaks really quickly and then you hit the trough pretty quickly after that.
Gillespie: What did these guys do to win the FDA over to at least considering rescheduling things or to take seriously the idea that these drugs that have been associated for decades now with hippies and youth and out of control kinds, all of that kind of stuff? How did they get the FDAs attention to say, “Okay. You know what? We want to start thinking about this more seriously.”
Riggs: Part of it was sheer, dumb luck. In the late 1980s, the FDA created a new unit within itself that was tasked with expediting the investigational new drug application process, which is where a researcher says, “Hey. I have chemical X or Y. I think it could be useful in this setting. I’d like to move my research from animals to humans.” Prior to the late 1980s, there were a lot of those applications would come into the FDA and a lot of them have just been put on hold. This group called the Pilot Drug Evaluation Staff started in the late 1980s to bring some sort of entrepreneurial elements into the FDA, started going through all these old applications and realized that overwhelming amount of applications that had been put on hold were for psychedelic drugs.
Around the time that this division was created, Rick Doblin, again the founder and president of MAPS, met a psychiatrist named Charles Grobe, who still practices today and is a medical school professor in California. Together, they said, “Hey. Let’s submit a proposal for FDA to kind of get this process started.” So that’s what they did. Grobe put together an investigational new drug application with a limited trial for cancer patients suffering anxiety. He and Doblin and some other psychedelic researchers, mostly chemists, flew to Washington D.C. for meetings with all the alphabet agencies, DEA, the drugs [czar’s 00:16:09] office, the FDA, Health and Human Services, and basically made their case.
They said, “There’s a lot of data out there that wasn’t necessarily conducted or gathered through the clinical trial process, but that was gathered by responsible investigators who documented what they were doing showing that we can use this safely in humans. We think we should be allowed to proceed especially if this ends up being a kind of revolutionary new drug for psychiatric disorders.” The FDA, after all these meetings with DEA and drug czar’s office, the feeling was, “Hey. If this is as tightly controlled, if this process is as by the book as we would request of any pharmaceutical giant, you can go ahead and do it.”
So Grobe and Doblin got permission to do so. They raised the money from philanthropists to conduct these studies. That’s something else worth noting, that almost none of the psychedelic research is tied to the pharmaceutical industry in any way because all these drugs are off patent. They’re all-
Gillespie: Even though all of them, I mean, came out of the, for lack of better term, the legitimate pharmaceutical industry. Right?
Riggs: Yeah, no, that’s true. MDMA, LSD were both developed by pharmaceutical companies in the 20th century. Merck developed MDMA right at the turn of the 20th century as a sort of intermediate drug for something else. They never used it in humans. It was never of interest to their clinical team. LSD was kind of the same. But, yeah. The only one that’s really got any pharmaceutical company involvement is ketamine, again, because it’s not a schedule one, because it was a surgical anesthesia. But, so they just said, “Hey. Let’s raise the money. Let’s put together these trials.”
They kind of bootstrapped it for a little while. I got to talk to a woman at MAPS who defected, for lack of a better word, from Novartis, which is a pharmaceutical giant to go work at MAPS. She talks about how for over a decade, nearly two decades, MAPS did all of their paperwork like an Excel spreadsheet and by hand. They were sort of documented all this way using photocopies and stuff like that. She kind of upgraded them to the more modern pharmaceutical style electronic and digital databases and that kind of thing. But they just tried to do what any other drug researcher working with a budget 100 times larger than their own would do.
Gillespie: Is there interest in pharmaceutical companies to start purveying newer versions, newer and better versions, time release versions? All of that kind of stuff of these drugs.
Riggs: For ketamine, there is right now, again because they know it’s legal right now. If you’re able to come up with a newer or better version of ketamine, you’re time window for getting that approved is much shorter than for any of these other drugs.
I think that once one of these psychedelic drugs is moved from schedule one to schedule two or schedule three, something like MDMA, either you will see some pharmaceutical interest particularly when you get what’s called post-market data in. A drug is moved to prescription status. And then for years afterward, you’re able to collect a totally different type of data because you’ve gone from your clinical trial sample size, which will be a couple hundred people, to five years after it gets the pharmaceutical status you could have had 10 thousand people use the drugs, you could have had 50 thousand.
