The moral of the story… never befriend people in an ice-cream store!
One of those psychedelics stories that you really couldn’t make up
A couple of grifters were arrested after they allegedly posed as caregivers, moved into an eye surgeon’s home rent free, gave him psychedelics, and stole nearly $3 million from him.
The pair — Anthony Flores, 46, a former hair stylist from Fresno and Anna Moore, 39, a former yoga instructor from Monterrey, Mexico — are accused of taking advantage of 57-year-old Dr. Mark Sawusch, who was suffering from bipolar disorder. They allegedly “befriended” the doctor at an ice cream shop and days later began living with him, feeding him a steady diet of drugs — including ketamine, marijuana, magic mushrooms and LSD — and stealing money out of his bank accounts,according to the Los Angeles Times.
While the doctor was high on acid, Flores “allegedly changed the two-step authentication on a brokerage firm account and instead changed the information to his own phone number, giving him access to the $60-million account.”
After the doctor died in 2018, the couple, having by then been kicked out of the beach house, moved back in “and allegedly withdrew large amounts of money from his bank accounts.”
From the LA Times:
The couple were indicted by a grand jury Dec. 15 on multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to engage in money laundering and other charges, according to court documents. …
Sawusch experienced a severe mental breakdown and was arrested, prosecutors said. Flores promised to post bail for Sawusch if he would sign powers of attorney over to Flores, who assured Sawusch once the bail was posted he would rescind the legal title.
But he later refused and claimed he wanted to help Sawusch pay for his bills and other finances by keeping the powers of attorney, according to prosecutors. …
Four days before Sawusch died, Flores initiated two wire transfers of $1 million from Sawusch’s brokerage account to Flores’ own bank account. …
His family sued to reclaim the stolen money, but Flores and Moore allegedly violated multiple court orders to return any funds or documents. They allegedly tried to launder the money by fraudulently transferring the funds through multiple bank accounts. Flores and Moore settled the lawsuit and agreed to pay back $1 million but have not done so, prosecutors said.
Moore and Flores could face decades in prison if convicted on all the charges.
A new drug known as MM-120, which is a more pharmacologically optimized form of popular psychedelic lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), just entered phase II clinical trials for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and other mental health disorders.
What is LSD?
LSD is a potent hallucinogenic which belongs to a class of drugs called ergolines (more specifically, LSD is an ergoline-based tryptamine compound), meaning it’s derived from the ergot fungus. Despite this, it still requires a lot of human processing to become LSD, so it’s not considered a natural entheogen like psilocybin or mescaline. LSD was first synthesized by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman in 1938, but it wasn’t until 1943 that its effects were fully realized when Hoffman accidentally ingested a small amount from his lab.
As a psychedelic, standard effects include various sensory hallucinations (visual, auditory, sensory, olfactory, etc.), as well as altered perception, feelings, and thoughts. Something that makes LSD unique is the duration and intensity of the hallucinogenic trip, which often ranges from 6 to 12 hours but has been reported to last even longer. This could be due to the way the drug binds to receptors in the brain.
Like other tryptamines, LSD interacts with serotonin receptors, in particular, receptor 5-HT2AR. Something interesting that happens when LSD binds to 5-HT2AR, is that the receptor closes over the molecule, preventing it from leaving the brain quickly. This could explain why the effects of LSD seem to last after it has left the bloodstream.
From this point, the serotonin receptor will activate two signaling pathways between the cells, via G-proteins and β-arrestins. LSD function primary through the latter, but that’s not always the case. Overall, ergoline compounds can be a bit mysterious in their processes, because different subgroups can have different effects on serotonin receptors. Add to that, newer research found that ergoline compounds can actually modify the structure of the receptors they interact with, in order to activate different effects.
MM-120 clinical trials
MM-120 (lysergide d-tartrate) is a new drug developed by MindMed, a biotech company the focuses on psychedelic-based medications. This drug is a “new and improved” version of LSD that is currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The most recent results from phase II of testing found that the drug candidate, particularly at the 100 µg dose, “demonstrated effectiveness, significantly reducing anxiety symptoms.”
