Johns Hopkins researchers report that a small number of longtime smokers who had failed many attempts to drop the habit did so after a carefully controlled and monitored use of psilocybin—the active hallucinogenic agent in so-called “magic mushrooms”—in the context of a cognitive behavioral therapy treatment program.
The abstinence rate for study participants was 80 percent after six months, much higher than typical success rates in smoking cessation trials, says Matthew W. Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and the corresponding author on the study.
Approximately 35 percent experience six-month success rates when taking varenicline, which is widely considered to be the most effective smoking cessation drug. Other treatments, including nicotine replacement and behavioral therapies, have success rates that are typically less than 30 percent, Johnson adds.
The researchers, in a report published online today in The Journal of Psychopharmacology, strongly caution that their study results are not an endorsement of do-it-yourself psychedelic drug use for smoking cessation, but instead are specific to the controlled administration of the drug in the context of a treatment program involving cognitive behavioral therapy.
“Quitting smoking isn’t a simple biological reaction to psilocybin, as with other medications that directly affect nicotine receptors,” Johnson says. “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.”
Ten men and five women, all mentally and physically healthy, participated in the study. The average age of the study participants was 51; they smoked, on average, 19 cigarettes a day for 31 years; and had repeatedly tried and failed to stop smoking. Ten participants reported minimal past use of hallucinogens, with the most recent use being an average of 27 years before study intake. Five had never used hallucinogens.
After informing subjects about what their experience with the drug might be like, the first dose of psilocybin was administered by pill the day each participant planned to quit smoking. Two subsequent sessions, with higher doses of the mind-altering drug, were held two weeks and eight weeks later.
During each psilocybin session, which lasted six to seven hours, participants were closely monitored by two members of the research team in a comfortable, homelike setting. Most of the time, participants wore eyeshades and earphones that played music, and they were encouraged to relax and focus on their inner experiences.
The hallucinogenic compound was administered as part of a comprehensive cognitive behavior therapy smoking cessation program that included weekly one-on-one counseling sessions and techniques such as keeping a diary before quitting in order to assess when and why cravings occur.
The researchers, who are part of a team that has long had federal funding to study the psychoactive effects of psychedelic drugs, suggest psilocybin may help break the addictive pattern of thoughts and behaviors that have become ingrained after years of smoking. The benefits also seem to last after the drug has worn off.
Johnson’s next study will compare smoking success rates for people who take psilocybin to those for people who use nicotine patches. He will use MRI scans to study brain activity in participants.
New research findings from a study of 634 couples found that the more often they smoked marijuana, the less likely they were to engage in domestic violence.
The study, conducted by researchers in the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions and Research Institute on Addictions (RIA), appeared in the online edition of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors in August.
The study attempted to clarify inconsistent findings about domestic violence among pot-smoking couples that primarily has been based on cross-sectional data (i.e., data from one point in time). Looking at couples over the first nine years of marriage, the study found:
• More frequent marijuana use by husbands and wives (two-to-three times per month or more often) predicted less frequent intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetration by husbands.
• Husbands' marijuana use also predicted less frequent IPV perpetration by wives.
• Couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently reported the least frequent IPV perpetration.
• The relationship between marijuana use and reduced partner violence was most evident among women who did not have histories of prior antisocial behavior.
The study's lead author is Philip H. Smith, PhD, a recent doctoral graduate of the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions and now associate research scientist in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University.
It is based on research data collected by lead investigator Kenneth Leonard, PhD, director of the UB Research Institute on Addictions. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to Leonard and a grant to Smith from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
"These findings suggest that marijuana use is predictive of lower levels of aggression towards one's partner in the following year." Leonard says. "As in other survey studies of marijuana and partner violence, our study examines patterns of marijuana use and the occurrence of violence within a year period. It does not examine whether using marijuana on a given day reduces the likelihood of violence at that time.
"It is possible, for example, that -- similar to a drinking partnership -- couples who use marijuana together may share similar values and social circles, and it is this similarity that is responsible for reducing the likelihood of conflict.
"Although this study supports the perspective that marijuana does not increase, and may decrease, aggressive conflict," he says, "we would like to see research replicating these findings, and research examining day-to-day marijuana and alcohol use and the likelihood to IPV on the same day before drawing stronger conclusions."
I'm getting old. There are drugs being abused I've never heard of. For example, Methphedrone3Dan, which is apparently what is in khat, a weed in Eastern Africa and the Arabian peninsula that natives chew to get a little talkative. From what I've heard, khat is something between a cup of coffee and lots of coffee. I don't know what the manufactured version is like, but I presume it's a lot stronger.
