Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy, and How It Works

When you think of a therapy session, you probably think of someone sitting on a couch talking about their life, while a professional looking person listens, and aids in the process. But what if one other component could be added to the scenario. Like 100 micrograms of LSD, or 20 mg of psilocybin? Psychedelic-assisted therapy is coming back in style, and there’s a really good reason why.

The world of cannabis is ever-changing and ever-improving. Take THC, for example. It used to be that there was only one way to experience it. Now, with medical science, there is also delta-8 THC, a version of THC with less psychoactive effect, and related anxiety. You can check out some great Delta-8 THC deals here and test it out for yourself.

What is a psychedelic drug?

Psychedelic drugs are a subset of hallucinogenic drugs, which are a subset of psychoactive drugs. Psychedelics are specifically associated with altering a person’s perception, mood, cognition, general sense of time and space, and emotions. As hallucinogens, they can also cause a person to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell things that are not actually there, or to experience things in a distorted way. Psychedelics can be found in nature, or made in laboratories. Examples of psychedelic drugs include LSD, magic mushrooms, DMT, MDMA, ayahuasca, peyote, and many, many more.

Psychedelics tend to promote empathy and feelings of connection between people, self-introspection, and mystical experiences, which vary by the drug taken, and in what amount. They encourage feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and overall wellbeing. They can also have some negative effects, especially when too much is taken. These can involve a fast or irregular heartbeat, dizziness, confusion, sweating and chills, vomiting, and numbness. As with any substance on earth being used as a medicine, it is important to understand dosing.

Psychedelic drugs have different modes of action, but many are serotonergic, like LSD and psilocybin, which means they interact with serotonin receptors in the brain, generally causing a rush of the neurotransmitter, and then blocking reuptake to promote absorption, essentially saturating the brain with serotonin. Serotonin (aka 5-HT) is a neurotransmitter associated with many functions including mood regulation, involuntary muscle control, and sending signals throughout the brain.

Along with promoting a lot of good feelings, and being investigated more and more for medical benefits, some psychedelics also come with the possibility of a bad trip. A bad trip is everything that a good trip is not. Negative and scary hallucinations, and feelings of anxiety and panic. This is often associated with simply taking too much of a drug, and can be mitigated by understanding dosing.

Psychedelic therapy

What is psychedelic-assisted therapy?

Psychedelic-assisted therapy is the combination of talk therapy with the administration of a psychedelic drug during the session. Examples of drugs that can be used for psychedelic therapy include, but are not limited to, LSD, psilocybin (the main psychedelic component of magic mushrooms), MDMA, ayahuasca, and DMT. Psychedelic drugs are tested in high doses, as well as micro-doses. The basic model for the psychedelic-assisted therapy process goes as follows:

1 – The preparation phase involves initial sessions held prior to any drug ingestion. This often involves talk therapy sessions, in which a clear picture can be made of the person’s issues, and the therapist can prepare the patient for the psychedelic experience. Preparation is done by helping with basic guidance, like encouraging the patient to go through a door if they see one in their experience, or to approach scary characters and ask questions rather than running away, so as to promote a person dealing with challenging situations. It is important in this phase that the patient and therapist create a good relationship, as that has an impact on how comfortable and positive the patient feels when entering the next phase.

2 – The next phase is the psychedelic session phase. The two big aspects to consider when going into a session of this nature, are the mindset of the patient as they go into it, and the physical setting around them, which should promote general comfort. In testing, the space is generally set up to be like a living room. A typical session can last as long as eight hours, or as long as the effects of the drug that was taken. Generally, sessions involving drugs will have two therapists in attendance, which I assume is partially a security measure since the patient is put into an altered state.

The patient can sit or lie down, can wear sunglasses if it helps them, and is sometimes given music to listen to. For a psychedelic session, the compound is generally administered in the form of a pill at a micro-dose level – though this is not a rule and many programs will seek larger doses. Models vary when it comes to how many drug-assisted sessions a patient undergoes, and the dosage taken. Therapists will guide patients through the experience, but perform limited, if any, analysis at this time.

3 – The final phase is the integration phase. This happens soon after the psychedelic-assisted therapy session, and can be done as one session, or multiple sessions. In this phase, facilitated by the therapist, the patient can process their psychedelic session, and work to make sense of their experience, and to gain some sort of positive meaning out of it.

mental illness

Psychedelic-assisted therapy isn’t a new invention

While it might seem like using psychedelics in therapy is a fantastic new discovery in mind-expansion to help treat mental disorders, it’s really not new at all. What is happening now, is a re-emergence of a field of study and therapy that started in the mid-1900’s, beginning with the use of LSD.

