Occasioned by Classic Hallucinogens
2015 Nathan B. Eddy Memorial Award Recipient
Griffiths continues the work of classic hallucinogen research pioneers Walter Pahnke, Bill Richards, and many others.
Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance. Griffiths RR, Richards WA, McCann U, Jesse R. Psychopharmacology. 2006 Aug;187(3):268-83; discussion 284-92. Epub 2006 Jul 7.
Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance 14 months later. Griffiths R, Richards W, Johnson M, McCann U, Jesse R. J Psychopharmacol. 2008 Aug;22(6):621-32.
Griffiths: Present & Future Research
Mystical experiences occasioned by the hallucinogen psilocybin lead to increases in the personality domain of openness. MacLean KA, Johnson MW, Griffiths RR. J Psychopharmacol. 2011 Nov;25(11): 1453-61.
Which FDA Indication is Being Pursued?
The way the drug approval process works at the FDA is to allow the petitioner (Heffter Research Institute) to request approval for one marketing indication. The current indication is for the use of psilocybin-assisted therapy to treat the anxiety and depression that result from a diagnosis of a life-threatening disease (e.g. cancer). This anxiety is Heffter's primary focus right now, yet several donors have indicated that they wish to support research into the value of psilocybin as a treatment for treating addictions. Therefore, they also are supporting studies of psilocybin-assisted therapy in treating nicotine and alcohol addiction. There have been very positive outcomes for two pilot studies of addiction.
Patient Journal: Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Study
From here on love was the only consideration. Everything that happened, anything and everything that was seen or heard centered on love. It was and is the only purpose. Love seemed to emanate from a single point of light … It was so pure. The sheer joy … the bliss was indescribable. And in fact there are no words to accurately capture my experience… my state … this place. I know I’ve had no earthly pleasure that’s ever come close to this feeling… no sensation, no image of beauty, nothing during my time on earth has felt as pure and joyful and glorious as the height of this journey …
I felt very warm but pleasantly so …I was beginning to wonder if man spent too much time and effort at things unimportant … trying to accomplish so much … when really, it was all so simple. No matter the subject, it all came down to the same thing. Love. Earthly matters such as food, music, architecture, anything, everything… aside from love, seemed silly and trivial. I was convinced in that moment that I had figured it all out (or it was figured out for me) … it was right there in front of me … love … the only thing that mattered. This was now to be my life’s cause. I announced, “OK, I get it! You can all punch out now … our work is done!” But quickly I realized that no … our work … our existence … our energy… is never done … it goes on and on without end.I thought about my cancer ….I took a tour of my lungs. I could see some things but it was more a matter of feeling the inside of my lungs. I remember breathing deeply to help facilitate the “seeing.” There were nodules but they seemed rather unimportant … I was being told (without words) to not worry about the cancer … it’s minor in the scheme of things … simply an imperfection of your humanity and that the more important matter … the real work to be done is before you. Again love.
[On the day after the experience] …I felt spectacular … both physically and mentally! It had been a very long time since I’d felt that good … a serene sense of balance … a level of contentedness, peace and happiness that lasted all day and into the evening. Undoubtedly, my life has changed in ways I may never fully comprehend. But I now have an understanding … an awareness that goes beyond intellect … that my life, that every life, and all that is the universe, equals one thing … love.
ASCO interview: NYU Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Research Team
- William Breitbart M.D.: A Cautionary Note on Psilocybin Therapy
More from Dr. William Breitbart, Chief of Psychiatry Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Sloan Kettering, and Jimmie C. Holland Chair at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center:
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: William Breitbart Biography
- UpToDate: Assessment and management of depression in palliative care
- PsychCentral Expert Q&A: The Role of Psychiatry in Palliative Care
- PubMed: Publications by William Breitbart
Hendricks PS, Thorne CB, Clark CB, Coombs DW, Johnson MW. J Psychopharmacol. 2015 Mar;29(3):280-8.
Psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence: a proof-of-concept study. Bogenschutz MP, Forcehimes AA, Pommy JA, Wilcox CE, Barbosa PC, Strassman RJ. J Psychopharmacol. 2015 Mar;29(3):289-99.
Pilot study of the 5-HT2AR agonist psilocybin in the treatment of tobacco addiction. Johnson MW, Garcia-Romeu A, Cosimano MP, Griffiths RR. J Psychopharmacol. 2014 Nov;28(11):983-92.
