Porn star who makes penis candles arrested for murder after psychedelic toad venom ritual

Spanish police arrested Nacho Vidal — a porn star with a side hustle making penis candles — for suspected manslaughter following a "mystic ritual" in which participants smoked the psychedelic venom of the Colorado River Toad. According to Vidal's attorney Daniel Salvador, the fellow who died, photographer Jose Luis Abad, had "previously tried that substance and wanted to try it again" in a "comfortable" setting. Vidal "considers himself to be innocent" and insists the death was accidental. From the BBC News:

The actor, who has featured in hundreds of pornographic movies, had been under investigation for 11 months over the death of the photographer, Spanish police said.

Mr Vidal and the two other suspects were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and violating public health laws. All three were released provisionally.

Investigators said they had discovered toad rituals were being carried out regularly on grounds they offered medicinal benefits.

But the "apparently harmless ancestral ritual" posed a "serious health risk", attracting people who were "easily influenced, vulnerable or who were seeking help for illnesses or addictions using alternative methods", a police statement said.

(Thanks, Gil Kaufman!)

image: "Colorado River Toad" by I, Wildfeuer (CC BY-SA 3.0) Read the rest

Celebs talk about tripping balls in "Have a Good Trip" documentary

Listening to people talk about their drug trips usually isn't very interesting but a new Netflix documentary proves that listening to FAMOUS people talk about theirs is.

HAVE A GOOD TRIP: ADVENTURES IN PSYCHEDELICS is a documentary featuring comedic tripping stories from A-list actors, comedians, and musicians. Star-studded reenactments and trippy animations bring their surreal hallucinations to life. Mixing comedy with a thorough investigation of psychedelics, HAVE A GOOD TRIP explores the pros, cons, science, history, future, pop cultural impact, and cosmic possibilities of hallucinogens. The film tackles the big questions: Can psychedelics have a powerful role in treating depression, addiction, and helping us confront our own mortality? Are we all made of the same stuff? Is love really all we need? Can trees talk? Cast members include Adam Scott, Nick Offerman, Sarah Silverman, Ad-Rock, Rosie Perez, A$AP Rocky, Paul Scheer, Nick Kroll, and Rob Corddry to name a few. Written and directed by Donick Cary. Produced by Mike Rosenstein, Sunset Rose Pictures, and Sugarshack 2000.

Watch for the celebrities talking about tripping and stay for the trippy animations! Read the rest

Two far-out books about California counterculture reviewed by Erik Davis

I'm honored that in the latest issue of The Burning Shore, Erik Davis, scholar of West Coast counterculture, reviewed The Family Acid: California, Roger Steffens's far-out photo album I published with my Ozma Records partner Tim Daly! Erik's excellent essay is a double review, also focusing on the Anthology Editions reprint of Dennis Stock's striking California Trip book from 1968.

From Erik Davis's The Burning Shore:

Steffens’s use of multiple exposures is perhaps the key gesture here. The decision to re-expose film is a dice throw, an act of faith in the playfulness of multiple perspectives and the value of subjecting an already captured image to the serendipity of leaps through time. Such images are also, of course, hallucinatory, and some of Steffens’ are trippy as shit. They not only recall the formal and symbolic palimpsests of psychedelic vision, but loop the question of the photographic object back into the eye of the beholder: seeing these impossible scenes, we glimpse our own seeing, our own congealing of reality from the virtual.

Other Family Acid images feature artifacts like diffraction spikes, iridescent orbs, and weird lensing effects. (Check out the cover shot up top, which juxtaposes the classic clerestory light of redwood groves with a mandalic UFO flare.) These are special effects, my friends, evidence of that hippie will to hack media tech in the quest for unusual experiences. They also recall the more sacred lights you can only chance upon, in the strangest of places if you look at em right, those wink-wink psychedelic glimmers that occasionally illuminate parking lots, or crumpled beer cans, or goofball commercial signage—Phil Dick’s “trash stratum,” temporarily kindled into something high and holy and wholly profane.[...]

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In honor of today's LSD anniversary, a sale on The Family Acid: California

On April 19, 1943, Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman ingested 240 micrograms of lysergic acid diethylamide, a curious compound he had synthesized for possible use as a respiratory and circulatory stimulant. An hour later, Hoffman wrote one sentence in his journal: "Beginning dizziness, feeling of anxiety, visual distortions, symptoms of paralysis, desire to laugh." As he rode his bicycle home, the effects intensified. Eventually though, the fear gave way to wonder.

"Little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes," Hoffman wrote. "Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux..."

April 19 is now celebrated as Bicycle Day to commemorate the first intentional acid trip, a hallucinogenic revelation that had a profound impact on art, music, culture, and consciousness.

We can't go out right now, but we can go in. Way in. To celebrate Bicycle Day, my Ozma Records partner Tim Daly and I are offering a 33% discount on The Family Acid: California, a book of marvelous photographs drenched in the psychedelic experience.