LSD was originally synthesized in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann for Sandoz Laboratories. Hofmann, incidentally, also brought us the first isolated psilocybin compound from magic mushrooms, making him one of the more important characters in modern psychedelic research. The drug didn’t make its way to the States till almost 1950, where it caught the attention of psychotherapists.

One of the early pioneers into psychedelic therapy research was psychiatrist Humphry Osmond. Humphrey Osmond was one of a group of psychiatrists that got into LSD research for the treatment of alcoholism and other mental disorders in the 50’s.

He was actually the guy that coined the term ‘psychedelic’, and tried it himself before starting to offer it to patients in 1953. In one of his first experiments into alcoholism (limited as it was), Osmond gave one 200 microgram dose of LSD to two alcoholics, one of whom quit immediately, and one of whom quit six months later.

His collaboration with Abram Hoffer in 1951 started the Saskatchewan trials (named after the location of Weyburn Mental Hospital where the research took place.) Over 2,000 patients later, at the end of the 1960’s, the methodology of one single dose of LSD coupled with psychotherapy had consistently in their research showed positive benefits for treating alcoholism with 40-45% of test subjects not relapsing within a year.

Psychedelics in the UK

These positive results were mirrored by a UK psychiatrist Ronald Sandison who had already begun using alternative methods in psychotherapy like art and music. He began treating patients with LSD brought back from a trip to Switzerland where he met Albert Hofmann. His trials in the UK returned similar results to the Saskatchewan trials, and in 1954 Sandison published this study in which 36 psychoneurotic patients were administered LSD over the course of a year, leading to 14 recovered patients, only two without improvement, and the rest with some level of improvement.

psychedelic medicine

Sandison even opened the first LSD therapy clinic in the 1950’s. It could accommodate up to five patients, and included individual psychedelic sessions, and group discussion sessions. In 2002, Britain’s National Health Service agreed to pay £195,000 to 43 patients of Sandison’s in out-of-court settlements, though whether this was out of actual damage suffered, or opportunism to collect for the usage of a drug that had become illegal, is hard to say.

Osmond’s method of LSD therapy that included one large dose with psychotherapy, was termed ‘psychedelic therapy’, while Sandison’s approach of using multiple smaller doses that increase in size, also with psychoanalysis, was termed ‘psycholytic therapy’. Between the years of 1950-1965, over 40,000 patients were treated with LSD, over 1,000 scientific papers were published, and six international conferences on the subject were held. All of the research and treatments ended by 1970 when psychedelic drugs were formally illegalized by the Convention on Psychotropic Substances treaty.

Benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy

Research will continue to build on the topic, but what is out there is certainly promising. In one systematic review from 2020 called Psychedelics and Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy, the authors looked at research from 2007-2019, reviewing a total of 161 articles. The most significant results were related to MDMA for the treatment of PTSD and psilocybin for the treatment of depression and anxiety (related to cancer). The authors also noted promising results related to the use of LSD and ayahuasca for mental disorders.

In another systematic review from 2018 titled Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy: A Paradigm Shift in Psychiatric Research and Development, the review authors investigated research related to psychotherapy involving psychedelics like ketamine, MDMA, psilocybin, LSD and ibogaine. Clinical results supported use of these drugs, even for treatment-resistant conditions, and backed-up that psychedelics have proven to be both safe and effective. The review authors also made a point of how psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy can challenge the notion of standard diagnostics, saying the model:

“…has important consequences for the diagnostics and explanation axis of the psychiatric crisis, challenging the discrete nosological entities and advancing novel explanations for mental disorders and their treatment, in a model considerate of social and cultural factors, including adversities, trauma, and the therapeutic potential of some non-ordinary states of consciousness.”

Conclusion

Though the coupling of psychedelic drugs and psychotherapy might not technically be a ‘new’ version of treatment, it is new to current generations that were born in the wake pf psychedelic illegalization. In a way, the use of psychedelic-assisted therapy is simply going back to our own relatively recent history. Just imagine how far along research could have been if these drugs had not been illegalized in the first place. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened, and now, this old form of therapy, is becoming the new thing once again.

