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Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have recommended that psilocybin, the active compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms, be reclassified for medical use, potentially paving the way for the psychedelic drug to one day treat depression and anxiety. The suggestion to reclassify psilocybin from a Schedule I drug, with no known medical benefit, to a Schedule IV drug, which is akin to prescription sleeping pills, was part of a review to assess the safety and abuse of medically administered psilocybin. Before the Food and Drug Administration can be petitioned to reclassify the drug, though, it has to clear extensive study and trials, which can take more than five years, the researchers wrote. The study comes as many Americans shift their attitudes toward the use of some illegal drugs. The widespread legalization of marijuana has helped demystify drug use, with many people now recognizing the medicinal benefits for those with anxiety, arthritis and other physical ailments. Psychedelics, like LSD and psilocybin, are illegal and not approved for medical or recreational use. But in recent years scientists and consumers have begun rethinking their use to combat depression and anxiety. Researchers who conducted the new study included Roland R. Griffiths, a professor ... at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who is one of the most prominent researchers on the behavioral and subjective effects of mood-altering drugs.
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The psychoactive drug known as ecstasy can make people feel extra loving toward others. A study published Thursday suggests it has the same effect on octopuses. Octopuses are almost entirely antisocial, except when they're mating. Scientists who study them have to house them separately so they don't kill or eat each other. However, octopuses given the drug known as MDMA (or ecstasy, E, Molly or a number of other slang terms) wanted to spend more time close to other octopuses and even hugged them. Octopuses' ... brains have a host of strange structures that evolved on a completely different trajectory from the human path. "They have this huge complex brain that ... has absolutely no business acting like ours does — but here they show that it does," says [neuroscientist Judit] Pungor. "This ... gentle, cuddly behavior is really pretty fascinating." The idea to test the drug's effect in octopuses came from Gul Dolen, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University. "My lab has been studying MDMA for a long time, she says, "and we have worked out a lot of neural mechanisms that enable MDMA to have ... pro-social effects." Dolen got interested in octopuses a few years ago, when scientists sequenced the full genetic code of a ... California two-spot octopus. It turns out that octopuses and people have almost identical genes for a protein that binds the signaling molecule serotonin to brain cells. This protein is also the target of MDMA, so Dolen wondered how the drug would affect this usually unfriendly animal.
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To microdose is to take small amounts of LSD, which generate “subperceptual” effects that can improve mood, productivity and creativity. Michael Pollan’s new book, “How to Change Your Mind,” is not about that. It’s about taking enough LSD or psilocybin (mushrooms) to feel the colors and smell the sounds. If Pollan’s wide-ranging account has a central thesis, it’s that we’re still doing the hard work of rescuing the science of psychedelics from the “countercultural baggage” of the 1960s. In the mid-60s “the exuberance surrounding these new drugs gave way to moral panic,” and ... “the whole project of psychedelic science had collapsed.” Before collapsing, though, that project discovered in psychedelics the same potential that scientists are exploring as they reclaim it today: possible help in treating addiction, anxiety and depression, and “existential distress” — common in people “confronting a terminal diagnosis,” which of course, broadly speaking, is all of us. Pollan doesn’t give a lot of prime real estate to psychedelics’ naysayers. But given that those on LSD can appear to be losing their minds, and that the drug leaves one feeling emotionally undefended (a potential benefit as well as a profound risk), he does strongly recommend having an experienced guide in a proper setting when you trip. With those safeguards in place, he believes usage could be on the verge of more widespread acceptance.
Note: A recent clinical trial found psilocybin to be an extremely effective treatment for anxiety and depression. Articles like this suggest that the healing potentials of mind-altering drugs are gaining mainstream credibility.
Decades after the U.S. Federal Government banned the drug ecstasy — which in turn went underground, gaining notoriety as a party drug — a Bay Area medical team got special permission to study its therapeutic use. The goal of the trial is to see whether a pure dose of the compound MDMA, also known as ecstasy, can be pure medicine: could it ease the crippling anxiety, fear, or depression felt by those suffering from a life-threatening disease? The lead investigator for this study is psychiatrist Phil Wolfson. The medical doctor has permission from the U.S. FDA to conduct the study, and legally administer the drug. “The FDA approved so the DEA had to follow suit,” explained Wolfson. Before the DEA declared MDMA illegal in 1985, Doctor Wolfson used it medicinally in his own practice and saw a tremendous benefit for patients. In the study, MDMA is not used alone. The use of the compound is combined with psychotherapy sessions that can last five hours or longer. “It’s not this 50 minutes in and out, it’s these extended periods of real interactive exchange, “ explained [study participant Andy] Gold. “With the MDMA, everything opened up,” recalled [study participant Wendy] Donner. “You start seeing things very, very clearly and at a nice slow pace, truths in your life are bubbling up. And revealed to you piece by piece,” explained [study participant John] Saul. The participants all say they’ve changed and are better able to face the future. Wolfson hopes the drug may one day be available to other patients as a legally accepted remedy.
