Acidmath Digest

Oakland Votes Unanimously to Decriminalize Psychoactive Plants Like Ayahuasca, Peyote and Hallucinogenic Mushrooms
June 05, 2019

Oakland Votes Unanimously to Decriminalize Psychoactive Plants Like Ayahuasca, Peyote and Hallucinogenic Mushrooms



Oakland City Council voted Tuesday to become the first U.S. city to decriminalize the adult use and possession of psychoactive plants like ayahuasca and peyote, and the second to make the same move for hallucinogenic mushrooms.

The resolution makes the adult use and possession of all entheogenic, or psychoactive, plants and fungi the lowest priority for police. That means, along with psilocybin mushrooms, it applies to cacti like peyote, the shrub iboga that has been used to treat opioid dependence and a variety of plants used to brew ayahuasca, among other things.

Denver voters in May approved a measure to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms for people 21 and older.

Supporters say entheogenic plants have been used to treat depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Entheogenic plants and fungi are tremendous for helping to enable healing, particularly for folks who have experienced trauma in their lives,” said Carlos Plazola, chair of the advocacy group Decriminalize Nature Oakland. “These plants are being recommended pretty extensively undercover, underground, by doctors and therapists.”

Oakland’s proposed resolution would make the investigation and arrest of adults who grow, possess, use or distribute entheogenic plants, including magic mushrooms, ayahuasca and peyote, one of the lowest priorities for police. No city funds could be used to enforce laws criminalizing the substances, and the Alameda County District Attorney would stop prosecuting people who have been apprehended for use or possession.

In the last five years, Oakland police have recorded 19 cases of suspected psilocybin mushrooms being submitted to the department’s crime lab, according to testimony from a police official at the council’s public safety committee meeting last Tuesday. The official did not have data available for other plants.

Councilmember Noel Gallo, who introduced the resolution, said decriminalizing such plants would enable Oakland police to focus on serious crime.

A tourist shows heads of peyote in the desert near the town of Real de 14, in San Luis Potosi State, Mexico, on July 17, 2013. (Credit: ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP / Getty Images)

A tourist shows heads of peyote in the desert near the town of Real de 14, in San Luis Potosi State, Mexico, on July 17, 2013. (Credit: ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP / Getty Images)

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick declined to comment.

Still, magic mushrooms would remain illegal under both federal and state laws. Entheogenic substances are considered Schedule 1 drugs under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which categorizes drugs that have potential for abuse and no medical value.

Skeptics have expressed qualms about the resolution, including Councilmember Loren Taylor, who said it’s important that law enforcement and other community leaders are included in any talks to think through “all possible implications” of the resolution.

“It is something that is valuable in certain settings,” Taylor said at last week’s committee meeting. “It’s a matter of how we deploy it and how we ensure it’s not something that (with) our kids becomes a fad.”

To address such concerns, Gallo said, lawmakers would have to establish rules and regulations about the use of such substances, including what exactly can be used, how to use them and what associated risks are.

Entheogenic plants have long been used in religious and cultural contexts. Gallo remembers his grandmother treating his family members with plants, including entheogenic ones, for a variety of ailments.

“Growing up in the Mexican community, this was our cure,” Gallo said. Hemp oils, mushrooms and yerba buenas — an aromatic plant known for its medicinal properties — “that was our Walgreens. We didn’t have a Walgreens. We didn’t have a way to pay for any drugs. These are plants we have known for thousands of years in our community and that we continue to use.”

Julie Megler, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who spoke in support of the proposal at last week’s meeting, said it could also help people who lack the funds for traditional prescription drugs.

“I believe that the medical model is important, but is limited in the number of people that can access its care,” she said.

Another supporter with Decriminalize Oakland, Gary Kono, identified himself as a retired surgeon. He admitted there is some risk associated with the plants and fungi, “but more people die from taking selfies for their social media than from all of our entheogens combined.”

Tuesday’s vote would be the final on the measure. The council’s public safety committee advanced it last week.

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Smoking Psychedelic Toad Milk Could Alleviate Depression For Up To 4 Weeks
May 26, 2019

Smoking Psychedelic Toad Milk Could Alleviate Depression For Up To 4 Weeks


 

A study published in the journal Psychopharmacology reported that psychedelic toad milk could be the most powerful depression remedy.

Namely, smoking the milky, psychoactive secretion of the Colorado River toad, or Bufo alvarius, is a powerful and fast alternative for managing depression.

This “toad” is popular for its poisonous secretions that can kill predators and get humans high. The biggest native toad in the United States can reach up to 7 inches in length and has the unusual ability to obtain water by osmotic absorption through its abdomen.

The North American toad excretes a whiteish substance which is rich in a compound called 5-MeO-DMT, a variation of DMT, which is also found in the mild-altering psychedelic brew ayahuasca.

According to researchers, when dried and smoked, the “toad milk” creates a short but potent psychedelic experience, and as the ego dissolves, one supposedly receives mystical insights.

They maintain that a single inhalation of vapor from dried toad secretion containing 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) in a naturalistic setting can cause sustained enhancement of satisfaction with life, mindfulness-related capacities, and a decrement of psychopathological symptoms.

 

 

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Repairman working on a 1960s synth accidentally got super high on LSD
May 24, 2019

Repairman working on a 1960s synth accidentally got super high on LSD


 

When working on a standard clean and restore project, you don’t expect to accidentally get super high on 50-year-old LSD. But that’s exactly what happened for one repairman working on a vintage Buchla Model 100 modular synthesiser.

Eliot Curtis was recently given the job of restoring the vintage synth, which had been stored in a dark room at Cal State University East Bay since the 1960s. But after cracking off the front of the unit to give it a clean, he began to majorly trip out.

A Californian repairman cleaning a 1960s synth went on a mega nine-hour trip after accidentally ingesting vintage LSD through his skin.

 

After opening the Buchla, Curtis discovered a crystal-like substance that he attempted to clean off. Spraying it with a cleaning solvent, he then tried to dislodge it with his fingers. Then, around 45 minutes later, the fun really started. His body began to tingle, which then quickly dissolved into an epic nine-hour acid trip.

After testing, it was discovered that the substance was indeed vintage LSD. A researcher also revealed that LSD can lay dormant and potent if stored in a cool, dark place, and that it is possible to ingest it through the skin. So apparently Buchla synthesisers make the perfect storage for your psychedelics. Who knew?

The synth has since been thoroughly cleaned of all LSD and is back on track for its restoration. No say on where the drugs ended up though…

 

 

 

 

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How LSD May Facilitate Communing With Nature
May 21, 2019

How LSD May Facilitate Communing With Nature


 

April 19, 1943, Albert Hofmann became the first known human to drop LSD. The Swiss chemist had synthesized the drug five years earlier as a central nervous system stimulant, not knowing its psychedelic powers. But when he discovered what the substance was capable of, he took a dose and went for a ride on his bike to see what would happen.

What happened is he changed history. Hofmann’s account of that bike ride is not only the first documented report of a full-on acid trip, it’s also the first account of one of the hallmarks of the psychedelic state: a feeling of oneness with nature that lasts long after the drug has worn off.

“Through my LSD experience and my new picture of reality, I became aware of the wonder of creation, the magnificence of nature, and of the animal and plant kingdom,” he said in an interview in 1984. “I became very sensitive to what will happen to all this and all of us.”

Hofmann became a fervent environmentalist, and since then, similar anecdotes abound from people who have taken psychedelics. Movies and TV shows like The Trip and Six Feet Under are rife with tripping characters talking to trees or getting advice from the personification of Mother Nature, not to mention Birkenstock-clad environmentalists with a penchant for mushrooms.

But beyond the cultural trope, researchers have long suspected there was something real at play here. In a 2009 paper titled “Psychedelics and Species Connectedness,” the psychologists Stanley Krippner and David Luke hypothesized that the consumption of psychedelics creates a greater concern for ecological issues. Several other psychologists have even argued that psychedelic drugs were the catalyst for the environmental movement that sprung up in the late 1960s.

Of course, none of these theories have advanced much since LSD became illegal in the 1960s, leading the FDA to shut down all research into the potential benefits of the drug and others like it. But in the midst of today’s psychedelic renaissance, researchers are reconsidering these drugs’ potential to make us feel one with nature — and how that potential might confer therapeutic benefits.

“Psychedelics cause the boundaries between self and nature to crumble,” says Matthias Forstmann, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University’s Mind and Development Lab. “As a consequence, you ascribe human-like traits and emotions to nature. And as a consequence of that, you feel empathy for nature. This could have beneficial effects for both the individual as well as for the environment.”

It’s likely not the feeling of connection to nature specifically that is driving away depression, but the sense of connection to everything.

Forstmann is the lead author of a recent study that looked at the relationship between people’s past experiences with classic psychedelic substances (such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline) and their self-reported connection to nature. The study found that people who had previous experiences with psychedelics were more likely to feel like a part of nature rather than separate from it.

The general population survey controlled for experiences with other types of psychoactive substances as well as the personality traits that can predict drug consumption and an affinity for nature. Across demographics and life experience, the study showed that psychedelic use correlates to a greater connection to the outside world.

Of course, there is the possibility that rather than psychedelics being the catalyst for an eco-mindset, it could be that people who already have a deeper connection to nature are more likely to take psychedelics. But researchers don’t think this is the case.

“[Because] the relationship we found remained significant after controlling for demographic variables, it is unlikely that the association we found can be entirely explained by a collection of personality traits stereotypically associated with psychedelic users (e.g. being of the ‘hippie’ type),” the study authors conclude.

The side effect of psychedelics that causes this sense of connection is known as ego dissolution. For this reason, some researchers think it also makes psychedelics a viable remedy for treatment-resistant depression. According to Enzo Tagliazucchi, a researcher at Goethe University Frankfurt’s Institute of Neurology, subjects in several studies who responded well to psychedelics as a depression treatment cited the “feeling of moving from a sense of disconnection from the self, from others, and from the world to a sense of connection” as the main factor in their recovery.

“One of the most salient, defining characteristics is the experience of unity with everything,” says Tagliazucchi. “It’s not specific with nature, though it can be a very strong feeling of connection with nature depending on the person, and depending on their prior beliefs.”

In other words, according to both Tagliazucchi and Forstmann, it’s likely not the feeling of connection to nature specifically that is driving away depression, but the sense of connection to everything.

However, Forstmann’s study did find that people who had used psychedelics in the past reported higher levels of pro-environmental behavior — things like recycling and buying products at the supermarket with less packaging — suggesting that such experiences can shift people’s beliefs and practices.

Before there can be conclusions around any of this, however, both Forstmann and Tagliazucchi say more research is needed — including experiments conducted outside the lab and with people without a history of mental illness. But in the meantime, Hofmann’s experience lives on, and as a new generation of psychedelic enthusiasts becomes one with nature, we may see the benefits echo throughout culture.


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LSD IS HELPING PEOPLE END THEIR ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE
May 21, 2019

LSD IS HELPING PEOPLE END THEIR ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE


 

A newly published study suggests that consuming LSD or magic mushrooms may help people overcome alcohol dependency — yet another exciting development in the burgeoning field of psychedelics research.

“There’s incredible potential here,” Johns Hopkins University researcher Matthew Johnson told Inverse. “So far, it’s a good bet that these tools will be broadly applicable to a number of disorders.”

For the study, which was published Tuesday in The Journal of Psychopharmacology, the researchers used social media and drug discussion websites to track down 343 people who reported a minimum of seven years of problematic drinking prior to having a psychedelic experience.

They then asked the participants — 72 percent of whom met the criteria for alcohol use disorder — to complete anonymous online surveys.

From the surveys, the researchers learned many participants had dramatically decreased the number of drinks they consumed a year after their psychedelic experience. In fact, 83 percent of participants no longer met alcohol use disorder criteria, and 28 percent credited their psychedelic experience for the change in lifestyle

It’s hard to demonstrate a direct link between the psychedelic experience and the decrease in alcohol consumption. However, Johnson thinks it makes sense that mind-opening drugs could have a positive impact on the lives of people battling alcohol dependence.

“When you talk to someone who has managed to overcome addiction, they often talk about [how] they had to answer big picture questions that connect to what’s important in life,” he told Inverse. “Psychedelics prompt those kinds of questions.”

Source: FUTURISM.


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The spiritual awaking of Mike Tyson
May 15, 2019

The spiritual awaking of Mike Tyson


 

Mike Tyson explains to Dan Le Batard the spiritual awakening he underwent after smoking poisonous venom from a toad.

Watch the video below:


Via: Espn.

 

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MDMA Breakthrough Therapy Designation Results Published
May 13, 2019

MDMA Breakthrough Therapy Designation Results Published


MDMA combined with psychotherapy is a promising treatment for PTSD and is currently under investigation in a phase 3 trial. Data from six phase 2 studies supported a Breakthrough Therapy designation by the FDA. Results are now published in Psychopharmacology.


The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) published results in Psychopharmacology [1] from six phase 2 clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental disorder that can occur after a traumatic event. Symptoms include avoidance of trauma-associated places or people, negative feelings, hypervigilance and intrusive thoughts or memories. The paper describes outcomes from 103 study participants, which represents the largest sample to be published to date. These data were the basis for FDA granting a Breakthrough Therapy designation for this innovative treatment approach.

Six clinical trials were carried out from 2004-2017 at five study sites. These sites were United States (South Carolina, Colorado), Canada, and Israel. The studies enrolled people with moderate to severe chronic PTSD who had failed to adequately respond or tolerate medications and/or psychotherapies. Approximately half of patients (40-60%) do not experience significant PTSD symptom reductions from currently available medications (Zoloft and Paxil) and psychotherapies used to treat PTSD [2, 3].

For the MDMA trials, participants start treatment by undergoing three non-drug psychotherapy sessions (90 mins). Then they receive either active doses of MDMA (75-125 mg) or placebo/control doses of MDMA (0-40 mg) during 2 to 3 psychotherapy sessions that lasted for 8 hours. A male/female co-therapy team was present during all sessions, offering a supportive presence and non-directive psychotherapy. They helped create and maintain a “container” or safe space for the therapeutic experience. Because the studies were blinded, the study participants and therapy team did not know what dose they were given. Three non-drug integration sessions, when participants worked to address and bring together, or integrate, material from the MDMA-psychotherapy sessions, followed each MDMA session – one the morning after the MDMA session, and the other two during the month proceeding the next drug-assisted session.