Hallucinogen use predicts reduced recidivism among substance-involved offenders under community corrections supervision. Hendricks PS, Clark CB, Johnson MW, Fontaine KR, Cropsey KL. J Psychopharmacol. 2014 Jan;28(1):62-6.
Pilot study of psilocybin treatment for anxiety in patients with advanced-stage cancer. Grob CS, Danforth AL, Chopra GS, Hagerty M, McKay CR, Halberstadt AL, Greer GR. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011 Jan;68(1):71-8. doi: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.116. Epub 2010 Sep 6.
Classic Hallucinogen Review Articles
Finding the self by losing the self: Neural correlates of ego-dissolution under psilocybin. Lebedev AV, Lövdén M, Rosenthal G, Feilding A, Nutt DJ, Carhart-Harris RL. Hum Brain Mapp. 2015 May 22.
Classical hallucinogens as antidepressants? A review of pharmacodynamics and putative clinical roles. Baumeister D, Barnes G, Giaroli G, Tracy D. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2014 Aug;4(4):156-69.
Recent advances in the neuropsychopharmacology of serotonergic hallucinogens. Halberstadt AL. Behav Brain Res. 2015 Jan 15;277:99-120. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2014.07.016. Epub 2014 Jul 15.
Studying the effects of classic hallucinogens in the treatment of alcoholism: rationale, methodology, and current research with psilocybin. Bogenschutz MP. Curr Drug Abuse Rev. 2013 Mar;6(1):17-29.
Repression of death consciousness and the psychedelic trip. Dutta V. J Cancer Res Ther. 2012 Jul-Sep;8(3):336-42.
Is Legal Reclassification of Psychedelics the Right Thing to Do For Mental Health and Psychosomatic Illness Research?
The Next Decade -- Where Can We Go?
Consciousness & Quantum Behavioral Change
Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., David E. Nichols, Ph.D., Stephen Ross, M.D.,
Henry Stapp, Ph.D., Franz X. Vollenweider, M.D., Steve Paulson (Mod)
- Roland Griffiths, Ph.D.
Rudd, M., Vohs, K. D., & Aaker, J. (2012). Awe expands people’s perception of time, alters decision making, and enhances well-being. Psychological Science, 23, 1130–1136.
Saroglou, V., Buxant, C., & Tilquin, J. (2008). Positive emotions as leading to religion and spirituality. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 3, 165–173.
Shiota, M. N., Keltner, D., & Mossman, A. (2007). The nature of awe: Elicitors, appraisals, and effects on self-concept. Cognition and Emotion, 21, 944–963.
Stellar, J., John-Henderson, N., Anderson, C., Gordon, A. M., McNeil, G., & Keltner, D. (2015). Positive affect and markers of inflammation: Discrete positive emotions predict lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. Emotion.
Valdesolo, P., & Graham, J. (2014). Awe, uncertainty, and agency detection. Psychological Science, 25, 170–178.
Van Cappellen, P., & Saroglou, V. (2012). Awe activates religious and spiritual feelings and behavioral intentions. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 4, 223–236.
Van Cappellen, P., Toth-Gauthier, M., Saroglou, V., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2014). Religion and well-being: The mediating role of positive emotions. Journal of Happiness Studies.
- The ability to extend the self beyond the immediate context to achieve new perspectives, is seen as important in the last phases of life where dying patients are encouraged to maintain a sense of well-being in the face of imminent biological and social loss. Even in the midst of suffering it is possible to create something that is beautiful.
- Transcendence is probably the most powerful way in which one is restored to wholeness after injury to personhood. When experienced, transcendence locates the person in a far larger landscape. The suffering is not isolated by pain but it brought closer to a transpersonal source of meaning and to the human community that shares those meanings.
- Everyone has a transcendent dimension, a life of the spirit. This is most directly expressed in religion and the mystic traditions, but the frequency with which people have intense feelings of bonding with groups, ideals, or anything larger and more enduring than the person is evidence of the universality of the transcendent dimension. The quality of being greater and more lasting than an individual life gives this aspect of the person its timeless dimension. The profession of medicine appears to ignore the human spirit. When I see patients in nursing homes who have become only bodies, I wonder whether it is not their transcendent dimension that they have lost.
Julie Holland, M.D.
- Dr. Holland on MDMA Research and Working 9 Years on the Night Shift at Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital