January 25, 2012
By Nancy Shute
“KTRN is not condoning the use of magic mushrooms. However, this article is quite interesting. In fact, Dr. James Fadiman, author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, is convinced there are medical benefits to hallucinogens like LSD.” –KTRN
Magic mushrooms are said to blow your mind, but the hallucinogenic chemical psilocybin, the active ingredient, actually reins in key parts of the brain, according to two new studies.
The memorably vivid emotional experiences reported by mushroom users may flourish because the parts of the brain suppressed by psilocybin usually keep our world view tidy and rational.
And since the brain area affected by psilocybin can also be out of whack in mental health problems such as depression, the researchers speculate that the drug may turn out to be useful in treating mental illness.
“The brain’s doing a lot to keep our experiences of the world orderly and constrained,” says Robin Carhart-Harris, a post-doc in neuroscience at Imperial College London, and lead author of the studies.
The studies are among the first to use brain imaging to take a peek at the brain on psilocybin.
“Depression can be described as a particularly restrictive state of mind,” Carhart-Harris told Shots. “People are stuck on how terrible they are. This seems to suggest that people can have a lifting of that negative thinking under psychedelics.”
One of the studies asked 10 volunteers to recall particularly happy memories, like getting married or becoming a parent, both with and without psilocybin. The people found the memories much more vivid, visual, and happy while under the influence. That study will be published in the British Journal of Psychiatry on Thursday.
In the second study, 30 volunteers lay in an MRI machine while tripping for science. The brain scans showed less activity in areas of the brain that may act as connectors, or hubs. One of those areas, the posterior cingulate cortex, is thought to figure in consciousness and ego. It’s also hyperactive in people with depression.
The researchers hadn’t expected to find less brain activity with psilocybin. The thought has always been that psychedelic flights of fancy are the result of an overactive brain. The results were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Serious research into psychedelic drugs was pretty much shut down after the excesses of the trip-happy 1960s. Harvard famously fired Timothy Leary in 1963 for experimenting far too enthusiastically with psilocybin and other mind-altering drugs. Psilocybin remains an illegal drug in the same category as heroin and LSD, which the Justice Department says has “no legitimate medical purpose.
January 9, 2012
By Nina Lakhani
Government on introducing a new offence of drug-driving, ministers confirmed yesterday.
The panel will consider whether it is scientifically possible to introduce maximum levels for different drugs, similar to drink-driving limits, or whether any amount of cocaine, cannabis or heroin should constitute an offence. Last month The Independent revealed details about the panel, expected to start work this spring, which will report to the Home Office and Department of Transport.
November 29, 2011
By Chris Moody
“You heard it right. Newt Gingrich thinks the war on drugs is working. He is so convinced that in a recent interview, he suggested we sentence people to death over selling pot. Death! And this man wants to be president? This is just one more reason that Ron Paul is the answer.” –KTRN
Have you learned anything about yourself that you didn’t know or that surprised you now that you’re running for president?
I may be more capable of calm discipline than I would have guessed. Watch the way in which I am methodically not getting engaged in a fight with my friends.
Is it hard to resist the temptation?
It’s getting easier. The more often I do it, the easier it gets.
It’s easier to not say anything the next time. I’m a natural debater. I’ve spent my whole career debating.
You’re drawing larger crowds. Any plans to request Secret Service?
We’ve explored it with them, and I think at the moment I would prefer not to do it as long as we could. I prefer as much as possible to remain open to people.
You’ve been in politics for many decades. Is running for president a different experience than anything else you have done in your political career?
No. I’ve been at this for 53 years. The scale of it is bigger. The intensity of media coverage is dramatically bigger, but not radically bigger than I had in ’94 or ’95. The freedom to actually develop policies is much greater. I’m not advising somebody else. I’m not reaching out to figure out how to get 350 candidates to sign on at this stage. I’m trying to outline what I think is best. So in that sense it’s probably more liberating for me then it might have been.
Three Republican presidential candidates have shown an openness to handing over control of drugs and medical marijuana to the states. Would you continue the current federal policy making marijuana illegal in all cases or give the states more control?
