- Available psychoactive pharmaceuticals are unpredictable and may have undesirable side effects, such as impotence and increased risk of suicide
- Drug laws are hugely detrimental to research in neuroscience and to the development of new treatments
Robin Carhart-Harris, PhD: Comeback of Psychedelics Research
Developing drugs for brain disorders has become a high-risk activity, with most candidates failing after years of expensive clinical trials. The market is already flooded with cheap, generic antidepressants, antipsychotics and other drugs that act on known targets in the brain, mostly neurotransmitter receptors.
Novartis has joined other pharmaceutical companies in abandoning traditional drug-discovery program that pursue treatments for brain disorders. Nature has learned that the company is closing its neuroscience facility in Basel, Switzerland, where Novartis is headquartered.
It follows similar moves by GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, both based in the United Kingdom, which last year announced the closure of all their neuroscience research divisions globally. US-based companies Pfizer and Merck, as well as the French company Sanofi, have also pulled back on research into brain disorders."
Sacred medicines psilocybin and ayahuasca are now being studied to treat brain disorders, an unimaginable possibility when ethnobotanist and author Terence McKenna gave the following presentation twenty-five years ago. Despite lack of real progress in the prevention and treatment of mental illness and addiction in the past four decades, strict Schedule I legal classification remains the greatest barrier to significant neuroscience research and treatment innovation using these non-addictive substances.
McKenna begins the talk by highlighting the importance of preserving Amazon plant medicine knowledge, then surveys shamanic options from around the world.
McKenna mentions harmala alkaloids, MAO inhibitors found primarily within the seeds of psychoactive Peganum harmala (syrian rue). See: Pharmacological and therapeutic effects of Peganum harmala and its main alkaloids
Ayahuasca is a traditional Amazonian brew that contains harmala alkaloids along with a serotonergic hallucinogen, N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Harmala alkoloids harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine allow the digestion of DMT within ayahuasca by inhibiting monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes in the gut.
"During the 1980's before the birth of the Web, Terence McKenna's workshops were just about the only source of information about shamanic plant medicines that reached the streets. While there was some information about psychoactive plants available in professional journals and university libraries, it took Terence to pull out this information and repackage it for the rest of us. In this June 1989 workshop, he does what he did best back then, give us a detailed inventory, continent by continent, of the psychoactive plants native to each area, along with a brief history of how humans interacted with them in the distant past." - From The Psychedelic Salon Podcast
Amazon Tribe Creates 500-Page Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia
American Ethnobotanists Richard Evans Schultes, Dennis McKenna Discuss Hallucinogenic Plant Medicines, More
Hallucinogens and dissociative agents growing naturally in the United States
FDA-Approved Drug Therapies and Classic Hallucinogens to Treat Alcoholism: Barriers, Background, and the Latest Research
Psychedelics and immunomodulation: novel approaches and therapeutic opportunities
Huffington Post: Scientists Put Shamanic Medicine Under The Microscope: In an unlikely collaboration with Amazonian shamans, medical researchers seek a cure for autoimmune disease
Classical hallucinogens as antidepressants? A review of pharmacodynamics and putative clinical roles
Recent advances in the neuropsychopharmacology of serotonergic hallucinogens
Psychedelic Breakthroughs in Neuroscience: How Psychedelic Drugs Influenced the Growth and Development of Psychopharmacology
While human serotonergic hallucinogen research was still in its Dark Ages, a group of sacramental medicine and mental health advocates and researchers––David Nichols, Dennis McKenna, Charles Grob, Mark Geyer, and George Greer––formed the Heffter Research Institute in Santa Fe, NM, in 1993. Today, Heffter continues to provide major funding of research into the therapeutic use of sacred plant medicines in humans.
Plant and fungus-derived serotonin 2a receptor agonists currently under investigation for their potential benefits as adjuncts to psychotherapy
Source: Tupper, Wood, Yensen, Johnson. Psychedelic medicine: a re-emerging therapeutic paradigm. Canadian Medical Association Journal (2015). Watch: CMAJ's interview with Johns Hopkins psilocybin researcher Matthew Johnson.
