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?
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?