I would continue current federal policy, largely because of the confusing signal that steps towards legalization sends to harder drugs. I think the California experience is that medical marijuana becomes a joke. It becomes marijuana for any use. You find local doctors who will prescribe it for anybody that walks in.
Why shouldn’t the states have control over this? Why should this be a federal issue?
Because I think you guarantee that people will cross state lines if it becomes a state-by-state exemption. I don’t have a comprehensive view. My general belief is that we ought to be much more aggressive about drug policy. And that we should recognize that the Mexican cartels are funded by Americans.
Expand on what you mean by “aggressive.”
In my mind it means having steeper economic penalties and it means having a willingness to do more drug testing.
In 1996, you introduced a bill that would have given the death penalty to drug smugglers. Do you still stand by that?
I think if you are, for example, the leader of a cartel, sure. Look at the level of violence they’ve done to society. You can either be in the Ron Paul tradition and say there’s nothing wrong with heroin and cocaine or you can be in the tradition that says, ‘These kind of addictive drugs are terrible, they deprive you of full citizenship and they lead you to a dependency which is antithetical to being an American.’ If you’re serious about the latter view, then we need to think through a strategy that makes it radically less likely that we’re going to have drugs in this country. Places like Singapore have been the most successful at doing that. They’ve been very draconian. And they have communicated with great intention that they intend to stop drugs from coming into their country.
November 3, 2011
By Kerry Sheridan
The United States is facing an epidemic of lethal overdoses from prescription painkillers, which have tripled in the past decade and now account for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
The quantity of painkillers on the market is so high that it would be enough for every American to swallow a standard dose of Vicodin every four hours for one full month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The unfortunate and in fact shocking news is that we are in the midst of an epidemic of prescription drug overdose in this country. It is an epidemic but it can be stopped,” said CDC chief Thomas Frieden.
“Now the burden of dangerous drugs is being created more by a few irresponsible doctors than by drug pushers on street corners.”
The CDC Vital Signs report focused on opioid pain relievers, including oxycodone, methadone and hydrocodone, better known as Vicodin, which have quadrupled in sales to pharmacies, hospitals and doctors’ offices since 1999.
Last year, 12 million Americans reported taking prescription painkillers for recreational uses, not because of a medical condition.
The number of deaths from overdoses of opioid pain relievers has more than tripled from 4,000 people in 1999 to 14,800 people in 2008.
The epidemic is at its height among middle-aged white men, age 35-54, and American Indians or Alaska natives, the CDC said.
Rural and poor areas tend to have the highest prescription drug overdose death rates, and the severity of the problem varies widely from state to state.
The drugs are highly addictive and people can build up tolerance quickly, according to Michael Lowenstein, who treats patients at his pain clinic in Los Angeles, California and was not involved with the CDC research.
“What happens in a lot of this population is they take the medication for something like knee pain, or surgery,” he told AFP.
“The opiate receptors are very close to the pleasure centers in the brain, so for a period not only does the pain feel better but their anxiety, their depression and their stress is better.
“The problem is it takes more and more medication to maintain that response so someone will be given two or three or four Vicodin to treat their pain and before you know it they are taking 20 and 30 and 40 Vicodin a day.”
Death typically occurs when the patient stops breathing because the drugs can cause respiratory depression, and are particularly lethal when mixed with anxiety medications or alcohol.
Lowenstein is co-medical director of the Waismann Method, a $20,000 dollar treatment for opiate dependence that involves sedating the patient for several days in a hospital intensive care unit so that they do not feel the symptoms of withdrawal such as vomiting, nausea and inability to function.
October 26, 2011
By James Johnson
In 1979 the U.S. Government began tracking drug-related deaths and for the first time those deaths have surpassed the number of traffic fatalities on an annual basis.
The most recent statistics which were taken in 2009 shows that 37,485 people died in traffic related accidents while 36,284 people died from drug related activities in a one year period.
Surprisingly the main culprit of those deaths were not street illegal drugs but rather prescription options including Xanax, OxyContin and the main culprit Vicodin which killed more people than cocaine and heroin combined.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times a Santa Barbara sheriff said:
“The problem is right here under our noses in our medicine cabinets.”
