A poll from YouGov “found that a significant percentage of respondents across different age groups, including 18-24 year olds (36%) and 25-49 year olds (30%), expressed interest in trialing psilocybin and other currently illegal substances like ketamine, MDMA, and DMT for treating mental health conditions,” Psychedelic Spotlight reported.
The outlet noted that the YouGov poll was commissioned by a London-based clinical trials startup called Lindus Health, which has a proclaimed mission to “use software to help innovative companies run faster, more reliable, and patient-friendly clinical trials.”
“Aside from psilocybin, those aged between 18-24 were most interested in trialing ketamine (27%) and for 25-49 year olds the next highest was MDMA (26%),” Psychedelic Spotlight reported. “Interestingly, Psilocybin came out on top for all age groups – including 54-60 year olds (17%) and those aged above 65+ (10%).”
The survey’s findings are yet more evidence of the growing acceptance of psychedelic treatment options.
A poll in June from the University of California, Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics revealed that a solid majority of Americans support the idea of providing access to psychedelic therapies.
“More than six out of 10 (61%) American registered voters support legalizing regulated therapeutic access to psychedelics, including 35% who report ‘strong’ support,” the pollsters wrote in their analysis. “In addition, more than three-quarters of voters (78%) support making it easier for researchers to study psychedelic substances. Almost half (49%) support removing criminal penalties for personal use and possession.”
Imran Khan, the executive director of the UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP), said that the survey’s findings represented the “the first clear picture we have of what the American public think and feel about psychedelics.”
“The Berkeley Psychedelics Survey shows that the majority of American voters are interested in, and supportive of, the field. They want fewer barriers to research for scientists, and they want regulated, therapeutic access for the public,” Khan said. “Amidst all the stigma and the hype about these powerful substances, it’s vital that researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners can understand and respond to the public’s hopes and fears. We’re excited to reveal the full results of the Berkeley Psychedelics Survey in the coming weeks.”
Berkeley, California has proven to be an epicenter for psychedelic reform.
The widening acceptance of psychedelics has also led to a flowering of research, particularly into their potential as an effective treatment for mental health.
A recent study explored how psychedelics activate the Default Mode Network (DMN) of the brain, defined as “a system of connected brain areas that show increased activity when a person is not focused on what is happening around them.”
“The DMN is especially active, research shows, when one engages in introspective activities such as daydreaming, contemplating the past or the future, or thinking about the perspective of another person. Unfettered daydreaming can often lead to creativity. The default mode network is also active when a person is awake. However, in a resting state, when a person is not engaged in any demanding, externally oriented mental task, the mind shifts into ‘default,’” the publication Psychology Today said in its report on the study.
A study in May found that microdosing “could increase state authenticity through influencing people’s mood … and satisfaction with daily activities.”
“We propose that feeling and behaving authentically could have a central role in explaining the positive effects of microdosing on health and wellbeing that are reported by current research,” the authors of that study wrote in their analysis. “In conclusion, we have found evidence that the microdosing practice was related to higher ratings of state authenticity and that a behavioural mechanism is most likely at work. Our study opens the door to a new line of research as we propose that feeling and behaving authentically could have a central role in explaining the positive effects of microdosing on health and wellbeing that are reported by current research.”
Psychedelics are already widely accepted among the world’s upper-crust, with much of Silicon Valley’s elite regularly microdosing.
A story published earlier this summer by the Wall Street Journal said that Elon Musk takes ketamine, while Google co-founder Sergey Brin is known to take psychedelic mushrooms.
“Routine drug use has moved from an after-hours activity squarely into corporate culture, leaving boards and business leaders to wrestle with their responsibilities for a workforce that frequently uses. At the vanguard are tech executives and employees who see psychedelics and similar substances, among them psilocybin, ketamine and LSD, as gateways to business breakthroughs,” the Journal said.
Since the beginning of time, man has been interested in dissections. From those fascinated with uncovering how our bodies work, to school biology lessons forcing the squeamish to understand, the idea of unpacking the complicated blood and bone machines we occupy has long tickled both the science and art worlds. While countless artists have utilized the art of dissection, from KAWS to Jason Freeny, few have reached the specific and accurate renditions Nychos weaves with paint.
Born in the Austrian countryside two hours south of the country’s capital city Vienna, Nychos is the persona of the artist known only as Nicholas, or Nick Nychos, which in his own words sounds like a character in a novel’s name. Having been born into a family of woodsmen and builders, Nychos was exposed to the more brutal sides of life from a very young age. Working with his father while he would strip and clean the new trophy animals he’d hunted, it was like Nychos subconsciously knew where life would take him. Instead of getting grossed out by the flayed bodies, he began to understand the mechanics behind these creatures.
“I was watching my dad dissecting animals from early on, and I was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy,’” he says, adding that some part of him already knew the type of art he would later create. “I was observing, and he was explaining a lot of things, you know, like what everything is… I’m not sure if I could really say it was a traumatic experience. It was more like, ‘Oh, this is how animals work.’ And I already knew that we work the same way. ‘This is how it looks inside. Oh, interesting.’ And then later in school, you know, when you had these plastic figures for the lungs, and you can take everything out and stuff, and look at everything. And then you can open it also. I was like, ‘I know all this stuff already.’”