The Ki Database (or Ki DB) is a public domain database of published binding affinities (Ki) of drugs and chemical compounds for receptors, neurotransmitter transporters, ion channels, and enzymes. Heffter Research Institute co-founder David Nichols (Dr. Dave) now offers his knowledge at the Roth Lab after working for 40 years at Purdue University.
In a 2015 NIMH Director Blog, director Thomas Insel commended Roth Lab director Bryan Roth for the lab's DREADD technology work with psychoactively-inert Salvinorin B, an analog of Salvinorin A from Salvia divinorum.
Exciting Research: Heffter board member Roland Griffiths' current NIDA-funded receptor pharmacology study of dextromethorphan (NMDA/Glu receptor antagonist, cough medicine), Salvinorin A (kappa-opioid agonist, atypical hallucinogen), DMT (5-HT2a receptor agonist, classic hallucinogen), and psilocybin (5-HT2a receptor agonist, classic hallucinogen) may help distinguish neural pathways that create therapeutic altered states of consciousness. The latter three compounds show promise in treating addiction and have been used for ages by indigenous spiritual healers.
Watch Science and Sacraments: Psychedelic Research and Mystical Experiences, a documentary film made for the Psychoactive Substances Research Collection at Purdue University
Scientific American: Traditional Medicine from Southern Mexico Offers Help with Addiction. The “divine sage,” Salvia divinorum, contains kappa-opioid agonist Salvinorin A. For hundreds of years, the Mazatec people of Oaxaca in southern Mexico have conducted rituals that combine their own ancient beliefs with those of Catholicism.
More from Oaxaca: Botanical Dimensions Gives Western Culture an Uninhibited Look at Plant Medicines, Ethnobotany, and Culture. María Sabina of Oaxaca introduced Western culture to Psilocybe mushrooms in 1955. Sabina lived to age 101 and died in 1985.
More from the Roth Lab: Structure of ‘salvia’ receptor solved
Scientific Considerations Concerning Saliva Divinorum and Salvinorin A: Implications for Proposed Legislation
In the video below, Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University and Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London each give Ted Talks about their latest psilocybin research and its potential impact on mental health and society.
Newsweek: Psilocybin can decrease the pain of social exclusion.
University of British Columbia: UBC study finds psychedelic drugs may reduce domestic violence (video below)
Mental health care has long been unavailable, inaccessible, and unaffordable in the United States. Even if care were available to everyone, it would likely not be effective and efficient enough for hassle-free reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies.
The sad state of mental health care in the United States stems from inefficient treatment options and fractured care that John Oliver eloquently highlights in this video. The result is overuse of medications and unwillingness of both government and private insurance to pay for non-drug therapies. The requirement of a mental illness "label" (i.e. diagnosis) for insurance reimbursement creates stigma and leads to overdiagnosis. American mental health is suffering and private insurance still isn't paying despite the 250+ labels for mental disorders.
"Anytime there is a big increase in mental disorders, it has nothing to do with human nature changing. It's always a difference in labeling. And the DSM is making it too easy for the system to be abused in the direction of overdiagnosis, then overtreatment.
Psychiatrist and author Julie Holland takes issue with overdiagnosis of normal moods and overmedicating those moods with pharmaceuticals. Holland wrote in the Dallas Morning News: "The pharmaceutical industry spends billions in advertising and billions more paying researchers and prescribers directly. Women are inundated with messages that it’s pathological to feel sad or scared, with a barrage of ads that advance the question from, “Should I take an antidepressant?” to “Which one?”
Spread the word! Help Tim Ferriss fund groundbreaking and heroic psilocybin research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
➡ SEE THE FUNDRAISER
“I’m supporting this research because I’ve battled depression myself, I’ve seen incredible effects from psilocybin, and the preliminary research data are incredible.” –Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur and author
A recent but still unpublished study at Johns Hopkins demonstrated rapid, substantial, and sustained (lasting up to six months) antidepressant and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects of a single dose of psilocybin in psychologically-distressed patients with life-threatening cancer diagnoses. This is incredibly exciting. What if we could decrease or avoid altogether the known side-effects (and frequency of consumption) of current antidepressant drugs like SSRIs? This study could help establish an alternative.