Dozens of adults and children, all clad in white, stood in a line. A holy man handed each a cup of ayahuasca, a muddy-looking hallucinogenic brew. Among those imbibing from the holy man’s decanter were prison inmates, convicted of crimes such as murder, kidnapping and rape. “I’m finally realizing I was on the wrong path in this life,” said Celmiro de Almeida, 36, who is serving a sentence for homicide. “Each experience helps me communicate with my victim to beg for forgiveness,” said Mr. de Almeida. The provision of a hallucinogen to inmates ... reflects a continuing quest for ways to ease pressure on Brazil’s prison system. The country’s inmate population has doubled since the start of the century ... straining underfunded prisons rife with human rights violations. Around , Acuda, a pioneering prisoners’ rights group in Porto Velho, began offering inmates therapy sessions in yoga, meditation and Reiki. Two years ago, the volunteer therapists at Acuda had a new idea: Why not give the inmates ayahuasca as well? Acuda had trouble finding a place where the inmates could drink ayahuasca, but they were finally accepted by an offshoot here of Santo Daime, a Brazilian religion founded in the 1930s. “Many people in Brazil believe that inmates must suffer,” said Euza Beloti, 40, a psychologist with Acuda. “This thinking bolsters a system where prisoners return to society more violent than when they entered prison.” At Acuda, she said, “we simply see inmates as human beings with the capacity to change.”
While [Ketamine] has been used as an anesthetic for decades, small studies at prestigious medical centers like Yale, Mount Sinai and the National Institute of Mental Health suggest it can relieve depression in many people who are not helped by widely used conventional antidepressants like Prozac or Lexapro. And the depression seems to melt away within hours, rather than the weeks typically required for a conventional antidepressant. Pharmaceutical companies hope to [develop] drugs that work like ketamine but without the side effects, which are often described as out-of-body experiences. Some doctors and patients are not waiting for the pharmaceutical industry. Because ketamine has long been approved for anesthesia, doctors are allowed to use it off-label to treat depression. ”There is clearly a need for new drugs. “Almost half of depressed patients are not being treated adequately by existing drugs,” said Dr. Sheldon H. Preskorn, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita. That, he said, is because virtually all the antidepressants used in the last 60 years work essentially the same way. Ketamine would represent a new mechanism of action. “Synaptic connections that help us to cope seem to grow back,” said Dr. John H. Krystal, chairman of psychiatry at Yale and a pioneer in the study of ketamine for depression.
Note: A 2012 NPR story provides more detail about the ketamine research done at Yale to treat depression. Could this put a stop to the thousands of horror stories involving conventional antidepressants?
"People try and run away from things and to forget, but with psychedelic drugs they're forced to confront and really look at themselves," explains Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, from Imperial College London. The drugs Carhart-Harris is referring to are hallucinogens such as magic mushrooms -- specifically the active chemical inside them, psilocybin. Carhart-Harris scanned the brains of 30 healthy volunteers after they had been injected with psilocybin and found the more primitive regions of the brain associated with emotional thinking became more active and the brain's "default mode network," associated with high-level thinking, self-consciousness and introspection, was disjointed and less active. "We know that a number of mental illnesses, such as OCD and depression, are associated with excessive connectivity of the brain, and the default mode network becomes over-connected," says David Nutt, professor of neuropsychopharmacology, who leads the Imperial College team. The over-connectivity Nutt describes causes depressed people to become locked into rumination and concentrate excessively on negative thoughts about themselves. Depression is estimated to affect more than 350 million people around the world. The current pharmaceutical approach to treatment is with selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac. But SSRIs ... are generally prescribed for long periods of time to maintain their effect. Nutt thinks psilocybin could be a game-changer, used as part of a therapeutic package ... to treat people within just one or two doses of treatment.
