Mind-Altering Drugs News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on mind-altering drugs
Fungi have been around for billions of years, setting the stage for humanity by supporting, carrying and converting life. But for complex political reasons, these organisms are still shrouded in mystery. One man, however, is determined to lift the veil on the magical world of mushrooms. Enter Stamets, a bespectacled author and researcher whose mission to decode nature's hidden language and explore "altered states of consciousness" is chronicled in the documentary "Fantastic Fungi," which was recently made available to stream on Netflix. While the film aims to destigmatize hallucinogenic mushrooms, it also demonstrates why we should legitimize the studies of all mushrooms. Contemporary experts in neurology, psychiatry and biology in the film show that fungal genomes can solve a host of mental, physical and environmental problems. From healing bacterial infections to cleaning petroleum spills, fungi possess unique, almost godlike properties that are otherwise unseen in nature. For instance, lion's mane, an edible white mushroom that tastes like lobster, stimulates nerves in order to grow, suggesting that it could potentially cure degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. Ultimately, when Stamets discusses altered states of consciousness, it's ... about accepting a different state of being. For some people – especially those who live in pain – the film posits that mushrooms can be the answer they've been looking for.
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In the past two years, a new drug policy reform movement called Decriminalize Nature has persuaded local governments in a half dozen municipalities, including Washington, D.C., to decriminalize "plant medicines" such as psilocybin, ayahuasca, iboga and the cactuses that produce mescaline. Last month, the California State Senate passed a bill that would make legal the personal possession, use and "social sharing" of psychedelics, including LSD and MDMA, a.k.a. Ecstasy or Molly. Political opposition to all these measures has been notably thin. Neither party, it seems, has the stomach for persisting in a war that has achieved so little while doing so much damage, especially to communities of color and our civil liberties. But while we can now begin to glimpse an end to the drug war, it is much harder to envision what the drug peace will look like. How will we fold these powerful substances into our society and our lives so as to minimize their risks and use them most constructively? In the case of psychedelics, decriminalizing these powerful compounds is only the first step in a process of figuring out how best to safely weave their use into our society. The main model we have for resocializing a formerly illicit drug is the legalization of cannabis, now the new normal in 18 states. The use of psychedelics by Indigenous peoples ... suggests a model we would do well to keep in mind as we figure out how best to handle these substances.
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In the summer of 1981, when he was 13, Grant crashed a trail motorbike. Grant hadn't given this childhood memory much thought in the intervening years, but one hot August day ... he suddenly understood it as a clue to his dangerously unhealthy relationship with alcohol. The day before, a team of specialists at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital had given him an intravenous infusion of ketamine, a dissociative hallucinogen, in common use as an anaesthetic since the 1970s, and more recently one of a group of psychedelic drugs being hailed as a silver bullet in the fight to save our ailing mental health. To date, more than 100 patients with conditions as diverse as depression, PTSD and addiction have been treated in research settings across the UK, using a radical new intervention that combines psychedelic drugs with talking therapy. What was once a fringe research interest has become the foundation of a new kind of healthcare, one that, for the first time in modern psychiatric history, purports to not only treat but actually cure mental ill health. Under its influence, Grant had an out-of-body experience he struggles to put into words. "It was like I was sinking deeper and deeper into myself," he says. "Then I became whiteâ€¦ and I left my body. I was up on the ceiling, looking at myself, but I was just this white entity. I felt very serene and humbled; I finally understood my place in the universe, just a white speck of light, I wasn't the centre of everything and that was fine."
