We’re especially curious about your research into the connections between psilocybin, spirituality, and consciousness. Can you tell us more? Are there any updates?
In ongoing studies, we’re examining the effects of psilocybin in long-term meditators and in religious leaders from the major faith traditions. We’re also conducting two anonymous internet surveys. One is asking about experiences that some people report of an encounter with God, or the God of their understanding.
Finally, we’re initiating a study to explore the efficacy of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. (continued below)
Psilocybin vs. Ketamine: Imperial College London psilocybin researcher Robin Carhart-Harris presents preliminary data for treatment-resistant depression.
The Default Mode Network & End of Suffering: Experienced meditator Gary Weber talks about the effects of meditation, psilocybin, ayahuasca, on connectivity of the default mode network area of the brain and the cingulate cortex, areas responsible for the sense of self.
When will thought leaders wake up and allow archaic means of resilience like meditation and psychotherapy with hallucinogens become a part of American culture?
Having few outlets to alleviate day-to-day mental distress drives people to self-medicate beyond moderation with addictive substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs.
Learn more about this unique American epidemic:
examined 84 clinical trials between 1990 and 2013 and found that the patient response to placebo rose over the years. Difference in patient response to placebo versus drug changed from 27% in 1996 to 9% in 2013. Interestingly, the increase in placebo effect was due completely to the 35 studies in the United States. Placebo effect in trials outside the United States did not increase.
Scientific American states:
"Drug companies have a problem: they are finding it ever harder to get painkillers through clinical trials. But this isn’t necessarily because the drugs are getting worse.
Stronger placebo responses have already been reported for trials of antidepressants and antipsychotics, triggering debate over whether growing placebo effects are seen in pain trials too."
- Scientific American: Psychiatrists, Instead of Being Embarrassed by Placebo Effect, Should Embrace It, Author Says
- Time: The Fascinating Link Between Placebo and Antidepressants
- Time: New Research on the Antidepressant-vs.-Placebo Debate
- Newsweek: Why Antidepressants Are No Better Than Placebos
Authors of the research note the importance of investigating why the United States is different than other countries regarding placebo effect. According to McGill University, reasons may include "the existence of direct-to-consumer drug advertising in the U.S. (New Zealand is the only other country in the world that allows this), the greater spread of for-profit “contract research organizations” in the U.S., and perhaps greater exposure to the placebo concept in popular media in the U.S."
Scientific American / Nature quoted Ted Kaptchuk, director of placebo research at Harvard Medical School in Boston: “If the major component of a drug in any particular condition is its placebo component, we need to develop non-pharmacological interventions as a first-line response."
Will development and implementation of non-pharm and archaic interventions for mental health conditions such as centralized pain and mental disorders be possible in a society that is driven by prescriptions?
Personality change and placebo effect
- What is Psilocybin? Learn from the Mycology Society of America's 1st Gordon & Tina Wasson Award Winner, Paul Stamets (Wasson introduced psilocybin mushrooms to Western society)
HUGE Speaker for "Breaking Through," TEDMed 2015: Mindfulness, Psilocybin, & Spirituality Psychopharmacologist Roland Griffiths
Johns Hopkins University: Psychedelic Drug Use Could Reduce Psychological Distress, Suicidal Thinking
Hallucinogen use predicts reduced recidivism among substance-involved offenders under community corrections supervision
- Mystical Experiences Occasioned by the Hallucinogen Psilocybin Lead to Increases in the Personality Domain of Openness
The Johns Hopkins study was especially noteworthy due to the fact that personality usually doesn't change significantly after age 30. If a single dose of psilocybin significantly increases openness that lasts over a year, could other personality traits be influenced with additional sessions?
Placebo studies have shown that novelty-seeking personality trait (i.e. openness) is linked to a stronger placebo effect.
A 2012 study published in Neuropsychopharmaco-logy found that "people with certain personality traits—specifically, those who scored high on resiliency, altruism, and straightforwardness, and low on measures of “angry hostility.” CU Boulder neuroscientist Tor Wager told The Scientist, "This is interesting because it’s one of the first studies to look at how personality traits are associated with placebo analgesia not only in terms of subjective reports of pain relief, but also with quite solid objective measures in key parts of the brain."
2015. Hendricks. Classic psychedelic use is associated with reduced psychological distress and suicidality in the United States adult population. J Psychopharmacology.
discovery that man had ever made"
–Myron Stolaroff, Ph.D.
The only way to find out if psilocybin or ayahuasca can influence placebo effect or provide benefit in treating mental illness, depression, or somatic disorders is to do the research.
According to Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., past president of the American Psychiatric Association, "We have had a nearly 50-year hiatus in any serious investigation, except for some heroic investigators at a few universities."
"My point is not to say that these drugs should be discounted and relegated to the criticism and dismissal similar to that of treatments for which we have no basis for claims of therapeutic efficacy.
These psychedelic drugs clearly are pharmacologically active, have profound effects, could be useful for therapeutic purposes, and need to be studied in an intensive and extensive way before an informed determination can be made.
