Crazywise: Revisioning Narratives of Psychosis
By Sascha Altman DuBrul May 16, 2017
As someone who was told as an 18 year old that I had a biological brain disease and that my visions and behavior meant I needed to be held down and shot up with antipsychotic drugs for months in a locked mental hospital, I take very personally how our current psychiatric system treats young people who’ve been diagnosed with psychotic disorders. While I was fortunate enough to make my transformative journey from breakdown to breakthrough, there are a lot of people just like me who end up trapped in a narrative of disease with programs and treatments that keep them stuck in a cycle of dependency and chronicity.
I so badly want all the young people who are going through the kinds of experiences I went through to have more guidance, more mentorship, more role models, more community support from people who have struggled in similar ways. I want there to be places for young people to go where they can heal, people who’ve been trained to see those young people as solutions and not as problems. I see the potential for this type of support and camaraderie in the modern day Peer Specialist workforce and some of the First Episode Psychosis programs that are emerging around the country, but in order to create a mental health system that works for people we need to be able to shift our perspectives and truly adopt narratives of liberation rather than narratives of sickness.
So with that thought I highly, highly recommend you watch this 3 minute trailer, it’s mad thought provoking and beautiful:
Ultimately, the longing for spiritual rejuvenation and community empowerment will break through the cage of modernity, if we are not first destroyed by ecological devastation and/or economic collapse. Longing, in all actuality, is too mild a term; actually, there is an intense craving for unique and authentic notions of identity, for belonging to a caring culture, for sharing and cultural blending. There is also, to an extent, evolutionary reasons and epigenetic possibilities for the deep desires, for instance, to want to sing and dance around a fire, to go on long walks to calm the mind, to talk to plants and animals, to feel the Earth’s joys and pains, to partake of psychedelic plants. It’s what our species has done for millennia, and no freeways, high-rises, fluorescent-lit malls, or gated communities can possibly make up for these urges.
Inner calmness and contentedness, feeling joy at other’s successes, altruistic actions of bravery, spontaneity, the creative act, and transpersonal experiences all teach us that our egos are illusions. The drive of the ego is the drive of civilization, with all its life-denying baggage. It is this ego-based desire to dominate, to harness and pillage nature, which expands outwards to include all life-forms, including even our close loved ones. The judgments and pain inflicted on others are projections of our own, deep inner hurting. The ego shifts the blame, projecting, always outwards onto others, always disguising and rationalizing its selfish deeds. Indigenous life is not without problems, but it recognizing and integrates the shadow-side of ourselves: there was no need for modern psychology until modern, Western man ramped up the process of destroying the world, all in order to fill the gaping void within the soul.
Thus, rewilding our psyches will mean dissolving the ego, recognizing it as a small part of the mind, occasionally useful in survival-enhancing or problem solving situations, but not as an absolute master of our sense of self. In short, it must be acknowledged that there are many aspects to individual minds, spectrums of ways of thinking, just as specific brain-waves exist, and differing states of sleep and dreaming.
Shrinking the ego will re-establish our commitment to protecting the Earth. As creator and protector of life, our planet, along with crops, animals, mountains and rivers, all have been venerated and deified across history. Thus, the sacredness of life and its continuity can be seen for the miracle it truly is. New spiritual and religious groups will be founded, with cross-fertilization and syncretism causing an explosion of kaleidoscopic cultures. Shrinking petty individual desires and grievances enlarges our view of nature: it allows for free living and amicable relations, promoting an idea of an Unconquerable World which can triumph over the capitalist-dominated, chaotic, absolutist, totalitarian impulses of modern life.
Chapter 26: Psychedelic Information Theory
Withdrawal, Eccentricity, and Intentional Freak Communities
One last note about psychedelics, alienation, and isolation I want to convey: Since psychedelics can produce very unique experiences that are hard to share with others, it is common for people who are attracted to the psychedelic experience to withdraw into themselves for long periods of time. These people may be doing something akin to “soul searching” or “finding themselves” or “trying to figure it all out.” A particularly heady psychedelic trip may send the user on a “knowledge quest” where they begin to read and consume information on a wide variety of esoteric topics like religion, botany, philosophy, chemistry, metaphysics, etc. Some people may turn to Buddhism and eastern philosophy for guidance; others will discover that they are “plant people”; others will become “entheogenic experts” and devour all the knowledge in the field; and others still will become self-styled gurus who wrap themselves in occult philosophies and world-shattering paradigms. The point I am trying to make here is that people who use and/or study psychedelics for any length of time tend to become a bit eccentric, or what most people might call weird. This weirdness may express itself through clothing or fashion sense, through passionate issue-driven activism, through occult philosophies and metaphysical belief systems, or through downright crazy behavior like outrageous acting out, pathological social withdrawal, delusions of grandeur, etc.
This tendency towards eccentricity led the ‘60s psychedelic subculture to embrace the term “freak” used to describe underground drug users in the media, as in “acid freak” or “speed freak” or something like that. After a while the term “freak” was no longer considered pejorative within psychedelic and drug subculture, and it is often used as a term of endearment, as in, “Oh yeah, I know Kevin. He’s a total freak.” Freak culture, by and large, was what the hippie movement was all about: getting freaked-out, freaky, and letting your freak flag fly. In a safe, accepting, and tolerant community, letting your freak flag fly is very empowering and liberating experience, and this notion of freak empowerment has carried over from the days of Haight-Ashbury and Woodstock to the hundreds of specialty freak festivals hosted annually worldwide today. Burning Man is a good example of many different freak subcultures coming together to celebrate the whole idea of “getting your freak on” in a community atmosphere. At Burning Man people are encouraged to be outright freaky, it is stated right in their literature. In a place like Burning Man a freak feels right at home, accepted, and happy. But take that same freak back to the city, where conformity is valued, and put them in a small, drab apartment or office cube, and you will have one depressed, alienated freak. In other words, eccentricity and the embrace of the inner freak can lead to liberation and joy in a supportive environment, or profound alienation and social withdrawal in an oppressive environment.
This dichotomy between freak liberation and freak oppression can lead a lost freak to spontaneously join a new community of supportive freaks without ever looking back, like the Acid Test community of the ‘60s, the thousands of suburban kids who went to their first Grateful Dead shows in the ‘70s and ‘80s and never came home, and the techno-rave kids who ruled the freak underground through the ‘90s and beyond. These communities happened because the freaks needed a place to fight the alienation they felt in normal society, a place where they could let their freak flag fly without being mocked or judged by people who didn’t understand them. In terms of fighting depression and withdrawal, these freak communities were a good ad-hoc alternative to isolation and despair. And while jumping into a freak community is certainly not the only answer to psychedelic alienation, it does seem better than becoming excessively withdrawn and trapped into your own internal melodramas, as enticing as that sounds.
Intentional freak communities are not always solid entities. Some stay cohesive and emotionally healthy for very long periods, but the majority tend to dissipate as the core members get older, settle down, or go their separate ways. Since sex and drugs are two of the main attractors of these underground communities, it is almost inevitable that you will find tangled interpersonal relationships, pregnancies, marriages, divorces, and all the other human drama you would find in any other close-knit social group, but with more sex and more drugs. The overload of human contact and initial rush of being accepted into a freak community can be very intoxicating, but there are also inherent dangers in any community that prides itself on experimental or risky behaviors. Well-grounded freak communities can grow and flourish for many years, but the introduction of harder drugs like heroin and methamphetamines can lead the happiest freak communities to spontaneously combust in a string of overdoses, STDs, and accidental deaths that leave everyone traumatized for the long haul. You have been warned.
While I do not want to stigmatize freak communities, I do want to point out that these subcultures are not actually a remedy for social withdrawal, they are more like a support group for people suffering from social withdrawal. Freak subcultures withdraw into their own internal melodramas just as completely as the alienated individual does, but they do so on a group level. Much like a cult, the freak subculture often limits their social interactions solely to other members of the freak tribe, making the interpersonal relationships particularly tangled and incestuous. In terms of fighting alienation and depression, jumping headlong into freak subculture may work for a while, but you may be trading one set of messy issues for a whole new set of messy issues you didn’t see coming, so be warned. The beautiful people are not always beautiful, but some of them certainly are. As with any commitment to any intentional community, your mileage may vary, so choose wisely.
Psychedelic Information Theory
Shamanism in the Age of Reason
Fractals generated by computer programs and nature are examples of deterministic chaos in nonlinear systems, and share many formal similarities with psychedelic hallucinations.
Chapter 13: Psychedelic Neuroplasticity
Neural axons in the human brain are always branching and creating new synaptic connections to facilitate learning and development. Like the toning and bulking of muscle mass, neural connectivity, developmental growth, and plasticity are based partly on genetics and partly on the “use it or lose it” principle; the more you use a neural pathway the more robust and responsive it becomes, the less you use a pathway the weaker it becomes. Training and repetition build faster and more responsive connections; emotional attachments to concepts build more robust connections over time. The more a neuron or assembly of neurons is used in a specific exercise, the faster and more responsive those neurons will become when performing that task. This is how the brain learns new things and integrates new skills. Training, repetition, and reinforcement leads to long term changes in synaptic connectivity; these are the basics of neuroplasticity.1
Neuroplasticity is the physical mechanism which makes shamanism and psychedelic therapy viable. In dreaming, neuroplasticity is stimulated in response to daily routine and anxiety; in hypnosis neuroplasticity is stimulated in response to suggestion and reinforcement; in shamanism neuroplasticity is stimulated in response to dose, set, and setting. The efficacy of psychedelics in both shamanic transformation and clinical therapy relies on their unique ability to decouple the cortex, disassociate ego structures, and stimulate archetypal identity regression and personal transformation. No other class of drugs can claim to have such a radical effect on personality; radical personality change in response to brief psychedelic exposure implies neuroplasticity.
While there is no laboratory research to prove that psychedelics stimulate neuroplasticity, there is evidence that a single psychedelic session can produce long-term changes in personality.2 People who take psychedelics sometimes adopt a new outlook on life, a new manner of dress, a new spirituality, perhaps even a new name to go with their new identity.3 Self-reinvention is an integral part of psychedelic exploration and subculture. The forging of a new identity does not always happen in a single psychedelic session, but psychedelic experimentation can be a catalyst for sudden radical personality transformation. These basic observations make a case for psychedelics as facilitators of long term identity modification and neuroplasticity.
The Case for Psychedelic Neuroplasticity
Psychedelics can stimulate recall of lost memories and can also generate false memories; lost memory reconsolidation and false memory imprinting implies neuroplasticity. The brain builds tolerance to psychedelics quickly, but psychedelic tolerance can be surpassed by successively ingesting larger and larger doses.4 Successive dosing and increasing levels of tolerance implies stress-based neuroplasticity. In the case of hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), the subject retains some of the visual effects of hallucinogens long after the drug should have metabolized;5 persisting reactions to neural stress imply neuroplasticity. Psychedelics have been used to facilitate cult induction and programming;6 indoctrination implies identity-based neuroplasticity. Psychedelics induce peer and mate bonding in tribal subcultures; mate bonding implies identity-based neuroplasticity. Psychedelics can create positive long-term changes in mood and outlook;2 long term outlook changes imply neuroplasticity. Finally, while lying in darkened silence, the psychedelic state resembles a deep dream-like trance; dreaming is known to facilitate memory compression and long-term memory potentiation (LTP).7 Any drug which facilitates extended dream-like states should also facilitate memory compression, LTP, and neuroplasticity.
In programmatic terms, a psychedelic drug can be thought of as a back-door or reboot mechanism that allows the subject to enter a visually driven ego programming and debugging matrix; this state would be similar to hypnosis mixed with an element of lucid dreaming or creative visualization. To stretch the computer metaphor further, in the absence of hypnotic suggestion or shamanic control, the psychedelic debugging matrix will naturally drop into a maintenance mode where anxieties are brought to the fore like a screen-saver programmed to browse through repressed salient patterns arising within chaotic noise.8 All of these programmatic metaphors for psychedelics are accurate, and all imply a spontaneous cataloging, compression, or re-organization of existing synaptic memory via nonlinear eidetic emotional cues; this implies synaptic testing and strengthening in response to pre-existing anxiety, which implies neuroplasticity.
Physiology of Psychedelic Neuroplasticity
Hallucinogens which target the 5-HT2A receptor can influence cellular functioning via the activation of G-proteins and intracellular secondary messengers. The signaling pathways mediated by the 5-HT2A receptor include the activation of PKC and MAPK, protein kinases which energize enzymes to perform complex cellular maintenance. The activation of PKC undoubtedly plays a role in the production and maintenance of long term memory. Evidence shows that inhibiting PKC activation in the cortex for as little as a few hours can cause the rapid erasure of long-term memory associations.11 It is obvious that PKC is a fundamental part of memory formation and retention, and it is reasonable to assume that drugs which stimulate PKC activity may enhance or alter the processes of memory formation, recall, retention, and plasticity.
The process by which PKC mediates memory associations is still unknown, but the primary assumption is that PKC interacts with diglycerides (DAG) at the intracellular membrane to mark energetic signaling areas for receptor formation and synaptic strengthening. The secondary signaling cascade goes like this: The 5-HT2A receptor is stimulated with an agonist, activating phospholipase C (PLC) in the cell membrane, which then chops a phospholipid (PIP2 or PI) at the membrane into an IP3 group and DAG. The DAG stays near the membrane while IP3 activates the release of calcium (Ca2+) from the endoplasmic reticulum, which then activates PKC, which allows PKC to carry energy back to the cell membrane near the DAG site before activating other enzymes and intracellular substrates. PKC performs its job by moving phosphate groups around the cytoplasm and activating cellular enzymes such as adenosine which forms AMP, ADP, and ATP by linking with phosphate groups in chains of up to three at once, allowing metabolic energy to move quickly to other sites throughout the cell. The addition and removal of phosphates to and from proteins is a fundamental part of all organic metabolic processes; 5-HT2A agonists stimulate this phosphorylation process through PLC, IP3, Ca2+, and subsequent PKC activation.
The fact that 5-HT2A agonists stimulate PKC and fundamental metabolic processes indicates a strong case for psychedelic neuroplasticity. It is interesting to note that Salvinorin A, from Salvia divinorum, also activates these same phosphorylation pathways through the G-coupled kappa-Opiod receptor.12 It is also interesting to note that of all the hallucinogenic compounds that occur in nature, psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) is the only one that comes with its own phosphate group (which is stripped to make psilocin), and also appears to be the weakest tryptamine agonist at the 5-HT2A receptor.13 While it is tempting to assert that PKC phosporylation is at the root of all hallucinogenesis and psychedelic effect, it has been demonstrated that 5-HT2A mediated PI hydrolosis is not always a good indicator of psychedelic potency.14 Although there are multiple factors responsible for hallucinogenesis, psychedelic stimulation of PKC activity undoubtedly plays a role in perturbing and stimulating persistent memory functions and promoting potential potent neuroplasticity.
Other research indicates that LSD activates cellular mechanisms to promote expression of genes responsible for encoding c-Fos and Arc proteins, particularly in the pre-frontal cortex (PFC).15 c-Fos is essential to cell proliferation, differentiation, and cellular defense, while Arc (activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein) regulates the formation and repair of the scaffolding maintaining neural shape and stability. By activating expression of c-Fos and Arc proteins in PFC neurons, LSD may promote potent neuroplasticity, cell proliferation, cell repair, and synaptic generation in neurons responsible for identity. Presumably any selective 5-HT2A agonist will produce similar results, making hallucinogenic tryptamines primary candidates for cellular signal strengthening and profound identity-based neuroplasticity.
