FDA grants breakthrough therapy designation to psilocybin
November 19, 2018 4:25 PM   Subscribe

Psilocybin Could Be Legal for Therapy by 2021: The psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms could soon be legal to use in a clinical setting. "For the first time in U.S. history, a psychedelic drug is on the fast track to getting approved for treating depression by the federal government. Late last month, Compass Pathways, a U.K.-based company that researches and develops mental health treatments, announced the FDA granted them what’s called a 'breakthrough therapy designation' for their trials into psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms. Researchers who pioneered psychedelic science agree — this is a landmark moment for their field." Meanwhile, a millionaire couple is threatening to create a magic mushroom monopoly ...
Compass Pathways has set itself up to be the first legal provider of psilocybin, having recently launched a massive clinical study across Europe and North America to test the drug as a treatment for depression. Last month, Compass’s psilocybin received “breakthrough therapy designation” from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) meaning the study will be hastened through the drug-development process. That puts Compass well ahead of other institutions working in this field—and a recently filed patent application could help the company stay ahead.

Prior to founding Compass, George Goldsmith and Ekaterina Malievskaia, a married couple, did not have experience in psilocybin research or working in the pharmaceutical industry. They’ve made headway thanks to tens of millions in dollars from investors including Silicon Valley libertarian Peter Thiel and former Wall Street-executive-turned-cryptocurrency-investor Mike Novogratz, along with the expertise and guidance of many long-standing psilocybin researchers. (Neither Thiel nor Novogratz responded to requests for comment.)

But many of those psilocybin experts now regret having helped the couple. Quartz spoke with 9 psilocybin experts who advised Goldsmith and Malievskaia, but today express concerns about the company’s motives and aims. These experts worked with Compass in different professional capacities: some had individual contracts, some were invited to attend Compass-hosted conferences or trips, and others worked (and some still do) for psychedelic research organizations that collaborate with Compass. All 9 raised questions about Compass’s intentions and professionalism, and worried that the company’s rush to bring the drug to market would create risks for patients. “You build this tower in a rush…and before you know it, it’s on fire and we can’t put it out,” says one academic, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution from Compass. Six had opportunities to work further with Compass but turned them down as a result of their concerns.

These experts are further troubled by the company’s business structure: Having first registered as a charity, Goldsmith and Malievskaia set up a for-profit corporation working towards the same ends just one year later, and closed their non-profit less than two years after that. And all 9 of these critics charge that Compass Pathways has relied on conventional pharmaceutical-industry tactics that could help them dominate the field, including blocking potential rivals’ ability to purchase drugs, filing an application for a manufacturing patent, and requiring contracts that give Compass power over academics’ research and are restrictive even by pharmaceutical-industry standards.
Scientists Cook Up Magic Mushrooms’ Psychedelic Recipe
Farming or genetically-engineering fungi is difficult, so mass-producing psilocybin with the kind of quality controls demanded by the drug industry has never before been feasible. Now that the pathway and ingredients are known, the process could potentially be applied on an industrial scale. For their study, the researchers engineered bacteria to reproduce some of the steps involved in synthesizing psilocybin as a test of the process. They ended up with a simplified approach to producing the compound that could be applied on a larger scale in the future.
Magic Mushrooms Can Chemically ‘Reset’ A Depressed Brain
Researchers from Imperial College London studied the effects of psilocybin on 19 individuals who had treatment-resistant depression. The researchers looked at the before and after changes to the individual’s brains as they were treated with psilocybin. They gave the individuals 10 mg of psilocybin and then 25 mg one week later. The researchers found that there were decreased depressive symptoms in all 19 individuals a week after the treatments. After 5 weeks, they found that 47% of the individuals met response, which was their criteria of relatively high depressive recovery.

The authors noted that is merely a preliminary study because the group size was very small and more precise data would require a larger pool of individuals to test. The also noted that this was done with individuals who had tried other means of treatments and did not succeed. Despite the reality, Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, Head of Psychedelic Research at Imperial, who led the study, remains optimistic about the progress of psychedelic research in treating depression. In a statement made at Imperial College London, he said “We have shown for the first time clear changes in brain activity in depressed people treated with psilocybin after failing to respond to conventional treatments.”
Magic Mushrooms Are Weirdly Effective at Making Cancer Less Miserable
New research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology shows that a single dose of mind-altering psilocybin, in conjunction with psychotherapy, reduces depression, anxiety, and other emotional distress in patients with advanced cancer, while increasing feelings of well-being. Importantly, these effects lasted for months.

It’s a potent example of how psychedelics could be used to treat various illnesses, and how the medical community’s squeamishness about these drugs—not to mention the various government agencies which have banned them—is in need of a serious re-think. Small trials have shown psilocybin’s promise in treating alcoholism, opiate addiction, and depression. This latest research offers some of the most compelling evidence yet for the use of psychedelics to treat complex and profound emotional disorders, particularly in patients with life-threatening illnesses.
Microdoses Of Psychedelic Mushrooms Could Help Stimulate Creative Thought
Microdosing—taking fractional doses of psychoactive compounds—has gained popularity recently as a way to lessen anxiety and stimulate creative thought. Some believe that taking small doses of psychedelic substances can enhance a person’s cognitive flexibility, allowing them to think of problems from different perspectives and create novel solutions.

Most of these claimed effects of psychedelics are anecdotal and there is a distinct lack of quantitative experimental data on the matter. Psychedelic compounds tend to be either illegal or extremely controlled, so it is hard to run controlled clinical trials to test their effects. Now, in the first study of its kind, a team of scientists based in the Netherlands has run controlled experiments investigating the cognitive effects of ingesting psilocybin, the active component in “magic” mushrooms.