Remarkably, the results showed that active doses of MDMA more than doubled the effect of psychotherapy alone (or with low doses of MDMA used as placebo controls). On the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-IV), scores dropped on average of -32.4 for the MDMA group and -10.4 for the placebo control group after two MDMA sessions. More participants in the active dose group (54.2%) did not meet criteria for PTSD compared to the control group (22.6%). PTSD symptoms significantly improved further after the third MDMA session, with an additional score reduction on average of -12.9.

PTSD Symptoms Improve Significantly More for Participants who Received MDMA (75-125 mg) during Psychotherapy

All doses of MDMA were well tolerated in the studies. The adverse events (undesirable effects) that occurred at greater frequency for the active MDMA group were anxiety, dizziness, jaw clenching/tight jaw, lack of appetite, and nausea. Most were mild to moderate, causing little interference with daily functioning, and resolved by the end of the session or during the week following. There were no reports or treatment discontinuation during the trial related to problematic substance use of “ecstasy” (pills that contain MDMA and other substances), supporting the low potential for developing substance use problems from taking limited doses of MDMA in a clinical setting. See the MDMA Investigator’s Brochurefor all safety information from MDMA clinical trials and reviews of the scientific literature.

What happens during MDMA-assisted psychotherapy?

The treatment approach is described in the Manual for MDMA-assisted Psychotherapy [4], built on practices that emerged during the first wave of psychedelic explorations in therapeutic contexts in the 1950-70s. As with all psychedelics, the person’s mind set and the environment where MDMA is taken, also known as set and setting, influence how a person feels and perceives the experience. For MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials, the three preparatory sessions (90 mins each) are critically important for the participant and therapists to get to know each other and establish a trusting relationship. The therapists gain an understanding of the personal history and day-to-day struggles that the person is facing. Creating a safe and supportive environment is essential for a steady foundation for the upcoming MDMA sessions. Participants also learn practical techniques to help manage anxiety and to cope with stressful situations.   

After preparing, participants have 2 to 3 MDMA sessions spaced a month apart. During these 8-hour psychotherapy sessions, participants can take a close inspection of traumatic memories while remaining emotionally engaged. Severe anxiety and dissociation are symptoms of PTSD that inhibit progress with talk therapy. A study participant at the Charleston, SC site described how different MDMA-assisted psychotherapy was compared to other therapies by saying,

“I had a lot of defenses going up into the therapies that I had previous to the MDMA, and it made accomplishing any substantial breakthroughs in what I was going through pretty impossible. So with the MDMA, it broke this hard, outer shell that was up that kept me from being able to connect with the therapies I was going through [5].”

MDMA can reduce fear and resistance to explore painful memories while allowing the person to more fully experience difficult feelings, such a pain, shame, and grief, without becoming overwhelmed or numbed out. The environment and interactions with the therapists support the therapeutic process with MDMA, as described by a person with PTSD who underwent treatment:

“I think that the MDMA gave me the ability to feel as though I was capable and safe of tackling the issues. Whereas before I feared those thoughts and I tried to avoid them at all times, and avoid things that reminded me of those thoughts, I think it allowed me to feel safe in my space. Of being able to fight it. I felt like I had the ability and tools, whereas before I was unarmed, unarmored, and had no support. And this type of environment, with (the therapists), the catalyst drug, and everything else, it felt as though I had backup. Now it was safe and I had my tools and weapons to be able to tackle the obstacles that I never had before [5].”

The combination of the drug plus therapy can facilitate a deep a healing and release of entangled emotions that may have been otherwise inaccessible. Participants describe a speeding up of a process to get to the root of where their PTSD symptoms stem.

“I just think it would have been several more years of painful maybe terrible therapy that went nowhere. I feel like this therapy really helped me get past the tears and get right to the problem and several other problems I didn’t know were related to the feeling,” said a MAPS’ trial participant [5].

It’s thought the combination of the MDMA, the therapists, and the supportive setting create optimal conditions for a person to heal their psychological wounds. The therapists offer encouragement and an empathetic presence, supporting whatever is coming up for the person without directing the therapeutic process.

Like a prism, MDMA sheds new light on a person’s past, illuminating fractured parts of the self that can be stitched back together to instill a sense of wholeness. It can be a transformative treatment that reminds a person that the present is the time and place to live, and past hardships can be reframed through a lens of compassion and empathy.  

One study participant described this as, “It was really that first MDMA session that we had, where I had that, I consider it a breakthrough, where I was able to clearly see that I had a big disconnect in compassion for myself [5].”

Novel insights and shifts of perspectives often arise, allowing for corrective experiences through the process of forgiveness, acceptance, and a sense of wellbeing. The therapists and participant continue therapeutically process during the 3 integrative sessions that follow each MDMA session.

“I’m definitely better, but I’ve got to continue on. This isn’t something that you take a pill or push a button and say, “I’m well.” (It is something I) will be working on for a long time. (But) I have definitely moved light years ahead in a short period of time [5].”

Phase 2 Outcome

The participants said as their PTSD symptoms decreased, they were more fully able to engage in life and relationships in ways that were not possible before undergoing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. At the long-term follow-up visit 12 months after completing the treatment, more people did not meet PTSD criteria (68%) than at study exit, defined as the last time their PTSD symptoms were measured (1 to 2 months after their last MDMA session).

Brains on MDMA – possible mechanisms for therapeutic effects

Because MDMA targets several neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine) and increases hormone levels (oxytocin, cortisol, vasopressin, prolactin), many neurobiological mechanisms likely underlie the therapeutic effects. Going beyond a biological explanation, psychological and psycho-spiritual aspects of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy are paramount for understanding the full spectrum of therapeutic effects.

In human brain imaging, MDMA decreases activity in the amygdala in response to negative emotional stimuli (angry facial expressions) [6], which may partially explain why people with PTSD can more readily revisit traumatic memories while staying emotional engaged. Another imaging study showed that MDMA causes more crosstalk between the amygdala and hippocampus – hubs for memory and emotional processing [7]. When trauma memories are recalled during MDMA sessions, additional information may be incorporated into the memory traces, allowing for them to be filed back in the brain in a way that signifies the threats of the past are no longer part of the present moment. This is referred to as memory reconsolidation and could be one way that MDMA is working during talk therapy [8].

Translation of findings from animal models to humans is not without limitations, but these studies can give us a better idea of how a drug is acting in the brain. MDMA has been widely investigated in rodents to understand the effects of “Ecstasy”. But most rodent experiments tested extremely high, repeated doses of MDMA that were not close to what humans consume. The dose and the context are interplaying factors, each significantly contributing to subjective experience.   

Now researchers are using doses closer in the range of those used in human clinical trial in experiments designed to mimic PTSD or further characterize MDMA. The goal is to understand what is happening in the brain to produce such dramatic improvements in PTSD symptoms, and to understand possible ways to optimize this treatment.

A recent publication in Nature found that MDMA makes social activity more rewarding to mice, similar to how mice respond when they are younger. The effects on social behaviors lasted for up to 2 weeks after MDMA. The experiments found this response depended on increased oxytocin release from MDMA-stimulated serotonin elevations in the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain important for signaling reward [9]. Prosocial effects after MDMA have also been shown in octopuses, zebra fish, and rodents [10, 11]. Social behavior between unfamiliar mice also increases with successive doses of MDMA that are moderately higher than those given to humans. These findings suggest that MDMA enhances social reward learning, which could explain the observed increased therapeutic alliance between the co-therapy team and participants undergoing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.

Other studies in rodents have posited that the reductions in PTSD symptoms are due to fear extinction and memory reconsolidation. Mice trained to associate a foot shock with an auditory tone were more quickly able to forget that the tone signified a negative stimulus when given MDMA. The effect was dependent on increased bran derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a signaling molecule involved with neuroplasticity, in the amygdala. This finding suggests new adaptations in the brain region that fires up in response to fear [12].

A different study in rats showed that MDMA blocked the reconsolidation of fear memories but failed to detect enhancement of fear extinction which relies on different pathways in the brain [13]. Discrepancy in findings between these two studies could be from the different species used (rats vs. mice) or from variations in experimental designs. A study in humans is currently underway at Emory University investigating MDMA and fear extinction with a startle response model.

As we learn more about how MDMA works in the brain when administered in specific contexts, other types of approaches and therapeutic modalities may find that MDMA can bolster treatment outcomes. New research trials are being planned to investigate this question, and also to see if MDMA-assisted psychotherapy could be useful for other psychiatric indications, such as eating disorders, substance use disorders, and other anxiety-related conditions.

Current affairs for MDMA research

In August 2017, the FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy designation for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treating PTSD after reviewing the results from the six phase 2 trials. Comparison of findings from MDMA trials to results that led to the approval of sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil) for PTSD, suggest that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy could have substantial improvement and lower overall risk than existing medications used to treat PTSD. Since MDMA is given three times in a clinic, it has fewer side effects and lower risks than take home medications that are taken daily for extended periods.

MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is now the final round of testing in two phase 3 trials. These studies will enroll approximately 200-300 participants with severe PTSD at 15 study sites in the USA, Canada, and Israel. If results replicate the phase 2 trials, then MDMA could be approved for use in therapy for treating PTSD by 2021.

 

Source: PsychedelicSupport.


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Scientists uncover 1,000-year-old shamanic pouch containing ancient hallucinogens
May 10, 2019

Scientists uncover 1,000-year-old shamanic pouch containing ancient hallucinogens

 

The remains of a fox-snout pouch believed to have been owned by a South American shaman a thousand years ago has revealed traces of powerful hallucinogenic drugs.

The ancient find indicates people were not only using single plants known to produce hallucinations, but were blending various plants to create potent compounds which could result in lengthier and more powerful trips.

Anthropologists made the rare find in the now-dry Sora River valley in southwestern Bolivia in 2010. The area has evidence of human habitation stretching back 4,000 years.

Inside a small cave they found a ritual bundle thought to have been left as part of a human burial.

The bundle – bound in a leather bag – contained, among other things, two snuffing tablets (used to pulverise psychotropic plants into snuff), a snuffing tube, for smoking hallucinogenic plants, and a pouch constructed of three fox snouts.

 

 

Radiocarbon dating revealed the age of the outer leather bag to be from between 900 to 1170AD.

The team used a scalpel to obtain a tiny scraping from the interior of the fox-snout pouch and analysed the material.

They found multiple psychoactive compounds – cocaine, benzoylecgonine (the primary metabolite of cocaine), harmine, bufotenin, dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and possibly psilocin (a compound found in some mushrooms) – which came from at least three different plant species.

The blend of drugs is very close to those used in the production of ayahuasca – a psychoactive preparation which is still taken – usually in the form of a drink – in many areas of the Amazon basin.

“We already knew that psychotropics were important in the spiritual and religious activities of the societies of the south-central Andes, but we did not know that these people were using so many different compounds and possibly combining them together,” said Jose Capriles, assistant professor of anthropology at Penn State University.

“This is the largest number of psychoactive substances ever found in a single archaeological assemblage from South America.”

According to Dr Capriles, the fox-snout pouch likely belonged to a shaman.

“Shamans were ritual specialists who had knowledge of plants and how to use them as mechanisms to engage with supernatural beings, including venerated ancestors who were thought to exist in other realms,” he said.

“It is possible that the shaman who owned this pouch consumed multiple different plants simultaneously to produce different effects or extend his or her hallucinations.”

Melanie Miller, of the University of Otago, New Zealand, and research affiliate at the University of California, Berkeley, who was responsible for analysing the samples, said the plants found in the pouch did not grow in the local area and may indicate trade networks across large areas of South America, as well as also indicating a strong knowledge of botany.

She said: “The presence of these compounds indicates the owner of this kit had access to at least three plants with psychoactive compounds, but potentially even four or five.

“None of the psychoactive compounds we found come from plants that grow in this area of the Andes, indicating either the presence of elaborate exchange networks or the movement of this individual across diverse environments to procure these special plants. This discovery reminds us that people in the past had extensive knowledge of these powerful plants and their potential uses, and they sought them out for their medicinal and psychoactive properties.”

It has also been suggested the find answers questions about when ayahuasca was first begun to be taken as a drink.

Dr Capriles said: “Some scholars believe that ayahuasca has relatively recent origins, while others argue that it may have been used for centuries, or even millennia.

“Given the presence of harmine and DMT together in the pouch we found, it is likely that this shaman ingested these simultaneously to achieve a hallucinogenic state, either through a beverage, such as ayahuasca, or through a composite snuff that contained these plants in a single mixture. This finding suggests that ayahuasca may have been used up to 1,000 years ago.”

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Health Canada allows more religious groups to import ayahuasca
May 09, 2019

Health Canada allows more religious groups to import ayahuasca

 

Health Canada has granted three more special exemptions to religious groups to allow them to import ayahuasca, a tea that contains hallucinogens that are banned in Canada and the U.S., Global News has learned.

That brings the total number of ayahuasca exemptions to five, according to Health Canada.

The exemptions allow the religious groups to freely practise their main sacrament without legal infringement. They will also pave the way for researchers to study the effects — and potential benefits — of ayahuasca.

The first two ayahuasca exemptions were granted to groups in Montreal in 2017, as reported by VICE last year.

Since then, three new applicants have received their own exemptions, which last for two years and are renewable. The three new exemptions were granted to the Ceu da Divina Luz do Montreal, the Église Santo Daime Céu do Vale de Vida in Val-David, Que., and the Ceu de Toronto.

READ MORE: A hallucinogen that heals? One B.C. psychotherapist’s experience with ayahuasca

Canada’s federal health agency has the ability to exempt people and substances from aspects of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for medical, scientific or public interest purposes. Ayahuasca is brewed from plants that contain the prohibited hallucinogens harmaline and dimethyltryptamine, otherwise known as DMT.

