Psychedelic research making headlines

The Guardian, Scientific American and many other reputable news outlets have recently published articles about new studies investigating the therapeutic effects of psychedelic substances like psilocybin and MDMA.

Prior to the early '70s lots of research had already been done and many patients had been treated, primarily with mescaline (the active component of the Peyote and San Pedro cactus) and LSD. The results of therapeutic strategies involving these substances were very promising. Unfortunately after the roaring '60s they were banned and scientific research ended.

Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD and psilocybin, had hoped to explore their therapeutic uses. To Hofmann’s dismay, it was placed into a restrictive category in the 70’s by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Last year Albert Hofmann finally celebrated the first scientific research in decades one month before his death at the age of 102. Using psychedelic drugs for medical applications, such as treating alcoholism and alleviating intense anxiety for patients with life threatening diseases, are once again being explored.

In a Harvard study on the effects of psychedelics on cluster headaches, for example, Dr. John Halpern tested 53 people suffering from the condition who had taken LSD or psilocybin (the active chemical in “magic mushrooms”) and found that nearly all of them experienced a remission of their symptoms which lasted several months.

In another study conducted by South Carolina psychiatrist Dr. Michael Mithoefer, the use of MDMA was found to increase the success rate of therapy sessions with patients suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The British-based Beckley Foundation is funding and collaborating on such a study at the University of California Berkley. They are assessing how these drugs may foster creativity and investigating the changes in neural activity that go along with altered conscious experiences, using Hofmann’s psilocybin (the active component in shrooms and truffles) instead of LSD.

“We chose psilocybin over LSD because it’s gentler and generally less intense,” says Dr. Charles S. Grob, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles who conducted a trial to test the drug’s effects on anxiety in cancer patients.

“It’s associated with fewer panic reactions and less chance of paranoia and, most important, over the past half a century psilocybin has attracted far less negative publicity and carries far less cultural baggage than LSD.”

To read more about these exciting new developments, look here and here.