While painting wasn’t exactly a valid career choice according to his parents’ generation, his mother worked as an architect, so his creativity was fostered from a young age. Although he wasn’t sure the path life would take him, Nychos was acutely aware he would be an artist one day. He was always drawing and watching cartoons—which in the ’90s in Austria wasn’t the easiest to find considering this was before the internet.
“It’s just a weird spot for an artist in general… I was like, ‘Oh, at some point, I’m gonna work for Disney one day or something like that,’ because I started to learn to draw cartoons like Disney stuff or the Saturday cartoons,” he says. “Eventually, I started to read Spawn, and I feel like that was one of the ones where I was first like, ‘Yeah, this is a sick style, sick story.’ And that was already when I was 17. Around the same time, I started to get into graffiti as well.”
While he went to art school, his passion for animation didn’t seem possible for a European artist. But that is where he realized he could have a real career as an artist, which was what he wanted to do, not what was expected of him. He explains that in the beginning, his drawing style was more cartoony.
“With that, you start reducing automatically; not everything fits,” he says. “I painted a lot of skeletons and other cartoon characters, and at some point, I was like, ‘What’s the next level?’ And it organically developed into the things where I started to peel off skin, you know, to play with zombies just losing their skin, and stuff where like, it’s also so fun to paint, especially on walls. When you start peeling the skin off, suddenly you’re breaking bones, and things are flying around.”
Nychos works hard to depict accuracy in his art.
“When you draw something, you need to understand the mechanism,” he explains. “It’s like if you look at the Terminator skeleton, you know, it’s a metal skeleton, and it needs to fucking work, somehow the hydraulics need to work, other cables need to make sense. So same with anatomy; it’s the same thing. Like, I need to know how the mechanism works, and what every organ does and what it’s good for, and where it’s placed. And why is it placed there and everything.”
Eventually, his anatomy studies for his art opened his mind.
“At the time when I started, I didn’t even realize how much this study was actually going to affect everything, everything creative, everything I do, how much I will actually learn about life or this perfect machine the universe has created for our soul to sit in,” he says.
Discovering the Artist
In 2004, Nychos moved to Vienna and began to double down on his graffiti career. It was there that he started his project the Rabbit Eye Movement. His business and team remain there to this day, despite now largely working around the world. He recalls that during this time, he received his first check for painting and how proud his father was of him, despite not fully understanding what he was doing. But he hadn’t made it yet. In fact, he hadn’t even made it to a place where he could afford paint.
“The danger of running out [of paint] was present always, so I don’t know how many unfinished or fucked up pieces I painted it before it started to make sense,” he says. “I was, I don’t know, 17 back then, and I decided to completely skip alcohol because it was at some point just fucking retarded to me… I remember I looked at this bottle of vodka. And I’m like, ‘I could have bought like five spray cans, and I’m not even drunk, and I killed this whole bottle. This is stupid.’”
With the focus always squarely on his art, he says he “clearly also started to smoke weed.” Then he realized he could buy more paint cans if he sold weed. Bags for Cans, if you will. From there, he moved to Australia—almost the complete opposite side of the world—to really dive into a more hardcore graffiti scene.
“It was good times, crazy times, really high times,” he jokes.
An out-of-body experience directed him towards a focus on painting graffiti.
“I feel like whatever path you’re going [on], like, some of it you’re supposed to go, and the universe is just waiting until you get there,” he says. “Literally the day after [I stopped drinking], I was like, ‘Fuck this, I want to paint graffiti. I want to do this, and I want to build that.’ I didn’t know what that even meant at this point. But I had a pretty clear idea. And I didn’t know if that would ever work.”
The next day he had a blackout.
“Suddenly, I faded into absolute blackness,” he says. “And I woke up a few hours later in the hospital. My girlfriend from back then was there, my parents [were there] and everyone was shocked. And I was like, ‘What the fuck is happening here? What are you guys doing here?’ And that was a little trippy. Because they told me I had a seizure at this point, too. I didn’t really understand what that was about.”
That year, he had seven more seizures.
“I went through a bunch of brain tests, and nobody could find anything,” he says. “And it only happened while I was driving. So I had like, seven out-of-body experiences. I had five car accidents and never even had a scratch.”
Although having totaled a few cars by now, doctors couldn’t put a reason to the rhyme.
“They never figured out what happened… everything was fine. People couldn’t explain what the hell was going on.”
Nychos explains that he didn’t know what was happening with his body and began having intense dreams.
“I didn’t even smoke weed, didn’t drink alcohol,” he says. “At this point, I was just so depressed, and I felt like I was a danger to other people. Like ‘What the fuck is happening?’ You know, You’re just kind of like through puberty, and now you’re [once] again completely fucking lost in the world. Like [when] I was 19, I had a dream of this half-rotten, white rabbit. He was literally telling me what I’m here to do. He told me that I’m supposed to do exactly what I was trying to do, that I’m here to be an artist, and that I’m here to paint. That this is my sole purpose.”
While confused about the dream’s origins, he understood it as a message.
