The healing power of ayahuasca

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Michael Costuros is an "executive coach" in California's Marin County (birthplace of the hot tub) who every year takes a group of entrepreneurs to South America on a trip within a trip. Each spends $10,000 to hopefully leverage "the healing power of ayahuasca," Costuros says. From Chris Colin's feature in California Sunday:

Chris Hunter, co-founder of the company behind the alcoholic energy drink Four Loko, signed on in hopes that it would help him navigate some sticky professional relationships. Jesse Krieger, publisher of Lifestyle Entre­preneurs Press, wished for insight into growth strategies. Other participants included the founder of a financial technology company, the scion of a footwear empire, and a firearms executive looking for a pivot. Under the guidance of Costuros and a local shaman, they would participate in a San Pedro ceremony — San Pedro is another powerful plant-based psychedelic — followed by two separate ayahuasca ceremonies....

The participants — all men this year — spent their first day traveling to the retreat center, getting situated, and enjoying massages. At 8 a.m. the next day, they assembled in a small, open-air structure. Following an initial cleansing ceremony, they drank their first batch of medicine (fermented wheatgrass and dirt is how Krieger described the taste) and lay down on thin mats under a thatched roof. There they’d remain for ten hours.

The first 60 minutes of the ayahuasca ceremony felt like two weeks for (AirHelp CEO Henrik) Zillmer. Uncontrollable vomiting and feverish shivering aside, he was unable to move and watched helplessly as his mind departed his body and descended into a vast black hole.

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Watch a fantastic documentary about psych pioneer Roky Erickson

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Roky Erickson is the founder of pioneering Texan psychedelic band the 13th Floor Elevators, an outfit that emerged in mid-1960s from Austin's underground scene and influenced bands ranging from ZZ Top and Primal Scream to The Flaming Lips and Queens of the Stone Age.

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Magic-mushroom drug lifts depression in first human trial

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Nature Magazine reports that researchers from Imperial College London gave psilocybin to 12 people with depression. All the patients showed "a marked improvement in their symptoms." From Nature:

Researchers from Imperial College London gave 12 people psilocybin, the active component in magic mushrooms. All had been clinically depressed for a significant amount of time — on average 17.8 years. None of the patients had responded to standard medications, such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or had electroconvulsive therapy.

One week after receiving an oral dose of psilocybin, all patients experienced a marked improvement in their symptoms. Three months on, five patients were in complete remission.

“That is pretty remarkable in the context of currently available treatments,” says Robin Carhart-Harris, a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London and first author of the latest study, which is published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The equivalent remission rate for SSRIs is around 20%.

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Watch: 61-year-old takes magic mushrooms for the first time

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This 61-year-old woman, who has never taken psychedelics before, decided to take 1 gram of psilocybe cubensis (a very small dose). In this video, shot by her son, we get to watch her go through the different stages of what seems to be a fairly strong trip, which lasts about four hours. She said she would not do it again with someone filming and interviewing her, but she said the experience helped her "reconnect with her real self" and that she might take it again with friends in the woods. Read the rest

How a psychedelic sex GIF animator went viral after getting banned on Facebook

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Jean Francois Painchaud, aka PHAZED, is Canadian animator/producer who works on the PBS kids show, Wild Kratts. He also makes trippy, NSFW Gifs and posts them to his accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook. Shogofawafa recently interviewed PHAZED about his work, and how he deals with the censorious bluenoses at Facebook.

Your work became viral after it was banned on Facebook. Did Facebook inadvertently do you a favour?

In a way, yes. Soon after I started posting my art online, I found out that there are people out there who are very sensitive when it comes to the female body. Some get particularly upset when they see a nipple. No matter how much I censor my work, I still get reported. It’s ridiculous.

So, whenever they take down my art or censor me, I make a big deal out of it, hoping that we might be able to change this culture of incessant censoring over time. That’s the main thing I learned from practising Judo – to use whatever people throw at me, against them.

How did mushrooms affect your work?

Mushrooms didn’t only help my art develop; they changed my entire life. Using mushrooms helped me overcome my depression, my insecurities and my anxiety. Most of that anxiety came from negative experiences with my father and being bullied at school.

Before I found shrooms, I was making art to improve my skills. It was as if I was trying to impress myself or show off.

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One magic mushroom trip can permanently make you more open

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Taking psychedelic mushrooms just once can change your personality for the rest of your life, according to Katherine MacLean, a postdoctoral researcher at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

From LiveScience:

The results, published today (Sept. 29) in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, revealed that while other aspects of personality stayed the same, openness increased after a psilocybin experience. The effect was especially persistent for those who reported a "mystical" experience with their dose. These mystical experiences were marked by a sense of profound connectedness, along with feelings of joy, reverence and peace, MacLean said.