And so once we know what is most desirable about MDMA in this clinical setting, in this psychiatric setting, and what effects are least desirable, what effects kind of occasionally complicate or sabotage improvement, I suspect that’s when you see the pharmaceutical companies saying they would look at that data and say, “Okay. Psychiatrists say that this is the best part of using this drug. This is not a great part. Well, let’s make a drug that only has these ideal qualities and none of the bad ones.”
Gillespie: Timothy Leary gave out psilocybin in his Good Friday experiments, along with Richard Alpert later, Ram Dass, at Harvard. That was the proximate cause for them getting bounced from Harvard. Leary obviously popularized LSD. He was a big promoter of pot use and stuff. He’s kind of the villain, isn’t he, in people who do psychedelic research? Talk a little bit about Timothy Leary’s kind of ambivalent role or ambiguous role in all of this.
Riggs: He’s sort of the guy without whom I’m not sure any of this would be possible, but because of him it hasn’t already happened, if that makes sense. If you just look at his credentials, he got his PhD in psychology at UCLA and then he went to Harvard. Had he done everything by the book, had he not fallen in love with LSD, which LSD changed Timothy Leary’s life. I mean, it transformed him as a human being and as a thinker. Had it not done all that. Had it remained purely academic for him, I suspect that this research would have never stopped and that maybe some of these drugs would be legal already for medical uses. But at the same time, I don’t know if you ever get the national awareness that LSD developed without him.
He’s a cautionary tale for contemporary researchers. They recognize that the credentials were necessary, that Leary being at Harvard, for a while, was very helpful, which is why so many of the researchers today, they are at Stanford. They’re at UCLA. They’re at Imperial College London. They’re at Johns Hopkins University. They’re at NYU. They’re at Brown. I mean, they’re just, they’re all over the place. Being in those positions of authority and power and respect are really important.
The tricky thing is sort of always maintaining this wall, this firewall between the personal affection that most of these researchers, I won’t say all of them because I haven’t spoken to all of them, but many of the researchers recognize on a personal level that these drugs are very beneficial for most of the people who use them, even people who use them outside of a psychiatric setting. But in terms of what they say publicly, what they say in their research, they are very consistent and disciplined about saying, “Regardless of what we know anecdotally about these drugs, what we know is wise to recommend is that they only be used under supervision after they’ve been approved by the FDA.” That’s because of Leary.
Gillespie: One of the many of the fascinating aspects of your story, you discuss your own use, particularly with ecstasy, I guess. Can you tell us a little bit about that? How does that factor into this broader story of psychedelics kind of on the march for psychological well being and kind of realization of human potential for you?
Riggs: Yeah. It’s funny. I kind of waffled a little bit on whether or not to include the personal stuff in my story just because as I was researching this one I was reading Albert Hoffman’s memoir, “LSD: My Problem Child.” One of the things he talks about this explosion of awareness of LSD in the 1960s and then an increase in recreational use. He blames, I don’t know if blame’s the right word, but he says that this coincides with a lot of writing about LSD in the popular press. There were a couple of memoirs that came out. Word leaked that Cary Grant, the actor, had used LSD and that it transformed him and made him a better actor.
I felt kind of self conscious about that, as well, because the experiences I’ve had with psychedelic drugs, namely psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD, but particularly MDMA, have been personally transformative for me. I think most of the people who have known me for many years would say that I’m a different person now than I was four or five years ago. Part of that is because I wasn’t leading a particularly sustainable life five or six years ago. But part of it for me was that the transition to a more healthful way of being taking better care of my body, trying to be more diligent about building good habits was kind of aided by the use of psychedelic drugs. Not frequent use, but kind of taking these drugs and then having really intense, in depth, long conversations with intelligent people about how to get better, just how to get better as a person, as a human being, how to be a better neighbor, how to be a better friend. That kind of stuff.
The reason that I was ambivalent to include it in the story is that I only know my own story best, I know it’s a good one. And I know lots of people who also have positive stories. But there are people who have bad ones. There are people who have problem use with MDMA. It does have an amphetamine component, which activated dopamine receptors and that makes it a drug that you kind of want to take a lot. So there’s addiction issues with MDMA. I’ve met people who used mushrooms and felt really terrible throughout the entire experience and don’t ever want to use them again. LSD is kind of, I mean, that is a real commitment to self exploration. The trip lasts a long time. It distorts your perception of reality in a way that nothing else does.