Dr. Daniel Karlin, chief medical officer of MindMed, explained the key findings in an interview with Medical News Today: “MindMed conducted this study with participation from 198 patients, all of whom suffered with a primary psychiatric diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), across 20 clinical sites in the United States.”
“Participants were divided into 5 study arms; each arm received a single dose of a lysergide-based drug candidate, called MM-120 (lysergide d-tartrate), or a placebo,” Dr. Karlin continued. “Among the four groups that received a dose of MM-120, doses were 25, 50, 100, or 200 µg of MM-120. Importantly, no form of additional therapy was given to any participant. The study design evaluated the stand-alone effects of the drug candidate, MM-120,” he added.
Karlin continued: “The data available to us at this time show that patients experienced meaningful and lasting symptom reduction. Four weeks following a single dose of MM-120, 78% of participants who received either a 100 or 200 µg dose measured as having a clinically significant response to the drug. 50% of participants who received the 100 µg dose were considered to be in clinical remission at Week 4, meaning that the patient no longer suffered from clinically significant symptoms of GAD.”
Psychedelics for mental health disorders
Over the years, psychedelics have proven themselves to be one of the most successful treatment options for many different mental health disorders. An overwhelming 82% percent of Americans are in favor of accelerating research on this front, but federal regulations have really been a stick in the wheel of progress here. Given the introspective and sentient nature of psychedelics, it makes sense that using them therapeutically can help a person be more honest, open, and transparent.
Although discussion of using psychedelics therapeutically is pretty fresh for most of us, many cultures have been utilizing entheogens medicinally and in religious rituals for thousands of years. Even scientists in United States and Europe were conducting research on psychedelic compounds for the treatment of mental illnesses, and it all really began to gain traction throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
In 1943, Swiss-chemist Albert Hofmann first synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide and by the early 1950s, psychiatrist Humphry Osmond had already pioneered a treatment regimen using LSD to cure alcoholism and other mental disorders; with relative success might I add. Osmond is the one who coined the term ‘psychedelic’, meaning ‘mind manifesting’. He also oversaw author Aldous Huxley’s infamous, therapeutic mescaline trip in 1953.
Numerous psychedelic studies were in the works during that time, but all that research was derailed for social and political reasons when entheogenic compounds were banned at the start of the 1970s. Fast forward a few decades, and we are now beginning to see a growing acceptance of these compounds, especially the naturally-derived ones, and thus, an uptick in research. One of the main areas of interest is how psychedelics can help with mental health disorders such as depression, PTSD, and addiction.
“The evidence suggests mystical experiences help people gain a new perspective on their issues,” said Matthew Johnson, the Susan Hill Ward professor in psychedelics and consciousness at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “We think the long-term biological changes will be similar to those with successful psychotherapy. Essentially, the person has learned something about this problematic behavior in their life and changed their life as a result.”
MM-120 is the closest we’ve ever had to a clinically-proven and FDA-approved LSD-based medication. Phase II trials are currently underway, so it’s well on the path to becoming available via prescriptions in select markets, although it could still be some time before we can expect more widespread use of this drug.
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Taking shrooms is a disorienting experience, and its not well researched into what happens when ladies go shrooming during menstruation. Here’s a little personal experience.
Does it matter if ladies go shrooming during menstruation?
The first thing to say here, is that there is really no research on this. Sure, its expected that psilocybin has some kind of effect on estrogen, and that estrogen can affect psilocybin trips (or vice versa); but there is little else to define what happens when shrooming during menstruation. And of course, like the rest of life, there is no one answer.
We ladies are a complicated group. We have constant hormone changes throughout the month, which can cause our moods to go up and down, particularly as we get closer to menstruation. And this is without adding in any drug. Women vary, sure, with some experiencing far more of this than others; but the reality of womankind, is that we live within quite a dynamic hormonal structure.