In the study, the researchers investigated the cognitive effects of psilocybin on a group of 36 subjects. They found that taking small doses of mushrooms (~0.37 grams) improved the subjects convergent and divergent thinking process on a number of tasks, allowing them to both more quickly identify a single solution to a task and dream up potential alternative solutions. The results seem to imply that microdoses of psilocybin compounds can give a person more cognitive flexibility and allow them to engage in thought patterns they would otherwise be unlikely to engage in. The researchers’ findings can be read in full in the journal Psychopharmacology.
Michael Pollan: What It’s Like to Trip on the Most Potent Magic Mushroom: "I felt as though I were communing directly with a plant for the first time."
When at last I arrived at the writing house, I stretched out on the daybed, something I hardly ever took the time to do in all the years when I was working here so industriously. The bookshelves had been emptied, and the place felt abandoned, a little sad. From where I lay, I could see over my toes to the window screen and, past that, to the grid of an arbor that was now densely woven with the twining vines of what had become a venerable old climbing hydrangea, a petiolaris. I had planted the hydrangea decades ago, in hopes of creating just this sort of intricately tangled prospect. Backlit by the late-afternoon sunlight streaming in, its neat, round leaves completely filled the window, which meant you gazed out at the world through the fresh green scrim they formed. It seemed to me these were the most beautiful leaves I had ever seen. It was as if they were emitting their own soft, green glow. And it felt like a kind of privilege to gaze out at the world through their eyes, as it were, as the leaves drank up the last draughts of sunlight, transforming those photons into new matter. A plant’s-eye view of the world—it was that, and for real! But the leaves were also looking back at me, fixing me with this utterly benign gaze. I could feel their curiosity and what I was certain was an attitude of utter benevolence toward me and my kind. (Do I need to say that I know how crazy this sounds? I do!)

I felt as though I were communing directly with a plant for the first time and that certain ideas I had long thought about and written about—having to do with the subjectivity of other species and the way they act upon us in ways we’re too self-regarding to appreciate—had taken on the flesh of feeling and reality. I looked through the negative spaces formed by the hydrangea leaves to fix my gaze on the swamp maple in the middle of the meadow beyond, and it too was now more alive than I’d ever known a tree to be, infused with some kind of spirit—this one, too, benevolent. The idea that there had ever been a disagreement between matter and spirit seemed risible, and I felt as though whatever it is that usually divides me from the world out there had begun to fall away. Not completely: The battlements of ego had not fallen; this was not what the researchers would deem a “complete” mystical experience, because I retained the sense of an observing “I.” But the doors and windows of perception had opened wide, and they were admitting more of the world and its myriad nonhuman personalities than ever before.
Pertinent Pollan post: The Spirit Molecules

Ed Yong: How Mushrooms Became Magic: Did they evolve a powerful hallucinogen to stop insects from getting the munchies?
These genes seem to have originated in fungi that specialize in breaking down decaying wood or animal dung. Both materials are rich in hungry insects that compete with fungi, either by eating them directly or by going after the same nutrients. So perhaps, Slot suggests, fungi first evolved psilocybin to drug these competitors.

His idea makes sense. Psilocybin affects us humans because it fits into receptor molecules that typically respond to serotonin—a brain-signaling chemical. Those receptors are ancient ones that insects also share, so it’s likely that psilocybin interferes with their nervous system, too. “We don’t have a way to know the subjective experience of an insect,” says Slot, and it’s hard to say if they trip. But one thing is clear from past experiments: Psilocybin reduces insect appetites.

By evolving the ability to make this chemical, which prevents the munchies in insects, perhaps some fungi triumphed over their competitors, and dominated the delicious worlds of dung and rotting wood. And perhaps other species gained the same powers by taking up the genes for those hallucinogens. It’s not clear how they did so. Some scientists think that fungi can occasionally fuse together, giving them a chance to share their DNA, while Slot prefers the idea that in times of stress, fungi can soak up DNA from their environment. Either way, the genes for psilocybin have spread.
More: Magic Mushroom Drug Evolved to Mess with Insect Brains. For that matter, so did most natural recreational drugs

7 mind-bending facts about magic mushrooms: "From ancient shamans (and Santa Claus?) to scientists studying mental health, humans have a long fascination with 'magic' fungi."

Beyond Psilocybin: Mushrooms Have Lots of Cool Compounds Scientists Should Study

In other news: Competitive Psychedelic Users Are Chasing 'Ego Death' and Losing Their Sense of Self: More and more psychonauts are looking for the ultimate high, but some are ruining their minds in the process.
First written about by LSD advocate Timothy Leary in 1964, he defined ego death as "complete transcendence—beyond words, beyond space-time, beyond self. There are no visions, no sense of self, no thoughts. There is only pure awareness and ecstatic freedom."

Fifty years later, there is an ego death arms race of sorts among the kind of people who like to write about their psychedelic experiences online, with hundreds on Reddit and YouTube boasting about their latest transcendence of self. On message-boards like Reddit's r/Psychonaut, a lively hub of 175,000 subscribers, posts about ego death are often and, in many cases, used to assert dominance. "Ego death is the ultimate goal of life," reads one. "I think [it's] a fair statement that if you've experienced ego death that you're a superior psychonaut," reads another.

Bradley, who's experienced ego death "a handful of times," made a thread on r/Psychonaut a couple of months ago called, "Does anyone else feel like there is a massive ego-death circle jerk on this [forum]?"
Mushroom! Mushroom!
posted by homunculus (83 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
Here's another piece on microdosing in which the author also describes a psilocybin bad trip/overdose he experienced as a teenager:

"I'm Having a Really Bad Trip . . . I Wanna Come Down Right Now."
posted by homunculus at 4:34 PM on November 19, 2018

This makes me indescribably happy!
posted by Thorzdad at 4:35 PM on November 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

Now that I’m happy...I’ve been following the microdosing stories for awhile, and, in my experience, it just makes so much sense. The psychedelic effects aside, one of the big plusses I’ve experienced with mushrooms have always been a very uplifted spirit afterwards. Like a breeze of fresh air through your mind. As someone who has dealt with lifelong depression, the idea that microdosing may become legal really excites me.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:44 PM on November 19, 2018 [17 favorites]

Assuming the trials go well (and the little bits of work that have been done to date have been pretty promising), it'll be really interesting to see what happens in terms of rescheduling psilocybin under the Controlled Substances Act. I might be mistaken (it's been 8 years since I TAed Drugs and the Brain as a very green grad student), but I don't think any drug has been moved down on the CSA lists. Moved up, yes, but never moved to a less restrictive category.

