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Ayahuasca and Depression

Weaning off of antidepressant medications after taking them for many years is very challenging, both physically and emotionally.  I knew that if I wanted to benefit fully from an ayahuascaceremony I had to clear all traces of SSRI (selective serotonin uptake inhibitors) drugs from my body. However, this was difficult because I had become dependent on them to function in everyday existence. Those that have used these drugs can attest to their power and the surprising nature of their strong withdrawal symptoms and side effects.  It is important not to consume ayahuasca if you are taking any drug that affects your serotonin levels because combining the two can cause serotonin syndrome, a very serious and potentially fatal condition.  Ayahuasca also contains several compounds that are MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitor). MAOI drugs have very strong negative interactions with a wide variety of medications. It is important to understand the potential…

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Points: The Blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is not your typical drug policy reform organization. Since 1986, MAPS has worked as a nonprofit pharmaceutical company to turn psychedelic drugs into prescription medicines to treat afflictions — including postraumatic stress disorder, pain, depression, and even addiction — for which conventional therapies offer little relief. The term “prescription psychedelics” may sound like something out of a 70s science fiction story — politically impossible and culturally strange — until you hear it explained in context by Rick Doblin, MAPS’ founder and executive director.

Points is pleased to have had the opportunity to speak with Doblin about his organization’s relationship to past psychedelic research efforts, its major goals and day-to-day operations (Part II), and the philosophy of addiction and recovery that informs its work (Part III). We proudly present below the first installment of a three-part interview we will showcase over the next week in celebration of MAPS’ 25th anniversary this year. Today, we’ll…

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Ayahuasca and Depression

There are thousands of plants with medicinal properties in the vast forests that surround the Amazon river system.  Many of these plants have been used for centuries or even millenia to treat various ailments in people.  One of the plants that has gained recent fame for its partner role with the ayahuasca vine is chacruna or Psychotria viridis.  Chacruna is a small, unassuming plant that contains high levels of DMT, or dimethyltriptamine, a potent hallucinogen.  It is precisely for its high DMT content that the plant is mixed with the ayahuasca vine.  The MAOI compounds in the ayahuasca vine allow the DMT in the chacruna plant to become orally active, otherwise they would be broken down by digestive enzymes and would not enter the bloodstream.  Chacruna is known as a helper plant for ayahuasca because it brings on strong effects such as visual hallucinations, which clarify and…

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Psychedelic Press UK

The following article was written by Ido Hartogsohn. He is an Israeli writer and psychedelic activist. His first book ‘Technomystica: Consciousness in the Age of Technology’ was published (Hebrew) in 2009. Hartogsohn is currently writing his Ph.D. on the role of set and setting in the psychedelic research of the 1950s and the 1960s.

Psychedelics and Entheogens are two names for the same group of psychoactive compounds (usually referred to as ‘psychedelics’). These two terms delineate two very different perspectives on the proper way to use these psychoactive compounds.

Psychedelic is a term that was invented by the British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond in 1957, during a correspondence with Aldous Huxley, as the two were trying to find a new designation for the psychopharmacological group of substances which included compounds such as mescaline, LSD, and the psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms). The new name was supposed to replace terms such as…

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Psychedelic Press UK

September 27-30, 2012

(www.psychedemia.org)

A conference in which professionals, academics, and visionaries from across the sciences, cultural studies, medicine, visual arts, and music are convening at the University of Pennsylvania campus to discuss the place of psychedelics in academia.

Psychedemia is a conference currently being planned by graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania, a member of the Ivy League and one of the premier institutes of the higher learning in the United States. Psychedemia (a portmanteau of Psychedelia and Academia) is dedicated to opening an informed and progressive discussion about how to responsibly and effectively integrate into academic and mainstream culture the recent renaissance of academic research into psychedelic experiences. The conference will attract devoted psychedelic scientists, philosophers and enthusiasts who seek the ultimate psychedelic cultural experience–the opportunity to interact with renowned thought leaders in a gorgeous Ivy League setting.
 
Psychedemia will coalesce decades of interdisciplinary…

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What is drugs education really about? If drugs education were really about harm-reduction then we would objectively compare what science tells us about the effects of various substances since scientific research is undeniably the best method of determining the relationship between various causes and their effects. In this article it is argued that most drugs education in Britain fails to accurately communicate the truth about drugs by becoming unknowingly embroiled in a highly questionable, ambiguous, and complex mission of moralistic social engineering. Drugs education is dishonest, it misleads people, it is biased, and fails to represent the complex histories and realities that surround the issue of the individual’s relationship to mind-altering substances.

For the most part: drugs education, as it stands, works under a very different modus operandi than simply educating young people about the scientifically demonstrable facts about the effects of drugs. Drugs education as it is currently practised is the result of a complex set of interacting dynamics: the socially constructed taboo surrounding drug use and altered states of consciousness, the fact that many of the teachers will be largely ignorant to the realities of drug use, many of the teachers will have a knowledge-base largely gained through their own (frankly, limited) drugs education secondary education, many of teachers will themselves have used recreational drugs in the past and are not at liberty to be honest about it (due to the aforementioned taboo), an increasingly questioned overarching paternalistic political agenda encapsulated in the somewhat revealing term “The War of Drugs”, the endless double-standards surrounding what substances and activities (legal or otherwise) are deemed “too harmful” to be permitted, the list could go on. The elephant in the room undermines much of these drives though, and that elephant is the scientific research about the harms (and benefits) of various drugs.