Jessica Rochester, president of Céu do Montreal, which obtained one of the first two ayahuasca exemptions in 2017, told Global News it was the first time such an exemption was granted for religious purposes. She said it took more than 15 years to complete the process due to a number of hurdles.

In spiritualistic settings, a shaman will typically provide ayahuasca, which can induce vomiting and hallucinations. These types of rituals have been carried out in the Amazon for centuries by Indigenous peoples. The Santo Daime church was founded in the Brazilian Amazon in the 1930s. It combines different religious traditions, including aspects of shamanism and Christianity.

“These exemptions provide the aforementioned applicant’s designated members, senior members and registrants with the authority to possess, provide, transport, import, administer and destroy Daime Tea (ayahuasca), as applicable, when carrying out activities related to their religious practice,” Health Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette wrote in an email to Global News.

Rochester said she has formed a medical and scientific advisory committee to support local and international research into ayahuasca use.

She said that she would encourage any group offering unregulated ayahuasca to go through the exemption process to become legitimate and that she is wary of groups that have not done so.

“Many of us in the field are concerned about ‘ayahuasca tourism,’” Rochester told Global News. “The main problem is that the human species wants to feel better now.”

“People grab onto what looks like the nearest fix,” she said.

Brian Rush, an addictions researcher at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, has been evaluating a treatment program in Peru that uses ayahuasca, which is legal there. He said there’s robust research that shows how ayahuasca can help people deal with health concerns such as depression and addiction.

“It opens that window into repressed emotions and feelings and memories,” Rush told Global News. “The therapeutic benefits seem to be there.”

However, Rush is concerned about the unregulated ceremonies that he said are “all over the place” and warns that people who have a history with mental health issues such as psychosis should avoid it. But overall, he is hopeful about its effectiveness.

“This is not like people doing acid at a rave. Something helpful is going on,” Rush said. “People are getting benefits, and we don’t exactly understand how or why. We need to do more.”

Source: GlobalNews.

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Denver voters approve decriminalizing "magic mushrooms"
May 09, 2019

Denver voters approve decriminalizing "magic mushrooms"

Editor's note: This story has been updated and corrected. An earlier version, based on incomplete vote results, mistakenly reported that the measure had failed. 

A final update from the Denver Election Division on Wednesday afternoon revealed that voters approved a measure to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms, CBS Denver reported. The vote came in as 50.56% yes to 49.44% no. 

The numbers are still "unofficial until the Canvass and Certification of the Municipal General Election on May 16." The margin for recount stands at one-half of one percent.

Earlier this year, the group supporting the measure — Initiative 301, the Denver Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative — gathered enough signatures for the question to be added to the local election ballot.

The measure would allow the use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms by adults 21 and older in Denver and the city will become the first municipality in the U.S. to decriminalize what some call "magic mushrooms."

 

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Campaign manager for the Denver Psilocybin Initiative Kevin Matthews poses on May 7, 2019.GETTY

Jeff Hunt, Vice President of Public Policy at Colorado Christian University and Director the Centennial Institute, called the use of "magic mushrooms" a "serious problem," and said "Denver is quickly becoming the illicit drug capital of the world," CBS Denver reported ahead of the vote. Colorado voted in 2012 to become one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana.

"When you look at all the things that we're dealing with, you have high-potency pot, you have proposals for supervised needle infection sights," Hunt said. "The psychedelic mushroom folks are following the same playbook that marijuana did. They're starting with decriminalization and then they're going to move on to commercialization."

Those who already use mushrooms for medical reasons were looking forward to the drug's decriminalization. "I don't think that people should be criminalized or looked upon differently because they are required to take something that can make them feel this much better," one 54-year-old patient currently using psilocybin mushrooms told CBS Denver. The ballot measure didn't differentiate between the medical and recreational use of mushrooms.  

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World-first Centre for Psychedelics Research launched in UK
May 08, 2019

World-first Centre for Psychedelics Research launched in UK

 

In an incredible milestone, representing the ongoing legitimization of psychedelic science, a formal facility dedicated to the study of psychedelics has been launched at Imperial College London. While the newly established Centre for Psychedelics Research is not the only major psychedelic research group in the world, it is the first to be officially integrated into a large academic institution.

The Centre will be led by Robin Carhart-Harris, a leading UK figure in the new wave of psychedelic research. Carhart-Harris has worked for well over a decade in the field of psychopharmacology, and is known for completing the first modern brain imaging study of the effects of LSD.

"This new Centre represents a watershed moment for psychedelic science; symbolic of its now mainstream recognition," says Carhart-Harris. "Psychedelics are set to have a major impact on neuroscience and psychiatry in the coming years. It's such a privilege to be at the forefront of one of the most exciting areas in medical science. I am immensely grateful to the donors who have made all of this possible."

The Centre is funded by over £3 million (US$3.8 million) in donations from five founding donors, and its initial research strands will investigate the clinical utility of psychedelics in mental health care, and the fundamental actions of psychedelics on the brain.

One fascinating trial already underway by Carhart-Harris and the Imperial research team is an investigation into psilocybin as treatment for major depressive disorder. Psilocybin, the major psychoactive component in magic mushrooms, was just last year granted a Breakthrough Therapy designation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), suggesting the treatment demonstrates significant potential in early clinical evidence.

This latest randomized control trial is set to be the first to directly compare the effects of psilocybin on depression against a conventional SSRI antidepressant drug. Another trial is being prepared to look at the efficacy of psilocybin as a treatment for anorexia.

"It may take a few years for psychedelic therapy to be available for patients, but research so far has been very encouraging," says Carhart-Harris. "Early stage clinical research has shown that when delivered safely and professionally, psychedelic therapy holds a great deal of promise for treating some very serious mental health conditions and may one day offer new hope to vulnerable people with limited treatment options."

Watch Carhart-Harris further discuss the new Centre for Psychedelics Research in the video below.

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What It’s Like to Take LSD in High Security Prison
May 07, 2019

What It’s Like to Take LSD in High Security Prison

Prison involves many things associated with bad trips: enclosed spaces, law enforcement, and violent people who might fuck with your psychedelic-stuffed head. For prisoners, though, a hit of LSD can expand the mind, as well as the walls of their cells.

Inside the belly of the beast isn’t the ideal place to take a hit of acid. Prison involves most things people associate with bad trips: enclosed spaces, law enforcement, ugly rooms, and bleak environments—plus, violent people who might fuck with your psychedelic-stuffed head. For lack of a better comparison, it’s more Shawshank Redemption than Alice in Wonderland.

Prisoners like drugs, though. When you’re locked up, it’s easy to want to escape reality through any means possible, and drugs are an effective method to make that happen. Many will settle for weed, hooch, or synthetic shit, but name a substance and chances are there’s a way to smuggle it into your cell unit, regardless of where you’re incarcerated.

I was a nonviolent offender who got sentenced for an LSD conspiracy, and met a variety of psychedelic enthusiasts during my 20-plus years behind bars. I found a way to get my hands on some acid when I was in jail, and it was a severely fucked experience. For other people, though, taking a hit didn’t just expand the mind, it expanded the prison walls. It’s a far cry from a rave or a Grateful Dead show, but it can be a life-changing experience. Below are three stories about what it’s like to trip while living in a high security prison, starting with my own experience.

Seth Ferranti
44 Years Old
Served 21 Years for an LSD Conspiracy Charge

You could say I’m an acid veteran. Prior to spending over 20 years behind bars for an LSD conspiracy conviction , I had taken legitimately thousands of hits. After I ended up in prison, though, I didn’t really think about tripping much, likely because it was what got me locked up in the first place. Instead, I became a weed man. I would smuggle it in, sell it, smoke it; I didn’t let a 25-year sentence stop me from selling drugs in any of the seven prisons I lived in. Regardless of where I was locked up, I’d manage to smuggle in bud by swallowing balloons full of the stuff.

Fast forward a couple years, and I began thinking about changing my outlook on life in prison. A hit of acid sounded like the necessary remedy. Being in prison can feel like having blinders on reality, and sometimes you just have to open the doors of perception. It was time for me to expand my awareness outside of the bubble of incarceration that I found myself trapped in.

In 2005, I was at the Federal Correctional Institution Fairton, New Jersey, and my girl was supposed to bring some balloons of weed for me to swallow during a visit. I asked her in advance if she could bring me some acid, too.

When I hit the dance floor, what prisoners call the visiting room, my girl arrived with bad news. She couldn’t score any good pot to balloon up in time, but she did have a tab of “Blue Unicorn” LSD for me. She went to the vending machine, bought me a hamburger, put it in the microwave, and put the tab of acid in the mustard she spread on the snack. I greedily devoured the sandwich, expecting to be tripping in the visiting room with my girl very soon. But things turned out a bit differently.

It felt like a movie, but it would take a seriously twisted individual to imagine a more existentially fucked psychedelic experience.

I had been bringing a lot of weed in to Fairton, and this happened to be the day a compound snitch ratted me out to the correctional officers. Not even an hour into the visit, they pounced on me, made my girl leave (after searching her and coming up empty handed), and dragged my sorry ass to the hole. The spiked burger was likely settling in my big intestine by the time they made their move.

As my pupils began to dilate and my vision got funny, I was brought to what they call a dry cell in the Special Housing Unit: No running water, no mattress, no pillow, no toilet… nothing. They stripped me naked and checked my orifices to make sure I wasn’t concealing anything before giving me a bed sheet and a pair of underwear. They had a big window in the front of the cell so they could observe me, and there was a video camera set up to keep an extra eye on me, too. I’m not sure what the guards manning the camera were expecting to see, but the footage probably only showed a terrified inmate who happened to be tripping balls on the low. It felt like a movie, but it would take a seriously twisted individual to imagine a more existentially fucked psychedelic experience.

I splayed my sheet on the metal bed and laid down under the bright lights that were shining on me. I was familiar with the narc routine, even though I’d never been in a dry cell before. Over the next 48 hours—longer than the trip itself—the guards would make me defecate at least five times in a plastic bowl lined with a clear garbage bag so they could search through my shit and look for drugs.

As the prison lieutenant searched my shit bowl, I anxiously watched him as the acid toyed with my senses. I knew I was clean (for once), but the drugs triggered an inescapable paranoia that they’d find something. What if there were balloons in my shit? What if there was one baggie that somehow got stuck in my gut and was finally coming out now? I was fucking losing it. By the time I passed every possible inspection, my psyche felt like it had been put in a microwave alongside that burger. To say the experience was a living hell would be an understatement.

I chilled out a bit once the hallucinogen wore off, but it’s not like you can immediately snap out of something like that. For the remainder of my time in the hole, I mostly laid down on the cold, metal bed and tried not to melt into a puddle as the cameras continued to watch my every move and the fluorescent lights remained on.

I imagined my first psychedelic experience in prison to be an escape outside the barbed wire-lined walls, but it ended up bringing me deeper into the incarceration abyss. Needless to say, I have never taken a hit of acid since.

 

John ‘Judge’ Broman
35 Years Old
Serving 16 Years for a Bank Robbery Charge

I was a Deadhead while living on the outside—a yoga-loving, marijuana-smoking, LSD-tripping hippie fool. I also dabbled in heroin, and that’s how I ended up in federal prison with a 16-and-a-half-year bid for a bank robbery that was committed to feed my habit. I smoked tons of weed and drank massive quantities of hooch in jail, but I’d never come up on any acid until I was eight years into my sentence.

I believe that LSD is a sacrament. It should be used as a tool to “get you there,” but where you go is all a matter of perspective. I was locked up in United States Penitentiary Pollack when I had the chance to take that journey after my conviction. A Deadhead buddy of mine had already done time in the feds, and he knew how to get all sorts of contraband into a prison like the one I was in. When he sent me a healthy stash of LSD through the mail, though, it looked like the most obvious shit in the world: a Dr. Seuss card that said, “Oh the places you’ll go!” with a huge, noticeable splotch on it where he’d squirted the acid. He had tried masking the splotch by using markers to color around it, but that made it even less subtle. Regardless, it still made its way into the prison and into my hands.

Pollack was a pen where violence was common, and walking around during the day with a head full of acid was not a reality I wanted to experience. They say you can turn your back on a man, but never turn your back on a drug. In jail, I didn’t want to turn my back on either. So I schemed in advance and gathered a crew of trusted cellmates and planned where and when we’d eat the psychedelics. The gang included my celly, fresh in for drug trafficking with a couple life sentences under his paisley bandana, and a 20-something former tweaker who had never done acid but always wanted to. We planned to drop the LSD at night, after they locked us into our cell unit where it was safe and secure.

They say you can turn your back on a man, but never turn your back on a drug. In jail, I didn’t want to turn my back on either.

Around 9 PM, the drugs started kicking in. In our cell, we had two acoustic guitars, a bass, and a bumping sound system with an amp and stolen speakers we racked from the laundry room. With the acid coursing through our bodies, we needed something to vibe on.

We turned off the lights and lit homemade candles and incense throughout the cell. The three of us then started playing punk songs with the volume down low so we wouldn’t get caught, and we spent the next couple hours jamming quietly into the night. It felt like a séance with live music.

After a certain point, my celly fell into a depression as the fact that he was doing a life sentence started to seep into his brain. I, on the other hand, got back to “me,” and started thinking about the eight years of prison I had ahead of me. For the first time since being locked up, the idea that I’d eventually get out felt real. I was stuck in the penitentiary, but not forever. I had a date. My incarceration wouldn’t define the entirety of my life—an epiphany that was life-changing itself.

The rest of the trip was smooth, but the experience marked a checkpoint for me. The remainder of the time I had left to serve became shorter. When people would ask me how long I had left, I’d reply, “I’m going home soon.” They’d ask how long and I’d say eight years. They’d laugh and tell me not to hold my breath, or whatever. When you are doing multiple decades as a young man, the sentence seems endless. But thanks to that Dr. Seuss card, I knew “The places you’ll go!” line meant anywhere other than the pen.

