Tag: Psilocybin

Psychedelic Research Provision Doesn’t Pass, but Makes Progress in Congress

It’s not often that losing a vote can be considered a success, but in drug policy it can be important to take a few lumps to educate people and build support. Oregon voters voted down legalizing medical cannabis dispensaries twice before advocates managed to pass a bill in the state legislator. Oregonians turned away the first two attempts at ending prohibition, in 1986 and 2012, before over 56% of voters passed Measure 91 in 2014. At the national level, the budget amendment preventing the federal government from arresting and prosecuting medical cannabis patients and providers following their states’ law didn’t pass until the seventh attempt, losing 152 to 273 when it was first introduced in 2003, before finally passing with 219 votes in 2014. Demonstrating progress, an amendment by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to allow federal funding of psychedelic research recently lost 140-285, two years after failing to even garner 100 votes, losing 93-331. Marijuana Moment has the details:

“Most Democrats supported the amendment this round, unlike in 2019 when a majority of Ocasio-Cortez’s party joined Republicans in quashing the reform.

“The proposal, if adopted, would have removed a 1990s-era provision that’s long been part of spending legislation for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The rider bars use of funds for ‘any activity that promotes the legalization of any drug or other substance in Schedule I’ of the Controlled Substances Act, language that reform supporters say can have a chilling effect on even researching the therapeutic potential of restricted drugs.

“Despite the growth in Democratic support over the past two years, enough members of the party helped take the measure down during Tuesday’s vote. Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet that ‘we got a little closer to ending this outdated war-on-drugs-era policy last night’ and pledged that she will ‘keep bringing it up until the times catch up.'”

With the medical psychedelic revolution just getting started, the education of elected officials, who are just now starting to catch up with the times on cannabis, is going to take a lot of work and time. Just seven Republicans supported the amendment, with one GOP representative moving from a “no” vote to a “yes” while a whopping 45 Democrats moved to the right side of history in 2021 after opposing the research provision in 2019. As more research is conducted and psilocybin, MDMA, and other treatment therapies become more mainstream, we can expect more and more “yes” votes on AOC’s amendment, until passage eventually occurs. Representative Ocasio-Cortez should be commended for leading on this important issue as should everyone that has joined her, including those that changed their vote after learning more.

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Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board Releases Promising Initial Research Report

Following the historic passage of Measure 109, the Oregon Health Authority was tasked with overseeing an advisory board to help determine rules for regulating therapeutic psilocybin programs starting in 2023. Over the course of two years, committees will be issuing reports and recommendations regarding research, equity, products, and licensing, similar to how the OHA initially developed regulations for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. The research subcommittee recently released initial research findings in a report authored by an impressive collection of experts and medical professionals. The Healing Advocacy Fund emailed about the initial findings:

“The Board’s eight-week review of over 600 research citations of psilocybin indicated that ‘high quality phase 1 and 2 clinical trials suggest that psilocybin is efficacious in reducing depression and anxiety, including in life-threatening conditions.’ The report also cited initial research showing that psilocybin services could be helpful in reducing alcohol and tobacco use, could increase well-being and that most study participants rated their psilocybin experiences as ‘highly meaningful’ to their lives.

“These are significant findings. This report represents the first time a state government has done such a thorough review of the available research. It’s another proof point in the growing evidence that psilocybin can be an effective treatment for healing and growth.”

From the report itself:

“High quality phase 1 and 2 clinical trials suggest that psilocybin is efficacious in reducing depression
and anxiety, including in life-threatening conditions. The effect sizes of psilocybin treatment trials are
large, though limited diversity of clinical trials participants limits generalizability. In all of these trials,
psilocybin is administered in the context of counseling support in the weeks before and after dosing.
The FDA has designated psilocybin a breakthrough therapy for treatment of depression, indicating that
preliminary clinical evidence suggests it may represent a significant improvement over existing
therapies. Initial research also suggests that psilocybin may be efficacious in reducing problematic
alcohol and tobacco use. Across studies, psilocybin increases spiritual well-being which may mediate
other observed benefits. Study participants also commonly rate their psilocybin experiences as highly
meaningful.”

