Things I wouldn’t have known about psychedelic research…

… if I’d missed the Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century conference. Pretty damned impressive.

… if I’d missed the Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century conference:

1. There’s evidence that MDMA and MDE can help some people with autistic-spectrum disorders.
2. There’s evidence that ultra-low (non-psychoactive) doses of a hallucinogen called DOI can interrupt the inflammatory process implicated in both allergy and auto-immune disorders such as lupus.
3. There’s evidence that barely-psychoactive doses of psilocybin can provide temporary relief from OCD symptoms in some patients.
4. The trials of MDMA in the treatment of refractory post-traumatic stress disorder and of psilocybin in helping people deal with possibly-terminal illness are producing impressive results.
5. Lots and lots and lots of serious science is going on, much of it using cutting-edge brain imaging, and younger scientists are starting to be willing to make career commitments to this long-marginalized research enterprise.
6. Procedures for “guiding” in therapeutic settings are now becoming manualized.

I’m now prepared to bet that one of the classic hallucinogens (psilocybin, LSD, mescaline) or one of the entactogens (MDMA or MDE) will be an FDA-approved medicine before this decade is out. I wouldn’t have made that bet five years ago.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

6 thoughts on “Things I wouldn’t have known about psychedelic research…”

  1. I was wondering, Mark, whether there were any speakers there who had known and worked with Terence McKenna. He was a featured speaker at a similar conference at Stanford back in 1991. He devoted himself to ethnobotany and suggested that one of the things that transformed our distant primate ancestors on the African savanna into users of language and culture was their ingestion of certain mushrooms which grew there in abundance.

    His brother Dennis is still living as far as I know. Dennis talked about bufotenine, which is found in the skin of toads, which is 5-hydroxy-dimethyltriptamine. DMT and its congeners are pretty potent psychedelics, but because the 5-OH-DMT is too polar a molecule to cross the blood-brain barrier, bufotenine by itself would be a very weak hallucinogen. However, if combined with eye of newt, by which is meant the third eye or the pineal gland of the newt, the situation changes. Since the pineal gland synthesizes melatonin, it is rich in the enzyme hydroxyindole O-methyl transferase, which methylates 5-OH-DMT into 5-CH3O-DMT, which, being less polar and more more lipid-soluble, is better able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

    I hope that you are vindicated in your hopes that science will eventually prevail over prejudice. I would guess that it will require some high-profile studies involving Iraq war veterans with bad PTSD being restored to health to break down some of that prejudice. Reason always has a long row to hoe when it comes up against fear.

  2. Mark,

    Great post! This quarter I'm teaching "Alcohol, Illegal Drugs, and The Criminal Justice System" at South University in Savannah, GA. What's becoming clear in the class already is that "demonization" of "bad" drugs has been going on for decades and one of the things our class will study is how do you rehabilitate the reputation of drugs? How do you dial back the hysteria and hype and look at the still potentially dangerous aspects of drug use? GA has not had particularly progressive or smart leadership in general over the past few decades, but its law enforcement and incarceration policies have been markedly reactionary. What's the link for the conference?

    PS: Your sister and I correspond regularly on nonprofit issues; I teach "Fund Raising for Arts Organizations" at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and in that class I recommend "The Nonprofiteer" as a most valuable resource for people just going into nonprofits as well as those who've been in it awhile.

  3. I would have appreciated this post considerably more if the the acronyms had been spelled out the first time they were used.

  4. Ed Whitney sure seems to be going back to traditional medicines – eye of newt, skin of toad – I guess Shakespeare had some expert advice in writing for the witches in Macbeth! Not that it might not work, of course – I have no expertise in that, and have no objection to researchers trying to find out.

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