Tim
47 Years Old
Serving a Life Sentence for an LSD Conspiracy Charge

In 1993, I was stuck in a county jail, waiting to be sent to the feds for a long time for an LSD conspiracy charge. I had been there six months and was spending my time sleeping 22 hours a day and eating Twinkies from the commissary nonstop to help me cope with the severe depression I was feeling about my impending sentence. In less than six months in the county jail, I gained 55 pounds.

I knew if I could get some acid then I’d have a chance of living before going to the pen. My birthday came, and friends on the outside sent me 30 hits of acid through the mail—six of them under each postage stamp like how the Deadheads would send LSD across the country. I took three tabs later that night.

As I tripped, I imagined seeing a world stage with the Grateful Dead there, along with a man I’d identify as President Obama years later, believe it or not. This was before he was president and I didn’t know who he was at the time, but I believe I saw him, or someone who looked like him. I imagined walking on to the stage and shaking his hand. It was an eye-opening experience and it snapped me out of the malaise I was drowning in. The next day I started exercising and decided I wanted to live again, despite the time I was facing.

When I went to actual prison at USP Atlanta in 1994, a friend was sent an eight-and-a-half-by-eleven piece of paper that was covered with hits of acid. Somehow they missed it in the prison mailroom. There had to be over 1,000 hits on the sheet. After that, me and my prison friends were tripping all the time. It was like being on tour with the Dead.

For the most part, I only took LSD at night in prison so I could remember the band and appreciate the drug as a sacrament. One time, though, my friends talked me into taking some at 7 AM. As fate would have it, they called me into the Lieutenant’s office at nine. I’d taken three hits and was flying. I played it cool, but it was enough to make me think before taking it so casually in the pen again.

Several years after tripping in the county jail, I received a book filled with a dozen hits as another unreal birthday gift. When I took this acid, I saw the same stage with the president and the Dead I had imagined nearly two decades priors. I recognized Obama this time, and came to the conclusion that it must have been him I envisioned during that first trip in prison. Maybe it had to do with fantasies of being granted clemency from Obama—cause that’s the only way I’m getting out of my life sentence. If I didn’t eat those three hits hidden under the postage stamps so many years ago, I don’t think I would have survived this long.

Source https://www.vice.com

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25 Great Psychedelic movies that you must see
May 07, 2019

25 Great Psychedelic movies that you must see

 

Psychedelia in film is characterized by distortion (both in image and in sound), experimentation in narrative and editing, and sometimes drug-inspired hallucinations. Like the psychoactive drugs which produce heightened sensory perceptions and distortion, psychedelic films present to their audience an unfamiliar and/or dream-like view of reality.

The following films use cinematography, narration, editing, sound design, and music to create worlds of distortion. Whether the film is depicting drug-induced madness or creating an atomsphere of existential confusion, these films somehow experiment with the audience’s sensory perceptions in order to uproot the viewer from reality. These films welcome (or in some cases, force) the audience to interact with a plethora of psychedelic imagery, sounds, and/or narration.

1. Un Chien Andalou (1929) dir. Luis Buñuel

Un chien andalou (1929)

Even though Buñuel’s classic surrealist short film precurses psychedelia, the distorted narrative and dream-like imagery give it a psychedelic presence that influenced many films later on. His film is a perfect example of surrealism, a style of art which utilizes symbolism and the irrationality of the unconcious mind.Un Chien Andalou was Buñuel’s first film, and was written in conjunction with Salvador Dalí, the prominent surrealist painter. The film opens with a barber slicing open a woman’s eye, as if to suggest to the viewer to symbolically throw off preconcieved notions and to see with new eyes.The 20 minutes that follow are set to fragments of Wagner’s “Liebestod,” a dramatic piece of opera from Tristan und Isolde, that never quite comes to climax, making the film even more unnerving. Buñuel confuses his viewer by jumping back and forth in time with subtitles that proclaim “Eight years later” or “Sixteen years ago.” There is no overt plot, but rather an amalgam of surrealistic images. We are presented with distorted religious symbology, such as ants crawling out from a stigmatic hand of the protagonist (a young unnamed man played by Pierre Batcheff), and dream-like scenarios- for instance, the young man dragging a piano topped with a dead donkey carcass and two priests in his pursuit of a young woman (Simone Mareuil).Such images, surrealistic in nature, create a distorted sense of reality, a quality found in many psychedelic films.

 

2. The Red Shoes (1948) dir. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

The-Red-Shoes

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s classic film The Red Shoes incorporates Expressionistic sets and costumes, subjective point of view shots, and passionate performances to tell the story of a young woman, dancer Victoria Page (Moira Shearer), torn between her love for a young man and her love of dance. The dance sequence performed toward the end of the film captivates the viewer with its mesmerizing, painted landscapes and POV shots which sublty bring Victoria’s subconcious thoughts and fears to the forefront. Victoria “Vicky” Page is a young talented ballet dancer, eager to join a company. She meets the fierce Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), director of a renown ballet company. After realizing her talent in a small production of Swan Lake, Lermontov casts Vicky in his ballet of The Red Shoes, based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of a young woman whose red shoes possess her to dance to death. Vicky then meets the young composer of the ballet, Julian Craster (Marius Goring) and the two fall in love, to the distress of Lermontov. Vicky is soon caught between the two men, forced to choose between the love of her life and her passion for her art. Powell and Pressburger’s glorious Technicolor illuminates the passions of the film’s characters. The Oscar-winning sets provide an hallucinatory backdrop to the exceptional dance sequence, which brings Vicky’s fiery and tormented emotions to the limelight. The subtle POV shots during this sequence add to the psychological drama, and bring the viewer even further into Vicky’s mind. A precursor of psychedelic filmmaking, The Red Shoes fuses hallucinatory elements into a mainstream film, which makes it a classic that continues to inspire modern filmmakers, such as Martin Scorsese and Brian de Palma.

 

3. Daisies (1966) dir. Věra Chytilová

daisies movie

Made during the Czech New Wave film movement by Czechoslovakia’s first female film director, Daisies is a revolutionary experimental film. Without following any real plot, the film is led by two impish young women as they whip up fun for themselves (and cause trouble in the process).Věra Chytilová turns social mores on their head, as her two heroines, both named Marie (Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová) frolic through the film without a care. The two Maries laze around in bikinis and lingerie, create drunken mayhem at a nightclub, and destroy a fancy banquet, among other subversive acts.The film explores different film stocks, spontaneous eruptions into collage, and otherwise consistently plays with the medium of film itself, creating a highly self aware piece of art. Banned upon release, the film depicts a destructive playfulness that Czech authorities apparently found dangerous. There is a political undertone to the film with World War II film stock intercut amongst the characters’ antics. Daisies stirs up the audience with its Puckish protagonists and psychedelic imagry and editing.

 

4. Point Blank (1967) dir. John Boorman

Point Blank (1967)

John Boorman’s neo-noir thriller, Point Blank is an hypnotic film of a man’s thirst for revenge. The pacing, color choices, and atmospheric music, led by Lee Marvin’s deadpan portrayal of Walker, yields a mesmerizing experience for the viewer.Shot and left for dead on Alcatraz Island, Walker returns to San Francisco to take revenge and claim his half of a crime he helped commit. With the help of the mysterious Yost (Keenan Wynn), Walker sets off on his journey for retribution.Along the way, he finds that the man who wronged him, Reese (John Vernon) not only stole his money and left him on Alcatraz, but he stole his wife Lynn (Sharon Acker), who is now a depressive, emotionless wreck living in guilt for double crossing Walker. After Lynn overdoses on sleeping pills, Walker finds Lynn’s sister Chris (Angie Dickinson) who helps him get closer to Reese.The film’s pacing, which goes from a slow and moody atmosphere to periods of intense violence and action creates a lulling hypnosis which the viewer is then startled from. Color plays a role in the atmospheric tone of the film- for example, Lynn’s silver grey apartment reflects her drab unfeeling character, riddled with guilt.Walker’s suits change color based on his location, giving him a mysterious chameleon-like quality. The story ends where it begins, on Alcatraz Island, leaving the film ambiguous as to whether the events that occur are a dream, reality, or if Walker is in fact a ghost.

 

5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) dir. Stanley Kubrick

2001 a space odyssey

Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece is an awe-inspiring, brilliant piece of art. The film’s stunning visuals combined with the grandeur of the classical music scores and György Ligeti’s haunting, dissonant avant garde music produces a filmic experience like no other. Kubrick’s exploration of the history and future of humankind excites the viewer’s senses as it leads us to confront the great unknown of space and time. The film opens with the dawn of man as we witness the first protohumans utilizing tools for the first time in history. Through a graphic match cut, the prehuman tool becomes a spacecraft and we are transported to the future as humans have evolved and are now masters of their tools. The space craft is on a mission to investigate a mysterious object recently uncovered on a lunar crater. A giant black monolith, also discovered on Earth by the protohumans earlier in the film, looms in this crater. We are to rediscover this black monolith again in the film. Next, we are on the Discovery One, a spaceship headed for Jupiter. Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea), Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), and three other astronauts, in a state of cyrogenic slumber, are on a secret mission guided by the ship’s talking computer, HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain). At this point, man loses control of his tools, as the computer’s intelligence superceeds that of the astronauts. Pitted against HAL, Bowman manages to take control of the ship and continues on the mission alone, traversing the wild unknown. The film’s Beyond the Infinite sequence with its streaks of light in space and Ligeti’s dissonant chorus produce an intensely psychedelic experience. 2001’s enigmatic ending leaves the viewer spellbound and speechless. Kubrick exquisitely captures man’s existential journey into uncharted territory.

 

6. Easy Rider (1969) dir. Dennis Hopper

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One of the America’s first counterculture films, Easy Rider captures the lifestyle of the hippie movement and how it interacts with the mainstream. Director Dennis Hopper and producer Peter Fonda also star in this pop culture hit as two hippie motorcyclists traveling through the American Southwest into the deep South. The film is not only historic in its depiction of the counterculture, but also in its realistic drug scenes (the actors actually injested the drugs their characters are shown using). Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) sell cocaine to a dealer and use their earnings to fund their roadtrip to New Orleans for the upcoming Mardi Gras celebration. Along the way, the two pick up a hitchhiker who lead them to a commune, filled with young hippies practicing free love and shared living. Continuing on their journey, the two are arrested in a local town for “parading without a permit.” There, Wyatt and Billy meet George Hanson (Jack Nicholson), a drunkard lawyer in jail. George helps them out of jail and the three of them resume their pilgramage to Mardi Gras. The three are confronted with the ignorant, “square” communities in the South, who see the trio’s presence as a threat. The film does an amazing job capturing the sociopolitical climate of the time. We see firsthand how feared the hippies were to mainstream culture, and how the counterculture was driven by a yearning for freedom. The scenes depicting drug use, especially the cemetary sequence in which Wyatt and Billy drop acid with two prostitutes, Karen (Karen Black) and Mary (Toni Basil), give the film an intense and disorienting component. The unscripted LSD scene involves jump cuts, displaced, fear-filled and remorseful dialogue, and a mix of distorted imagery, such as the use of a fish-eye lense and close-ups of the sun. The psychedelic scenes mixed with the documentary style realism gives the film a palpable sense of the time.

 

7. Zabriskie Point (1970) dir. Michelangelo Antonioni

Zabriskie-Point

One part documentary-like realism, one part fanciful psychedelic desert trip, Antonioni’s American film offers its audience various aspects of life during the height of the counterculture. Although not critically well received, Antonioni’s cult classic remains a milestone of psychedelic filmmaking with its beautiful desert landscapes, hypnotic fantasy sequences, and a tailor made soundtrack from artists such as The Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd. The plot is pieced around two young adults, Mark (Mark Frechette) and Daria (Daria Halprin), who meet in Death Valley. The film opens at a students’ protest meeting, where Mark is in attendance, with the overarching question of what makes a revolutionary. We follow Mark as he watches his friends in this group get tear-gassed, beaten, and one student shot by the police in a protest. A police officer is shot and Mark is their suspect after he runs from the scene. He steals a small plane at a local airport and flies to the desert. Meanwhile, Daria is driving through a ghost town on her way to Pheonix to meet her corporate boss (and perhaps also her lover), Lee (Rod Taylor). Mark spots Daria’s car in the sky and flies down to meet her. The two cavort through the desert together before facing the dim realities that lie before them in civilization.Antonioni’s film captures the recklessness of youth in this film that explores revolution and America’s counterculture. The dream-like scenes (including a sensual desert love scene that erupts into an orgy of sand covered bodies) transport this film from realism into earthy psychedelia.

 

8. The Devils (1971) dir. Ken Russell

The_Devils

Ken Russell’s controversial 1971 film incorporates sexually explicit hallucinatory sequences into this story based on the supposed demonic possessions in that took place in 17th Century Loudon, France. An order of Ursuline nuns begin to exhibit wild, uncontrolled behavior thought to be led by Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed), a proud priest, who has recently gained political control of Loudon. Sister Jeanne des Anges (Vanessa Redgrave), the sexually repressed hunchback Mother Superior of the convent becomes infatuated with Grandier, and her striking sexual fantasies haunt her guilty conscious.Once word of Grandier’s secret marriage to another woman reaches Jeanne, she collapses into fits of hysteria and claims to have been possessed by the Devil through Grandier. Other nuns in the convent also claim to be possessed and the convent explodes into a frenzy of sexual outbursts and bizarre public exorcisms.Russell boldly depicts the effects of sexual oppression mixed with religious mania. The censored scenes of the “demonic possessions” include a psychedelic orgy of naked nuns “raping” a statue of Christ and Sister Jeanne masturbating with a human bone. The uncut version of The Devils is a mind blowing, audacious exploration of ecstasy (both religious and sexual).

