Thursday, April 16, 2015

LSD Imaging Study

Three Generations of Psychonaut

etymology,  formed from psyche1 + Greek dēlos  ‘clear,  manifest’ + -ic.

World’s First LSD Imaging Study Shows How Psychedelics Reduce Brain-Rigidity & Restore a Child-like State of Imagination
On April 19, 2015, 1,628 backers more than doubled the £25,000 goal to fund the world’s first imaging study of the brain on LSD.
LSD is the prototypical psychedelic drug, so potent it profoundly changes human consciousness with just 75 micrograms. But its effects on the human brain have never been studied with modern neuro-imaging — until now.
In a new groundbreaking study, 20 volunteers were strapped to a board and inserted into an fMRI — while on Acid.

Tripping in the name of science.
David Nutt, the epic professor who was fired as the government’s drugs advisor because he publicly declared that taking MDMA was safer than riding horses, said neuroscientists had waited over 50 years for this moment. “This is to neuroscience what the Higgs boson was to particle physics,” he said.
Nutt goes on to explain the significance of this study:
We didn’t know how these profound effects were produced. It was too difficult to do. Scientists were either scared or couldn’t be bothered to overcome the enormous hurdles to get this done.

For the first time we can really see what’s happening in the brain during the psychedelic state, and can better understand why LSD had such a profound impact on self-awareness in users and on music and art. This could have great implications for psychiatry, and helping patients overcome conditions such as depression.
The results push our understanding of both the brain and the magical molecules we call psychedelics. In many respects, how the brain works is still a mystery. By researching how psychedelics function in the brain, we will be a step closer to understanding not only how to use them to overcome psychological problems but also to flourish and improve our life satisfaction.   Nutt continued:

We found that under LSD, compared to placebo, disparate regions in the brain communicate with each other when they don’t normally do so. In particular, the visual cortex increases its communication with other areas of the brain, which helps explain the vivid and complex hallucinations experienced under LSD, and the emotional flavour they can take.
In the beginning of the last century, when philosophers first experimented with mescaline (another potent psychedelic), it blew their minds. When the visual cortex gets increased input from other regions of the brain it normally does not communicate with, synesthesia happens. Synesthesia is when we experience our different senses blending in with and transposing their qualities upon one another. The philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty said in his masterwork The Phenomenology of Perception:
A subject under mescaline finds a piece of iron, strikes the windowstill with it and exclaims: “This is magic”; the trees are growing greener…. Seen in the perspective of the objective [Cartesian] world, with its opaque qualities, the phenomenon of synaesthetic experience is paradoxical….

Neural interconnectivity in normal brain state vs. psychedelic brain state
Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial, who led the research, explained:
We observed brain changes under LSD that suggested our volunteers were ‘seeing with their eyes shut’ — albeit they were seeing things from their imagination rather than from the outside world. We saw that many more areas of the brain than normal were contributing to visual processing under LSD — even though the volunteers’ eyes were closed. Furthermore, the size of this effect correlated with volunteers’ ratings of complex, dreamlike visions.

Normally our brain consists of independent networks that perform separate specialised functions, such as vision, movement and hearing – as well as more complex things like attention. However, under LSD the separateness of these networks breaks down and instead you see a more integrated or unified brain.

Our results suggest that this effect underlies the profound altered state of consciousness that people often describe during an LSD experience. It is also related to what people sometimes call ‘ego-dissolution’, which means the normal sense of self is broken down and replaced by a sense of reconnection with themselves, others and the natural world. This experience is sometimes framed in a religious or spiritual way – and seems to be associated with improvements in well-being after the drug’s effects have subsided.

Dr Carhart-Harris added:
Our brains become more constrained and compartmentalised as we develop from infancy into adulthood, and we may become more focused and rigid in our thinking as we mature. In many ways, the brain in the LSD state resembles the state our brains were in when we were infants: free and unconstrained. This also makes sense when we consider the hyper-emotional and imaginative nature of an infant’s mind.

