Can Amanita Mushrooms Answer the Problem of Benzo Addiction?

Amanita mushrooms are becoming the new name in drugs, for naturally helping people with sleep and anxiety. But do they cause the same issues as the main pharma drugs known for this, benzodiazepines? And if not, can the muscimol from Amanita mushrooms not only replace use of benzodiazepines, but help those with benzo addiction, to come off the pills? Let’s take a look at what’s out there.

What are Amanita mushrooms?

Amanita mushrooms, specifically Amanita muscaria and Amanita pantherina, are species in the Amanita mushroom genus; shared as well with Amanita phalloides, and other death-causing species. This placement means the designation of a ‘poisonous mushroom’, though in the case of muscaria and pantherina, there are no deaths attached.

These mushrooms originate in cooler places, like Northern Europe and Siberia, and are therefore barely known of in the Americas region. This means they also evaded illegalization by not being visible in the latter part of the last century, when governments around the world were going through a flurry of drug illegalization measures. Now, all these years later, they’re making more of a name for themselves in places that never heard of them before.

The red or brown-headed mushrooms are known for their shape, and white spots. The visual is so appealing, it made it into the Super Mario Brothers game, meaning without knowing or understanding what they are, many people are familiar with how they look. When used properly, these mushrooms produce relaxation, euphoria, and hallucinations, but in a totally different way from psilocybin mushrooms. In fact, the only thing they have in common, is that they’re both fungi.

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The mushrooms, which contain ibotenic acid (the more sick-inducing compound which can be decarbed out) and muscimol, (the compound of interest that promotes great effect on GABA in the brain); have been used for medicinal, spiritual, and recreational purposes for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years. They’re even a part of the Santa story, as reindeer were native to muscimol-using tribes, and were known to eat the mushrooms and get all loopy.

Muscimol, for its part, is a solid white or colorless compound which is classified as an isoxazole. It’s a potent and selective orthosteric agonist. This term is important because it describes how muscimol binds directly to GABAA receptor sites, unlike other compounds that bind on the protein surface instead (allosteric). Drugs like these, when there is a high affinity, can block other compounds from binding.

Muscimol has many benzodiazepine-like effects, including sedative, hypnotic, and depressant effects, while also producing hallucinogenic effects. Muscimol has also shown not to cause addiction, though it does activate the ventral tegmental area (VTA) in a similar way, and this area is involved in the brain’s reward system. This could be in part because muscimol acts as an agonist, while benzos work as positive modulators; the whole difference between orthosteric and allosteric, already mentioned.

What are benzodiazepines?

First and foremost, benzodiazepines are pharmaceutically made, which means they’re synthetic drugs, unlike the mushrooms just spoken of, which are naturally living plants. These drugs, often called ‘benzos’, are depressant drugs that at the core of their chemical structure, contain the fusion between a benzene ring and diazepine ring. The first one discovered in 1955, was Librium, and was already out as a medication by 1960. Valium came out three years later.

The biggest neural impact these drugs have, is on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the same neurotransmitter that Amanita muscaria mushrooms affect. The drugs work specifically at GABAA receptors, and produce sedative and hypnotic effects, along with anxiolytic, muscle relaxant, and anticonvulsant effects. The drugs are used to treat a range of issues like: anxiety, panic, and sleep issues, as well as for agitation, seizure disorders, muscle spasms, as a way to aid in alcohol withdrawal, and as pre-medicine for certain medical procedures.

While they were always spoken about as safe in the past, and still are to a degree, this goes in the face of the rising death toll associated, whether from the drugs themselves, or from mixing them with other substances like alcohol or opioids. In 2020 alone, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that benzos were fully or partially responsible for 12,290 overdoes deaths.

Benzo addiction is quite common

Beyond this, not only is the line about safety odd considering the death toll, it hardly accounts for the large and growing number of people addicted to them. This is likely because the withdrawal can be very difficult. Benzo withdrawal is known as an intense experience, and can last a very long time, often called a protracted withdrawal (which is essentially a psychological withdrawal).

There is a high rate of benzo addiction in general. While these numbers sound almost made-up, research estimates show that even at therapeutic doses, long-term use (defined as three months or more), can result in 20-100% of people becoming physically addicted. That’s saying that *maybe everyone gets addicted. What’s more, they’re not known to keep providing positive effects beyond a point, and can cause worse rebound symptoms than what they’re used to suppress, upon stopping.

Withdrawal symptoms from these drugs include: anxiety, depression, depersonalization (feeling detached within oneself), derealization (feeling like the world around isn’t real), sleep problems, tactile hypersensitivity, tremors, shakes, muscle pain, random pains, twitching, abdominal issues, and headaches. For those using the pills to treat something like anxiety, the rebound anxiety of withdrawal, can be more intense than what drove the patient to seek treatment in the first place; which exemplifies why getting off these drugs is so incredibly hard.

One study from 2005 called Long-term outcome after discontinuation of benzodiazepines for insomnia: a survival analysis of relapse, shows that out of 47 adults trying to get off the medications, 42.6% could not stay off as of a 24 month follow-up. A 2003 study entitled Predictors of relapse after discontinuation of long-term benzodiazepine use by minimal intervention: a 2-year follow-up study, painted just as abysmal a picture. Out of 109 subjects who were also studied over a two-year period, 51% relapsed. It’s good to remember that all these users wanted to stop medication.

Can amanita mushrooms help with benzo addiction?

That muscimol affects reward sites, but without causing addiction, makes it very interesting. Both for treating certain issues, and for dealing with benzo addiction. In fact, muscimol is pointed to for actually restoring GABAA receptor modulation. Unfortunately, there’s no formal research on muscimol for benzo addiction, but like with much of life, this doesn’t mean there aren’t personal stories on the topic.

In a Reddit post from within the last year, an interested benzo user was curious about other people’s experiences with this. Not only were results supportive of muscimol helping to end benzo addiction, but tips were given; like how to taper the benzos, and to use compounds like kava before the muscimol to improve binding. Everyone who responded to this thread had a positive story. Unfortunately, as these mushrooms are still not as well-known as other drugs, its hard to find a lot of useful message board posts; most others are simply people speaking out of opinion, with no knowledge on the topic, or experience with it.

Can Amanita mushrooms help with benzo addiction
Can Amanita mushrooms help with benzo addiction

In theory though (and in user practice), they work for this. And, even if they can’t help with a detox, at least they can provide another way to deal with symptoms of anxiety and sleeplessness; without the addiction and withdrawal issues of benzodiazepines. They pose such a great benefit here, that like many other times in life, the knowledge of this compound brings up the agonizing question of, why are people still being put on benzos when these mushrooms exist?

There actually is a medication in trials that’s based off muscimol, called gaboxadol. However, its repeatedly tested for smaller, lesser-known disorders, instead of being used to treat anxiety, sleeplessness, and benzo addiction. One could ask why. But one could also ask, despite a rising death toll, why opioids are still prescribed; especially since the non-addictive ketamine offers better benefits. I guess its all about the money in the end; which means if you want this as an answer, for now, you’ll have to get the mushrooms on your own.


Truth is, if you’re having an issue that necessitate benzodiazepines, (according to you or your doctors), maybe try these mushrooms instead. They’re legal in the US apart from one state, and may be an important key not only in dealing with anxiety and sleep issues, but in ending the mass benzo addiction issue that is only rising. There are also products entering the market like this one; which shows some companies out there do get it, even if big pharma prefers you stay on the benzos.