Now, think about it. Does a drug experience change depending on how we feel and our internal dynamics? Kind of seems like it would. We are told how important set and setting are for a trip, and that’s the part that’s outside of us. Any high we undertake in life, is likely to be affected by our own bio-physiology; and for a woman, menstruation is a particularly intense time for the body.
Just to get to menstruation, a woman’s hormones must substantially drop. These drops cause low hormone levels, which are associated with all kinds of symptoms; like soreness, headaches, and flu like symptoms, mood swings, anxiety, and sometimes extreme mood drops. So, it’s not like the rest of the month, and its not that out there to expect some drugs might affect a woman differently at this time.
Before getting into a personal experience, I do want to point out a suspected connected between psilocybin and estrogen. In terms of women’s menstrual cycles, psilocybin might be able to even out irregular menstruation, help with PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), and polycystic ovary syndrome. These are not statements, as the subject must be further researched; but the idea these concepts have come up in some research, does indicate that psilocybin is affecting hormones somehow.
Me and magic mushrooms
Much like many young people in college, I did a fair number of drugs in my university days; although nothing too intense. For the most part, it was weed and alcohol, although other drugs got mixed in here and there over the years, and mushrooms were one. My clearest memory is sitting on some grassy field somewhere close to campus with a couple friends, and watching the sun come up. I didn’t do them all the time, but I never remember a bad time.
Things can change, though. And somewhere along the way, I became the kind of person who is more prone to bad trips. This was established for me with a bad acid trip, and a few MDMA experiences which were generally okay, but with a lot of stress and anxiety. It matters little what set and setting, or how relaxed I start out. I’m just one of those people that repeatedly doesn’t respond well.
The thing is, mushrooms are now associated with so many great things, right? Well, as a writer and interested user, I started taking microdose amounts, and that was fine for the most part. So I decided after many years, to try a full trip again. No heroic doses, no big ones even. I didn’t go over the equivalent of 1.5-2 grams in dried weight, although I took capsules, rather than actual mushrooms.
When I made the plans to take them with a friend, I had not considered my period. But the day before I was meant to do it, I got it…two days early. I decided, for science if nothing else, that I would go through with the trip, anyway. I did some requisite searches, realized there wasn’t much out there in terms of information, and went for it.
Shrooming during menstruation
As a person who is prone to bad trips, but was only planning a small dose, I had no idea what to expect. Would it calm down my not-so-bad, but still existent cramps? Would it throw me into some crazy uncontrolled mood? Would it help, or would it hurt, or would it do nothing at all?
At first I found it to help a bit. For the first hour or so after it kicked in, I felt fewer issues. But then it changed. The cramps started heavily. And with them, my anxiety rose. Beyond the cramping, I began experiencing powerful hot flashes as well. Now, I cannot say with any certainty if this was a function of my natural cycle, or if the shrooming had an affect on my period. I get these symptoms anyway, and I can’t predict when during menstruation they’ll hit, so there’s no clear answer. But they did continue intensely through the trip.
I didn’t take more at that point, it didn’t seem like a good idea. The cramps also seemed to dampen the psychedelic effects of the mushrooms. I don’t know if this has to do with prostaglandins which are released during cramping, and which are a main reason for feeling sick when menstruating, but it could have been. Prostaglandins are inflammatory, and when cramping, you can expect to feel the worst. For this reason, and the timing, I certainly don’t rule out that my natural cycle, simply overrode the good effects of the mushrooms.
What I can say, is that they didn’t exactly help. It’s not like I went from having cramps to not having them; or from a bad mood to something more level. Whether the mushrooms actually increased cramping or anxiety, I certainly can’t say. But it seemed quite possible to me at the time. It’s also quite possible that someone who ordinarily does better with mushrooms, might have a better time during menstruation.
The problem with trying to decipher this, is that menstruation is such a strange and, well, messed up time. Some women get by without feeling much, or without a lot of changing mood issues; but for some, it’s a real problem. It’s several days per month when things really aren’t working well. When things can be downright bad. And anything that might provide relief or an answer, is useful.
