Psychedelics pioneer Ralph Metzner, RIP

Pioneering psychonaut Ralph Metzner who co-led the seminal psychedelic research at Harvard University in the early 1960s with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) and co-authored The Psychedelic Experience, has died at age 82. (Above image, Metzner at left with Leary.) Through his life, Metzner helped a great many people through his psychotherapist practice, spoke frequently on eco-consciousness, and also composed visionary ballads. (Erowid)

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US FDA approved chemical twin of dissociative psychedelic ketamine to treat depression

Earlier today, the FDA approved esketamine (brand name Spravato), a chemical twin of the dissociative psychedelic/anaesthetic ketamine (Special K), as a treatment for depression. Spravato comes in nasal spray form meant to be administered weekly or every other week depending on the severity of the patient's depression.

"There has been a longstanding need for additional effective treatments for treatment-resistant depression, a serious and life-threatening condition," said the FDA's acting director of the Division of Psychiatry Products, Dr. Tiffany Farchione, in a press release. "Because of [safety] concerns, the drug will only be available through a restricted distribution system and it must be administered in a certified medical office where the health care provider can monitor the patient."

From National Public Radio:

Many doctors who have become comfortable offering ketamine for depression probably won't switch to esketamine, said Dr. Demitri Papolos, director of research for the Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation and a clinical associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

For the past 10 years, Papolos has been prescribing an intranasal form of ketamine for children and adolescents who have a disorder that includes symptoms of depression.

"I'm very pleased that finally the FDA has approved a form of ketamine for treatment-resistant mood disorders," Papolos said. He said the approval legitimizes the approach he and other doctors have been taking.

But he hopes that doctors who are currently using ketamine continue to do so. "It'll be a lot less expensive and a lot easier for their patients [than esketamine]," he said.

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Johns Hopkins researchers recommend reclassifying magic mushrooms from schedule I to IV drug

Based on a new study of the safety and abuse potential of psilocybin, the hallucinogenic drug in magic mushrooms, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers recommend that "psilocybin should be re-categorized from a schedule I drug—one with no known medical potential—to a schedule IV drug such as prescription sleep aids, but with tighter control." Read the rest

Apple's HyperCard was inspired by an acid trip

Pioneering engineer Bill Atkinson was the lead designer/developer of the Apple Lisa graphical user interface, creator of MacPaint and QuickDraw, and part of the original team that developed the Apple Macintosh. In 1985, Atkinson dropped acid and came up with HyperCard, the groundbreaking multimedia authoring program that was really a precursor to the first Web browser. Atkinson recently told Leo Laporte the story of this incredible LSD-fueled eureka moment. From Mondo 2000:

It seemed to me the universe is in a process of coming alive. Consciousness is blossoming and propagating to colonize the universe, and life on Earth is one of many bright spots in the cosmic birth of consciousness....

The street lamps reminded me of bodies of knowledge, gems of discovery and understanding, but separated from each other by distance and different languages. Poets, artists, musicians, physicists, chemists, biologists, mathematicians, and economists all have separate pools of knowledge, but are hindered from sharing and finding the deeper connections...

Knowledge, it seemed to me, consists of the “How” connections between pieces of information, the cause and effect relationships. How does this action bring about that result. Science is a systematic attempt to discover the “How” connections. Wisdom, it seemed to me, was a step further removed, the bigger perspective of the “Why” connections between pieces of knowledge. Why, for reasons ethical and aesthetic, should we choose one future over another?

I thought if we could encourage sharing of ideas between different areas of knowledge, perhaps more of the bigger picture would emerge, and eventually more wisdom might develop.

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Johns Hopkins University seeks DMT psychonauts who have met machine elves!

Neuroscience researcher Roland Griffiths at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is leading a scientific study on "the experiences of people who have had encounters with seemingly autonomous beings or entities after taking DMT." If that's you, fill out the anonymous survey! Just say know.

From the Daily Grail:

Dr. Roland R. Griffiths is a professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His main line of work has been studying the subjective and behavioral effects of mood-altering drugs, and has written over 360 journal articles and book chapters –e.g. “Psilocybin Can Occasion Mystical-Type Experiences Having Substantial and Sustained Personal Meaning and Spiritual Significance.” (Psychopharmacology, July of 2006), which proved instrumental in setting up trials for the testing of the emotional benefits of psylocibin among terminal patients.

So if you’ve had a tête à tête with one of Terence McKenna’s self-dribbling jeweled basketballs, please consider contributing to the Johns Hopkins study...

"Have you had an encounter with a seemingly autonomous entity after taking DMT?"

(image: "The Machine Elves" by seelingphan) Read the rest

Support the Terence McKenna archives!