While there is ample research showing great potential mental health benefits of psilocybin available on various corners of the internet, it is remarkable for a state health agency to have a hub of experts compiling and analyzing available data, and making recommendations for therapeutic use. With more and more research being conducted and psychedelics moving into the mainstream, we can certainly expect more states to follow Oregon’s pioneering example. Over the next few years, Oregon advocates and policymakers should ensure that the Beaver State remains on the forefront of the psychedelic revolution by implementing a therapeutic program for others to follow and to consider efforts to legalize the medicinal use of other psychedelic medicines as well. It’s an exciting time for the drug reform community and Oregonians should be proud of putting the state at the leading edge of a medical movement to improve the wellbeing of so many people.


Can Psychedelics Help Patients Combat Obesity?

Despite the “munchies” that cannabis can seem to cause, the evidence has shown that the cannabis community tends to be less obese than the general population. For those of us that continue to battle with maintaining a healthy wait, maybe psychedelics could potentially unlock the answer. While there is currently a lack of human data on the issue, there has been promising results from research on lab rats, and we can expect more studies to be conducted on a whole host of health issues, as psychedelic medicine follows a similar path as medicinal cannabis. Clive Ward Able, MD, a trained physician and pharmacist, discussed his research into the use of psychedelic compounds to treat obesity and optimize human health with Pharmacy Times:

“’The idea is that this has to come from the patient. If the patient wants help for it, this will be able to help them get to a place where they really want to be,’ Ward Able said. ‘But I’m not talking about every single obese patient, because there are a lot of obese patients who are happy the way they are, and they don’t necessarily want to lose weight. But there’s a large component of those, such as in depressed patients, who have certain triggers that get them to overeat or not to exercise, etc.’

Ward Able noted that the target of obesity treatment is not necessarily to bring every patient under a body mass index of 25. Instead, this treatment can hopefully allow patients to get to a healthier weight and maintain it, with an added sense of wellbeing that they may desire after losing weight.

“’This is where I think psychedelics can add to what is being done now,’ Ward Able said. ‘Psychotherapies are being used for the treatment of obesity or weight management, but people tend to fall back into their old behaviors again, although they do work. What I’m calling drug enhanced psychotherapy or psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy adds another facet to that psychotherapy, which should be able to instill much longer lasting positive behaviors, such as an improved diet, whether that’s quantity or quality, or within expenditure of energy, such as increasing your amount of exercise.’”

As Dr. Ward states, psychedelics could be a key to maintaining a healthy weight by helping patients deal with underlying issues such as depression, that are causing unhealthy life choices. With obesity impacting over 42% of American adults and over 8% experiencing depression, millions of people battling mental health issues and the corresponding weight gain, could benefit from psychedelics. With therapeutic psilocybin treatments less than two years away in Oregon thanks to the passage of Measure 109, we will soon have an abundance of evidence about the benefits of “magic mushrooms” and as the Measure 110 drug decriminalization law helps end the stigma around the use of all psychedelics, we will only see more research into how many of these psychoactive substances can help a variety of conditions. Stay tuned, as it is an exciting time for psychedelic medicine.

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Study Shows Psilocybin Regrowing Brain Tissue Damaged by Depression

Depression impacts millions of Americans, with over 17% of adults suffering a major depressive issue. Depression can cause feelings of sadness and despair and potentially a loss of interest in things that once caused happiness. The mental and physical issues caused by this mental health condition can understandably hinder one’s work productivity and social relationships. The good news is that depression is treatable and advancements in psychedelics are potentially opening up new treatment avenues. A recent study by Yale researchers shows that psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in “magic mushrooms” may actually regrow brain tissue damaged by depression, as covered by Interesting Engineering:

“A psychedelic drug called psilocybin, which shows up naturally in some mushrooms, has shown signs of increasing durable connections between neurons in mouse brains, according to a new study published in the journal Neuron.

“In other words, the damage depression does to your brain might be reversible with psychedelic mushrooms, and scientists think the trip itself could play a vital role.

“‘We not only saw a 10% increase in the number of neuronal connections, but also they were on average about 10% larger, so the connections were stronger as well,’ said the study’s lead author Alex Kwan, who is also an associate professor of both psychiatry and neuroscience at Yale, in an embargoed release shared with IE. Earlier laboratory experiments hinted that psilocybin, in addition to the anesthetic ketamine, can reduce the effects of depression. But this latest research showed these compounds also increase the density of dendritic spines, creating small protrusions on nerve cells capable of enhancing the way information transmits from one neuron to the next. Depression and chronic stress are known factors in the reduction of these crucial neuronal connections.”