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Massachusetts General Hospital wouldn't seem like a natural fit for a center devoted to mind-altering drugs. But this week, MGH launched the Center for the Neuroscience of Psychedelics to study the potential of psilocybin and other psychoactive drugs to treat conditions such as depression, addiction, trauma, and more. The new center at MGH signifies that the field of psychedelic therapy has arrived. Inspiration came from the search for ways to ease the misery of patients whose mental illness is resistant to traditional treatments. Psychedelics are known to facilitate "plasticity" in the brain, increasing its capacity for change, and [director Jerrold] Rosenbaum said his team wanted to understand how these agents "move the brain to change in a way that can address many of the most anguishing forms of human suffering." The MGH center combines the disciplines of psychiatry, brain imaging, genomic medicine, and chemical biology. Some of the initial work involving patients will use psilocybin and be directed at rumination – the stuck, repetitive thought patterns that underlie several conditions, from addiction to obsessive-compulsive disorder. The future of the center's research is boundless, since psychedelics' role in neuroplasticity and neuritogenesis – the ability to build new synapses – may be useful in palliative care with terminally ill patients as well as in combatting neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
While I was in anesthesia residency at the University of Southern California Hospital's Department of Anesthesiology from 2006 to 2009, I learned how to put people under for surgery using an anesthetic called ketamine. Afterwards, as I began work as an anesthesiologist at a hospital, I began hearing interesting things about the anesthetic. Researchers had begun testing it as a treatment for mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD – and with encouraging results. It also has psychedelic properties, so people can gain insight into their lives and even have mystical experiences on it. One study found that it reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in patients with severe depression, both immediately after it was administered and as well as a month down the line. Another found that it even provided relief from chronic pain that lasted for up to two weeks after treatment. In 2014, inspired by findings like these and conversations with psychiatrists who were beginning to incorporate ketamine into their practices, I founded the Ketamine Healing Clinic of Los Angeles. Over time, I've seen people undergo big changes in their lives because of their work with ketamine, including a few who left abusive relationships, grew their businesses, or pursued totally new ventures. Overall ... people typically come out of their infusions with a newfound will to live and increased clarity about their future. Some patients who came in with suicidal thoughts no longer have them at all.
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Older Americans suffer disproportionately from chronic pain and its attendant ailments, anxiety, depression and insomnia. In the search for relief, they consume more pharmaceutical drugs than perhaps any comparable cohort on this planet. Psychedelic therapies to treat mental health conditions offer a radical departure from current pharmaceutical models. The psychedelic therapy modalities currently under investigation combine a limited number of treatment sessions with a psychedelic substance, sandwiched between intensive pre- and post-treatment therapy sessions. The ideal, and realistic, outcome from this course of treatment is not mere symptom control, but durable remission. Indeed, these studies are finding that, in clinically significant numbers, recipients of a single course of psychedelic therapy report the experience to be life-changing, and enduring over time. The positive preliminary outcomes of clinical studies by MAPS using MDMA to treat PTSD, and Compass Pathways for psilocybin therapy for treatment-resistant depression, have convinced the FDA to grant them Breakthrough Therapy Designation. In the 1960s researchers were interested in seeing if psychedelic drug treatment could alleviate existential distress in terminal cancer patients. This line of research was picked up 35 years later by Dr. Charles Grob, whose 2011 pilot study of psilocybin treatment for terminal cancer patients found significant enduring reductions in anxiety and improvement in mood at a six-month follow up.
James “Whitey” Bulger terrorized Boston from the 1970s into the 1990s with a campaign of murder, extortion and drug trafficking. In 2013, Janet Uhlar was one of 12 jurors who found Bulger guilty in a massive racketeering case, including involvement in 11 murders. But now Uhlar says she regrets voting to convict Bulger on any of the murder charges. Her regret stems from a cache of more than 70 letters Bulger wrote to her from prison, some of which describe his unwitting participation in a secret CIA experiment with LSD. The agency dosed Bulger with the powerful hallucinogen more than 50 times when he was serving his first stretch in prison, in Atlanta. Uhlar has spoken publicly about her regret before but says her belief that the gangster was wrongly convicted on the murder charges was reinforced after reading a new book by Brown University professor Stephen Kinzer: “Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control.” Gottlieb’s secret program, known at MK-ULTRA, enlisted doctors and other subcontractors to administer LSD in large doses to prisoners, addicts and others unlikely to complain. Uhlar reviewed the 1977 hearings by the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence, which was looking into MK-ULTRA, and found testimony where CIA director Stansfield Turner acknowledged evidence showing that the agency had been searching for a drug that could prepare someone for “debilitating an individual or even killing another person.”