Talking to Nature, professor Nutt pointed out that this study showed a decrease in blood flow and neural activity in what is often called the Default Mode Network (DMN) or the ego. This region of the brain is often over-active and has been implicated in cases of depression, OCD, Alzheimer’s, and autism.
By taking LSD, however, one can experience the effect of ego dissolution, the sense that you are not separated from something else but melded with people and things around you.
This experience is often far-reaching and is named in the psychedelic literature as a “transformative experience.” It is an experience that correlates strongly with the healing of many psychological ailments, such as depression, addiction, social anxiety, PTSD, and end-of-life anxiety. Individuals transcend their primary identification with their narrow sense of self and experience ego-free states with a new perspective and child-like acceptance.

Ph.D. student Mendel Kaelen added:
A major focus for future research is how we can use the knowledge gained from our current research to develop more effective therapeutic approaches for treatments such as depression; for example, music-listening and LSD may be a powerful therapeutic combination if provided in the right way.
There are plans to do separate experiments to look at how LSD can influence creativity and how the LSD state mimics the dream state.

Those who are able to observe themselves and can remember their impressions often have occasion to note in the observatory of their thoughts strange seasons, luxurious afternoons, delicious minutes. There are days when a man awakens with a young and vigorous genius. Hardly have his eyelids cast off sleep which sealed them before the outer world presents itself to him in strong relief, with a clearness of contour and wealth of admirable color. The man gratified with this sense of exquisite loveliness, unfortunately so rare and so transitory, feels himself more than ever the artist, more than ever noble, more than ever just, if one can express so much in so few words. But the most singular thing about this exceptional state of the spirit and of the senses, which without exaggeration can be termed paradisical as compared with the hopeless darkness of ordinary daily existence, is that it has not been created by any visible or easily definable cause.

This acuity of thought, this vigor of sense and spirit, has at all times appeared to man as the highest good. For this reason, purely for his immediate enjoyment, without troubling himself about the limitations imposed by his constitution, he has searched in the world of physical and of pharmaceutical science, among the grossest decoctions and the most subtle perfumes, in all climates and at all times, for the means of leaving, if only for a few moments, his habitation of mud and of transporting himself to paradise in a single swoop. 

 Alas! Man's vices, horrible as they are supposed to be, contain the positive proof of his taste for the infinite.    Baudelaire

Chemical Consciousness 

In the early '60s I became conscious that more and more of the people who came to me for counseling wanted to talk over aspects of their experience in higher states of the mind, states of the mind that had been opened through psychedelic experience. Their interest was in relating these experiences to yoga and the consciousness attained through meditation. These people were highly enthusiastic about their new world, for it seemed like sort of a canned meditation, something they could get very quickly without entering into the sometimes tedious yoga training that may take years to open the individual to the within of himself. People all over the nation now are becoming awakened to the world within.

Around the same time, we had a seminar in San Diego attended by many seekers and LSD users. It seemed to us that the LSD people are almost like a new race, a race of people that have been reborn in bodies that already existed. Those who use psychedelics are different in many respects from those who have had no psychedelic experience. Their feelings are different. Their relationships are different. They are closer to some people, but at the same time they have created a gap between themselves and society. It is a gap of loneliness, because the breach between the inner consciousness and the external world has become so great that they have only themselves to depend upon. The degree of success of this dependence is another story, which brings us into the subject of yoga. We cannot say that the psychedelic experience in itself is either good or bad. It is enough to say that it is an experience that has occurred to thousands of people.

These ideas I am sharing with you are not so much for the psychedelic people as for those who have not had the psychedelic experience. I do not encourage you to go through it. Rather, I would encourage you to continue with the slower process of yoga. But I want to awaken you to the fact that there is this new group of people living with us. Their approach to life is entirely different from the one which you may have. Their perception generally is entirely different. Some of these people can look into your mind and even read your thoughts. Those who have not had psychedelic experiences will have to learn to adjust to the psychedelic consciousness. Likewise, those who use these drugs, if they ever stop, will have to learn to adjust their thinking again to the normal conscious-plane way of doing things.