For me, they’ve been really important and really amazing and really life-affirming. That’s just not true for everyone. I tried to, this is also why I find this whole story interesting is this idea of a lot of these psychedelic researchers, they either had this experience themselves or they know someone who has had this experience. And so, what they want to do is kind of Sherpa these drugs from where they are now to a place where if somebody has a bad reaction on them, they’re having it in the presence of a trained clinician who can make sure that they don’t hurt themselves. As much as I believe in my body, my choice, and not incarcerating people for what they do to their own bodies, I do see a lot to commend in the movement to make sure that these drugs are used in safe settings.
Gillespie: You’re writing at Reason is really a lot about human modification or kind of self-directed evolution almost. How do people, they have an idea of what they want to be like and then they pursue that. Talk a bit about, and you yourself over the past few years, you went on a particularly strict diet and workout regimen, you transformed the way that you look. You had always been what used to be called a husky person, now you’re kind of-
Riggs: That’s true. Yeah.
Gillespie: Rock hard and all that. What is your interest, and for libertarians in particular, what is the interest in this kind of motivational change of what you look like or what you think like?
Riggs: There are lots of sort of just these moments of awareness that happened as I was nearing the age of 30 in which I was kind of like, “Okay. This is a thing I cannot do forever.” One of those was smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. I was like, “I cannot do this forever.” My father had a double bypass when he was 52 and had been a lifelong smoker. And so I was just kind of all these things were happening. I was like, “Okay. I can’t do this forever.” And then the other thing that I realized and that has become a fundamental, philosophical belief for me is that the world has very little interest in how long I live or how well I live.
As someone who believes very much in the phenomenon of spontaneous order and that you don’t need a central organizer or planner to make sure that life happens. There’s nothing in the theory of spontaneous order that says, “The world will not continuously offer you stuff that will kill you.” For me, that has been at various times cigarettes. It’s been alcohol. It’s been food. It’s been inactivity. It’s been mindless forms of entertainment. There’s no drug I’ve tried, maybe with the exception of nicotine, that I find as addictive as an Xbox game console.
For me, this was kind of just a realization of things. One, that there was no one in the world who was going to keep me from living a unfortunately short life if I so choose and that some part of me, maybe it’s genetic, maybe it’s just ingrained through repetition, really preferred a lot of behaviors that were going to shorten my lifespan. I don’t know how I feel about living forever or even exceeding what’s considered a long, healthy natural life. But I don’t like the idea of someone saying, “He died young.” And so that was that constellation of sentiments is kind of what led me to change things.
Gillespie: Talk a bit about your kind of career arc because I believe, and if I’m not mistaken, you first came to Reason as an intern. What year would that have been?
Riggs: That was 2008.
Gillespie: Yeah. You were there and then you went on to various other journalism outfits. You worked for Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Give your interest in kind of self ownership in terms of better living through chemistry in many ways and a wakening sense of exercise and diet and things like that, your interests in policy. What’s the grand narrative that Mike Riggs is building for himself?
Riggs: That’s tricky. I mean, the initial grand narrative. I was an intern at Reason in 2008. I’d been a student journalist in college and turned at a daily newspaper before I left college. But the narrative for a long time was that good art comes from suffering and that the best way to suffer is to kind of self abuse. I was very much a fan of Hunter Thompson and in pretty much any other heavy drinking, big meal eating, writer from the 20th century. I just thought that that was the best way to get stories, was to do crazy stuff, to get ripped or hammered, to always write with a cigarette between my lips. A lot of stuff like that. That was kind of-
Gillespie: This is, if I can say this is William Blake by way of Jim Morrison what the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. Something along those lines.
Riggs: Yeah. I mean, basically, I found that way of seeing art and writing and creation very compelling. I struggled for a very long time with the idea of how can you have a happy, healthy, normal life? How can you be someone who gets eight hours of sleep a day, and is a good family man, and doesn’t wake up hungover with bloodshot eyes? How can you be all those things and also someone who makes compelling writing? It wasn’t so much that I came to believe that this was not true, as it was that I just found it utterly exhausting.
I went from Reason as an intern to the Washington City paper where my personal brand was kind of the insufferable libertine. I also wrote as a libertarian, but it was mostly [illiteracy 00:33:15]. I was mostly like, “Hey, isn’t it fun to be reckless all the time?” And then I went to the Daily Caller, which had not yet launched, but I helped Tucker Carlson launch that and kind of developed a reputation while working there. It’s very conservative today, but at the time it was so new that I was able to be someone who was also kind of reckless and wild. That was my “personal brand.”
