Mac McClelland discusses recent research on the possible benefits of hallucinogens:
Currently – legally – we’re in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance. New York University, the University of New Mexico, the University of Zurich, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Alabama and the University of California-Los Angeles have all partnered with the psilocybin-focused Heffter Research Institute, studying the compound for smoking cessation, alcoholism, terminal-cancer anxiety and cocaine dependence; the biotech-CEO-founded Usona Institute funds research of “consciousness-expanding medicines” for depression and anxiety at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since 2000, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a nonprofit based in Santa Cruz, California, has been funding clinical trials of MDMA for subjects with PTSD, mostly veterans, but also police, firefighters and civilians. In November, the FDA approved large-scale Phase III clinical trials – the last phase before potential medicalization – of MDMA for PTSD treatment. MAPS, which has committed $25 million to achieving that medicalization by 2021, also supports or runs research with ayahuasca (a concoction of Amazonian plants), LSD, medical marijuana and ibogaine, the pharmaceutical extract of the psychoactive African shrub iboga. The organization is additionally funding a study of MDMA for treating social anxiety in autistic adults, currently underway at UCLA Medical Center. Another study, using MDMA to treat anxiety in patients with life-threatening illnesses, has concluded.
“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.”
Over the weekend The New York Times published this piece on LSD microdosing: “How LSD Saved One Woman’s Marriage”:
Ayelet Waldman, a novelist and former federal public defender, recalled the sunny spring morning she rolled out of bed in her Berkeley, Calif., home and experienced the most curious sensation: She felt alive.As her husband, the novelist Michael Chabon, slept and her teenage son and daughter slumped over the breakfast table, Ms. Waldman did not feel a trace of morning surliness, or of the suffocating depression that had dogged her for months. Rather, she says, with the perkiness of a morning-show host, she chirped about the loveliness of the blue skies and hummed upbeat ditties as she whipped up banana-strawberry smoothies. She even offered to braid her daughter’s hair. It was all so out of character that her children spoke up.“Mom, are you on acid?” her daughter asked sarcastically. Ms. Waldman froze. It was not yet the moment, she decided, to answer “yes.
Ms. Waldman had discovered microdosing, an illegal but voguish drug regimen in which devotees seek to enhance creativity, focus and mental balance by ingesting regular, barely perceptible doses of hallucinogens like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms.
In the 1960s early research on LSD and other psychedelic drugs suggested that they might be useful in treating a number of psychological problems, including alcoholism. There was even one study that suggested that psilocybin might reduce criminal recidivism. However, this line of research was stopped when LSD became illegal and was regarded as a national scourge. Now, thankfully, that trend is reversing and there is more interest in studying the potential benefits of these drugs.
Eugenia Bone makes the case in The New York Times:
“A range of studies have suggested that controlled doses of psilocybin can help the user escape cognitive ruts of all sorts. One study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2012, rated the vividness of autobiographical memory of subjects on psilocybin and found the drug enhanced their recollection, and “subjective well-being” upon follow-up. The researchers concluded that psilocybin might be useful in psychotherapy as an adjunct therapy to help patients reverse “negative cognitive biases” — a phenomenon common in depression by which one has a greater recall of negative memories than positive ones — and facilitate the recall of important memories.”
You can read the paper she cites here. From its conclusion:
“Evidence that psilocybin enhances autobiographical recollection implies that it may be useful in psychotherapy either as a tool to facilitate the recall of salient memories or to reverse negative cognitive biases.”