I believe that the gap which has been created between "turned on people" and "turned off people" can best be bridged through meditation, gaining control of the mind so that the individual can become master of himself. When you become master of yourself, you truly stand alone in completeness, not in loneliness. In doing so, you are able to bring forth knowledge and wisdom from yourself through the process of meditation, through being able to sit down and think through a problem, ultimately seeing it in full, superconscious perspective and bring forth an answer, a workable answer filled with life. Meditation is a dynamic process. It is much more than just sitting around and waiting. It creates a highly individualistic type of mind.
  • Desperate states of mind are disturbing many people these days. They are caught in emotional turmoil and entanglement, scarcely knowing how to get themselves out of it, or even fully realizing what state they are in. This condition, which often deteriorates as the years go by until nervous difficulties and mental illnesses set in, can be alleviated by the simple practice of meditation. Those who are content to live in a mesh of mental conflict, which is not only conscious but subconscious, will never get around to meditation or even the preliminary step: concentration. But a person who is wise enough to struggle with his own mind to try to gain the mastery of his mind will learn the vital practice of meditation. Just a few moments each morning or evening enables him to cut the entangled conditions that creep into the conscious mind during the day. The consistent practice of meditation allows him to live in higher states of consciousness with increasing awareness and perception as the years go by. 

There are surprises, many of them, for the beginning meditator, as well as for those who are advanced--unexpected consequences that are often more than either bargained for, because on the road to enlightenment every part of one's nature has to be faced and reconciled. This can be difficult if the experiences of life have been unseemly, or relatively easy if the experiences have been mostly comfortable. What is it that meditation arouses to be dealt with? It is the reactions to life's happenings, recorded in the subconscious mind, both the memory of each experience and the emotion connected to it. Buried away, normally, waiting to burst forth in the next birth or the one to follow it, these vasanas, or deep-seated impressions, often come forward at the most unexpected moments after serious meditation is begun. It is the shakti power of meditation that releases them. There can be no repressed secrets, no memories too woeful to confront for the serious mediator. These experiences can be scary if one is "in denial" about certain embarrassing or disturbing happenings. 

When this upheaval occurs for you, and it will, combat the paper dragon with the deep, inner knowing that the energy of the body has its source in God, the light of the mind that makes thought pictures recognizable also has its source in God, and nothing can or has happened that is not of one's own creation in a past life or in this. Thus armed with Vedic wisdom, we are invincible to the emotions connected with the memory of formerly locked-away experiences. When they come rolling out, patiently write down the emotional impressions of hurt feelings and injustices of years gone by and burn the paper in an open fireplace. Seeing the fire consume the exposed vasanas, the garbage of yesterday, is in itself a great release. 

    There is no way you can use the word “reality” without quotation marks around it.”
    – Joseph Campbell
    Appreciating how the world exists depends on how well you can see and interpret it. Life is basically just trying to understand the state of how things actually are and attempting to respond in the best way suited. This requires recognizing various environmental stimuli, analyzing them, and initiating some response sequence. There are countless factors involved in making any decision, in humans the most variable is how each individual thinks they should respond. But we take for granted the basic, and seemingly autonomous, nature of our sensory system, and leave it to do its own thing. For the most part, people have the appropriate amount of eyes and comparable amounts of rods and cones within them. But what if you could see more, or hear more?

    Traditionally, people that claim to hear or see more are classified as deluded or schizophrenic, but it may be possible to increase your input bandwidth to provide you with a more representative worldview. Psychedelics show us our world in a different light, but are they showing us something that we are missing, something that is real?