While legalized psilocybin therapy is likely years away for most, Oregon is leading the way following the passage of Measure 109. In less than two years, state-licensed and regulated psilocybin therapy will be available to help treat a whole host of mental health ailments, including depression. As more studies demonstrate the benefit of magic mushrooms and other psychedelics, Oregon needs to continue to be on the forefront of this growing medical revolution, and other states will certainly follow. Just as federal cannabis prohibition is about to crumble, we have an opportunity to create a similar movement for psychedelics, improving lives along the way.

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Psychiatric Times Covers the Promising Future of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

The Psychiatric Times, a monthly medical trade association publication distributed to about 50,000 psychiatrists, posted a testimonial from Dr. Devon Christie, who is helping lead a important psychedelic therapy studies. A licensed therapist and family physician, Dr. Christie specializes in pain management and mental health. Operating out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, she is the director for Numinous Wellness that is seeking to provide evidence-based psychedelic therapies for a variety of conditions such as depression, PTSD, and addiction issues. As the Psychiatric Times notes:

“A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that mind-altering drugs, combined with psychotherapy, are effective treatments for some of the most stubborn psychiatric disorders.

“Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be exceptionally difficult to treat. But recent studies have suggested the efficacy of a surprising option: mind-altering drugs, in combination with psychotherapy.

“For PTSD, 3,4-methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA) appears to be especially effective.”

In a Mental Health Minute, Devon Christie laid out the latest developments in the field and what might be in the future for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. The first study, Dr. Christie discussed was a trial of 20 Canadians utilizing MDMA to combat PTSD. She also discussed a psilocybin-assisted pilot project that “utilizes motivational enhancement therapy for polysubstance use disorder.” And finally, she previewed a safety and feasibility study for a standardized psilocybin extraction from lab-cultivated mushrooms.

With an ongoing global mental health crisis, it is great to see psychedelics garnering more and more mainstream attention. Too many people are suffering when they don’t have to. It’s notable that the Psychiatric Times trade publication is shining a light on these new developments as the mainstream establishment doesn’t always warm up to new ideas that shake up the status quo. It’s very telling that one of the few opponents of the Measure 109 psilocybin initiative was the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association. I remember when the Oregon Medical Association and Oregon Nurses Association were big opponents of medicinal cannabis as well, but then ONA actually endorsed the Measure 110 drug decriminalization initiative, demonstrating that change can occur with new evidence and an open mind.

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From Cannabis to Psychedelics, Drug War Reformers Are on a Roll from Coast to Coast

Aided by winning most cannabis ballot initiative campaigns since 1996, the growing understanding that the War on Drugs has been an utter failure, and the hard work of dedicated activists across the country, drug war reformers have serious momentum from coast to coast. It’s easy to see a snowballing pattern of how victories for freedom and common sense chipped away at the Drug War, starting with medicinal cannabis to full legalization to medicinal psilocybin and drug decriminalization wins statewide in Oregon last year. Within the past week, the Texas Legislature has approved legislation to study psychedelics potential to treat military veterans’ PTSD, the California Senate has sent a psychedelics decriminalization bill to the General Assembly, and Connecticut legislators seem poised to pass a cannabis legalization bill that includes social equity provisions such as the automatic expungement of possession convictions. Gizmodo reported on the momentum in a column titled, “It’s a Good Week for Drugs”:

“(California) SB 519, which now moves to the House, acknowledges that the war on drugs hasn’t worked and that responsible regulation can help reduce harm, primarily to people who take tainted substances. ‘The War on Drugs has entailed overwhelming financial and societal costs, and the policy behind it does not reflect a modern understanding of substance use nor does it accurately reflect the potential therapeutic benefits or harms of various substances,’ the introduction to the bill reads. It goes on to say that people continue to use black market drugs, which have become less safe, particularly when laced with drugs like fentanyl, which caused a spike in overdoses during the pandemic. The state hopes that distributing drug analysis tools and scales can help reduce harm.

“It also notes that certain psychedelics have proven medicinal benefits, which is partly the reason that Oregon and Denver legalized psilocybin, the hallucinogen derived from mushrooms. Studies have shown that taking psilocybinMDMA, and ketamine, paired with psychotherapy, can help relieve major depressive disorder and PTSD. In the latter case, studies frequently state that pharmaceuticals aren’t enough.

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“It is also a good week for therapeutic drugs in Texas, where two bills await Governor Abbot’s signature. One would expand access to medical weed, and another would mandate research on the effectiveness of MDMA, ketamine, and psilocybin in treating PTSD.”

