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Recent News:
Interview with Robin Carhart-Harris on LSD research | The Independent
Upcoming conferences
Heffter board member interviewed on Vox
Goodbye to the Godfather of Psychedelics | California Magazine
Study links psychedelic experience to dreaming | The Washington Post
High Hopes | Science
Heffter co-founder outlines process for legalization of psilocybin | reset.me
NY Times ayahuasca article quotes Heffter board member
Study compares psilocybin and MDMA | Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Professor guides psychedelic medicine revival | Purdue Exponent

Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, 1925-2014

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We’re saddened to note the passing of Dr. Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, an important pioneer of psychedelic chemistry. In addition to a long and remarkably productive career as a chemist, Dr. Shulgin authored a number of influential books including two scientific autobiographies, PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story (1991) and TIHKAL: The Continuation (1997), both co-written with his wife Ann Shulgin. An obituary with a detailed overview of Dr. Shulgin’s career is available on ShulginResearch.org.

“Psychedelics and empathogens were Sasha’s most passionate interest, as he wholeheartedly believed that these drugs could be exceptionally valuable tools for self-discovery when properly used. ‘I am forever in their debt,’ he said, ‘And I will forever be their champion.’”


Psychedelic Science | Southern California Public Radio

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Southern California Public Radio station KPCC has an excellent four-part series on the current state of psychedelic research. The series, reported by Health Care Correspondent Stephanie O’Neill, features interviews with Heffter board members George Greer, Charles Grob, and Stephen Ross.

Research into the therapeutic potential of illegal ‘psychedelic’ drugs to treat an assortment of mainstream mental health conditions is undergoing a modern-day renaissance.

“A host of published studies in the field is showing promise for psychedelics, such as psilocybin — the active ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’ —  to help treat alcoholism, depression, drug addiction and severe anxiety caused by serious or terminal illness.”

Link to Part 1, Psychedelic Science: The surge in psychiatric research using hallucinogens | SCPR

Link to Part 2, Psychedelic Science: Researchers enlist Psilocybin to help fight alcoholism | SCPR

Link to Part 3, Psychedelic Science: Using ecstasy to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder | SCPR

Link to Part 4, Psychedelic Science: Psilocybin shows promise treating cancer anxiety | SCPR


Psilocybin inhibits the processing of negative emotions in the brain | Science Daily

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A team at the Psychiatric University Hospital of Zurich, including Heffter board member Franz X. Vollenweider, found that psilocybin improves the mood of healthy individuals. According to the Zurich researchers, a moderate dose of psilocybin can lessen the effect of negative stimuli in the amygdala and other areas in the brain. The study could lead to new treatment options for people with depression.

This research is making news globally. International coverage appears on this Arabic site (scroll down the page) and this Thai site.

“Emotions like fear, anger, sadness, and joy enable people to adjust to their environment and react flexibly to stress and strain and are vital for cognitive processes, physiological reactions, and social behavior. The processing of emotions is closely linked to structures in the brain, i.e. to what is known as the limbic system. Within this system the amygdala plays a central role — above all it processes negative emotions like anxiety and fear. If the activity of the amygdala becomes unbalanced, depression and anxiety disorders may develop.”

Link to summary article | Science Daily

Link to original article | Biological Psychiatry

Biological Psychiatry cover cropped

This article is published as a cover story in Biological Psychiatry (article in press) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00063223, Rainer Kraehenmann, Katrin H. Preller, Milan Scheidegger, Thomas Pokorny, Oliver G. Bosch, Erich Seifritz, Franz X. Vollenweider, Psilocybin-Induced Decrease in Amygdala Reactivity Correlates with Enhanced Positive Mood in Healthy Volunteers, Copyright Elsevier, 2014.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.04.010


Prescribing Mushrooms for Anxiety | The Atlantic

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A New York University research team is using hallucinogenic experiences to help patients come to terms with their mortality.

by Roc Morin

“Some of the things I’m about to say might not make sense,” began O.M., a 22-year-old cancer survivor. He had the far-off look in his eyes that I recognized from so many of the other study participants. They sound like travelers, struggling to describe exotic foreign lands to the people left back home. That struggle is a sign that the treatment has worked. Ineffability is one of the primary criteria that define a mystical experience.

