August 6th, 2012
atomvincent

Dropping Acid

Writing for the Morning News, Tim Doody profiles Dr. James Fadiman,  investigates the back-and-forth history of government involvement with psychedelic drugs, and explores the broad benefits - both personal and societal - that could (and have) stemmed from the use of psychedelics.

Who knows, their latest findings may one day affirm some ancient hypotheses. If reality isn’t shaped with the psychically aware, self-organizing units that Giordano Bruno called monads in the sixteenth century, then perhaps it’s woven with Indra’s net, the jeweled nodes of which stretch into infinity, each one a reflection of all others. To entertain such ontologies is to re-contextualize one’s self as a marvelous conduit in a timeless whole, through which molecules and meaning flow, from nebulae to neurons and back again. If certain of these molecules connect with our serotonin receptors like a key in a pin tumbler, and open a door to extraordinary vistas, why shouldn’t we peek?

Read the full article here.

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July 3rd, 2012
erickstoll
The Fight For Guadalajara
For The New Yorker, William Finegan explores the escalating drug war in Guadalajara, Mexico, a city that had until recently had not seen the worst of the violence. 

Its Guadalajara chieftain, Ignacio (Nacho) Coronel Villarreal, became known as the King of Crystal. He lived in the city’s wealthiest neighborhood but ran his operations without flamboyance. The profits were apparently fabulous. Then, in July, 2010, Coronel was killed in an Army raid on his home. Speculation was rife. Armchair warriors wondered if El Chapo had set up his old friend Nacho, out of concern that his Jalisco kingdom was becoming too independently powerful. In any event, everyone said that taking Coronel alive was out of the question. The “gentleman narco,” as I heard him called in Guadalajara, knew who in the Army was on whose payroll. That was why the Army sent a hundred soldiers to attack the house where he had lived, more or less openly, for many years.
“That was when things changed in Jalisco,” a bookstore clerk on Avenida Chapultepec told me. “That was the end of the peace.” The Zetas, who reportedly know nothing about cooking meth but are old hands at the hostile takeover of going concerns, started making more aggressive alliances with disaffected local gangsters.
“Heating up the plaza” is the term of art for what’s happening in Guadalajara, mainly in the poor barrios and in the badlands on the outskirts, the places absorbing the city’s wild recent growth. Tlajomulco de Zuñiga, a big, shapeless municipio (the rough equivalent of a county) on the city’s southern edge, has seen its population quadruple in a decade, to almost half a million. The PRI’s candidate for governor recently described the area as “a dumping ground for corpses.” Bad guys dropped their victims in local ditches. The Army conducted raids on local meth labs. In February, the Army announced that it had seized, in a “historic” bust, in Tlajomulco, fifteen tons of methamphetamine. The street value of that much meth was, by the Army’s figuring, some four billion dollars. If true, that would indeed make it the largest meth bust in history. But was it true?

Read The Full Article Here. 
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The Fight For Guadalajara

For The New Yorker, William Finegan explores the escalating drug war in Guadalajara, Mexico, a city that had until recently had not seen the worst of the violence. 

Its Guadalajara chieftain, Ignacio (Nacho) Coronel Villarreal, became known as the King of Crystal. He lived in the city’s wealthiest neighborhood but ran his operations without flamboyance. The profits were apparently fabulous. Then, in July, 2010, Coronel was killed in an Army raid on his home. Speculation was rife. Armchair warriors wondered if El Chapo had set up his old friend Nacho, out of concern that his Jalisco kingdom was becoming too independently powerful. In any event, everyone said that taking Coronel alive was out of the question. The “gentleman narco,” as I heard him called in Guadalajara, knew who in the Army was on whose payroll. That was why the Army sent a hundred soldiers to attack the house where he had lived, more or less openly, for many years.

“That was when things changed in Jalisco,” a bookstore clerk on Avenida Chapultepec told me. “That was the end of the peace.” The Zetas, who reportedly know nothing about cooking meth but are old hands at the hostile takeover of going concerns, started making more aggressive alliances with disaffected local gangsters.

“Heating up the plaza” is the term of art for what’s happening in Guadalajara, mainly in the poor barrios and in the badlands on the outskirts, the places absorbing the city’s wild recent growth. Tlajomulco de Zuñiga, a big, shapeless municipio (the rough equivalent of a county) on the city’s southern edge, has seen its population quadruple in a decade, to almost half a million. The PRI’s candidate for governor recently described the area as “a dumping ground for corpses.” Bad guys dropped their victims in local ditches. The Army conducted raids on local meth labs. In February, the Army announced that it had seized, in a “historic” bust, in Tlajomulco, fifteen tons of methamphetamine. The street value of that much meth was, by the Army’s figuring, some four billion dollars. If true, that would indeed make it the largest meth bust in history. But was it true?

Read The Full Article Here. 

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April 26th, 2012
chasewhiteside

Can Psychedelic Drugs Help You Face Death?

Lauren Slater for the NY Times Magazine:

Sakuda learned of a study being conducted by Charles Grob, a psychiatrist and researcher at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center who was administering psilocybin — an active component of magic mushrooms — to end-stage cancer patients to see if it could reduce their fear of death… When the research was completed in 2008… the results showed that administering psilocybin to terminally ill subjects could be done safely while reducing the subjects’ anxiety and depression about their impending deaths.

Grob’s interest in the power of psychedelics to mitigate mortality’s sting is not just the obsession of one lone researcher. Dr. John Halpern, head of the Laboratory for Integrative Psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Belmont Mass., a psychiatric training hospital for Harvard Medical School, used MDMA — also known as ecstasy — in an effort to ease end-of-life anxieties in two patients with Stage 4 cancer… “This research is in its very early stages,” Grob told me earlier this month, “but we’re getting consistently good results.”