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Can LSD Treat Your Mental Illness?
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The CBD Flowers Weekly newsletter (your top resource for all things smokable hemp flowers). How to choose Delta-8 THC flowers?  A Complete Look At Cannabis and Depression
The Medical Cannabis Weekly newsletter (International medical cannabis business report)
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Can LSD Treat Your Mental Illness?

For several decades, psychedelics have been uniformly outlawed, with massive campaigns from the late 1900’s used to raise fear and controversy over their effects. Now, as the world acclimates to the medical and recreational use of cannabis, psychedelics are being looked at once again for their medical benefits. In fact, one of the leading points of research is the use of LSD to treat mental illness.

When it comes to psychedelics, cannabis is one of the most popular, and its not hard to see why. THC has medical benefits and makes people feel good. However, for some people, regular THC is just too much. If you’re one of those people, check out our Delta-8 THC deals, and experience THC with slightly less psychoactive effect, and less anxiety.

What is LSD?

LSD, known more scientifically as Lysergic acid diethylamide, is a hallucinogenic psychedelic drug, which was first synthesized in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman. He was also the first person to experience its effects when he accidentally ingested a small amount in 1943. As a psychedelic, it is known for altering perception, feelings, and thoughts, as well as causing visions and sensations that are not actually there (hallucinations). LSD is in a class of drugs called ergolines which are often used to treat disorders like Parkinson’s. Unlike some compounds like DMT, LSD is manmade, though derived from the ergot fungus.

How exactly LSD works to cause the effects its associated with, is still not completely defined. However, certain aspects have been found in research. In one study put out in 2017 from the University of North Carolina, it was found that LSD interacts with serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a big role in mood and brain communication. The particular receptor it effects is called 5-HT2AR. One of the interesting things that happens when LSD attaches to this receptor, is that the receptor closes over the molecule, preventing it from leaving quickly. This could very well explain why the drug can last for many hours, even after it has left the bloodstream.

The serotonin receptor it attaches to can activate two signaling pathways through G-proteins and β-arrestins within cells. With LSD, it primarily works through the β-arrestins. The researchers on this study found that different drugs in the ergoline group effect serotonin receptors differently, and found evidence that the compounds themselves can modify the structure of the receptor in order to activate different effects.

Research

There has actually been plenty of research into how LSD can aide in the treatment of mental illness. Back in 2014, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was done to investigate how safe and effective LSD is in treating the anxiety experienced by patients with life-threatening illnesses.

12 patients were used in the study, and they were given drug-free psychotherapy sessions, along with two psychotherapy sessions with LSD. A two-month follow-up showed a positive trend according to the (STAI) State-Trait Anxiety Inventory in terms of reductions in trait and state anxiety. The reductions in anxiety related to the LSD were sustained for 12 months. No serious adverse effects were noticed, and minimal adverse effects subsided within one day. The overall outcome of the study was LSD safely decreased anxiety.

In a systematic review of LSD in psychiatry, 11 studies were identified  concerning LSD and mental health that consisted of randomized and controlled clinical trials. These were done between the years of 1950-1970 when it was not illegal to use LSD in medical testing, and when LSD was regularly studied for use with addiction, anxiety, depression, and psychosomatic diseases. As part of the 11 studies that made the cut, 567 subjects were administered LSD in doses of 20 to 800 micrograms. The overall finding was that LSD has positive results in psychiatric symptoms, particularly for alcoholism. A grand majority of the study authors from the review cited positive, if short-term, improvements. This was not always seen in long-term follow-ups.

LSD in the treatment of mental illness today

Yet another systematic review was done on studies into LSD from after 1970. This review, called the Modern Clinical Research on LSD was published in 2017. The review looked at five recent studies in London, Zurich and Basel. All studies were placebo controlled. The London studies were single-blind, non-randomized, the Switzerland studies were randomized, double-blind. In all studies, low-moderate doses of LSD were used between 40-80 micrograms. (It takes about 100-200 micrograms for a full LSD effect).

In terms of subjective effects according to validated psychometric scales, the response in controlled settings was mainly positive. Average group ratings for liking the drug and having positive effects reached 90% of the maximum possible on the VAS scale after 200 micrograms had been administered. At 200 micrograms, only a small percentage increase was made for the average of those who had a negative drug effect (<25%), however negative ratings did go up with the increase.

No high levels of anxiety or panic occurred, necessitating no sedation of patients to stave off negative effects. The main feelings experienced during testing were: bliss, altered perceptions, audiovisual synesthesia (think crossed wires and mixed-up responses), and derealization and depersonalization in positive ways. Higher doses included more insightfulness.