The study also revealed that traffic related fatalities have actually fallen by a third since the 1970s even as the number of drivers using American roadways continues to increase, while drug related deaths have doubled in the last decade. Deaths among the 50-year-old to 69-year-old crowd have been even worse, tripling during the same time period.
Not all deaths have been related to drug overdoses from drug abuse, in many cases accidental double dosing by adults has been the culprit.
When asked how drug related deaths can be reduced one researcher said:
“What’s really scary is we don’t know a lot about how to reduce prescription deaths,” while adding, “It’s a wonderful medical advancement that we can treat pain, but we haven’t figured out the safety belt yet.”
In the meantime parents are urged to speak with their kids not just about street illegal drugs but also the medications found in medicine cabinets which can be just as addictive and just as deadly.
June 10th, 2011
By: Christopher Neefus
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a division of the federal government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), has spent $3,634,807 over the past decade funding research that involves getting monkeys to smoke and drink drugs such as PCP, methamphetamine (METH), heroin, and cocaine and then studying their behavior, including during different phases of the female monkeys’ menstrual cycles.
The study also uses “interventions” as “treatment models” for monkeys who have been taught to use drugs.
NIDA wins CNSNews.com’s “What Were They Smoking Award”—symbolized by The Golden Hookah (see video)—for sponsoring an outrageous government spending program that sends taxpayer dollars up in smoke.
Precursor research on drug-using monkeys, also funded by NIDA, discovered that after smoking cocaine monkeys exhibited “dilated pupils and slightly agitated, hyperactive behavior”—which helped researchers conclude that the “physiological effects” of cocaine on monkeys “were similar to those reported in studies of human subjects.”
In yet another federally funded study of drug-taking monkeys, the monkeys were sometimes given “trail mix” after “their daily experimental sessions.”
Back in 2001, the NIH gave $328,364 to a project called “A Primate Model of Drug Abuse: Intervention Strategies.” The principal investigator for the project was Dr. Marilyn E. Carroll, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota.
The description of the grant published by NIH said: “Goals of the proposed research are to use a rhesus monkey model of drug abuse, to study factors affecting vulnerability to drug abuse and to evaluate behavioral and pharmacological treatment interventions. Routes of administration that have been developed in this laboratory will include oral drug self-administration and smoking.”
“Vulnerability factors to be examined,” said the NIH description, “are sex and phase of the menstrual cycle as well as patterns/duration of access to drugs.”
“The drugs that will be studied,” the NIH said, “are cocaine, ethanol, heroin, methadone and phencyclidine (PCP).”
“The use of nondrug reinforcers as a behavioral treatment will also be compared in male and female monkeys and during 3 phases of the menstrual cycle,” said the description.
“Potential treatment medications will also be examined in male monkeys using a behavioral economic approach.”
A decade later, the NIH continued to provide federal funding to the “Primate Model of Drug Abuse: Intervention Strategies” project at the University of Minnesota. On March 31, the federal agency gave the project its latest award, $386,907 in tax dollars.
A description posted by the NIH for the 2011 version of the project says the first aim of the study is: “To examine the effects of sex and menstrual cycle phase on the reinforcing strength of orally-delivered PCP and METH, and a nondrug control substance, saccharin, as well as smoked COC [cocaine], HER [heroin], and METH.”
“The main objective of this research is to develop nonhuman primate models (rhesus monkeys) of critical aspects of addiction that will yield useful information for the prevention and treatment of drug abuse,” says the description.
“The proposed experiments are designed to evaluate vulnerability factors in drug abuse, such as sex and phase of the menstrual cycle (hormonal status), that are related to the development and persistence of drug abuse,” it says.
“Nonhuman primate models of oral drug self-administration such as phencyclidine (PCP) and methamphetamine (METH) and smoked drugs such as cocaine (COC), heroin (HER), and METH will be used, and behavioral and pharmacological interventions will be applied as treatment models in males and females and in females during different phases of the menstrual cycle,” says the NIH description.
Dr. Marilyn E. Carroll, the principal investigator, explains her research on her webpage at the University of Minnesota.
“My research is directed toward developing behavioral and pharmacological methods of reducing and preventing drug abuse,” she says. “Animals are trained to self-administer drugs that humans abuse, and several phases of the addiction process are modeled, such as acquisition, maintenance, withdrawal, craving, and relapse.”