Current popular antidepressant medications have significant adverse side effects, with up to 50% of patients failing to respond fully and as many as 30% remaining completely resistant. Major depression is a common and often devastating psychiatric disorder. Individuals with depression are at a much greater risk of suicide than the general population.
Psilocybin has been safely consumed by humans for millennia. Despite this, the study of entheogens like psilocybin was blocked for several decades due to political rather than scientific factors. Now, we can finally explore the therapeutic and medical potential of these powerful compounds.
The study Tim is supporting will determine the efficacy of psilocybin in treatment-resistant depression, and will also use cutting-edge brain imaging to clarify the mechanism of action of psilocybin's antidepressant effects. In the world of science, it is a rare opportunity to be able to conduct such potentially groundbreaking work for a mere $80,000. It’s almost unheard of.
Psilocybin has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of major depression that cannot be properly addressed with current treatments. This also applies to end-of-life care for terminally-ill cancer patients. (Follow JHU Research on Facebook: Psilocybin and Cancer Research).
Recently, my psychiatric journals have been full of glossy ads promoting a new diagnosis, “binge eating disorder.” A picture of a sad, lonely woman surrounded by junk food sits underneath text introducing me to the diagnosis, encouraging me to ask my female patients if they sometimes regret how much they eat, because they may be ashamed to talk about it. These ads were paid for by Shire Pharmaceuticals, the same company that makes the amphetamine Adderall. But Adderall has lost its patent, hence Vyvanse, a new, ultra, long-acting amphetamine. Shire’s newer ADHD ads also target women, recommending Vyvanse for 12-hour control of symptoms “throughout her day.”
Street drugs, speed and heroin, have come in, out of the cold, and are now Adderall or Vyvanse, OxyContin or Zohydro as Big Pharma expands into the recreational market. More women are becoming addicted to opiates and dying of overdoses, and more women are taking antidepressants and sleeping pills than ever before.
With soaring drug prices and insurance premiums, it is no wonder a revolution is slowly brewing, with more Americans taking their health care into their own hands.
They are rediscovering an herbal model of health care, using remedies with names like Phoenix Tears and Charlotte’s Web. The medicinal cannabis community is growing, educating and supporting one another. There is no patenting a flower."
There's no patenting a sacred mushroom, either.
Psychiatrist Jennie Byrne at Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill authored Unhappy with Psychiatry, Blame the Healthcare System that blames the business of medicine for America's broken mental health care system.
The following responses to the article from clinicians and a patient caregiver show that the problem is inherent to the system itself and is not limited to the United States. The status quo in treatment options and the system itself is unacceptable and will not work.
Learn more about the troubles of an American healthcare system that saddles psychiatrists with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
In recent decades, psychiatrists have found out that talk doesn't pay, so they stick to the fuzzy, invalid game of mental illness diagnosis and prescribing of potentially dangerous medications that may take several weeks to take effect. Burdened by medical school loans and a mental health shortage, psychiatrists have little time to think outside the box.
Psychologists are not required to take advanced science or pharmacology classes, so it gives them an excuse to know very little about mental health medications. Don't even ask them about treating centralized pain states. It's a sick system that only hurts patients and American society.
Disillusioned by the broken and culturally insensitive American mental health care system, individuals commonly self-medicate with alcohol, tobacco, opioid analgesics, and benzodiazepines, the only "acceptable" ways of altering consciousness in the United States.
“More people are getting more of today’s treatments, but the fact is our outcomes really aren’t any better.
If you double the amount of people getting any of our medications the suicide rate doesn’t budge.”
Who is responsible for allowing the state of American mental health get to where it is today?
Is it the FDA? It allowed the pharmaceutical industry to dominate mental health and essentially drive non-drug therapies out of American society.
Why is it impossible to find adequate and culturally-competent non-drug therapies in rural and low-income communities?
Julie Holland, MD: Is it Unethical Not to Fund Research into the Therapeutic Effects of Classic Hallucinogens, Cannabis, and MDMA?