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Opioid Lawsuit Money: Where Does It All Go?

Johnson & Johnson and friends are paying out a lot of money for their misdeeds; even if they refuse to admit to doing anything wrong. In fact, every state in the US has at least one opioid lawsuit; with the question now of, where does all that settlement money actually go?

How much must be paid & by who?

There isn’t a finite answer to this question, as not every case against the major players like Johnson & Johnson has been settled. And we’re only talking about America right now anyway. So far, over 3,000 suits have been filed by different states and local governments over the pills which have caused a major death toll in America, Canada, and beyond.

The biggest payout comes in the form of a $26 billion settlement that was made between 46 US states and Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson. It was brokered in 2021, and dubbed the ‘National Settlement.’ This settlement does not include the four states that didn’t sign on, or anything previously decided or still ongoing. The number also doesn’t include separate lawsuits that have been waged against retailers like Walgreens.

Another of the big settlements has to do with the Native American population of America, a population hit very hard by opioids. This lawsuit was also against the four companies involved in the National Settlement, with a total of $590 million to be paid out to federally recognized tribes. It started as a settlement between AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson and just the Cherokee tribe for $75 million. This was then increased to $440 million, with a stipulation that it can be accessed by any federally recognized tribe member.

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For its part, Johnson & Johnson was also included and has two years to pay out $150 million in this particular case. Of that, $18 million is specifically for the Cherokees. To give an idea of the brazen ego of these companies; upon making this settlement, Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that “This settlement is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing and the company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve.” I guess the company just likes paying out big sums of money.

Even more opioid lawsuits

It’ not just the pharma companies and distributors that are set to pay a lot of money. Even retailers got hit with lawsuits. CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart were staring down over 300 lawsuits over opioids, and settled for $13 billion in late 2022.

And what of Purdue specifically? The company that skyrocketed this whole issue with the creation of Oxycontin, and all the lies surrounding the usefulness and addictiveness of this drug? It also is in the process of dealing with the fallout of its blatant disregard for humanity. This company isn’t a corporation, and is privately owned by the Sackler family. The family was made to pay out $6 billion in a 2022 settlement, which goes mostly to local and state governments. And this as a part of a revised bankruptcy settlement, just to give an idea how much these little pills are hurting everyone…including those who made them.

Opioid lawsuit money

Even the federal government, which allows the opioids through regulation, is a part of it. The US Justice department made an $8 billion settlement with Purdue, which was reported in October 2022. And who gets this money? It goes to the Treasury Department, which is allocating $1.775 billion for states, tribes, and local governments for the future. And only $225 million for a “public benefit trust” to state and local communities now. It’s thought that once its all told, approximately $50 billion will be paid out from opioid lawsuits altogether on the state and local level.

Opioid lawsuit money: How is it split?

The whole point of these lawsuits is that the drugs hurt (and are still hurting) a lot of people. Now, sure, you can also say the disability damages affect a wider audience, including governments, but the thing to really remember in this, is who the victims are. And that’s primarily people who started opioids for pain issues. When you think about it, these lawsuits have less to do with people who decided to take up the drugs on their own.

So how does the money get to them? Or does it even? States are bringing in millions and billions of dollars from these opioid lawsuits, so where does the money go? This is where things get a bit complicated. And where we have to hope that the created systems, actually use the money appropriately.

The National Academy for State Health Policy is interested in this question, and compiled data to help elucidate the situation by looking at “state legislation, opioid settlement agreements and spending plans, advisory committees, and other entities charged with disbursing state funding”. According to the agency, all the states are setting up regulated structures for money dissemination; some related to the settlements themselves, and some as a part of new policy.

As the biggest payout as of yet, the National Settlement includes both the ability for states to create their own policies, while also defining some aspects of the payment structure. For example, this settlement includes a timeline for payouts, which stipulates 18 months. The money is split due to factors like overall population; how many overdoes deaths the location had, as well as how many active use cases there are now; and how much of the medications made their way into the location.

What about once a state has the money? The settlement agreement goes on to stipulate a standard rate for dissemination past that point, with 15% of the payment going to a State Fund, 70% to an Abatement Accounts Fund, and the last 15% to a Subdivision Fund. Should a state want to change this policy, it can challenge it. While all this applies to the biggest lawsuit, many settlements have similar instructions.

Lawsuits over opioids
Lawsuits over opioids

The ’State Fund’ is money which is “awarded directly to the state, with final spending authority residing with legislative appropriation, attorneys general, the Department of Health, or the state agencies responsible for substance use services.” The Subdivision Fund (Local Share) is money paid “directly to participating political subdivisions, including participating cities and counties.” And the Abatement Fund is to “distribute funding across the state.”

Essentially, each state is tasked with coming up with “unique process and administrative structures for allocating funding across state and local entities, identifying abatement needs, obtaining input from the public and experts, providing guidance on priorities and spending activities, and promoting transparency around the use of funds.” And these processes can be used for any opioid lawsuit money from future or already on-going cases.

Opioid lawsuit money, and how it can be used

With the National Settlement as the example, there are some stipulations as to how the money can be used once a state takes it in. This is where we need to make sure that these avenues lead to something useful; and that they don’t get corrupted. Which means watching over the process from beginning to end.

The main point is that at least 70% of this money must be used for ‘opioid remediation efforts,’ which essentially means policies that target the problem and attempt to solve it. As per the wording of the agreement:

“Care, treatment, and other programs and expenditures (including reimbursement for past such programs or expenditures except where this Agreement restricts the use of funds solely to future Opioid Remediation) designed to (1) address the misuse and abuse of opioid products, (2) treat or mitigate opioid use or related disorders, or (3) mitigate other alleged effects of, including on those injured as a result of, the opioid epidemic.” It’s not, however, more specific than this, leaving the individual locations to figure out what these measures should be.

The money must also be used to set up Opioid Settlement Remediation Advisory Committees. These committees are designed to provide some guidance for the remediation process; they only deal with the 70% allocated to the Abatement Accounts Fund.

Lawsuit money allocation
Lawsuit money allocation

The problem is that such systems have shown to be corruptible time and time again. To combat this (in some form) there is a guideline set up to try to deter unrelated spending. It stipulates a requirement to report all use of the funding money, including unrelated costs like payments to lawyers, investigation costs, court fees, and administrative fees. However, a requirement to report, doesn’t mean the funds won’t still be used for these purposes. If reported unrelated costs are still covered, the simple action of reporting does not mean the funds won’t be misused. We’ll have to keep an eye out.

Moving forward

Will any of this work, or are we simply filling government coffers, to be blown like so much other government money? The way I see it, there are two ways to look at progress. The first is if those who have been hurt, get repaid for their losses. And the second is in how it works to change the current landscape. Considering most new regulation focuses on decriminalizing drugs and setting up safe use sites, instead of looking at alternatives like ketamine; its certainly hard to see a path for positive change. And realistically, so long as the doctor is the dealer, can we actually expect this problem to go away?

It’s best to remember that no state pursuing an opioid lawsuit has barred the sale of opioids in the state; even with lawsuit money rolling in. Not even one made a guideline for making them harder to get. Kind of a contradiction, and one that shouldn’t be ignored if people really expect that governments are working on their behalf.