LSD for mental illness

In terms of the synesthesia, LSD produced spontaneous experiences, indicating it alters spontaneous processes, rather than creating an induced response. At under 100 micrograms, LSD promoted suggestibility, and at 200 micrograms it inspired mystical experiences during psychotherapy combined with LSD. Similar studies that have been done on psilocybin have shown that more intense mystical experiences are tied to long-term positive benefits.

However, these mystical effects were correlated at a high level with blissful states as well, meaning the long-term response could be more related to blissful experiences than mystical ones. In these studies, LSD promoted feelings of happiness, well-being, openness, closeness to other people, and trust.

In terms of negative effects, they generally didn’t last more than 10-24 hours, and included headache, difficulty with concentration, decrease in appetite, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, exhaustion and feeling unbalanced. No severe adverse responses were noticed in any of the modern testing. LSD, in general, is considered non-toxic physically.

Why is it illegal?

When looking at all the positive scientific research, and the lack of detrimental side effects, it starts to look very strange that LSD has been illegalized, while pharmaceutical medications to treat the same things often have lower success rates and harsher side effects. While the US government might stick with a tagline of psychedelics being dangerous and having no medical value, there is another underlying story which makes a bit more sense.

LSD and psilocybin were first illegalized in the late 60’s after a years long smear campaign which coincided with the Vietnam war. America was off fighting a battle that didn’t technically involve it, and causing a massive death toll, and unspeakable and unnecessary violence and destruction to residents of Vietnam.

There was already a pretty heavy anti-war movement during that time. Want to speculate on how much bigger and harder to control that would’ve been if the country was focusing on the war as it should have been? The question of why America wanted to be in that war so badly is a whole debate in and of itself, but regardless of the ‘why’s, there are still some heavy truths. In 1994, a guy named John Ehrlichman, who had been the Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs in Nixon’s administration, made this statement:

psychedelics

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Is it really any wonder that in 1968 the US passed the Staggers-Dodd bill illegalizing both LSD and psilocybin? Or that in 1971 the Convention on Psychotropic Substances treaty gave it a Schedule I ranking? And is it really any wonder that this was heavily pushed for by richer countries with developed pharmaceutical industries, while poorer countries that didn’t have industries that could benefit the same way, were against the illegalization?

What now?

Things can change easily from good to bad, but they can also change from bad to good. Growing scrutiny towards agencies like the DEA for blocking scientific discovery in order to restrict access, and a renewed interest in medical testing, has re-opened the door which had been closed on LSD. Last month, the company MindMed even announced the beginning of the very first clinical trial ever to incorporate LSD and MDMA to test the possible benefits in dealing with mental illness.

Mindmed is a biotech company specializing in medicines and therapies using psychedelics. The trials are being done in Switzerland, which has been the base for a lot of psychedelics testing. Considering it’s a biotech company doing them, the logic answer would be that they want to make a product to sell eventually. My guess is, by the time they’re ready, it’ll be more legal globally to make LSD products to treat mental illness. After all, think about how fast the cannabis industry changed in the last few years.

Conclusion

The ongoing legalizations of cannabis, which is also a psychedelic, though a much less intense one, do signal a change in things. LSD has shown a spectacular profile for aiding in mental illness, with so few adverse reactions, that its silly what people are taking instead. It’s hard to say what the future holds, but it might very soon be the legalization for LSD medically.

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The CBD Flowers Weekly newsletter (your top resource for all things smokable hemp flowers). How to choose Delta-8 THC flowersDelta-8 THC Flowers: Everything You Need To Know.
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The New Rise of Medical Psychedelics

As the battle for cannabis legalization continues globally, the re-acquaintance to its medical use has reopened the door for other drugs that have also been labeled as narcotics, or scheduled so that people have no access to their medical benefits. One of the major classes of drugs that has shown great promise therapeutically, is psychedelics. With a greater level of liberal acceptance, there has been a recent rise in the medical use of psychedelics.

What’s one of the most widely used psychedelic compounds on earth? THC! And not just the standard delta-9 THC that most people are familiar with. With the addition of delta-8 THC, users can choose how they want their experience to be. Want less psychoactive effect and less anxiety, then check out our Delta-8 THC deals and give the other THC a try.

What are psychedelics?