“I only knew that something was communicating with me, and I think maybe my perception of reality was already coming more from a spiritual side than I even understood,” he says. “I never said, ‘Oh, I’m super spiritual.’ Like, you really didn’t give a shit. The only religion was graffiti.”
After this experience, his work began to get much darker. He had just had a bad breakup that rekindled his love of hardcore and metal music, and things were seeming to spiral a bit for him.
“I was thriving and bathing in this rage,” Nychos says. “And using that energy, I completely transformed into a research nerd. A world of my own existence, and also, just like freeing myself of everything I thought graffiti was supposed to be in the first place, completely. I got loose, you know, I didn’t give a shit about anything anymore… I learned a lot about how graffiti was supposed to work. And I was like, ‘Alright, I learned those rules. Now fuck it… I paint how I want to paint.’”
His art evolved, and he really started using color.
“Before, I was just experimenting, thinking I have to, to paint the best piece. And then, at some point, I didn’t give a shit about it anymore. And that is when I freed myself, that’s when pieces became really, really sick. You know? Because all that bullshit we like we fall into, especially in a place like the graffiti scene, you have to look the same as the other one because they are the real deal. But if you look the same as the other one, you are a biter or a copycat. It’s this hypocritical bullshit.”
It was a shift.
“That’s when I started to paint and not just render pieces,” he says. “In 2010, I got sponsored by Montana [Colors].”
In 2013, after sorting out his paint needs and following a strong desire to reach the next level, Nychos moved to San Francisco.
“It’s been years of just fucking graffiti madness every day, like murals,” he says. “Pieces every day, every night. I had those years where I don’t think I did anything else than that, doesn’t matter if it’s like another dissection piece or a fucking blockbuster (a graffiti style featuring large murals of letters) on the truck side. It’s just like, go, go, go! But if you do not address exactly what’s already brewing, on the surface, it doesn’t matter how much you paint.”
In 2015, he premiered a documentary The Deepest Depths of the Burrow to huge success in Vienna, Austria. But the very next day after the premiere, he was in a bicycle accident that injured his shoulder and neck. Although he thought he had rapidly healed from this accident thanks to an injection and went back on the road, it quickly became clear that things weren’t alright.
“I used to paint any inner pain away, but graffiti didn’t really help anymore,” he says. “So in 2018, I was ready to die. I did 5-MeO-DMT. [I thought] ‘Seems like I’m gonna die, what am I afraid of?’ I had already started to go to a shrink. I thought maybe I have some mental issue. She helped me a lot with distress, but eventually, I got this message from a shaman, and I was like, ‘I have nothing to lose, man. I’m gonna die.’ 5-MeO-DMT was explained to me as a death/rebirth experience, and I’m reminded of the out-of-body experiences I had when I was 19.”
Two hits in, he was feeling amazing, but on the third, he truly blasted off.
“I was like, ‘I want to heal.’ I didn’t even know what that was asking for at this point,” he says. “I meant, like physically heal. All of a sudden, I’m on the journey as a blood vessel, like floating through your whole being. I already saw my whole anatomy, and I was like, I see how the muscles are like connecting things, little traumas in my muscles system was like, letting go, and I was like, ‘This is wild’… I was gone. I was out. First, I was in my brain, and all the neurons connected, and then all lit up. I was just this tiny creature floating in there. And then it all disappeared, and the neurons became stars, so suddenly, I was in outer space and kind of floated through that. And then everything started to turn, and the white of the stars, and the blackness from the dark matter, became the most intense, psychedelic kaleidoscope vision I’ve ever seen or experienced. There was an interconnectedness of shapes that you cannot copy…
“My soul was sucked out of my eyeballs and my mouth. Just like it was dragging me there. And I’m like, ‘Alright, I guess this is how I die,’ and you could feel how it comes up from your tummy and then the next moment like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, no, no, no, I’m going to die.’ Then the nice control system of the ego comes in. Fear, right? And the fear of losing control and you start screaming like a motherfucker for your life. Until you realize there’s no point in resisting. That was the ultimate last thing I remember, like, ‘This is fucking it. No goodbye.’ You literally have to make the decision to let go of your body to break through the matrix. As soon as my ego left, my true self was on the other side of the matrix, in the void in complete blackness. I realized, ‘Wait a second, this is more than dying.’”
Nychos says his belly cracked open, and he could feel energy emerging.
“The light was hitting me, and then I realize, no, no, no, I am the light. I am the fucking universe. Just feeling the superpower of the universe rising inside me, having an understanding that this is our core life energy in us.”
Then he hit a dimension filled with Hindu and Buddhist entities.
“They were like, ‘You were chosen. Now you know what you were chosen for! You finally fucking made it. This kind of happiness or feeling of being free is what the universe is made out of. I think a lot of people [play these types of] experiences down because they get back into their fear and their control system, and their mind starts lying to them again because that’s what ego does. I felt like I went home for 10,000 years, and I came back 25 minutes later.”
Next, he saw his existence as a book, and pages inside him began to be ripped out.
“It started to be that everything important was ripped out, and it started to be more painful and magical,” he says. “And it’s crazy how when you reach the point of complete happiness, how painful it is to be fully, fully happy. And that is something I will definitely not forget.”
Experiencing the trauma he had in life and reaching the dissolution of his ego sent him further on the artistic path.