 

9. Wake in Fright (1971) dir. Ted Kotcheff

wake in fright

A relatively unnoticed 1971 Austrialian film, which was only recently restored in 2009 and released by Drafthouse Films, Wake in Fright is a nightmarish slice of life set in a barren small town in Australia. With its psychological, eerie tone (evoking an episode of The Twilight Zone), it puts the viewer in the mind of John Grant (Gary Bond), the film’s protagonist, as he slowly succumbs to his fate within “the Yabba.” John Grant is a school teacher in the tiny town of Tiboonda in the Austrialian Outback, who is eager to travel to Sydney to meet his girlfriend over Christmas Break. With luggage in hand he gets on a bus to Bundanyabba (affectionately nicknamed “the Yabba” by its inhabitants), in order to fly to Syndey the next morning. During his night there, John is immediately struck by an indefinable strangeness of the town. He is beckoned to join the drunken stupor that characterizes the town’s male population by the forceful friendliness of Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty), a local policeman.  After a few drinks, John participates in the town’s favorite gambling game, to which he loses all his money, and his ticket out of the Austrialian Outback. Taken under the wing of Doc Tydon (Donald Pleasence), a self aware cynic and (the town’s only intellectual), John is driven to the point of desperation and the brink of insanity in his dusty prison. The film’s moody tone as well as the superb characterization of life in an empty mining town puts the viewer in same psychological state of despair as John Grant. His intermittent daydreams, fantasies, and drunken hallucinations give us insight into his mind as we see and feel first-hand how his hopes are crushed by the stark desolation of the Yabba.

 

10. The Devil (Diabel) (1972) dir. Andrzej Żuławski

the devil

Żuławski takes his viewer to the roots of insanity through his passionate saga vividly illustrating the monstrosties of war. The sensational performances and dynamic camera work take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster through the depths of hell. Amid the Prussian Invasion of Poland in 1793, a Polish nobleman named Jakub is imprisoned in a destroyed monestary turned hospital/jail/insane asylum. A mysterious, diabolical stranger on a white horse saves Jakub and the two of them, as well as a silent nun, embark to visit Jakub’s family and friends, whose lives are now crumbling. Jakub is driven to madness by the horrors around him, and with the stranger’s fiendish coaxing, Jakub commits brutal acts of violence (mirroring the all encompassing violence that surrounds him).Originally banned in Poland upon release, Żuławski’s film delves into the shattered psyche of the inhabitants of war ravaged Poland. There are no understated emotions in Żuławski’s film; every character in the film goes through hysterical fits of rage, devastation, and/or lunacy. With the emotional extremes expressed by the characters, the disorienting camera work (that includes POV shots and handheld roving shots), and the wild, lo-fi musical score, The Devil presents its viewer with the chaotic sensory experience of a living nightmare.

 

11. Behind the Green Door (1972) dir. Artie Mitchell and Jim Mitchell

behind the green door

This feature-length pornographic film, released during the Golden Age of American porn, is as psychedelic as it is sexy. A young woman (Marilyn Chambers) is kidnapped and taken to a mysterious location where she is hypnotised and led on stage in front of an audience. In a state of hypnosis, she takes part in a series of erotic performances. During the sexual activites, the music slows into a ritualistic drone while the images saturate in color and overlap, lulling the audience into a trace-like state. Through the use of color saturation, music, and slow motion, the Mitchell Brothers mimick the state of hypnosis, creating a kinky psychedelic experience.

 

12. The Holy Mountain (1973) dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky

The Holy Mountain

No psychedelic film list would be complete without a Jodorowsky film. The Holy Mountain, a surreal masterpiece abundant with religious symbology and references to Christianity, Tarot, and Alchemy, takes the viewer on a mind-bending spiritual journey. Like Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou, the film opens with a symbolic and ritualistic action. A cloacked figure takes two women dressed like Marilyn Monroe and sheds them of their societal regalia, removing their make-up, stripping them naked, and shaving their heads. Similar to Buñuel’s slicing of the eye, Jodorowsky is making a symbolic statement to the audience, to shed themselves of their societal standards and cultrually biased values. He then presents to the viewer a film that follows one man, known as the Thief (Horacio Salinas), and his mystical odyssey. A Christ-like figure, the Thief, is found laying in pile of mud and garbage by a little person without hands or feet. The two go into town, where the people are performing a kind of religious ceremony, carrying crucified dogs while simutaneously executing groups of people, to the entertainment of tourists. After the people of the town make a wax cast of his body for their mass-produced sculptures resembling Christ, the Thief journeys up a mysterious red tower and meets an Alchemist (Alejandro Jodorowsky), who leads the Thief on a path of enlightenment. Jodorowsky has a way of creating original religious iconography. His film uses entracing music, symbolic characters, and surreal visuals in order to dissociate the viewer from common religious beliefs and typical cultural values. Jodorowsky immerses the viewer in his own world, an amalgam of mystical philosophies.

 

13. Fantastic Planet (La Planète sauvage) (1973) dir. René Laloux

fantastic-planet

This French/Czechoslovakian animated film introduces a strange, alien world in which tiny humans are governed by large humanoid creatures within a desert landscape brimming with monstrous exotic animals. This psychedelic science fiction adventure enmeshes the viewer into its bizarre microcosm. In this realm, humans, known as Oms, live in tribes in the wild, while the large blue humanoid creatures with unblinking red eyes, known as Traags, control the planet. One day, a few young Traags are playing with an Om and her infant child. Things get a little rough and the Om is killed, leaving her orphan son.A young Traag named Tiwa is passing by with her father and asks to take the baby Om home as a pet, to which her father agrees. Tiwa raises her pet Om, naming him Terr, and begins to form a strong bond with him. As Tiwa recieves her daily lessons through a portable headset, Terr listens and discovers the history behind Oms and Traags. He escapes with the headset, joins a group of Oms, and educates them, leading to an Om uprising.Laloux’s imaginative story serves as a socio-political allegory, perhaps alluding to the Soviet forces controlling Eastern European states at the time. Regardless, the creative cut-out stop motion animation, with its foreign landscape, freakish creatures, and occasional hallucinagenic movement creates an eccentric head trip of a film.

 

14. The Wicker Man (1973) dir. Robin Hardy

thewickerman

This 1973 British cult film is experimental at its core as it plays with genre expectations, which baffle its viewer, and create an unusual filmic experience. One part investigative suspense, one part musical, and one part psychological horror, The Wicker Man infuses ancient pagan practices into the story of a police officer uncovering the mystery of a lost Scottish girl. A young girl named Rowan Morrison is reported missing on a Scottish island called Summerisle and Sergant Howie (Edward Woodward) goes to investigate. Once on the island, Howie, who is a pious Christian saving himself for his wedding night, is shocked by the sacreligious pagan beliefs carried on by the people of the island. They are sexually free and seem to communicate mainly through song. Undetered, Howie attempts to get to the bottom of the Rowan Morrison disapperance, but instead finds himself delving deeper into Summerisle’s traditions of Druidism. Robin Hardy has no problem experimenting with style in storytelling and genre. The folk music in the film acts as a storytelling device, mainly by issuing information subconciously to the protagonist (and the audience) as to the pagan belief systems that exsist on the island. The Wicker Man’s soundtrack is well known to folk music fans, and may have influenced later psychedelic folk (a song from the film is included on a Psychedelic Folk compliation A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding in Your Mind: Volume 1). Genre in the film is not clear cut, as it experiments with multiple tools from various genres. The aforementioned musical aspects mixed with the unsettling suspense and dark religious undertones yields a compelling and unique movie experience.

 

15. 3 Women (1977) dir. Robert Altman

3 Women

Robert Altman’s enigmatic film captures the subtle strangeness of his characters within a destitute desert landscape. The psychedelic aspect of the film comes out in its ethereal tone, which, from start to finish, remains somewhat unsettling. The eerie music combined with the dreamy performances result in an otherworldly feel that sticks with the audience even after the film has ended. The film begins at a health spa for the elderly and disabled, where Pinkie Rose (Sissy Spacek) is starting work. She meets Millie Lammoreaux (Shelley Duvall), and answers Millie’s ad for a roommate. Somewhat spaced-out, Pinkie struggles to appease Millie, who herself struggles for the attention and popularity she feels she deserves. The two of them regular a local bar/shooting range where the bar owner, Edgar (Robert Fortier), and his wife Willie (Janice Rule) live. The very pregnant Willie quietly paints ominous murals while Millie vies for the attention of the drunken Edgar. After a failed suicide attempt on the part of Pinkie, the dynamics (and identities) of the women begin to shift. The film reportedly was inspired by a dream Robert Altman had, which he adapted into a screenplay, and filmed, with the complete financial support of 20th Century Fox due to the director’s reputation. Altman achieves his dream-like state in this film, with its illusive characters, moody music, and exquisite direction.

 

16. Suspiria (1977) dir. Dario Argento

Suspiria-movie

With its expressionistic production design and creepy soundtrack from Italian prog rock band Goblin, Argento’s cult classic is as trippy as it is eerie. A young American ballet dancer, Suzy (Jessica Harper), moves to Germany to join a reknown ballet academy. However, upon arrival she realizes something at this school is awry: when she rings the front buzzer for entry, a mysterious woman doesn’t let her in, and that night two women are brutally murdered. After a weird encounter with one of the academy’s servants, Suzy faints. Things only get weirder during the course of the film with a variety of strange occurances and more mysterious deaths. The film’s striking colors (especially the vivid reds), Art Nouveau-inspired architecture, and chilling musical score create a stylish and frightful hallucination.

 

17. Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night (1979) dir. Werner Herzog

Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

Werner Herzog’s remake of the classic vampire tale takes the time-honored story to another level with his darkly poetic and hypnotic film. Herzog’s Dracula, played by the fascinating Klaus Kinski, is characterized as more of shriveled old man yearning for love than a fierce blood-thirsty monster. This interpretation of the character gives the film a poetic depth, which along with the trance-like music of Popul Vuh and gorgeous dreamy landscapes makes the film an entracing, meloncholic fantasy. Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz), a real estate agent from Wismar, Germany travels to Transylvannia to meet Count Dracula and finalize the documents for the Count’s purchase of an estate in Wismar. On his travels, he is warned by local townfolk not to venture any further because of rumors that the Count is a vampire. Jonathan brushes them off as superstitious and continues on his journey. Meanwhile Lucy (Isabelle Adjani), Jonathan’s newly married wife, suffers night terrors that seem to signify to her immanent doom. While doing business at Dracula’s estate, Jonathan’s locket with a picture of Lucy opens, and the ghostly Count becomes enchanted by her image. Growing increasingly unsettled by the Count’s strange behavior, such as trying to lick the blood off a fresh cut, Jonathan investigates the Count’s castle and finds him asleep in a coffin. Jonathan escapes the castle, but the Count follows close behind, eager to arrive at his newly purchased estate and meet Lucy in person. Kinski’s expressive moon-faced Count Dracula cross-cut with Adjani’s terrorized Lucy gives the viewer the impression that the two are metaphysically linked, even before they share the screen. This mystical bond the two share add to the dream-like aspects of the film. The misty landscapes that permeate the film’s cinematography similarly place the viewer within this hypnotic countryside, set to the spellbinding score by the German avant garde band Popul Vuh. Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night is a mystic reverie that transports the viewer into that bewitching limbo between dreaming and wakefulness.

 

18. Altered States (1980) dir. Ken Russell

Altered States

Ken Russell’s foray into the science fiction genre explores the mystical experience of one man’s hallucinations and the concept of these hallucinations becoming phyisically manifest. The film’s psychedelic sequences are vivid visual representations of the protagonist’s psychological devolution into increasingly primative forms of being. A psychologist, Edward Jessup (William Hurt), fascinated with altered states of consciousness, undertakes a scientific experiment wherein he takes hallucinatory drugs while in a sensory deprivation tank. The combination of an untested Native American drug and sensory deprivation cause him to mentally and physically degenerate from man to proto-human to primordial being. The sequences depicting Jessup’s hallucinations utilize bright colors and fast editing in order to show the viewer his altered sensory perceptions. We see religious and primal symbology, suggesting Jessup’s spiritual associations with his memories and unconcious thoughts. Toward the end of the film, his hallucinations become a wild daze of microscopic cellular movement. Altered States is an excellent melding of science fiction and psychedelia in film. The surreal imagery adds insight into the consciousness of the main character while under the influence of his mind-altering experiences. There is a certain level of suspense during Jessup’s transformations, which make it hard for the viewer to determine what is real and what’s imagined.

 

19. Son of the White Mare (Fehérlófia) (1981) dir. Marcell Jankovics

the-son-of-the-white-mare

This 1981 Hungarian animation uses bright colors, symbolic, geometric shapes, and pulsating movement to tell the mythic tale of a man with superhuman strength, Fehérlófia, born from a white horse. The film, abundant with allusions to ancient Hungarian history and folktales, visually captures the magic embedded in fairy tales. We follow Fehérlófia through his heroic journey to exact revenge on the dragons that imprisoned his mother years prior. The film begins with his mother running for shelter and giving birth to him in the hollow of a tree. She tells her young son the story of how evil dragons overcame the magic kingdom and imprisoned her. After having two sons, who disappeared from the eyes of the dragons, she escaped, pregnant with Fehérlófia. As he grows older, Fehérlófia receives advice from the spirit of the Forefather to suckle at his mother’s breast for 14 years in order to become strong.  At the end of the 14 years, his mother dies of exhaustion and he leaves home with his newfound strength to find his long lost brothers. The three of them then journey to the underworld to find the dragons who jailed their mother. The striking, prismatic visuals lead us through this adventure rich with folkloric archetypes and symbolism. Jankovics creates a magical world with this fantastic story told through the colorful, psychedelic animation. The entirity of this film is one swirling mass of sensory delight.

 

20. Come and See (Idi i smotri) (1985) dir. Elem Klimov

come and see

This twisted coming of age tale illustrates the horrors of war as seen and heard by a Belarussian boy during the Nazi occupation of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. The film’s haunting imagry and sound design appropriately places the viewer in the vulnerable position of the impressionable young man as he sees his village viciously destroyed. Flyora (Aleksei Kravchenko) is digging in the sand, looking for a rifle in order to join the Soviet forces. Once he finds his weapon, the wide-eyed youngster marches off to become a soldier, much to the dismay of his mother. On his troop’s first mission, Flyora is left behind with a beautiful young woman, Glasha (Olga Mironova), the troop’s nurse. German warplanes circle overhead and drop bombs on their camp site, deafening Flyora. The film follows Flyora as he journeys back to his village, only to find it ravaged and occupied with sadistic Nazis. Once Flyora loses much of his hearing, the film takes a drastic turn, using warped sounds to mimic the sounds Flyora can hear. The drone of the airplanes overhead, the muffled voices of the people around him, and imagined radio broadcasts create the symphony of sound that permeate Flyora’s broken psyche.At the start of the film we are presented with a bright eyed, bushy tailed boy ready for the adventures of war. However, we are only to see him traumatized and prematurely aged; he is driven mad by the terrors of death. The sound design mixed with the powerful performances (which oftentimes break the fourth wall) create a living nightmare that enmeshes the audience within the tortured mind of Flyora.