In April 20, 1990 article in Psychopharmacology (“Cocaine-base smoking in rhesus monkeys: reinforcing and physiological effects”), Carroll and three University of Minnesota colleagues—Kelly Krattinger, Daniel Gieske and Daniel A. Saddoff—described earlier federally funded research (supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse) involving monkeys. This research, they wrote, was “designed to establish a primate model of cocaine base smoking.”
January 5th, 2010
The Village Voice
By: Jason Parham
In this week’s cover story, writer Keegan Hamilton investigates the controversy surrounding ibogaine, the experimental hallucinogen drug that has helped kick meth and heroin addictions.
Ibogaine is illegal, even though its power to cure addicts has been proven. Hamilton’s story describes the many reasons the medical establishment and the government are wary of Ibogaine, despite its benefits, but one of them really stood out:
Because Ibogaine is an outright cure, drug companies want nothing to do with it.
Martin Kuehne, a chemist at the University of Vermont, is quoted in the story, saying, “Pharmaceutical companies don’t like cures. Really, they don’t — that’s the sad thing. They like treatment. Something for cholesterol or high blood pressure that you take for years and years, every day. That’s where the profit is.”
When we read that, a light went on. The worst thing for a drug company is a pill you take that completely cures you of your ailment with one dose, right? Where’s the money in that?
So, with that in mind, we thought we’d test Kuehne’s theory, and look at the five most profitable drugs in the United States.
Guess what they all have one in common? They never cure you.
1) Lipitor (2009 gross revenue: $7.5 billion): Designed to lower cholesterol, Lipitor uses statins to decrease LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increase HDL cholesterol levels. Studies indicate that high cholesterol increases one’s chance for heart disease, the leading health problem in the U.S.
2) Nexium (2009 gross revenue: $6.3 billion): This well-marketed drug decreases the amount of acid produced in the stomach, but it’s not an instant cure for heartburn.
3) Plavix (2009 gross revenue: $5.6 billion): Nobody likes a nasty blood clot, and this drug prevents that from happening, particularly after a stroke or a heart attack. The downside: Plavix increases your chances of small-injury bleeds and, if drinking alcohol, heightens your risk of stomach and intestinal bleeds.
4) Advair Diskus (2009 gross revenue: $4.7 billion): For asthma sufferers, a twice-daily inhaler to reduce the swelling in your respiratory system. Helps keep attacks from being more severe.
5) Seroquel (2009 Gross: $4.2 billion): Rounding out our top 5 is Seroquel, an anti-psychotic drug that treats schizophrenia, severe depression, and bipolar disorder by altering chemical activity in the brain.
Today, Kevin explains how your negative thoughts could actually be killing you and why an executive would rather risk thousands of people’s lives than do the right thing and lose a bit of money.
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November 2nd, 2010
By: Catherine Mayer
How often does life really imitate art? Let’s imagine that a writer has been commissioned to develop a comedic screenplay about the deeply serious business of how to classify and control drugs. The plot is likely to feature that staple slapstick character “the mad scientist,” and since Hollywood tends to choose Britons to portray its eccentrics and villains, the writer makes the scientist a British professor. What’s a good name for a nutty professor? Why not Professor Nutt? The problem with this scenario, as the writer discovers, is that there’s a real Professor Nutt, a campaigning British scientist who avers in a new study, Drug Harms in the U.K., that if you’re looking for the most dangerous drug of all, you have to start with alcohol, which is more harmful even than heroin and crack cocaine.
Nutt—his first name is David, and he holds the chair in neuropsychopharmacology at London’s Imperial College, a university globally renowned as a seat of scientific excellence—is not mad, though conservative columnists regularly question his sanity. He was sacked as an adviser to Britain’s last Labour government for challenging official policy to reclassify cannabis from a class C to a class B drug — boosting its threat level — and for suggesting that ecstasy, by contrast, should be downgraded from class A.
