U.S. Loosens Rules On Experimenting With Psychedelics

For many years the United States government has classified more or less all psychoactive drugs, many of them plants sacred to indigenous peoples around the world, with so-called “hard” drugs, making it extremely difficult for researchers to study their mental health benefits. Graham Hancock has written on this topic extensively, including in his essay “The War on Consciousness” in the disinformation® anthology You Are STILL Being Lied To, and that issue will be at the heart of his first novel, Entangled, which will be published in the fall. Now the New York Times is reporting that policy may be changing:

As a retired clinical psychologist, Clark Martin was well acquainted with traditional treatments for depression, but his own case seemed untreatable as he struggled through chemotherapy and other grueling regimens for kidney cancer. Counseling seemed futile to him. So did the antidepressant pills he tried.

Nothing had any lasting effect until, at the age of 65, he had his first psychedelic experience. He left his home in Vancouver, Wash., to take part in an experiment at Johns Hopkins medical school involving psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient found in certain mushrooms.

Scientists are taking a new look at hallucinogens, which became taboo among regulators after enthusiasts like Timothy Leary promoted them in the 1960s with the slogan “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Now, using rigorous protocols and safeguards, scientists have won permission to study once again the drugs’ potential for treating mental problems and illuminating the nature of consciousness.

After taking the hallucinogen, Dr. Martin put on an eye mask and headphones, and lay on a couch listening to classical music as he contemplated the universe.

“All of a sudden, everything familiar started evaporating,” he recalled. “Imagine you fall off a boat out in the open ocean, and you turn around, and the boat is gone. And then the water’s gone. And then you’re gone.”

Today, more than a year later, Dr. Martin credits that six-hour experience with helping him overcome his depression and profoundly transforming his relationships with his daughter and friends. He ranks it among the most meaningful events of his life, which makes him a fairly typical member of a growing club of experimental subjects.

Researchers from around the world are gathering this week in San Jose, Calif., for the largest conference on psychedelic science held in the United States in four decades. They plan to discuss studies of psilocybin and other psychedelics for treating depression in cancer patients, obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction to drugs or alcohol.

The results so far are encouraging but also preliminary, and researchers caution against reading too much into these small-scale studies. They do not want to repeat the mistakes of the 1960s, when some scientists-turned-evangelists exaggerated their understanding of the drugs’ risks and benefits.

Because reactions to hallucinogens can vary so much depending on the setting, experimenters and review boards have developed guidelines to set up a comfortable environment with expert monitors in the room to deal with adverse reactions. They have established standard protocols so that the drugs’ effects can be gauged more accurately, and they have also directly observed the drugs’ effects by scanning the brains of people under the influence of hallucinogens.

Scientists are especially intrigued by the similarities between hallucinogenic experiences and the life-changing revelations reported throughout history by religious mystics and those who meditate. These similarities have been identified in neural imaging studies conducted by Swiss researchers and in experiments led by Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins…

[continues in the New York Times]

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  • honu

    I know I may come off sounding snide but, with all due respect to Dr. Martin, why would he have been so afraid of doing a psychedelic like psilocybin before age 65? I had a profound psychedelic experience when i was 22 which has changed the way I view the world ever since. I'm 40 now. I'm glad that the powers that be are allowing further study with these substances but the truth is that they are found naturally (mushrooms, vines, cactus, etc) and the so called rules and impositions the government feels they need to cordone off the effects of these substances shows they are afraid of them and will do what they can to keep it isolated from society. These substances can only help to empower (most) people and to get a better sense of their place in the universe…when taken with respect for the psychedelic. Hell, the whole right wing nut cases could use about 10 doses to undo their sick perverted mind sets.

  • Mitchell

    You really should mention that if you are interested in supporting this research you should donate to maps.org. They are the largest (and in my opinion most effective) group out there pushing for renewed research on psychedelic and empathogenic drugs.

  • Mitchell

    You really should mention that if you are interested in supporting this research you should donate to maps.org. They are the largest (and in my opinion most effective) group out there pushing for renewed research on psychedelic and empathogenic drugs.

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