A psychedelic is a drug containing psychoactive compounds capable of altering a person’s mood, perception and cognition. This can include naturally occurring and man-made substances. Examples of psychedelics include: mescaline, which can be found in San Pedro cactus and peyote; DMT, one of the main ingredients in ayahuasca; LSD; and psilocybin, which is what makes magic mushrooms so magical.

Psychedelics are known to produce life-altering experiences, wherein the user can find insights into life and consciousness. It are these attributes that have been the main instigator for the recent rise in research of medical psychedelics.

Psychedelics, much like cannabis (which is technically a psychedelic), occur naturally in different plants around the globe, and have been used for millennia in different ceremonial, religious, and medical practices throughout history. Unlike cannabis, they were not all outlawed together in one sweeping move, but rather, became illegalized over time. In the US, the criminalization of psychedelics started in 1968 with the Staggers-Dodd bill which specifically illegalized LSD and psilocybin.

The word itself, ‘psychedelics’, was first used in 1957 to recognize substances that were said to open the mind, however, the more scientific term for them is ‘entheogens’. This term was adopted less to be scientific, however, and more to allow the field to operate without the stigma attached to psychedelics from the smear campaigns of the 1960’s. The term entheogen comes from Greek where it means ‘building the god within’.

LSD

History of illegalization

When it comes to the illegalization of cannabis, it is becoming understood more widely that there was more to it than a fear for public safety. The entire movement to illegalize was spearheaded in the government by Harry Anslinger, with media giant William Randolph Heart pushing the anti-hemp movement from outside, in an effort to kill the enemy of his paper industry.

Some might see it as a similar manner of business, when psychedelics were demonized in the 60’s and70’s, as when cannabis was in the 1930’s onward. In the case of psychedelics, much of the news, controversy, and general story around them, took place during the Vietnam war, and served as a good distraction from the horrible ridiculousness of that mess and the unnecessary violence and deaths that came from it. Think about what actually came out of that war. The nothingness that was accomplished in the face of the massive death toll that was taken. How easy is it to get your population to go along with such antics? And would focusing on the truth of it have made it a harder sell?

In 1970, the US congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act which enforced stricter measures for pharmaceutical companies, requiring stringent reporting, and better security of drug stocks. These aren’t bad things, of course, but they led to the current model of drug scheduling, which has, essentially and with much bias, ruled many drugs out.

The Single Convention on Narcotic Substances is a treaty that was formed out of international discussions concerning drug controls in 1970. This was followed up with the Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1971, a similar treaty which also orders drugs into classes based on their potential level of harm and usefulness. In both treaties, schedule I is associated with the most dangerous drugs with no medical benefit, but a high addiction possibility, and schedule IV denotes safer drugs with medical purpose. Psychedelics took the schedule I spot in 1970, ruling out their use as medicines.

Putting psychedelics in this scheduling category seems to have been the result of industry issues, much like with cannabis. During the discussions for the treaties, bigger and more developed countries with bigger and more developed pharmaceutical industries, pushed for the illegalization of these natural compounds, whereas countries with less development, and which didn’t have competing industries, were not for their illegalization. As with cannabis, the bigger, stronger countries won out, and forced these decisions on everyone else.

In fact, in 1994, John Ehrlichman, the Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under Nixon, made this statement about the war on drugs that was fought under Nixon, highlighting an alternate reason for pushing anti-drug measures at that time:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

And then it got worse. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan’s administration put out the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which allowed for emergency banning of drugs by the government. This was put into effect the following year when the subject of MDMA came up, and was used to immediately illegalize it. And this despite a judge’s decision to schedule it as Schedule III, and allow it for medical use. This action entirely stymied any research progress into the drugs, and slowed the rise of medical psychedelics to a halt.

magic mushrooms

Psychedelics in history

As with anything else, putting together the history of psychedelic use in antiquity, is dependent on ancient texts, findings, and rituals. While there is a current rise in the use of medical psychedelics, this does not imply that they were used for the same exact purpose back then, as they are today.

One of the interesting finds related to psychedelics, is the discovery of a pouch in southwestern Bolivia, dated to a thousand years ago. The pouch contains traces of several psychedelic compounds including harmine and DMT (dimethyltryptamine) which denote the use of ayahuasca, bufotenine (from toad skin), and psilocin – another psychedelic constituent of magic mushrooms. The pouch also contained traces of cocaine and its metabolite benzoylecgonine, which would have likely come from coca leaves.