Nutt also outraged the establishment by comparing one of its favorite pursuits, horse-riding, to ecstasy use, in order to illustrate the way in which the risks of certain drugs were routinely and reflexively overstated. “Equasy” — equine addiction syndrome, in other words, riding — caused 10 deaths and more than 100 road accidents a year, he wrote in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2009. “Making riding illegal would completely prevent all these harms and would be, in practice, very easy to do…This attitude raises the critical question of why society tolerates — indeed encourages — certain forms of potentially harmful behavior but not others, such as drug use.”
Generating splenetic headlines isn’t Nutt’s aim. Generating debate is. His research into the damage caused by drugs, and the legislative framework designed to minimize these harms, has instilled in him a passionate belief that drug policy needs to be more firmly based on scientific evidence.
“By legislating on a substance without reliable scientifically based evidence, we run the risk of causing more harm through criminalizing users than might be caused by the drug itself,” he writes in the latest post on his personal blog, Evidence not Exaggeration. “The evidence on drug harms should not be sacrificed for political and media pressure.”
That’s the spirit behind his new study, authored with Leslie King and Lawrence Phillips and newly published in the medical journal, The Lancet. By analyzing the impact of 20 drugs in terms of 16 criteria highlighting their effect on users (health issues, dependency, mental impairment, loss of tangibles such as job, loss of relationships, injury) and on the people and society they interact with (crime, degradation of local environment, family strains, and wider issues such as economic cost), Nutt produced a ranking. He found that alcohol was the most harmful drug overall — and anyone who has seen the Saturday night transformation of British city centers into battlegrounds of blood and vomit will understand this point — followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine proved the most injurious to the individuals using the drugs. Cannabis ranked 8th most harmful, after two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
Booze and cigarettes do “have commercial benefits to society in terms of providing work and tax, which to some extent offset the harms,” notes the report, while concluding that “aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy.” The report also admits that “many of the harms of drugs are affected by their availability and legal status.”
That’s a key point likely to be picked up by critics of any moves to decriminalize marijuana, who say the social harms of the drug would increase in proportion to its availability. The voters of California will put that view to the test if they decide to support Proposition 19 in tomorrow’s ballot.
September 29, 2010
By: Leslie Horn
Google recently added a predictive feature to its search engine called Google Instant, which is intended to display desired search results as you type.
“It’s search at the speed of thought,” Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of search products and user experience, said at a press conference in San Francisco earlier this month.
But what if those thoughts aren’t entirely appropriate? What words are not included in Google Instant?
The tool omits certain terms that it deems offensive. When you type in one of these words, the instant feature disappears. Google’s Joanna Wright told CNN that the constraints are in place to protect children. Although Google hasn’t released the list of terms itself, 2600.com has compiled a list from user input.
It reveals stark inconsistencies in the words with which Google Instant takes issue. For example, the word “lesbian” is blocked, but “gay” is not. “Cocaine” doesn’t make the cut, but words like “crack” and “heroin” are passable. Many seemingly innocuous words are blocked, too. “Scat,” as in the type of vocal improvisation often used by jazz musicians, is one of the strange excluded words, most likely because of its NSFW double meaning. The word “hate” is also blocked as is “Lolita,” the name of the classic novel by Vladimir Nabokov.
Hacker Web site 4chan is also not a Google Instant favorite. It blacklists if a user types “B” or “Y” after the name, 2600.com said.
If you notice a word blocked by Google Instant that is not on 2600.com’s list, they ask that you e-mail them with submissions. Of course, you can still search these terms, but they won’t be predicted when you’re typing them.
A Google spokesman said the company has a narrow set of removal policies for pornography, violence, and hate speech, but the issue is complex.
“It’s important to note that removing queries from autocomplete is a hard problem, and not as simple as blacklisting particular terms and phrases,” he said in a statement. “In search, we get more than one billion searches each day. Because of this, we take an algorithmic approach to removals, and just like our search algorithms, these are imperfect.”
Those algorithms look not only at specific words, but phrases – in multiple languages.
“So, for example, if there’s a bad word in Russian, we may remove a compound word including the transliteration of the Russian word into English,” he said. “We also look at the search results themselves for given queries. So, for example, if the results for a particular query seem pornographic, our algorithms may remove that query from Autocomplete, even if the query itself wouldn’t otherwise violate our policies.”
He acknowledged that the system is “neither perfect nor instantaneous,” and said Google continues to “work to make it better.”