When you think psychedelic drugs, if we are honest, it conjures up images of the 1960’s hippies tripping out on LSD or magic mushrooms. But these powerful, mind-altering substances are now being studied seriously. They’re being used to treat depression, anxiety and addiction. This Post is a review of a recent 60 minutes feature topic.
The study participants on the Johns Hopkins research studies, a leading global medical research center are going through intense therapy and six-hour psychedelic journeys deep into their minds to do things like quit smoking, anxiety, depression etc.
Current studies shows that psychedelics could help people with addiction and anxiety.
The research is carried out not only in the John Hopkins research but also at the New York University among other leading research institutions.
A recent discussion on 60 minutes illuminates the scientists and the volunteers experience and the hope for a close natural solution to some of our greatest challenges today.
Based on the discussion on the 60 minutes, the early results are impressive, as are the experiences of the studies’ volunteers who go on a six-hour, sometimes terrifying, but often life-changing psychedelic journey deep into their own minds.
The experience is not an exciting one according to one of the volunteers Carine McLaughlin, she said it was awful, not something that she would do again.
Carine McLaughlin was one of the volunteers at the Johns Hopkins University who went through a hallucinogenic experience after a large dose of psilocybin, the psychedelic agent in magic mushrooms, was administered to her on an ongoing clinical trial.
The research at John Hopkins has been going on for the last 2 decades to more than 350 volunteers who are struggling with addiction, depression and anxiety.
Participant First Hand Experience
Carine McLaughlin was a smoker for 46 years and said she tried everything to quit before being given psilocybin at Johns Hopkins last year. Psilocybin itself is non-addictive.
A year after the experience, she says she hasn’t smoked since. She was part of a study that is still on going. The long term smokers study of 15 claims that 80% were able to within six months of being administered the psilocybin. This is twice the success rate of any over-the-counter products for trying to quit smoking.
According to Roland Griffiths the experience makes them change their view of their world with less self narrative, which he says we might call this “ego” and this creates a sense of freedom.
The other volunteer interviewed was Jon Kostakopoulos who had issues with alcohol, mainly beer usually cocktails, vodka sodas, tequila sodas, scotch and sodas. Due to his drinking, Jon Kostakopoulos had been warned that he was slowly killing himself. This is what led him to enroll in a psilocybin trial at New York University. Jon explain one of his experiences and how he was “flooded with powerful feelings and images from his past”. He reckoned that “Stuff would come up that I haven’t thought of since they happened”.
He goes on to say how he felt, “a lot of shame and embarrassment throughout one of the sessions about my drinking and how bad I felt for my parents to put up with all this”.
Jon took psilocybin in 2016 and he says that he has not had a drink since. Not only had he not had a drink, he has never craved or wanted to have a drink at all.
History of Psilocybin
The use of psychedelic drugs in therapy is not new. The main compound is LSD and hundreds of scientific studies have been done on over 40,000 people in the 1950s and 60s. Unfortunately, there were also abuses where it was experimented without patient’s knowledge.
This led to fear of the outcome of such a possible effect on society and in 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the controlled substances act. This led to the end of almost all scientific research in the U.S. on the effects of psychedelics on humans.
In 2000 Scientist Roland Griffiths won an FDA approval for the study of psilocybin.
According to Roland Griffiths on the 60 minutes, “this whole area of research has been in the deep freeze for 25 or 30 years” He goes on to reckon about the facts that there are inherent risks that they are aware of and clear on and for that reason they do not recommend anyone to go out and do this on their own.
The Therapy process
According to Anderson Cooper, the correspondent for the 60 minutes, he was able to see the psilocybin session, however, due to the impact it would have on the outcome on their experience, they were not allowed to record anyone participants while they were on psilocybin, but they were shown how it begins without the psilocybin.
With a blindfold and head phones to shut out distractions, the participant lies on the couch. The head phones they listen to a mix of choral and classical music which they referred to as a psychedelic soundtrack. This happens with one of the trained guide, in this case Mary Cosimano, watching over the process.
The Process is not any different from the LSD experiments that were done in the 1950s and 60s.
Michael Pollan who is the author of a bestselling book called “How to Change Your Mind.” The book is about the psilocybin studies he had done. He also tried psilocybin himself with the help of an underground guide, as part of his research. In the interview, he reckons that “It seemed so implausible to me that a single experience caused by a molecule, right, ingested in your body could transform your outlook on something as profound as death”.
According to Michael Pollan, psilocybin quiets two areas that are “part of a region called the default mode network” which is particularly active when thinking of ourselves and our lives. This is where we connect our lives and the stories of who we are.
Michael Pollan goes on to say that we need a rewiring to happen.
The Johns Hopkins scientist Matthew Johnson went on to show the correspondent and the team the representational chart of brain activity. It showed the normal brain and what happens on psilocybin. There’s an explosion of connections or cross talk between areas of the brain that don’t normally communicate.
The research is still on going to find out what happens. According to Michael Pollan: “Maybe the ego is one character among many in your mind. And you don’t necessarily have to listen to that voice that’s chattering at you and criticizing you and telling you what to do. And that’s very freeing”.
Kerry Pappas, one of the study volunteers could not describe it as happy. He explained it as comfortable. According to him, he had suffered anxiety his whole life, but he is no longer has anxiety, he is comfortable.
According to John Hopkins website, FDA Approval for the Psilocybin therapy is not expected in the next year or two, but they are hopeful that this will be approved in the next 5 years.
Who Can Use This therapy Study?
One of the people that the study at John Hopkins screen are people with psychotic disorders or have a family history of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Intensive counselling has to be given to the volunteers before and after the psilocybin therapy. The therapy is six hours long. According to the interview on 60 minutes, there has never been even one serious adverse outcome
The discussions on the 60 minutes with the actual beneficiaries of the study is mind blowing and clearly giving a lot of hope for some mental health issues that we are dealing with as a global society.
This would be a financially achievable solution for everyone. I will be watching on how this get through with the FDA approvals. There is hope in the Horizon! But with moderation as we have been down this road and we abused it. hope this time we can manage to have enough controls to help those that really need it.
How To Get Into The Study
It was not clear on the discussion, but some research on the John Hopkins website shows that if you are interested in signing up for a trial, you may visit the website which is listed on their profile to explore the studies that are available at this time. You can also call the study line at 1-410-550-2253.
If you have any experience with this research or you have any opinion on it, please leave us a comment below, we would love to hear from you.