If it happens, it makes for a good precedent when it comes to rescheduling other Schedule I drugs as well.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 4:45 PM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

“Competitive ego death” is my new favorite Reddit absurdity. Toxic masculinity is pretty funny when it’s not actively trying to kill you.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:45 PM on November 19, 2018 [20 favorites]

ANYHOO. After like...oh lord, 20 years of various drug experience? I gotta say shrooms are, indeed, magic. Obviously they’re not gonna be great for everyone but they’ve been a key component of my own PTSD recovery. It’s been more than that, really, but that’s the most...describable? Result. I wish everyone could have those experiences if they so choose.

I do not think those Silicon Valley vultures will survive the revolution, and there will always be cow patties, so I’m not super worried.

Wish I could grow them myself, tbh, but based on my track record with plants this seems unwise.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:54 PM on November 19, 2018 [6 favorites]

Choice! I took a low-dose mushroom trip a few months ago and it was such fun. Mild tripping without having to question your entire existence is boss.
posted by porn in the woods at 4:57 PM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Right on.
posted by vrakatar at 5:13 PM on November 19, 2018

BTW, I posted some related links on psychedelics and Buddhism in the meditation thread, if anyone's interested.
posted by homunculus at 5:18 PM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't think any drug has been moved down on the CSA lists

An FDA-approved formulation of cannabidiol (Epidiolex) was recently reclassified as schedule V. The change does not apply to other formulations of CBD, but that’s still a big change. Dronabinol, by way of contrast, is schedule III.
posted by dephlogisticated at 5:27 PM on November 19, 2018

What a coincidence. A few weeks ago I picked up a box I left in my mother's house 20 years ago. In it was my forgotten microscope and two spore prints.

Against all odds, and using kind of improvised methods, I have 3 uncontaminated jars of healthy micellium. They are in the incubator I used for the founding stages of my ant colonies. En Ebay thermostat and a reptile heating cable in a box with a layer of sand.

In frot of me is an improvised 'flow hood' made with a 99.99 HEPA filter, an air purifier, and plastic bags. Cooling inside there are 4 agar plates, with homemade potato-dextrose-yeast agar, micropore and polyfill vents in dollar store food containers (look for the PP 5 symbol, this means polypropylene, which can usually survive home autoclaving).

In the pressure cooker I have a homemade mycobag with popcorn media, again made with cheap polypropylene bags from a gift shop, a bit of PVC pipe and polyfill from the dog's bed. I hope the bags survive the autoclaving, this would reduce the cost of the whole thing significantly.

I also found a brand of oral electrolytes that cost about a dollar and come in delicious flavors. They are pharmaceutical grade and come in an autoclavable polypropylene bottle with polypropylene caps!. I am testing one in the pressure cooker with bird seed media too.

All these in preparation for some spores I got in the mail from someone I taught to grow mushrooms many many years ago. And not just boring cubensis, some rarer stuff.

If anyone is interested I could share some resources, and if you are in my area I could show you how to do it.

Sorry, I just wanted to share/brag. I don't even know what I am going to do with the mushrooms. Where I am at in life right now I am more interested in gourmet fungi. I will start gathering materials to cultivate wood loving fungi when soon.
posted by Dr. Curare at 5:28 PM on November 19, 2018 [38 favorites]

Crappy pics, I am too excited not to share.

'Flow Hood' with agar plates cooling inside.

Mycelium from 20+ year old spores.

My lab helper in his low-tech tank. I have no cat to share pictures of, but Buttfish the Fish lives on my workbench and was kind enough to loan me a bunch of their aquarium equipment for the mushroom adventure.
posted by Dr. Curare at 5:46 PM on November 19, 2018 [19 favorites]

Wow wow wow. I figured it would be decades before I'd hear this news. So exciting.

I've an amateur mycologist (of the serious variety, yes) and have been hunting wild mushrooms for the better part of a decade now.

I do find psilocybin-containing mushrooms in the woods not infrequently, though I don't partake in the ones I find (none of the good ones really pop up in my area; in fact, the good ones are getting harder to find in the wild, anyway). There are a lot of varieties of psilocybin-containing mushrooms, and not all are made equal. I would not recommend hunting psilocybin mushrooms in the wild unless you've already spent several years studying mycology/macrofungi and have an experienced mentor to guide you.

Most of my mushroom hunting is for the sheer fun of identification; also, photography. But I do forage and eat wild edible mushrooms from time to time. (I'm already anticipating some backlash to the fact that I forage wild edible mushrooms- this seems to be a subject that makes a lot of people, usually people don't know anything about mycology, weirdly angry. Please note that me saying "I forage and eat wild mushrooms" does not mean "You should also forage and eat wild mushrooms." It's not for everyone.) Any experienced mushroom hunter worth their salt knows that when hunting for edible mushrooms, 1. "When in doubt, throw it out!" and 2. There are some edible mushrooms that have no lookalike; there are some edible mushrooms that have no poisonous lookalike; and then there are some edible mushrooms that are not worth trying to ID for consumption because there are too many toxic lookalikes. We know the difference, and our risk-taking is more than calculated. We aren't really taking risks because we don't put it in our mouth unless we've gone through all of the proper ID/testing. There's no "hmm, my guess here seems good enough" about it. And any mushroom forager who says otherwise is a fool who needs to be reigned in real quick.

If you're seriously interested in psilocybin mushrooms, I urge you to read Paul Stamets' work. He is a leading expert.

Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World: An Identification Guide - Paul Stamets

On preview- in light of Dr. Curare's comments, there's also Stamets' Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms.

But far more important than reading Stamets: read and learn about Maria Sabina. She was an indigenous shaman (curandera) of Mexico, and the person who introduced the western world to psilocybin mushrooms. She later came to regret this. White people/westerners started showing up at her hometown to "try the goods" for hallucinogenic purposes and not the spiritual and healing purposes that the mushrooms had long been used for in her community and among her ancestors. It destroyed her community, who eventually blamed her for it and essentially ran her out of town.

