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"Our whole approach is based on the idea that science matters at the FDA"
December 28, 2008 8:50 AM   Subscribe

The Economist on Drugs -- Scientists in North America, Europe and Israel are studying the use of MDMA, LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana and other banned psychoactive substances in treating conditions such as anxiety, cluster headaches, addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are supported by private funds from a handful of organisations: the Beckley Foundation in Britain; the Heffter Research Institute and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in America. [related]
posted by kliuless (43 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Years ago a doctor in the Netherlands had been using with what he claimed success LSD to treat concentration camp survivors. One such survivor, a novelist who died a few years ago in Israel, was so suffering from PTSD that his wife convinced him to go for treatment. He wrote a book about it and what seemed to be his cure.
posted by Postroad at 8:58 AM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe I will live to see drug law reform based on rational empirical data instead of fear and prejudice. The prevailing attitudes today are much like witchcraft hysteria in the Middle Ages - before you pile on please tell me why a society so concerned about the dangers of psychoactive substances keeps alcohol legal? More people are hurt by the effects of alcohol than any other drug. And why are drug companies allowed to push drugs with limited benefits and many dangers while certain drugs are demonized.
posted by hooptycritter at 9:03 AM on December 28, 2008 [5 favorites]


I actually said years ago that the Iraq war would end up causing ecstacy to be legalized. It's cheaper than years of therapy for PTSD.
posted by empath at 9:05 AM on December 28, 2008


Yesterday I read about this new drug, called modafinil. It sounds pretty astonishing. I want some!
posted by nickyskye at 9:06 AM on December 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


And don't forget that Latisse is now approved for thicker, longer eyelashes. Now even the Burka set has something to look forward to!
posted by b1tr0t at 9:18 AM on December 28, 2008


From the first link: '“We don’t have failures”, says Mr Doblin'.

It sets off a red flag for me when I hear this kind of statement from someone who claims to be conducting research.
posted by longsleeves at 9:35 AM on December 28, 2008


When I saw the first part of the post, I thought "Well no shit the Economist is on drugs." The rest of it was a disappointment in that context.

I do have hope, moderated by very low expectations, that the new administration will usher in an age of sanity about EEEEVIL DRUGS and their medical uses. The idea of Marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which by definition means it has no medical use, is absurd given how widely it's used for pain relief and appetite assistance. It's nice that we're getting at least some research into MDMA for PTSD treatment, but given the country's freakish attitude toward drugs - where plenty are prescribed and over-prescribed, but once it's deemed a Bad Drug it's totally verboten for ever and ever - I'm not holding my breath.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:45 AM on December 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


longsleeves, you should have included the rest of the quote. MAPS only focuses on a handful of drugs, and given their reliance on limited donations, only for those indications, which underground use indicates as useful. So, it's not altogether surprising that in the limited number of research programs they have got going, there are no failures as of yet. MAPS has a narrow focus and it isn't a speculative endeavor at its heart.
posted by daksya at 9:51 AM on December 28, 2008


th;dr
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:54 AM on December 28, 2008 [5 favorites]


daksya, he did not say there are no failures as of yet. He said "We don't have failures." And I DO find it surprising that he is claiming a one hundred percent success rate for the therapy, apparently based on single sessions.
posted by longsleeves at 10:14 AM on December 28, 2008


And I DO find it surprising that he is claiming a one hundred percent success rate for the therapy, apparently based on single sessions.

The (whole) quote does not imply that. He's talking about MAPS efforts in general, and the 'no failures' refers to the lack of a overall negative result in the trials of the drugs they focus on for the indications they focus on. Not a 100% success rate among all test patients, but that the drug(s) works well enough so as to move onto the next phase of trials. No psychoactive medicine I know has a 100% success rate among a population of patients.
posted by daksya at 10:23 AM on December 28, 2008


longsleeves, perhaps it is hyperbole to some degree, but taking ecstacy makes people feel better the same way eating food makes people feel less hungry. maybe people are helped to varying degrees, but it's pretty had to even imagine a total failure.
posted by snofoam at 10:27 AM on December 28, 2008


Yesterday I read about this new drug, called modafinil. It sounds pretty astonishing. I want some!