    The sensory system and the brain have evolved into a fine-tuned machine. This machine is unlike any other machine in that it changes, bends and skews all the data that comes in based on previous experience, biases, attention, current state of sobriety, mood, etc. and imbues it with all the rich textures that create our reality. However, in terms of objective bookkeeping, the brain is the most unreliable machine that could have ever evolved. Our perception of the world around us is merely an abstraction, far from the objective replication we consider it to be. Our world has been filtered through a system with some bits truncated, others stretched and some excised completely. The agents of this prejudice are the memories created by our experience and the subsequent tailoring of our sensory systems to optimize behavioural output. Learning is a dynamic process that relies on memory to encode, store and retrieve previous experiences in order to optimize this output. And, focused attention pushes irrelevant stimuli to the margins further still. You don’t need an update of the osmolarity of your lymphatic fluids when reading a novel, nor would you want to know how many leaves are on a tree while hunted by some godless killing machine. Yet although, at some level, your brain is privy to this information, evolution has deemed your consciousness too easily distracted to deal with it.
    Although we are not aware of it, the pruned information looms in our subconscious (or unconscious). It can seemingly rise from the dead in the form of dreams when we lie down to sleep at night. Many studies show that our brain is more aware of this unconscious information than we think, and altered states allow slivers of this otherwise inaccessible information to shine through.

    So what is our conscious awareness left with? The bandwidth of the eye is approximately 1000 bits of information per second and the ear 10000 bits per second. Most importantly, the bandwidth of the brain is much lower than that of the sensory systems. The vast majority of sensory information is distilled out of the system at a peripheral level to accommodate the limits of the brain. It is important to note that just because data input is reduced, that does not mean that it loses resolution per se. The loss of detail is then fortified by the emotional resolution of the past and present to give it tone and flavour. Therefore, the brain is not simply a recording device attached to a camera.

    Our sensory system relies on both ‘Bottom-Up’ and ‘Top-Down’ strategies. Basic sensory input refers to the ‘Bottom’ and information from the ‘Top’ is related to experience and thought. It could be goal driven, knowledge-based and/or expectation-driven and it requires attention and filtering. Reality, therefore, is an internal perceptual idea of our world generated by neural processes in our brain, which get their information from both internal (top-down) and external (bottom-up) Lucy Brown
    Many subjective accounts claim that visual and auditory perception increases with the administration of psychedelic compounds. Seeing brighter colours, better hearing and noticing patterns are commonly reported. Subjective reports indicate that psychedelics may increase auditory or synesthetic sensitivity to electromagnetic noise as well. What makes research difficult is that most of these effects arequalitative, making it difficult to measure. Underquantitative scrutiny in a laboratory setting many of these claims are not replicated, although some interesting results have been shown. One of the more interesting experiments was the ‘Hollow-Mask’ study in which subjects looked at pictures of a mask, with the inside (concave) and outside (convex) being virtually the same. For ‘normal’ subjects, the inside of the mask is perceived as the outside since they are more likely to see an outside of the mask than an inside of one. However, schizophrenic subjects and subjects on LSD can consistently differentiate between the two. This implies that the mind’s ‘Top-Down’ conceptualization dominates the evaluation of reality in normal situations and that in non-ordinary states of consciousness we are more likely to adopt a ‘Bottom-Up’ strategy from our actual senses. This means we can temporarily suspend our brain’s normal filtering process and actually perceive the world as it is, not as we expect it to be.

    The inhibiting of our ‘Top-Down’ filtering mechanism also explains why in the psychedelic state we tend to see patterns in our natural world. The concept of ‘stochastic smoothing’ is the ability to find patterns in otherwise random noise, which is amplified in the psychedelic state by increasing feedback excitation by disinhibiting our filtering mechanism. In this excited state, the brain can recognize and ‘create’ elaborate patterns on any field of noisy data, such as TV static and other textures. Most systems that appear around us in the world are actually driven by patterns, like fractals and self-similarity, which are ubiquitous throughout nature.