Terence McKenna (1946-2000) was an ethnobotanist, psychedelic pioneer, philosopher, and shamanic scholar who boldly explored the mysteries of consciousness and the fringes of reason with rigor, wit, and generosity. Now, Kevin Whitesides with support of fellow travelers like BB pal Erik Davis are working hard "to collect, digitize, transcribe, store, and preserve the imprint of Terence McKenna's presence" in all media for the ages. You can help! Support the Terrence MckKenna Archives GoFundMe campaign! The incentives you can receive for participating are quite mind-blowing.

There are five major sub-projects at present, all under the banner of The Terence McKenna Archives:

1) A Collection Project: to find, collect, store, and preserve, either physical (or at least digital) copies of any material related to Terence McKenna. A full list of the physical & digital holdings are available at terencemckennaarchives.com.

2) A Transcription Project: to transcribe all of Terence McKenna's 500+ hours of audio/video material that is freely available on the web into a searchable database. This crowdsourced, volunteer-based project is already ongoing and incredibly successful and can currently be found at terencemckenna.wikispaces.com. If you would like to help contribute by transcribing Terence's talks, please join the effort there and on The Terence McKenna Transcription Project Facebook Page.

3) An Interview Project: to interview any family member, friend, colleague, acquaintances, workshop attendee, correspondent, interviewer, critic, collaborator, or any person suitably inspired or influenced by Terence McKenna.

4) TerenceMcKenna.com: Terence's son owns this domain and it currently houses the Terence McKenna Bibliography, but we need resources and talent in order to build into the online McKenna hub that it can ideally be, eventually hosting the searchable transcription database, an online digital archive, and much more.

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Vsauce went to Peru to experience ayahuasca

A friend and I were talking last night about ego dissolution (something we've both experienced). I was telling him about this recent Vox article that shares the author's first-hand account of an ayahuasca trip at Rythmia, a luxury "life advancement" resort in Costa Rica.

What really struck me about his tale is how he describes what he felt like on the fourth and final night (after drinking the most potent of all the brews):

I watch my entire life unfold as though it were projected on a movie screen. But it wasn’t my whole life; it was every lie, every counterfeit pose, every missed opportunity to say or do something true, every false act and ingratiating gesture, every pathetic attempt to be seen in a certain light...

The experience made me aware of how often we all do this. We do it at home, at work, at the grocery store, at the gym. Most interactions are either transactional or performative. No one wants to make eye contact, and most of the time people freak out if you really try. We’re too self-conscious to listen. We’re thinking about what we’ll say next or how we’re being perceived.

All the posturing destroys any chance for a genuine connection.

That passage reminds me a bit of what I experienced when I had an ego death a couple of years ago. My experience (which was not gained through ayahuasca, by the way) showed me the motives behind the people in my life, both past and present, and if they were with me or not. Read the rest

Trials confirm the use of psilocybin for depression without the "dulling" effects of traditional antidepressants

The prohibition on psychedelics was memorably described as "the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo" by former UK Drugs Czar David Nutt, and despite the ban, there has been a consistent, determined, very promising (sometimes surprising) drumbeat of scientific papers about the use of psilocybin ("magic mushrooms") and other psychedelics in treating a range of chronic illnesses, including mental illnesses. Read the rest

Scientist who synthesized the active ingredient in the powerful psychedelic salvia also broke ground on open access publishing

Salvia divinorum is a plant that is legal in most of the USA and the world, a uniquely powerful psychedelic whose effects are as short-lived (5-10 minutes from first onset to the end of the experience) as they are profound (users generally need to have a "sitter" nearby because they lose control over their bodies and perceptions). Read the rest

Bitcoin philanthropist donated $1 million to psychedelics research

The anonymous Bitcoin philanthropist behind the Pineapple Fund donated nearly 60 Bitcoins, approximately $1 million, to the psychedelics research and advocacy group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

"The Pineapple Fund's outstanding generosity exemplifies how the growth of cryptocurrency can be leveraged for profound social change," says MAPS Founder and Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D. "The blockchain community is helping to lead the way, not only in decentralized technologies and currencies, but in giving the gift of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to the world in order to heal trauma and bring greater compassion to psychiatry and medicine."

The philanthropist, known as Pine, has also:

• Donated $1 million to Watsi, an impressively innovative charity building technology to finance universal healthcare.

• Donated $1 million to The Water Project, a charity providing sustainable water projects to suffering communities in Africa

• Donating $1 million to the EFF, defending rights and privacy of internet users, fighting for net neutrality, and far far more

• Donated $500k to BitGive Foundation, a charity building projects that leverage bitcoin and blockchain technology for global philanthropy.

