Tag Archive: Psychedelics


Jungle Drug Ayahuasca Could Revolutionize Psychotherapy

Tracy James knew the drug she’d just swallowed was working when her old injuries from high school started twitching with new life. Pressure throbbed from a forgotten busted knee. Her ankle tingled. The fingers she’d sprained roller-skating decades back began to ache. Whatever the 37-year-old had just taken, it shot feeling back into the long-gone ailments.

For the past 45 minutes, the hut had been dark and silent, the air dripping with jungle moisture. James and nearly 20 others were sitting cross-legged on ornate rugs. One by one, a pair of Shipibo shamans peered into the face of each visitor, ceremonial chants slipping from their lips.

It was June 2009. James, a pretty, curly-haired Jamaican-American woman, was then calling Los Angeles home. As a life coach, she was interested in rewiring the mind-body split. A friend had suggested she make the trip to the Peruvian jungle, where the indigenous tribes had a powerful liquid that could radically shake up one’s consciousness. Now, James was miles into the bush surrounding the town of Iquitos. Her first dose of the nasty, rust-colored liquid was blasting through her system.

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Few people are aware that there have been numerous, carefully-controlled scientific experiments with telepathy, psychokinesis, remote viewing, and other types of psychic phenomena, which have consistently produced compelling, statistically-significant results that conventional science is at a loss to explain.

Even most scientists, are currently unaware of the vast abundance of compelling scientific evidence for psychic phenomena, which has resulted from over a century of parapsychological research.

Hundreds of carefully-controlled studies–in which psi researchers continuously redesigned experiments to address the comments from their critics–have produced results that demonstrate small, but statistically significant effects for psi phenomena, such as telepathy, precognition, and psychokinesis.

According to psychologist Dean Radin, a meta-analysis of this research demonstrates that the positive results from these studies are significant with odds in the order of many billions to one.

Princeton University, the Stanford Research Institute, Duke University, the Institute of Noetic Science, the U.S. and Russian governments, and many other respectable institutions, have spent years researching these mysterious phenomena, and conventional science is at a loss to explain the results.

This research–which was originally published in numerous peer-reviewed scientific journals over the past century–is summarized Radin’s remarkable book The Conscious Universe.

Just as fascinating as the research into psychic phenomena is the controversy that surrounds it.

In my own experience researching the possibility of telepathy in animals, and other unexplained phenomena with British biologist Rupert Sheldrake, I discovered that many people are eager to share personal anecdotes about psychic events in their life–such as remarkable coincidences, uncanny premonitions, precognitive dreams, and seemingly telepathic communications.

In these cases, the scientific studies simply confirm life experiences.

However, many scientists that I’ve spoken with haven’t reviewed the evidence, and remain doubtful that there is any reality to psychic phenomenon, because the mechanism isn’t understood yet.

Nonetheless, surveys conducted by British biologist Rupert Sheldrake and myself reveal that around 78% of the population has had unexplainable “psychic” experiences, and the scientific evidence supports the validity of these experiences.

It’s also interesting to note that many people have reported experiencing meaningful psychic experiences with psychedelic drugs–not to mention a wide range of paranormal events and synchronicities, which seem extremely difficult to explain by means of conventional reasoning.

A questionnaire study conducted by psychologist Charles Tart of 150 experienced marijuana users found that 76% believed in extrasensory perception (ESP), with frequent reports of experiences while intoxicated that were interpreted as psychic.

Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, and psychologist Stanley Krippner, have collected numerous anecdotes about psychic phenomena that were reported by people under the influence of psychedelic drugs, and several small scientific studies have looked at how LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline might effect telepathy and remote viewing.

For example, according to psychologist Jean Millay, in 1997, students at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands did research to establish whether or not the use of psilocybin could influence remote viewing.

This was a small experiment, with only 12 test-subjects, but the results of the study indicated that those subjects who were under the influence of psilocybin achieved a success rate of 58.3 percent, which was statistically significant.