    Tryptamine psychedelics, like LSD and psilocybin, usurp the brain’s serotonin system, which is one of the most diverse and diffuse neurotransmitter systems in the brain. These compounds bind specifically to the 5-HT2A receptor subtypes, which are the densest in the feedback circuits of the sensory processing pathways. These pathways are integral for information processing and the generation and maintenance of consciousness.

    The Human Connectome Project identifies 12 hub-regions in the brain that connect areas of the brain to one another. The largest and most studied of these hubs is the thalamus, through which the sensory systems relay. Its major functions are transmitting sensory signals and the regulation of consciousness through feedback circuits between itself and the cortex. The thalamus is densely innervated with inhibitory neurons, which serve to dampen the multitude of signals coming into the brain. The feedback connections from the thalamus to the cortex are necessary for sensory perception and the progressive build-up of feedback interactions that result in our conscious awareness.

    After the psychedelic compounds are ingested the result is a disinhibited thalamic filter that allows more signals through than it normally would. This, in turn, promotes excitatory feedback within the brain’s circuitry and pushes perception to its operational limit; overwhelming the network to its fullest analytical potential. The increased feedback excitation between thalamus and cortex is the direct cause of perceptual distortions, hallucinatory form constants, seeing patterns and expanded states of consciousness associated with hallucination. Psychedelics act as perceptual amplifiers creating the fullest sensory experience possible.

    With all the sensory data that washes over us when the thalamic filter is opened we can easily become incapacitated by the overwhelming amount of information, but if we can harness this torrential influx we would be able to see the underlying patterns around us. Hallucinatory form constants, like fractals and lattices, are the blueprints for the laws that govern our universe. Self-similarity, a foundation of fractals, occurs when the whole is created from smaller similar parts, like repetitive building blocks. The branch of a tree being a smaller copy of the tree itself, the repetitive peaks and valleys of mountain ranges, galaxies nested in clusters, nested within super-clusters, lightning bolts, blood vessels, DNA, etc.; the examples are as infinite as the fractals themselves. Other patterns found in nature, like the meanders, waves, tessellations, spirals and crystals also rely on self-replicating units as well. These patterns, which otherwise go unnoticed, emerge vividly before our eyes under an expanded state of consciousness.

    When a psychedelic binds to the surface receptor protein it initiates a response sequence within the cell. This sequence may change the cell, pass on information to another cell, it may cause the cell to divide or it may cause the cell to die. Our receptors can be viewed as self-similar units of ourselves on our planet, as proteins on the surface of the earth we take information from our reality and can change ourselves, change others, divide or die. The more accurate our comprehension of the world around us is, the more likely it is that our behaviours will benefit ourselves, others and the planet as a whole.

    A shadowy organization that kept the hippies dosed at the height of the '60s counterculture is brought to the light of day in this entertaining documentary.

    Though the height of the ’60s counterculture era, rumor had it that the primary importer of recreational drugs was something called “the Brotherhood” — an organization so shadowy that many assumed its existence was strictly mythological. But in fact a handful of West Coast surfers and early flower children did take extraordinary risks bringing psychedelic substances to the people in mass quantities, their goal being not illicit wealth but a “revolution” of lysergic enlightenment. This hitherto little-understood chapter is chronicled in William A. Kirkley’s entertaining and involving documentary “Orange Sunshine,” which mixes interviews, archival materials and re-enactments to provide a “Just Say Yes” flashback with nostalgic appeal to Boomers and exotic fascination for everyone else. Niche theatrical exposure is possible, with select broadcast and streaming placements a surer bet.
    At the dawn of the decade, LSD was not yet illegal but very difficult to come by. Unable to afford buying doses outright, a couple of curious young SoCal souls robbed a man known to be holding an expensive stash of the stuff. Under the influence soon after, John Griggs could “feel divinity running through him”; a few months later his wife, Carol, took her own first “trip.” Though they’d already dug heels into the straight world of gainful employment, mortgages and children, they promptly abandoned all that (well, not the kids) in order to live communally with a few like-minded friends including best pal Michael Randall, brothers Rick and Ron Bevan, and Laguna surf-shop owner Travis Ashbrook.