The discovery came from the Sora River Valley. The pouch – made of three fox snouts – was part of the contents of a leather bag, which mass spectrometry carbon dating has put between the years of 900-1100 CE. It is thought that because of the dating period, that the pouch likely belonged to a member of the Tiwanaku, which pre-dated the Incas. The use of ayahuasca denotes the earliest evidence of it that has been physically found.

The reason this part is interesting is because the two compounds that were found that ayahuasca is made from, come from two separate plants that work in combination to produce the effects. This means that the ancient population this comes from, was putting two plants together to gain a psychoactive effect that wouldn’t be felt if they were used on their own. Another interesting aspect of the find is that the plants used to make ayahuasca were not from that area, so whoever procured them, had to go out and find them somewhere else.

Other findings

According to this study, Mayan culture is associated with the drinking of balché, a drink consisting of Lonchocarpus bark extracts that create a mildly intoxicating effect, which is strengthened through the use of honey. This was used in group ceremonies to reach intoxication. Peyote for mescaline, hallucinogenic mushrooms for psylocibin, and ololiuhqui seeds for lysergic acid amide (a precursor to LSD), were used by the Mayans, Aztecs, Olmecs, and Zapotecs.

During the period when the Olmecs were around, it was also customary to use bufotoxins which come from the skin of the Bufo spp. toad. At the same time, wild tobacco, Jimson weed, Salvia divinorum, and water lily were used for psychoactive effects. And while the exact use is arguable, mushroom stones dating back to 3,000 BC have been found in the Mesoamerican region in religious/ritual contexts which could indicate the use of mushrooms that far back. Archeological evidence of the use of peyote goes back as far as 5,000 years.

Mesoamerica isn’t the only location where psychedelic remains have been found. Researchers into psychedelic use in the near-East have turned up botanical remains in the form of residues, pollen, fibers and fiber impressions, and carbonized seeds. Where were they found? Traces of Blue Water Lily extract, a potent narcotic plant, were found in none other than Tutonkamen’s tomb from the 14th century BC. And in the late bronze age temple Kamid el-Loz in Lebanon, a storage jar containing 10 liters of Viper’s Bugloss was found, which is a very strong hallucinogen.

Things to consider…

One thing to take into account, is that there is a great amount of controversy over whether something like the use of ayahuasca can actually be traced back through history, with a lot of evidence pointing to confusing stories that come more from Western tourism, than actual history. Researchers into the topic have continually found a mesh of newer ideologies masquerading as old-school folklore as a means to sell a product. In fact, the whole idea of how ayahuasca is used today to treat mental illness, is not how it seems to have been used in history, when shamans took it to contact the supernatural, and battle evil beings.

psychedelic toad

Does this mean that psychedelics weren’t used in history? Of course not, but it does shed light on the idea that what we consider real history, might have been altered because of tourism. It should also be remembered that there are a lot of kinds of psychedelics that would have factored into different cultures and time periods. For example, the aforementioned study into hallucinogenic drug use in pre-Colombian Mesoamerica, which has findings based on archeological, ethno-historical, and ethnographic evidence, found plenty of indication of hallucinogenic drug use in that area, for that time period.

Rise of medical psychedelics

There is quite a bit of medical research into psychedelics, as well as historical evidence to its uses, going back thousands of years. According to the more recent medical research, psychedelics have shown a possible ability to aid in depression, PTSD, and with addictions. It should be remembered that cannabis itself is considered a psychedelic drug, with research into a multitude of categories including: insomnia, depression, neurodegenerative diseases, spastic disorders, inflammatory diseases and so on.

Psychedelics have not just been touted as a treatment for different mental illness. They have shown strength in dealing with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, and have even shown possibility in treating autoimmune disorders. If these benefits prove consistent over time, it will likely help boost the current rise in medical psychedelics.

However, despite all the relevant research into the useful benefits of these compounds, the DEA has continuously rejected information, and stood in the way of scientific progress. Kind of makes a person wonder what the agency is even there for. The report highlighted found that the DEA has continuously slowed down scheduling decisions, while increasing speed on banning drugs, in order to restrict all access.

It took an entire 30 years in all to respond to requests to reschedule marijuana, with gaps of 16 years, five, and nine in between requests and responses. The DEA even overruled its own judge to illegalize MDMA by putting it in schedule I. This, of course, has never gotten in the way of military testing of these compounds, which seems to be perfectly okay with the same agency.