 

21. Dead Man (1995) dir. Jim Jarmusch

dead-man-original

Jim Jarmusch’s atmospheric, existential western takes the viewer on the lonely, dreamy journey (accompanied by the sparse, electric strummings of Niel Young) of William Blake (Johnny Depp) as he finds himself wandering through a forest, led by a Native American named Nobody (Gary Farmer).William Blake comes to the rusty industrial town of Machine with the prospects of a job. After his job falls through, he kills a man out of self-defense, and wounded, steals a horse and rides out of town. Nobody finds him unconcious in the woods and after learning William Blake’s name, thinks he is a reincarnation of the Romantic poet. William Blake takes a spiritual journey with Nobody through the white winter forest, realizing his place as a “dead man.”Jarmusch himself dubbed the film a “Psychedelic Western,” and Dead Man lives up to the name through the use of Robby Müller’s exquisite, otherworldly black and white photography, Niel Young’s intense, yet minimal, music, and the philosophic musings of the characters.

 

22. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) dir. Terry Gilliam

fear and loathing in las vegas

Based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel (using semi-autobiographical events), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas takes the viewer on a two hour psychedelic trip to the heart of debauchery. Consisting mostly of distorted caricatures and hallucinations, the film successfully envelops the viewer in the drug-fuelled reality of the characters. Hunter S. Thompson’s alter-ego Raoul Duke (Johhny Depp) and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro) take a road trip to Las Vegas from Los Angeles on the assignment of covering the Mint 400 motorcycle race. The pair feast upon their collection of illegal drugs, making their stay in Vegas memorable (well, from what they can remember). Duke narrates their indulgent exploration, bringing up themes of the American Dream.In what could be considered the director’s cult masterpiece, Gilliam distorts the reality of the characters to the point of ridicule. As Duke and Gonzo cavort through the extravagant city of Las Vegas, with a multitude of drugs turning an already bizarre environment chaotic, they hit upon the emptiness of American culture.

 

23. Requiem for a Dream (2000) dir. Darren Aronofsky

requiem_for_a_dream

Aronofsky’s melodramatic tragedy is a brutal tour de force. Depicting the mountainous highs and devastating lows of drug use and addiction, Requiem for a Dream goes far beyond any other cautionary tale with its horrifyingly distorted visuals, heartbreaking scenarios, and epic musical score. The film follows four characters, Harry (Jared Leto), his mother Sara (Ellen Burstyn), Harry’s girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and Harry’s best friend and drug dealing partner Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). Each character struggles to accomplish his or her ambitions, but is ultimately overtaken by their drug addition: Harry, Marion, and Tyrone to heroin and Sara to amphetamines in disguise as diet pills. Aronofsky amplifies the drug use with continual close up shots of the characters injecting or ingesting their drug of choice. We see the routine that begins to develop and how it leads to the characters’ ultimate downfall. Visual and auditory hallucinations abound as the characters all try to maintain a grasp on their goals and in some instances, reality. Each characters’ descent is illustrated beautifully with Aronofsky’s masterful direction, with his emphasis on the distortion of reality that comes with drug use.

 

24. Enter the Void (2009) dir. Gaspar Noé

Enter the Void

Gaspar Noé’s frightening, hallucinatory masterpiece is a sensory overload of bright lights and neon colors, a swirling soundscape, and unparalled visual effects. Noé’s hardcore mind trip transports the viewer into a phantasmagoric world of life, death, and nightmare. Loosely based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the film follows Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), an American, Toyko-based drug dealer and his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta). Oscar and Linda were orphaned at a young age, when their parents died in a car crash (that they were also in). The two promise to always stick together, and Oscar swears to protect Linda, no matter what. One night, Oscar meets up with his friend Alex (Cyril Roy) on his way to a bar to sell some product to a young guy. The meeting turns out to be a set up, and Oscar is shot and killed by the police. For the rest of the film, Oscar’s spirit floats through the streets of Toyko reexperiencing old memories, watching over Linda and Alex, and delving into alternate versions of reality.Told completely from Oscar’s point of view (the camera mimicks Oscar’s vision and hearing), the film captures every aspect of Oscar’s sensory perceptions, including a five minute DMT trip at the beginning of the film. The maelstrom of dazzling lights, neon colors, and distorted imagry that the viewer encounters both before and after Oscar’s death is nothing short of a tour de force in psychedelic filmmaking.

 

25. A Field in England (2013) dir. Ben Wheatley

A Field In England

A film made up of only five characters in one location, A Field in England takes the viewer on a psychological trip involving war deserters, witchcraft, and the supernatural. Set during the English Civil War, an alchemist’s assistant, Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) and three other deserters wander through the English Countryside in search of an ale house. The men come across a mysterious Irishman named O’Niell (Michael Smiley), whom Whitehead soon realizes is the man he was instructed by his master to find in order to obtain some stolen manuscripts. However, O’Niell pursuades the group of men to help him search and dig for a treasure buried in a specific field within a fairy ring, where the men soon unravel. Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers) incorporates history and folklore into his very simple, yet compelling and extremely psychedelic film. The ancient superstition behind mushroom circles say that all those who enter are transported into a magical (but dangerous) realm.Wheatley plays upon that superstition with psychedelic sequences that include mirroring one side of the frame to the other, and very fast editing which disrupts the viewer’s persistence of vision to the point of assault (there’s even a notice at the start of the film warning the viewer about the “flashing images and stroboscopic sequences”). The film achieves the perfect blend of historical realism and occult psychedelia.

 

Which one is your favorite?

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As legal marijuana booms, Denver votes on decriminalizing hallucinogenic mushrooms
May 07, 2019

As legal marijuana booms, Denver votes on decriminalizing hallucinogenic mushrooms

Mile High City is first in nation to vote on psilocybin mushrooms, which would still be illegal but ‘de-prioritized’

If you thought legalized marijuana truly put the “high” in the Mile High City, wait until you hear what Denver is up to now. On Tuesday, residents will vote on whether to effectively decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, the hallucinogen used by some cultures for religious purposes for centuries, and outlawed by the federal government since 1970.

The movement to “Decriminalize Denver” is the nation’s first public referendum on “magic mushrooms,” after an effort in California failed to reach the ballot last year. Initiative 301 would apply only to Denver, not the entire state of Colorado. It would place into city code the directive that enforcing laws for personal use or possession of psilocybin mushrooms “shall be the lowest law enforcement priority in the City and County of Denver,” though having the mushrooms would still technically be illegal. The mushrooms would not be available in the city’s cannabis dispensaries, and sales would still be classified as a felony. They would remain classified a Schedule I drug under federal law, as is marijuana, with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

The image of hallucinogens as chemicals that launch users into a swirling mélange of colors and voices, presumably impairing one’s ability to drive or operate heavy machinery, can be tough to overcome. But supporters say the mushrooms’ powerful mind-altering qualities can have long-term positive effects on addiction, depression, chronic pain, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, in addition to the eight-hour journeys into the mystic.

Psilocybin is not addictive, does not lead to overdoses and is not thought to have long-term side effects, research has shown. It is a naturally occurring compound in some fungi. A number of studies have shown positive effects on people addicted to opioids, alcohol or tobacco, as well as diminished depression and anxiety. Researchers have found such benefits to mushrooms that the Food and Drug Administration has granted “breakthrough therapy” status to study psilocybin for treating depression. The FDA describes breakthrough therapy as designed to expedite development of a drug after preliminary evidence shows “the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapy.”

Kevin Matthews was a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who was forced to retire due to major depression. He returned to Denver and struggled for years until he tried mushrooms for the first time.

“It was one of the most profound experiences of my life,” he said. “It cleared the fog and lasted for weeks and weeks after. It enabled me to see outside the box of my own depression.”


Kevin Matthews is leading the decriminalization campaign for psilocybin mushrooms in Denver. (Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

Matthews is now the campaign manager for the Denver Psilocybin Initiative, which he said has raised about $45,000 and is advertising almost exclusively on social media and posters around Denver. There is no organized opposition and no polling. He sees the initiative as the start of a national conversation about the healing powers of psilocybin and stands ready to start working with government and police officials on Wednesday, if the initiative passes on Tuesday.

 

 

Even in weed-friendly Denver, the government and police may need more convincing. Mayor Michael Hancock is opposed to the initiative, though his office declined to elaborate on why. The Denver police declined to offer a position. Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said, “At this point, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“We’re still figuring out marijuana, and even though things are going well so far, we’re still measuring the impacts on the people of Denver,” McCann said.

She said there has not been a rise in violent crime around pot dispensaries, but there has been a rise in hospital visits by young people and children associated with marijuana intake. McCann said she wanted to see more research on the short- and long-term benefits and side effects of mushrooms. She noted that the referendum does not truly decriminalize mushrooms but only de-prioritizes it for police, who can still make arrests.

 

 

Statistics show Denver police arrested about 50 people in each of the past three years for sale or possession of mushrooms, and prosecutors pursued only 11 of those cases.


Beth McCann, the district attorney of Denver. (Office of the Denver District Attorney)

McCann said she feared Denver, already becoming a haven for marijuana tourists, would become a preferred destination for drug users of all stripes. She also was not enamored of the idea of psilocybin-infused drivers. “The idea that we’re driving around while hallucinating is not reassuring,” the prosecutor said.

Matthews acknowledged the possibility of abuse of hallucinogens if they become more widely available.

“There is a risk. I’m not belittling that,” Matthews said. “There’s a responsible way to use it. Just like with alcohol, it’s something to be used responsibly.”

For Matthews, that means in a safe environment, with friends, in the proper dosage. “The last thing most people would want to do is get behind the driver’s wheel when they’re under the influence,” he said.

 

 

Taken properly, the mushroom can have profound effects, many studies have shown. “Classic psychedelic use is associated with reduced psychological distress and suicidality in the United States adult population,” a 2015 paper from the University of Alabama found. Imperial College London has published a number of studies showing positive effects on depression. And in 2006, researchers at Johns Hopkins University studied 36 people who took high doses of psilocybin and then were monitored for the next eight hours as they relaxed a couch and listened to classical music.

“67 percent of the volunteers,” the Hopkins study found, “rated the experience with psilocybin to be either the single most meaningful experience of his or her life or among the top five most meaningful experiences of his or her life … to be similar, for example, to the birth of a first child or death of a parent.” The study was entitled, “Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance.”

But getting the American government to embrace similar enlightenment is a tedious process, so in the case of marijuana, activists simply took their case to the voters. That’s happening again in Denver, where activists gathered 5,000 signatures required to put the measure on the ballot. Attorney Noah Potter, who writes a blog about “psychedelic law” and deconstructs the problems with American drug law, helped Matthews write the language that is proposed to become law in Denver.

 

 

It started with activists getting medical marijuana passed in 1996 in California, Potter said, “because the regulatory system is nonresponsive to facts. It’s a non-evidence-based regulatory system.” The government’s disdain for the growing body of reports on psilocybin, Potter said, “is one of the reasons why it’s necessary to do these end runs around government.”


“Magic mushrooms” are weighed and packaged at the Procare farm in Hazerswoude, Netherlands, where they were banned in 2007, though "magic truffles" can still be bought in shops. A Denver initiative to decriminalize psilocybin is the first such vote in the U.S. (Peter Dejong/Associated Press)

The initiative has largely flown under the radar, especially nationally. “I think it’ll pass,” said Jeff Hunt, director of the conservative Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University.

Hunt added, “Colorado’s a very libertarian state. We’re in the midst of a backlash against the ‘War on Drugs,’ to the current feeling that marijuana’s harmless.”

He said since Colorado legalized marijuana, there had been a 151 percent increase in marijuana-related traffic fatalities, and that a survey found 60 percent of pot users admitted to driving while high. Hunt said 10 percent thought it made them drive better.

Hunt has been critical of how marijuana was legalized in Colorado and feels there should be the level of education on pot that there is on tobacco. He also said no one has studied how mushrooms might interact with other medications. “We’ve got to rein in the idea that this is a miracle drug,” Hunt said.

Matthews said mushroom use can be challenging, and a “bad experience” can happen. The Hopkins study said “31 percent of the group … experienced significant fear.”

Matthews said the campaign “has a lot to do with educating the people of Denver, and the American people, about psilocybin and what it does. A recreational model wouldn’t work. But we’ve had 50 years of blatant government misinformation about mushrooms and their prohibition. It’s going to take some time to change the minds of people. We just don’t think that anybody should go to jail for possessing a mushroom.”

Via: WashingtonPost

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World's largest honey bee makes rare hallucinogenic honey
May 06, 2019

World's largest honey bee makes rare hallucinogenic honey

 

The largest honeybees in the world, Himalayan giant honeybees, produce some of the world's most cherished honey. It's known as mad honey, a reddish sweet goop with psychotropic properties that in reasonable doses are reportedly pleasant.

Haven't heard of this delectable treat? That's probably because it's extremely difficult to harvest. If the bees' stings — which can pierce through most beekeeper suits — don't ward you off, the sheer Himalayan cliffs where the bees plaster their large crescent-shaped hives probably will. Those who dare to gather the honey do so at their own peril, dangling from precarious bamboo rope ladders hundreds of feet above the ground.

But this treacherous cultural practice, perfected by the Kulung people of eastern Nepal, could soon disappear forever. When elder Mauli Dhan, known as the last honey hunter, chooses to retire, his craft could end with him, reports National Geographic.

