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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    How Stanislav Grof Helped Launch the Dawn of a New Psychedelic Research Era
    The world of medicine may finally be ready to catch back up with psychedelic pioneers, whose work was rejected a half-century ago.

    Next week, the brightest lights of the psychedelic cognoscenti will gather in San Jose, California. Leaving swirls of tracer visions in their wakes, they will converge from around the world at an incongruously bland Holiday Inn, 50 miles south of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood that once served as the pulsing capital of Psychedelistan. There, several hundred turned-on and tuned-in doctors, psychologists, artists and laypeople will participate in the annual conference of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). For four days, they will explore -- through workshops and lectures, nothing more -- the widening gamut of clinical inquiry into the uses of the psychedelic experience, a global resurgence of which has led to hopeful talk of a “psychedelic revival.”

    After decades of psychedelic deep freeze, such talk is finally more than just wishful thinking. A skim of the conference agenda offers a tantalizing glimpse into the newly bubbling world of clinical psychedelic research. UCLA Medical professor Charles Grob will speak about his work using psilocybin to treat anxiety in late-stage cancer patients. Psychologist Allan Ajaya will share findings from his research in LSD-assisted myofascial pain therapy. Other speakers will address possible psychedelic-based cures for alcoholism, addiction, depression, migraines, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Each will represent a different corner in a promising field newly awakened. From North America to the Middle East, recent years have seen a rising interest into the medicinal possibilities of MDMA, LSD, DMT, and other drugs now shaking off decades of government-imposed clinical hibernation.

    Since 1986, MAPS has been agitating for this overdue renaissance, spearheading and publicizing efforts to legalize and de-stigmatize research involving schedule-1 drugs designed to induce non-ordinary states of consciousness. As the outfit’s slogan has it, “We put the M.D. back in MDMA.” It is a testament to the organization’s work that this year’s conference, "Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century,” not only features a multinational cast of active researchers, but also caters to an increasingly interested public: tickets for many of the workshops sold out a month in advance.

    For most Americans, the only familiar name on the MAPS 2010 speakers list is the Oprah-approved, integrative-health brand name, Dr. Andrew Weil. But Weil hardly enjoys rock-star status at conferences dedicated to the present state and future of pioneering psychedelic research. As detailed in Don Lattin’s new book, The Harvard Psychedelic Club, Weil’s main historical contribution to the field was negative and came nearly 50 years ago: As an undergraduate snitch, it was Weil’s articles for the Crimson that got Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass) thrown out of Harvard, thus putting the kibosh on the university’s psilocybin project.

    One of the most significant figures attending the conference in San Jose is a man largely unknown to the general public. Years before Leary made headlines for his Ivy League adventures, and years before Ken Kesey held the first acid parties in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a young doctor named Stanislav Grof was conducting rigorous clinical experiments involving LSD in the most unlikely of places: a government lab in the capital of communist Czechoslovakia. It was there, at Prague’s Psychiatric Research Institute in the 1950s, that Grof began more than half-a-century of pioneering research into non-ordinary states of consciousness. While he is frequently marginalized in, if not completely left out of, popular psychedelic histories, it is not for any lack of contribution to the field. “If I am the father of LSD,” Albert Hoffman once said, “Stan Grof is the godfather.”

    With psychedelic research poised for a mainstream resurgence, the time seems right to begin giving the godfather his due.

    Stanislav Grof had just completed his medical studies at Prague’s Charles University when he caught a life-changing break. It was 1956, and one of his professors, a brain specialist named George Roubicek, had ordered a batch of LSD-25 from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Sandoz, where Albert Hoffman first synthesized the compound in 1943. Roubicek had read the Zurich psychiatrist Werner Stoll’s 1947 account of the LSD experience and was curious to test it out himself and on his students and patients, largely to study the drug's effects on electric brain waves, Roubicek's specialty. When he asked for volunteers, Grof raised his hand.

    By: Alexander Zaitchik
    April 10 2010



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