“Creating art is not only your therapy, it’s also a message for others; you’re doing it for others,” he says. “You’re triggering, subconsciously, their trauma so they can heal. It’s what music has always done for me. I started to understand that there is a thing called imagination. I have understood that reincarnation is a real thing. It is a part of life and death, and consciousness. It is what we are doing. We’re going in a circle. Life is not linear. It’s also not a circle. It’s a fucking spiral. With more awareness and self-awareness, you get it’s like, damn, imagination. It’s nothing. That’s our explanation for something which does not exist. But I understood that it is just a memory from the past. So what a creative person does, who really paints from his soul, is he paints his trauma and the experiences he has had, which are still deeply rooted in his genetics.”
This collective experience was captured in one of Nychos’s recent shows in Downtown Los Angeles, which ran between February and May. Called The Awakening, it was an expansive show that walked the user through this transcendent experience. The show was built to illustrate the journey from the physical world to the matrix. You saw his more anatomical work before journeying into the darker, deeper elements of self—it was a must-see for fans of any era of his art.
“I’m here to do this to heal myself. And I can also only heal when I heal others,” Nychos explains. “The goal is to open the throat chakra to speak my truth, my primal truth or whatever, even more to know who I am. And also, I can actually create from a pure place of love. And I feel like this is the place where people are really going to vibrate toward because they are already vibrating to this because it’s their trauma. If it comes from love, that is the place you want to be. Well, the work of it. This show is an introduction.”
The study, published in this month’s issue of Neuropsychopharmacology, looked at the effects of 5-MeO-DMT, a psychedelic “which has been associated with improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms in early phase clinical studies,” the authors said.
5-MeO-DMT is “short for 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine,” and “is a psychedelic substance found naturally in certain species of toads, plants, and seeds,” according to PsyPost.
“It has been used for centuries in traditional shamanic and spiritual practices by indigenous cultures in parts of South America and other regions. When consumed, inhaled, or smoked, 5-MeO-DMT induces intense and often short-lived psychedelic experiences, characterized by profound changes in perception, ego dissolution, and altered sensory perceptions. Users commonly report feelings of unity with the universe and intense spiritual insights,” the outlet explained.
“Neural plasticity” is “defined as the ability of the nervous system to change its activity in response to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganizing its structure, functions, or connections after injuries, such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury (TBI),” according to the National Library of Medicine.
The authors of the study noted that “serotonergic psychedelics are gaining increasing interest as potential therapeutics for a range of mental illnesses,” and that compounds “with short-lived subjective effects may be clinically useful because dosing time would be reduced, which may improve patient access.”
But they said that “relatively little is known about the behavioral and neural mechanisms of 5-MeO-DMT, particularly the durability of its long-term effects.”
To that end, the researchers set out to characterize “the effects of 5-MeO-DMT on innate behaviors and dendritic architecture in mice.”
“We showed that 5-MeO-DMT induces a dose-dependent increase in head-twitch response that is shorter in duration than that induced by psilocybin at all doses tested. 5-MeO-DMT also substantially suppresses social ultrasonic vocalizations produced during mating behavior. 5-MeO-DMT produces long-lasting increases in dendritic spine density in the mouse medial frontal cortex that are driven by an elevated rate of spine formation,” the researchers wrote.
But, in contrast to psilocybin, the researchers observed that “5-MeO-DMT did not affect the size of dendritic spines.”
“These data provide insights into the behavioral and neural consequences underlying the action of 5-MeO-DMT and highlight similarities and differences with those of psilocybin,” they wrote.
The research community has only scratched the surface of the potential for psychedelics to treat mental health conditions, but some insights have already been profound.
A book published earlier this year called I Feel Love, written by Rachel Nuwer, highlighted the extraordinary example of a white supremacist who said that his experience with MDMA drove him away from his bigoted ideology.
The white supremacist, identified only as Brendan, described his experience as part of a double-blind trial at the University of Chicago.
“Strangely, at the very bottom of the form, Brendan had written in bold letters: ‘This experience has helped me sort out a debilitating personal issue. Google my name. I now know what I need to do,’” Nuwer wrote in the book.
“MDMA does not seem to be able to magically rid people of prejudice, bigotry, or hate on its own. But some researchers have begun to wonder if it could be an effective tool for pushing people who are already somehow primed to reconsider their ideology toward a new way of seeing things. While MDMA cannot fix societal-level drivers of prejudice and disconnection, on an individual basis it can make a difference. In certain cases, the drug may even be able to help people see through the fog of discrimination and fear that divides so many of us,” Nuwer continued.
Summary: A recent study has explored the sense of familiarity that some people report after taking DMT, the world’s strongest psychedelic. The researchers found that previous use of the drug is not necessary to experience a feeling of familiarity and that the sense of familiarity could be due to the drug’s effects on the brain.
Latest News & Insights:
DMT and the Phenomenon of Familiarity: A Recent Study Sheds Light
A recent study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs has shed light on the strange sense of familiarity that some people report after taking DMT, the world’s strongest psychedelic. The researchers, David W. Lawrence, Alex P. DiBattista, and Christopher Timmermann, analyzed thousands of firsthand reports of DMT experiences posted on Reddit and found 227 instances where the author mentioned experiencing some form of familiarity.