“I was outside of my body, looking at myself,” O.M. continued, “My body was lying on a stretcher in front of a hospital. I felt an incredible anxiety—the same anxiety I had felt every day since my diagnosis. Then, like a switch went on, I went from being anxious to analyzing my anxiety from the outside. I realized that nothing was actually happening to me objectively. It was real because I let it become real. And, right when I had that thought, I saw a cloud of black smoke come out of my body and float away.”

Link to Full Article | The Atlantic


A Good Trip | Aeon Magazine

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Researchers are giving psychedelics to cancer patients to help alleviate their despair — and it’s working

by Linda Marsa

On a bone-chilling morning in February last year, Nick Fernandez bundled up and took the subway from his Manhattan apartment to the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research, which is located in an art deco-style building on the Lower East Side. A 27-year-old graduate student in psychology with dark, wavy hair and delicate, bird-like features, Fernandez was excited and nervous. He had eaten a light breakfast consisting of a bagel and industrial-strength coffee in preparation for another journey he was about to take. Fernandez had signed up to be a subject in a New York University study into the use of psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms, to relieve mental anguish in people with terminal or recurrent cancer.

Link to Full Article | Aeon Magazine

 


Heffter Past, Present, and Future – David F. Nichols, Ph.D.

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Abstract

This essay describes the founding of the Heffter Research Institute in 1993 and its development up to the present. The Institute is the only scientific research organization dedicated to scientific research into the medical value of psychedelics, and it has particularly focused on the use of psilocybin.

The first clinical treatment study was of the value of psilocybin in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Next was a UCLA study of psilocybin to treat end-of-life distress in end-stage cancer patients. While that study was ongoing, a trial was started at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) to study the efficacy of psilocybin in treating anxiety and depression resulting from a cancer diagnosis.

Following the successful completion of the UCLA project, a larger study was started at New York University, which is near completion.

A pilot study of the value of psilocybin in treating alcoholism at the University of New Mexico also is nearing completion, with a larger two-site study being planned. Other studies underway involve the use of psilocybin in a smoking cessation program and a study of the effects of psilocybin in long-term meditators, both at JHU. The institute is now planning for a Phase 3 clinical trial of psilocybin to treat distress in end-stage cancer patients.

Published via Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Volume 46, Issue 1, 2014: Special Issue: Psychedelic Resurgence—Research and Therapeutic Uses, Past and Present
 
Link to this abstract (full article only accessible via paywall)

 


Neuroscience of Psychedelics Workshop

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At the Psychedelic Science 2013 conference held in Oakland, CA in April 2013, Heffter founder Dave Nichols and Heffter Zurich researcher Franz Vollenweider presented this in-depth workshop focusing on the latest advances in scientific understanding of how psychedelic compounds affect the brain.

Nichols-presentingDave starts the workshop with some very basic information about receptor pharmacology, then proceeds into how receptors produce signals within cells.  His discussion moves on to more complex realms concerning how various psychedelics interact with receptors, including how molecular biology techniques have been used to map out the functional topography of receptors.

After a brief history of psychedelic research in Switzerland, Franz X. Vollenweider reviews the assessments, predictors and neuronal correlates of the basic psychological dimensions of psychedelics in humans, particularly the neuronal processes and networks underpinning the dissolution of self and visionary experiences.  In the second part, he summarizes the effect of psychedelics on conscious and unconscious emotion processing and neuronal plasticity and discusses their impact for the treatment of depression and anxiety.

Although these presentations are fairly technical, there is plenty of information for the layperson.  The workshop is available for viewing in four parts on YouTube:

Part 1 and Part 2 feature Dave Nichols

Part 3 and Part 4 feature Franz Volleweider

Alternatively, the summary page and corresponding links can be found at http://maps.org/conference/neuroscienceworkshop/.

Total running time is approximately 3 hours.