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What Gas Station Heroin Says About Our Need to Get High

Some, like the world of Western medicine, look at drug use as a medical issue. Others see it as a consequence of the stress of different factors of life. No matter how you look at it, there’s no getting away from it. And it seems like people will do whatever they can to feel better somehow. The latest example is dubbed ‘gas station heroin’. But is there really a threat here; or is this governmental subterfuge in light of the growing opioid issue?

What is gas station heroin?

No, it’s not a Lou Reed song, though it sounds like it could be. And it’s not the title of an art film made by an eager grad student either. It’s not exactly what most people would guess it is, because it doesn’t actually have anything to do with heroin. Heroin is an opioid, a product of the processing of opium. And gas station heroin is not in that class of drugs.

Surprisingly, it’s actually an anti-depressant of the tricyclic class of antidepressants. The official name is tianeptine, and it’s sold under many brand names, including Stablon and Coaxil. It’s technically an atypical tricyclic antidepressant in that it doesn’t necessarily work like other antidepressants. Tricyclics are used primarily for anxiety and mood disorders, and work by inhibiting the reuptake of neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, and the norepinephrine transporter. By doing so, they increase these neurotransmitters in the brain.

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However, tianeptine is a bit different. It is used for anxiety and depression, but it’s been found that it also acts as an atypical μ-opioid receptor agonist. Which means it promotes more action at μ-opioid receptors, which is what opioids do. So the same drug causing mass issues with addiction and overdose, has at least some similar effects to this antidepressant tianeptine. Tianeptine in high doses is used for recreational use, with the main issue in withdrawal symptoms; though this relates not just to an opioid effect, but to antidepressants in general.

Back several years ago, doctor-prescribed medications weren’t the bigger problem, today they are. And not only does the following information back up how dangerous the medicines offered to us can be, this whole situation shines a light on just how bad our collective need is to get high. Whether considered an actual disorder, or a reaction to the stress of life, it indicates quite an issue when people are using anything possible, just to catch a little buzz.

The current tianeptine issue

It’s certainly not an issue like opioids, and many probably have never heard the names tianeptine or its slang name ‘gas station heroin’. But in some places, its created enough buzz to get the attention of law enforcement, and is now the subject of new worries, and new laws. One of the recent stories related to tianeptine, comes out of Mississippi.

Last month it was reported that this drug is sold, not by pharmacies, but by gas stations and corner stores, with names like Za Za, Tiana, and Red Dawn. It’s found with other supplements, and doesn’t stand out as anything special. It certainly doesn’t require any kind of prescription, though when sold as an antidepressant, it does. However, its not cleared for medical use by the FDA in America, and is only found as a prescription antidepressant in other countries. After trials in 2009, all development of the drug stopped in the US by 2012. Although why this happened, was not made clear.

In Mississippi, doctors are putting out warnings about the safety of this drug, with fear-inducing lines like this one from Dr. Jennifer Bryan, the chairman of the Mississippi delegation of the American Medical Association, “It can kill people, to be quite honest, and it’s highly addictive.” She continued about a specific case, “I had a young woman come to me, and she was a mother, and she was dealing with depression. And a friend told her about Za Za. So she tried it. And I promise you that same day, she said she could not stop, and it was so sad.”

In terms of why its on shelves at all? Bryan explains, “In sneaky situations like tianeptine, something that the FDA on the drug side has not approved for prescription in the United States due to safety reasons, can sneak in the back door as a supplement.”

Is tianeptine actually that dangerous?

Tianeptine is known as gas station heroin

There are plenty of issues with antidepressants, but is this one really *that bad, or just another example of the US government (local or federal) not liking an industry it can’t get in on? The US government loves approving dangerous medications. I mean, it regulates the legal opioid industry, making any talk of illegalizing tianeptine, a massive point-miss if all synthetic opioids (where the real death toll is) don’t follow. So while the government is great at providing us plenty of dangerous pills, it sure seems unhappy about this specific one, which it doesn’t legally sell. Opioids are legally sold.

As far as danger? I can’t find a specific death statistic. In a 2018 review that went over 25 different articles, which contained information on 65 people, it mentioned 15 overdose cases. Overdose doesn’t actually imply death, just taking too much of something. Of those 15 there were three deaths, but all involved one or more other substances, meaning the deaths cannot be put on tianeptine directly. The same report goes on to mention six other deaths, but stipulates they only ‘involve’ the drug, which makes it the same as the three deaths above. In no case has tianeptine been fingered as the only cause of death.

The thing is, I can’t find other information on fatalities at all with this drug, or any real information on disability issues. So it doesn’t sound that bad, right? Especially when opioids are taking out close to 100,000 people a year now. Yet, as those drugs are not banned, states like Mississippi are banning drugs like tianeptine. For 2021, Mississippi reported approximately 491 drug overdose deaths, with suspicion that 71.7% of them (352), were because of opioids, or related.

That same state hasn’t banned any drug associated with those overdoses. However, on March 1st, it did pass legislation to ban tianeptine via House Bill 4. If signed by the governor, the new law will ban the sale and possession of the drug. But it won’t stop any opioid use. So basically, a lesser drug which isn’t associated with that many issues (and none direct that I’ve seen) is being banned, while the #1 overdose drugs, opioids, remain as legal as before.

Where else this is happening, and why it makes no sense

Several other states also made measures against tianeptine, while doing nothing about opioids. In Minnesota its now a Schedule I substance, but I saw not one death statistic. That same state had 1,286 overdose deaths in 2021. 924 were opioid related. Michigan made it a Schedule II drug, but also failed to report any death statistics for it. What Michigan did have, was 2,738 overdose deaths in 2020, with 79% being opioid related.

It should be noted that while Alabama spoke of a crisis related to the drug, it also failed to mention even one death; which makes one wonder how the word ‘crisis’ is defined, when there are drugs out there causing tens of thousands of deaths a year. Of course, that state actually has an opioid crisis, with 343 of the 401 overdoes deaths in 2020, relating to synthetic opioids.

Opioids are legal, while states go after tianeptine
Opioids are legal, while states go after tianeptine

In Tennessee the sale of the drug was outlawed, and it was put in Schedule II of the state’s Controlled Substances list with a class A misdemeanor charge. However, once again, this was done with not one death brought up. Weird, when Tennessee reported 2,388 opioid overdose deaths in 2020. Are we perhaps having our attention turned away from the real problem, by introducing a fake one?

In Oklahoma tianeptine is listed as a drug with a Schedule II ban, but no deaths are reported. What is true, is that Oklahoma had 733 overdose deaths between 2019-2020, 36.3% of which had to do with opioids. Incidentally, meth accounted for about 64%. In Georgia its now also Schedule I. The report referenced, again, mentioned no deaths. The comparison? 2,390 drug overdose deaths in the state in 2021, with 1,718 (71%) attributed to opioids.

In Indiana, the drug was banned in late 2022, but the pattern repeats as the report mentioned no deaths attached. On the other hand, the state had 2,755 overdose deaths in 2021, 85% of which were only fentanyl, meaning synthetic opioids altogether caused more than 85% of deaths in the state. In Ohio, the ban was instituted as an emergency measure, making it a Schedule I substance. Just like the rest, it mentions no death toll with the drug, even as it continues to sell opioids with 81% of overdose deaths in 2020 (5,017 total), due to fentanyl.


Perhaps what gas station heroin shows us more than anything else, is that 1) people want something to make them feel good, and 2) no country or state wants an industry it can’t tax and control. These efforts seem more like subterfuge though, trying to take attention off the lack of action on the real issue, by trying to make this into one. And that doesn’t mean for a second that I think the stuff is okay, but the contradiction of caring about it at all, while doing nothing to ban opioids, makes the whole thing laughable at best.

