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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- 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.

    New Generation

    “There’s a renaissance of interest,” said Charles Grob, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the UCLA, who researches psychedelics. “It took some decades for a new generation of scientists to step up, but there was never any doubt these compounds had potential. It was the ’60s that intruded.”

    Though there are biological components to anxiety and addiction, much of the underlying cause of these problems may involve how people think about the world around them, according to the researchers.

    These drugs “diffuse in your brain and some people never see the world the same way again,” said David Nichols, a pharmacologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, in a phone interview.

    The research that includes Reamer is being run by Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins. He’s also testing psilocybin to help smokers quit.

    On Sept. 29, Griffiths reported in the Journal of Psychopharmacology that use of psilocybin in an earlier study conferred a lasting personality change in some of the 51 participants tested.

    Meditation Practice

    Griffiths became interested in the research after starting a meditation practice 17 years ago. He found early reports in the scientific literature of studies tying psychedelics to mystical experiences and other effects on visual perception and brain function, he said in a telephone interview.

    “This whole class was declared too dangerous to proceed in the 1970s, and so it was put in a deep freeze,” Griffiths said. “Sometimes I feel like Rip Van Winkle, awakening the potential for research with these compounds.”

    Leary did his research in the 1960s at the Harvard Psilocybin Project, running a series of experiments that gave psilocybin to divinity students to gauge their spiritual experiences and to prisoners to see if it would help keep them out of jail after their release.

    That work led to Leary’s dismissal from the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus in 1963, and contributed to a rise of experiments among young people as he famously urged them to “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

    New Drugs

    As today’s researchers pick up where those in the 1960s left off, they do so with the benefit of U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved trials, better understanding of the brain’s circuits and chemistry, and funding from private sources, according to Griffiths.

    Already, LSD and psilocybin research by psychiatrist John Halpern at Harvard has led to a drug, dubbed BOL-148, being developed by Boston-based startup Entheogen Corp.

    The company is studying BOL-148, an LSD derivative, as a treatment for cluster headaches, sometimes called suicide headaches because they’re so painful that sufferers often kill themselves, said Halpern, Entheogen’s co-founder.

    “This is an unmet need, and cluster headaches are among the most painful conditions known,” Halpern said in a telephone interview. “If I did schizophrenia research, I’d have 1,000 brilliant colleagues prodding me and tons of funding available. This is kind of like Siberia. It takes a long time to build the trust that you are interested in doing credible work.

    Drug War

    ‘‘I figure I’m doing my job right when someone accuses me of supporting the drug war and someone else accuses me of sabotaging it,” he said.

    Most of the half-dozen studies in this area listed on clinicaltrials.gov are funded by the Heffter Research Institute, a Santa Fe, New Mexico-based organization. The institute is named for Arthur Heffter, the scientist who discovered mescaline, a drug made from the peyote cactus.

    The organization has raised $2.7 million since 1993, when it was first incorporated, and funded 70 studies in research journals since 1999, according to Purdue’s Nichols, who is also a co-founder of the institute.

    Nichols was in school in the ’60s, and psychedelics didn’t quite make it to Cincinnati, where he lived, he said. Listening to the experiences since then of those who used the chemicals, he found they often listed their trips as being among the most meaningful things in their lives.

    ‘Visions of Peace’

    Reamer, the Johns Hopkins cancer patient, said she experienced “visions of peace and healing.” Still, not everyone should undergo the therapy, she said.

    “It didn’t necessarily feel good, but what came out of it was pure joy,” Reamer said. “At the end of the sessions, I was exhausted from the emotional outpouring.”

    Similar work with cancer patients is being done by Stephen Ross, a psychiatrist at New York University in Manhattan. He’s testing psilocybin in a nine-month death-anxiety study in which patients receive the drug and psychotherapy. Patients receive therapy for two to four weeks before their first dose of psilocybin.

    The patients are dosed in a room designed to calm with art on the walls, classical music and flowers. Patients bring in family photos to help make them feel comfortable, Ross said in an interview.

    Patients talk with the therapists about how they’re feeling and what they’re experiencing, and near the end of the trip, are asked to write journal entries. Then there are follow-up sessions for the rest of the nine months of the study.