Effects of Schedule I drug laws on neuroscience research and treatment innovation
Illegal Drug Laws: Clearing a 50-year old obstacle to research
Psychedelics not linked to mental health problems or suicidal behavior: A population study
Classic psychedelic use is associated with reduced psychological distress and suicidality in the United States adult population
Who is responsible for approving OxyContin and allowing the overuse of addictive opioids/benzos that have devastated a generation of Americans? (hint: It's the FDA and Big Pharma)
See: What punishment did Purdue Pharma receive for lies regarding the addictive liability of Oxycontin?
What type of punishment did the owners of Purdue Pharma receive? OxyContin Clan: The $14 Billion Newcomer to Forbes 2015 List of Richest U.S. Families
Are politicians and the DEA responsible for today's mental illness and substance abuse prevention and treatment failure? Through drug laws and a failed drug war, they are responsible for preventing research of therapeutic natural substances like cannabis (pain, cancer, more) and non-additive classic hallucinogens (anxiety, addiction, depression, disorders of compulsivity, consciousness, receptor pharmacology research, more).
The drug laws are hugely detrimental to research in neuroscience and to the development of new treatments
America's popular new mental illness–Binge-Eating Disorder–is treated with Vyvanse, VICE's amphetamine of the year. "Medical professionals are also polarized on the question of whether binge eating disorder is a disease at all. BED was only officially recognized in 2013 in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, also known as the DSM-5."
However, with the cost of college/healthcare and lack of meaningful jobs, the United States is a tough place to keep your head above water. People do what they have to do to manage their moods in a stressful and competitive society. When using amphetamines, do so at your own risk, as explained in The Speed of Hypocrisy: How America Got Hooked on Legal Meth.
History: America’s First Amphetamine Epidemic 1929–1971
For more on American hypocrisy, read Mental Health, Addiction, and Drug Policy: Politics and Faux Morals Trump American Health
Scale-down the DSM-based labeling system. It only serves to increase stigma and is an injustice to those who oppose man-made labels for normal moods or unique personalities.
People need help now, and it needs to be more affordable, efficient,
and effective. If thought leaders in the United States do not focus heavily on therapies that are affordable, decent mental health care will never be available to most Americans. Insurance companies simply will not want to pay for inefficient and unpredictable therapies.
Foster mature, honest, and intelligent discussion related to mind-altering substances. Create a national framework where patients can safely and inexpensively address their moods. Along with meditation, hallucinogens and cannabis could provide inexpensive means of resilience that do not break the bank, allowing more resources to be allotted to those with more serious and difficult-to-treat forms of mental illness.
Expand research into the therapeutic use of non-addictive classic hallucinogens or MDMA that could make psychotherapy more efficient. Make mindfulness meditation part of every community.
Want to change the status quo in American mental health?
Support these organizations that fund clinical research of sacred medicines.
Heffter Research Institute
International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, & Service (ICEERS)
Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)
The Beckley Foundation
Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Work Week:
Is Consciousness the Only Savior for a Changing America? Amazing "Quiet Time" Meditation Program in San Francisco Schools
Entheogen Ethics: Awe, the Small Self, and Prosocial Behavior
Entheogen Experts and America's Mental Health & Addiction Tragedies
Courageous Heffter-Funded Work at UAB School of Public Health that Changes Perceptions & Could Change Your World
Could Psilocybin Be Useful in Combating Depression and Anxiety in Homebound Older Adults and Patients with Chronic or Terminal Illness?
Psychiatrist Julie Holland, MD: Is it unethical for government not to fund research into the therapeutic use of hallucinogens to prevent and treat mental illness and addiction?
Timeline of Walgreens robberies in Northeast Tennessee
Tennessee finished strong at the end of 2015 in the race for most pharmacy robberies. There was no catching Indiana, a state that saw an HIV outbreak from heroin use largely due to a lack of opioid addiction, mental health, and harm reduction support services.
More: Appalachia, American Politicians Lack Courage to Go "All In" on Opioid Maintenance, Harm Reduction, Mental Health & Drug Policy Reform