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Never before published photos from Psychedelic Conference II in Santa Barbara, 1983

Albert Hofmann in the Cafe.

Photos by Cynthia Palmer. Read the rest

The origin story of the Timothy Leary archives

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Lisa Rein writes, "Fresh from a Supreme Court victory in a marijuana case, and armed with a campaign song written by John Lennon, maverick psychologist and prominent LSD researcher Timothy Leary decided to run for governor of California in a bid to unseat the incumbent Ronald Reagan, only to be knocked out of the race by a felony conviction and 10-year sentence for possession of two half-smoked marijuana joints, as a symbol of Nixon's newly proclaimed War on Drugs." Read the rest

The unusual couple behind an online field guide to psychoactive substances

PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW B. MYERS FOR THE NEW YORKER / HAND LETTERING BY MOUSECAKE

In the New Yorker's annual tech issue, Emily Witt profiles the founders of Erowid, "a couple in their mid-forties -- a man and a woman who call themselves Earth and Fire, respectively."

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Meet the psychedelic honey-hunters of Nepal

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"One month a year, giant Himalayan bees, the biggest bees in the world, come to collect nectar from a poisonous flower, giving the honey they make certain medicinal, aphrodisiac, and hallucinogenic properties."

In this short documentary, filmmaker Raphael Treza meets with a Nepalese tribe to learn about this honey, and how they use it. During the making of the film, the translator eats too much of the honey and falls unconscious.

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Watch scenes from LSD: The Opera!

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Five scenes from "LSD: The Opera" performed at Los Angeles's REDCAT last month. It ain't over 'til Tim Leary sings? Read the rest

Beautiful microscope photographs of drugs, legal and illegal: LSD, caffeine, GHB, meth, and more.

Caffeine crystals; formed out of 100% caffeine powder dissolved in demineralised water, made visible by using a cross polarised light microscope with an Berek filter.
Who knew caffeine, aspirin, and LSD were so darn beautiful up close?

People who take tiny doses of LSD and other psychedelics every day say it's wonderful

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A strong dose of LSD is 500 micrograms. Some people are taking daily microdoses of 10 to 15 micrograms, which is not enough to feel trippy, but provides a sense of well-being and mental clarity. A typical microdoser says these tiny doses "increase my focus, open my heart, and achieve breakthrough results while remaining integrated within my routine."

One 65-year-old Sonoma County, California ... told AlterNet she microdosed because it made her feel better and more effective.

"I started doing it in 1980, when I lived in San Francisco and one of my roommates had some mushrooms in the fridge," said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. "I just took a tiny sliver and found that it made me alert and energized all day. I wasn't high or anything; it was more like having a coffee buzz that lasted all day long."

This woman gave up on microdosing when her roommate's supply of 'shrooms ran out, but she has taken it up again recently.

"I'm very busy these days and I'm 65, so I get tired, and maybe just a little bit surly sometimes," she admitted. "So when a friend brought over some chocolate mushrooms, I decided to try it again. It makes my days so much better! My mood improves, my energy level is up, and I feel like my synapses are really popping. I get things done, and I don't notice any side-effects whatsoever."

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Timothy Leary with Aldous and Laura Huxley

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Dune author Franker Herbert on mushrooms

The Daily Grail delves into Frank Herbert's passion for mycology and how psilocybin mushrooms helped inspire Dune. Read the rest

The woman who lived (and had sex) with a dolphin

In 1964, Margaret Howe Lovatt, working with psychedelic dolphin researcher John Lilly, began to live with one of the animals full-time as part of a NASA-funded study about interspecies communication; a new documentary about Lovatt, titled "The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins," airs on BBC4 later this month. Above, a clip of Lovatt talking about how she developed a deep intimate relationship with Peter the dolphin that veered into the sexual. At the time, a sexploitative article in Hustler, the high weirdness of the experiments itself that included giving LSD to dolphins, and myriad other unpleasant issues, brought the project to a very sad end.

"The dolphin who loved me: the Nasa-funded project that went wrong" (The Observer) Read the rest

Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, psychedelic pioneer, RIP

Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, maverick chemist, psychedelic pioneer, and inspiring human being, died yesterday at 88 years old. Sasha is best known for popularizing MDMA (Ecstasy) and introducing it to the psychological community, and synthesizing hundreds of new psychoactive chemicals that he first tested on himself. His scientific research is detailed in a huge output of papers and books including the seminal tomes TIHKAL and PIHKAL, co-authored with his wife and research partner Ann Shulgin.

As Sasha once said, everyone deserves "the license to explore the nature of his own soul."

Sasha, you will be missed, and rest-assured the research will continue.

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