    ‘Transcendental Force’

    “Sometimes they look like they’re asleep for hours,” said Ross, who is also director of substance abuse at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. “Then they get up and tell us they’ve had an encounter with a transcendental force, or that they were in a beautiful dome with white light coming down, or that they were part of an artistic picture.”

    To synthesize psilocybin, Ross contacted Organix Inc., a Woburn, Massachusetts-based closely held company. The compound, which cost $12,000 to make, is stored in a 10,000 pound safe in the NYU School of Dentistry, where the studies are conducted.

    Nichols credits the resurgence of work in hallucinogens in part to Rick Strassman, a psychiatrist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, who works with DMT, the active ingredient in ayahuasca, a Colombian drug made from vines and shrubs commonly used for religious and healing purposes.

    Research Effort

    In 1994, Strassman published a paper in the Archives of General Psychiatry on the effects of DMT on the body’s heart and endocrine system, and another on the drug’s subjective effects.

    Since Strassman’s initial work, the volume of psychedelic research has gradually increased, Nichols said.

    Still, he said fundraising has been slow. The Heffter foundation initially thought research might be funded by people like Steve Jobs, the late Apple Inc. co-founder, and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who publicized their use of psychedelics, Nichols said. That wasn’t the case.

    “It seemed well-known that many folks had used psychedelics to foster their creativity, but we never managed to snag any of them” to invest, he said.

    --Editors: Angela Zimm, Reg Gale.
    By Elizabeth Lopatto
    December 06, 2011



  1. django47
    If I was dying, acid would be the last thing I would take. Acid can make you believe that your gonna croak, even when your 100% okay. It's called a bad trip.
    If I had a terminal illness and knew I was dying, I would want diamorphine(skag), thats the kind of drug that puts you at peeace with the world. I don't know a smackhead who is afraid of dying. Most of them don't really care about anything, I know cos I'm one, spent the last 40 years killing myself.

    Acid was amazing when I was much younger, taken really carefully you experience things you can't describe to someone else, especially to someone who has never tripped. But their's a flip side because, as much as an acid trip is wonderful, it can also be that much horrific. Nightmares that you can't wake up from.
    If you want to expand your consciousness, then hallucinogenics like ' lysergic acid diethylamide'(LSD) will do the trick, but if you want to blot something out which you find painful to think about, I honestly for the life of me, can't imagine how acid type drugs would help.
    Also I can see why the big shots who in their youth as students tripped out on acid, but now turn their backs on anyone holding their hands out for donations to fund research. These guys have grown out of it, left it where it belongs, in their memory of the crazy things they did when they were kids without responsibilities to anyone but themselves. Like the Beetles, guys like Leary belong to another age. Leave drug testing to the large pharmaceutical companies who will invest millions on a drug before a single dose is made available to the public, and it can take quite a few years. Especially a drug like acid, it works differently on different people, we are not all wired up the same. Firstly thousands of people need to be analysed to find average test results, then wait years to moniter the long term affects. You can't do that in a week-end with a room full of spaced out guinea pigs listening to Pink Floyd.
  2. Leonurus
    Acid is beneficial for terminal patients. These researchers don't just give these folks acid and let them trip alone. They provide therapy in the before,sometimes during and after. This makes the trip a lot more guided therefore more therapeutic. Sorry, my dog can't type anymore. He is high on herbal incense and weed lol.
  3. mersann
    Leonurus has this right. It can be used as a medicine in psychotherapy. A lot of success has already been reported in some European countries. The thing about this kind of therapy is not that people should just feel good and forget about the fact that they're dying, so they're not for "blotting something out that you find painful to think about", as django47 put it. Rather, the goal is to help people cope with the thought that they will have to die.

    With regard to the article, I've got to mention

    I don't find this particularly special. People make drugs based on other drugs all the time (apart from the fact that Albert Hofmann made this one originally as well, so the drug itself isn't newly-created). That's how all those synthetic opiates came to be. This alone is not going to change anything about LSD's situation, especially since BOL-148 generally doesn't psychoactive effects.
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