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Psychedelic mushrooms can do more than make you see the world in kaleidoscope. Research suggests they may have permanent, positive effects on the human brain. In fact, a mind-altering compound found in some 200 species of mushroom is already being explored as a potential treatment for depression and anxiety. People who consume these mushrooms, after “trips” that can be a bit scary and unpleasant, report feeling more optimistic, less self-centered, and even happier for months after the fact. But why do these trips change the way people see the world? According to a study published today in Human Brain Mapping, the mushroom compounds could be unlocking brain states usually only experienced when we dream, changes in activity that could help unlock permanent shifts in perspective. The study examined brain activity in those who’d received injections of psilocybin, which gives “shrooms” their psychedelic punch. After injections, the 15 participants were found to have increased brain function in areas associated with emotion and memory. The effect was strikingly similar to a brain in dream sleep, according to Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, a post-doctoral researcher in neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London and co-author of the study. Administration of the drug just before or during sleep seemed to promote higher activity levels during Rapid Eye Movement sleep, when dreams occur. An intriguing finding, Carhart-Harris says, given that people tend to describe their experience on psychedelic drugs as being like “a waking dream.”
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LSD, the drug that launched the psychedelic era and became one of the resounding symbols of the counterculture movement of the '60s, is back in the labs. Nearly 40 years after widespread fear over recreational abuse of LSD and other hallucinogens forced dozens of scientists to abandon their work, researchers at a handful of major institutions - including UCSF and Harvard University - are reigniting studies. The study at UCSF ... is looking into the mechanisms of LSD and how it works in the brain. The hope is that such research might support further studies into medical applications of LSD - for chronic headaches, for example - or psychiatric uses. "Psychedelics are in labs all over the world and there's a lot of promise," said Rick Doblin, director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz. Stanislav Grof was one of the last scientists to abandon hallucinogenic research when he shut down several projects at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center in 1973 after his funding dried up. He moved to California to work at a research institute in Big Sur, where he turned to studies about how to re-create the effects of those drugs through meditation and breathing techniques. He's pleased to see some of the stigma falling away from drugs like LSD, but it bothers him that the scientific community lost decades of research. "I thought psychiatry and psychology really lost a major opportunity because of the abuse that happened with unsupervised research," Grof said. "These are fascinating substances - and they're very, very powerful, so they should be used with great precaution."
By [Alexander] Shulgin's own count, he has created nearly 200 psychedelic compounds, among them stimulants, depressants, aphrodisiacs, ''empathogens,'' [and] convulsants. And in 1976, Shulgin fished an obscure chemical called MDMA out of the depths of the chemical literature and introduced it to the wider world, where it came to be known as Ecstasy. Most of the scientific community considers Shulgin at best a curiosity and at worst a menace. Now, however, near the end of his career, his faith in the potential of psychedelics has at least a chance at vindication. A little more than a month ago, the [FDA] approved a Harvard Medical School study looking at whether MDMA can alleviate the fear and anxiety of terminal cancer patients. And next month will mark a year since [the start of a] study of Ecstasy-assisted therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. Shulgin's knack for befriending the right people hasn't hurt. A week after I visited him, he was headed to Sonoma County for the annual ''summer encampment'' of the Bohemian Club, an exclusive, secretive San Francisco-based men's club that has counted every Republican president since Herbert Hoover among its members. For a long time, though, Shulgin's most helpful relationship was with the D.E.A. itself. The head of the D.E.A.'s Western Laboratory, Bob Sager, was one of his closest friends. In his office, Shulgin has several plaques awarded to him by the agency for his service. Shulgin has been credited with jump-starting today's therapeutic research.
Note: The sentence about the Bohemian Club is a very rare revelation in the major media on the influence of this secret society. For lots more reliable, verifiable information on secret societies, click here.
Edward Maa did not plan to become a marijuana researcher. But a few years ago, when the neurologist and epilepsy specialist surveyed his patients about their use of alternative medicines, he discovered that more than a third had turned to marijuana to try to control their seizures. According to the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado, the widely reported case of Charlotte Figi, a child whose nearly constant seizures were dramatically curtailed with cannabidiol, a marijuana ingredient, has helped trigger an influx of families from around the U.S. [into Colorado] seeking similar treatment for their children with seizure disorders. Maa wants to move beyond anecdote and into data. He is monitoring 150 epilepsy patients who all take a product derived from the same strain of marijuana that Figi used, provided by the same source. Although the federal government still lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug, a class “with no currently accepted medical use,” a body of recent research suggests that cannabinoids, which are the active ingredients in marijuana, may have medicinal uses even beyond the approved ones. They might protect the brain from the effects of trauma, ease the spasms of multiple sclerosis and reduce epileptic seizures. Further preliminary work indicates that the chemicals may slow the growth of tumors and reduce brain damage in Alzheimer's disease. Before World War II, marijuana was listed as a medicine in the country's encyclopedia of drugs, the United States Pharmacopeia.