As Gizmodo also notes, these most recent political victories also coincided with economic giant Amazon announcing that it now supports the the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act), and will now stop testing most of its employees for cannabis. Not to mention the fact that Virginia and New York recently passed landmark cannabis legalization bills. The Drug War has gone on for so long and its failures have been so obvious to so many advocates, that it can be easy to get burned out. It’s a good idea to take a breath and realize how far that we’ve come and to acknowledge that hard work and dedication are paying off as the truth prevails step by step, state by state.

California Senate Votes to Legalize Possession of Psychedelics, Psilocybin Cultivation

Oregon led the way passing medicinal psilocybin and drug decriminalization measures last year and our neighbor to the South has added to the momentum for sensible drug policy reform by sending a bill to the California General Assembly that legalizes the personal possession of psychedelics while also allowing for the cultivation and transportation of psilocybin. Senate Bill 519, sponsored by Senator Scott Weiner, passed 21-16 and is currently awaiting assignment to an Assembly committee. Most media outlets have characterized SB 519 as a decriminalization bill although it effectively legalizes personal use by fully removing the penalties for possession from the criminal code except that peyote and mescaline derived from peyote are not included due to their endangered status and spiritual significance to Native American communities.

Courthouse News reported:

“The War on Drugs has failed us, and criminalizing these substances doesn’t make anyone safer,” said state Senator Scott Weiner, a Democrat from San Francisco. “It’s time to move away from failed drug criminalization policies and toward a science- and health-based approach.”

A raft of scientific studies have shown psychedelics may prove useful in treating a gamut of mental health issues, including treatment-resistant depression, post traumatic stress disorder and addiction issues. 

“Psychedelics show great promise in helping people deal with complex trauma, depression, anxiety, and addiction,” Weiner said Monday. 

While the bill doesn’t legalize the production of any psychedelics outside of psilocybin and doesn’t allow for any sales, it does mandate that the California Department of Public Health create a work group to explore the possible full legalization of psychedelics in certain contexts. Additionally, the group Decriminalize California has announced plans to place an initiative on the 2022 ballot that would legalize the selling psilocybin mushrooms. While the fate of SB 519 is uncertain in the General Assembly, its passage in the California Senate is a great step forward. Depending upon what happens in the Golden State, we may need to revisit Oregon’s drug laws sooner rather than later and catch up to our neighbors.

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Psychedelics in Recovery Form a Promising Community for Healing and Growth

The medicinal psychedelic revolution is in full swing and the early reports are extremely promising. A recent Johns Hopkins study found psilocybin mushrooms an effective treatment for depression while researchers at the University of California have found MDMA an effective PTSD treatment. With Johns Hopkins creating the first endowed psychedelic professorship on the planet, it’s easy to imagine more and more positive research coming to fruition over the coming years. With depression, drug overdoses, and suicide plaguing far too many people in our nation, we can expect more people to seek out psychedelics as more scientific advancements are made and the general public is made aware of psychedelics’ efficacy. Psychedelics in Recovery (PIR) co-founded by Dimitri M. and based upon the 12-step tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous has exploded in popularity during COVID times, providing those seeking to end their harmful drug use, a community of like-minded folks that considers psychedelic treatments as acceptable, as Rolling Stone reported:

People from across the world began showing up, people in all stages of life and recovery, some even joining from treatment facilities. At the beginning of 2020, PIR consisted of a single weekly online meeting and occasional in-person meetings in New York or San Diego. By the summer of 2020 it had grown to 17 meetings per week with as many as 40 people in a single group.

An average meeting can veer into how a DMT trip might inspire a member to realize the existence of a higher power, or how a Peyote experience may remind a member of the people they hurt during active addiction. Dimitri believes that this is no accident, that psychedelic treatment and the 12 steps were meant to be used in tandem. He says the purpose of both is the pursuit of becoming “a mensch.”

With over 20 veteran suicides everyday, and states tragically breaking overdose records, it is imperative that we seek out all safe treatments for addiction and all mental health issues. Unfortunately, the Drug War has stigmatized psychedelic treatments, denying people from beneficial medical treatments for far too long. Thankfully, the truth is setting psychedelics free, step by step.