Positive and Negative Plasticity
Shamanic transformation may stimulate neuroplasticity by helping the subject realize a more transcendent or spiritually integrated vision of themselves. The logic follows that visualization of a transcendent inner self will reinforce positive personality traits and behavioral changes to synchronize with inner idealization. Shamanic identity transformation is not instantaneous, but instead follows an integrative process of synaptic testing and reinforcement over a period of days to weeks. Some psychedelic therapy stimulates neuroplasticity using techniques similar to the ten-step program employed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), where the subject takes a clinical inventory of their life and behaviors and assesses each area where they need forgive, accept, or make changes. In psychedelic therapy the process of uncovering and severing negative pathways is called catharsis; the process of wiring and reinforcing new pathways is called integration. These are examples of positive psychedelic plasticity used to maximize positive social integration. These processes are sometimes slow and require some small amount of mental discipline and behavioral follow-through for success.
There are many examples of negative psychedelic neuroplasticity. Renegade schools of ayahuasca sorcery and witchcraft employ some of the most elaborate and lethal mind-games ever devised, including the constant fear of attack by rival sorcerers through poisons, curses, dream invasion, and magical darts that may induce paralysis, cancer, death, or insanity.9 The traditional shaman’s constant stress of exposure to the effects of black magic mirrors paranoid psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder; this implies negative plasticity. Exposing any subject to extended and repeated psychedelic sessions may force stress-driven plasticity associated with PTSD, torture, isolation, and sensory deprivation. Psychedelics may speed techniques of ego deprogramming and imprinting associated with brainwashing or cult indoctrination;6 this implies mind control and negative neuroplasticity. Psychedelics may produce psychotic breaks where subjects become violent and deranged, or may reinforce delusional, messianic, paranoid, sociopathic, antisocial and megalomaniacal identity traits;10 this also implies negative neuroplasticity. Thus, forging new synaptic pathways to radically alter identity structures is not always a good thing, this process can induce pathology as easily as it can reduce pathology.
Tribal Imprinting and Viral Neuroplasticity
One of the most interesting aspects of psychedelics is that group psychedelic experimentation can catalyze spontaneous organization of tribal subcultures and grassroots political movements. According to PIT, if you destabilize the top-down regulating influence of culture over a small group of peers, energetic tribal organizations will spontaneously emerge within those groups; this is an extrapolation of control theory and tenets of distributed cognition. Modern history has demonstrated that if you sprinkle LSD or psychedelic mushrooms over a major city, then flower children will blossom and form drum circles and begin to reproduce. But close observation of modern psychedelic subcultures reveals that radical identity reinvention is not a function of spiritual freedom or political subversion, but is more a viral form of tribal bonding and indoctrination. For example, the hippies of 1960s and the ravers of 1990s each preached freedom and individuality, yet each culture had strictly controlled tribal uniforms, politics, musical styles, and rituals, and ostracized outsiders as being squares or un-hip. This indicates that psychedelic tribal organization and identity reinvention is not a linear function of freedom of expression or social liberation, but is instead a nonlinear amplification of the typical motivators of social elitism, the fears of being ostracized, and the reinforcements of tribal acceptance; all of which strongly affect identity-based neuroplasticity. Presumably any tribe, cultural group, religion, cult, or government can employ psychedelic neuroplasticity to similar social organizing effect.
The Benefits of LSD Will Change the Way We Talk About Drugs and Being High
Dropping acid has always been about the trip. We should have been focusing on the long-term effects.
By Yasmin Tayag on February 24, 2016
We’ve been looking at LSD all wrong. Over the past half-century, we’ve focused on the short term effects of dropping acid — the mutating hallucinations, the vibrant colors, the disconnect from reality — when we should have been focusing on the longer term benefits, including the therapeutic effects scientists are just now discovering. The psychedelic research renaissance underway, essentially a groundswell of small-scale studies, shows that LSD users have been pre-emptively treating mental illness and — to some degree — inoculating themselves against alcoholism, depression, and PTSD. Legislation makes prescription LSD a non-starter for the near future, but the conversation about whether getting high might just be a side effect of drug use can start now.
The myths surrounding LSD, perpetuated by modern hedonists like Lana del Rey and Father John Misty, make it difficult for lawmakers to accept it as a psychiatric drug like Prozac, Zoloft, or Celexa. But this was actually the intended use from the start. Albert Hofmann, upon discovering the drug in 1943, immediately set about looking for psychiatric applications. And that impulse remains strong in the scientific community: Over 1,000 academic research papers on the effects of LSD were published before the Summer of Love rebranded acid as a way to rebel against reality.
Currently, the FDA lists LSD as a Schedule 1 substance, claiming it has no “currently acceptable medical use.” From a scientific perspective, that’s a lie. From a cultural one, it’s the truth.
Earlier this month, U.K. researchers Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris and David Nutt, Ph.D. (of “ecstasy is less dangerous than horse riding” fame) published a paper in the journal Psychological Medicine describing LSD’s paradoxical ability to trigger acute psychosis in the short term while leaving “a residue of ‘loosened cognition’ in the mid to long term that is conducive to improved psychological wellbeing.”