Despite the promise of these investigations, Grob and other end-of-life researchers are careful about the image they cultivate, distancing themselves as much as possible from the 1960s, when psychedelics were embraced by many and used in a host of controversial studies, most famously the psilocybin project run by Timothy Leary. Grob described the rampant drug use that characterized the ’60s as “out of control” and said of his and others’ current research, “We are trying to stay under the radar. We want to be anti-Leary.” Halpern agreed. “We are serious sober scientists,” he told me.

Read the full article here.

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April 3rd, 2012
chasewhiteside
Pills That Can Make You Smarter
Margaret Talbot writes for the New Yorker about the underground world of “neuroenhancing” drugs :

For the moment, people looking for that particular quick fix have a limited choice of meds. But, given the amount of money and research hours being spent on developing drugs to treat cognitive decline, Provigil and Adderall are likely to be joined by a bigger pharmacopoeia. Among the drugs in the pipeline are ampakines, which target a type of glutamate receptor in the brain; it is hoped that they may stem the memory loss associated with diseases like Alzheimer’s. But ampakines may also give healthy people a palpable cognitive boost. A 2007 study of sixteen healthy elderly volunteers found that five hundred milligrams of one particular ampakine “unequivocally” improved short-term memory, though it appeared to detract from episodic memory—the recall of past events. Another class of drugs, cholinesterase inhibitors, which are already being used with some success to treat Alzheimer’s patients, have also shown promise as neuroenhancers. In one study, the drug donepezil strengthened the performance of pilots on flight simulators; in another, of thirty healthy young male volunteers, it improved verbal and visual episodic memory. Several pharmaceutical companies are working on drugs that target nicotine receptors in the brain, in the hope that they can replicate the cognitive uptick that smokers get from cigarettes.

Read the full article here.
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Pills That Can Make You Smarter

Margaret Talbot writes for the New Yorker about the underground world of “neuroenhancing” drugs :

For the moment, people looking for that particular quick fix have a limited choice of meds. But, given the amount of money and research hours being spent on developing drugs to treat cognitive decline, Provigil and Adderall are likely to be joined by a bigger pharmacopoeia. Among the drugs in the pipeline are ampakines, which target a type of glutamate receptor in the brain; it is hoped that they may stem the memory loss associated with diseases like Alzheimer’s. But ampakines may also give healthy people a palpable cognitive boost. A 2007 study of sixteen healthy elderly volunteers found that five hundred milligrams of one particular ampakine “unequivocally” improved short-term memory, though it appeared to detract from episodic memory—the recall of past events. Another class of drugs, cholinesterase inhibitors, which are already being used with some success to treat Alzheimer’s patients, have also shown promise as neuroenhancers. In one study, the drug donepezil strengthened the performance of pilots on flight simulators; in another, of thirty healthy young male volunteers, it improved verbal and visual episodic memory. Several pharmaceutical companies are working on drugs that target nicotine receptors in the brain, in the hope that they can replicate the cognitive uptick that smokers get from cigarettes.

Read the full article here.

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December 29th, 2011
atomvincent

Taking A Trip Out of the Mind

For Maisonneuve, Jeff Warren investigates ayahuasca, the hottest psychedelic of the New Age, by doing the only reasonable thing: taking a hell of a lot of it. As he chronicles the experience, he ponders the mechanisms of our minds and consciousnesses that facilitate the purported other-worldly and therapeutic effects of psychedelic drugs, as well as the potential benefits of those experiences, both personally and culturally. 

Ayahuasca owes its popularity to its alleged psycho-spiritual benefits. As one retreat centre’s website puts it: “the equivalent of ten years of therapy in one night, ayahuasca can promote healing and transformation in areas of relationships, self esteem and creative potential, to name a few.” Claims like this (circulated in online forums and, increasingly, in feature-length documentaries and mainstream news outlets) are part of a larger renaissance in the world of psychedelic-drug research; clinical trials are now exploring the potential of drugs like LSD and ecstasy to treat everything from post-traumatic stress disorder to addiction to cluster headaches. Yet of all these drugs, it’s ayahuasca that has generated the most interest outside the world of test subjects and clinicians. Call it hippie Prozac: the must-have miracle cure for the new New Age.

This is startling enough. But ayahuasca may be at the nexus of an even deeper revolution, one that explores how indigenous forms of knowledge—long discounted in the West—could contribute to our understanding of consciousness and reality. That’s because, according to devotees, ayahuasca is a direct channel to nature’s interior aspect, to a whole pantheon of extrasensory intelligences: other human psyches, alien beings, the spirits of plants and animals. To update Aldous Huxley’s famous quip about mescaline, ayahusaca blows the doors of perception right off their hinges. It disables what Huxley called the “cerebral reducing valve” and plunges the stunned psychonaut into a seething ecology of other minds.

Of course, for every investigator who holds this rather unscientific point of view, there is another who points out that such testimonials are, after all, generated by people on drugs. Although sympathetic to some of the therapeutic claims made on behalf of ayahuasca, I wasn’t sure the plant mixture could support the West’s collective expectation of spiritual-satori-slash-psychological-analysis. I was even more skeptical about the metaphysical assertions. We don’t believe dreams are “real”—why should an ayahuasca vision be any different? Nevertheless, the rich history of ayahuasca usage has undeniable authority; in the end, the only way to really answer these questions was to launch into the psychedelic troposphere and find out for myself.

Read the full article here.

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