In the case of a regular bad trip, the drug wears out of the system, and the negative symptoms end. This is pretty standard. It might be uncomfortable for a little while, but afterwards things settle back into a norm. It’s highly infrequent, and barely noted, that a person has an issue after the drug wears out of their system.
For me, it was actually hard to tell when it wore off. Since I did not take the kind of amount that leads to intense visuals, it wasn’t about waiting for hallucinations to stop. For the most part it was an intense body high, only, with some mild brightening of colors. Because of the discomfort from the cramping, it was actually quite difficult to know when the trip was over.
And since I was in the middle of my period, it was hard to know if the psilocybin at all intensified the standard menstruation issues, or if the menstruation issues were simply strong enough to counteract the drug. I knew by the end of the night it was over, but there was certainly less of a line this time around.
While I found it to be an interesting experience; from here on out, any shrooming experimentation for me will likely be kept away from menstruation. Regardless of my experience, we should see expansion on this general topic in the next few years to come. Perhaps mushrooms really do increase cramping for some; and perhaps for others, they can actually help ease symptoms.
Sometimes its hard to know what you’ll get. In the case of me shrooming during menstruation, it wasn’t the most fun experience I’ve ever had; but it was certainly a learning one.
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The world of natural medicine is full of plants to promote wellness; here’s a little on kanna, and what it can do for you.
What is kanna?
At first glance, it might look like this is a shortened version of ‘cannabis’, spelled with a ‘k’ rather than a ‘c’. If you say it out loud it also sounds like you’re right about to say ‘cannabis.’ In reality, the two plants have very little in common except a name that sounds a bit similar.
Kanna is technically named Mesembryanthemum tortuosum, or Sceletium tortuosum, which are both obviously quite a mouthful. It also goes by the nicknames channa, and kougoed; the latter of which translates to ‘something to chew.’ It’s a succulent plant that hails from South Africa, particularly the Cape Provinces, where it was used primarily by the San and Khoikhoi peoples. It’s in the Aizoaceae family of plants.
The plant has small full leaves (as it is a succulent), and yellow and white flowers. The flowers are more yellow in the center and white around the outsides; and the petals are long and thin, and resemble spears shooting out from the center.
The plant has been used in South Africa since pre-historic times, or at the very least, a super long time. It wasn’t written about formally until 1662, when Dutch navigator Jan van Riebeeck first mentioned something about its use. The plant is usually dried and then chewed; although it can be made into a tea, or a snuff to smoke. In modern times, it’s often seen as a capsule, powder, or tincture, as well.
Traditionally, the plant was/is used to deal with issues like stress, and depression. Native cultures use it to promote relaxation and general wellbeing. It was/is also used as a pain medication, and as a way to suppress the appetite. Furthermore, it’s been studied for its ability to help dogs and cats which are suffering from dementia, from barking or meowing excessively at night.
Is kanna psychoactive?
Oftentimes, a plant’s name is derived from a major (or important) component within it. Such is the case for Mesembryanthemum tortuosum, which contains the active compound mesembrine. Mesembrine is an alkaloid, with about .3% in the roots of the plant, and .86% in the leaves, stems, and flowers.
In research, this compound shows the ability to work as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor. This might sound familiar, as a major class of antidepressant drugs, is called ‘selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors;’ which indicates the plant might have some of the same benefits. Common SSRIs include the heavily prescribed Zoloft and Prozac. As kanna has been used traditionally to combat stress and depression, this connection makes sense. It also makes it a natural version of what pharmaceutical companies produce.
Beyond this, mesembrine has also shown some ability as a weak inhibitor of the enzyme phosphodiesterase 4. Such drugs are associated with memory improvement, anti-inflammatory effects, increased wakefulness, and neuroprotective qualities. They’re thought to be possibly beneficial for a range of disorders, from depression, to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, to multiple sclerosis, autism, strokes, and more.