    Led by Griggs, who had a sort of messianic charisma as well as acute business sense, they determined to expand their own new focus on personal enlightenment into a “spiritual revolution” that would transform society as a whole. While the primary tool would be acid, these spiritual warriors also embraced a few other substances. Dubbing themselves the Brotherhood of Eternal Love — though they were remarkably successful in making sure very few others knew of their identity — they soon presided over an international operation that would eventually encompass an LSD lab that at one point produced 100 million doses; smuggling operations via planes, trains and automobiles from as far-flung as Afghanistan, with bricks of hash hidden in hollowed-out surfboards or musical instruments; and distribution lines to the street level throughout the turned-on world. (Orange Sunshine was the name of a a particularly popular and pure type of LSD with which the Brotherhood became associated.)
    Despite this stupefyingly large-scale activity, surviving participants say they never hoarded cash or lived in luxury, staying true to their hippie ideals. (They claim the ultimate goal was to give away LSD for free.) Nevertheless, their efforts inevitably attracted unwanted attention. President Lyndon B. Johnson, then President Nixon and Gov. Reagan, prioritized fighting a “drug scourge” that no longer affected just society’s fringe, but also middle-of-the-road taxpayers’ own children. Closer to home, Laguna Beach police chief Neil Purcell (still unamused a half-century later) made it his business to crack down on what he suspected was a massive operation right under his nose, though he had a surprisingly tough time convincing state and federal authorities.

    There’s no lack of incident to this stranger-than-fiction tale, from the Brotherhood’s close relationship with psychedelic guru Timothy Leary (they were directly involved in later breaking him out of prison) to one major character’s tragic death by overdose. As the law-enforcement noose tightened, most principals were able to scatter before a large-scale raid finally occurred. But sooner or later, despite years spent living abroad and/or under aliases as fugitives, nearly all found themselves under arrest.

    They’ve all long since done their time, however, and none are remotely apologetic about a mission they still insist was essentially philanthropic. (Their lawyer, Michael Kennedy, also represented such radical activist orgs as the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, and the Chicago Seven.) Many still ponytailed and wearing crystals in old age, the protagonists fly a die-hard freak flag for an era that in most respects now seems unbelievably remote in cultural and political terms, despite its significant impact. (As one notes, grocery stores wouldn’t stock organic foods now if the hippies hadn’t first popularized such ideas.)

    Kirkley (“Excavating Taylor Mead”) packages this saga as a sort of sunny retro thriller, maintaining a brisk pace and lively aesthetic surface. The caper narrative tilt is heightened by having actors play the main characters in wordless re-enactment sequences that blend quite well into the whole, being shot to look like 8mm home movies and other archival materials. These constitute at least 40% of an assembly that’s well turned in all tech and design departments.

    Janov's Reflections on   the  Human       Condition

    hotOn a summer morning in 2013, Octavian Mihai entered a softly lit room furnished with a small statue of Buddha, a box of tissues and a single red rose. From an earthenware chalice, he swallowed a capsule of psilocybin, an ingredient found in hallucinogenic mushrooms.

