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."

Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

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

Dissociative psychedelic Ketamine may help suicidal children

Ketamine is a short-acting dissociative anesthetic commonly used on animals and sometimes people. Of course it's also beloved by many psychonauts for its unusual dreamlike or "out of body" psychedelic effects. While Ketamine has been shown for years to help treat depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder in adults, researchers at Yale School of Medicine now report that it has great promise as a fast-acting intervention for children in crisis. From Scientific American:

It was less dramatic to watch than I expected, but the kids were definitely high. There was a lot of giggling involved, and they often said that they felt like time was changing and that their bodies felt ‘funny’ and sometimes numb. Nicole, (a suicidal 14-year-old,) admitted, “I’m not gonna lie. I like the feeling of it.”

Perhaps more dramatic than the trips themselves, which happened in a carefully controlled procedure room with a psychiatrist and anesthesiologist ready to intervene if needed, were the interviews that came after. I could see the weight of depression lifted from these patients within hours. Adolescents who were previously ready to end their own lives became bright and hopeful. Psychiatry has never seen a drug intervention so powerful and fast acting. While most anti-depressants take weeks to work and offer modest improvement, ketamine offers dramatic improvement in less than a day...

Dr. Michael Bloch, Yale child psychiatrist and principal investigator of several controlled trials for ketamine for adolescents, points out that the drug is only used for select patients who have severe mental health problems that have not responded to other medications.

Read the rest

Religious leaders tripping balls... for science

Psychologists at Johns Hopkins University are currently giving two dozen religious leaders psilocybin, the psychedelic drug in magic mushrooms, to, y'know, see what happens. From The Guardian:

Despite most organised religions frowning on the use of illicit substances, Catholic, Orthodox and Presbyterian priests, a Zen Buddhist and several rabbis were recruited. The team has yet to persuade a Muslim imam or Hindu priest to take part, but “just about all the other bases are covered,” according to (study co-leader Dr. William) Richards....

“It is too early to talk about results, but generally people seem to be getting a deeper appreciation of their own religious heritage,” he said. “The dead dogma comes alive for them in a meaningful way. They discover they really believe this stuff they’re talking about.”

There is also a suggestion that after their psychedelic journey, the leaders’ notions of religion shifted away from the sectarian towards something more universal. “They get a greater appreciation for other world religions. Other ways up the mountain, if you will,” said Richards.

“In these transcendental states of consciousness, people seem to get to levels of consciousness that seem universal,” he added. “So a good rabbi can encounter the Buddha within him.”

"Religious leaders get high on magic mushrooms ingredient – for science" (The Guardian) Read the rest

Today is the 74th anniversary of Albert Hofmann's first LSD trip

To celebrate Bicycle Day on April 19th, the date of Albert Hofmann’s — and the world’s first LSD trip in 1943, we are publishing this excerpt from the forthcoming interview with Michael Horowitz — the third installment of the Acid Bodhisattva series, coming soon to Timothy Leary Archives.

Images: from Lysergic World (April, 1993): Albert Hofmann in 1977 (above), and the route of his famous bicycle ride on LSD through Basel, Switzerland on April 19, 1943, from Sandoz Laboratories to his house.

Below, Leary's archivist Michael Horowitz reminisces about a car ride with Albert Hofmann and Timothy Leary in February 1972.

"Tim and I took the train to Basel where Albert picked us up in his car. He drove, Tim sat in the passenger seat and me in back, trying to manage a super 8mm movie camera with one hand and a tape recorder with the other. Albert told us that we were driving the route of his first LSD trip in 1943, when he bicycled home with his Sandoz lab assistant after testing 250 micrograms. Tim cracked up when I asked Albert if he still had the bicycle. I knew it was gauche of me, but I couldn't resist. A short time later Albert pulled over."

Here is an excerpt of the conversation between Albert and Tim, after they picked us up at the train station. On the way to Albert's estate we passed by his 1943 home.

Albert: That house is where we lived at the time. I never thought I would get home that day. Read the rest

BBC documentary on LSD microdosing

BBC News has a 15 minute documentary about people who take regular tiny doses of psychedelics drugs to deal with mental health issues, improve productivity, or just better appreciate what life has to offer.

