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Media Report: Ayahuasca Arrests on the Rise in Spain

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In the last three months, Spanish law enforcement agencies have intervened in four ayahuasca and other psychedelic plant ceremonies, arresting the facilitators, who now await trial. The arrests and seizures have been widely reported in the Spanish media, which have echoed the press releases issued by the police departments.

Is the Spanish government planning to ban ayahuasca, as Italy and France have done in recent years? The consumption of ayahuasca by neo-shamanic groups and ayahuasca churches (the União do Vegetal and Santo Daime) has been happening discreetly and without interruption in Spain since the 1990s. ​​However, only recently has this practice begun to attract media attention, often in a sensationalist manner.

To date, the Spanish authorities have not enacted specific legislation regarding ayahuasca and other psychedelic plants, perhaps because they have been under the radar and there are no reports of serious accidents or complaints about the practice.

Francisco Azorín, a lawyer who advocates for the right to use plants as entheogens, believes that the latest police operations against ayahuasca can be explained by a statistical issue. “This [practice] has always been done underground until, suddenly, ayahuasca associations and retreats started to emerge and the complaints began,” he says.

Azorín has been involved in defending Spanish cannabis clubs for years, and in 2021 he obtained a historic acquittal in an ayahuasca case. The court recognized that the tea cannot be considered a “toxic drug, narcotic or psychotropic substance.” In this context, it is significant that out of about a hundred complaints related to ayahuasca – almost all of them for seizures by customs officials– all but one ended in acquittal.

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Ayahuasca Arrests on the Rise in Spain



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Law

Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy for Traffic Violators

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The city of Eugene (Oregon) has taken a bold step into uncharted territory with its recent announcement to integrate psychedelic-assisted therapy as a novel sentencing option for minor traffic offenses. This pioneering initiative, set to be implemented later this year, represents a radical shift from traditional punitive measures towards a more introspective and rehabilitative approach. By leveraging the therapeutic potential of psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD, the program aims to address the underlying psychological factors contributing to reckless driving behaviors, thereby fostering a culture of mindfulness and responsibility among motorists.

Mayor Serene Macado, the visionary behind this initiative, articulated the city’s forward-thinking stance, emphasizing the shift from punitive responses to transformative experiences. “Our aim is not to penalize but to enlighten, guiding offenders towards a path of self-awareness and behavioral change,” Macado explained. The program draws on a growing body of research indicating the profound impact of psychedelic substances on mental health, highlighting their ability to diminish aggression, bolster empathy, and heighten awareness of one’s actions and their broader impacts.

This announcement has ignited a fervent debate among the public, experts, and advocates alike. Proponents laud it as a groundbreaking move towards criminal justice reform, applauding Eugene for its courageous embrace of alternative therapeutic methods that promise not only to rehabilitate offenders but also to enhance public safety. Critics, however, express reservations about the program’s feasibility, ethical implications, and the adequacy of safeguards to prevent misuse or unintended consequences. They argue that the novelty and potency of psychedelics necessitate cautious, evidence-based implementation.

Legal experts and psychologists are particularly intrigued by the initiative, recognizing its potential to set new precedents in the integration of psychedelic therapy within the legal and rehabilitation systems. The program’s voluntary nature and the promise of close monitoring and support are designed to ensure participants’ safety and consent, addressing ethical concerns surrounding autonomy and the therapeutic use of psychedelics.

Yet, the program’s announcement date—April 1st—has added a layer of complexity to public reception, stirring speculation about its authenticity. Some wonder whether this innovative approach is merely a sophisticated April Fool’s Day jest aimed at sparking dialogue on unconventional solutions to societal challenges. Despite these doubts, city officials assert the sincerity of their intentions, emphasizing their commitment to exploring progressive strategies that address the root causes of behavior that endangers public safety.

As Eugene prepares to roll out this unique program, the initiative stands as a testament to the city’s commitment to pioneering new solutions to age-old problems, challenging conventional wisdom on punishment and rehabilitation. Whether seen as a genuine attempt at reform or a provocative conversation starter, the psychedelic-assisted therapy program for traffic violators promises to catalyze discussions on the role of psychedelics in society, the ethics of alternative sentencing, and the future of criminal justice reform. In doing so, it highlights the evolving landscape of public policy, where innovation and tradition converge in the pursuit of safer, more conscious communities.

*** This article is an April Fool’s Day joke ***



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Culture

Psychedelic Experiences Enhance Sexual Function, Study Finds

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A groundbreaking study by Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research reveals that magic mushrooms, LSD, and other psychedelics can significantly improve sexual function for months following the experience. This research, the first of its kind, suggests psychedelics could have therapeutic applications in sexual health and beyond.

Magic mushrooms, LSD, and other psychoactive substances have been found to potentially enhance sexual function for an extended period post-experience. This pioneering study, conducted by Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research, marks the first scientific exploration into psychedelics’ impact on sexual health. Nearly 300 participants reported improvements in various aspects of sexual functioning weeks after their psychedelic experiences.

The study analyzed responses from individuals using psychedelics recreationally or for wellness/ceremonial purposes and a smaller group from a clinical trial on psilocybin for depression. Results indicated enhancements in sexual enjoyment, arousal, satisfaction, attraction to partners, body image, communication, and connection, lasting up to six months.

Interestingly, the study also compared the effects of psilocybin with a leading antidepressant, finding that psilocybin users reported significant improvements in sexual arousal and satisfaction, whereas antidepressant users often experienced a decline in sexual function. This suggests psychedelics might offer an alternative treatment avenue for depression without the sexual side effects associated with standard antidepressants.

The researchers propose that psychedelics could be beneficial in various therapeutic settings, including couples therapy, by potentially avoiding drug-induced sexual dysfunction. The study’s findings also underscore the importance of sexual health to overall psychological well-being, highlighting the need for further research in this area.

Why It Matters: This research sheds light on the potential of psychedelics to improve sexual health, a crucial aspect of human well-being often impacted by mental health conditions and the side effects of conventional treatments. By offering a possible alternative to antidepressants without compromising sexual function, psychedelics could revolutionize the approach to treating depression and anxiety, enhancing both sexual and mental health.

Potential Implications: The study opens new avenues for the therapeutic use of psychedelics, suggesting they could play a role in treating conditions that adversely affect sexual health. It also highlights the need for more comprehensive research to understand fully and harness the benefits of psychedelics in sexual and mental health treatment.

Source: Imperial



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anxiety

LSD Effective in Treating Anxiety, Phase II Clinical Trial Shows

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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.” 

MindMed logo (source: www.mindmed.co)

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.  

Psychedelics have been proven effective in treating various mental health disorders

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.” 

Final thoughts 

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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