But that's not why I posted about it. I just love these .gif files which are kind of like mini-micro movies. Since I couldn't find another dog with his gums flapping I put up a .gif of the methphedrone molecule rotating. Cool, eh?
More proof that people high on marijuana are more likely to break their diets than break the law.
When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana sales, Denver embraced the opportunity with open arms.
The city is now home to more than 62 percent of all Colorado recreational marijuana retailers, who cashed in on $14 million in sales in January alone.
Other cities weren't so eager: heeding legalization opponents' safety concerns, several pushed off licensing retail sales. Some banned retail sales altogether.
"There will be many harmful consequences," Douglas County Sheriff David Weaver warned in a September 2012 statement. "Expect more crime, more kids using marijuana, and pot for sale everywhere."
One California sheriff went on Denver television to warn that, as a result of marijuana in his county, "thugs put on masks, they come to your house, they kick in your door. They point guns at you and say, 'Give me your marijuana, give me your money.'"
Three months into its legalization experiment, Denver isn't seeing a widespread rise in crime. Violent and property crimes actually decreased slightly, and some cities are taking a second look at allowing marijuana sales.
"We had folks, kind of doomsayers, saying, 'Oh my gosh, we're going to have riots in the streets the day they open,'" Denver City Council President Mary Beth Susman, a supporter of legal marijuana, says. "But it was so quiet."
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.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on Tuesday called for Congress to overhaul U.S. drug policy, but doubted lawmakers yet had the courage to end the federal government’s “hypocrisy and irrationality.”
“For three-quarters of a century, the United States has waged a futile attempt to prohibit marijuana based upon emotion and flawed science,” he said on the House floor.
“Since 1971, the Federal Government has classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 prohibited substance, like heroin, more dangerous, according to the law, than cocaine or meth. It declared in statute, contrary to proven research, that marijuana has no therapeutic value.”
“Every day a million authorized users of medical marijuana reject that notion by using it by doctor’s prescription to relieve symptoms like intense nausea due to chemotherapy, relief for veterans with PTSD, from chronic back pain, and neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis.”
Blumenauer noted that 22 states and the District of Columbia had legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Colorado and Washington state have both legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
The congressman also said marijuana was less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, and that drug prohibition funneled money to violent cartels.
“Our federal laws are frozen in time, but the American public has moved on,” Blumenauer said. “Majorities now say it should be legal, and even more say the federal government should not interfere with whatever state laws are in place.”
“It will be a while before Congress summons the courage to end the hypocrisy and irrationality of the futile federal prohibition, but it should stop making things worse,” he continued. “For instance, it is insane to force hundreds of legal marijuana businesses to be all cash. We should end the grotesque punitive federal taxation for these legal small businesses.”
The congressman called for Congress to explicitly allow state-approved medical marijuana along with industrial hemp.
“Several dozen members have cosponsored bipartisan legislation to help bring us out of these dark ages. These should be approved without delay. Sometime in this decade we will tax and regulate marijuana. Until we end the unfair discriminatory and costly federal prohibition, we should at least end the most foolish and counterproductive policies,” he concluded.
Remember all those scare stories in the 60s about how LSD would make you crazy? Not so. If you're prone to mental illness and take it, it could hasten your disease. But then if you're wacky and you take a vacation to Jerusalem you're more likely to think you're the reincarnation of Jesus.
The use of LSD, magic mushrooms, or peyote does not increase a person's risk of developing mental health problems, according to an analysis of information from more than 130,000 randomly chosen people, including 22,000 people who had used psychedelics at least once.
Researcher Teri Krebs and clinical psychologist Pål-Ørjan Johansen, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Department of Neuroscience, used data from a US national health survey to see what association there was, if any, between psychedelic drug use and mental health problems.
The authors found no link between the use of psychedelic drugs and a range of mental health problems. Instead they found some significant associations between the use of psychedelic drugs and fewer mental health problems.
The results are published in the journal PLOS ONE and are freely available online after 19 August.
Symptoms and mental health treatment considered
The researchers relied on data from the 2001-2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in which participants were asked about mental health treatment and symptoms of a variety of mental health conditions over the past year. The specific symptoms examined were general psychological distress, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and psychosis.
Armed with this information, Krebs and Johansen were able to examine if there were any associations between psychedelic use and general or specific mental health problems. They found none.