Last year, Carhart-Harris and Nutt also visualized LSD’s effects on the brain in 20 volunteers using MRI scanners, reporting that the early results were promising for the treatment of depression and alcoholism. Their work has been limited by a dearth of funding. Still, there are enough studies for there to be meta-studies and a recent one on LSD and alcoholism, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2012, found that using LSD in combination with alcohol addiction programs helped decrease substance abuse.
In another highly publicized study, published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease in 2014, concluded that LSD, when administered over two months under carefully controlled conditions, reduced anxiety about terminal illness in the long term. The study, carried out in Switzerland, a nation that welcomed hallucinogen research while the rest of the United Nations freaked out in the 1970s, was the first controlled trial of LSD published in over 40 years.
It’s important to realize that these studies received a huge amount of press coverage because they were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The fact that this doesn’t happen more often isn’t necessarily a reflection of the inadequacy or scarcity of other ongoing psychedelic studies; it speaks, at least to some extent, to the leeriness toward hallucinogenic drugs that persists even in the scientific community. Scientific credibility, unfortunately, is the only thing that pulls in funding. Without money, studies languish — the licenses needed to study Schedule 1 substances are incredibly costly — and, in time, so does the momentum needed to reclassify the drug as something worth considering medically. In turn, funding becomes even more scarce.
But the long-term benefits of LSD present a treatment for cultural ignorance as well as substance abuse. They force the conversation about the drug away from the immediate effects of the drug, which is a tough thing to do given how extreme those effects can be. What people are slowly coming around to is the idea that psychoactive substances do one thing in the short term and another in the long term. It’s fairly clear that we’re not culturally prepared to talk about the benefits or problems with the short term. But we can talk about longer term health effects. This is essentially what happened to the conversation about cigarettes, albeit in reverse. A conversation about how cool they make people look and good they make people feel became a conversation about how they cause cancer. In this case, a conversation about how weird LSD makes people feel can become a conversation about it’s long term psychological benefits.
Given that we’ve substantively changed the way we’ve talked about other stimulants in the past, there’s plenty of hope for the future. There is also, and this is really the critical thing, good science being done. The researchers at the forefront of the field aren’t a bunch of bearded day-tripping Josh Tillman lookalikes in the California desert; they’re academics who can, unlike the guys running the FDA, divorce LSD from its colorful past. They don’t care about the sixties.
https://www.inverse.com/article/11958-t ... being-high
LSD could make you smarter, happier and healthier.
Should we all try it?
Researchers are again exploring the therapeutic possibilities of psychedelics.
By Daniel Miller April 1, 2016
Daniel Miller s a lawyer and the founder of the Psychedelic Society of Brooklyn.
In 1970, Congress dropped psychedelics into the war on drugs. After a decade of Timothy Leary, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” and news reports of gruesome murders, the federal government declared that the drugs had no medical use — and high potential for abuse. The chairman of New Jersey’s Narcotic Drug Study Commission called LSD “the greatest threat facing the country today . . . more dangerous than the Vietnam War.”
But over the past decade, some scientists have begun to challenge that conclusion. Far from being harmful, they found, hallucinogens can help sick people: They helped alcoholics drink less; terminal patients eased more gently into death. And it’s not just the infirm who are helped by the drugs. Psychedelics can make the healthy healthier, too.
On this subject, only a handful of peer-reviewed studies have been conducted; sample sizes are tiny. There’s still a great deal researchers don’t know. But early results suggest that, when used by people without a family history or risk of psychological problems, psychedelics can make us kinder, calmer and better at our jobs. They can help us solve problems more creatively and make us more open-minded and generous. Some experiments even suggest that a single dose can change our personalities forever.
Is it possible that a drug labeled as one of the most destructive and dangerous could make everyone’s lives better?
* * *
Americans have had a complicated history with psychedelics like LSD, magic mushrooms and peyote. In the 1950s, researchers began to investigate whether psychedelics could treat mental-health disorders and addiction. Between 1953 and 1973, the federal government funded 116 studies on the subject, affecting thousands of people.
At the same time, large numbers of Americans started using these drugs recreationally. As many as 2 million had dropped acid by 1970. Stories about “bad trips” and psychotic breaks emerged in the press. In one widely publicized incident, a 5-year-old accidentally took her uncle’s drug; people got scared. Meanwhile, soldiers were returning from Vietnam addicted to heroin; the country felt like it was locked in battle with illegal drug use. By 1968, President Richard Nixon had declared drugs “public enemy number one.” Congress banned all psychedelic use in 1970, which made research nearly impossible.
Then, in the early 2000s, a handful of scientists began looking into psychedelics as a way to relieve anxiety and addiction. (They were drawn to the drugs after reviewing the work of researchers from the 1950s and ’60s.) These experiments were successful. In one study, cancer patients were given psilocybin, a component of psychedelic mushrooms. Each patient was given one dose and then allowed to trip in a hospital room designed to look like a living room. Two medical professionals stayed close by.
[Indiana’s new abortion law won’t save babies. It will only make my patients suffer.]