A new edition of the 1964 book ESP Experiments With LSD-25 and Psilocybin: A Methodological Approach, by Roberto Cavanna and Emilio Servadio was republished in 2010, with a new preface by Charles Tart.

In the introduction Tart states that, “this study remains as important today as when it was first published, and will hopefully guide a new generation of researchers to finding the knowledge we need!”

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Pam Sakuda was 55 when she found out she was dying. Shortly after having a tumor removed from her colon, she heard the doctor’s dreaded words: Stage 4; metastatic. Sakuda was given 6 to 14 months to live. Determined to slow her disease’s insidious course, she ran several miles every day, even during her grueling treatment regimens. By nature upbeat, articulate and dignified, Sakuda — who died in November 2006, outlasting everyone’s expectations by living for four years — was alarmed when anxiety and depression came to claim her after she passed the 14-month mark, her days darkening as she grew closer to her biological demise. Norbert Litzinger, Sakuda’s husband, explained it this way: “When you pass your own death sentence by, you start to wonder: WhenWhen? It got to the point where we couldn’t make even the most mundane plans, because we didn’t know if Pam would still be alive at that time — a concert, dinner with friends; would she still be here for that?” When came to claim the couple’s life completely, their anxiety building as they waited for the final day.

As her fears intensified, Sakuda learned of a study being conducted by Charles Grob, a psychiatrist and researcher at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center who was administering psilocybin — an active component of magic mushrooms — to end-stage cancer patients to see if it could reduce their fear of death. Twenty-two months before she died, Sakuda became one of Grob’s 12 subjects. When the research was completed in 2008 — (and published in the Archives of General Psychiatry last year) — the results showed that administering psilocybin to terminally ill subjects could be done safely while reducing the subjects’ anxiety and depression about their impending deaths.

Grob’s interest in the power of psychedelics to mitigate mortality’s sting is not just the obsession of one lone researcher. Dr. John Halpern, head of the Laboratory for Integrative Psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Belmont Mass., a psychiatric training hospital for Harvard Medical School, used MDMA — also known as ecstasy — in an effort to ease end-of-life anxieties in two patients with Stage 4 cancer. And there are two ongoing studies using psilocybin with terminal patients, one at New York University’s medical school, led by Stephen Ross, and another at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where Roland Griffiths has administered psilocybin to 22 cancer patients and is aiming for a sample size of 44. “This research is in its very early stages,” Grob told me earlier this month, “but we’re getting consistently good results.”

Grob and his colleagues are part of a resurgence of scientific interest in the healing power of psychedelics. Michael Mithoefer, for instance, has shown that MDMA is an effective treatment for severe P.T.S.D. Halpern has examined case studies of people with cluster headaches who took LSD and reported their symptoms greatly diminished. And psychedelics have been recently examined as treatment for alcoholism and other addictions.

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Mind-altering compounds, such as LSD and psilocybin, stirred controversy in the 1960s. As the counter-culture’s psychedelic drugs of choice, the widespread use – and abuse – of hallucinogens prompted tougher anti-drug laws. That also led to a crackdown on clinical studies of the drugs’ complex psychological effects.

However, now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun to approve limited research into the potential benefits of psychedelic drugs.

No one is more aware of the stigma attached to psychedelics than Rick Doblin, director of the Multi-Disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a drug development firm that funds FDA-approved clinical trials to examine the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelics.

Doblin says the virtual blackout on research that resulted from aggressive federal drug-control policies in the 1960s finally began to ease in 1990, when new regulators at the FDA decided to take a fresh look at psychedelic drugs.

UCLA researchers found the psychedelic compound, psilocybin – found naturally in certain mushrooms – can ease end-of-life anxiety in cancer patients.

“They decided they would put science over politics and permit research to go forward,” he says. “They were willing to acknowledge that these drugs could be administered in a safe-enough context and that there were promising hints of potential benefits and therapeutic uses. Today, there is more psychedelics research taking place than in the last 40 years.”

