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Day 1: So what is it that mushrooms actually do? - Tactical Ninja

Apr. 20th, 2013

12:56 pm - Day 1: So what is it that mushrooms actually do?

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So I had to work really hard not to cry when Sasha Shulgin came in. The man has been so deeply instrumental in so many positive things, not only in my life but the lives of multitudes of other people, and he was recognised with a standing ovation. I didn't expect to be so moved.


First, at breakfast I started a conversation about what it would take to undertake clinical trials to prove the safety of the substances that are about to be subjected to New Zealand's Psychoactive Substances Bill, which is currently open to submissions, and is expected to pass later this year. The estimated cost from those around the table, a mix of enthusiasts, psychiatrists, doctors, academics and hippies, was approximately $30million US (roughly $35million NZ). That was a conservative estimate. Which leads me to believe that under this law, any high that actually reaches the market his likely to be quite good in terms of effect, otherwise nobody would spend the money. More likely is that our govt is about to effectively impose a blanket ban on any new substances, under the guise of a 'progressive' law that appears to allow the sale of legal highs.

The good news is, once those 'safety' parameters are in place, there's an opening to prove the safety of other substances that are already banned. Just saying.

I also met an ayahuasca practitioner from Taiwan, who was very interesting to talk with. People who use ayahuasca seem to be a little bit evangelical about it, which makes me wary. However, it's also true that they are all saying the same thing in terms of the way the experiences appear to be improving people's lives. I'll.. keep an open mind.

Unfortunately, the talk on psychedelics in shamanism by Ralph Metzner suffered from sound issues and was very basic, but it did produce this:

Intention/question --> attention --> awareness. This formula being the core process of consciousness. That and the idea that the self is a product of a network of relationships, an idea which I'm somewhat familiar with from reading Dr Wheel's posts about consciousness. But that first bit, the idea that your intention brings your attention, which is what causes a focus of awareness, linked quite nicely to the next bit, which was about the mechanisms for psilocybin's effects in the brain.

It seems that one of the things it does is to reduce the blood supply to the area of the brain known as the default mode network, which seems to be a sort of clearing house for what thoughts make it into awareness, allowing certain things through and repressing others by default. So it's postulated that this change in connectivity could disrupt a process known as scene construction, which is used in a variety of mental activities such as future imagining, navigation, daydreaming, planning, and memory.

The idea being that this combination is likely the mechanism by which so many people experience such profound worldview changes after using psilocybin - the combination of changes to what reaches awareness with changes to the way we envision things. Interesting..

Meanwhile, at NYU, they are busy using psilocybin in smoking cessation therapy. 15 people, 15 weeks, a bunch of cognitive behavioural therapy and 3 medium-to-high doses of psilocybin each, with a guide. 91.6% of participants have quit smoking. When asked in self reporting whether the psilocybin helped the quitting, participants said this:

That the sessions helped them change their future orientation - how they wanted their future to look: 83.3%
That the sessions helped them strengthen their belief in their ability to quit: 66.7%
That the sessions led to a change in values that no longer included smoking (such as health being more important): 58%
While the level of reported utility was varying, nobody said that the sessions were not useful.

So that study is still in process, but similar studies are showing that a year out, people who quit with psilocybin are staying off the smokes. Additionally, all participants, whether they managed to quit or not, reported increased life satisfaction after the sessions.

There was also a talk by Julie Holland, author of Ecstasy, the Complete Guide, which was ostensibly on the ethics of psychedelic research, and did cover that topic, but more widely was just a very engaging talk on the state of play within psychedelic research and ended with this message:

"It is unethical not to do psychedelic research."

When this talk comes up online, I will link you to it. If you don't give a crap about anything else I saw at the conference, you should still watch this one. It's very good.


Last night, was Japanese with dragonvyxn and her lovely wee family (cutest baby ever!). Tonight, it's sushi in the city with TAFKARF. I am so cosmopolitan.

I'll sleep when I get back to Unzud, right?

Also, the marketplace is more hippie than academia, although the bookshop is quite big and well patronised. Not by me, yet, I got distracted looking at the ayahuasca art (some of which is actually very good). But the number of people getting smudged, massaged, third eye hypnotised (I made that up), and gonged while meditating (I didn't make that up) is a bit overwhelming. The gonging especially makes it hard to have a conversation in the conversation area. But I will persist.

There are also hippie clothes, a climbing frame, and a lot of shops selling the sort of thing you'd normally expect to see at festivals, but pricier and with new-age healing paraphernalia scattered around. I don't mean to be disparaging, but that stuff makes me uncomfortable. I know that some alternative therapies are effective (like, you know, psilocybin and MDMA), but I can't help but feel that some of that stuff is quackery and I don't want to be aligned with it. I'm also not cool with the idea that everyone needs healing on some level. It's too close to the 'everyone needs meds' culture that seems to be pervasive in the USA. Gah. It's hard to explain. But I won't be buying any Pots O Sacred Urbs to bring home to fix my existential angst, you know?