Interestingly, 56 of these reports were written by people who claimed to have no prior experience with DMT, suggesting that previous use of the drug is not necessary to experience a feeling of familiarity. Furthermore, none of the reports referenced a previous psychedelic experience. The researchers categorized the 227 reports into five broad themes, including encountering an entity with whom they perceived having some sort of prior relationship or bond, feeling like they were at home, and feeling like they were returning to a place, space, state, or environment that they had visited before.
The researchers note that familiarity is a key part of recognition memory, which is responsible for recognizing a previously encountered stimulus. However, DMT seems to evoke a sense of familiarity without recollection, a phenomenon similar to déjà vu. The authors of the study suggest that the sense of familiarity in DMT experiences could be due to the drug’s effects on the brain, causing it to enter a highly irregular and plastic state. As the effects of the drug wear off and the brain returns to its default state, this could evoke a sense of familiarity.
The researchers also acknowledge the possibility that DMT could enable access to an objective reality beyond our own, as suggested by the high degree of similarity in trip reports. However, they emphasize that determining the cause of familiarity in the DMT experience was not the primary goal of their study.
[Source: Big Think].
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The Sonoran Desert Toad, with glands secreting a venom rich in the hallucinogens 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin, is invading Arizona now that monsoon conditions have kicked in for the late summer. They can measure up to 7 inches long and have a low-pitched croak that inevitably serenades the night in multiple states during hot wetter months.
Local news stations are reporting a surge in Sonoran Desert Toad populations now that the rain has started. Reporters focused on the poison danger to pets, and well as the temptation for teens to try it for its psychedelic properties.
“Also known as the Sonoran Desert Toad, this amphibian has a pretty mighty punch,” KOLD 13 News correspondent Andres Rendon said. “What the toad does is that it actually secretes a very strong psychedelic compound, and although very dangerous for animals like dogs and cats, using it for a drug in humans is very much illegal.”
5-MeO-DMT is a naturally-occurring hallucinogen found in many plant species and in toads. Used across South America for hundreds of years as an entheogen, it’s now being explored in the medical sphere for treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Arizona monsoon season runs from June 15 to Sept. 15 every year, the Arizona Republicreports, but conditions kicked in a bit later following an abnormally hot year. This year, the state is facing a particularly hot year with record-breaking heat. Additionally, last year’s monsoon season brought record-breaking rain to Arizona and tied for the seventh wettest July-September period on record, according to data from the National Weather Service.
“The monsoon rain brings in the perfect conditions for breeding for the Sonoran Desert Toad in the summer months, and now that monsoon is in full swing. You’ll be hearing more of the croaking often.”
Sonoran Desert toads are most active for the mating season from late May to September, thriving especially when the weather is hot and rainy. Once the monsoon seasons are over, the toads burrow back into the ground after mating. They can be found in Mexico and in parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, and New Mexico.
How Toad Venom Works
“Please refrain from licking [the toads],” the National Park Service warned last November. Toad licking has become so popular that they are considered “threatened” by the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish and they are considered endangered in California.
The recreational and medical use of the toads are catching on. Vice Media’s Hamilton Morris documented the Sonoran Desert toad in detail—calling the toads’ secretion the “most potent psychedelic toad venom on Earth,” which also makes it ideal for medical research. Sonoran Desert Toad venom should only be vaped or smoked, InStyle reported. Toad venom is scraped from the glands on the animals and dried into a paste, which is later smoked. “The experience is going to start within 10 to 30 seconds and then you’re going to be physically incapacitated for 20 to 30 minutes,” Alan Davis, a Johns Hopkins psychedelics researcher, previously explained in Johns Hopkins Magazine.
Mike Tyson discussed smoking toad venom on Hotboxin’ With Mike Tyson. Interestingly, his show includes an animated depiction of toad hallucinations.
Clinical studies using psychedelics show huge potential to battle treatment-resistant depression, under the guidance of a therapist. But while a psilocybin experience can last five to eight hours, a 5-MeO-DMT session will last just one hour, which could radically reduce the cost of treatment.
President Joe Biden’s youngest brother said the president has been “very open-minded” in their conversations about therapeutic psychedelics, AP reports. During a phone interview with The Michael Smerconish Program on SiriusXM Wednesday, Frank Biden opened up about his brother’s views.
“He is very open-minded,” Frank Biden responded when probed by Smerconish about discussions with his presidential brother about the medical benefits of psychedelics. “Put it that way. I don’t want to speak; I’m talking brother-to-brother. Brother-to-brother,” Frank Biden said, hinting that the general public has more of a regressive attitude than the President. “The question is, is the world, is the U.S. ready for this? My opinion is that we are on the cusp of a consciousness that needs to be brought about to solve a lot of the problems in and around addiction, but as importantly, to make us aware of the fact that we’re all one people and we’ve got to come together.”
The phone call with Frank Biden came shortly after the host, Smerconish interviewed a journalist for the Wall Street Journal who recently wrote a viral article about how Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and workers, and the tech industry in general, use psychedelics without stigma not just because it’s fun but because it makes them better at their job and leads to breakthroughs.