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Meth Is More Legal Than Cannabis In US & World

If you read the headline and think that’s not possible, it absolutely is. In fact, it’s right out there in our faces, in that methamphetamine is scheduled in the Controlled Substances list at a more accessible level. Which makes meth more legal than cannabis in the US. And beyond. Why is this the case? And what is meth legal for?

First, a little about methamphetamine

Methamphetamine goes by several names on the street, like ‘meth’, ‘ice’, ‘crank’, ‘crystal’, ‘yaba’, ‘glass’, ‘tina’, ‘tweak’, and ‘T’. It’s classed as a stimulant drug, much like amphetamine and cocaine. It’s also considered a psychostimulant for its psychoactive effects along with stimulatory effects. Its an agonist for the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. A high can last from 8-10 hours from the come-up to the come-down, with after effects lasting as long as a full day.

As a stimulant it makes a person feel more awake and energetic. It increases motivation and the ability to keep going. It suppresses the appetite, can increase sex drive, and creates feelings of euphoria. As a stimulant, it can also come with negative effects for the wrong person, or when taken at too-high doses. This includes feelings of anxiety and paranoia, disorganized thinking and delusional thoughts, violence, and psychosis.

Chronic users often experience quick and unpredictable mood swings, and increases in the above mentioned paranoia, stimulant psychosis, and violent behavior. It can also cause hallucinations (like bugs on the skin), and delirium. Meth comes as either a white-to-blueish crystal (which looks like actual crystals, or shards of ice or glass), or is ground into a powder. It’s smoked in specific glass pipes, or through straws; snorted; injected; and medically taken as a pill.

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The intense feelings of euphoria make it a highly abused drug. And frequent use can cause dependence whereby the user experiences feelings of withdrawal when stopping. Withdrawal can include post-acute withdrawal symptoms, which means experiencing ongoing symptoms that resemble a mental illness, that can go on for quite some time. Often users go on binges whereby they take the drug continuously for many days (tweaking), generally without sleep; which can cause its own set of symptoms from sleep deprivation.

Methamphetamine is generally bad for the brain. It’s considered a neurotoxin, which causes damage to dopaminergic neurons of the midbrain when taken in high doses. Neurotoxicity from the drug can result in negative changes to the structure and functioning of the brain. This includes a reduction in grey matter (“neural cell bodies, axon terminals, and dendrites, as well as all nerve synapses”) in different parts, as well as negatively affecting markers of metabolic function. It can also promote the breakdown of skeletal muscles, create bleeding in the brain, and cause seizures.

It was first synthesized in 1893 by Japanese chemist Nagayoshi Nagai, from the drug ephedrine. To get a bit technical, meth exists as two enantiomers, which means it’s a compound with two mirror image sides. One is levomethamphetamine, and the other side is dextromethamphetamine. This is similar to ketamine, which exists as S-ketamine, and R-Ketamine, with the two together forming racemic ketamine. Methamphetamine is the racemic free base form, consisting of equal amounts of both sides.

How did methamphetamine use start?

We really don’t hear much about medical uses of methamphetamine, but they exist, and have for quite some time. Though it was first synthesized in 1893, it didn’t have its first medical use until WWII. During this time it was used along with amphetamine, by both Allied and Axis forces, in order to increase performance in war.

It was marketed in Germany starting in 1938 under the name Pervitin, made by the pharmaceutical company Temmler. Though it was non-prescription at the time, following its use by soldiers, and the realization of its addictive abilities, it was made a prescription drug in the country in 1941. Soldiers were still given the drug, but in more controlled doses.

It entered the American market in the 1950’s when the company Obetrol Pharmaceuticals released it as Obetrol, a drug which incorporated meth as a treatment for obesity. It became very popular in the 50’s and 60’s, but was forced into stricter regulation as the addictive properties became more established…something that was already technically known from the war.

Methamphetamine and pipe

In 1970, during the US’s flurry of drug illegalization measures, methamphetamine wasn’t actually illegalized, but put in the same place it still resides today, in Schedule II of the Controlled Substances list. This was done using the newly instated Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II means its considered dangerous, but with limited medical use. As in, not completely illegal.

Let’s remember, to this day, cannabis sits in Schedule I (no legal uses, considered highly dangerous) in the US. This makes meth legal for some medical purposes, whereas cannabis is legal for none (outside pharma medications that did not come with an official rescheduling of the drug). In terms of the UN, meth is in Schedule II of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, whereas cannabis is still Schedule I, even after a recent vote re-examined the subject. So both according to the US federal government, and UN, meth has greater legality than cannabis, and cannabis is more dangerous.

How is it used today?

Methamphetamine is currently sold under the brand name Desoxyn for ADHD. It’s considered a second-line drug for that, and for treating obesity. It comes in five, 10, or 15 mg tablets, both immediate release and extended release. Desoxyn is the only FDA approved methamphetamine medication currently on the market, though it’s found as a generic drug as well. It’s also prescribed off-label for narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness). Off label prescribing is perfectly legal, and is what drives the ketamine market.

Get this though, just like how one half of ketamine is marketed as S-ketamine (the other side is R-ketamine); one half of methamphetamine is also marketed as an approved drug. Its L-enantiomer side is known as levomethamphetamine, and is sold in over-the-counter nasal decongestants in the US. According to, it “lacks CNS activity, has a low abuse potential, and is poorly metabolized to amphetamine.” Of course, it’s also shown that users tend to like it, and can have abuse issues with it, so is it really that different in the end? Or just a way to legally market – and make money off – methamphetamine?

While this information is incredibly outdated, it was reported that at the end of 2009, a methamphetamine hydrochloride medication had brought in approximately $9.3 million for the company Mylan, according to IMS Health. Mylan is now a part of the company Viatris, and it’s unclear if that company still sells this drug. I could not find current revenue information for Desoxyn. It was originally trademarked by a Danish company, before the trademark was sold to Italian company Recordati.

How dangerous is meth?

It’s actually pretty dangerous. First off, all that stuff about delusions and psychosis and violence are a big thing. You can look in the news to find those stories, or ask around. Meth is commonly done, and finding someone with experience isn’t hard. Meth is associated with all kinds of weird behavior like repetitive motions (punding), taking things apart, and scratching at the skin until it bleeds because the user thinks something is on them (meth mites).

Person smoking meth
Person smoking meth

Beyond that, while smear campaigns on cannabis are generally completely insane when looking at the lack of death and injury, meth actually causes a lot of death and injury. Though the US doesn’t keep specifics on overdose for all drugs individually, it classes methamphetamine as a psychostimulant, and does have stats for that.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse put psychostimulant overdose deaths at 32,537 in 2021, and it’s a pretty good bet that meth is a primary source of these deaths, although it should be noted that the rise of combined opioid use with other drugs like meth could also increase numbers. It does give a separate number for cocaine, implying cocaine deaths are not a part of this. Psychostimulants are the 4th leading cause of drug-related deaths in the US, following opioids, smoking, and alcohol. But 2nd in terms of overdose deaths.

Another example comes from statistics put out by the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM). According to this organization, the overdose death number regarding meth for 2020 was 23,776; although this also does not rule out inclusion of other drugs used at the same time. Regardless of whether from only meth, or with other drugs like opioids, these are not small numbers.