We need to remember Maria Sabina every time we think about how we came to know the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin, and the cost that she and indigenous communities have been forced to pay for it over time.
posted by nightrecordings at 5:50 PM on November 19, 2018 [31 favorites]

Someone gave me some dried stuff a few months ago, urging me to try a micro dose for depression and let him know if it helped. I’ve been dragging my feet, but I’m still willing to give it a try.

I’ve tripped before on mushrooms, and I remember having a great time, but I don’t recall feeling like some great weight had been lifted.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:11 PM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Based on the stories I heard from people who took Way Too Much megadoses of LSD, no thanks on the ego death.
posted by thelonius at 6:13 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Fuck, this is fantastic. I'm so happy.
posted by colorblock sock at 6:19 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

> If you're seriously interested in psilocybin mushrooms, I urge you to read Paul Stamets' work. He is a leading expert.

Stamets plays an important role in the Michael Pollan article.
posted by homunculus at 6:20 PM on November 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

My memories of tripping balls convinces me that if only we could get the 40% of the population of the us who think the other is the enemy to have a trip.... well, it could shake the foundations.
posted by valkane at 6:22 PM on November 19, 2018 [8 favorites]

Last post I promise.

In the summer of 2002 I discovered microdosing.

It was early on my design career and I was in a terrible emotional place. Broke, trying to connect with the stranger that was my dad, just broken up with someone I loved very much.

Creatively I was in a dump, took me 3 weeks to design a simple bullshit logo for a bar in exchange for all the beer I could drink. And I did drink every day, like my life depended on it (which it kind of did).

I was also growing magic mushrooms under the bed, literally. They were my ticket to all the cool parties in town.

At the time I was living by a lake that is well know for the fossils found there, some are in major anthropology and natural history museusm. Full mastodon skeletons, full human skeletons, tons of dog and deer bones, teeth and antlers.

The lake was in the middle of a decade long terrible drought, many square kilometers of mud and shallow water for fossil hunting. All I ever found in years if looking was a farction of a mastodon molar and a dog tooth.

For quality control one morning I took half a gram of dried mushrooms and went for a walk in the mud. At the time I would take 5 to 7 grams for parties, half a gram was almost unoticeable. Like putting on sunglasses of a slightly different shade.

I filled my pockets with fossilized deer antlers and dog teeth. I was able to stand still enough for birds to land on my bag. I solved a couple of design problems that had been bugging me for a long time. The best walk ever.

I kept taking half a gram as needed, 3 or four times a day, kept it up for 40 days. I had a great time with my father, we could finally meet as adults. I finished enough design projects to pay my debts. I got over my ex. I started painting and drawing agsin. I felt good for the first time in years.

The most interesting part was meeting one of the local brujos. We met looking for fossils and he invited me to his house to see an almost complete human skeleton with green mineral jewelery he had found and was hiding from the authorities.

In his house I met a blind curandera visiting from Oaxaca. She was there for a big event up in the hills with native people from the area, she had bags full of mushrooms from Oaxaca: derrumbes, pajaritos, sclerotia from unidentified species.

I mentioned my own mushrooms and she was very skeptical. I ran home and brought back some.fresh ones, still growing on their rice and rye cakes. She sniffed them and said they kind of smelled like San Isidros (correct) but too sweet and missing the cow shit (also correct).

She asked to eat one, I gave her the full cake. In exchange she gave me a handful of derrumbes (which I cloned and cultivated, and which are the origin of one of the strains making the rounds in the hobby) and a philosophers stone (which I lost).

Her parting words were to the effect of 'very clever, growing San Isidros outside cow shit, buy make sure you don't miss the lessons that cow shit has to teach'.

After that summer I took my last hitchhiking trip. First north to Wadley in the San Luis desert for a big transcendental peyote trip, there I traded the lake fossils to a hippie jeweler for some local minerals and necklaces made of peyote and clay beads. Then all the way South to San Agustinillo in Oaxaca, where I traded the beads for bags of dried shrooms and salvia. I then went to Palenque, Chiapas, where I traded the Oaxaca shrooms and salvia for local amber, and aquatic fossils, and a stay at a meditation tower. The amber and fossils financed my trip back home. Where I traded everything for a 15 year career as an engineer in Silicon Valley.

I think I missed the cow shit lesson.

Edit: Sorry, in the copy pasting I lost the part where I seconded, thirded and fourthed looking into Maria Sabina. Really, go look her up, listen to the recordings.
posted by Dr. Curare at 6:22 PM on November 19, 2018 [45 favorites]

Might I recommend, as well, if you are an experienced psychonaut, to make tea out of it. Just. Do. It.

There is no other way I ever want to take them again. The queasiness? Gone. No nausea. Because it's liquid and extracted it hits quickly, comes on stronger and is (only mildly) shorter than regular edible consumption.

I was lucky to have some last year after, about a decade long drought.

I'm a huge fan of microdosing as a concept. If I had my way I'd have a regime something like:

Psilocybin 1x a month.
MDMA 2 or 3 times a year.
LSD microdosing as needed. ;)

And if I can just try some DMT before I die, that'd be great, too, kthxbai. Oh maybe Ketamine.
posted by symbioid at 6:37 PM on November 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

Paul Stamets for President. He's a hero.
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:46 PM on November 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

Ok, I lied. The mycobag survived as did the popcorn electrolyte bottle, the birdseed bottle turned to mush.

I used to like tea a lot, for the reasons you mention, but it is not always possible to make it on the go. I came up with my own recipe to prevent nausea, queasiness, and shroom burps, which are usually vomit precursors.

I would make capsules with half a gram of ground dried mushrooms, the rest filled with ground dried mint leaves and chamomile flowers and a pinch of sodium bicarbonate. I would either vaccum pack them in bags or pack them in hermetic jars filled with homemade CO2.