At this week’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, where the cannabis industry enjoyed a whole pavilion of its own, the biggest takeaway was where cannabis is headed in terms of human health. Rick Doblin, executive director of MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies ... has delivered a TED talk on the future of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. And at Davos there was strong interest in the plant-based psychedelic molecules Doblin works with, [pharmacist Saul] Kaye said. “If you look at cannabis as an entryway into the market for botanical-based medicines, you can look at mushrooms, psilocybin,” said Kaye. “You can look at ibogaine, ayahuasca, which are new medicinal models that are breaking out in the world based on botanical medicine that has been illegal for the last 100 years. “Cannabis has elevated access to all kinds of botanical-based medicines, which ultimately can change mental health, physical health; and it’s a fascinating area that we can ... elevate the conversation around.” Other topics at the cannabis forum ... merited an “elevated” conversation of their own. A speaker from StemCell United, for example, addressed the fast expansion of CBD companies in Asia, building on what Kaye termed “a global de-stigmaization” across the Asian markets. The result, he said, has been to begin changing the traditional impression of cannabis from “This is illicit, this is a drug,” to, “This a research drug that is much safer than alcohol and tobacco.”
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Hallucination-inducing drugs like magic mushrooms could be about to break big pharma’s stranglehold on the hugely lucrative market for antidepressants, according to the head of the world’s first centre for psychedelic research. Antidepressant prescriptions have doubled in England in a decade with around seven million adults taking the drugs, and the global market is predicted to be worth $15.9bn (Ł12.5bn) by 2023. At Imperial College London, Dr Robin Carhart-Harris is leading one of the first trials to test how therapy using psilocybin mushrooms, which are currently banned in the UK, compares to leading antidepressants. While he won’t prejudge the results of the study, he says participants describe a cathartic emotional “release” with psilocybin therapy – the polar opposite of antidepressants, which patients complain leave their emotions, whether positive or negative, “blunted”. It is the first of many studies planned under the banner of the new Centre for Psychedelic Research at London’s Imperial College. Dr James Rucker is another of those researching the potential benefits of psychedelics ... at King’s College London. The King’s team are launching two trials, one looking at whether psilocybin therapy can help people whose depression is resistant to treatment with conventional antidepressants. He says it was “possible” the drug could be licensed in five years.
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Carlos Plazola locked himself in a bedroom while his cousin stood guard. For five hours, he tripped on magic mushrooms. He ingested 5 grams - a heady amount that connoisseurs call the “heroic dose.” It was Plazola’s first time using the mushrooms, which contain the naturally occurring hallucinogen psilocybin. He started having epiphanies, one right after the other, like lightning bolts. “I was making connections that I had never made in terms of my understanding of what we are, what the cosmos are, why we’re here, where we’re going,” Plazola said. That mushroom trip last October by Plazola, the well-connected onetime chief of staff of a former Oakland City Council president, helped make Oakland the first city in California and the second in the nation to effectively decriminalize magic mushrooms. In May, Denver became the first city in the nation to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. In Oakland ... the City Council on June 4 approved its ordinance unanimously, with little pushback. Oakland even went a step further by decriminalizing not just mushrooms but also a range of other psychoactive plants and compounds including peyote, iboga and ayahuasca. The measure ... does not actually legalize natural psychedelics, which remain illegal under state and federal law. Instead, it declares the arrest and investigation of adults for using, possessing, growing or distributing plant-based hallucinogens to be among the lowest priorities for local police and restricts the use of city funds to go after users.
Note: Forbes recently published an excellent article clearing up the hype about some aspects of this sensitive subject. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on mind-altering drugs from reliable major media sources.