Afterward, almost all of the participants experienced a significant reduction in anxiety and depression. Scientists checked in with the patients six months later; all reported that they still felt calmer and happier. Volunteer Gail Thomas told me that the treatment helped her overcome a deep sense of loneliness. “The main message from the trip was that we’re all connected,” she said. “We’re not alone.”
“The fact that a drug given once can have such an effect for so long is an unprecedented finding,” NYU psychiatrist Stephen Ross told the New Yorker. “We have never had anything like it in the psychiatric field.”
Other researchers have tested the drug as a treatment for depression, addiction and other mental problems such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Remarkably, in each small trial, scientists saw incredible results.
In a 2014 smoking-cessation study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, 15 participants were given three doses of psilocybin under careful supervision by doctors. The participants were all heavy nicotine users, consuming about a pack a day for an average of 31 years. Six months later, 80 percent were cigarette-free — most smoking-cessation efforts are about 35 percent effective. In a 2015 alcoholism study, also peer-reviewed and published in Psychopharmacology, many of the 10 participants saw a significant decrease in drinking for at least nine months after one or two psilocybin experiences. In both studies, the psilocybin doses were coupled with therapy.
Here’s why scientists think it works: When someone takes a psychedelic, there is a decrease in blood flow and electrical activity in the brain’s “default mode network,” a group of brain structures found in the frontal and pre-frontal cortex. The default mode network is primarily responsible for our ego or sense of self; it “lights up” when we daydream or self-reflect.
When we trip, our default mode network slows down. With the ego out of commission, the boundaries between self and world, subject and object dissolve. These processes may be related to something called the “primary mystical experience,” a phenomena highly correlated with therapeutic outcomes. As Matthew Johnson, a principal investigator in Johns Hopkins’s psilocybin studies, explains, these experiences include a “transcendence of time and space,” a sense of unity and sacredness and a deeply felt positive mood.
[Do you own a gun? Why your kid’s doctor needs to know.]
Robin Carhart-Harris, a neuroscientist with Imperial College London, notes that the default mode network is responsible for a lot of our rigid, habitual thinking and obsessions. Psychedelics help relax the part of the brain that leads us to obsess, which makes us calmer. And they can help “loosen if not break” the entrenched physical circuits responsible for addictive behavior.
There’s also an increase in activity between different parts of the brain that don’t normally communicate — what scientists call “cross-talk.” That may be why we hallucinate while on psychedelics; the brain’s visual-processing centers are interacting in strange ways with the parts of the brain that control our beliefs and emotions.
* * *
Of course, it’s not just the mentally ill who need to feel less isolated and obsessive, more fulfilled and creative. Research has shown that healthy people also benefit from the brain shift that psychedelics provide. Taking the drug even one time can fundamentally reshape our lives, making us happier and kinder, more productive at work and more open-minded. These findings are one of the reasons I became a psychedelics advocate.
In one study (admittedly, one that didn’t follow today’s rigorous research parameters) conducted at Harvard in 1962, 10 divinity school students were given psilocybin just before a Good Friday service. Eight reported a mystical experience. In the late 1980s, researcher and psychedelics advocate Rick Doblin interviewed seven of the students who’d taken the drug. All said that experience had shaped their lives and work in profound ways. But Doblin also found that several subjects experienced acute anxiety during their experiences. One participant had to be dosed with a powerful antipsychotic after he became convinced that he’d been chosen to announce the arrival of the Messiah and ran from the chapel.
In 2006, Johns Hopkins researchers tested whether psychedelics induce a mystical experience in healthy people. Thirty-six volunteers were given either a hallucinogen or a placebo at one session. In the second session, the pills were reversed. Six months later, the study participants said they were “more sensitive, compassionate, tolerant, to have increased positive relationships, an increased need to serve others,” according to a lead researcher. The doctors interviewed participants’ family members, friends and colleagues as well; they all confirmed that the study participants had become nicer and more pleasant.
[The rage of Trump fans isn’t new. I’ve dealt with it for years.]
The positive changes seen in this study persisted for at least 14 months. A third of the participants in the Hopkins study rated their psilocybin session as the most spiritually significant experience of their lives, even more important than the birth of a child or the death of a parent.
The 2006 study was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. In that issue, several prominent drug researchers were invited to comment; all praised the finding and called for additional research. Columbia University professor Herbert Kleber wrote that he saw “major therapeutic possibilities.”
In a 2011 study, 18 healthy volunteers were given four doses of psilocybin. The vast majority of participants reported prolonged positive changes in attitude and mood, feelings that lasted for at least 14 months. In follow-up research, scientists determined that many of the volunteers from both studies had undergone a change in personality, something that is supposed to remain relatively fixed after 30. Participants had become more open-minded, tolerant and interested in fantasy and imagination.
“People have certain fears and rigid perspectives and ways of seeing the world that often limit what they can do,” said Katherine MacLean, who led the personality research at Johns Hopkins. “A lot of people I saw go through the study as healthy people wanted to make certain changes in their life. And psilocybin helped them make these changes.”
A recently published Imperial College London study seems to reinforce the Hopkins findings, although on a much more limited time scale. Twenty healthy volunteers were administered a relatively low dose of LSD. Two weeks later, they were asked to fill out personality assessments. The participants said they felt more optimistic, open-minded and intellectually curious.