They work great to settle an upset stomach and when you burp you only smell mint and chamomile. They are great even without the mushrooms.
posted by Dr. Curare at 6:52 PM on November 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm a huge fan of microdosing as a concept. If I had my way I'd have a regime something like:

I think Macro Dosing once a month or would be much effective in all ways for everyone. A jump into the ocean will enrich your life experience much more than just sticking your small toe into it. And you won't forget it.
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:52 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Ego death." Interesting. After a dozen LSD trips in the 60s, I experienced ego death, and thought that I had reached the spiritual milestone I had been looking for. In the forest, always my tripping place, I saw my interior as empty, but full of filing cabinets and stacks of books and papers which represented the intellectual and socio-cultural programming that I had been assuming was my "self" or ego. But at the core was emptiness. This fit with my Beat Zen attitude at the time.

I have since found that intermediate stages between our ordinary state and Dzogchen/Satori states are useful, but that trip was a useful jolt to my sense of self. I think a trip or two would be helpful for almost anyone. Anyone who is not engaged in spiritual practice.
posted by kozad at 6:54 PM on November 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

valkane: "My memories of tripping balls convinces me that if only we could get the 40% of the population of the us who think the other is the enemy to have a trip.... well, it could shake the foundations."

Sounds like the plot of a Batman movie.
posted by Mitheral at 7:00 PM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I may finally complete my quest to try mushrooms before I turn 50!

(I feel like I should know a source to get them, especially in NorCal, but nope...)
posted by elsietheeel at 7:58 PM on November 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

Eat shrooms. Get outside.
posted by parki at 8:27 PM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Okay, I'm an old guy (64 years old). I took a lot of LSD in my early years, experiencing ego-death and psychosis before I gave up psychedelics because I had young children. Ten years went by, and I had some psilocybin spores, some shredded and pasteurized straw, and ended up with quite a crop of mushrooms. Strong stuff indeed! I concluded that small doses were the best, allowing me to enjoy the experience without going fucking crazy!
posted by Agave at 8:34 PM on November 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

I remember back when these drugs were called "hallucinogens". Some thoughts from a lifetime of experimenting with anything and everything I could:

On ego death: I only ever experienced ego death on salvia. Once. It was probably the most terrifying experience in my life. I don't really remember much except the ripping of the fabric of space and time and feeling like I couldn't breathe because I had left by body behind and yeah.. it was scary. I haven't really done it again since, and that was around the time it became illegal in the country in which i was living.

I've done every drug mentioned in this thread except DMT and peyote, plus a couple dozen or more that don't have proper names. If I could chose from any of the 'trippy' ones again (i.e. not cocaine, not cannabinoids) I'd pick Ketamine. Weirdly I think AlphaMethylTryptamine would be second choice. I never go to try Foxy or MeowMeow tho.

As for mushrooms....I kind of hate mushrooms unless I have lots of wine and weed for when I start coming down.. I absolutely hate that strung out feeling where you're not really tripping anymore but you just kinda feel worn out and wired/strung out and can't sleep but you're not enjoying it anymore. Weed+wine (lots) or some benzos is the only cure that I've found takes that edge off and lets me sleep when I'm done having fun. And for a guy with my drug metabolism, when you consider the amount of LSD or mushrooms needed for the initial dose... that is an EXPENSIVE night. The same is true of LSD and 4-HO-MipT although now that I think about it, I used to not dislike these side-effects/after-effects quite so much in my youth. (I'm not actually that old but... I'm not young anymore either)

I'd have said MDMA if you had asked me about 8 years ago but since then, I got more than enough of that stuff and it was starting to give me the worst burning acid shits the next day, they were physically damaging me they were so hot. So I had to stop. I liked MDMA very much but i'm not gonna risk my asshole on it. Also pain like that is a great de-motivator. I'm sure if smoking cigarettes did that to me I'd quit it cold turkey too.

I would like to try peyote, DMT, Iboga, and amanita muscaria some day. Something to look forward to.

More on topic though... I'm all for exploring the theraputic use of any of these substances, especially naturally-occuring ones like psilocybin, iboga, and peyote. If these substances can help people... it is cruel to criminalize them.

On the other hand, I don't like the idea of this being commercialized and monopolized by some greedy fuckers looking to capture an entire market and live like kings. Fuck those people in the fucking eye.
posted by some loser at 8:41 PM on November 19, 2018 [6 favorites]

Reading between the lines it looks like Compass is thinking about scaling a franchise model for "therapy centres" where people can drop in, like a spa, microdose or whatever, get a talk through from a script, then leave. Maybe buy a regular membership, like a gym. Pop in after work, then hit the food court.

On the second day of the conference, several of the guest experts say they raised concerns about training so many psilocybin therapists so fast.

The precedent for this is the ketamine infusion racket. There's no reason to infuse ketamine for the effect: it works just as well given as a rapid intramuscular injection (in fact, that's how most of the world takes its ketamine, and how we use it for emergency sedation in the ED or with EMS). But the US is riddled with taxpayer-subsidized dialysis and infusion joints, so adding ketamine to the mix made economic and marketing sense. Infusing it looks more "medical" than just shooting it. And you get to sit back for a couple of hours and can get a spa-like environment with some cross-selling opportunities. Maybe they'll be infusing the psilocybin slowly, you know, because it will then look more professional than just dropping a tab. People will pay more once a drug is in full medical drag.

Watching the recent Cary Grant documentary, I was actually thinking of how much easy money psychoanalysts in the 1950s. The customer paid, then dropped, then lay there for 4-6 hours in their own personal journey. Presumably the therapist was getting paid for several hours... way over a classic 50-minute hour. Two bookings a day and you're full.
posted by meehawl at 8:43 PM on November 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

Erik Davis: Capitalism on Psychedelics - "The Mainstreaming of an Underground"
posted by kliuless at 9:06 PM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I feel like I need this so fucking much.

The guy I hoped to be my shaman died a few years back though. And I am pretty cautious about unknown sources.