Conclusion

With cannabis opening the door into the medical (and recreational) use of drugs like marijuana, the rise in medical psychedelics is sure to keep going. Just like with cannabis, it will likely be found over time, that the notions we have related to these drugs are way more attached to long-lasting smear campaigns, than the actual dangers they pose. And that just like cannabis, they can offer incredible medical benefits that have been suppressed for quite some time now.

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Canadian Study Says Cannabis Worse Than Alcohol

In a big debate, there will always be information out there to support both sides. This doesn’t mean the quality of information will be the same, but it does mean there will be a represented argument. When it comes to the age at which people should be allowed to use cannabis without risking health concerns later in life, a recent Canadian study was done assessing the different starting ages for using cannabis. In so doing, it raises the question, is cannabis worse than alcohol?

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When it comes to the use of controlled substances, one of the biggest regulatory issues is the minimum age at which a substance can be used, and this is not a globally agreed on number for any substance. Take alcohol, for example. Of all the controlled substances, there is probably no other through history that has caused as much overall damage, both to personal lives and finances, as well as destruction to others through violence and accidents.

Pretty much every country of the world has a drinking age to separate those allowed to partake, from those who cannot. In the US it’s 21 years of age, a number thought way too high by those who don’t see a reason why a person deemed capable of voting for elected representatives, and killing people in war, can’t also choose to take a drink. In most other parts of the world the age is closer to 18. So how does this compare to cannabis, and is cannabis worse than alcohol?

recreational cannabis

Is cannabis at 19 too young?

As it happens, a recent study was done to assess the risk component of starting cannabis use at different ages. The reason for the study was the lack of information to back up claims and concerns by different groups. In Canada, after legalization, the government wanted to institute a legal use age of 18 for non-medical users. This would go in line with several Canadian provinces’ age for drinking as well, though some are set at 19. This was argued by the medical community (or, parts of it) which wanted an older age of 21-25, citing possible issues with cognitive development. Public consultations to find an agreement led to most provinces tacking on an extra year to make the legal age 19, while a couple retained the age of 18.

To make it perfectly clear, this decision means that Canada is essentially making the statement that alcohol is not more dangerous than cannabis. Which is rather backwards when considering the overall toll that alcohol takes, especially when compared to a medicinal herb that has never caused a death on its own.

In order to find a way to assess how beginning marijuana use at different ages effects people later in life, a study was conducted through BMC Public Health, which looked at surveys already taken, and self-reporting questionnaires to establish education, cigarette smoking, and health (both physical and mental) later in life, for different ages of cannabis implementation. The four different age groups being focused on for implementation of cannabis use were: less than 18, 18, 19-20, 21-24.

According to the study, 21 was found to be the best minimum age for higher educational advancement, 19 for whether it will increase the risk of being a cigarette smoker, and 18 for both physical and mental health. This gives a weighted average of about 19. The study authors made no statement about conflict of interest, either for or against. According to the findings of the study, 19 should be the minimum age of use. Does this mean Canada doesn’t see a difference in danger between alcohol and cannabis?

Is it true that cannabis is more dangerous?

Of course not! At least, not if you’re looking at real statistics. And it’s not even close. It’s also true that a study may have not been done which looks at the exact same things, but plenty of statistics are available for death rates, driving accidents, levels of alcoholism along with the issues it causes, and violent incidences related to both alcohol and cannabis. So, while the study above kind of gave an idea as to whether cannabis can be detrimental to overall life and health, perhaps taking a look at more relevant statistics and studies is useful.

alcohol consumption

For example, in 2018, a study came out showing no safe limit when it comes to alcohol consumption. Can you imagine that? No safe limit at all! In fact, the study found that alcohol consumption was responsible for the deaths of three million people worldwide in 2016. The study looked at 195 countries and territories, between the years of 1990-2016. The findings clarify alcohol use as a primary risk factor for both death and disability (that last part is important since the original study spoken about concerning issues later in life due to cannabis use, makes the backhanded statement that cannabis can lead to health and cognitive disabilities – something that isn’t actually yet medically proven). The study looked at the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors 2016 study, 694 data sources for both individual and population consumption, and 592 studies (prospective and retrospective) related to the risks of alcohol use.