 


Heffter Celebrates 20th Anniversary; Nearly $4 Million of Psychedelic Research Funded

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The Heffter Research Institute celebrates its 20th anniversary in November 2013.  In those 20 years we have provided nearly $4 million in support of the following research programs:

• Use of psilocybin in obsessive compulsive disorder (Dr. Francisco Moreno at the University of Arizona)

Psilocybin in the treatment of depression and anxiety in terminal cancer patients (Dr. Charles Grob at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center)

• Study of psilocybin in the treatment of anxiety and depression resulting from a life-threatening cancer diagnosis (Dr. Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins University)

Psilocybin in the treatment of anxiety and psychosocial distress in cancer patients (Dr. Stephen Ross, Dr. Jeffrey Guss and Dr. Anthony Bossis at New York University)

Psilocybin in the treatment of alcoholism (Dr. Michael Bogenschutz at the University of New Mexico)

Psilocybin in the treatment of cigarette smoking addiction (Dr. Matthew Johnson at Johns Hopkins University)

Psilocybin and Spirituality (Dr. Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins University)

• Studies of the effect of psilocybin on brain functions mediating the experience of self and emotion regulation (Dr. Franz Vollenweider at the Heffter-Zürich Research Center, University of Zürich, Switzerland)

• Studies of the molecular effects of psychedelics on gene expression in the brain, as well as their powerful anti-inflammatory properties (Dr. Charles Nichols at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans)

• Effects of psilocybin on behavior, psychology, and brain function in long-term meditators (Dr. Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins University)

• Qualitative interview study of patient experiences of psilocybin treatment and psycho-educational sessions (Dr. Stephen Ross and Dr. Alex Belser at New York University)

The Heffter Institute is a non-profit organization that was founded by a leading group of brain scientists, and remains the only neuroscience institute dedicated to supporting research with psychedelic substances in order to contribute to a greater understanding of the mind, improvement of the human condition, and the alleviation of suffering.

For more information, please contact:  Cibele Ruas, cibele@heffter.org.


Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study | PLOS One

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Teri S. Krebs and  Pål-Ørjan Johansen

Abstract

Background

The classical serotonergic psychedelics LSD, psilocybin, mescaline are not known to cause brain damage and are regarded as non-addictive. Clinical studies do not suggest that psychedelics cause long-term mental health problems. Psychedelics have been used in the Americas for thousands of years. Over 30 million people currently living in the US have used LSD, psilocybin, or mescaline.

Objective

To evaluate the association between the lifetime use of psychedelics and current mental health in the adult population.

Method

Data drawn from years 2001 to 2004 of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health consisted of 130,152 respondents, randomly selected to be representative of the adult population in the United States. Standardized screening measures for past year mental health included serious psychological distress (K6 scale), mental health treatment (inpatient, outpatient, medication, needed but did not receive), symptoms of eight psychiatric disorders (panic disorder, major depressive episode, mania, social phobia, general anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, posttraumatic stress disorder, and non-affective psychosis), and seven specific symptoms of non-affective psychosis. We calculated weighted odds ratios by multivariate logistic regression controlling for a range of sociodemographic variables, use of illicit drugs, risk taking behavior, and exposure to traumatic events.

Results

21,967 respondents (13.4% weighted) reported lifetime psychedelic use. There were no significant associations between lifetime use of any psychedelics, lifetime use of specific psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, peyote), or past year use of LSD and increased rate of any of the mental health outcomes. Rather, in several cases psychedelic use was associated with lower rate of mental health problems.

Conclusion

We did not find use of psychedelics to be an independent risk factor for mental health problems.

Citation: Krebs TS, Johansen P-Ø (2013) Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study. PLoS ONE 8(8): e63972. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063972

Link to full article | PLOS One


Study Finds No Link Between Hallucinogens and Mental Problems | NPR

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by Scott Hensley

How risky are psychedelic drugs to mental health? Not nearly as much as you might have imagined.

People who had taken LSD, psilocybin (the brain-bending chemical in magic mushrooms) or mescaline at any time in their lives were no more likely than those who hadn’t to wind up in mental health treatment or to have symptoms of mental illness, according to an analysis by some Norwegian researchers.

And there was some evidence that people who had taken the drugs at some point were less likely to have had recent mental health treatment.

Link to full article | NPR