While most of the illicit meth in America comes from Mexico, a growing story is the rise of meth production in Myanmar. Though this has a greater effect on countries like Thailand at the moment, there’s little doubt that increased production of a drug consumed frequently in the US, will probably mean an increase in importation. The illicit meth industry is likely strengthened by the ability to make it in covert labs, whereas drugs like opium and cannabis require growing space.

All told, this drug with a large death-toll on its back, is actually more federally legal than the no death-toll drug cannabis, and the also no death-toll psychedelic drugs: magic mushrooms, LSD, and DMT. While all these reside in Schedule I (along with mescaline, which comes with a loophole which allows use), methamphetamine sits pretty in Schedule II, meaning the US government is telling us that cannabis is more dangerous than meth. What a crazy world we live in.


Is cannabis more dangerous than meth? No! And I can make that statement as there are death and injury statistics attached to meth, and essentially none for cannabis (possible semi-related injury numbers, but no direct death stats). So, no, it makes absolutely no sense that meth is more legal than cannabis in the US, and the world in general. Or that its scheduled as being less dangerous. And the fact that it is, is something that really should be considered.

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What Does Dr. Julian Somers Actually Believe?

What does Dr. Julian Somers actually believe? Dr. Julian Somers is a researcher and professor in the mental health and addiction field in British Columbia, Canada. He is currently a professor at Simon Fraser University and serves as the Research Director of the Mental Health and Addictions Research Program. In addition to his research, Julian has received numerous awards and recognitions for his contributions to the field of mental health, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Applied Public […]

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Stepping It Up: Canada Approved Two Companies to Sell Cocaine

Sometimes different parts of a government don’t work in tandem the way we think. This idea was epitomized when David Eby, the Premiere of British Columbia, was blindsided by the news that Health Canada made allowances for two companies to legally sell cocaine. Read on to find out more about Canada getting in on the cocaine industry, and the two companies that now have cocaine approvals.

What happened?

Adastra Labs, out of Langley, British Columbia, put out a press statement in the last few days. In it, the company explained it gained an approval back on February 17th, in regards to an amendment to its Controlled Substances Dealer’s License. The amendment involves cocaine. This was news to David Eby, the Premiere of BC, who said if such a move was made, it was done by the federal agency, with no notification to the local government or province.

This comes after British Columbia already decriminalized hard drugs within the province, as a way of dealing with the growing opioid use, and overdose rate. This new policy started at the end of January, and only applies to British Columbia, not the rest of Canada. The reason is that British Columbia specifically applied to the federal government to receive an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The federal government approved this, but implemented it not as a law, but as a three-year pilot program.

Under the decriminalization, 2.5 grams or less of a drug is no longer criminalized. This accounts for drugs including opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA. BC has had over 11,000 deaths from illicit drugs since 2016, which is why the application was put through, and why the federal government approved it. While such measures have proved useful in other countries like Portugal, one must wonder on the logic of applying the same setup in a circumstance where the drugs are continuously given out by doctors.

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What is allowed?

According to Adastra’s statement, the amended license lets the company “interact” with a max of 250 grams of cocaine, and also allows the company to import coca leaves, for making synthetics. Along with cocaine, the company has an allowance to work with psilocybin and psilocin from magic mushrooms (it can distribute up to 1000 grams). CEO Michael Forbes said the company would figure out the commercialization value within the constructs of its own business model, to formulate a way to move forward with maintaining a safe supply of cocaine to meet demand.

He noted the harm reduction aspect, saying, “Harm reduction is a critically important and mainstream topic, and we are staying at the forefront of drug regulations across the board. We proactively pursued the amendment to our Dealer’s License to include cocaine back in December 2022.”

It seems that Health Canada made the move very quietly, with no one knowing much about it. Perhaps it could foresee some backlash. Said BC legislature, and opposition leader, Kevin Falcon, “Cocaine isn’t prescribed, it isn’t safe, and this is wrong. Commercializing cocaine as a business opportunity amounts to legalizing cocaine trafficking, full stop.”

Spokesman Kevin Hollett of BC Centre on Substance Use, seemed just as confused by the move. He said the agency doesn’t know much, (or anything), about it. He reminded that “To my knowledge, prescribed safer supply in BC is focused on opioids, so I’m not clear how this might fit in, if it does at all.”

What about the second company?

If all this sounds like it could be the made-up antics of a company to get press, then consider that yet another company made a similar press statement. On March 2nd, amid the ire of David Eby for being shut out of the federal government’s decision, Sunshine Earth Labs also announced that it had been approved licensing to both produce and sell cocaine.

The company said in a statement that Health Canada gave permission for it to “legally possess, produce, sell and distribute coca leaf and cocaine,” with the inclusion of morphine, MDMA, and heroin. This is slightly different from Adastra, which also got leeway for using the compounds in psilocybin mushrooms – psilocybin and psilocin – as a part of its own allowance.

Magic mushrooms

Most of the recent relaxation in drug policy in Canada is driven by the opioid crisis and growing overdose rate. With more than 11,000 deaths in recent years in CB alone, and the rise of fentanyl bringing on more and more overdoses, BC is looking to do whatever it can to help the problem. But is this part of it? And how do cocaine allowances and an opioid problem, relate? Health Canada didn’t explain fully, but it did finally make a statement on Friday, March 3rd.

What does Health Canada have to say about it?

This Friday, the government agency finally said something. It said in a statement that “They cannot sell products to the general public,” speaking of the two companies that received licensing for cocaine production and sale. As per Health Canada in reference to Adastra Labs, it said the company couldn’t sell to the public, and was only legally permitted to sell the cocaine – or other included substances – to other dealers for controlled substances, who already hold licensing and have the drugs in question, as part of their license. This includes pharmacists, practitioners, hospitals, and researchers, only.

While this story is only just breaking, according to Adastra Labs CEO Forbes, the company actually received the Controlled Substances Dealer’s license last August. In December, 2022, it requested Health Canada update it with licensing for cocaine. That part was approved in February.

According to Health Canada via a statement, the agency “thoroughly reviews applications to ensure that all the appropriate policies and procedures are in place to maintain public health and safety and security.” And that it had reiterated to the company “the very narrow parameters of their license.” So that “If the strict requirements are not being followed, Health Canada will not hesitate to take action, which may include revoking the license.”

British Columbia and overdoses

Health Canada certainly didn’t say anything about this as something related to the opioid crisis, yet that’s how its framed in most publications. The stories are tied. And that doesn’t make much sense considering the opioid issue involves a doctor’s prescription much of the time, with addictions that started because of actual medical needs. As long as the province allows doctors to continue providing these drugs; it probably shouldn’t expect any measure to work. No place with this issue should.

I’ve said time and time again, that the better answer is an immediate switch to ketamine, but it seems no government wants to break from opioid pharma money to do anything useful. Of course, without direct cocaine sales, the only thing that actually happened here, is the insinuation that cocaine might get clearance for medical use. But that seems pretty unrelated to the opioid and overdose issue.

Canada province British Columbia decriminalized drugs, like cocaine
Canada province British Columbia decriminalized drugs, like cocaine

How big is that issue? In terms of British Columbia, which is the 3rd largest province in Canada with approximately 5.2 million inhabitants, its pretty bad. It declared a public health emergency in 2016 due to the growing number of opioid overdoses. In 2021 there were 2,224+ fatal overdoses specifically in the province, which is 26% higher than the previous year; and 700% increased from seven years before. All told, the region has seen over 11,000 overdose deaths since 2016.