Comments:

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From:rivet
Date:April 20th, 2013 01:23 am (UTC)
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Thanks for taking us along in your backpack, it's a fascinating journey <3 Give TAFKARF a big hug.
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From:pombagira
Date:April 20th, 2013 10:51 am (UTC)
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what jodi said.. it is very interesting...

your brain is going to be so full when you get back.. wheee

*grins*
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From:didotwite
Date:April 22nd, 2013 01:45 pm (UTC)
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good thing on the not buying sacred urbs - customs wouldn't let 'em through! i got my dirty boots shined for free :)
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From:plantgirl
Date:April 23rd, 2013 08:37 pm (UTC)
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Meanwhile, at NYU, they are busy using psilocybin in smoking cessation therapy. 15 people, 15 weeks, a bunch of cognitive behavioural therapy and 3 medium-to-high doses of psilocybin each, with a guide. 91.6% of participants have quit. When asked in self reporting whether the psilocybin helped the quitting, participants said this:

Editorial note: I had to read this paragraph twice because I'm used to participants quitting a STUDY, so my first thought was "Wait, the shroom experience was so bad theparticpants quit the study?!?" before I backed up & went "Ooooohhhhh, no, they quite SMOKING."
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From:tatjna
Date:April 23rd, 2013 08:41 pm (UTC)
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Good point, that didn't even occur to me. They did have someone drop out of the study due to having too many work clashes - however even that person, when followed up, had gone from a pack a day to 5 cigarettes in the last month. It's quite something.
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From:plantgirl
Date:April 23rd, 2013 09:47 pm (UTC)
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I am very interested in the results they are getting!
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From:pundigrion
Date:April 24th, 2013 10:53 pm (UTC)
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" I don't mean to be disparaging, but that stuff makes me uncomfortable. I know that some alternative therapies are effective (like, you know, psilocybin and MDMA), but I can't help but feel that some of that stuff is quackery and I don't want to be aligned with it. "

I have some issues like this as well, especially when it comes to things like "healing herbs" and such. Some of them really have been shown to be effective for a variety of things like comfrey (topical use only, only internal). When you go to look up information though unless you are very careful with keywords, all you get is witchdoctor claptrap. Plus when you talk about making salves and such out of the garden people automatically assume you are a certain type of hippie...anti-vaccine etc and uh yeah no!
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From:tatjna
Date:April 24th, 2013 10:57 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. And unfortunately, unless you're an expert on such things, a stall at a conference that's trying to sell you something is unlikely to be a good source of accurate information.

I was chatting with a lady at the DanceSafe booth, who was talking herself into getting some 'herbal highs' for her daughter, "to keep her safe". I had to point out to her that just because something is herbal doesn't mean it's not risky. Deadly nightshade's a herb, you know?
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From:pundigrion
Date:April 25th, 2013 12:47 pm (UTC)
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And some of the most effective herbs *are* the toxic ones or at least plants that can be toxic at high doses. I tell people that if the plant has enough effectiveness to do anything worthwhile, that also means it can likely hurt you if you overdose or misuse it, just like any other medicine. That often gets the point across a little better.

Those booths (and natural food stores) also annoy me because they often don't know what part of the plant they are selling or what year it was harvested or pretty much anything useful about the manufacture product itself beyond "It's full of bioflavanoids and antioxidants and other ~healllling~ properties!" Yes, yes, I know what it is good for, but is yours fresh enough/prepared correctly so it will actually do what it is supposed to?!
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From:n3m3sis42
Date:April 25th, 2013 03:56 am (UTC)
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You met Shulgin? OMG jealous.

And yeah, I believe it's unethical not to do psychedelic research. I really believe MDMA could be an amazing therapeutic tool for a lot of people with the correct guidance.
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From:tatjna
Date:April 25th, 2013 04:03 am (UTC)
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Met might be too strong a word. It was a large room full of people and he is very unwell. *sad* The response to him was amazing.

MAPS expect to be reclassifying MDMA by 2021. That'll make it 35 years since it was prohibited. The depths of morality-based ignorance is astounding.
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From:n3m3sis42
Date:April 25th, 2013 04:08 am (UTC)
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Aw, I'm sad he's unwell. He's awesome. I have read interviews with him that made me cry.

Man, that is a long time. At least it would be in our lifetimes if that happened? But yeah, it pisses me off. Sure, let's pump people full of SSRIs instead of using guided therapy with something that boosts serotonin and removes inhibitions.

There is so much stuff it's almost impossible for me to talk about effectively in therapy. I'll get there, but WTF?
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From:tatjna
Date:April 25th, 2013 04:16 am (UTC)
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Julie Holland (whose video I'll link to as soon as it becomes available) spoke of the numbers of people, particularly veterans, who are not responding to traditional treatments for PTSD. Then she talked about the suicide rates among these groups. This is where that statement about how it's unethical not to do the research came from. It was incredibly moving, especially when I know from experience how helpful such therapies could be.

Sasha Shulgin had a stroke a couple of years ago. He's in a wheelchair and still quite unwell. But he was there, and that means a lot, you know?
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From:n3m3sis42
Date:April 25th, 2013 10:01 am (UTC)
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I knew about the PTSD study from MAPS when it was first approved. It was a huge deal to me (at the time, only because I think psychedelics are amazing and MDMA is one that both has therapeutic value and acts on neurotransmitters that our society already (at least in the US) has no issues with mucking about with. I'd love to see the video.

Seeing as I've realized the extent of my own trauma issues (not at ALL to compare them to what veterans go through), the whole thing has a new meaning to me at this point.
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