An opinion piece in the popular news magazine THE WEEK encourages government funding of scientific research into psychedelics. National correspondent Brian Cooper examines how pharmaceutical companies fund research on new drugs using two examples–psychedelics and antibiotics. In both cases, the industry has financial incentives for avoiding research. The solution, according to Cooper, is to provide an independent source of funding.
“So what is to be done? First, direct government funding is and always has been an important part of scientific funding. In a sane world, with substances as promising as the above psychedelics, the government would simply fund the research itself and be done with it. Only an increasingly anachronistic brand of drug warrior politics stands in the way. But with something like 22 veterans per day committing suicide, any treatment with a potential 60+ percent long-tem cure rate for PTSD ought to be jammed through mass trials at the highest possible speed.”
As a sign of growing public awareness and acceptance of psychedelic research, The New Yorker, possibly the nation’s most prestigious general-interest magazine, features an extensive article on the subject in its issue of February 9th, 2015. Author Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) focuses on the use of psilocybin as a treatment for end-of-life anxiety in cancer patients. Pollan interviewed several Heffter-supported researchers at Johns Hopkins and New York University.
“As I chatted with Tony Bossis and Stephen Ross in the treatment room at N.Y.U., their excitement about the results was evident. According to Ross, cancer patients receiving just a single dose of psilocybin experienced immediate and dramatic reductions in anxiety and depression, improvements that were sustained for at least six months. The data are still being analyzed and have not yet been submitted to a journal for peer review, but the researchers expect to publish later this year.
“I thought the first ten or twenty people were plants ‘that they must be faking it,’” Ross told me. “They were saying things like ‘I understand love is the most powerful force on the planet,’ or ‘I had an encounter with my cancer, this black cloud of smoke.’ People who had been palpably scared of death, they lost their fear. The fact that a drug given once can have such an effect for so long is an unprecedented finding. We have never had anything like it in the psychiatric field.”
“A new study conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health found that participants who took naturalistic doses of ‘classic’ psychedelics–magic mushrooms, DMT, mescaline and LSD had significantly decreased the likelihood of having suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and psychological distress.”Day Tripping: Benefits Seen in Psychedelics | Newsweek
The new issue of the journal Current Drug Abuse Reviews is devoted to psychedelic research. The issue includes articles on the use of psychedelics for treating substance abuse, crisis intervention, andÂ the subjective experiences of psilocybin users in an fMRI study.
“We are witnessing a revival of psychedelic research. An increasing number of studies investigating the therapeutic use of psychedelics are currently underway at some of the most renowned universities. Dedicating a second issue of ‘Current Drug Abuse Reviews’ to psychedelics aims to keep up with this blossoming field. With the availability of modern scientific instruments, psychedelic research is once again gaining a firm foothold in academia.”
Heffter-supported researchers at the University of Alabama and Johns Hopkins examined health data for 190,000 individuals and found that people who have used one of the classic psychedelic drugs are less prone to suicidal thoughts and actions.
“Despite advances in mental health treatments, suicide rates generally have not declined in the past 60 years. Novel and potentially more effective interventions need to be explored,” said Peter S. Hendricks, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior and lead study author. “This study sets the stage for future research to test the efficacy of classic psychedelics in addressing suicidality as well as pathologies associated with increased suicide risk (e.g., affective disturbance, addiction and impulsive-aggressive personality traits).”
Hendricks says the take-home message from this study is that classic psychedelics may hold great promise in the prevention of suicide and evaluating the therapeutic effectiveness of classic psychedelics should be a priority for future research.
An important new research study at the University of New Mexico confirms that psilocybin is a promising treatment for heavy drinkers. Heffter researcher Michael Bogenschutz and his colleagues studied 10 individuals who were alcohol dependent for an average of 15.1 years.
“Abstinence did not increase significantly in the first 4 weeks of treatment (when participants had not yet received psilocybin), but increased significantly following psilocybin administration (p < 0.05). Gains were largely maintained at follow-up to 36 weeks. The intensity of effects in the first psilocybin session (at week 4) strongly predicted change in drinking during weeks 5-8 (r = 0.76 to r = 0.89) and also predicted decreases in craving and increases in abstinence self-efficacy during week 5. There were no significant treatment-related adverse events. These preliminary findings provide a strong rationale for controlled trials with larger samples to investigate efficacy and mechanisms.”
An article in the New York Times Sunday Review section of November 29, 2014, discusses the use of psilocybin for treating depression and other serious medical conditions. Writer Eugenia Bone, the author of Mycophilia: Revelations From the Weird World of Mushrooms, covers the history and culture of “magic mushrooms” from the fringes of mycology to the latest scientific research.
“Psilocybin could have enormous impact on the lives of many Americans. But at the moment, its Schedule 1 status makes it a difficult drug to study, and only a handful of scientists are engaged in its research. This needs to change. Rescheduling psilocybin won’t make it legal; it will make it easier for research to be conducted, leading to more scientists exploring its potential, while reducing investor concern and allowing for compassionate use provisions.”
The Washington Post is featuring an article by Tom Shroder adapted from his book Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal (Blue Rider Press, 2014). Shroder covers the history of psychedelic research from Albert Hoffman’s discovery of LSD in the 1940s to recent work by Heffter researcher Matthew Johnson on the use of psilocybin to treat tobacco addiction. Among other milestones, Shroder notes that some researchers credit the beginning of modern brain science to the discovery that the LSD molecule and the neurotransmitter serotonin are remarkably similar.
“After more than 30 years in which psychedelics were considered dangerous remnants of the 1960s, the drugs have begun to make a comeback, this time as potential remedies for a host of tough-to-treat maladies. Pilot studies and clinical trials of LSD, psilocybin, ketamine and MDMA have shown that the drugs, often in combination with talk therapy, can be given safely under medical supervision and may help people dealing with opiate and tobacco addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic streass disorder, or PTSD.”
In this presentation from the 2013 Psychedelic Science conference, Heffter researcher Stephen Ross discusses the use of psilocybin to treat addiction and psychological distress in cancer patients.