For more than 50 years, photographer Roger Steffens has explored the electric arteries of the counterculture, embracing mind-expanding experiences, deep social connection, and unadulterated fun at every turn. After serving in Vietnam at the end of the 1960s, Steffens immersed himself in California’s vibrant bohemia. Since then, with his wife Mary and children Kate and Devon, he has sought out the eccentric, the outlandish, and the transcendent. Read the rest

FDA expands access to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the US FDA is clearing the way for ten clinics around the United States to treat PTSD patients with MDMA. It's likely that the FDA will grant full approval for the therapy in 2020, reports New Atlas. From the article:

MAPS has previously hypothesized thousands of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy clinics will open up across the United States. In the near future these clinics may not only administer MDMA for PTSD but also psilocybin, which is currently proving promising for a variety of conditions, including major depression.

The FDA approval for Expanded Access is yet another validation of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy’s safety and efficacy following extraordinarily positive early clinical trial results. Current Phase 3 trials are set to run until 2021 and complete market approval could come as early as 2022.

Image by DMTrott - Own work. Originally published in The Drug Users Bible [ISBN: 978-0995593688]., CC BY-SA 4.0, Link Read the rest

Scientists genetically engineer E. coli to produce the psychedelic psilocybin

Finally, researchers are again exploring the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics to treat the likes of depression, addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. To provide pharmaceutical-quality compounds for clinical trials, scientists are developing new ways to produce the psychedelics. Chemical engineers at Miami University in Ohio have now genetically engineered E. coli to crank put psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms. From Scientific American:

The modified microbes generated up to 1.16 grams of psilocybin per liter of culture medium—the highest yield to date from any engineered organism and a 10-fold increase over the next best attempt. Scaled up, the new method could produce psilocybin for potential therapeutic use.

“The number-one advantage is it's simply cheaper” than—or at least cost-competitive with—other methods, says lead study author Alexandra Adams, an undergraduate student in chemical engineering at Miami University in Ohio...

Adams and her colleagues engineered E. coli that incorporated three genes from the Psilocybe cubensis mushroom, enabling the bacteria to synthesize psilocybin from the cheap and easily obtainable precursor molecule 4-hydroxyindole, and then they optimized the process to produce the drug on a larger scale.

Read the rest

Counterculture icon and psychedelic pioneer Ram Dass, RIP

Ram Dass -- counterculture icon, psychedelic pioneer, and spiritual guide -- has died at age 88. After turning on with his Harvard psychology colleague Timothy Leary in the early 1960s, Ram Dass (formerly Richard Alpert) became an intrepid explorer of higher consciousness and dedicated his life to teaching what he learned to the world. From Tricycle:

In Be Here Now, Ram Dass‘s first book for the masses, which has sold over 2 million copies since publication in 1971, he offered seekers an engaging, unconventional, slightly zany roadmap for finding a spiritual path and a more enduring connection to higher consciousness than a tab of acid could bring. From then on, in close to a dozen books and countless teachings, retreats, and podcasts, Ram Dass continued to share the wisdom of a journey that had long gone beyond personal transformation to embrace a cosmic worldview and social agenda...

“My life has been a dance between power and love,” he observed after the massive cerebral hemorrhage in 1997 that left the charismatic, preternaturally articulate teacher groping for words. “First part, till Harvard: power, power, power, power. Up until drugs, I thought power was the end all and be all, because I was a little individual. Then drugs: love, love, love, love. My first mushroom trip was so profound that I saw radiance was inside, and I said, ‘I’m home, I’m home, I’m home.'”

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Santa Claus is a psychedelic mushroom

One fantastic and wonderful origin theory of Santa Claus involves psychedelic mushrooms and shamanic rituals of the indigenous Sámi people who live in northern Finland. Paul Devereux wrote about this incredible hidden history in his fascinating 2008 book The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia. Then, Brooklyn filmmaker Matthew Salton blew mainstream minds with this fantastic New York Times "Op-Doc" short video on the topic.

For more on psychedelic Santa, check out the following pieces by Greg Taylor at the Daily Grail:

• "Santa is a Psychedelic Mushroom: Were Modern Christmas Traditions Influenced by Shamanic Folklore?"

• Santa's Long Trip Read the rest

Magic mushrooms in a nasal spray

As scientists make great strides in their research on psychedelic therapies for depression, PTSD, OCD, addiction and other conditions, new ways to deliver the drugs are also emerging from laboratories. Oregon company Silo Wellness announced the availability of a new nasal spray for psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms. The company conducted their research and formulated the product in Jamaica where psilocybin is legal. From the Silo Wellness press release:

The key to the nasal spray is that it bypasses the gut, going directly to the bloodstream through the nasal mucus membranes and eventually the liver for metabolizing. “Many psilocybin patients, particularly women, complain of upset stomach or vomiting when taking high-doses of mushrooms,” Board Advisor and Silo Wellness investor Becky Rotterman, a Missouri pharmacist, stated. “We want to bring this wonderful natural medicine first to Oregon and then the flyover states – to those who would be afraid to eat a handful of fungi and who feel more comfortable seeing their medicine in a familiar delivery modality, such as a metered-dose nasal spray...."

Regarding the expansion of legalization efforts, Arnold explained that “this is the sort of product that activists can discuss with their legislators to show that safe consumption is possible within a legal framework.”