If not, we will find ourselves in a situation that may resemble what we are seeing with marijuana, with its increasing legalization despite having an inadequate knowledge base, because of social and political pressure.
–Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D.
Past President of American Psychiatric Association
Chairman of Psychiatry at Columbia University
Psychiatrist-in-Chief at NY Presbyterian Hospital
Director of the NY State Psychiatric Institute
I believe that the scientific investigation of mind-altering psychedelic drugs in the 1960s and '70s was a truncated but promising avenue of research, and that these medications, these drugs, could have significant value for a variety of indications if studied adequately."
More on the revival of psychedelics research:
FDA-Approved Drug Therapies and Classic Hallucinogens to Treat Alcoholism:
Barriers, Background, and the Latest Research
Psychedelics Expert Interviews: Can Classic Hallucinogens Relieve America's Mental Health & Addiction Tragedies?
Implications for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy- a functional magnetic resonance imaging study with psilocybin: An fMRI neuroimaging study that received financial and intellectual support from the Beckley Foundation and financial support from the Neuropsychoanalysis Foundation, Multidisplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and Heffter Research Institute.
fMRI: psilocybin vs. meditation
Hacking the default mode network
Stunting Growth of Antidepressants, Antipsychotics,
Pain Meds: Meditation Better than Placebo vs Depression, Much Better than Overprescribing
Meditation & Psychedelics for Depression
“Meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some depression symptoms as other studies have found with antidepressants,” says Johns Hopkins expert Madhav Goyal, M.D., M.P.H.
“Meditation has been studied for decades, but we wanted to know if it was really better than the placebo effect." So he and a team of researchers reviewed 47 meditation studies, involving 3,515 volunteers, most of whom were not suffering from clinical depression or clinical anxiety.
Their conclusion: “Meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some depression symptoms as other studies have found with antidepressants,” Goyal says. Volunteers who took an eight-week meditation course experienced a 10 percent to 20 percent improvement in depression symptoms and a 5 percent to 10 percent improvement in anxiety symptoms. Meditation also showed similar promise to reduce pain."
Patients with subclinical mental illness should not be subjected to medications that carry risk of side effects. However, if subclinical mental illness is not helped in some way, it could progress to more serious mental distress or self-medication with harmful prescription drugs or alcohol. This is an area where psychedelic psychotherapy and meditation could help.
- NBC News Covers Meditation in Schools: Is Higher Consciousness the Only Savior for a Changing America? Meditation Has People Believing.
Marginally effective pharmaceutical therapies for depression and anxiety are simply not worth the risk vs. reward in patients with subclinical depression or existential anxiety. Harm is especially important when considering treatment for older adults, a population that is increasing with aging baby boomers.
- Psilocybin, Not Prozac or Xanax, Shows Promise for Existential and Spiritual Distress: Could Psilocybin Help Treat Depression in Homebound Older Adults?
- Link: Meta analysis in JAMA Internal Medicine reviewed mindfulness-based stress reduction (type of meditation created by Jon Kabat-Zinn) for subclinical depression/anxiety, the level of anxiety that so many Americans have. How might outcomes might improve with the addition of one or two sessions of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. Long-term, either could be better than the antidepressant and benzodiazepine game for subclinical or mild depression and anxiety.
Meditation for Pain
Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., of Wake Forest showed that meditation is significantly more effective than sham at the 2014 NIH Pain Consortium Symposium (Zeidan's video presentation below), earning him the Mitchell Max Award for research excellence. Pain specialist Mitchell B. Max tragically died by suicide in 2009 at age 59.
400 Doctors Die By Suicide Every Year.
Why Have Suicide Rates Not Decreased?
This begs the question: Is meditation, an inexpensive non-drug therapy that is minimally difficult to learn, being aggressively researched across the United States for pain and mood regulation?
- NIMH Director Thomas Insel & Meditation Researcher Richard Davidson Deconstruct Mindfulness Meditation at Davos 2015
Scroll down to see the draft CDC guidelines for pain management that caused quite a stir in the medical community.
More videos from the NIH Pain Symposium:
Who Provides Mental Health Care in America?
Primary Care Physicians?
- "...limited access to psychotherapy leaves frustrated doctors with little choice but to prescribe medication, or provide brief sessions of therapy themselves despite receiving little training in the area."
- Health Insurers Face Little Enforcement Of Mental Health Parity Law
- Lack of reimbursement results in behavioral health professionals moving only to larger cities that have wealthier patients. Non-drug mental health and substance abuse care become unavailable to patients who need it the most (i.e. children, low
income, substance-dependent, and those where non-drug therapies are first-line)
The infographic below from the CDC can be applied to all types of psychoactive medications, not just opioids. Prescription medications to treat mental distress and pain are the only choice for most patients and providers.
The pain organizations called this an extreme position in their letter to the CDC. Opposition statement:
“It is CDC’s singular focus on prescription opioid diversion, abuse, addiction, and overdose over any improved understanding of chronic pain incidence, prevalence, trends, and optimal interventions that reveals within CDC an extreme imbalance in its own risk-benefit sensibilities when it comes to this class of medications,” the letter says. “FDA requires safety and efficacy trials that all approved opioid medications have met. Detailed prescribing instructions are developed based on proven studies. Yet the new guidelines ignore the FDA’s prescribing expertise, recommending different maximum daily doses that appear in no guidelines or package inserts.”