What about fentanyl specifically? In 2021, approximately 83% of fatal overdose victims tested positive for fentanyl, while 187 turned up positive for fentanyl analogue, carfentanil. For the latter, those numbers represent almost triple the number of positive samples from 2016. As for 2021 numbers, its thought that about 71% of fatal overdoses were for people between the ages of 39-59. The biggest issue comes from the following locations within BC: Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria.

Perhaps the strangest part of the current story, is that its about cocaine, and yet being tied to opioids. A medical cocaine industry, and an opioid overdose issue are unrelated. And while Health Canada isn’t tying the two together, it seems that everyone else wants to, despite a lack of logic for how they fit together. The thing that it looks like is actually happening, is that Canada might be onboard to use cocaine for medical purposes in the future.


Though it doesn’t seem to be directly for end users, Canada did approve two companies to work with and sell cocaine. Perhaps we should remember that some countries like the US, already hold cocaine as a Schedule II drug, meaning it has approved medical uses. Canada has it in Schedule I right now, so what we’re likely seeing, is the beginning of a medical market for it, like the US already has. Why it wasn’t framed this way from the beginning, I really can’t say.

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Worse Than Fentanyl? New Opioid Isotonitazene Deepens Opioid Issue

Isn’t it enough that fentanyl exists? We’ve got people dropping like flies in the US and beyond, with a lot of these deaths attributable to the extremely powerful opioid. Now it looks like an even more potent opioid, isotonitazene, might make the already awful opioid situation, even worse.

What is isotonitazene?

Isotonitazene – aka Iso – is an opioid drug, derived from benzimidazole, an aromatic organic compound. It’s in the nitrobenzimidazoles chemical classing of opioids, which makes it structurally different than other opioids like fentanyl. This drug is thought to be more potent than fentanyl slightly, and about 2.5X the strength of hydromorphone – often more recognizable under its trade name Dilaudid.

Its said that isotonitazene is 20-100 times more powerful than fentanyl, which is about 100X stronger than morphine (which goes in line with isotonitazene being 500X morphine). One truth is, as very little research exists on the compound, the specifics are unclear. Another truth is, it was not isotonitazene that was originally taken off the street in 2019, but a structural analogue called etonitazene, which has shown to provide 1000X the analgesia level in mice than morphine, but only about 60X the potency level in humans.

Isotonitazene is said to have half the potency of etonitazene, and is expected to have that same discrepancy between animals and people. If the original studies were done on animals, then the 500-1000X stronger than morphine might simply relate to animal studies. Most medical sources say it’s only slightly stronger than fentanyl.

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Isotonitazene, as an opioid, has similar characteristics to fentanyl and other opioids, in that it relieves pain, as well as providing the same side effects of nausea, itchiness, and the possibility of overdose due to the depression of the respiratory system. On August 20th, 2020, the DEA did something it has so far refused to do with other opioids like fentanyl, and put isotonitazene in Schedule I on the Controlled Substances list.

Why it classified this drug as 100% illegal, and not the ones more currently responsible for the growing number of opioid overdose deaths, is not immediately clear. Though it fits into the opioid class of drugs, its considered a ‘designer drug’ because it’s synthetic; though realistically, all other pharmaceutical opioids (called synthetic opioids) are also therefore technically designer drugs in the same way. So once again, making that designation for this specific compound, and not the others, makes very little sense.

San Francisco responds to isotonitazene

So far, what’s the damage with isotonitazene? A report earlier this month out of San Francisco expressed the thought that this new opioid on the streets of the California city, could greatly exacerbate the current opioid situation. Much like fentanyl, its being found as an addition to heroine and other opioid products, as a means to increase potency; and is used to make fake drugs.

There aren’t good overdose statistics specifically related to the drug yet, which is something authorities are keeping an eye on moving forward. As an opioid stronger than fentanyl, which would boast similar addiction rates, the unfortunate expectation is that deaths should increase proportionally to whatever increase in use it undergoes.

For a city like San Francisco, it’s making authorities nervous, as the city had in the neighborhood of 620 overdose deaths last year, with 72% of them attributed to fentanyl (and, I imagine, other synthetic opioids). This, of course, is representative of the overall growing fatalities related to these drugs in many places.

Said Matt Dorsey, District 6 Supervisor, “I just want to make sure that our city is set up to monitor it and to be testing for it.” He sent a letter to the medical examiner in regards to this, saying, “I just want to make sure that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has everything it needs to test for every potential drug that’s costing the lives of anyone in San Francisco.”

Where else is Isotonitazene causing problems?

Opioids might be known most for their damage in America, but the reality is that heroin and synthetic opioids cause problems in many countries, and isotonitazene is now a part of this. Though the article about San Francisco came out in February 2023, Isotonitazene has been causing problems elsewhere in the world already.

One of the interesting things about Isotonitazene is that while it was seen in several cases from 2019 – through 2020, it was replaced by other similar opioids upon the US putting the drug in Schedule I. Perhaps this is an indication that if the US wants to get rid of fentanyl, illegalizing it might help. Not to ignore that isotonitazene incidences were replaced by another similar drug metonitazene; but the situation does indicate that putting the effort into a formal illegalization, could help if there are support services to keep patients from picking up another opioid instead.

A 2021 study called Emerging characteristics of isotonitazene-involved overdose deaths: a case-control study investigated isotonitazene deaths from January 1, 2020 – July 31, 2020, in two locations: Cook County, Illinois and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. It compared it to other synthetic opioids. In these counties, there were 40 overdose deaths from isotonitazene, and 981 from other synthetic opioids. The study noted that isotonitazene deaths usually occurred with other medications, more frequently than the other synthetic opioids; with particularly large concurrent use of the benzodiazepine flualprazolam.

Opioid overdose rates

Another report from UNODC in 2020 said that isotonitazene was only responsible for eight deaths in the US between June 2019 and December 2019. Either these numbers are lower than reality, the ones above are higher than reality, or the drug gained popularity greatly between 2019 and 2020.

The UK is another location where a little data does exist on deaths. According to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, Isotonitazene was related to 24 deaths in 2021. In comparison, 2021 saw 2,219 opioid deaths in the UK (about 45% of all overdoses for the year).

A case report out of Switzerland in 2021 identified three different cases of deaths due to Isotonitazene, though in each case it was used with other drugs. In two cases this involved benzodiazepines among other drugs, and one included alcohol.

Right now, the stated cases are the only ones to give death statistics for the drug. Though it seemed to have its glory period between 2019 and 2021, the recent incidence of it in San Francisco signals that it either is coming back, or the article was more a hype piece about a drug that really isn’t seen often. Given the popularity of opioids, and the desire to get more and powerful versions, its not strange to think its making a reappearance.

The opioid epidemic

Opioids have become one of the bigger health concerns, with the largest issues still in the US, though countries like the UK and Canada certainly have their own issues. The choice by British Columbia in Canada to decriminalize all drugs is in direct relation to the growing opioid issue.

Even so, the US is where the meat of the problem is found. From 2019 to 2020 to 2021, overdose rates went from 73,000 to 93,000 to 107,622. And how many of these deaths did opioids account for? While we were never given an estimate for 2021 that I can find, its expected that over 68,000 of the 93,000 from 2020 were opioid-related, and over 48,000 of the 73,000 from 2019 were as well. Following the trajectory, it could be that close to 100,000 deaths in 2021 were from opioids.