From YouTube description:

Microdosing is when you take a tiny amount of psychedelic drugs - LSD or magic mushrooms usually - as part of your ordinary day. The drugs are illegal, and there is no medical evidence to say what the benefits or harms of it may be. But a small community of people in the UK are doing it anyway, and say it’s improving their lives. Some say it aids creativity and concentration and others argue it helps with their mental health problems. BBC Reporter Catrin Nye has been meeting the people that do it.

Here's my interview with Ayelet Waldman, who microdosed for a month and wrote a book about it called A Really Good Day. Read the rest

The daring doctors experimenting with psychedelic medicines

Rolling Stone's Mac McClelland tells the story of the physicians bravely breaking the law by treating patients with MDMA, ayahuasca, DMT, LSD, and other hallucinogens. From RS:

As an internal-medicine specialist, Dr. X doesn't have any patients who come to him seeking psychotherapy. But the longer he does the work, the more "I'm seeing that consciousness correlates to disease," he says. "Every disease." Narcolepsy. Cataplexy. Crohn's. Diabetes – one patient's psychedelic therapy preceded a 30 percent reduction in fasting blood-sugar levels. Sufferers of food allergies discover in their journeys that they've been internally attacking themselves. "Consciousness is so vastly undervalued," Dr. X says. "We use it in every other facet in our life and esteem the intellectual part of it, but deny the emotional or intuitive part of it." Psychedelic therapy "reinvigorated my passion and belief in healing. I think it's the best tool to achieving well-being, so I feel morally and ethically compelled to open up that space."...

"If we didn't have some idea about the potential importance of these medicines, we wouldn't be researching them," says Dr. Jeffrey Guss, psychiatry professor at NYU Medical Center and co-investigator of the NYU Psilocybin Cancer Project. "Their value has been written about and is well known from thousands of years of recorded history, from their being used in religious and healing settings. Their potential and their being worthy of exploration and study speaks for itself."

Optimistic insiders think that if all continues to go well, within 10 to 15 years some psychedelics could be legally administrable to the public, not just for specific conditions but even for personal growth.

Read the rest

How LSD microdosing made a mega difference in one woman's mood, marriage, and life

Ayelet Waldman is a novelist, non fiction author, and former federal public defender. Her latest book is called A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. I interviewed her this morning.

Why did you start microdosing?

I started microdosing because I was profoundly and dangerously depressed. I have a mood disorder and for many, many years my medication worked great. I took it, I did what my doctor told me and everything was fine. But at some point my medication stopped working. I tried all sorts of different things. And nothing helped. I was getting worse and worse and more and more full of despair and more and more full of rage and more and more unstable and I became suicidal. I started doing things like googling the effects of maternal suicide on children and I was so terrified that I was going to do something to myself, that I was going to hurt myself, that I decided to do something drastic and something that some people might think is crazy -- I decided to try microdosing with L.S.D.

Did it work?

Oh absolutely. It worked for sure. It's sub-perceptual. In fact, if I told you right now, "Hey Mark, I slipped a microdose of LSD. in your coffee," you wouldn't even know the difference. The effect for me was instantaneous. My depression lifted right away. The book is called A Really Good Day because at the end of that very first day, I looked back and I thought, "that was a really good day." It wasn't like everything was perfect. Read the rest

Psychedelics can treat anxiety and depression, but there's a catch

Jan Hoffman writes about recent research into the effects on psychedelics such as psilocybin on anxiety and depression: "About 80 percent of cancer patients showed clinically significant reductions in both psychological disorders, a response sustained some seven months after the single dose."

Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, a past president of the American Psychiatric Association, and Dr. Daniel Shalev of the New York State Psychiatric Institute are among leaders in psychiatry, addiction medicine and palliative care who endorsed the work. The studies, they wrote, are “a model for revisiting criminalized compounds of interest in a safe, ethical way.”

If research restrictions could be eased, they continued, “there is much potential for new scientific insights and clinical applications.”

Although cancer patients will not have access to therapeutically administered psilocybin anytime soon, the findings add vigor to applications to expand research in a multicenter trial with hundreds of participants.

Moreover, there are few side effects. But there is a catch: the experiences must be rigorously contextualized, written down, analyzed, etc.

Dr. Griffiths noted that patients received extensive support, which may have deepened and secured their life-affirming transformations.

“People will take psilocybin at a rave or at Burning Man” — the art and performance desert festival — “but the effect,” he said, “evaporates like water running through their hands.”

Set and setting and settlement. Read the rest

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