UCSF psychiatrist Brian Anderson is studying an experimental therapy to help long-term AIDS survivors ... who are feeling sad and demoralized. In a clinic outfitted with a comfortable couch, soft lighting, throw pillows and blankets, the participants of his study are given psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound found in magic mushrooms. The results were compelling enough that he’s planning a second study. Anderson’s work is part of a resurgence in psychedelic study that has been ... fueling grassroots efforts around the country to decriminalize use of certain psychedelic drugs. Statewide measures are being discussed in California and Oregon. The decriminalization efforts are focused on natural psychedelics — mushrooms, along with herbs, cacti and other plants from which hallucinogenic compounds can be extracted. Though several studies in the first half of the 20th century had shown promise in using psychedelics for treatment of mental health and neurological disorders, the drugs were broadly maligned in the 1960s and ’70s. More recently, microdosing — the practice taking small, carefully controlled amounts of a psychedelic — has taken off among Silicon Valley techies and university students who believe it boosts productivity and creativity. Almost all studies at the moment rely on private donations for funding. Studies are still limited, but they’re happening at universities around the country. At Johns Hopkins, Johnson and his colleagues reported about an 80% success rate in using psilocybin to help people quit smoking in one small study. Research out of UCLA has found that psilocybin may help cancer patients with depression and anxiety.
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Psychedelic medicine is having a moment. Just weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Johnson & Johnson’s ketamine-like nasal spray for depression, a group of European technology investors ... got together for the largest-ever private financing round for a psychedelic medicine biotech company, ATAI. Psychedelic medicine involves research and investigations into mind-altering substances to treat mental illnesses including addiction, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. After recreational use of psychedelics became popular in the 1960s, the U.S. government classified most of them “drugs of abuse” with no real medical value. However, recent clinical studies show mounting evidence that some psychedelics can help patients with certain mental illnesses, either in combination with traditional therapies or in cases where nothing else has worked. Now health and technology investors are paying attention. German company ATAI Life Sciences announced on Tuesday that it has raised more than $40 million in new financing. The round valued the company at $240 million, according to a person familiar, making it both the biggest round and the most valuable company in the young space. ATAI is currently funding clinical trials for what it refers to as “formerly stigmatized compounds,” including psilocybin, the active compound in psychedelic mushrooms, and arketamine, a different variant of ketamine from the one Johnson & Johnson researched, as potential treatments for depression.
Note: Articles like this suggest that the healing potentials of mind-altering drugs are gaining mainstream scientific credibility.
CBD, the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis, hemp and hops, has been getting a lot of attention from the media recently. On the other hand, THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis that makes people feel “high” or “stoned,” is often overlooked (and sometimes even looked down on) when discussing marijuana’s medical potential. However, a new study ... published on the Scientific Reports journal on Tuesday, revealed that THC exhibited the “strongest correlation with therapeutic relief, compared to the more socially acceptable chemical found in cannabis, CBD (cannabinol).” Cannabinoid content, and especially THC content, came out as the main factor for optimizing symptom relief, when tested for a wide variety of health conditions. [Study co-author Jacob Miguel] Vigil explained the results derived from the observation of real-time data from Releaf App, which he qualified as “the largest database of its kind in our country.” Using the app, patients reported the results and effects of their actual cannabis use. The researchers discovered cannabis is more effective for the treatment of mental symptoms like agitation, irritability, anxiety, depression, excessive appetite, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, gastrointestinal pain, stress and tremors, than it is in the treatment of physical ailments. Despite the conventional wisdom ... that only CBD has medical benefits while THC merely makes one high, our results suggest that THC may be more important than CBD in generating therapeutic benefits.
MDMA, the principal ingredient in the party drug ecstasy, is about to give a lifeline to some of the worst sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Israel. The U.S. could be just years behind in launching similar clinical treatments using the substance. Israel’s Ministry of Health has approved the use of MDMA, a psychoactive drug, for use on dozens of patients. While the drug is still on the country’s law books as dangerous for recreational use, it is now being administered as treatment for compassionate use. In compassionate cases the drug will be made available to patients outside of clinical trials if they have not responded sufficiently to other medications or treatments. MDMA makes people feel euphoric, a sensation that made its use synonymous with rave culture and EDM (Electronic Dance Music), because it floods the body with serotonin. Serotonin is produced by nerve cells. When levels are low it can lead to depression and disrupt other physiological processes. The launching of the new Israeli initiative is a direct result of groundbreaking research in the U.S. The Middle Eastern nation approved the program after sending a representative to the California-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) for training. MDMA has been illegal in the U.S. since 1985 but the findings of clinical trials, ongoing with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval since 2001, have shown that the drug enhances the treatment of PTSD in a clinical setting.