I think eventually I just found it exhausting and also it kind of got on my employers nerves after a while. That kind of eventually led to a revisiting and this desire to tell good stories, tell interesting stories, tell true stories, tell hopeful stories, while also leading a life that was not slowly killing me.
Gillespie: You also worked at Families Against Mandatory Minimums, FAMM. How did that play into your interests or your commitments?
Riggs: Yeah. I joined FAMM from the Atlantic. I felt just one step too far removed from what I have basically, the thing I’ve written about consistently at every journalism job I’ve ever had is drug policy. I was feeling kind of mildly frustrated. As a young blogger, I was in the habit of saying things like, “Well, if we just did this, we will fix these problems. If we just did this.” After a while I kind of wanted to get a little closer and just get a sense of, “Well, what’s keeping us from just doing this? What are the obstacles to just doing that?”
So I went to work for Families Against Mandatory Minimums as the director of communications there and got a front row seat to why it is so difficult to change, probably any law, but definitely the laws around drug sentencing for federal drug offenders. That was just an incredible wake up call. I mean, for one thing, this idea that kind of permeates most drug policy writing is we tend to look at somebody who’s been incarcerated due to a drug offense and we say, “Hey, they’ve got kids. Hey, they’ve never been convicted of a violent crime before. Hey, they’re neighbors don’t seem to have a problem with them. Why are we putting them in prison for a long time? This doesn’t make sense. They’re not really bad people that you want to put in prison for a long time.”
Working at FAMM, I came to learn pretty deeply and intimately just how little a defendant character or personality or beliefs or circumstances has to do with how long they’re sentenced to prison. I mean, which is one of the biggest objections to mandatory minimums is that when you go, one size fits all. When you say, “X quantity of drugs gets you X sentence regardless of whatever mitigating circumstances you may be able to present to the court.” That’s why one of the reasons why they’re so heinous. I mean, you treat the kingpin who’s ordered the deaths of dozens of people and the dad who owns a pizza shop and grows a bunch of weed in his backyard to supplement his income, you look at both of them and say, “Your sentence is based on the quantity of drugs you have.”
Gillespie: Are you optimistic about drug policy reform in America?
Riggs: Yeah, it’s a great question. I mean, at the end of the Obama administration, I would have said yes. I would have said that he did not do enough and that the justice department did not do enough and that I was very frustrated by the opportunities that a seemingly reformed, friendly Congress missed because of partisan bickering. But that I was, for the most part, optimistic that things could only get better. With Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, I don’t want to say that all hope is lost, but it is a reminder that whatever policy changes are implemented by way of executive order as opposed to signed, or passed and signed legislation, they are transitory. They don’t have to be. Sometimes they aren’t. But, for the most part, they’re transitory.
I am wondering, I do wonder, what has to change? What has to happen? What does Congress have to look like? Who has to sit in the White House? For those two branches of government to re-visit the cascade of terrible drug laws that they’ve passed since, well going back to the beginning of the 20th century. But what are the ideal circumstances for that because a republican majority in Congress that seemed to be pro criminal justice reform with a democratic president who was pro criminal justice reform, whatever the allure of some great, bi-partisan bargain is to pundits was not there for them. Now that you have a unified Congress, and a republican President, a republican Congress, whatever allure there is to being able to take full responsibility for implementing some brilliant criminal justice reform. That also doesn’t seem to be very compelling.
I do wonder. My optimism is blunted by my curiosity, I guess you could say, about what has to happen for any of this to actually become real.
Gillespie: What is the next story you’re working on, Mike?
Riggs: I’ve got a couple of different ones that I’m thinking about. I will be meeting with my excellent editor, Peter Seederman, to go over them. But I’m looking at a piece about reciprocity, which is the idea that any drug that the European Union approves we should just automatically allow Americans to use as well because it’s Europe not Rwanda and so they’ve got a pretty good drug approval process.
I’m also doing some exploration of the ultimate drug gray market, which is the research chemical market. Most familiar to Americans because of the K2/spice/bath salts epidemic. All of those things were created by academic chemists at universities here in the United States who then published their formulas. And then those things kind of took on a life of their own that became a global phenomenon. That is a piece I’m looking into now is kind of tracing how is that phenomenon born? How does K2 or spice or bath salts, how does that come into existence? Why did it come into existence? And what is the best solution for having people use safer drugs?