    Then he put on an eye mask and headphones and lay down on a couch. Soon, images flew by like shooting stars: a spinning world that looked like a blue-green chessboard; himself on a stretcher in front of a hospital; his parents, gazing at him with aching sadness as he reached out to them, suffused with childlike love.
    Psilocybin has been illegal in the United States for more than 40 years. But Mr. Mihai, who had just finished treatment for Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was participating in a study looking at whether the drug can reduce anxiety and depression in cancer patients. Throughout that eight-hour session, a psychiatrist and a social worker from NYU Langone Medical Center stayed by his side.
    Published Thursday, the results from that study, and a similar small, controlled trial, were striking. About 80 percent of cancer patients showed clinically significant reductions in both psychological disorders, a response sustained some seven months after the single dose. Side effects were minimal.
    Continue reading the main story
    In both trials, the intensity of the mystical experience described by patients correlated with the degree to which their depression and anxiety decreased.
    The studies, by researchers at New York University, with 29 patients, and at Johns Hopkins University, with 51, were released concurrently in The Journal of Psychopharmacology. They proceeded after arduous review by regulators and are the largest and most meticulous among a handful of trials to explore the possible therapeutic benefit of psilocybin.
    Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, a past president of the American Psychiatric Association, and Dr. Daniel Shalev of the New York State Psychiatric Institute are among leaders in psychiatryaddiction medicine and palliative care who endorsed the work. The studies, they wrote, are “a model for revisiting criminalized compounds of interest in a safe, ethical way.”
    If research restrictions could be eased, they continued, “there is much potential for new scientific insights and clinical applications.”
    Although cancer patients will not have access to therapeutically administered psilocybin anytime soon, the findings add vigor to applications to expand research in a multicenter trial with hundreds of participants.
    Some medical professionals held the studies at arm’s length. Dr. William Breitbart, chairman of the psychiatry department at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, questioned this use of cancer patients. “Medical marijuana got its foot in the door by making the appeal that ‘cancer patients are suffering, they’re near death, so for compassionate purposes, let’s make it available,’ ” he said. “And then you’re able to extend this drug to other purposes.”
    Psilocybin trials are underway in the United States and Europe for alcoholism, tobacco addiction and treatment-resistant depression. Other hallucinogens are also being studied for clinical application. This week, the Food and Drug Administration approved a large-scale trial investigating MDMA, the illegal party drug better known as Ecstasy, for post-traumatic stress disorder.
    Cancer-related psychological distress, which afflicts up to 40 percent of patients, can be resistant to conventional therapy. Mr. Mihai’s anxiety began when doctors finally told him he was in remission
    He would keep touching the nodules on his neck, where the cancer had announced itself. He flew to Europe to celebrate the end of treatment and his graduation from college, but abruptly returned to New York, terrified to be away from oncologists. He began drinking daily, hard, jeopardizing his fragile health.
    Alarmed, doctors suggested the psilocybin study.
    He took the capsule and began tripping. After seeing himself on a hospital stretcher, he recalled: “I had an epiphany.”
    “Why are you letting yourself be terrorized by cancer coming back? This is dumb. It’s in your power to get rid of the fear,” he told himself. “That’s when I saw black smoke rising from my body. And it felt great.”
    Three years later, Mr. Mihai, now 25 and a physician assistant in Las Vegas, said, “I’m not anxious about cancer anymore. I’m not anxious about dying.” The session, he added, “has made my life richer.”
    In the 1940s and 1950s, hallucinogens were studied in hundreds of trials. But by 1970, when those drugs were placed in the most restricted regulatory category, research ground to a near halt.
    Since about 2000, investigators have begun studying them, mostly with private funding. These two studies built on a 2011 UCLA psilocybin pilot project with 12 cancer patients.
    Both share similarities. All volunteers had diagnoses of cancer-related anxiety or depression. Patients were randomly given a placebo or synthetic psilocybin, and not told which. Within seven weeks, they were given the other sample.
    All patients were educated about the drug, monitored by two people throughout the placebo and psilocybin sessions, and seen for follow-up evaluation.
    Researchers created seven-hour music playlists, paced to the anticipated rhythms of the drug reaction. N.Y.U. leaned toward New Age and world music — Brian Eno; sitars; didgeridoos. Johns Hopkins favored Western classical.