People are more curious than ever about President Biden’s views on psychedelics, as the issue is gaining traction with people of all political backgrounds, from socialists to libertarians and Democrats and Republicans. In Congress, both leftist Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York and far-right Republican Representative Matt Gaetz from Florida have proposed similar bills regarding the role of psychedelics in treating veterans. Ocasio-Cortez introduced an amendment promoting future studies on psychedelic substances such as MDMA, psilocybin, and ibogaine. Gaetz filed an amendment to explore the therapeutic potential of magic mushrooms and MDMA for military service members.
Last week, the FDA issued the first-ever guidance for clinical studies on psychedelics for therapeutic purposes. In addition, the Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved a spending bill including an amendment allowing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to recommend medical cannabis for their patients in legal states. Even traditionally Republican states such as Utah and Missouri are considering commissioning studies to investigate the role psilocybin could play in treating veterans with PTSD. Earlier this year, Oregon became the first state in the U.S. to legalize the adult use of psilocybin, while last year, Colorado’s voters decriminalized psilocybin, and more states are sure to follow.
But PTSD isn’t the only medical condition that psychedelics can treat. Both ketamine and DMT show great promise in the treatment of depression. Newly published research suggests psilocybin could be an effective treatment option for individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). And, while many out-of-touch Americans may still associate psychedelics with the “Just Say No” era catastrophic warnings, plenty of research shows that they could actually treat addiction. Studies show that psilocybin could positively impact the treatment of alcoholism (and in case you didn’t know, the founder of AA even believed that LSD could cure alcoholism).
The research on addiction is especially important to Frank Biden, who also said in his interview that he had “done a great deal of research” on the issue “because I’m a recovering alcoholic for many, many years.” President Biden does not drink either, stating during the 2008 campaign with Obama that “There are enough alcoholics in my family.”
The Biden administration has already provided funding to the National Institutes of Health and other agencies studying psychedelic drugs’ therapeutic potential. While the White House did not respond to a request for comment to the AP’s story, Frank Biden’s words offer hope that psychedelic descheduling and even legalization could be more than a pipe dream.
A poll from the University of California, Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP) shows new data regarding American support of legal psychedelic therapy. The poll results were published online on June 20 in what the university calls the “first-ever Berkeley Survey,” which was also presented at the Psychedelic Science 2023 Conference in Denver, Colorado.
“More than six out of 10 (61%) American registered voters support legalizing regulated therapeutic access to psychedelics, including 35% who report ‘strong’ support,” UC Berkeley wrote in a press release regarding the poll. “In addition, more than three-quarters of voters (78%) support making it easier for researchers to study psychedelic substances. Almost half (49%) support removing criminal penalties for personal use and possession.”
Poll participants were asked to answer “support,” “oppose,” or “other” to two questions. First, they were asked what their response is to “creating a regulated legal framework for the therapeutic use of psychedelics.” Second, they were asked their opinion on “Obtaining FDA approval so that people can access psychedelics by prescription.”
The data is the result of “new longitudinal public opinion research project” conducted by university researchers, which tracks public beliefs related to psychedelic substance research, policy and cultural events. According to BCSP’s Executive Director Imran Khan, this data is just the beginning. “This is the first clear picture we have of what the American public think and feel about psychedelics. The Berkeley Psychedelics Survey shows that the majority of American voters are interested in, and supportive of, the field. They want fewer barriers to research for scientists, and they want regulated, therapeutic access for the public,” Khan said. “Amidst all the stigma and the hype about these powerful substances, it’s vital that researchers, policymakers, and practitioners can understand and respond to the public’s hopes and fears. We’re excited to reveal the full results of the Berkeley Psychedelics Survey in the coming weeks.”
Both Khan, as well as Berkeley Psychedelics Survey project lead, Taylor West, previewed the data at the Psychedelic Science 2023 Conference. “The level of national support for psychedelics policy reform far exceeded my expectations. Clearly much of the news around promising research and mental health results has begun breaking through to the general public,” West said on the stage.
The survey in its entirety will be published on July 12 in an online presentation by BCSP co-founder Michael Pollan, as well as Khan and West. Those interested in the digital presentation can register here.
On June 26, the BCSP announced on its Twitter page that it was be hosting a psychedelics course through the UC Berkeley Extension through the edX platform. The course, called “Psychedelics and The Mind, begins on August 1 and is taught by UC Berkeley Professor of Neurobiology David Presti. “In becoming a more informed citizen vis-à-vis psychedelics, you will have an opportunity to become better acquainted with your own brain and nervous system, understand the science related to organisms and molecules having psychedelic properties, gain historical and contemporary context surrounding factors that influence public opinion and law, and appreciate something of the rapidly evolving contemporary clinical research with these materials,” the course information states.
In another first for psychedelics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued its first guidance for clinical studies on psychedelics on June 23. Tiffany Farchione, M.D., director of the Division of Psychiatry in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, released a statement about the agency’s recommendations for psychedelic study. “Psychedelic drugs show initial promise as potential treatments for mood, anxiety and substance use disorders. However, these are still investigational products. Sponsors evaluating the therapeutic potential of these drugs should consider their unique characteristics when designing clinical studies,” Farchione said. “By publishing this draft guidance, the FDA hopes to outline the challenges inherent in designing psychedelic drug development programs and provide information on how to address these challenges. The goal is to help researchers design studies that will yield interpretable results that will be capable of supporting future drug applications.”