Johns Hopkins Endows First Professorship on the Planet with Psychedelics in the Title

It’s evident that we are in the midsts of a psychedelic medicine revolution, relatively similar to the medicinal cannabis movement during the 1990s. As with any movement, there are giants that paved the way by challenging social and cultural norms while combating Drug War propaganda and policies, with each positive step creating more space for others to follow. Whether in science or politics, pioneers of movements, many of whom remain hidden from the limelight and accolades from most, make change possible. Sometimes major breakthroughs seem decades away, if even possible, and then suddenly, anything and everything seems on the horizon. Will drug policy reformers look back at Oregon Measures 109 and 110 in the same way that we look back at California Proposition 215 legalizing medical cannabis back in 1996? Potentially, but only time will tell.

Before Oregon voters allowed medicinal psilocybin treatment and decriminalized personal drug possession, there were several successful local measures, and decades of important research that made change possible in 2020. I imagine that many, certainly myself, will look back at Johns Hopkins University endowing the Susan Hill Ward Professor in Psychedelics and Consciousness at Johns Hopkins University to Matthew Johnson as one of the foundational milestones of the psychedelics movement, if not in the greater battle to implement more sane and sensible drug policies, based upon science instead of misinformation and hyperbole. For too long, the prison-industrial complex and other special interests have perpetuated harmful propaganda designed to dehumanize and delegitmize people, with dreadful consequences, including a mass incarceration epidemic that remains an international embarrassment.

Last November, Johns Hopkins released the press release, “Psychedelic Treatment with Psilocybin Relieves Major Depression, Study Shows”:

“In a small study of adults with major depression, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers report that two doses of the psychedelic substance psilocybin, given with supportive psychotherapy, produced rapid and large reductions in depressive symptoms, with most participants showing improvement and half of study participants achieving remission through the four-week follow-up.

“A compound found in so-called magic mushrooms, psilocybin produces visual and auditory hallucinations and profound changes in consciousness over a few hours after ingestion. In 2016, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers first reported that treatment with psilocybin under psychologically supported conditions significantly relieved existential anxiety and depression in people with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis.

“Now, the findings from the new study, published Nov. 4 in JAMA Psychiatry, suggest that psilocybin may be effective in the much wider population of patients who suffer from major depression than previously appreciated.”

Professor Johnson tweeted that, “To my knowledge this is the 1st endowed professorship on the planet with psychedelics in the title.” I’m willing to bet that he certainly won’t be the last. Johns Hopkins University is one of the top academic institutions in the world, receiving the most U.S. federal research funds, affiliated with over 35 Nobel Laureates. We will only be seeing more important research originate with Johns Hopkins’ Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research and other universities will certainly follow suit.

Texas Cannabis and Psychedelics Legislation Advancing Along

Step by step, state by state, we are making progress against Reefer Madness prohibition and the failed Drug War overall. While West Coast states and others with the initiative process have led the way in positive reforms, it’s imperative that we continue to make progress all across the nation and in states where legislatures are the only recourse to improving our laws. As more people become educated about the benefits of cannabis legalization and other drug policy reforms, it’s only a matter of time before dedicated, hardworking advocates win important victories across our nation. Each state just adds more ammunition to our battle of ideas in the halls of Congress, as well as more political allies willing to cast important votes, such as implementing the SAFE Banking Act and ending federal prohibition altogether. Everything is bigger in Texas, so any positive reforms secured in the Lone Star State will reverberate throughout the land. As Marijuana Moment reported, there are some important developments taking place:

The Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill to reduce penalties for possession of marijuana concentrates—and lawmakers separately advanced legislation to require studies on the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics for military veterans.

The cannabis concentrates measure would make it so possession of up to two ounces of those products would be downgraded to a class B misdemeanor. The bill cleared the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee earlier this month, and now it’s been approved on second reading in the full chamber, with a final vote to send it to the Senate expected as early as Wednesday.

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Meanwhile, the psychedelics research legislation from Rep. Alex Dominguez (D) passed in the House Public Health Committee on Monday. The panel approved amendment that includes changes limiting the scope of the state-funded study to focus on military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), rather than a broader list of conditions attached to the initial bill.

Reducing criminal penalties associated with cannabis possession is obviously a step in the right direction while the  psychedelics legislation could be a real game changer. The Texas psychedelics proposal require the state to study the medical risks and benefits of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for veterans while mandating a clinical trial into psilocybin for veterans battling post-traumatic stress. Helping veterans that have sacrificed so much for our nation is the least that we can do and demonstrating success treating PTSD will surely open the doors for further research and important policy changes throughout the United States.