All together, this indicates (along with recent research), that mesembrine, and the kanna plant as a whole, might be able to offer some solid benefits in terms of depression and anxiety management, as well as a treatment (whether alone or in conjunction with other compounds) for a range of other neurological impairments, pain issues, and inflammatory problems.
The plant contains another alkaloid called mesembrenone, which is thought to produce similar effects to mesembrine; and which is also thought to promote adaptogenic and antimicrobrial properties. Most plants that cause psychoactive effects (or really any medical effect), generally do so as a combination of compounds, not just one. In the world of cannabis, we specifically call this the entourage effect, but in general medicine its known as a synergistic effect.
What about pain?
Right now, pain is a particularly big topic in the US, as the desire to reduce it, led to what is one of the worst drug epidemics (essentially the worst) to befall civilization. Opioids certainly have a large recreational-only following, but they’re primarily pain medications. And it was their prescription for pain, that led to the mess we’re in. As such, pretty much anything that can help the pain issue, without causing the same problems of addiction, is greatly needed.
Another interesting compound in the plant is mesembrenol. This compound is associated with analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. Both this compound and mesembrine are thought to aid in pain reduction; and with none of the addictive side effects as synthetic opioid medications.
Traditionally, these pain-killing benefits were used mainly by native South Africans to treat headache pressure, abdominal pain, toothaches, for pain in the respiratory tract, and as a local anesthetic. In 2014 mesembrine’s analgesic properties were tested in rats, which were given up to 5000 mg/kg per day, with no adverse reactions. Investigators concluded that mesembrine “appears to have analgesic properties without abuse liabilities or ataxia.”
Human research into kanna safety
Before the rat study in 2014, a study came out in 2013, which investigated how safe and tolerable two different doses of kanna are for humans. The study, called A Randomized, Double-Blind, Parallel-Group, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Extract Sceletium tortuosum (Zembrin) in Healthy Adults used doses of 8mg and 25mg, which were given to participants once a day. The study lasted three months, and used all healthy adults. 37 people participated in the study.
The investigation was a randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled, single center study. Let’s break this down. First off, there was a placebo group, which means some participants were given the kanna, and some were given an inactive compound. The randomized part means participants were randomly picked for the kanna or placebo groupings; and the double-blind part means neither the researchers nor participants knew which group they were in.
In terms of the parallel group part, this refers to some in the kanna group getting a smaller dose, and some getting a bigger dose; and that individual participants were given the same amount throughout the study. The last part, single center, refers to the study being conducted in only one location. 12 participants received 8mg kanna daily, 12 received 25 mg kanna daily, and 13 received the placebo daily.
Researchers found both doses of kanna to be tolerable. The most complained about adverse response was headache, followed by abdominal pain, and infections in the upper respiratory tract. However, more complaints came from the placebo group than either kanna group; indicating the complaints had little-to-nothing to do with the kanna.
In terms of unsolicited positive benefits (written in the journals of some participants taking kanna), these indicate increased feelings of wellbeing, and an improved ability to manage stress and sleep. As the study didn’t technically look into the effects or benefits of the drug, these unsolicited journal responses are the most that the study can show on the therapeutic front. Otherwise, it was mainly to assess safety and tolerability.
In terms of other physiological aspects, the kanna groups showed no difference in ECG, body weight, or in their physical examinations, which were all taken in the beginning and the end of the study. There were also no changes in hematology or biochemistry metrics, indicating the drug did little to change the body physiologically. Overall, kanna showed to be a physically safe drug at doses up to 25mg a day, regardless of therapeutic ability.
Kanna seems to offer a multitude of benefits to humans, like help with stress and depression, assisting in pain management, anti-inflammation benefits, and as an anti-microbial. Perhaps in the future we’ll see more of it; and perhaps big pharma will ensure that never happens.
Luckily, for those in the US who want to use this plant to help with a mental or physical issue, kanna, and its compounds, are currently perfectly legal. It can already be found in smart shops around the country; and as with anything else, interested users, should go at it responsibly.
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