It lets you spend less time asleep or drowsy, but I think the people who claim it's SUPER AMAZING either had an undiagnosed sleep issue or else got hopped up on the placebo effect more then anything.
posted by delmoi at 10:28 AM on December 28, 2008


longsleeves, perhaps it is hyperbole to some degree, but taking ecstacy makes people feel better the same way eating food makes people feel less hungry. maybe people are helped to varying degrees, but it's pretty had to even imagine a total failure.

I took ecstacy once and spent the next couple of hours sobbing my eyes out. It's not an instant happy pill.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:54 AM on December 28, 2008


Yesterday I read about this new drug, called modafinil. It sounds pretty astonishing. I want some!

It lets you spend less time asleep or drowsy, but I think the people who claim it's SUPER AMAZING either had an undiagnosed sleep issue or else got hopped up on the placebo effect more then anything


What's interesting is that it's frequently used for MS fatigue, and yet studies show that plain ol' aspirein may be more effective - while Provigil might be ineffective. My neurologist's notes probably include specific medical terms like "pain in the ass".
posted by dilettante at 11:09 AM on December 28, 2008


taking ecstacy makes people feel better the same way eating food makes people feel less hungry.

That is wrong on so many levels that I don't know where to begin to refute such a statement.
posted by longsleeves at 11:17 AM on December 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Economist article only mentions the research on hallucinogens for cluster headaches parenthetically, but for anyone who has clusters (or knows someone who does) this is really important research. It's a harrowing condition, and there's some evidence that LSD and psilocybin might help.

And I also understood the "no failures" comment to be comparing MAPS drug candidates to the more mainstream industrial drug discovery process, which, as I understand it, tests chemicals almost at random to check for possible therapeutic effects. In contrast, MAPS tests chemicals that they already know (at least, anecdotally) have a therapeutic effect.
posted by footnote at 11:25 AM on December 28, 2008


I took ecstacy once and spent the next couple of hours sobbing my eyes out. It's not an instant happy pill.

I've taken ecstasy, and all it does is make me want to dance. I mean, it's fun and all. But I've never felt the whole "peace and love" thing that people talk about. Then again, maybe that's because I did a metric ass-ton of LSD back in the day, and I'm pretty much over all of that.

Still, it's good that these "drugs" are being considered for use as medicines. Given how powerful they are, it would surprise me if they weren't useful for treating certain illnesses.

It really bothers me how our society considers some substances to be "medicines," while others are just "drugs." And meanwhile, one of the most potent poisons known to man is completely legal and sold in shiny packages of 20 in every grocery store in the country.

The fact is that any substance that has a significant effect on the human body is usually all of the above - medicine, drug, and poison - all depending on how its used. Some of the most powerful medicines can be drugs if abused, and some of the most powerful drugs can also be medicines in the right context.

But yeah, schedule 1 for pot is just ridiculous. "Dangerous" drug with "no medical use?" What the hell is this, opposite day?

Anyway, see you guys later - I'm gonna go down the street and get myself a nice bottle of whiskey and pack of smokes.
posted by Sloop John B at 11:32 AM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Something like Magical Mushrooms could be potentially very therapeutic for PTSD sufferers. The last time I ate a few grams of 'em my subjective constructs of time were pulled out underneath me, like a rug, and suddenly events past was connected to events present and events future triangularly. I could harness the moment to determine the future, virtually willing how my universe was unfolding. I listened to Bach and saw roses blooming and dying through the seasons, wars being fought, lives being lost, ecosystems changing over eons, and humanity at the crux of it all in this magnificent image of artistic glory, very Greek-like and statuesque, of a muscular man making love to a beautiful woman who was holding a newborn baby under her arm, an image of hope. I transcended time, and was simultaneously living the history of mankind, and at the breath of my existence, was playing my small part in the story of our species. Then I watched some cartoons and ate a couple of frozen dinners.
posted by ageispolis at 11:51 AM on December 28, 2008 [8 favorites]


footnote: Yes that does seem to be the context, but the article only mentions MDMA, and an admittedly brief look at the MAPS website seems to show that MDMA is the only drug they are currently investigating directly, however they do seem to have a broad enthusiasm for any and all psychedelics, from LSD to mushrooms to ayahuasca, judging from what the link to there. The overall impression one gets from Mr. Doblin and his colleagues is that they have a definite bias, which makes his "We don't have failures" statement all the more questionable.
posted by longsleeves at 12:20 PM on December 28, 2008


I should add that I have used a variety of substances in the past and I agree that making pot a schedule I drug is ridiculous. And MDMA certainly seems to have helped some people process negative things that are going round and round in their psyches.
posted by longsleeves at 12:27 PM on December 28, 2008


iirc MDMA was already originally prescribed for various kinds of depression, successfully, before it got schedule I-ed.