    At N.Y.U., psychotherapists tried to layer the session into patients’ memories by asking them to write about their visions in a journal and discuss the experience in meetings. The Johns Hopkins study, led by Roland R. Griffiths, a psychopharmacologist, had monitors who urged participants to “trust, let go and be open.”
    The N.Y.U. researchers assessed patients the next day and found the effects to be immediate in most of them.
    Dr. Stephen Ross, the lead investigator and chief of addiction psychiatry at N.Y.U., pointed out that antidepressants, by contrast, can take weeks to show benefit.
    “Cancer patients with anxiety and depression need help immediately,” he said, “especially if you consider that they are at elevated risk for completed suicide.”
    Some experts questioned the reliability of the results. Dr. Breitbart said that because diagnoses ranged from early-stage cancer to imminent terminal illness, it was impossible to know which patients might have come through their psychological ordeal without psilocybin — whether some might have adapted to the new norms of their disease; felt stronger once chemotherapyside effects, including depression, had abated; or even experienced an improvement in health.
    None of those possibilities fit Kevin, who had a bone-marrow transplant for acute myeloid leukemia. It sent his cancer into remission, but left him with graft-versus-host disease.
    Suffering from chronic pain and fatigue, Kevin, 57, who lives in central Michigan and asked that his last name be withheld because he had been in law enforcement, had to retire. Four years after the transplant, he despaired.
    “Going through a near-death illness is similar to returning from combat,” he said. “It damages who you are, to the core of what it is to be human.”Continue reading the main story
    “I was hoping to get out of this funk of waiting for the other shoe to drop,” he added. “You’re looking up to the heavens, saying ‘What else can I try?’ ”
    In 2013, Kevin entered the Johns Hopkins trial. During his session, he saw spirals of iridescent spheres that folded in on themselves.
    The experience did not restore him to his former life, he said, “but I have a greater sense of peace of what might come. I’m very grateful, beyond words, for this trial. But you have to approach the session with the right intentions of why you’re doing it. Because you’re going to meet yourself. ”
    Researchers do not know why psilocybin has worked in these settings. Neuroimaging scans of healthy volunteers show areas of the brain lighting up or resting during dosing. Hallucinogens activate a serotonin receptor that can lead to the alterations of consciousness reported routinely.
    One theory is that psilocybin interrupts the circuitry of self-absorbed thinking that is so pronounced in depressed people, making way for a mystical experience of selfless unity.
    The studies received funding from the Heffter Research Institute, an alliance of scientists interested in the medical study of hallucinogens. Dr. George Greer, the co-founder of Heffter, does not see a commercial future for psilocybin, even if it is eventually approved for therapeutic use, because these patients needed only one dose.
    Instead, he envisions a nonprofit manufacturer, with distribution restricted to specialized clinics.
    Researchers were emphatic that these results should not be interpreted as condoning hallucinogenic mushrooms for self-treatment. Dr. Griffiths noted that patients received extensive support, which may have deepened and secured their life-affirming transformations.
    “People will take psilocybin at a rave or at Burning Man” — the art and performance desert festival — “but the effect,” he said, “evaporates like water running through their hands.”

    "I once read somewhere that a monkey ate a mushroom and then wondered about God, the heavens,  and the stars... thus becoming human."
    I once had a book on the origins of consciousness, it proffered the likelihood of hallucinogens being an implicit part in the development of speech and  other abstractions; tools, art, medicinal herbs.  LSD , psilocybin,  mescaline, et al. resemble serotonin's chemical construction/composition (chemical cousins);  a neural transmitter active in the brain's dream state, and many other regulatory responsibilities.  In a sense,  ingesting hallucinogens is like dreaming in a waking state.  I don't advocate such experimentation, though I did so partake quite heavily.
      It doesn't require much imagination to see that these substances  must have played a part in the developing evolving mind.  Undeniably inadvertently  this must have transpired in the quest for what was edible (nourishing) and what was poisonous.  Often a side effect of poisoning is hallucinations (auto intoxication). These imaginary dream states indubitably  led to  exciting albeit frightening visions.  A similar  state of mind is recorded in the Bible as Agape, an ecstatic  state of wonder.

    Three Generations of Psychonauts
    "The answers aren't so much in the drug, as much as in learning to think, examine and analyze."
    “I believe that psychedelics could be for psychology what the telescope is for astronomy.” Terence McKenna


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