Following this closely.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:22 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Man, I miss the good old days when I could do my crazy hippie drugs completely illegally and without all of these goddamned researchers making notes every time I say "Whoa, dude, the colors!"
posted by evilDoug at 10:35 PM on November 19, 2018 [7 favorites]

Danny Gomez - Flashback

Previously: and like, then i saw god, man.
posted by homunculus at 11:19 PM on November 19, 2018

Up next, a re-examination of Porcine aerodynamics.
posted by Fupped Duck at 11:51 PM on November 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

A fascinating post, thanks!

I went to a boarding school in the Scottish countryside. Cigarettes and alcohol were hard to come by - but as the days grew shorter in autumn - the surrounding landscape gave birth to a bountiful crop of Psilocybe semilanceata . Which means that I can match any story about how beneficial they are with about 5 Daily-Mail-worthy tales about how even thinking about eating one will denote THE END OF THE WORLD. Our teachers understood the requirement for judicious PR.
posted by rongorongo at 12:16 AM on November 20, 2018

I participated in one of the Hopkins psylocibin studies.

After seeing two good friends participate and have life-defining experiences, I signed up too. Our study was on how meditation and psylocibin work together. My one friend was able afterwards to begin to really heal from pervasive parental abuse. The other friend instantly was able to stop being controlled by her anxiety and grief. I too was looking for a measure of peace.

What I got was 8 hours of physically painful synesthesia. Each dose day (we got at least 2, max 3), we listened to the same music playlist while two “guides” sat with us. The synesthesia happened on my third dose day. Each stringed instrument pulled at the skin on my neck and sternum, seeming to stretch it out to a cartoon-like distance. Each percussive beat roiled up and out of my head through my skull; tympany was the worst. Acoustic guitar pulled at my neck but also made my hands clutch into claws and vibrate. Piano key sounds landed like little punches on my cheeks and eye sockets. My biggest takeaway from that day was that I’m able to meditate through 8+ hours of exhausting physical pain and not get upset about it. And that through meditation I can remain aware that drug-induced paranoia is temporary.

You’re welcome!
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 1:49 AM on November 20, 2018 [19 favorites]

Cannabis, MDMA, and Psilocybin all need to be rescheduled legally.
posted by The Correspondent on the Continent at 2:53 AM on November 20, 2018 [7 favorites]

Best preventative for the gawdawful syndrome known as cluster headache: small, only slightly psychedelic doses of psilocybin. Saved me from a world of pain. Other tryptamines such as LSD, DMT and lysergic acid amide are also effective; initial clinical trials are now underway for a non-hallucinogenic form of LSD called BOL-182 or Bromo-LSD.
posted by tommyD at 5:50 AM on November 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

A side-note about ketamine: Christine Blasey Ford was recently a co-author on a study which found that the antidepressant effect of ketamine is reduced if you block opioid receptors.
posted by clawsoon at 5:52 AM on November 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

Feeling like "wandering around a cyber-dystopic wasteland with a head full of psychedelics" was exactly the way I imagined living my old age when I was like 25.
"Ego death is the ultimate goal of life," reads one. "I think [it's] a fair statement that if you've experienced ego death that you're a superior psychonaut," reads another.

lol wut.

I dunno if I ever experienced "ego death," but one time I felt as if the sort of crushing weight of I-ness had just disappeared—and I didn't even realize that I had been feeling that until after I came back to Earth. It felt like waking up from a really nice dream.

(I had another much more terrifying experience after that which was much more like "dying" and which haunted me for years afterwards. Only recently have I considered that might be because I drew all the wrong conclusions from it.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:56 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

"I think [it's] a fair statement that if you've experienced ego death that you're a superior psychonaut," reads another.

I think it's a fair statement that if you're inclined to ponder the question of who is a superior psychonaut, you're comprehensively missing the point.
posted by flabdablet at 7:28 AM on November 20, 2018 [10 favorites]

Heartbreaking that it has taken this long, heartbreaking that MDMA is still in purgatory waiting to be rescheduled. I used to teach "The Peace Drug" to my students, about the history of using psychedelics to treat PTSD, and it always blew their minds-- the idea that doctors have known about the potential for treating it for so long, and the insanity of the reasons for keeping these meds inaccessible for treatment-- it's just cruel. So many people are suffering.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:44 AM on November 20, 2018 [6 favorites]

I think it's a fair statement that if you're inclined to ponder the question of who is a superior psychonaut, you're comprehensively missing the point.

‘I am the serenest!’
posted by homunculus at 7:46 AM on November 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

I filled my pockets with fossilized deer antlers and dog teeth.

Friendly reminder to anyone reading this thread that removing vertebrate and rare plant fossils from public lands is generally not allowed without a permit. These fossils belong to everyone, and removing them from nature prevents future generations from finding them there. Removing fossils from their natural context without proper study/record-keeping also limits the scientific value of the fossils and the landscape.

Normalized theft over long periods of time adds up. Fossil Cycad National Monument was protected in 1922. Over time it was picked clean, and as a result the monument was abolished in 1957.

he invited me to his house to see an almost complete human skeleton with green mineral jewelery he had found and was hiding from the authorities

Extra-friendly reminder (which apparently this needs to be said, because 2018) please do not disturb human remains if you are not allowed to do so. On federal public lands in the US, doing so can be a violation of NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. NAGPRA violations are taken seriously. It is very uncool to hide skeletons.
posted by compartment at 8:24 AM on November 20, 2018 [8 favorites]

compartment, I'm pretty sure Dr. Curare was in Mexico at the time.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:38 AM on November 20, 2018

> On ego death: I only ever experienced ego death on salvia. Once. It was probably the most terrifying experience in my life. I don't really remember much except the ripping of the fabric of space and time and feeling like I couldn't breathe because I had left by body behind and yeah.. it was scary.