Note: Read also a CBC article titled "How psychedelic drugs are changing lives and transforming psychiatry." For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing mind altering drugs news articles from reliable major media sources.
It's the little things that Jon Lubecky appreciates now, like playing a board game with his family. But it wasn't always that way for the former Army sniper, who came home in 2006 after nearly a year in Iraq with a traumatic brain injury from a mortar attack and a nasty case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Traditional treatments, including the use of antidepressants like Zoloft, were useless. Over three sessions, Lubecky spent six to eight hours under the influence of MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy. Finally, Lubecky was able to talk about his trauma and thus make progress dealing with it. Rick Doblin runs the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, a non-profit advocating for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. "It starts by reducing activity in the amygdala, which is the fear-processing part of the brain, so that people's fearful emotions linked to trauma can be more easily recalled and processed," Doblin said. Once the drug produces feelings of safety, veterans can then access memories which had been crippling before. While one in three veterans found pills like Zoloft and Paxil effective in treating their PTSD, a study including 24 veterans showed PTSD was eliminated in 68 percent of vets treated with MDMA-assisted therapy and significantly reduced in the other 32 percent. MDMA-assisted therapy is now about to begin its third phase of FDA testing. If all goes well, MDMA will be available by prescription as early as 2021.
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Recreational marijuana use will soon be legal in Canada after the Senate passed a "historic" bill. Canada is only the second country in the world - and the first G7 nation - to implement legislation to permit a nationwide marijuana market. In the neighboring US, nine states and the District of Columbia now allow for recreational marijuana use, and 30 allow for medical use. The Cannabis Act, stems from a campaign pledge of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to keep marijuana away from underage users and reduce related crime. Uruguay was the first country to legalize marijuana's production, sale and consumption in December 2013. The justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, ... applauded the vote. "This is an historic milestone for progressive policy in Canada," she tweeted. "This legislation will help protect our youth from the risks of cannabis while keeping profits out of the hands of criminals and organized crime." Once the bill is formally approved, adults will be able to carry and share up to 30 grams of legal marijuana in public. They also will be allowed to cultivate up to four plants in their households. However, stringent rules will still govern the purchase and use of marijuana. Consumers are expected to purchase marijuana from [regulated] retailers. Marijuana will also not be sold in the same location as alcohol or tobacco. The Canadian government has also implemented changes to their impaired driving laws, to address repercussions for driving under the influence of cannabis.
Note: In the US, more people are arrested for marijuana use than for all violent crimes combined.
It was only after U.S. veteran Jonathan Lubecky pulled the trigger on a loaded gun aimed at his head and it misfired that he finally decided to seek help. He had tried to commit suicide five times after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The only two drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for PTSD, Zoloft and Paxil ... didn’t work for combat-related PTSD. Out of desperation, he volunteered as a subject in an experimental study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD. The study was sponsored by the ... Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), and funded entirely by private donations. After his treatment with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, Lubecky managed to heal from his PTSD to the point that he became National Veterans Director for Senator Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential primary campaign. His recovery is not unusual. The Lancet Psychiatry published a scientific paper about the study Lubecky volunteered for; it reported that two-thirds of the 26 veterans, firefighters and police officers treated no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD one month after their second MDMA session, with their reduction of PTSD symptoms lasting over time. Drug prohibition has for decades delayed medical research into the healing properties of Schedule 1 drugs. Now that this research is finally being conducted, we’re learning that enormous suffering and many suicides could have been prevented over these decades.
Note: The above was written by MAPS founder Rick Doblin. Read more about how MDMA, also known as 'ecstasy,' has been found to be effective for treating PTSD in a therapeutic context. Articles like this suggest that the healing potentials of mind-altering drugs are gaining mainstream scientific credibility.