Note: Read a summary of a CNN News story that describes how marijuana helped stem the seizures of 6 year old Jayden. Colorado has become the first U.S. state to directly fund medical marijuana research.
Colorado will spend more than $8 million researching marijuana's medical potential. The grants awarded by the Colorado Board of Health will go to studies on whether marijuana helps treat epilepsy, brain tumors, Parkinson's disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of the studies still need federal approval. Though the awards are relatively small, researchers say they're a big step forward. While several other federal studies currently in the works look at marijuana's health effects, all the Colorado studies are focused on whether marijuana actually helps. "This is the first time we've had government money to look at the efficacy of marijuana, not the harms of marijuana," said Dr. Suzanne Sisley, a Scottsdale, Arizona, psychiatrist who will help run a study on marijuana for veterans with PTSD. Federal approval to study marijuana's medical potential requires permission of the Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and either the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Health and Human Services. Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., allow marijuana use by people with various medical conditions. But under federal law, pot is considered a drug with no medical use and doctors cannot prescribe it. Dr. Larry Wolk, Colorado's Chief Medical Officer, says the lack of research on marijuana's medical value leaves sick people guessing about how pot may help them and what doses to take.
Note: For more on the proven benefits from many mind-altering drugs, see these deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources.
'Absurd' laws dealing with magic mushrooms, ecstasy and cannabis are hindering medical research, according to a former government drugs adviser. Prof David Nutt says he has funding to research the use of the chemical psilocybin - found in fungi known as "magic mushrooms" to treat depression. But he says "insane" regulations mean he cannot get hold of the drug. The Home Office said there was "no evidence" that regulations were a barrier to research. It is not the first time Prof Nutt has been at odds with government policy. He was sacked as an adviser over views that ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol. Earlier research at Imperial College London showed that injections of psilocybin could calm a region of the brain which is overactive in depression. The UK's Medical Research Council has given the lab a Ł550,000 grant to test the idea - in 30 patients who have not responded to at least two other therapies. They have also been given ethical approval. However, there are more stringent regulations for testing the drug as a treatment than in earlier experiments. As a potential medicine it must meet Good Manufacturing Practice requirements set out by the EU. "It hasn't started yet because the big problem is getting hold of the drug," said Prof Nutt. He said finding a company to provide a clinical-grade psilocybin had "yet proved impossible" as none was prepared to "go through the regulatory hoops". He told the BBC: "We have regulations which are 50 years old, have never been reviewed and they are holding us back, they're stopping us doing the science and I think it's a disgrace actually."
Note: Watch an informative three-minute BBC news clip of an interview with Prof. Nutt. Another good five-minute BBC interview is available here. For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on mind-altering drugs from reliable major media sources. See also the website of MAPS, and excellent organization supporting scientific study of the healing powers of these drugs.
Research into ... Schedule I drugs like MDMA (ecstasy), LSD and magic mushrooms ... requires not only a high level of security, but also that the institutions involved buy a licence costing several thousand pounds not required for researching other drugs. Paradoxically, the other schedules include more harmful substances such as heroin. Funders often shy away from such research because of the red tape, associated higher costs, and the perception that it is possible to be stigmatised for supporting such work. Research into a Schedule I drug like MDMA has potential both to help our understanding of how drugs affect the brain, and provide those who take them with better harm-reduction information. It also helps us understand how we can make drugs work normally, advancing our treatment of brain disorders. Some Schedule I drugs have huge potential for serious conditions where treatment is currently inadequate, including addiction and depression. Frustratingly, almost no research has been carried out since current regulations came into force in 1971. And the situation is about to get worse; the government's new temporary drug control orders ... automatically puts new substances under Schedule I for the year that they are controlled. The likelihood of the drug then being downgraded is very remote, given that research will be practically impossible, especially within the year's timeframe.