The worst drug story I've ever heard was a guy who told me that the one time he did acid he was in so much "psychic agony" (his exact phrase) that not only did he think he was going to die, he was *hoping* he would die (and when he woke up the next day, he'd shit himself). Me, I've never done acid and don't want to (I'm not into pushing through the boundaries of consciousness or whatever you want to call it), but shrooms...shrooms I've never had a bad time on. I still do them once or twice a year and generally just walk around and look at things. For me they're best enjoyed in nature, but the bright lights of the city look pretty great under that influence, too.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:53 AM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

ego death again: Oh yeah I remember now: as a teen, after an all day, all night binge on a variety of substances (meth, MDA, MDMA, cannabis...) I found myself in my friend's kitchen at 6 in the morning. I got kind of light headed for a second and leaned forward with my forehead against the wall. Then I proceeded to live an entire lifetime in another time/place. When I came back to reality after I "died", I was briefly confused and struggled to comprehend where I was, WHO I was, what was real? Was this the afterlife? and then it all came flooding back, my "real" life flashed before my eyes, my memories (what few I had) came flooding back, and I recalled again who I was and where I was and how I got there... So That was I guess also an ego death experience.. It was kind of awesome. I wish I could have remembered that other life tho. It was epic, I think.
posted by some loser at 9:10 AM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I wish I could have remembered that other life tho. It was epic, I think.

iirc, people living Inception-style alternate lives was a phenomenon we discussed in a Salvia divinorum thread. But also, harpy police.
posted by thelonius at 9:37 AM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

compartment, I'm pretty sure Dr. Curare was in Mexico at the time.

Oops, I missed that and I apologize if my comment was overly harsh. For whatever reason I assumed that the story was from the Southwest United States. Thank you for the correction.

I don't know the laws governing fossil collection in Mexico, but the effects of resource depletion and harm to scientific value are agnostic to borders.

If there were circumstances that made it more acceptable to disturb human remains and hide them from authorities I would be interested in learning about it. (Was the finder a likely lineal descendent of the deceased person? If so, did local custom provide this person any kind of authority for safeguarding remains? Were the legally responsible government authorities likely to find/loot the remains themselves? Would the deceased or the deceased's family have been comfortable with the remains being hidden in a house instead of being reburied or treated ceremonially?)
posted by compartment at 9:58 AM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Had my first experiences with MDMA over the last few months. It's been pretty amazing. Curious about trying mushrooms but I need to figure out how to set it up right. The friends I know who have easiest access to them are great for taking Molly with and dancing all night but first time I do something more serious like shrooms I feel like I need to have somebody sober with me.

I have to say reading stuff about all these new studies is what helped me try it. My friend had been offering for at least a year and I was too scared - too much ingrained "drugs are bad, m'kay?" A good portion of that first high wasn't just the Molly it was that I broke past the fear in the first place and opened up to new experience.
posted by dnash at 10:26 AM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm with Sean here. I'm old. Old enough that my first acid trips were taken with people who toured Vietnam courtesy of the US Army. I've done a lot of acid. But I stopped before the turn of the century. A few years later my son was born, and newborns and acid trips seem like a bad idea all the way around. And now, here we are almost twenty years into the new century, and y'all, I wouldn't have the faintest idea where to buy anything now.

I would love to be able to do microdosing that was guaranteed to be a certain strength every single time. I personally would prefer lsd to shrooms, but shrooms would be pretty awesome. I wish I could move to a state where marijuana was legal, and I would kill to live somewhere where I could legally buy hallucinogens. I have a feeling that my use of pharmaceuticals to manage pain and symptoms could be lessened considerably were I able to medicate in the way I know works best for my system.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:55 PM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

But what about Ketamine? Didn't researchers discover that Ketamine could essentially "cure" depression without any adverse side effects?
posted by Brocktoon at 1:13 PM on November 20, 2018

Brocktoon: Yeah, ketamine is extremely effective in TRD and the side effects wear off after you get it. BUT it's an old, old anesthetic that's not going to make drug companies any money, so the current situation is it's approved only off-label to treat depression/PTSD/anxiety/etc but struggling with FDA approval for pain and mental health beyond that. What's in the pipeline now (they keep saying this is coming out any day now, we'll see) is an FDA approved nasal spray, which isn't nearly as effective or consistent as an IV infusion. We are pretty far, going by conversations I've had with my doctors and what I've read, from an oral antidepressant, although you can get those made at a compound pharmacy even if that isn't recommended. Basically the best and maybe only real option is going to be IV for a while, which is expensive and not offered everywhere and a pain in the ass, and inaccessible for the vast majority of people who could maybe be saved by it.

I'm hoping that what's happening here with psilocybin changes something with ketamine. It can't hurt.
posted by colorblock sock at 3:23 PM on November 20, 2018

So what's the deal with the entirely wrong assertion in the article, "...MDMA — often confused with ecstasy..."?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:46 PM on November 20, 2018

Describing a positive ego death experience is really hard to do without falling into drug cliche, but it happens. It's happened to me. I experienced a flash of ego death, just for a few minutes. I was really startled (not quite frightened) that I was losing 'myself' and my heart started to race. It is an unsettling feeling. A really calm moment came over me where I felt like the trees in my backyard were over me asking in their tree way "are you alright?" "take a few breaths with us" and the trees walked me through breathing to calm down. I still had lost my sense of self, but it was an incredibly calm experience after my lovely backyard tree-friends helped me calm down. My experince is very much how Pollan describes it in his book; my ego was saying 'no no no, I'm not going away, we're going to die you idiot' and after it did, and I found myself (or mywhatever) perfectly fine, alive, and experiencing consciousness in a completely, fundamentally different way that was no worse or better than normal. My ego was very let down after the fact, and was pretty much like (a line stolen from pollan) "Oh. We wish you hadn't figured that out."

It was really nice. And now on very hard days, I try to regularly thank the trees in my backyard and we often sit and take a few breaths together. I also remind my ego that there is no need to protect Him/Us that much, that we are safe, and he can chill the fuck out.

Taking LSD was the best thing that has ever happened to me and my mental health. Chronic, longterm depression and anxiety are a plague on me, and have been since I can remember having thoughts. It's very hard to convey to folks who don't have deep, pervasive anxiety what it is like. It's always there. It's part of your DNA or the shape of your face. It just is how you are. You can't play or really enjoy much because of the worry.