Mad honey can fetch a hefty price, sold for $60 to $80 a pound (U.S.), but those are black-market prices. You won't find it at your local supermarket. Even at those prices, however, it's barely worth the risk to harvest it, not when you consider the time it takes to learn the skills of this highly specialized trade. Luckily, however, a team of filmmakers have documented Mauli Dhan and his honey hunting craft in a new documentary, "The Last Honey Hunter."

A behind-the-scenes peek of the breathtaking footage can be viewed here:

An intense experience The honey gets its famous properties from toxins in rhododendron flowers that the bees eat in spring, the only time of year when the honey is hallucinogenic. Two to three teaspoons is usually considered the correct dose. A larger dose, however, can produce a more intense experience, one that may be unpleasant to the uninitiated. First, you'll probably feel the need to purge (defecate, urinate, vomit), Mark Synnott reports for National Geographic. Then, "after the purge you alternate between light and dark. You can see, and then you can't see," explained Jangi Kulung, a local honey trader. "A sound — jam jam jam — pulses in your head, like the beehive. You can't move, but you're still completely lucid. The paralysis lasts for a day or so." These more intense experiences, along with a rumored death from overdose, are the primary reasons that this precious honey has become more difficult to sell, and why the cultural practice of harvesting it might soon disappear. Undoubtedly, when the last honey hunter climbs his last cliff, the hunt for this rare psychotropic delicacy will probably continue in some form. But whether the harvest is done sustainably, in a way that's safe for harvesters, consumers and the bees themselves (their populations are declining), remains in doubt. There's a delicate ecosystem that makes this unique honey possible, and without a balanced and careful harvest, the honey supply may not last long.

Source: MMN

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Why 'Microdosing' LSD & Other Hallucinogens May Be The Saving Grace For People With Severe Depression & Anxiety
April 30, 2019

Why 'Microdosing' LSD & Other Hallucinogens May Be The Saving Grace For People With Severe Depression & Anxiety

 

What if your brain on acid, 'shrooms and Molly isn't such a bad thing after all?

Many might consider lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also known as "acid", taboo (and possibly even passé), yet the currently illegal and unregulated drug is rapidly gaining popularity, as well as media scrutiny and attention within the medical community.

The widespread illegality of these substances means little scientific data exists regarding their potential short and long-term positive or negative effects on either mental of physical health, but this time around, the trendy way of dropping acid and other hallucinogenics such as psilocybin "magic" mushrooms and 3,4-Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA, aka "Molly" or "ecstasy") involves a practice called "microdosing."

rong>As one report in Scientific American explains:

"Microdosing involves taking roughly one-tenth the 'trip' dose of a psychedelic drug, an amount too little to trigger hallucinations but enough, its proponents say, to sharpen the mind. Psilocybin microdosers (including hundreds on Reddit) report that the mushrooms can increase creativity, calm anxiety, decrease the need for caffeine, and reduce depression."

 

 

Georgia (not her real name) was nine years old when her father was murdered.

Even at that young age, she says, “I hit a really hard trauma wall and I never really came out of it.”

She was consumed with anger, went four months without speaking, and had a severe depressive episode at 13.

The now 29-year-old, who works at a Washington, D.C. nonprofit, was diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) — defined as a "continuous, long-term (chronic) form of depression" — four years ago.

At the time, she was prescribed the antidepressant Wellbutrin, a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI), which was effective in treating her depression. But after she left her job and lost her health insurance, she could no longer afford prescription medication.

 

Read the full article here: YOURTANGO.COM

 

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Psychedelic therapy: The patients paying $2k to get high with their doctor
April 29, 2019

Psychedelic therapy: The patients paying $2k to get high with their doctor

 

Jesse Noakes had been battling his mental health for years when he stumbled across Carlo, a new breed of doctor who promised to change everything.

It’s about 3pm on a Tuesday and I’m in an apartment in Sydney with harbour views.

I can’t see much from where I am, though, lying on a couch with an eye mask covering my eyes and Handel’s Messiah playing through headphones.

A couple of hours earlier I’d been a bit nervous — around the time I swallowed a capsule of MDMA and two grams of powdered magic mushrooms. But I know the apartment’s owner, my therapist, is sitting on the floor across the room, with his dog curled up next to him, and it reassures me, so I lie back and allow the choral voices to swell until they fill my whole awareness, and I go somewhere else.

It wasn’t the first time I’d come to Sydney to spend an afternoon tripping. The first time, I drove across the Nullarbor from Perth to get there in an old ’93 Holden Barina — these days it is a short flight down from Byron. Not as far as Europe or New York, which is where my journey began.

In the middle of 2016 I went to a conference in Amsterdam dedicated to a field of research I’d only just heard about: psychedelic therapy. I told everyone I was attending as a journalist; in reality, I was on the hunt for a therapist of my own.

I flew halfway round the world in uncut desperation. After a decade of therapy and medications, I was as depressed as ever. One airless afternoon in January 2016, I rolled out of bed and pulled up an article I’d seen months earlier about American hospitals giving some patients magic mushrooms for depression and anxiety in clinical studies. Three-quarters showed significant improvements in their mental health.

UNEXPECTED RESEARCH

That wasn’t all. Six placebo-controlled trials using MDMA for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from war and sexual assault found 68 per cent were in complete remission a year after three all-day sessions. After a couple of regular therapy sessions to prepare them, participants would come to a comfortable office and lie down on a sofa with an eye mask and headphones on and take a trip while a pair of therapists sat by their side.

One participant, Ed Thompson, a firefighter from South Carolina, told me his life before the trial “was kind of like a waking nightmare where all of these memories were randomly hitting me”. “There was a part of my brain that was stuck in those moments,” he said. “It was basically a constant panic attack that I lived in, an almost unending panic attack.”

When he enrolled in the trial, he rated 30 points higher than the most severe threshold for PTSD — and after three MDMA sessions, he no longer had PTSD.

“I’m happy again, I’m not numb, I love life, I love my family. I’m able to absorb the good moments and feel the bad ones. I couldn’t be better,” he said.

It was like stepping through a doorway into a secret room. Until now, I’d always thought psychedelics, which are illegal Schedule 9 substances in Australia, like LSD and mushrooms sent you crazy. Suddenly, it sounded like, used responsibly with appropriate therapeutic support, they could be effective ways of regaining sanity.

Patients say they feel a sense of peace like never before. Picture: Supplied

Patients say they feel a sense of peace like never before. Picture: SuppliedSource:istock

HEADING UNDERGROUND

For several months, I investigated here in Australia. I quickly realised legal clinical trials were off limits. A small organisation called PRISM had been advocating psychedelic research here for years but appeared to have little support for their proposed studies.

At the Amsterdam conference, in between talks like “Brain imaging and depression research with psychedelics” and “MDMA for trauma integration”, I met a therapist I’ll call Carlo (all the names of underground therapists and their clients have been changed in this piece).

I explained how trapped I felt — dead to the world, unsure why it felt so unreal and distant all the time. “Come to New York,” he said. “I’ve got just the thing.”

Underground psychedelic therapy fills the gap left by limited trial spaces and a regular therapy paradigm that doesn’t do the job for many. A Vox article recently called it a “parallel mental health service” in the United States. “This stuff is exploding,” a therapist in California told me last year.

Dr Rick Doblin is the founder of the non-profit Multindisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) that has organised most of the research into MDMA therapy in the US. Although he’s spent decades establishing legal studies, he understands why so many people are turning to illegal alternatives.

“We’ve got people in regular therapy who are desperate and stuck. The laws make it impossible for them to access the help they need, so going to underground therapists is perfectly appropriate. However, I’m sad it’s the only option for some people — it means we’ve got to move quickly to legitimise it,” he said.

Ed Thompson is even more effusive. “People like the underground therapist you’re discussing have got to be some of the greatest heroes of our time because of the legal risks, because of the risks to their careers and knowing that it’s gotta be done regardless of stupid bureaucratic red tape.”

Professor Steve Kisley, Chair of the Psychiatrists Group of the Australian Medical Association, is more cautious.

“There are some promising findings, but they are insufficient at this time to advocate general clinical use. While use remains unregulated, there are dangers in terms of side-effects and toxicity from incorrect dosing and impurities in illegal supplies, which could outweigh any clinical benefit. The same would apply to ‘underground therapists’.”

BREAKTHROUGH THERAPY

The clinical research so far has been so promising the US medicines regulator has declared both MDMA and mushrooms “breakthrough therapies”, giving them additional resources to bring to market. But it’ll still be a couple of years before the final phase of trials are completed and psychedelic drugs become a legal therapy option for the first time since the 1960s (when substantial research was conducted, and everyone from Cary Grant to the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous discussed the benefits of therapy with LSD).

The Beatles famously experimented with psychedelic drugs. Picture: John Downing/Getty Images

The Beatles famously experimented with psychedelic drugs. Picture: John Downing/Getty ImagesSource:Supplied

In the meantime, researchers and therapists I’ve spoken with across America reckon there are hundreds of facilitators guiding patients through psychedelic experiences. Training varies, and so do prices. I spoke to two therapists in California, both of whom have graduate degrees in psychology — one charges on a sliding scale that starts at $US500 ($A700), the other charges $US2000 ($A2800) per session.

Carlo, my guy in New York, charges up to $1500 for an overnight stay.

TAKING DRUGS TO KICK THE HABIT

Why would people want to fork over a fortnight’s pay to take drugs with their therapist? I asked another of Carlo’s clients, Alba, a New Yorker in his late 20s who has suffered from chronic social anxiety since his teens. Both his parents had abused him growing up — he remembers having his head bashed against heavy oak bed frames when he was just a toddler.

Before he had his first session with Carlo late last year, he was drinking a bottle of vodka every evening to control the crippling paranoia and discomfort he felt at work. Several years ago, after he attempted suicide twice within a week, he vowed he wouldn’t try again until he’d fully exhausted his options. Through a subreddit thread he contacted people who put him in touch with therapists, which led finally to Carlo’s loft.

At one point in his first session with MDMA, he suddenly felt a new sense of safety and love. He asked Carlo for a hug, which he’d never done with his own father. “I don’t like people touching me. I just get really, really tense. But with him, for some reason my guard was down.”

Brain imaging has shown MDMA profoundly deactivates the amygdala, the part of the brain that regulates our fear and anxiety responses and promotes production of oxytocin, known as the “trust hormone”.

After that first session, Alba quit drinking. He’s been sober for five months now, bar a brief relapse after Christmas. He lives in a much larger, lighter apartment, he’s turning up to work on rough days when previously he’d have stayed in bed with a bottle of vodka, and he feels optimistic about his future. “It allows me to look at all those horrible situations in a completely different light.”

Patients report the treatment as being like nothing they’ve ever experienced. Picture: iStock

Patients report the treatment as being like nothing they’ve ever experienced. Picture: iStockSource:Supplied

Dr Ben Sessa is a British psychiatrist leading a clinical trial in the UK using MDMA to treat alcoholism. All but one of the patients he’s treated so far have stayed sober after their therapy with the drug, Sessa reports. “They talk about ‘I can see the light, I can see the folly of alcohol, and I have no interest in returning to it’,” he said.

Sessa is cautious about therapists recreating his trial underground. “I have no doubt there are some excellent underground therapists who have really good results, but there are also plenty of scare stories of very poor ones. What the underground therapists tend to miss is the importance of the non-drug sessions.”

Post-drug therapy sessions, known as integration, is a crucial tenet of the psychedelic therapy movement. Some of the drug experiences people have are so far outside the realms of their usual experience they need help to make sense of them, says Dr Rick Doblin.

“The idea of a one-dose miracle cure is really dangerous. It requires a lot of work on an ongoing basis,” he said.

NOT A MAGIC BULLET

Of course, nothing works for everyone, all the time. The first two sessions I had using MDMA, with a European doctor I also met in Amsterdam, were underwhelming, and left me feeling disappointed and desperate.

I had some visions, but probably nothing more than you’d expect when you spend all day lying in a dark room with your eyes closed. It was nothing like the breakthrough I’d been hoping for, and after the first session I messaged a friend: “The drugs don’t work.”

I felt more like it was me that didn’t work.

For others, rather than finding nothing, their sessions revealed too much. A friend of mine in California found immediate relief from PTSD during his first MDMA session, but then suffered weeks of black depression afterwards.

Since then, his road has been rocky — while he’s done further sessions with other psychedelics and therapists, he still fights with panic and depression, and uses exercise, lifestyle choices and prescription medication to try to keep the wolf from the door.

Psilocybe cubensis is a species of psychedelic mushroom. Picture: Supplied

Psilocybe cubensis is a species of psychedelic mushroom. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

THE SCENE DOWN UNDER

Maria offers psychedelic therapy from what would normally be the dining room of her ordinary brick bungalow in the forest outside a major Australian city.

A rooster crows outside the window as we chat at her kitchen counter over green tea. She closes the dishwasher as I sit down.

Maria runs both group and individual sessions, with a range of “medicines” — MDMA, psilocybin, ayahuasca. She charges $270 for a group session and $550 for one-on-one — not bad for an intensive seven-hour treatment that carries serious legal risk.

“I try not to think about it,” she tells me when I ask about it.

I’ve spoken to two therapists overseas who’ve been prosecuted for treating patients with psychedelics. Both received suspended sentences, and both continue to work with clients — one now runs a legal psilocybin retreat in Jamaica.

Both Carlo and Maria operate by word of mouth, and besides knowing someone who’s already been, it’s not clear how you’d find one of them.

“I don’t really know,” Maria says. “At the moment it’s just referrals from people that I’ve treated. There’s definitely more interest in psychedelics in the past few years.”

Maria has a client list of more than 600 people — Carlo says he receives about three new inquiries a week, and when I spoke to him recently he’d just flown back to New York after treating four clients in LA.

A member of the team behind the recently announced trial of psilocybin for anxiety and depression in Melbourne said he was aware of perhaps a dozen underground therapists in this country. “But there are probably more, given that most try to keep a very low profile. Some of the therapists keep in touch and share information, but even that’s risky in the current legal climate.”

WHAT NEXT?

Dr Doblin founded MAPS in 1986 to legalise MDMA and has spent three decades of tireless advocacy to get to a point where it’s suddenly foreseeable. He says his quixotic mission is motivated by gratitude.