One especially active focus of FDA-approved research has involved MDMA – also known as “Ecstasy.”

This potent drug is being studied for its potential therapeutic value for sex-abuse victims and combat veterans suffering from chronic, treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

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Cancer survivor Lauri Reamer lived in constant dread that her disease would return, until she took a psychedelic drug in a Johns Hopkins University study.

The 48-year mother of three was given psilocybin, the main ingredient in the “magic mushrooms” of the 1960s, as a remedy to ease anxiety. She spent most of her first “trip” crying, then emerged from the next with less anxiety, better sleep and happier relations with family and friends, she recalled.

The experience “really cracked me open,” said Reamer, an anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore before she was diagnosed with leukemia. “It let me be in life again, instead of this place of fear where I had been living.”

Almost 40 years after Richard Nixon called former Harvard University psychologist Timothy Leary the most dangerous man in America for promoting use of hallucinogenic substances, there is a rebirth of interest in their therapeutic benefits. Reamer was enrolled in a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins to relieve fear of death in cancer patients, one of a half-dozen similar studies under way at New York University, Harvard, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of New Mexico.

The new research, largely driven by the psychiatric community, is also testing psychedelics for use against depression, chronic headaches and addiction as current scientists, much like their 1960s predecessors, seek to understand the “consciousness-expanding” effects of the drugs.

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ECSTASY pills would be given to Australian bushfire victims, flood survivors and soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, in a controversial proposal for a clinical trial.

Small overseas studies have shown the illegal party drug to be effective for traumatised patients who have not responded to other treatments. An Australian psychologist is now calling for similar research to be funded here.

Psychologist Stephen Bright, who is affiliated with a group of international clinicians pushing for the medical use of psychotropic drugs such as ecstasy, marijuana and magic mushrooms, said trials in the US and Switzerland showed ecstasy, or MDMA, was safe and effective.

”Patients were followed up for up to an average of 41 months after the last treatment sessions and the findings showed that the therapeutic benefits have been sustained over time,” said Mr Bright, an addiction specialist at Curtin University.

”We’ve had bushfires in Victoria, there’s been flooding in Queensland, we have troops in Afghanistan, there is quite a high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder. But half of people do not respond to [conventional] treatments. If we had this alternative then that would provide people with significant hope and the opportunity to recover.”

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Steve Jobs Had LSD. We Have the iPhone

Days before Apple founder Steve Jobs died, the New York Times ran an op-ed proclaiming that “You Love Your iPhone. Literally.” Our infatuation with our iPhones is not mere addiction, but genuine love, the piece asserted, because brain scans proved it. There’s no doubt that Jobs’ computers were the first of their kind to engender such widespread and ardent passion. So why did 45 neuroscientists write an angry letter to the Times disputing the science behind the contention?

The paradoxes of love have perhaps never been clearer than in our relationships with Apple products — the warm, fleshy desire we feel for such cold, hard, glassy objects. But Jobs knew how to inspire material lust. He knew that consumers want something that not only sparkles and awes, but also feels accessible, easy to use, an object with which we want to merge and to feel one and the same.

Not coincidentally, that’s how people describe the experience of taking psychedelic drugs. It feels profoundly artificial yet deeply real, both high-tech and earthy-crunchy, human and mystically divine — in a word, transcendent. Jobs had this experience. He said that taking LSD was one of the two or three most important things he’d ever done. “He said there were things about him that people who had not tried psychedelics — even people who knew him well, including his wife — could never understand,” John Markoff reported for the Times.

As attested by the nearly spiritual devotion so many consumers have to Jobs’ creations, the former Apple chief (and indeed many other top technology pioneers) appeared to have found enduring inspiration in LSD. Research shows that the psychedelic experience is, in fact, long lasting: a new study published last week found that people who took magic mushrooms (psilocybin) had long-term personality changes, becoming more open, more curious, more intellectually engaged and more creative. These personality shifts persisted more than a year after taking the drugs.

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