Please join Heffter Research Institute President and co-founder David Nichols for his presentation “Nearly Half a Century Studying Psychedelics,” an overview of his pioneering career in the field of psychedelic research. Dr. Nichols will appear at 7:00 PM on Saturday, April 30th, at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.
“Beginning with his graduate studies in 1969, Dr. David Nichols began research on drug molecules known then as ‘psychotomimetics.’ This talk will roughly chronicle his journey from 1969 until the present, presenting advances in the evolution of thinking about these drugs, now popularly called psychedelics.”
A team of researchers at Imperial College London produced the first images of the human brain under the influence of LSD. According to ScienceDaily, 20 healthy volunteers received 75 micrograms of LSD. The research team, led by Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, used advanced imaging technology to study how the psychedelic substance acts in the brain. Carhart-Harris says the study advances our understanding of the complex visual and psychological effects of psychedelics.
“Professor David Nutt, the senior researcher on the study and Edmond J Safra Chair in Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial, said: ‘Scientists have waited 50 years for this moment — the revealing of how LSD alters our brain biology. For the first time we can really see what’s happening in the brain during the psychedelic state, and can better understand why LSD had such a profound impact on self-awareness in users and on music and art. This could have great implications for psychiatry, and helping patients overcome conditions such as depression.’”
A recent article in OUPblog, the online source for news and commentary from the Oxford University Press, covers changing attitudes towards psychedelics. In “Finding a New Perspective on Psychedelics,” editor Matt Turney notes that “The reputation of these compounds is undergoing rehabilitation, but we can’t know how long it will take to shrug off the weight of the mischaracterizations that have been heaped on them for years.” Turney mentions the work of Heffter researchers Anthony Bossis, Roland Griffiths, and Michael Bogenschutz.
“Psychedelic inquiry hasn’t yet gone mainstream, but it is no longer restricted to the fringes of the research community. Oxford University Press’s own JNCI: The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published an editorial in 2012 recognizing a number of early-stage psychedelic studies, such as the NYU cancer study, that show promise. More recently, UK-based medical journal The Lancet encouraged readers to “turn on and tune in to evidence-based psychedelic research.” A TED talk from Roland Griffiths, as well as an article by Michael Pollan in the New Yorker, have been other sources of good press. And though these substances could still be better understood, there is strong evidence that their effectiveness is linked to measureable activity they cause in the brain, wherein a mystical experience—indistinguishable from those experienced by the devoutly religious—is induced in the test subject.”
A pioneering study by Heffter researcher Matthew Johnson continues to draw attention in the media. A story in the online magazine ATTN covers Johnson’s research on the use of psilocybin for treating nicotine addiction. Writer Kyle Jaeger compares the success rate in Johnson’s study, in which 80 percent of the subjects remained abstinent after six months, with the 30 percent success rate for nicotine replacement and behavioral therapies.
“‘Quitting smoking isn’t a simple biological reaction to psilocybin, as with other medications that directly affect nicotine receptors,’ Dr. Matthew Johnson, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, wrote. ‘When administered after careful preparation and in a therapeutic context, psilocybin can lead to deep reflection about one’s life and spark motivation to change.’
“Johnson plans to pursue further research into the use of psilocybin to treat smoking addiction, comparing the results to the success of using nicotine patches, and the researchers will ‘use MRI scans to study brain activity in participants.’”
A feature article in the December 2015 issue of Monitor on Psychology, a publication of the American Psychological Association, surveys recent developments in psychedelic science with an emphasis on Heffter-sponsored research. In “One Hit Wonder,” writer Kirsten Weir quotes Heffter researchers Roland Griffiths, Anthony Bossis, and Jeffrey Guss. The article focuses on psilocybin as a treatment for existential distress in cancer patients.
“We don’t deal well with death and dying in this culture,” says Roland Griffiths, PhD, a professor of behavioral biology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Being diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease often leads to a kind of chronic syndrome of anxiety, depression and emotional distress. “But under appropriate conditions in well-prepared participants, psilocybin can produce these really quite profound and abrupt shifts in mood and attitude and behavior, even after a single session,” he says. “It’s unlike anything available within psychiatry.”
The States of Consciousness Research Team at Johns Hopkins University is conducting a research study on psychedelic experiences that alter beliefs about death and dying. The study is open to anyone who has had such an experience involving the use of a classic psychedelic such as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, or DMT. To participate in the study, complete the online Psychedelic Death and Dying Survey. The survey is anonymous and takes about 30 minutes to complete.
The Heffter Research Institute is very grateful to acknowledge a generous financial donation from Breaking Convention, the Conference on Psychedelic Consciousness. At the request of Breaking Convention, their donation will be used to support the NYU clinical trial on psilocybin as a treatment for alcohol addiction.
The California Institute of Integral Studies is offering a training program for medical professionals with an interest in psychedelic research and therapy. The program, which begins in the Spring of 2016, involves 180 hours of academic training with prominent faculty, many of whom are affiliated with the Heffter Research Institute. Graduates of the program receive the Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapies and Research.
“The Certificate was created to serve a growing need for trained licensed therapist guides to facilitate in future FDA-approved psychedelic- and entactogen-assisted psychotherapy research. Research and medical experts have estimated that need at perhaps several hundred therapist guides in the next three to six years.”
A documentary film titled A New Understanding: The Science of Psilocybin explores the use of psilocybin as a treatment for cancer patients.
“The film presents an intimate look into the lives of several terminally ill cancer patients participating in the studies, and opens an intriguing discourse of the dying process and our role as a society in that process. By informing current misconceptions about psychedelics, A New Understanding utilizes a collection of accomplished minds to discuss psilocybins’ role in culture, evolution, mystical states, and even life itself.”
The New Yorker magazine offers a detailed and insightful examination of Erowid, the online clearing house for information about psychoactive substances. Writer Emily Witt visits the rural California home of Earth and Fire Erowid, the couple behind the hugely successful web site that attracts a broad following of “drug geeks” and medical professionals.
“The average age of Erowid’s thirty thousand Twitter followers is twenty-six. The most frequently looked-at profiles are those of LSD, MDMA, and mushrooms. For years, Erowid’s traffic has declined during school breaks—a gauge of its popularity among eighteen-to-twenty-five-year-olds, the demographic most given to experimenting with drugs. Earth and Fire have spoken before the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and in 2011 the reform-minded Drug Policy Alliance gave them the Dr. Andrew Weil Award for Achievement in the Field of Drug Education. They have also co-authored several papers in peer-reviewed journals (for example, ‘Use Patterns and Self-Reported Effects of Salvia Divinorum,’ in Drug and Alcohol Dependence) and have collaborated on projects related to such drugs as hallucinogens and opiates with researchers at various institutions, including N.Y.U. and Johns Hopkins.”