Gillespie: I can remember a couple of years ago when K2 or spice was a big thing. There was a great, I forget the newspaper that ran it, but it was a headline that said, “Fake pot as bad as the real thing.” It just seemed to kind of sum up a lot of the thinking that goes into the drug war.
Mike Riggs, reporter for Reason. Thank you so much for talking to the Reason podcast. Any last, any message to your fans?
Riggs: Yeah. Be safe.
Gillespie: All right. All right.
Riggs: Be safe. That’s always by words of wisdom.
Gillespie: Those are true words of wisdom. Thank you so much, Mike Riggs.
This is the Reason podcast. I am Nick Gillespie for Reason. Thank you so much for listening. Please subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you’re there.
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Posted: July 18, 2017 at 4:20 am
More common are studies of the use of psychedelics to treat abuse or addiction to other substances. A 2012 meta-analysis of studies exploring LSDs potential to treat alcoholism looked at six randomized controlled trials. They included more than 500 patients, with follow-up of three to 12 months. The interventions usually involved one dose of LSD, given in a supervised setting, coupled with therapy. Alcohol use and misuse were significantly reduced in the LSD group for six months; differences seemed to disappear by one year. Similar studies using psilocybin have also shown promising results.
There was an open label study meaning theres no placebo or attempt to mask treatment information of three doses of psilocybin as part of a tobacco cessation program. It found that 12 of 15 participants (who had smoked an average of more than 30 years) remained abstinent six months after the program began and 16 weeks after their last treatment. Thats a much higher rate than seen in traditional programs to help people quit smoking.
Other uses might exist as well. Researchers examined the potential for MDMA in the treatment of chronic and treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder. At two months after therapy, more than 80 percent of those in the treatment group saw a clinical improvement versus only 25 percent of those in the placebo group. These researchers later followed up with participants in the study, and found that the beneficial effects lasted for at least four years, even with no further treatment with psychedelics. Similar studies have also seen improvements in symptom scores.
As with marijuana, though, studies like these are the exception, not the rule. It is very, very difficult to do research on psychedelic compounds because they, like pot, are classified as Schedule I controlled substances, meaning they have a very high potential for misuse and no accepted uses. Schedule II drugs also have a high potential for abuse, but are considered to have potential benefits. These include OxyContin, fentanyl, Percocet and even opium.
To engage in research in Schedule I drugs, scientists have to get approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration. To obtain a license, research labs must have inspections to prove that they are capable of storing the drugs and protecting them from misuse. In Britain, the added costs of licensing and security can cost a lab about 5,000 a year, or nearly $6,500. Unfortunately, the costs in the United States are not as well documented.
Because of this, much of the research on these drugs is old; a lot of it took place before the United States and other countries categorized these drugs in the 1960s. What research has occurred since has often taken place in countries that are more permissive in their experiments.
Given the potential dangers inherent in these drugs, its important to stress that research would need to be closely monitored. Although the drugs are relatively safe compared with substances like heroin or cocaine, and arent nearly as addicting, they still pose psychological and physical risks.
People with a family or personal history of psychotic or psychiatric disorders should be particularly wary, and perhaps be excluded from trials. Research requires safety monitoring, careful planning and significant support throughout. We need to watch carefully for adverse outcomes, both expected and unexpected. We need to make sure protocols are transparent and reproducible.
We also need to acknowledge that we need more research before anyone attempts to use these drugs as medicine. Theyre typically coupled with professional therapy in studies, and we still arent sure there are benefits.
But it may be time to time to reconsider our current classification of controlled substances. Clearly we must continue to be vigilant about whether drugs pose physical harm to patients. But we could assess drugs using additional measurements, including the potential for dependence; social costs through damaged family and social life; and financial costs through health care, social care and the need for police involvement.
Using these metrics, its hard to argue that alcohol and tobacco should be legal for adults while marijuana and psychedelics should be considered so dangerous theyre hard to study. Likewise, opioids are considered widely acceptable in practice, yet appear to do far more harm.
With the potential to help curb more serious addictions and ease the symptoms of mental illnesses, it seems odd to continue to make it nearly impossible to research the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
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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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