Previously: "An anonymous person with $86 million in bitcoin is giving it to charity" Read the rest

As more published reports tout ayahuasca benefits, researchers push back against criminalization

A newly-published overview of self-reported ayahuasca experiences indicates that the hallucinogen can help alleviate eating disorders and reduce alcohol consumption. Now, more scientists are pushing to make it easier to study the drug legally. Read the rest

Californians have a chance to legalize magic mushrooms next year

A measure to legalize magic mushrooms was filed with the California state Attorney General's office last week. Now it's up to schroom advocates to collect 365,880 voter signatures to bring the measure to a statewide vote.

From IBI Times:

The proposal was filed by Kevin Saunders, a former candidate for mayor in Marina, a city on California's central coast... Saunders said using mushrooms helped him stopped his reliance on heroin 15 years ago. "I think we're seeing something that could literally heal our brothers and sisters," he told the Los Angeles Times. "We're talking about real cutting-edge stuff."

Image: Alan Rockefeller at Mushroom Observer Read the rest

Historic FDA approval granted for Ecstasy trial as PTSD treatment

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies announced that the FDA has granted MDMA (aka Ecstasy/Molly) a "Breakthrough Therapy" designation as part of a treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). From the journal Science:

One of the main targets in the war on drugs could well become a drug to treat the scars of war. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has designated 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), better known as the illegal drug ecstasy, a "breakthrough therapy" for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a status that may lead to faster approval.

The agency has also approved the design for two phase III studies of MDMA for PTSD that would be funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a nonprofit in Santa Cruz, California. MAPS announced the "breakthrough therapy" designation, made by FDA on 16 August, on its website today; if the group can find the money for the trials, which together could cost an estimated $25 million, they may start next spring and finish by 2021.

That an illegal dancefloor drug could become a promising pharmaceutical is another indication that the efforts of a dedicated group of researchers interested in the medicinal properties of mind-altering drugs is paying dividends. Stringent drug laws have stymied research on these compounds for decades. "This is not a big scientific step," says David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London. "It’s been obvious for 40 years that these drugs are medicines. But it’s a huge step in acceptance."

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New Netflix series from Erroll Morris about LSD and the CIA

I am ready for a big dose of intrigue, weirdness, and true conspiracies from filmmaker Erroll Morris's new Netflix series Wormwood about the CIA's evil and bizarre 1950s experiments in LSD and mind control. Turn on, tune in, and get creeped out December 15.

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The psilocybin in magic mushrooms is an insect repellant

The psilocybin in magic mushrooms is a potent psychedelic for animals. But what good is the psilocybin for the shrooms? New genetic research from Ohio State University suggests that the psilocybin might act as an insect repellant, protecting the mushrooms. From New Scientist:

The gene cluster (linked to psilocybin production) is found in several distantly related groups, suggesting that the fungi swapped genes in a process called horizontal gene transfer. This is uncommon in mushrooms: it is the first time genes for a compound that is not necessary for the fungi’s survival – called a secondary metabolite – have been found moving between mushroom lineages.

Since these genes have survived in multiple species, Slot thinks psilocybin must be useful to the fungi. “Strong selection could be the reason this gene cluster was able to overcome the barriers to horizontal gene transfer,” (researcher Jason Slot) says.

Hallucinogenic mushrooms often inhabit areas rich in fungi-eating insects, so Slot suggests psilocybin might protect the fungi, or repel insects from a shared food source, by somehow influencing their behaviour.

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Scientists finally discover how to synthesize magic mushrooms' active ingredient, psilocybin

In 1943 Sandoz chemist Albert Hofmann became the first person to synthesize (and take) LSD. He was also the first person to isolate and identify psilocybin, the main psychedelic component in magic mushrooms, almost 60 years ago. "Yet no one has been able to unravel the enzymatic pathway the mushrooms use to make psilocybin, until now," reports Stephen K. Ritter of Chemical and Engineering News. Read the rest

New book about psychedelics and weird human experiences

David Luke, a University of Greenwich psychology lecturer and researcher of high weirdness, has a new book out with the compelling title of Otherworlds: Psychedelics and Exceptional Human Experience. Based on the blurb, it sounds like an absolute trip:

A psychonautic scientific trip to the weirdest outposts of the psychedelic terrain, inhaling anything and everything relevant from psychology, psychiatry, parapsychology, anthropology, neuroscience, ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, biochemistry, religious studies, cultural history, shamanism and the occult along the way.

Staring the strange straight in the third eye this eclectic collection of otherworldly entheogenic research delivers a comprehensive and yet ragtaglledy scientific exploration of synaesthesia, extra-dimensional percepts, inter-species communication, eco-consciousness, mediumship, possession, entity encounters, near-death and out-of-body experiences, psi, alien abduction experiences and lycanthropy. Essentially, its everything you ever wanted to know about weird psychedelic experiences, but were too afraid to ask…

"Otherworlds: Psychedelics and Exceptional Human Experience" (via Daily Grail) Read the rest

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