Try a 'shroom before ruling on chill pills, boffin tells gov
Ministers 'irrational' on depression-busting hallucinogen
The government may never be able to “think rationally” about the therapeutic properties of hallucinogenic drugs, says Professor David Nutt. The top boffin was speaking on the publication of two new studies that show the anti-depressant qualities of magic mushrooms.
Prof Nutt, who was sacked from his role as Blighty's top drug adviser for questioning the law's classification of banned substances, said: “[The government's] attitude to these drugs is so utterly irrational that you kind of think, 'maybe that irrationality is so pervasive that they could never think rationally'.”
The pair of latest studies found that the effects of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, may counter depression - and help sufferers relive happy moments.
Asked whether this would mean that the government would ever approve a drug based on psilocybin, Prof Nutt said: “Of course they'd have to. What's fascinating is that you could think they wouldn't, and of course you're right.”
Developing a product that uses psilocybin requires the thumbs-up from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which said in a statement: “The MHRA considers each individual product on its merits and any information which may have a bearing on the product's status, for example, the claims made for the product [and] the pharmacological properties of the ingredients.”
Psilocybin was classified as a Class-A drug under the Drugs Act 2005, placing it in the same category as cocaine, heroin and methadone.
MRI scans while trippin'
In one of the new studies, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 30 healthy volunteers had their brains scanned by MRI while researchers infused their blood with psilocybin. The scans showed a decrease in activity in the brain's “hub” regions, areas that are especially well-connected to other areas.
The decreased oxygen and blood flow to these “hub” regions correlate with study participants' reports of unusual bodily sensations and an altered sense of space and time. One region affected was the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), which is known to be hyperactive during depression. The researchers believe that psilocybin's effects here could explain the antidepressant properties of magic mushrooms.
"Previous studies have suggested that psilocybin can improve people's sense of emotional wellbeing and even reduce depression in people with anxiety,” said Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, who led the studies.
"This is consistent with our finding that psilocybin decreases mPFC activity, as many effective depression treatments do. The effects need to be investigated further, and ours was only a small study, but we are interested in exploring psilocybin's potential as a therapeutic tool."
In the second study, to be published on Thursday in the British Journal of Psychiatry, volunteers were prompted to think about positive memories while their brains were scanned. Volunteers' memories were more vivid after taking psilocybin compared with a placebo.
Two weeks after the experience, participants' ratings of memory vividness under the drug showed a positive correlation with their wellbeing. The drug also increased activity in the regions of the brain that process sensory information such as vision.
Prof Nutt confirmed that since news of the findings broke yesterday, he has received emails from patients asking to be recruited into a trial. “These people are desperate and it would be iniquitous for any government to deny them treatment,” said Prof Nutt. “It makes me choke.” ®
The government will insist any 'fun' element is classified 'abuse potential' and eliminated from any approved version of the drug. Basically, if it's any fun and the fun can't be removed somehow it's banned by default, and the sufferers of the diseases it cures can go fuck themselves.
"Addictive" is a moveable feast (which is one trick the prohibitionist lobby use to scare the public ...). There are different elements of "addiction", none of which the average man in the street knows about.
Food is physically addictive. Without it, you die.
Nicotine is physically and psychologically addictive. It's continued use can be shown to create physiological changes which cause the body to react to withdrawal. Same for alcohol.
Cannabis is, if anything, psyychologically addictive. Users like it, but withdrawal causes no appreciable physiological effect.
I'm not a pharmakineticist, but would hazard that psilocybin is not addictive in any meaningful sense of the word.
Of course the real question which gets dodged, should be "what, if any, are the risks of addiction".
Personally I am sick to the back teeth of the shite science peddled in the name of the "war on drugs", by a hypocritical government. My wife is addicted to benzodiazepienes, thanks to doctors (who would knock a spliff out of your hand) dishing them out like smarties. And when I say "addicted" I mean it. Sudden withdrawal runs a very real risk of death.
There was a very good article in the Graniud a few years ago, posing the very good question: "Why is it so bad to get high ?". It asked why doctors are so scared to use medicines which get you high, when they are happy to prescribe medicines which can make your life hell (anyone on Chemo will know). Nauseau, drowsiness, digestion problems, headaches, hair loss, libido loss ....
Hell, no. It's pretty much the opposite, in fact. Psyloci(bi)n and LSD are pretty hard going, and the higher the dose you take, the more likely you are to have an unpleasant trip. It can be pleasant at low enough doses, but going overboard can make you feel like you're losing your mind, dying, or that the world is out to get you, trigger depressive or psychotic episodes, etc. (ie, "the bad trip"). For most people (particularly those that like to feel in control of themselves, or have borderline psychological problems that are just about in check), that's something that they'll never want to repeat. So in that sense, it's got the opposite profile of most other stimulant drugs which, once you've got a taste of them, you want more.
There's also the issue of recovery time. Having your brain switched into a higher gear like this, with no way of turning it off except to ride it out can be very mentally tiring. Not so many people would want to take these drugs again the following day. Fewer still have the inclination (or the time; you're talking about "losing" 6--8 hours for each trip and comedown time, longer if it's LSD) to go on an extended binge, and even that (IME) tends to be self-limiting, as you need more recovery time. A week or two (when mushies are in season, natch) of taking something every second day seems like a practical limit, and even then you'll find people end up taking smaller doses so they can pace themselves and not get too out of it.
Of course YMMV, and I wouldn't recommend anyone who's unsure of what they're doing or doesn't have supportive friends they can turn to in case anything should go wrong to seek these out. You might have a very bad experience you will regret. Or you might be the one person in 100,000 (completely made-up figure) with just the wrong sort of personality or brain chemistry that finds they can become addicted to shrooms. The latter is highly unlikely, IMO, but I'd never say never.
Personally, getting back to the article itself, I think the main problem with psychedelic drugs of any kind isn't the drug itself, but society and societal contexts for drug-taking (the two feed into one another---making the drugs illegal makes it more likely that the context for drug-taking involves more criminality and abuse, which feeds society's condemntion and ostracisation, which feeds ...). I'm not going to go all hippy and say everyone should take drugs (they shouldn't), but I do think society needs more "grown up" attitudes to drug-taking. That means, among other things, treating people like adults and letting them make up their own minds instead of treating them like children, stop using hyperbolic scare stories and start giving proper, non-judgemental advice on drug safety rather than treating the user as a criminal, and admit that we've been using drugs for millennia and that prohibition has never worked and never will... Many cultures have managed to incorporate use of psychedelics into their societies in the same way that some of our cultures have managed to develop fairly sensible attitudes to alcohol (while others, and other individuals) have not. I just think that there is definitely a need and a possibility for a more enlightened stance regarding the use of all drugs in society. Treat shrooms as a "special medicine" and not as an "illegal chemical" (the same goes for lawmakers and users here).