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Traditional antidepressants like Prozac work on a group of chemical messengers in the brain called the serotonin system. Researchers once thought that a lack of serotonin was the cause of depression, and that these drugs worked simply by boosting serotonin levels. Recent research suggests a more complicated explanation. Serotonin drugs work by stimulating the birth of new neurons, which eventually form new connections in the brain. Ketamine, in contrast, activates a different chemical system in the brain – the glutamate system. Researcher Ron Duman at Yale thinks ketamine rapidly increases the communication among existing neurons by creating new connections. This is a quicker process than waiting for new neurons to form and accomplishes the same goal of enhancing brain circuit activity. Ketamine has been used for decades as an anesthetic. It also has become a wildly popular but illegal club drug known as "Special K." Mental health researchers got interested in ketamine because of reports that it could make depression vanish almost instantly. Carlos Zarate ... does ketamine research at the NIH. Zarate says patients typically say, "'I feel that something's lifted or feel that I've never been depressed in my life. I feel I can work. I feel I can contribute to society.' And it was a different experience from feeling high. This was feeling that something has been removed."
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Scientists are exploring the use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD to treat a range of ailments from depression to cluster headaches and obsessive compulsive disorder. The first clinical trial using LSD since the 1970s began in Switzerland in June. It aims to use "psychedelic psychotherapy" to help patients with terminal illnesses come to terms with their imminent mortality and so improve their quality of life. Another psychedelic substance, psilocybin, has shown promising results in trials for treating symptoms of terminal cancer patients. In the Swiss trial eight subjects will receive a dose of 200 microgrammes of LSD. This is enough to induce a powerful psychedelic experience. A further four subjects will receive a dose of 20 microgrammes. Every participant will know they have received some LSD, but neither the subjects nor the researchers observing them will know for certain who received the full dose. During the course of therapy researchers will assess the patients' anxiety levels, quality of life and pain levels. Before hallucinogenic drugs became popular with the counter culture, they were at the forefront of brain science. They were used to help scientists understand the nature of consciousness and how the brain works and as treatments for a range of conditions. Dr Rick Doblin is president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in California, a nonprofit organisation which funds clinical studies into psychedelic drugs, including the Swiss LSD trial. "These drugs, these experiences are not for the mystic who wants to sit on the mountain top and meditate. They are not for the counter-culture rebel. They are for everybody," he said.
Albert Hofmann, the mystical Swiss chemist who gave the world LSD, the most powerful psychotropic substance known, died ... at his hilltop home near Basel, Switzerland. He was 102. Dr. Hofmann first synthesized the compound lysergic acid diethylamide in 1938 but did not discover its psychopharmacological effects until five years later, when he accidentally ingested the substance that became known to the 1960s counterculture as acid. More important to him than the pleasures of the psychedelic experience was the drug’s value as a revelatory aid for contemplating and understanding what he saw as humanity’s oneness with nature. He earned his Ph.D. ... in 1929, when he was just 23. It was during his work on the ergot fungus, which grows in rye kernels, that he stumbled on LSD, accidentally ingesting a trace of the compound one ... afternoon in April 1943. Dr. Hofmann’s work produced other important drugs, including methergine, used to treat postpartum hemorrhaging, the leading cause of death from childbirth. But it was LSD that shaped both his career and his spiritual quest. “Through my LSD experience and my new picture of reality, I became aware of the wonder of creation, the magnificence of nature and of the animal and plant kingdom,” Dr. Hofmann told the psychiatrist Stanislav Grof during an interview in 1984. “I became very sensitive to what will happen to all this and all of us.” Dr. Hofmann became an impassioned advocate for the environment and argued that LSD, besides being a valuable tool for psychiatry, could be used to awaken a deeper awareness of mankind’s place in nature and help curb society’s ultimately self-destructive degradation of the natural world.
Massachusetts voters in 2˝ weeks will consider becoming the 18th state to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Individual doctors and patient advocacy groups, including the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts and the state chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, have endorsed the ballot question, saying marijuana can help patients and is available now. To study marijuana, researchers must be licensed by the US Drug Enforcement Administration and get access to marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi, which contracts with the National Institute on Drug Abuse to produce the only federally sanctioned supply. That process can prove onerous, if not impossible, acting as a deterrent for those who might want to study marijuana’s benefits, some researchers said. In 2000, the University of California created the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, with $9 million from the state. Dr. Igor Grant, the center’s director, ... and colleagues have completed the most comprehensive research to date of the effects of marijuana in patients, including studies that were randomized and double-blind, gold standards in research. Four studies found the drug to be useful in treating pain. Three were in patients with HIV who had pain resulting from damage to their nervous system. Another study found that marijuana reduced muscle stiffness in patients with multiple sclerosis.
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