Sure, at high doses it can be very recreational for many people and there is absolutely potential for abuse*. The first time I took it recreationally I was very worried that I'd have a bad comedown (I have an underlying depressive disorder) but instead I was feeling a little above "normal" (more optimistic, more energetic, more appreciative of pleasure and joy, increased empathy for others) for a couple-three days afterwards and it has been a consistent post-high effect every time I've subsequently taken it. At very small doses I could definitely see it as having great therapeutic potential.

*ie., altered and/or impaired executive function while on a recreational dose, &c.
posted by porpoise at 12:46 PM on December 28, 2008


this magnificent image of artistic glory, very Greek-like and statuesque, of a muscular man making love

My ears are burning!
posted by Greg Nog at 12:52 PM on December 28, 2008 [5 favorites]


however they do seem to have a broad enthusiasm for any and all psychedelics, from LSD to mushrooms to ayahuasca

What?? That's three. And ibogaine + ketamine. Which makes five. Which conforms to the 'handful' I characterized earlier. "Any and all" would be true if they were randomly flipping to a page in PIHKAL & TIKHAL and trying it as a therapeutic.
posted by daksya at 1:11 PM on December 28, 2008


perhaps my earlier statement was also hyperbole, but i think pharmaceutical grade MDMA given in the proper therapeutic context by an experienced professional would probably be much, much more effective than any drug currently on the market.

taking crappy "ecstacy" cut with a bunch of other crap can obviously be a terrible experience, but that has no bearing on the therapeutic value of actual MDMA.

comparing a street drug of unknown purity and dosage with a medicine is not a valid comparison. no one gets their wisdom teeth taken out and then assumes that taking either vicodin or heroin for the pain would be pretty much the same experience.
posted by snofoam at 1:12 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sacred Intentions: Inside the Johns Hopkins Psilocybin Studies
posted by homunculus at 2:09 PM on December 28, 2008


Hello everyone, They might as well legalize these drugs too. The drugs they show on TV are more scary with all of the side effects. You can loose an arm, you can develop big eye, etc...... The drugs they show on tv are more scary to me than these.
posted by vannjanis at 2:42 PM on December 28, 2008


I don't think we're going to give up The War on Drugs for decades, at least. Too bad. We could have put our efforts towards more important things.
posted by adipocere at 3:56 PM on December 28, 2008


If Obama Is Pro-Science and Honest, He'll Put the Kibosh on the Drug War
posted by homunculus at 4:23 PM on December 28, 2008


Unfortunately, it's not so simple as pulling the plug. The "narco-industrial complex", if you will, has become a well-lobbied multi-trillion dollar industry. Jails, enforcement, pharmeceuticals, customs, organized crime, etcetera. They will not go without a fight.
posted by mek at 4:35 PM on December 28, 2008


Unfortunately, it's not so simple as pulling the plug. The "narco-industrial complex", if you will, has become a well-lobbied multi-trillion dollar industry. Jails, enforcement, pharmeceuticals, customs, organized crime, etcetera. They will not go without a fight.

Absolutely. I'm sure that plenty of politicians realize the futility of the War on (Some) Drugs, but it's a political third rail. You won't hear many senators or Congressmen talking about abolishing the Drug War, because an astounding amount of political pressure from various groups and levels and angles is ensuring that the drugs that are now legal stay legal and the drugs that are now illegal stay illegal. It is in the economic interest of a lot of people in charge of things like mek listed.

So, what we need, is a politician, namely Barak Obama, to use his brass ones to take on this cabal of forces and tell them to take a long walk off a short pier. It won't be easy, but it'll happen, probably in my lifetime.
posted by zardoz at 6:39 PM on December 28, 2008


A few months ago I looked up the DEA's drug schedule list and found that ibogaine, cannabis, mescaline and psilocybin are Schedule I, while cocaine/crack, amphetamine, methamphetamine and PCP are Schedule II. I am still trying to wrap my head around that.