The United States Food and Drug Administration, aka the FDA, issued the first-ever guidance for clinical studies on psychedelics, according to a news release issued Friday. They filed the 14-page document shortly after Congress introduced bipartisan legislation led by Texas Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw, directing the issuance of clinical trial guidelines.
They aimed the guidance specifically towards classical psychedelics, which include psilocybin, LSD, mescaline, and DMT, the psychoactive ingredient in ayahuasca, in addition to entactogens or empathogens such as MDMA. This means that it does not cover other drugs used therapeutically embraced by the psychedelic community, such as ketamine, which is technically a dissociative anesthetic that has hallucinogenic effects.
While the FDA guidance is new, research on the benefits of psychedelics is not. Applied Clinical Trials reports that there are currently 163 Phase I, II, or III studies on clinicaltrials.gov involving psychedelics. For instance, in January, MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to psychedelic treatment, announced its Phase 3 clinical trial on MDMA-assisted therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) produced promising results.
“The Phase 3 confirmatory results support the development of MDMA-assisted therapy as a potentially new breakthrough therapy to treat individuals with PTSD—a patient population that is often left to suffer for years,” said Amy Emerson, chief executive officer of MAPS Public Benefit Corporation. MAPS plans to submit the new drug application to the FDA in the third quarter of 2023.
Like MAPS’ study on MDMA, psychedelic research to date has primarily been backed by private sponsors. Many of these may want nothing to do with the Feds and their infamously regressive views on psychedelics. The FDA approval process is expensive and riddled with red tape. Many companies may prefer to follow state guidelines and leave psychedelics, such as psilocybin, which researchers currently study for OCD, and alcohol use disorder, nestled in the safety of libertarian-esque gray areas. (Oregon and Colorado are the only states to decriminalize the supervised use of psychedelics).
For example, let’s look at ketamine, which, as noted, is not technically a psychedelic. While Esketamine, or S-ketamine, the S enantiomer of ketamine, is FDA-approved as a nasal spray, many ketamine clinics and psychiatrists prefer to prescribe patients actual ketamine, off-label, because it’s not only more affordable but may work better than the version the FDA approved, which was only changed to S-ketamine in the first place so Johnson & Johnson could patent it under the brand name Spravato.
However, if a substance earns FDA approval, it is easier to market and sell and could reach more consumers who trust that it’s met the FDA decision that the benefits outweigh the risk. For instance, Tryp Therapeutics is currently seeking FDA approval for psilocybin-assisted therapy to help those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
While such studies show that psychedelics hold great therapeutic potential, as anyone with personal experience using psilocybin, MDMA, or other psychedelics can attest, the FDA asserts that they must address the challenges associated with designing clinical studies to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of psychedelics.
“Psychedelic drugs show initial promise as potential treatments for mood, anxiety and substance use disorders. However, these are still investigational products. Sponsors evaluating the therapeutic potential of these drugs should consider their unique characteristics when designing clinical studies,” said Tiffany Farchione, M.D., director of the Division of Psychiatry at CDER.1, Applied Clinical Trials reports.
The guidance addresses the psychoactive and hallucinogenic effects of psychedelics, the potential for abuse, and the importance of conscientious safety measures. It includes considerations for the importance of characterizing dose-response and the durability of any treatments. The draft also tackles potential drug interactions for patients on antidepressants or mood stabilizers such as lithium.
Additionally, for any Schedule I controlled psychedelics, the FDA states that the research must comply with applicable Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulatory requirements.
It also tackles the role of psychotherapy within a psychedelic treatment, what folks in the community often describe as integration, or the therapeutic process of a patient going through therapy with a professional to integrate their experience into everyday life, ensuring that it’s not just a one-time trip, but an ongoing treatment plan.
If anyone has thoughts on the draft guidance, the FDA accepts public comments for 60 days.
On the heels of his state’s landmark new law that legalizes psychedelic drugs, the governor of Colorado wants to go even further.
Jared Polis, the Democrat who was elected to his second term as the state’s governor last year, said Wednesday that he wants Colorado lawmakers to empower him with the ability to issue pardons to individuals who have been busted for crimes related to psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms.
“So anybody who has something on their criminal record that is now legal can have that expunged and doesn’t hold them back from future employment opportunities,” Polis said at the Psychedelic Science conference, which is being held in Denver this week, as quoted by Axios.
“It is still ridiculous that in this day and age somebody suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD can get medical coverage for very costly prescription drugs but cannot get coverage for a treatment in a healing center that will address some of the underlying causes of the issue,” the governor added.
Polis’s comments come less than a month after he signed a bill that will establish a regulatory framework for psychedelic drugs. The bill was the byproduct of last year’s voter-passed initiative, Proposition 122, and it will officially take effect on July 1.
The measure “legalized therapeutic psilocybin and decriminalized the personal cultivation, use and sharing of psilocybin mushrooms and three other natural psychedelics (DMT, ibogaine and mescaline that is not from peyote),” according to the local outlet Westworld.