Beyond the studies, there is a small community of people who are using LSD to self-medicate through micro-dosing, or consuming tiny portions of the drug. There’s no scientific rigor to their work. But in articles and on Internet message boards, these users claim to have experienced some success in using LSD to improve focus, concentration, memory and creativity. In James Fadiman’s “The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide,” regular acid users said small doses helped them work harder and smarter. Some Silicon Valley workers are taking the drug to increase their productivity.
Even famous Americans have linked their use of psychedelics to major creative breakthroughs. Steve Jobs famously said that taking LSD “was one of the most important things in my life.” The entrepreneur Tim Ferriss said that “the billionaires I know, almost without exception, use hallucinogens on a regular basis.” And the beloved and recently departed neuroscientist Oliver Sacks related LSD use to his ability to better empathize with his patients.
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So far, about 500 people have participated in formal psilocybin experiments, and researchers have reported no serious side effects. But of course, these volunteers are self-selected, carefully screened and guided by therapists who are well-trained to manage episodes of fear and anxiety that can occur during a trip.
When psychedelics are used outside these tightly controlled settings, major problems can occur. These can come in the form of bad trips, which make users feel extremely anxious and depressed. Sometimes, people do dangerous things while under the influence. And hallucinogens can surface latent psychological problems, such as schizophrenia. Recreational use can occasionally result in terrifying flashbacks. (Though researchers have found that psychedelics like LSD and magic mushrooms are not addictive and far less dangerous than many legal drugs, including alcohol.)
That reality makes it hard for many scientists to imagine a future when psychedelics are used widely. They worry that it will be hard to control the drugs’ use. As Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse told the New Yorker, “The main concern we have . . . is that the public will walk away with the message that psilocybin is a safe drug.”
[The Chinese want to buy more American companies — and we should let them]
There are legal considerations, too. Researchers are in the process of asking the FDA to consider rescheduling the drug as a treatment for end-of-life anxiety, a long and complex process. Approval for broader use will likely take decades.
What, then, is the way forward?
Perhaps the studies that have been have done offer a path. Patients could be recommended for treatment by their doctors, screened for serious mental illness and certain heart conditions, prepped about what to expect and monitored by a medical professional (with whom they built a trusting relationship) over six to eight hours in case of anxiety and fear. The psychedelic experience should also be integrated into the participant’s life through some form of follow-up therapy. Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert and NYU professor, emphasizes the importance of containing the experience, both during the trip, for the purposes of safety, and afterward, “so it’s not merely a one-off mystical experience, but actually something you could build a life around.”
These drugs would have to be tightly regulated. They’re simply too powerful to be left to the free market. But that’s no reason for inaction. In the right setting, psychedelics can provide a lifetime of perspective in an afternoon. As writer and psychedelics advocate Aldous Huxley said: “The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/postever ... ll-try-it/
Effects of LSD 100% Positive in New Swiss Study, LSD Still Awesome
in Lifestyle · Philosophy · Science
— 25 Jan, 2014
The incredible therapeutic properties of LSD have once again been confirmed in a recent Swiss study. It was the first therapeutic study on LSD to take place in 40 years. The study specifically focused on treating anxiety associated with life-threatening illnesses. Psychotherapy was also used in conjunction with LSD to treat participants’ anxiety.
12 participants in total were involved in the study. Amazingly, every single participant reported experiencing major decreases in anxiety levels due to the LSD-assisted psychotherapy. These decreases in anxiety persisted even 12 months after being administered the LSD. Furthermore, no negative effects were reported by any of the participants. The study was led by Peter Gasser, M.D., who stated that,…we had in 30 sessions (22 with full dose 200 μg LSD and 8 with placebo dose 20 μg LSD) no severe side effects such as psychotic experiences or suicidal crisis or flashbacks or severe anxieties (bad trips)…That means that we can show that LSD treatment can be safe when it is done in a carefully controlled clinical setting.
Subjects receiving 200 µg LSD and psychotherapy, compared to an active placebo of 20 µg LSD, experienced a reduction in anxiety. Because the reduction in anxiety was still present at a 12-month follow up, Gasser believes that LSD has incredible potential for treating a whole array of psychological conditions. This study is particularly remarkable because unlike previous studies on the efficacy of LSD-assisted psychotherapy, this study employed a random, double blind active placebo.
Researchers noted that one of the most important aspects of the study was that the participants were able to freely contemplate and discuss their experiences while under the effects of LSD, as well as after the trip had ended. A structured and supportive environment appears to be crucial in attaining psychological benefits as well as ensuring that a “bad trip” doesn’t occur.
Psychedelics of all types have been studied and found almost across the board to be incredibly safe and highly effective tools in psychotherapy. Despite this clearly illustrated fact, psychedelics continue to be irrationally feared and demonized in the same ignorant fashion as cannabis. Interested in LSD? Let’s go for a trip.
Related Article: The Extraordinary Benefits of Psilocybin in Magic Mushrooms
Psychedelics such as LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin do not cause brain damage and are considered by medical professionals to be non-addictive. Over 30 million people currently living in the US have used LSD, psilocybin, or mescaline.
Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, was discovered accidentally by Albert Hoffman on April 16, 1943. He had actually unintentionally created it 5 years prior while attempting to synthesize potentially medicinal active constituents from ergot fungus, a fungus that grows on rye. For 5 years the synthesis collected dust until he decided to reexamine it. While reexamining the LSD a small amount was absorbed into Hoffman’s fingertip. He describes his experience:
Last Friday, April 16,1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.
Hoffman was intrigued, and three days later he tried it again, marking April 19, 1943 as the first day a human being ever intentionally consumed LSD. This day is now known as “Bicycle Day,” because Hoffman rode his bike home while he was tripping. Hoffman and his wife spent the rest of their lives advocating the use of LSD, psilocybin, and other psychedelics in the field of psychotherapy. Below is a documentary on LSD which focuses on Albert Hoffman.
The effects of LSD last for 6-11 hours on average. This time period is dependent on various factors such as dosage and body mass.
Total Duration 6 – 11 hrs
Onset 20 – 60 mins
Coming Up 15 – 30 mins
Plateau 3 – 6 hrs
Coming Down 3 – 5 hrs
After Effects 2 – 5 hrs
Hangover / Day After – – –
The effects of LSD are numerous, and are entirely dependent on set (your personality, goals, desires, mental state, etc.) and setting ( your environment, time of day, people you are surrounded by, etc.). According to Erowid, the potential effects of LSD include:
mental and physical stimulation
increase in associative & creative thinking
increased awareness & appreciation of music
sensory enhancement (taste, smell, etc)
closed- and open-eye visuals, including trails, color shifts, brightening, etc.
life-changing spiritual experiences
therapeutic psychological reflection
feeling of oceanic connectedness to the universe; blurring of boundaries between self and other
general change in consciousness
increased salivation and mucus production (causes coughing in some people)
unusual body sensations (facial flushing, chills, goosebumps, body energy)
unusual thoughts and speech
change in perception of time
quickly changing emotions (happiness, fear, gidiness, anxiety, anger, joy, irritation)
slight increase in body temperature
slight increase in heart rate
increase in yawning (without being tired)
looping, recursive, out of control thinking
tension, jaw tension
difficulty regulating body temperature
over-awareness & over-sensitization to music and noise
paranoia, fear, and panic
unwanted and overwhelming feelings
unwanted life-changing spiritual experiences
Clearly a controlled setting is essential in attaining positive therapeutic results when using LSD. While a “bad trip” is always possible, carefully controlling set and setting can virtually guarantee a positive, life altering experience. As researcher Teri Krebs from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Neuroscience explains,
Everything has some potential for negative effects, but psychedelic use is overall considered to pose a very low risk to the individual and to society. Psychedelics can elicit temporary feelings of anxiety and confusion, but accidents leading to serious injury are extremely rare. Early speculation that psychedelics might lead to mental health problems was based on a small number of case reports and did not take into account either the widespread use of psychedelics or the not infrequent rate of mental health problems in the general population. Over the past 50 years tens of millions of people have used psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of long-term problems.
It is extremely difficult to describe a psychedelic experience, largely because it is so utterly strange relative to the state of consciousness we normally operate in. In a book called The Psychedelic Experience, Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) and Ralph Metzner describe a psychedelic trip.
A psychedelic experience is a journey to new realms of consciousness. The scope and content of the experience is limitless, but its characteristic features are the transcendence of verbal concepts, of spacetime dimensions, and of the ego or identity. Such experiences of enlarged consciousness can occur in a variety of ways: sensory deprivation, yoga exercises, disciplined meditation, religious or aesthetic ecstasies, or spontaneously. Most recently they have become available to anyone through the ingestion of psychedelic drugs such as LSD,psilocybin, mescaline, DMT, etc. Of course, the drug does not produce the transcendent experience. It merely acts as a chemical key — it opens the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structures.
Related Article: Mystery of Death Solved: DMT is the Key
LSD and other psychedelics have the potential to wildly alter a person’s life in extraordinary ways. A great example of this is illustrated by the drastic reduction in recidivism when US prisoners are given just one dose of LSD under the guidance of a trained professional. A recent study on recidivism rates among substance abusing community offenders found that the use of hallucinogens during therapy had incredible success in curbing anti-social behavior and treating addiction. This is great news since the United States has more prisoners than any other country in the world. In many states recidivism rates can be as high as 78%.
The fact is that LSD is awesome, as long as it is used in the right way, and under the right circumstances. Then again, the same applies to everything. Hammers are awesome, unless you are using them to break toes at a 5 year old’s party. Noodles are awesome, unless you’re using them to poke people in the eye at a local library. LSD is awesome, as long as it is used by an experienced user or under the guidance of a trained professional.
Related Article: Private Prison Sues State for Not Having Enough Prisoners
Even the CIA is interested psychedlics such as in LSD. MKUltra wasn’t performed just for fun after all. Too bad the CIA was too busy trying to use LSD as a mind control device to recognize its value in giving aid to ailing minds.
Below are two interviews from the 1950s of people who were asked various questions while under the effects of LSD. Although they provide only minimal insight into the actual psychedelic experience, they are interesting to watch nonetheless.
[videos at link]
Expand your mind, mind your expansion. Be always growing.
http://psychedelicfrontier.com/2014/01/ ... -40-years/
http://www.cracked.com/blog/five-fun-fa ... a-and-lsd/
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Ad ... ne.0063972
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