(I mean, seriously... has PCP ever had a "currently accepted medical use in treatment"?)
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 7:47 PM on December 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's cool that these drugs can help people with specifically defined problems. I'm glad that that is the case but the thing is I already know that these drugs are sort of awesome in general. It's like if my mom and dad got a divorce and my dad took me to a football game and was all like "football is an excellent way to cheer up a child after a divorce". Way to miss the point dad, no wonder mom left you.
posted by I Foody at 8:31 PM on December 28, 2008


what
posted by ryanrs at 9:54 PM on December 28, 2008


nickyskye: "Yesterday I read about this new drug, called modafinil. It sounds pretty astonishing. I want some!"

You should read the thread from yesterday about it. Many first-hand anecdotes of use, all saying, so surprisingly, that the journalists writing about it sensationalized their articles a little. How about let's not sensationalize it, so as to not tempt people to abuse it? Not that it has very much abuse potential anyways, but still.

I know Rick Doblin has been working for many years on proper scheduling of Ecstasy. He's always exercised a great deal of restraint, considering that we already know the drugs are far safer than their scheduling would imply. Even if he is biased, he still does good work, and does it on a more factual basis with less bias than the policymakers.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:04 PM on December 28, 2008


I hope this is the right thread to drop this into but has anyone ever heard of Marijuana being used to treat cancer?

Lung Cancer lab and mouse test

Glioma Studies (cancer fighting mechanism explained. It's really cool)

And for some Anecdotal Evidence. Here's some people who didn't wait for the Health Canada/FDA approved treatment that was never going to come out and took their cancer treatment into their own hands (warning this people come off as sounding crazy seeing as they're totally uneducated and can't understand why this hasn't been turned into a widely available treatment yet)
posted by Pseudology at 11:01 PM on December 28, 2008


Hello everyone, They might as well legalize these drugs too. The drugs they show on TV are more scary with all of the side effects. You can loose an arm, you can develop big eye, etc...... The drugs they show on tv are more scary to me than these.

Oh shit. Not big eye!
posted by atrazine at 1:17 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hope people start to come around about marijuana at least... I have frequent stomach issues and it could potentially be a big help, but I'm too paranoid about legal consequences to try it illegally. And I don't live in California.
posted by etherealclarity at 8:35 AM on December 29, 2008


please tell me why a society so concerned about the dangers of psychoactive substances keeps alcohol legal? More people are hurt by the effects of alcohol than any other drug.

Well, if alcohol hurts the most people, and alcohol is legal, doesn't that refute the idea that legal drugs are a good idea?
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:29 PM on December 29, 2008


Only if you believe prohibition actually prevents people from using drugs.
posted by mek at 8:08 PM on December 29, 2008


Well, anecdotally, psychedelics can help with addiction problems, because you can break down the ego and personality and examine behavior in an objective context. It's really hard for an addict to look outside their own world, and psychedelics do this extremely well. The scary part is that such drugs are ripe for exploitation by controlling people, but it has ever been thus, and currently these drugs live outside of any regulatory control. People who encounter acid and who could benefit from its therapeutic effects are much more likely to take it in circumstances and/or with people which may not help them. But sometimes you get the big kick-in-the-ass trip by accident, and it totally works anyway. Well, at least it did for me. Not really sure, but I might have been dead otherwise. But in the era of the Drug War, the very thought of addicts tripping out terrifies a lot of people, maybe slightly less than a needle exchange in their neighborhood, and so it's not so easy to convince the people with the lawmaking powers to look at this problem a bit differently. I'm glad someone is, because it's a long, hard slog and hardly anyone appreciates the small successes, and it's risky to put your name to this sort of advocacy or research. But it works, so we'd be short-changing ourselves by allowing hysterical thinking to rule this area of social policy forever.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:21 PM on December 29, 2008


Only if you believe prohibition actually prevents people from using drugs.

Well, it undoubtedly does, at least by raising the cost of using them.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:22 PM on December 29, 2008


Also, many people are simply not going to break the law.

There are people who'd be happy to smoke pot if it were legal but just aren't going to break the law to do it. Similarly, there are people who don't think twice about ordering an alcoholic beverage with dinner since it's so freely available, but who wouldn't touch the stuff if they knew there was a chance they'd get a criminal record.

Of course there are also some people who go ahead and break the law. But I was just responding to the person who said alcohol hurts a greater number of people. Once we're talking about numbers, everything's a question of degree.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:38 PM on December 29, 2008


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