In illustrate the extent of these conflicting factors, I would like to ask you to have a look at the graph below.

Graph clearly depicting the objective harms of controlled substances

Source: Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs

 

Now the source of this graph is none other than the government’s own scientific experts: Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, November 2010. It illustrates clearly a number of truths that are somewhat unpalatable to many drugs educators in Britain:

  • Alcohol is, seemingly, more harmful than all other drugs: yet it is a drug that is socially accepted and most of the teachers themselves have used.
  • Cannabis is safer than alcohol or tobacco
  • Both the status of a given substance’s legality or illegality and current drug classification system(Class A, B, etc.) have virtually no bearing on the scientifically demonstrable harms of the substances in question.

Now each of these points is worthy of great exploration and thought: but let’s focus on the last one. If a student with much intelligence about them were to see and understand this graph, the graph showing scientific research, they would instantly see the arbitrary nature of current drug laws. That simple question “why?”, “for what reason?”: it would be enough to thoroughly undermine a “just say no” approach to this issue.

And there are other truths that drugs educators tend to be shy of broaching:

  • Many of the controlled substances have been shown to have medicinal properties, most notably cannabis and some of the “psychedelic” drugs.
  • When compared to high risk non-drug activity there is a clear double standard. The great Professor Nutt was, of course, fired from the aforementioned committee, for (amongst other things) stating that ecstasy is safer than horse-riding! Deaths from peanut butter allergies compared with deaths from cannabis use also serve to demonstrate this double-standard very clearly.
  • There is a clear double standard about attitudes to legal pharmaceuticals, psychoactive or otherwise, in terms of their harms (the P.R. term is “side-effects”) and the likelihood of those harms occurring. Compare, for example, the long list of side-effects for Fluoxetine (the anti-depressant better known as Prozac) to the effects of the responsible use of “magic mushrooms”: decide for yourself which seems more harmful!
  • That there is a difference between drug use and drug abuse.
  • That most drug users do not have their lives destroyed or seriously derailed in any meaningful way by it.
  • People take drugs to have fun.
  • Many of the teachers may have, at some point in their past, used a controlled substance. Their experiences may not have all been bad.
  • The fact that pretty much every one in our society is a “poly-substance user” when considering clearly how people use  alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, sugar, and psychoactive pharmaceuticals.
  • The history of the use of the drugs that are now illegal (“He who controls the past, controls…”?)

o   The use of “entheogens” and “psychedelics” in the students’ ancestors shamanic traditions

o   The potential spiritual significance of altered states of consciousness

o   The use of mind-altering substances by eminent peoples and thinkers of the past and their role in human creative enterprise.

  • The political and historical origins of our drug laws.
  • The complex political nature of drugs prohibition, related concepts such as “Freedom of thought”, “The Harm Principle”, or “cognitive liberty” are never really discussed in the context of drugs education.
  • The political nature drugs education as an agent of socialising and social-engineering.

 

To further challenge our current “just say no” drugs education practices is the vast sea of conflicting evidence students will increasingly be exposed to: drug information from “unapproved” drugs education sites, vastly more access to positive accounts of drug experiences, peer communications, wider access to “legal highs”, potentially enlightened parents, a culture of increasingly normalised drug use, and frequent positive depictions of drugs and “drug cultures” in films which, compared to two decades ago, seems to have massively infiltrated modern cinema at a somewhat suspicious rate.

Let’s face it, “The War on Drugs” is becoming increasingly controversial for a number of reasons; not least of all the recent American states that have ended cannabis prohibition thus rightfully claiming an enormous tax bounty in return! Far be it for teachers to perpetuate a political agenda that should be the subject of rigorous analysis and scrutiny. Far be it for teachers to tacitly comply with the deeply troubling political scheme that is drug prohibition.

If you are an educator, and you want to show your students the truth about drug harm, you should start with the chart shown above. Explore the harms and benefits or drug use fully, be honest about its history, encourage debate about the myriad political issues surrounded in both “The War on Drugs” and the purposes of drugs education. If you are a truly responsible educator, when a student says “I don’t think I’ll ever drink alcohol, instead I’ll occasionally use mushrooms and cannabis because the scientific research demonstrates reduced harm in that choice.” You would leave it be.

Ayahuasca and Depression

an excerpt from DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Dr. Rick Strassman (published by Inner Traditions)

“Do you think,” I offered, “that the pineal might produce psychedelic compounds? It seems to have the right ingredients.  Maybe it somehow mediates spontaneous psychedelic types of states-psychosis for example.”  I was hesitant to get much deeper than this and avoided mentioning my more controversial ideas about the pineal-that it played a role in more exotic states, such as near-death or mystical experiences. Dr. K stopped in his tracks and turned on his heels.  His brow furrowed and he peered at me intently through his glasses.  A palpable menace glinted from his eyes.  “Oops,” I thought.

“Let me tell you this, Rick,” he said very slowly and firmly.  “The pineal has nothing to do with psychedelic drugs.”

That was the last time that year I said the words pineal and psychedelic in…

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