“I will never repay all the benefits I’ve got from psychedelics. All of this work has still not even paid back for the good I’ve received from these drugs,” he said.

I know how he feels. In Sydney, as the choir reached its rapturous peak, I saw the world as a big, blue blanket, each of us a stick poking into it, like a million tiny tent poles.

Movement from any one stick shifted the tautness and balance of the blanket, weighing down or buoying up every other stick in a contiguous wave. Seeing is believing, as they say, and this was more like a real-life VR experience of a different world. I felt a rapturous sense of connection and possibility.

Jesse Noakes is one of a growing number of people seeking relief in psychedelic therapy. Picture: Peta Roebuck

Jesse Noakes is one of a growing number of people seeking relief in psychedelic therapy. Picture: Peta RoebuckSource:Supplied

It didn’t go away when the drug wore off. For months afterwards, I felt more confident and socially connected than ever before. The world was a lot more fun. I spoke each week to my therapist on the phone. We spent much of those conversations discussing my work, trying to care for traumatised teenagers who had been removed from their families. I found them wildly intense and incredibly energising. “It’s the best therapy I’ve ever done,” I told him, “with the possible exception of coming to Sydney to take mushrooms and MDMA with you.”

Psychedelic therapy is currently illegal in Australia and unregulated use carries significant risks that may outweigh any benefits.

Source: News.com.au

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Man allegedly slipped LSD into co-workers’ drinks to counter ‘negative energy’
March 26, 2019

Man allegedly slipped LSD into co-workers’ drinks to counter ‘negative energy’


 

A Missouri car-rental worker took his co-workers on a different kind of trip when he dosed them with LSD in a half-baked scheme to counteract their “negative energy,” according to a report.

The unidentified 19-year-old Enterprise Rent-A-Car worker admitted to spiking his co-workers’ drinks with acid after he was arrested last Monday, the Kansas City Star reported.

“They were too uptight, and they needed to have better energy,” he told police, according to local paper The Leader.

His manager caught him “acting weird” and “messing with” someone’s drink while holding a water dropper but didn’t call the cops until two other employees — a 24-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman — began acting erratically.

They were taken to the hospital while the drugs wore off.

The 19-year-old faces charges of second-degree assault and possession of a controlled substance, pending the outcome of a police lab test on the co-workers’ drinks.


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Universe Feels Zero Connection To Guy Tripping On Mushrooms
March 24, 2019

Universe Feels Zero Connection To Guy Tripping On Mushrooms

EUGENE, OR—Noting that it had yet to experience any sort of oneness with the 22-year-old, the universe confirmed Friday that it felt absolutely zero connection to a local man currently tripping on hallucinogenic mushrooms. “As far as I can tell, all the boundaries between myself and this guy remain completely intact, so I certainly wouldn’t say that he and I have become one with each other at all,” said the collection of all space and matter, which added that, if anything, it was feeling further removed from the man after he ate two grams of psilocybin mushrooms and spent the ensuing three hours just sitting on his basement couch, during which time he effectively did nothing to interact with the world or universe more broadly. “Frankly, I feel like he and I are as separate and unconnected as we’ve always been. Sure, he seems like a decent person, but have we at some level blended together into a single cosmic entity, flowing through each other and commingling our energies? Definitely not.” At press time, the guy’s mind also confirmed that it was in no way expanding whatsoever.
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Decades ago, ecstasy — yes, MDMA — was used in marriage counseling
March 24, 2019

Decades ago, ecstasy — yes, MDMA — was used in marriage counseling

For the first decade after it was synthesized, MDMA was used in individual and couples therapy.
Many therapists spoke against the criminalization of MDMA in 1985 due to the drug's therapeutic potential.
A revival has occurred in recent years, with the government allowing clinical trials to move forward.

 

Before the second "M" was affixed to "MDA," researchers spent decades searching for a utility for the mescaline derivative. Patented as "methylsafrylamin" in 1914 by Merck, the drug was shelved because no one could quite figure out what to do with it — similar to the incredible story of LSD.

That was until California pharmacologist Gordon A. Alles realized that MDA was rather interesting, indeed. He partnered with Chilean psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo to test out this "psychotherapeutic" substance. Naranjo's partner, Alexander Shulgin, synthesized the more commonly known MDMA, which proved to be less hallucinogenic and less toxic than its original formation.

An early enthusiast was psychotherapist Leo Zeff, who began using psychedelics such as LSD in his practice in 1961. A few years later he discovered MDA through an associate of Shulgin. In 1977, Shulgin introduced Zeff to his new synthesis, which the therapist immediately took to. He trained more than 150 therapists in its usage over the next 12 years, administering it to over 4,000 clients.

This changed in 1985 when the U.S. government labelled MDMA a Schedule 1 drug, claiming it has no therapeutic utility. Many therapists offered testimony to the contrary, to no avail. Zeff, along with many others, went underground. This wasn't the government's first foray into an MDA derivative: in the 1950s the U.S. Army declared it to have no military use since the only feeling it seemed to invoke was compassion. In a country that spends more on defense than any other nation in history, this simply would not do.

As with many other victims of the "war on drugs," both Nixon's and Reagan's, MDMA got itself in trouble by becoming popular outside of therapy, namely on dance floors. Teenagers enjoying themselves dancing to club music was apparently a social burden. Granted, as with virtually every substance, MDMA has a toxicity level that must be recognized; not every club night ended happily. To declare it useless, however, points more to the mindset of the administration than the therapist's couch.

Rick Doblin On Using MDMA In Couples Therapy

 

Especially when that couch is a bed. While MDMA is now being shown to help alleviate PTSD, and many therapists used it in individual counseling in the 1970s and '80s, couples received immense benefits from ingesting this "love drug" in its early days. Rick Ingrasci, who used LSD in therapy until it was banned, turned to MDMA next. Between 1980–85, he treated 100 patients in over 150 sessions; a third of his sessions were with couples.

To be clear, MDMA is not a "sexual" drug. When Ann Shulgin, Alexander's therapist wife, administered it to patients, she made them consent to the "four agreements," one of which was "no sexual activity." Confusing boundaries could easily be breached when one is in such an open, transparent state.

That does not mean there is no sensual element. Sensuality in this context requires a redefinition, such as the way your favorite food enlivens your senses and a song embeds itself deeply into your consciousness. A strong bonding element is possible with MDMA, which applies to one's mindset as easily as relationship challenges faced by couples.

Professionals have always realized this. While Friederike Meckel Fisher was imprisoned for using psychedelics, including MDMA and LSD, in her therapy practice after a spurned client retaliated, she now advocates for their usage in couples therapy. MDMA alleviates fear, she says, which allows individuals to access parts of their minds they might normally suppress. When you feel safe being vulnerable with your partner the potential for healing and growth becomes possible.

Source: Bigthink.

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Scientists Microdosed Rats With DMT, and It Was Both Good and "Concerning"
March 23, 2019

Scientists Microdosed Rats With DMT, and It Was Both Good and "Concerning"

 

People who experiment with microdosing claim that it can help a person to think more creatively, feel less anxious, and sharpen focus. But despite plenty of anecdotal evidence and Silicon Valley’s ample claims that these positive effects are real, scientists still can’t definitively say that microdosing — consistently taking low doses of psychedelic drugs — actually works. Bringing us closer to a clear answer is a new study showing that microdosing can indeed have beneficial effects — but not without potential downsides.

This ACS Chemical Neuroscience study, published Monday, is one of the first to test how psychedelic microdosing effects animal behavior. The scientists, led by University of California, Davis assistant professor David Olson, Ph.D., microdosed male and female rats with N,N-dimethyltryptamine, the chemical substance better known as DMT and the principal psychoactive component in the hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca. Previous studies established that DMT affects rodents much like it does people, impacting behaviors relevant to mood, cognitive function, and anxiety.

Olson tells Inverse that his team used DMT because they wanted to experiment with a drug that “was going to be the most applicable to the broadest range of psychedelic compounds.” What he means is that, when the popular psychedelics LSD or psilocybin are broken down into their psychedelic elements at the molecular level, you’re pretty much left with DMT. Because of this shared pharmacology, it’s fair to say that tests on DMT can be translated to other psychedelic drugs.

 

Scientists already knew that DMT affected rats, but they didn’t know how a microdose of DMT would make them behave. And since there’s no well-established definition of what constitutes a “microdose,” the scientists gave them the rat equivalent of what humans typically use: one-tenth of a hallucinogenic dose. Furthermore, since young adults appear to be the most likely to microdose, they also used rats of equivalent age.

For two months, the young rats were microdosed every three days, and the researchers began the behavioral tests two weeks in. Importantly, the behavioral tests occurred on the days when the rats were not given drugs — the idea being that any behavioral changes would then have been truly caused by adaptations in the brain.

The behavioral tests were designed to measure how the rats responded to anxiety and fear-inducing situations as well as to examine how microdosing affected their sociability and aspects of cognitive function. It didn’t appear to change aspects of the mice’s memory or their ability to socialize, but two of the tests revealed how the drug regime changed their reaction to anxiety and fear.

 

Read the full article here: iNVERSE

 

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MICRODOSING DMT REDUCES DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
March 23, 2019

MICRODOSING DMT REDUCES DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

Microdosing DMT

The idea of taking small doses of psychedelic drugs has gained cachet in recent years, especially in the world of tech startups, where practitioners believe it can enhance creativity and fight depression.

Now, new research shows that microdosing DMT — taking doses of the drug that are too low to cause hallucinations — could indeed reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to The Atlantic — and though data is still scarce, the work could pave the way to new mental health treatments.

Rats!

An important caveat to the new research, which was published Monday in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience: its subjects were rats, not people.

But David Olson, a chemist and neuroscientist at the University of California at Davis, thinks his team’s study is important nonetheless because it provides some of the first evidence that there are benefits to taking psychedelic drugs below a dosage threshold that would cause you to, well, trip.

“I really wanted to answer the question as to whether or not the hallucinogenic effects of these compounds were necessary for the therapeutic effects,” he told The Atlantic.

Cytotoxic Effects

Still, before you start microdosing DMT at work, it’s probably worth waiting for more data. In some rats, Olson’s team found, the DMT appeared to have “cytotoxic effects” that killed brain cells. At the very least, more research is needed.

“There’s that saying,” Olson told The Atlantic, “that the difference between a medicine and a poison is the dose.”

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Study: Psychedelic Found In Toad Venom Helps Relieve Depression, Anxiety
March 23, 2019

Study: Psychedelic Found In Toad Venom Helps Relieve Depression, Anxiety

BALTIMORE — Forget meditation or standard medicine. A new study finds that a psychedelic found in toad venom may help people struggling with depression or anxiety.

Research conducted at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine shows the fast-acting psychedelic, 5-MeO-DMT (it currently lacks a marketable household name), helped relieve symptoms in about 80 percent of the 362 study participants who tried it in a group setting. The authors believe the short duration of psychedelic effects make it a more favorable therapy for patients.

“Research has shown that psychedelics given alongside psychotherapy help people with depression and anxiety. However, psychedelic sessions usually require 7 – 8 hours per session because psychedelics typically have a long duration of action,” says co-author Alan K. Davis, a postdoctoral research fellow with the university’s Behavioral Research Unit, in a release. “Because 5-MeO-DMT is short-acting and lasts approximately 30-90 minutes, it could be much easier to use as an adjunct to therapy because current therapies usually involve a 60 – 90 minute session.”

Patients reported greater feelings of life satisfaction and well-being, and also reported a more spiritual experience during the treatment.

5-MeO-DMT is found in the venom of the Bufo Alvarius toad (also known as The Colorado River toad), as well as in some plants, but scientists have been able to produce it synthetically. Prior research by Davis has shown the substance has a low risk for health and legal consequences.

“It is important to examine the short- and long-term effects of 5-MeO-DMT, which may enhance mood in general or may be particularly mood enhancing for those individuals experiencing clinically significant negative mood,” says Davis. “Regardless, this research is in its infancy and further investigation is warranted in healthy volunteers.”

The study was published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

 

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Psilocybin Could Be Legal for Therapy by 2021
March 21, 2019

Psilocybin Could Be Legal for Therapy by 2021

 

The psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms could soon be legal to use in a clinical setting.

For the first time in U.S. history, a psychedelic drug is on the fast track to getting approved for treating depression by the federal government. Late last month, Compass Pathways, a U.K.-based company that researches and develops mental health treatments, announced the FDA granted them what’s called a “breakthrough therapy designation” for their trials into psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms.

Researchers who pioneered psychedelic science agree — this is a landmark moment for their field.

“It really does represent a significant development in the whole history of psychedelic research,” says University of California, Los Angeles psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor Charles Grob, who conducted foundational psilocybin trials at UCLA in the mid-2000s.

To Grob and others, the FDA’s recognition of psilocybin isn’t just about psilocybin; It indicates a larger shift in how the federal government perceives psychedelic drugs. Researchers only began receiving approval to investigate psychedelics in the 90s, after they were banned from science for decades due to their association with Woodstock-era iconoclasts.

In August 2017, the FDA gave its first indication that times were changing when it granted MDMA — often confused with ecstasy — a breakthrough therapy designation for post-traumatic stress disorder. Researchers now see both the success of MDMA and psilocybin as a sign that “the psychedelic renaissance,” the resurgence of psychedelic drug research, is finally helping psychedelic medicine receive the recognition it deserves.

Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and a psychedelic research pioneer, predicts that MDMA and psilocybin could now both be legal by 2021. They wouldn’t be legalized for prescription, but, rather, legalized to be administered by therapists who have been trained in what’s called “psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.” In the case of psilocybin, a therapist or therapy team meets with the patient prior to their trip to psychologically prepare them; monitors them throughout their trip (typically eight hours or so); and then helps them process their experience afterwards.

If Compass is successful, psilocybin will be approved by the FDA for patients with treatment-resistant depression, or patients who have not responded to traditional anti-depressants. Part of the reason Compass received a breakthrough therapy designation is because there’s a dire need for novel depression treatments in the U.S.

 

Original article: RollingStone.

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