It will be time before we have 2022 numbers, but nothing indicates a decrease, and everything indicates an increase. What did come out earlier this year, is New York City data from 2021 on opioid overdoses. 668 lost their lives that year to drug overdoses, and it was established that just fentanyl (minus other synthetic opioids) was responsible for 80% of these. Overdose numbers for 2021 were 78% higher than in 2019. This makes it the most common drug to show up in overdose scenarios, for five years straight.

The problem is so bad, and is so squarely put on the pharmaceutical companies involved, that in February 2022, Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, offered Native American communities $590 to settle lawsuits against them for their drugs destroying so many communities. On a global level, the payout number was settled at $26 billion for the same companies.

Multi-billions to be paid by pharma companies over opioids
Multi-billions to be paid by pharma companies over opioids

And while they give the ridiculous line that these payouts don’t constitute guilt: Johnson & Johnson quote: “This settlement is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing and the company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve,” the day I see a pharmaceutical company choose of their own volition to give up that much of their profits… well, you see where I’m going with this.

Those lawsuits aren’t even the end of it. That announcement about the $26 billion, came before another settlement with the entire state of Idaho. In this one, the same companies are paying yet another $119 million. And that’s just Idaho, imagine if the rest of the US states did the same. Maybe some are now.

It doesn’t even stop there. For their part in it, the pharmacy companies CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart were up against more than 300 lawsuits for their participation in the opioid game. And as of November 2022, they’re set to pay out $13 billion.

Perhaps the grossest issue of all? The US government, and any government that allows the drugs through regulation; is not only saying this is all okay (despite whatever lines they use to sound otherwise), they’re promoting the problem further. Hell, last year, it came up to lower guidelines for opioid prescriptions. I mean, is there a better way to say the government is complicit? And all this while ketamine has repeatedly shown comparable abilities for pain control, long lasting effects well beyond treatment, and no addiction or real overdose potential.


Do we have to worry about isotonitazene? With the current opioid issue, you better believe it. The one comforting fact, perhaps, is that at least with this one, the US government was smart enough to actually make it completely illegal.

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From the Archives: The Ibogaine Factor (1995)

By Paul Derienzo

Top-level federal researchers and bureaucrats, as well as grass-roots activists in drug-ravaged urban communities, have discovered ibogaine, the controversial drug that advocates tout as an “addiction interrupter” and one scientist calls a “probe into the inner workings of the human brain.”

Derived from iboga, an hallucinogenic plant of the West African rainforests, ibogaine is illegal in the USA. But addicts have been successfully treated with the drug in programs run overseas by private outfits, which are now pressuring the federal government to legalize the treatment.

The ibogaine controversy was aired at a March 8 conference in the Washington suburbs called by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Amidst heated debate between pro and anti-ibogaine factions, Frank Vocci, deputy director of NIDA’s Medications Development Division, expressed misgivings over human ibogaine testing conducted in Europe, Israel and Panama, and the reliance on “anecdotal evidence” of its efficacy in interrupting heroin and cocaine withdrawal symptoms. He concluded, however, that ibogaine research is “here to stay.”

Dr. Carlo Contoreggi of NIDA’s Division of Intramural Research said “even if ibogaine is slowed down, it’s too late to stop it. They know it works. NIDA views it as a fascinating window into the human brain, a probe to the farthest reaches of addictive behavior.”

Howard Lotsof, who heads NDA International, the company that holds the ibogaine-therapy patents, summarized the 60 treatments his group has performed, mostly in Holland. Lotsof characterized the drug’s effectiveness as “15 percent success, 15 percent failure, with the length of interruption in everyone else falling somewhere in between on a bell curve.”

Among the strongest ibogaine advocates at the conference was Dr. Deborah Mash of the University of Miami Medicine School’s Neurology Department, who is conducting the first FDA-sanctioned human testing (“FDA Approves Ibogaine Research on Humans,” Jan. ’94 HT). Mash has identified an ibogaine metabolite, 12-hydroxy-ibogamine, which is active at opiate receptor sites in the cerebellum.

According to one high-level NIDA official, her discovery is among the most significant in the study of addiction.

But drug-research consultant Dr. Peter Hoyle, who was involved in the controversial approval of the AIDS drug AZT, is an adamant ibogaine critic. He said he doesn’t think enough preclinical work has been done to support human trials. He said the mechanism of ibogaine’s action is still unclear, and raised the specter of ibogaine toxicity, based on massive overdosing of laboratory dogs and rats.

Others countered that despite the high doses—far greater than the doses used on humans—only one of the laboratory animals died. Dr. Mark Molliver of Johns Hopkins University, who first published results showing brain damage in rats given massive doses of ibogaine, said studies in monkeys showed only minor evidence of cell damage.

Mash dismissed reports of cell damage. Her own primate studies show absolutely no cell damage. In the conference’s most dramatic moment, she presented an actual human brain, of a heroin addict who died a month after she had received an ibogaine treatment in Panama. The patient died in Miami, where she had gone for a medical exam after experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. The local medical examiner who did the autopsy was an associate of Mash. According to the autopsy report, the brain showed no damage to the cerebellum area where ibogaine is active.

One source close to federal researchers says there are powerful forces arrayed against ibogaine inside the drug-policy bureaucracy. These forces are said to be centered around the methadone establishment.

Methadone is a heroin substitute invented in 1930s Germany and initially called Dolophine after Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Government-funded clinics coast-to-coast dispense it to addicts in “maintenance” programs aimed at controlling addiction. According to the source, there are some scientists who have built their careers on methadone research and are fighting tooth-and-nail against ibogaine. A “methadone mafia” is said to be entrenched in the drug policy bureaucracy.

On March 4, mere days before the Washington conference, 400 people jammed a forum on ibogaine in New York City’s African American community of Harlem. The forum, jointly organized by the Black Coalition on Drugs and the African Descendants Awareness Movement, was held at a community center near the mosque where Malcolm X was once minister. Among the scheduled speakers were two former Black Panther political prisoners.

After 19 years in prison, Dhoruba bin Wahad was recently cleared of charges linking him to the shooting of two police officers in 1971. Dhoruba had been raiding South Bronx drug locations that operated with the connivance of corrupt officers and then publicly dumping the drugs into sewers.

Dhoruba couldn’t make the forum because of a delay in his flight from Ghana, but speaking in his place was Eddie Ellis, also a former Panther and a veteran of 25 years incarceration.

Through a letter from Dhoruba, the Black Coalition on Drugs voiced full support of ibogaine, stating that the drug should be made available to the estimated 800,000 heroin and cocaine addicts in the USA. Rommel Washington, a Harlem Hospital social worker who has observed several ibogaine treatments, led the audience in chanting “Ibogaine is life!”

Questions about ibogaine’s pharmacological properties were fielded by Dr. John Morgan of City College of New York, who recounted reports from nearly 80 addicts who have received ibogaine treatments in Holland, Panama and other countries. He says it has been shown to alleviate morphine withdrawal in preclinical tests and anecdotal evidence. But the doctor also cautioned the gathering that some scientists were actively trying to halt human ibogaine testing.

Howard Lotsof called on the forum participants to increase the pressure on NIDA and local elected officials such as Rep. Charles Rangel, a hard-line Drug Warrior who once chaired a congressional subcommittee on narcotics.

