Cannabis, LSD, psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), MDMA (the “ecstasy” drug) and other psychedelic drugs all have significant potential medical uses, as illustrated in the limited research organizations like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Science have facilitated over the years. But the war on drugs and resulting classification of those psychoactive substances as Schedule I—meaning with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration—has caused a national research blockade and left that medical potential almost completely untapped.
The editors of Scientific American—the 168-year-old magazine to which scientists like Albert Einstein have contributed—this week called for an end to the national ban on psychoactive drug research, noting that LSD, psilocybin, MDMA and cannabis all “had their origins in the medical pharmacopeia.”
More than 1,000 scientific publications chronicled the uses of LSD for psychotherapy during the mid-’60s, and MDMA similarly complemented talk therapy through the ‘70s, the article points out.And “[m]arijuana has logged thousands of years as a medicament for diseases and conditions ranging from malaria to rheumatism.”
Scientific American lamented the fact that since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 declared these psychoactive drugs void of any medical use—and three United Nations treaties extend similar restrictions to much of the world—a catch-22 has arisen: “these drugs are banned because they have no accepted medical use, but researchers cannot explore their therapeutic potential because they are banned.”
The article notes that the few privately funded studies that have looked at these compounds have “yielded tantalizing hints that some of these ideas merit consideration. Yet doing this research through standard channels … requires traversing a daunting bureaucratic labyrinth that can dissuade even the most committed investigator.”
As a result, psychologists are left wondering “whether MDMA can help with intractable post-traumatic stress disorder [as work with combat veterans has shown], whether LSD or psilocybin can provide relief for cluster headaches or obsessive compulsive disorder and whether the particular docking receptors on brain cells that many psychedelics latch onto are critical sites for regulating conscious states that go awry in schizophrenia and depression,” the article notes.
Additionally, while doctors in 20 states (and counting) can recommend medical marijuana, researchers aren’t allowed to properly study its effects. Scientific American notes that this leaves “unanswered the question of whether the drug might help treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, nausea, sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis and a host of other conditions.”
Like many researchers, therapists and drug policy activists have been saying for decades, it is time to allow scientific researchers to do their jobs and find out what these substances can actually do—and in order for that to happen, the U.S. needs to reschedule these substances and effectively lift its research blockade.
As the Scientific American article concludes, the endless obstructions to research caused by current scheduling have meant a research standstill for Schedule I drugs.
“This is a shame. … If some of the obstacles to research can be overcome, it may be possible to finally detach research on psychoactive chemicals from the hyperbolic rhetoric that is a legacy of the war on drugs. Only then will it be possible to judge whether LSD, ecstasy, marijuana and other highly regulated compounds—subjected to the gauntlet of clinical testing for safety and efficacy—can actually yield effective new treatments for devastating psychiatric illnesses.”
The more trusted publications like Scientific American come out and call for change, the closer we will be to medical research and scientific facts that liberate us from the medical Dark Ages when it comes to psychoactive drugs.
Researchers from UCL and the University of Edinburgh looked at data from more than 5,000 participants (age 20 to 59) collected from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-III) in the US. At the start of the study in 1990s, participants visited an examination centre and had their reaction times measured. The task was very simple -- they had to press a button when they saw an image appear on a computer screen. Over the next 15 years, they were followed to record who had died and who survived.
A total of 378 (7.4%) people in the sample died, but those with slower reaction times were 25% more likely to have died (from any cause) compared to those with average reaction times. This remained the case after the researchers had accounted for the participants' age, sex, ethnic group, socio-economic background and lifestyle factors into account. There was no relationship between reaction time and death from cancer or respiratory problems.
Lead researcher Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson, from the UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said: "Reaction time is thought to reflect a basic aspect of the central nervous system and speed of information processing is considered a basic cognitive ability (mental skill). Our research shows that a simple test of reaction time in adulthood can predict survival, independently of age, sex, ethnic group and socio-economic background. Reaction time may indicate how well our central nervous and other systems in the body are working. People who are consistently slow to respond to new information may go on to experience problems that increase their risk of early death. In the future, we may be able to use reaction times to monitor health and survival. For now, a healthy lifestyle is the best thing people can do in order to live longer."
A new study by a team of KU Leuven and international researchers has found that the chemical structure of queen pheromones in wasps, ants and some bees is strikingly similar, even though these insects are separated by millions of years of evolution and each evolved eusociality independently of the other. The results suggest that queen pheromones used by divergent groups of social insects evolved from conserved signals of a common solitary ancestor.
Writing in the 17 January issue of Science, the researchers say the new insights "could contribute greatly to our understanding of the evolution of eusociality" in insects. Eusociality is characterised by cooperative brood care, overlapping adult generations and division of labour between fertile queens and sterile workers.
The researchers began by searching for sterility-inducing queen pheromones in representative species of wasps, bees, and ants. After identifying candidate queen pheromones by analysing chemical profiles of queens and workers, they created synthetic samples of the pheromones and tested them to see whether they inhibited worker reproduction.
They found that the synthetic odors mimicked the effect of the presence of a live queen in a nest -- fewer workers' ovaries were activated and more regressed when exposed to the odor treatment than in non-odor controls.
The queen pheromones of all three species belonged to a single class of chemicals: saturated hydrocarbons. To further investigate their findings across a larger sample of social insect species, the researchers then conducted a systematic review of fertility- and queen-linked odors in 64 species using data from previously published studies. The findings matched up: saturated hydrocarbons were the single most common class of chemicals overproduced by queens or fertile individuals. From this, the researchers concluded that saturated hydrocarbons act as a conserved class of queen pheromones in ants, bees and wasps -- a surprising finding because these insects started diverging some 145 million years ago and each evolved eusociality independently.
How to explain the chemo-structural similarity of queen pheromones across distantly related species? "Our thinking is that queen pheromones in social insects likely evolved from 'fertility cues' used by female individuals of solitary insect species. These cues were probably used to attract male mates," says corresponding author Tom Wenseleers.
"That hypothesis is strengthened by the fact that some of the compounds we studied also function as mate attractants in solitary insect species. And this ultimately supports the hypothesis that fertility signals, which eventually evolved to become queen pheromones that regulate reproduction, have remained the same since the last common solitary ancestor of all social insects, which lived approximately 145 million years ago," says Wenseleers.
This is an article in Look Magazine from 1967 that had lots of questions about the official report of the Warren Commission. No mainstream publication would ever question official dogma today. How come?