"After adjusting for other risk factors, lifetime use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline or peyote, or past year use of LSD was not associated with a higher rate of mental health problems or receiving mental health treatment," says Johansen.
Could psychedelics be healthy for you?
The researchers found that lifetime use of psilocybin or mescaline and past year use of LSD were associated with lower rates of serious psychological distress. Lifetime use of LSD was also significantly associated with a lower rate of outpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medicine prescription.
The design of the study makes it impossible to determine exactly why the researchers found what they found.
"We cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others," they wrote.
Nevertheless, "recent clinical trials have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics," the researchers said, which supports the robustness of the PLOS ONE findings.
In fact, says Krebs, "many people report deeply meaningful experiences and lasting beneficial effects from using psychedelics."
"Other studies have found no evidence of health or social problems among people who had used psychedelics hundreds of times in legally-protected religious ceremonies," adds Johansen.
What's the bottom line on psychedelic use?
Psychedelics are different than most other recreational drugs. Experts agree that psychedelics do not cause addiction or compulsive use, and they are not known to harm the brain.
When evaluating psychedelics, as with any activity, it is important to take an objective view of all the evidence and avoid being biased by anecdotal stories either of harm or benefit, the researchers say.
"Everything has some potential for negative effects, but psychedelic use is overall considered to pose a very low risk to the individual and to society," Johansen says, "Psychedelics can elicit temporary feelings of anxiety and confusion, but accidents leading to serious injury are extremely rare."
"Early speculation that psychedelics might lead to mental health problems was based on a small number of case reports and did not take into account either the widespread use of psychedelics or the not infrequent rate of mental health problems in the general population," Krebs explains.
"Over the past 50 years tens of millions of people have used psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of long-term problems," she concludes.
Both researchers were supported by the Research Council of Norway.
The drug topiramate, typically used to treat epilepsy and more recently weight loss, may also help people addicted to both cocaine and alcohol use less cocaine, particularly heavy users, researchers in the department of Psychiatry at Penn Medicine report in a new study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Results from the double-blind, placebo-controlled trial adds to the growing body of evidence supporting topiramate as a promising medication to treat addiction. Past, separate studies have shown that topiramate can reduce alcohol dependence, as well as reduce relapse to cocaine; however, its use to treat both alcohol and cocaine dependent people has not been explored in a clinical trial. Cocaine and alcohol addictions often go hand in hand, so therapies targeting both may be the best strategy to treat individuals. Results of the 13-week clinical trial of 170 alcohol and cocaine dependent people produced mixed results: The drug reduced alcohol cravings, but did not reduce drinking, and was not better at reducing cocaine cravings. Addicts on topiramate, however, versus those on a placebo were more likely to stay in treatment and abstain from cocaine during the last three weeks of the trial. People with more severe cocaine withdrawal symptoms— agitation, restless behavior, and depressed mood—appeared to have benefited most from topiramate. “Cocaine dependence continues to be a significant public health concern in the United States and Europe. Drug counseling remains the treatment of choice, but many patients do not respond completely to it, so developing effective medications for treatment is a research priority,” said first author Kyle M. Kampman, MD, professor of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and medical director at the Charles O’Brien Center for Addiction Treatment. “Based on the study’s results, this drug, plus cognitive behavioral therapy, may be a good option for people addicted to both alcohol and cocaine to help reduce their cocaine use.” Topiramate is an anticonvulsant drug that increases the brain levels of GABA, or gamma-Aminobutyric acid, which is a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It is FDA approved for the treatment of epilepsy, migraines and more recently for weight loss in combination with phentermine. For drug and alcohol addiction, it is thought that the increase of GABA may reduce the dopamine release associated with cocaine and alcohol use and thus reduce the reinforcing euphoric effects of the two. A small pilot study in 2005 by Dr. Kampman and colleagues found that topiramate helped cocaine addicts stay off the drug for three weeks or more.
I recently argued two distinct things in the same essay:
A) While I oppose the drug war and its immoral excesses, the tools used to prosecute that drug war — indeed for all crime suppression — are not, for the greater part, unconstitutional. Ergo, I oppose the policy of drug prohibition, not the tools used for that policy. The tools are themselves a neutral asset, capable of being used to both good and bad societal effect.
B) Given the last forty years of an unimpeded drug war, the sudden, hyperbolic reaction to these same tools used by the NSA in counter-terror programming is indicative of a callow self-concern, and general legal ignorance, on the part of those who now oppose one of the tools when it is aimed, even less invasively, at a wider swath of the population.
A is true independent of B. My belief in B is in no way the cause of my belief in A.