Natural-healing advocate John Harris, who appears regularly on local radio, spoke on iboga’s historic use in African rite-of-passage ceremonies. Drawing a parallel, he advocated involvement of the addict’s family and friends in ibogaine treatment.

Longtime organizer Dana Beal, veteran Yippie and fixture on the marijuana-activist scene, spoke in support of a “harm reduction” approach combining ibogaine with medical marijuana and long-term counseling as a holistic anti-addiction strategy. Beal says ibogaine is best understood through study of West Africa’s Bwiti spiritual tradition, in which practitioners under the influence of iboga are said to meet with their ancestors in a life-transforming experience.

Despite the hope many participants held for ibogaine, the impassioned question-and-answer session indicated that many saw a contradiction between the white medical establishment’s control of drug policy and an African-American community determined to explore an addiction treatment derived from an African rainforest plant.

Organizer Brother Shine asked rhetorically if black Americans can depend on the medical establishment to treat ibogaine research fairly—and answered his own question by urging grass-roots involvement to ensure that the drug ultimately comes under the control of the local communities hardest hit by addiction. 

High Times Magazine, August 1995

Read the full issue here.

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UC Davis Launches Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics

The University of California, Davis announced this week that it is launching a new institute that aims to “advance basic knowledge about the mechanisms of psychedelics and translate it into safe and effective treatments for diseases such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, among others.”

Called “the Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics,” it will “bring together scientists across a range of disciplines and partner with the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that key discoveries lead to new medicines for patients,” the university said in the announcement, adding that the institute “was specifically designed to facilitate collaborations across campus.”

The institute “will be funded in part by a contribution of approximately $5 million from the deans of the College of Letters and Science and the School of Medicine, the vice chancellor for Research, and the Office of the Provost,” the school said, noting that the funding distinguishes it from other centers involved in the same field of study.

“While other psychedelic science centers have been formed across the country with gifts from philanthropists, the UC Davis institute is notable for also being supported by substantial university funds,” the university said. 

The university said that another “unique feature of the UC Davis institute will be its focus on chemistry and the development of novel neurotherapeutics.”

David E. Olson, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at UC Davis, has been tapped to serve as the founding director of the new institute.

“Psychedelics have a lot of therapeutic potential, but we can do better,” said Olson, whose group published a paper three years ago “describing the first nonhallucinogenic analogue of a psychedelic compound capable of promoting neuroplasticity and producing antidepressant and anti-addictive effects in preclinical models,” according to the university.

In Olson’s view, the university said, “novel molecules tailored to specific disease indications could offer substantial benefits and open doors to partnerships with industry by solving many issues currently faced by traditional psychedelics related to safety, scalability and intellectual property.”

“Psychedelics have a unique ability to produce long-lasting changes in the brain that are relevant to treating numerous conditions,” said Olson. “If we can harness those beneficial properties while engineering molecules that are safer and more scalable, we can help a lot of people.”

John A. Gray, an associate professor in the Department of Neurology, will serve as associate director. Olson and Gray authored a study in 2018 “demonstrating that psychedelics promote neuroplasticity — the growth of new neurons and formation of neural connections,” the university said in the announcement this week.

“Neuronal atrophy is a key factor underlying many diseases, and the ability of psychedelics to promote the growth of neurons and new connections in the brain could have broad therapeutic implications,” Gray said.

The university stated that the institute “will leverage the extraordinary breadth of expertise in the neuroscience community at UC Davis, which includes nearly 300 faculty members in centers, institutes and departments across the Davis and Sacramento campuses,” and that researchers “will be able to work on every aspect of psychedelic science, from molecules and cells through to human clinical trials.”

“Combining the considerable expertise of UC Davis’ pioneering basic research teams, world-class neuroscientists and our nationally recognized medical center is a formula for success that we trust will result in groundbreaking discoveries that will help patients regionally and worldwide,” Susan Murin, dean of the School of Medicine, said in the announcement this week.

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Long-Term Study of Twins Finds No Link Between Legalization, Drug Abuse

Once again the gateway theory—the belief that cannabis use leads to other drugs, popularized about 40 years ago—is being crushed by new evidence, this time finding no evidence of worsened drug abuse in legal states, using twins as controls. 

A new long-term study examined sets of twins, over 4,000 individuals, and found that state legalization status wasn’t associated with a rise in substance-use disorders of other drugs, and other psychological problems and vulnerabilities. Researchers also noted that legalization led to an increase in cannabis use but decrease in alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

The study, “Recreational cannabis legalization has had limited effects on a wide range of adult psychiatric and psychosocial outcomes,” was published online by Cambridge University Press on Jan. 5. In it, researchers sought to “quantify possible causal effects of recreational cannabis legalization on substance use, substance use disorder, and psychosocial functioning, and whether vulnerable individuals are more susceptible to the effects of cannabis legalization than others.”

Addiction usually goes well beyond the substances involved: The Colorado Sun reports that researchers measured general psychological dysfunction, going beyond substance-use disorders but also measuring financial problems, mental health, community disengagement, and relationship issues that are sometimes believed to be linked to pot use.

After noting that twins consumed cannabis about 20% more in legal states than non-green states in a previous study, the same team of researchers set out again to see if this impacts addiction of other substances, and other psychiatric disorders.

Researchers gathered data from longitudinal studies of twins in two opposing states, one with legal pot and one without: Colorado or Minnesota. The states provided near-perfect controls to examine the full effects of legalization versus a state that prohibits most forms of cannabis. Researchers in both states observed the twins over long periods of time. By using twins there are more automatic controls over socioeconomic status or genetic differences.

Researchers gathered data from 4,078 individuals, first assessed in adolescence and now ages 24-49, and currently residing in states with different cannabis policies (Colorado or Minnesota). Study participants were recruited as teens via birth records from the years 1972–1994, beginning before 2014, when adult-use cannabis stores opened in Colorado. Parents provided informed consent when the study participants were minors.

Living in a legal state was “not associated” with substance abuse disorders, although they found it led to higher pot use but lower alcohol use. Living in a legal state was associated, in fact, with lower AUD rates.

“In the co-twin control design accounting for earlier cannabis frequency and alcohol use disorder (AUD) symptoms respectively, the twin living in a recreational state used cannabis on average more often, and had fewer AUD symptoms than their co-twin living in an non-recreational state. Cannabis legalization was associated with no other adverse outcome in the co-twin design, including cannabis use disorder. No risk factor significantly interacted with legalization status to predict any outcome.”

This led researchers to come to several conclusions.

“Recreational legalization was associated with increased cannabis use and decreased AUD symptoms but was not associated with other maladaptations,” wrote researchers. “These effects were maintained within twin pairs discordant for residence. Moreover, vulnerabilities to cannabis use were not exacerbated by the legal cannabis environment. Future research may investigate causal links between cannabis consumption and outcomes.”

While living in a legal state was associated with higher pot use, it didn’t impact drug abuse and other psychological problems. “At least from the psychological point of view,” Stephanie Zellers, one of the researchers, told The Colorado Sun. “We really didn’t find that the policies (on cannabis legalization) have a lot of negative influence, which I think is important.”

“That twin component really allows us to rule out a lot of possible alternatives—maybe there were just cultural differences, family differences, things like that,” Zellers said, explaining the need to observe twins.

Zellers also led the earlier study looking at the impact of legalization. The team has funded much of the research based on grants from the National Institutes of Health. 

Researchers stipulate that more data is needed to determine the effects of cannabis legalization regarding psychiatric disorders and addiction. 

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