According to the findings of the study, alcohol came in 7th place for risk factors for death and DALYs in 2016. DALY is the disability-adjusted life year, and measures overall disease burden as a number of years lost due to sickness, disability and death. This is often used as a comparative measure between different countries for overall health and life expectancy. When looking at the age group of 15-49, alcohol actually became the primary risk factor in 2016. I feel like that should be repeated – when looking at the entire world population between the ages of 15 and 49 in 2016, alcohol was the leading risk factor for death and disability. This puts it above cardiovascular issues, respiratory issues, and any other drug issues, including cannabis. Yet nearly every country promotes consumption, and the majority allow it starting at 18. The study found that there was no minimum consumption amount that minimized harm, meaning there is no safe amount of alcohol to consume. And no medicinal value to it.

If you simply put the term ‘alcohol deaths’ into Google, you’ll get enough resources immediately to know there are most certainly deaths associated with alcohol. Put ‘cannabis deaths’ in Google, and the best you’ll see is speculation, with the strongest argument being that it might lead to more traffic accidents. Of course, none of those sources will say anything ridiculous, like that cannabis causes more traffic accidents than alcohol, because we all already know it doesn’t. You won’t find anything else about actual hard death statistics, because there aren’t any.

In the chapter on Injury and Death from The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research, literally the best it comes up with is that cannabis might increase the chance of a motor vehicle accident, that legal states have an increased risk of cannabis overdosing in kids (with still no death mentioned), and a general question mark when it comes to mortality and occupational injury. Do you think there was ever a question mark there about alcohol?

Not to beat a dead horse, but just to give more of an idea as to the certainty of the damage of alcohol, according to the NIH, approximately 95,000 people die a year in the US alone from alcohol-related causes. In 2014, drunk driving-related deaths accounted for 9,967 deaths that year, which was 31% of all fatalities related to driving for the year. In 2012, 3.3 million global deaths were attributed to alcohol. And when it comes to abuse, as of 2019, it was estimated that 14.1 million adults in the US alone had a drinking problem, and almost a half million kids aged 12-17. If you’re really still wondering, is cannabis worse than alcohol, or even remotely requiring of the same, or more stringent requirements – it should be pretty obvious by now what the answer is.

minimum age requirement

Is alcohol banned anywhere?

Yes, it actually is! Though few and far between compared to how many places have bans or heavy restrictions on cannabis use. The only countries with full – or partial bans – are: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Djibouti, some parts of India, parts of Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Most of these are Muslim, and therefore alcohol is forbidden due to religion. Some of these countries do not have full bans and allow foreigners, or non-Muslims to drink.

When it comes to minimum drinking ages globally, there are actually about 19 countries that have no minimum age requirement, including China, and Indonesia. Around 20 countries allow drinking starting at 16 or 17 including Austria, Belgium, and Germany. The most common ages for a minimum age requirement are 18 and 19, and the majority of countries fall in here, like Australia, South Korea, Slovenia, Venezuela, etc. The age goes up to 20 in Iceland, Thailand, Japan, Paraguay, and Uzbekistan.

Though the US is often fingered as having the highest drinking age, it sits at 21, along with Oman, Sri Lanka, and a few other countries. This, of course, is all for recreational use, meaning all but less than 20 countries allow recreational alcohol, many of which – like China, Japan, South Korea, and Iceland – don’t allow any cannabis use at all. In fact, as of right now, the only countries to allow recreational use, are Canada, Uruguay, some US States, Mexico – though legislation is slated to come out next week, Canberra in Australia, and Georgia where it can be legally used, but not bought, sold, or grown.

Conclusion

As countries change their laws to allow cannabis, its impossible to get away from that minimum age requirement…or, at least, it seems to be. And as countries establish that minimum age requirement, perhaps they should look at their other minimum age requirements to make sure things make sense. Canada is a fantastic example of how they don’t. Not only is Canada not asking the question, is cannabis worse than alcohol, it’s making the direct statement through minimum age requirements and heavier restrictions in certain domains, that it is.

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Oregon Measure 110, Drug Decriminalization And Addiction Treatment

Oregon Measure 110, the Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative was approved on November 3rd, 2020, with 58.82% support. The measure reclassified personal and non-commercial drug possession charges. Possession of a controlled substance ranging from Schedule I to Schedule IV, including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, psychedelic mushrooms, Xanax, and Ketamine; was reclassified from a Class A […]

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Treating addictions with psychedelic psychotherapy

Imagine having a treatment-resistant addition. You’ve tried going to therapy, taking medications, receiving treatment at rehabilitation centres–everything. But none of it worked. Where do you even go from there? What else is there to do? Getting an addiction can not only hinder one’s mental and physical health, but also their relationships, career, and life in […]

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