In recent years, rigorous research has been conducted on entheogens, such as ayahuasca, LSD, mescaline and psilocybin, and on the empathogen Ecstasy. The goal is to evaluate their effects on addiction, cluster headaches, depression, trauma, cancer, epilepsy, death and dying, as well as to explore their value in the study of consciousness. Psilocybin - or magic mushrooms - have been used in traditional healing rituals for thousands of years. However, for more than 40 years it has been illegal in the U.S. But recent findings are tearing down the barriers surrounding psychedelic research, as it has been clinically shown that they have the ability to ease depression and soothe anxiety in patients dealing with serious illness and impending death. Two separate studies discovered that a single, moderate-to-large dose of psilocybin was able to help alleviate profound distress among cancer patients. Researchers know “how,” but they do not know “why,” psilocybin has worked in these settings. One theory is that psilocybin interrupts the circuitry of self-absorbed thinking that is so pronounced in depressed people, making way for a mystical experience. Neuro-imaging studies ... suggest that the positive effects of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy are explained by changes in something in the brain called “the default mode network.” It turns out that this network is hyperactive in depression. Interestingly, in both meditation and also with psilocybin this network becomes quiescent.
Note: See an article in the UK's Independent showing remarkable results from these studies. Learn more about the healing potentials of mind-altering drugs now being explored by the scientific community.
According to one theory, jolly old St. Nick might have been so jolly because he was derived from shamans who went from hut to hut handing out hallucinatory mushrooms in Siberia and the Arctic during the Winter Solstice, right around the same time as Christmas. "As the story goes, up until a few hundred years ago these practicing shamans or priests connected to the older traditions would collect Amanita muscaria (the Holy Mushroom), dry them, and then give them as gifts on the winter solstice," [said] anthropologist John Rush. The festive deep red and white mushrooms were eaten by the humans and reindeer who roamed the region, sending both of them on well ... a tinsel-turvy trip. "This idea [is] that reindeer go berserk because they're eating Amanita muscaria. Reindeers flying — are they flying, or are your senses telling you they're flying because you're hallucinating?" Harvard biology professor Donald Pfister told NPR. Reindeer were also considered "spirit animals" and the Siberian shamans wore red deer pelts as tributes, according to scholars. Even more, shamans dressed up like the mushrooms, which explains Santa's cozy red and white suit. Another scholar told NBC that the idea of Rudolph's flashy red nose likely originated from the color of the mushrooms, noting how remarkable it was that the tripping beast was put in charge of directions. "It's amazing that a reindeer with a red-mushroom nose is at the head, leading the others," Boston College classics professor Carl Ruck mused.
Note: See a 7-minute New York Times video on this intriguing hypothesis. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on mind-altering drugs from reliable major media sources.
After months of deliberation and investigation, the WHO has concluded that cannabidiol (CBD) is a useful treatment for epilepsy and palliative care, and does not carry any addiction risks. The organization is set to run a fuller review of cannabis next year. The report ... also recommended imposing the strong restrictions available on fentanyl, a synthetic opioid which has killed thousands of people in America’s drug addiction epidemic. “There is increased interest from Member States in the use of cannabis for medical indications including for palliative care,” the report said. “Responding to that interest and increase in use, WHO has in recent years gathered more robust scientific evidence on therapeutic use and side effects of cannabis and cannabis components.” In conclusion, the authors wrote: “Recent evidence from animal and human studies shows that its use could have some therapeutic value for seizures due to epilepsy and related conditions.” They added that ‘current information does not justify scheduling of cannabidiol’, and declared that taking medical marijuana will not lead to addiction to THC, the psychoactive property of cannabis that induces a ‘high’.
Note: More people are arrested in the US for marijuana use than for all violent crimes combined and the US federal government continues to regard non-psychoactive CBD as a dangerous drug. The UK government recently announced it will regulate CBD as medicine. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing health news articles from reliable major media sources.
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