But after taking a dose of LSD, and having a nice long day in a park or near a river, after all of the perceptible effects are gone (and who am I kidding, it really is fun, something my mind has a very hard time doing, so the trip itself is valuable for that reason), I am left with the calm and the peace of not feeling anything in particular. I'm not numb, or sedate, but fully alive, aware, and feeling without the absolute bent towards catastrophe or anxiety....just able to accept this wonderful experience of life and feeling all of the feelings and accepting them as why I'm here.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:48 PM on November 20, 2018 [15 favorites]

So what's the deal with the entirely wrong assertion in the article, "...MDMA — often confused with ecstasy..."?

I don't know. The only thing I can guess is that ecstasy/molly isn't necessarily pure MDMA.
posted by homunculus at 11:47 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

> Psilocybin Vs. MDMA for Medical Treatment

That infographic points out that street ecstasy/molly is often not pure MDMA. I think that has to be what the Rolling Stone author meant.
posted by homunculus at 9:47 AM on November 21, 2018

Since MDMA and psilocybin each have therapeutic value, I wonder if combining them (aka 'hippy-flipping') could have unique therapeutic applications beyond their individual uses. From my own 'research' in days of yore (before the turn of the century, like some others here) I personally thought they went very well together, synergistically even. Some real researchers should investigate that possibility one of these days.
posted by homunculus at 9:48 AM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

> Danny Gomez - Flashback yt

Every time I look at this thread now, Shpongle's Divine Moments of Truth (the music in Gomez's video) starts playing in my head. It's always nice to have a reliable and specific trigger for your inner DJ.
posted by homunculus at 10:52 AM on November 21, 2018

Seriously if there was a trivially, reliably titratable dosage unit available legally I would be first in the mother-fucking line. I mean it's delightful now that one can have legal in- and out-calls with Mary Jane up here, and an enormous relief to my kid who needs it for a variety of symptoms to not be breaking the law just to stay healthy, but as much fun as she is for Netflix and chill, she's not going to really help me unlock 52 years of crunchy self-circumscribing habits. Am I a chickenshit? Is the first part of my path to get over this little hump wanting my meds to be predictable, like so much of my life? Yeah that may be too meta. What I want is that asshole to not have drunk himself into liver failure. But I can't have that. This probably doesn't make much sense.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:16 PM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

compartment, it is a long story, but the short of it is that the people who have been living around the lake for millennia have been steadily losing their land to big farming businesses and real state developers.

This are has a very rich history, and the law says that when significant animal fossils or any human remains are found, specially during farming or construction, the archeological authorities must be contacted and all operations suspended until an assessment and possibly a years long dig is completed.

What happens is that farmers, when tilling or dredging the lake, will destroy anything they find so they don't lose any profit. Same for real state developers.

And even when the authorities are called there is no guarantee that the find will be respected. For example, and I know for a fact since I was there, an almost complete human skull and associated green mineral (I am no expert, the beads where light green speckled with almost black green) jewelry was sold to an American illegal immigrant (I won't call Americans who work in Mexico without appropriate permits and tax obligations expats until Latinos in the us are called expats too) for a couple hundred dollars by the people who were supposed to guard the find.

I understand what happens when people depredate fossils and archeological remains, and it sucks. But it is hard to argue with people stealing their own dead from corrupt authorities.
posted by Dr. Curare at 4:55 PM on November 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

At the very lest, MDMA and psilocybin should be legal for Thanksgiving as a tool to facilitate family bonding (or at least to make the day more memorable.) Maybe racist uncle would have a psychological and philosophical breakthrough after eating some MDMA infused cheese. Of course that will never happen since, after an experience like that, a lot of people would be less interested in shopping on Black Friday. The powers that be would never allow such a threat to the bottom line.
posted by homunculus at 11:53 AM on November 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Actually it's probably for the best that people weren't shrooming this Thanksgiving. Asking Siri the wrong question could have spiraled into a mushroom nightmare (nsfw.)
posted by homunculus at 10:55 AM on November 23, 2018

The Unified Theory Of Ram Dass - "In 1967 the noted Harvard psychedelic explorer Dr. Richard Alpert was transformed into Ram Dass by a Hindu guru in the foothills of the Himalayas. He then came back to the States with a vision of spirituality that transformed hippie America. Now the message of this 87-year-old teacher who keeps images of both Barack Obama and Donald Trump on his altar has taken on a profound new resonance."
posted by kliuless at 7:49 PM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

At the other end of the acceptance spectrum:

How a Kratom Ban Will Create Health Risks and Suffering—and Fuel Terrorism
The effects of kratom are pretty tame. When I took it twice to see what all the fuss was about, it required nearly double the recommended dose of three grams to feel much of anything beyond a slight warmth and boost of energy. One study found that two-thirds of kratom users took the supplement to reduce use or abstain from heroin or prescription painkillers. It is not comparable to those drugs.

For pain patients, however, kratom can mean the difference between a comfortable, productive day and one spent in bed.

The FDA also released reports on 36 deaths from around the world that it claims were attributable to kratom. But in almost every case other substances—including benzodiazepines, alcohol and conventional opioids—were found in the victim’s system.

Over the past few weeks public health experts, scientists and journalists have hustled to keep up with the rapidly escalating assault on kratom. All this for a plant that, even by the government’s highly dubious reckoning, kills fewer people annually than peanuts or acetaminophen.
Health and Human Services Recommends Making Kratom a Schedule I Drug
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recommended kratom be classified as a schedule I drug, according to documents obtained by STAT News. If the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) accepts its recommendation, kratom, a substance people use for chronic pain, would become illegal.
So, on the one hand we're getting closer to acceptance of psychedelic drugs to treat and alleviate mental illness and suffering, but on the other hand the powers that be want to clamp down on a drug which is used to treat and alleviate chronic physical pain and withdrawal symptoms (often in both cases by people who've been cut off from their prescription painkillers,) but which is not widely used as a recreational drug. That strikes me as being as cruel as it is stupid.
posted by homunculus at 1:55 PM on December 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

...And the contrast is bonkers.
posted by homunculus at 2:02 PM on December 2, 2018

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