The FDA appears to have played little -- if any -- role in developing the guidelines with the CDC, even though both agencies are in the Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Secretary Sylvia Burwell. An FDA spokesman would only say that the agency “did have an opportunity to comment on the current version” of the guidelines.
“I would ask you to consider what Secretary Burwell's role is in allowing such divisiveness between CDC and FDA. Shouldn't Burwell be trying to have the federal government have a united front on opioids?” asked David Becker, a social worker and patient advocate.
“It seems to me there is a lack of leadership from the Obama administration on opioids. In addition, they can’t seem to deal with the politics of pain care -- they are not bringing parties together to settle their differences. On the contrary they seem to encourage factionalism and convulsing society. Individuals in pain are merely pawns in the chess game of pain -- with little power and say over their care.”
For the past two decades, Congress has neglected mental health while gladly allowing researchers and healthcare professionals fight over the funds allotted for mental health, substance abuse, and pain care. Where is the leadership?
Now is a tremendously important time for mental health, given the levels of opioid addiction without proper treatment, the number of mentally ill patients in prison rather than receiving adequate care, and the number of mass shootings in America (Guns and the NRA are also to blame). Are you seeing change in your community?
http://www.contactingthecongress.org/ Call your congressman or woman and tell them we need leadership in mental health, pain, and substance abuse care, not more of the same bureaucratic bickering.
Recent pain and opioid management fighting among doctors/government agencies is equivalent to our embarrassingly poor history of helping those with mental illness in our country.
Scrutiny must be laid on the FDA, the regulatory body that approves and oversees pharmaceutical companies that produce and market potentially-addictive prescription drugs.
There are always two sides to the story. Here are perspectives of pain care advocates who felt they were not properly represented in the CDC pain guidelines:
- Drugwonks.com: CDC gets it transparently wrong on opioids
- Painnewsnetwork.com: Special interest groups behind CDC opioid guidelins
- Morningconsult.com: Opioids and sunshine at the CDC
Mental Health Failures
Americans do not have time for conflicts between psychiatry, psychology, anti-psychiatry, the FDA, and severe mental illness vs. non-severe mental illness. Psychiatry and psychology are left to fight over the relatively paltry funding that is allotted to our mental well-being, while those with severe mental illness are put in prison or left homeless. There is a complete lack of leadership and vision for the future of mental health, substance abuse, and pain care in the United States. The DEA only knows handcuffs. The FDA is weak and too easily swayed by pharmaceutical industry. NIMH has more to do with research than it does with implementation. NIDA keeps fearful parents properly warned about teenage drug harms.
It's time for real change and real leadership. Pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies cannot be trusted to dictate policy on mental health.
There needs to be a single government payer for everything related to mental health and pain. It would result in better research of all types of therapies and limit patient stress that comes with not knowing if certain therapies will be covered or even work in the first place. This type of single payer system already exists in the VA System. What about the rest of the country?
NIH To Use $21M On Research For Pain Treatments Without Addictive Drugs Targeted For US Military, Veterans, And Families
“There’s a reason there’s 10 different types of depression medication, because what works for you might not work for the next guy,” Jensenexplained to DAV.org. Through nearly half a year of treatment, Jensen was prescribed five different kinds of depression medication, three types of anxiety medication and two different sleeping aids. But none of it provided the relief he was hoping for. “Everybody’s different. You need to find the right fit for you, and in order to do that you need to try new things.” “There are other methodologies besides medications and expensive treatments that they can do themselves and have for the rest of their lives without spending a lot of time and money,” Yellin stated. “Learning TM is a one-time fee for a lifetime of help.”
NIMH Director Thomas Insel & Meditation Researcher Richard Davidson Deconstruct Mindfulness Meditation at Davos 2015
More from Thomas Insel, M.D.
Facing Down Mental Illness
4 things leaders need to know about mental health
Drug Policy Reform
GOP presidential candidates treat drug policy reform as if were a pot joke while thousands of families have been ruined by draconian laws that are not based on science. Cannabis is effective in treating pain, but it's been illegal for the past 50 years. Instead, the FDA condoned the use of Oxycontin in the 1990s to treat all types of pain.
Read Carly Fiorina's story about her daughter’s struggles with alcohol, prescription pills and bulimia that led to her death at age 35: “Lori’s potential was never fulfilled but death is not the only thing that crushes potential… What I also know is that Americans are failing to achieve their potential today.”
- Drug Policy Reform: Individual States and an American Public Fraught with Addiction, Mental Illness, and Jail Time Looking to Alternatives
We will fail to reach our potential until Presidential candidates make drug policy, pain, mental health and substance abuse topics of discussion in the 2016 election.
TedMed 2015: Breaking Through
Addiction, psychedelics, and meditation expert Roland Griffiths
When Mother's Little Helper Quits Helping:
Could Reduce Psychological Distress, Suicidal Thinking