“With proof of concept in hand, we are taking pre-orders and entertaining licensing proposals for research abroad and manufacturing for the product in advance of jurisdictions coming online legally, similar to Oregon’s proposed medical-marijuana-like psilocybin initiative,” COO Scott Slay, of Eugene, Oregon stated.

Read the rest

Johns Hopkins Medicine launches major center for psychedelic drug research

The esteemed research institute and medical school Johns Hopkins Medicine is starting the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research thanks to $17 million in private donations. The generous funders include Boing Boing pal and author Tim Ferriss, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, TOMS shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, and investor Craig Nerenberg. Psychedelics have tremendous unlocked therapeutic potential for the likes of severe depression, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and alcoholism, What a wonderful, important, and worthy cause these individuals chose to support. From Johns Hopkins Medical:

In 2000, the psychedelic research group at Johns Hopkins was the first to achieve regulatory approval in the U.S. to reinitiate research with psychedelics in healthy volunteers who had never used a psychedelic. Their 2006 publication on the safety and enduring positive effects of a single dose of psilocybin sparked a renewal of psychedelic research worldwide.

Since then, the researchers have published studies in more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles. Their research has demonstrated therapeutic benefits for people who suffer from conditions including nicotine addiction and depression and anxiety caused by life-threatening diseases such as cancer. It has paved the way for current studies on treatment of major depressive disorder. These researchers have also expanded the field of psychedelic research by publishing safety guidelines that have helped gain approval for psychedelic studies at other universities around the world and by developing new ways of measuring mystical, emotional, and meditative experiences while under the influence of psychedelics.

The group's findings on both the promise and the risks of psilocybin in particular helped create a path forward for the chemical's potential medical approval and reclassification from a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive federal government category, to a more appropriate level.

Read the rest

Oakland, California decriminalized shrooms, peyote, and other psychoactive plants and fungi

Oakland, California is now the second city in the United States, following Denver last month, to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Oakland City Council unanimously passed the resolution on Tuesday. From NPR:

Oakland's resolution is broader than Denver's. Denver's initiative decriminalized the use and possession of mushrooms containing the compound psilocybin, whereas Oakland's refers to "entheogenic plants" in general, which includes the mushrooms and other plants and fungi containing psychoactive substances.

The resolution says city money will not be used "to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the use and possession of Entheogenic Plants by adults." It says that investigating people for growing, buying, distributing or possessing the substances "shall be amongst the lowest law enforcement priority for the City of Oakland...."

(The substances') possible therapeutic effects were highlighted in an agenda report filed to City Council by the resolution's sponsor, Council member Noel Gallo.

"For millennia, cultures have respected entheogenic plants and fungi for providing healing, knowledge, creativity, and spiritual connection," the report states, saying that these plants may be beneficial for conditions such as substance abuse, anxiety and PTSD. "This initiative aims to empower the Oakland community by restoring their relationship to nature."

These substances are currently not legal under federal and state law.

"Oakland City Council Effectively Decriminalizes Psychedelic Mushrooms" (NPR) Read the rest

Denver voters decriminalize magic mushrooms

This morning's news reported that Denver's ballot measure to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms had failed, but now that all the ballots have been fully counted we've learned that the Sunnies outvoted the Sadsters 51% to 49%.

From Forbes:

Its provisions prohibit the city government from using any resources to impose criminal penalties against adults over 21 years of age for personal use and possession of psilocybin, the active ingredient in so-called "magic mushrooms."

Initiative 301 also specifies that going after people for the mushrooms is the city's “lowest law enforcement priority” and establishes a review panel to assess and report on the effects of the change by early 2021.

The Denver measure doesn't trump federal law, however. Psilocybin and psilocin are on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and federal law states that "person convicted of illegally possessing any controlled substance face penalties of up to 1 year in prison and a minimum fine of $1,000, or both." Read the rest

Drug paraphernalia that's 1,000-years-old still contains traces of coke and DMT

In a Bolivian rock shelter likely used 1,000 years ago for religious rituals, archaeologists found a collection of drug paraphernalia that still contains traces of psychoactive plants. A pouch made from three fox snouts likely contained a stash of leaves and seeds. From New Scientist:
(The items) include a 28-centimetre-long leather bag, a pair of wooden snuffing tablets, a snuffing tube, a pair of llama-bone spatulas, a textile headband, fragments of dried plant stems and a pouch made from three fox snouts stitched together. The snuffing tube and tablets feature ornate carvings of human-like figures.

Melanie Miller at the University of Otago, New Zealand, and her colleagues used mass spectrometry to analyse samples from the pouch and plant stems. They detected five psychoactive compounds: cocaine, benzoylecgonine (BZE), bufotenine, harmine and dimethyltryptamine (DMT).

The presence of these drugs suggests the pouch may have belonged to a ritual specialist or shaman with extensive knowledge of plants and their psychoactive properties, and used to hold leaves, seeds and other plant matter.

More in the scientific paper: "Chemical evidence for the use of multiple psychotropic plants in a 1,000-year-old ritual bundle from South America" (PNAS)

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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.

Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

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