Search results for 'psychedelics'

Psychedelics and psychosis: study reports no link

7 Mar

Here is the account in Nature. Here is the study abstract:

“A recent large population study of 130,000 adults in the United States failed to find evidence for a link between psychedelic use (lysergic acid diethylamide, psilocybin or mescaline) and mental health problems. Using a new data set consisting of 135,095 randomly selected United States adults, including 19,299 psychedelic users, we examine the associations between psychedelic use and mental health. After adjusting for sociodemographics, other drug use and childhood depression, we found no significant associations between lifetime use of psychedelics and increased likelihood of past year serious psychological distress, mental health treatment, suicidal thoughts, suicidal plans and suicide attempt, depression and anxiety. We failed to find evidence that psychedelic use is an independent risk factor for mental health problems. Psychedelics are not known to harm the brain or other body organs or to cause addiction or compulsive use; serious adverse events involving psychedelics are extremely rare. Overall, it is difficult to see how prohibition of psychedelics can be justified as a public health measure.”


Psychedelic microdosing

26 Jun

Psychedelic microdosing means taking very small doses of psychedelic drugs, with the hopes that they might have therapeutic benefit. You can read about this interesting research area here and here.

Psychedelic cures, a case for skepticism

17 Apr

Recently, I’ve posted about research on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs.  Keith Humphreys, at The Reality Based Community, makes a case for skepticism:

“Being skeptical about miracle cures is simply playing the odds. As my colleague John Ioannidis pointed out in one of the most-read papers in medical history, most medical research findings are wrong. This is particularly true of small studies, which are usually followed by larger studies that disconfirm the original miracle finding (Fish oil pills are a good example).”

I think this is good advice. My intuition tells me that psychedelics might have value, but I am prepared to change my mind, based on the emerging evidence.

Treating offenders with hallucinogenic drugs.

30 Mar

This article, about the use of the psychedelic drug ayahuasca on Brazilian prisoners, appeared in yesterday’s New York Times.

In the early 1960s Timothy Leary conducted research on the effects of psilocybin on inmates at the Concord Prison in Massachusetts. Here is the abstract on a thirty four year follow up to the original research:

“This study is a long-term follow-up to the Concord Prison Experiment, one of the best known studies in the psychedelic psychotherapy literature. The Concord Prison Experiment was conducted from 1961-1963 by a team of researchers at Harvard University under the direction of Timothy Leary. The original study involved the administration of psilocybin-assisted group psychotherapy to 32 prisoners in an effort to reduce recidivism rates. This follow-up study involved a search through the state and federal criminal justice system records of 21 of the original 32 subjects, as well as personal interviews with two of the subjects and three of the researchers, Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Gunther Weil. The results of the follow-up study indicate that published claims of a treatment effect were erroneous. This follow-up study supports the emphasis in the original reports on the necessity of embedding psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy with inmates within a comprehensive treatment plan that includes post-release non-drug group support programs. Despite substantial efforts by the experimental team to provide post-release support, these services were not made sufficiently available to the subjects in this study. Whether a new program of psilocybin-assisted group psychotherapy and post-release programs would significantly reduce recidivism rates is an empirical question that deserves to be addressed within the context of a new experiment.”

On the other hand, here is a paper that reports a benefit from psychedelics for substance abuse populations:

“Hallucinogen-based interventions may benefit substance use populations, but contemporary data informing the impact of hallucinogens on addictive behavior are scarce. Given that many individuals in the criminal justice system engage in problematic patterns of substance use, hallucinogen treatments also may benefit criminal justice populations. However, the relationship between hallucinogen use and criminal recidivism is unknown. In this longitudinal study, we examined the relationship between naturalistic hallucinogen use and recidivism among individuals under community corrections supervision with a history of substance involvement (n=25,622). We found that hallucinogen use predicted a reduced likelihood of supervision failure (e.g. noncompliance with legal requirements including alcohol and other drug use) while controlling for an array of potential confounding factors (odds ratio (OR)=0.60 (0.46, 0.79)). Our results suggest that hallucinogens may promote alcohol and other drug abstinence and prosocial behavior in a population with high rates of recidivism.”

Here is the Wikipedia entry on the Concord Prison Experiment.

Only research will answer the many important questions raised by psychedelics.

The promise of psychedelic drugs

19 Feb

An important article in The New Yorker about the renewed research into psychedelic drugs:

“Between 1953 and 1973, the federal government spent four million dollars to fund a hundred and sixteen studies of LSD, involving more than seventeen hundred subjects. (These figures don’t include classified research.) Through the mid-nineteen-sixties, psilocybin and LSD were legal and remarkably easy to obtain. Sandoz, the Swiss chemical company where, in 1938, Albert Hofmann first synthesized LSD, gave away large quantities of Delysid—LSD—to any researcher who requested it, in the hope that someone would discover a marketable application. Psychedelics were tested on alcoholics, people struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depressives, autistic children, schizophrenics, terminal cancer patients, and convicts, as well as on perfectly healthy artists and scientists (to study creativity) and divinity students (to study spirituality). The results reported were frequently positive. But many of the studies were, by modern standards, poorly designed and seldom well controlled, if at all. When there were controls, it was difficult to blind the researchers—that is, hide from them which volunteers had taken the actual drug. (This remains a problem.)”

Finally, in the last few years researchers have been allowed to explore the therapeutic value of these drugs. Here is the abstract of a recent paper on psilocybin as a treatment for smoking addiction:

“Despite suggestive early findings on the therapeutic use of hallucinogens in the treatment of substance use disorders, rigorous follow-up has not been conducted. To determine the safety and feasibility of psilocybin as an adjunct to tobacco smoking cessation treatment we conducted an open-label pilot study administering moderate (20 mg/70 kg) and high (30 mg/70 kg) doses of psilocybin within a structured 15-week smoking cessation treatment protocol. Participants were 15 psychiatrically healthy nicotine-dependent smokers (10 males; mean age of 51 years), with a mean of six previous lifetime quit attempts, and smoking a mean of 19 cigarettes per day for a mean of 31 years at intake. Biomarkers assessing smoking status, and self-report measures of smoking behavior demonstrated that 12 of 15 participants (80%) showed seven-day point prevalence abstinence at 6-month follow-up. The observed smoking cessation rate substantially exceeds rates commonly reported for other behavioral and/or pharmacological therapies (typically <35%). Although the open-label design does not allow for definitive conclusions regarding the efficacy of psilocybin, these findings suggest psilocybin may be a potentially efficacious adjunct to current smoking cessation treatment models. The present study illustrates a framework for future research on the efficacy and mechanisms of hallucinogen-facilitated treatment of addiction.”


Psychedelic trips akin to waking dream.

13 Jul

An interesting post from BoingBoing about the effects of psychedelic mushrooms on the brain:

“The findings, he suggests, support the idea that psychedelics temporarily diminish one’s sense of having a firm and enduring personality–and that trips are akin to a waking dream.”

I do bristle a little bit when I see comments about “the brain’s ancient emotion system,” a claim that I believe is misleading. Other than that I found the piece intriguing.


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