“While licensed psilocybin therapy centers could open by late 2024, Prop 122 did not allow for the establishment of retail operations, only healing centers, so there won’t be mushroom stores popping up like the hundreds of cannabis dispensaries currently in Colorado,” Westworld reported last month.
Westworld, reporting this week at the Psychedelic Science conference, noted that Polis [who] “never publicly supported Prop 122 but has praised it since the measure passed, told the crowd that he has ‘no personal connection’ to psychedelic medicine,” but his support of psychedelic use is “values based” and about “body autonomy.”
“We are facing very difficult challenges in mental and behavioral health and are very excited about the opportunities,” Polis said, as quoted by Westworld. “In many of these areas, including cannabis, the people of our state, and not the politicians, led the way.”
The governor said at the conference that he envisions a significant expansion of the state’s psychedelic laws, including changes that would enable psychedelic therapy to be covered by insurance in Colorado.
“Yes, that’s right. People will no longer need to go to Mexico or Colombia. They can come right here to Colorado,” Polis said, as quoted by Westworld.
“Once it’s federally scheduled to be a pharmaceutical, it will immediately be rescheduled in Colorado,” the governor added. “We want people to say…Colorado got this right. Look, I’m sure we’ll get a few things wrong, but we can learn from them and build upon them.”
After a majority of Colorado voters approved Prop 122 in November, parts of the initiative took effect in December of last year.
“Coloradans voted last November and participated in our democracy,” Polis said at the time. “Officially validating the results of the citizen and referred initiatives is the next formal step in our work to follow the will of the voters and implement these voter-approved measures.”
About 53% of voters in Colorado approved Proposition 122 in last year’s election.
Following Polis’s certification of the measure in December, psychedelics were officially decriminalized in Colorado.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law on May 23 that established a regulatory framework for psychedelic substances.
SB23-290, also called Natural Medicine Regulation and Legalization, was signed just a few weeks after it was approved in the Senate with House amendments. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Steven Fenberg and Rep. Judy Amabile, and is set to take effect starting on July 1.
The Colorado Times Recorder spoke with Tasia Poinsatte, director of the Healing Advocacy Fund of Colorado, last month about the bill’s potential. “Our state is facing a mental health crisis, and our current system has been unable to meet the needs of those who are struggling, including the many veterans in our state who are at a high risk of suicide,” said Poinsatte. “Colorado voters agreed with the passage of Prop. 122 that we need to open new, innovative pathways to healing for those who are struggling with mental health conditions.”
The law doesn’t place limitations on personal possession for any psychedelic substance, ranging from dimethyltryptamine (DMT), mescaline, ibogaine, psilocybin, or psilocin. Psilocybin and psilocin will be administered at “healing centers,” but it does allow other substances to be added later.
The bill also states that anyone under 21 who possesses or consumes a natural medicine product will only be subject to a fine of $100 or less, and a maximum of four hours of “substance use education or counseling.” More than one offense results in the same fine and education requirement, with an added 24 hours of “useful public service.”
The cultivation of natural medicine is permitted if it’s happening on a person’s private property within a 12-by-12-foot space. However, anyone who is not licensed and “knowingly manufactures [a] natural medicine product using an inherently hazardous substance” is committing a level 2 drug felony. An “inherently hazardous substance” refers to solvents such as butane, propane, and diethyl ether.
The bill also includes protections for consumers, stating that a person using a natural medicine doesn’t solely constitute as child abuse or neglect, is not grounds for being denied health coverage, doesn’t disqualify a person to be discriminated against if they’re eligible for organ donation, and “must not be considered for public assistance benefits eligibility.”
A person with a natural medicine conviction is also eligible to have the conviction record sealed “immediately after the later date of final disposition or release from supervision.”
The bill calls for the creation of a natural medicine advisory board to examine “issues related to natural medicine and natural medicine product, and making recommendations to the director of the division of professions and occupations and the executive director of the state licensing authority.” It also requires the creation of a division of natural medicine to be established within the department of revenue to regulate licensing for “cultivation, manufacturing, testing, storage, distribution, transport, transfer, and dispensation of natural medicine or natural medicine product between natural medicine licensees.”
Colorado voters passed Proposition 122, also referred to as the Natural Medicine Health Act, by 52.64% last November to decriminalize psychedelics. “This is a historic moment for both the people of Colorado and our country,” said Natural Medicine Colorado coalition director Kevin Matthews. “I think this demonstrates that voters here in Colorado are ready for new options and another choice for healing, especially when it comes to their mental and behavioral health.”
The initiative took effect in December 2022. “Coloradans voted last November and participated in our democracy,” said Polis. “Officially validating the results of the citizen and referred initiatives is the next formal step in our work to follow the will of the voters and implement these voter-approved measures.”
Coverage from Westword shows that advocates aren’t happy with the law, stating that it’s too restrictive. According to sponsor Amabile, the bill is solid but won’t make everyone happy. “My takeaway from the testimony is that ballot measure 122 is controversial,” Amabile said at a meeting in late April. “It has a lot of aspects that some people like. It has aspects that the people who like some parts of it don’t like. It has parts that nobody likes.”