Drugs winning drugs war

NBC news

Psychedelics as health and wellness aid? Not a hallucination.

“People are now coming out of the psychedelic closet, but it’s a risk you take,” said Melissa Lavasani, who led legalization efforts in Washington, D.C.

Image: A minds eye sits on a therapists couch surrounded by growing magic mushrooms in the clouds.

Bolstered by a growing body of research and greater acceptance of cannabis for recreation and medicine, psychedelics are experiencing a renaissance as voters and lawmakers rethink the so-called war on drugs.Max Loeffler / for NBC NewsNov. 15, 2020, 9:30 AM GMTBy Alicia Victoria Lozano

Melissa Lavasani never expected to grow psychedelic mushrooms in her Washington, D.C., home or become a force behind a successful measure that makes cultivation and possession of plant and fungi medicines the lowest priority for local police and prosecutors.

But the mother of two grew desperate in 2018 as her mental health suffered from a years-long battle with postpartum depression and chronic pain. She had tried everything: antidepressants, talk therapy, meditation and even cupping. None of it seemed to work.

After listening to a podcast about the use of psilocybin, a naturally occurring chemical compound found in certain types of mushrooms, Lavasani became part of a movement she never intended to join.

“People are now coming out of the psychedelic closet, but it’s a risk you take,” she said. “There’s a stigma to it.”

Bolstered by a growing body of research and a greater acceptance of cannabis for recreation and medicine, psychedelics are experiencing a renaissance as voters and lawmakers rethink the so-called war on drugs.

When voters in Washington, D.C., passed Measure 81 on Nov. 3, their counterparts in Oregon approved a ballot initiative to legalize the use of psychedelic mushrooms in therapeutic settings. The Canadian Minister of Health recently granted permission to four terminally ill patients to use psilocybin to treat end-of-life anxiety.

A Push to Legalize Psilocybin Mushrooms
Psilocybin mushrooms, including Galindoi variation of Psilocybe mexicana mushrooms, two middle, and Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms, left and right.Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post via Getty Images

In California, state Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, said last week that he will introduce a bill next year to decriminalize psychedelics. In New Jersey, lawmakers amended a cannabis bill on Thursday to include language that will downgrade penalties for possessing up to an ounce of mushrooms.

The cities of Oakland, California, and Denver each adopted resolutions in 2019 decriminalizing mushrooms.

Wiener said he was encouraged by developments around the country and is talking with experts about what form his proposal should take, The Associated Press reported. He said he was leaning toward Oregon’s supervised-use approach while allowing for the use of synthetic psychedelics such as LSD.

Wiener, who said he does not take psychedelics himself, noted that cultures all over the world have been using them since the beginning of time.

“Any substance can be harmful, so I’m not suggesting that anything is like nirvana,” he said. “But we know that psychedelics can be used safely. We know they appear to have significant medicinal uses.”

For Lavasani, mushrooms proved to be a revelation.

After delivering a healthy baby in 2017, Lavasani, a budget officer in the district’s Department of Energy and Environment, started to hear voices and experience panic attacks. She gradually spent less time with her husband and children. She eventually feared she would take her own life.

Concerned, a friend recommended listening to an episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast featuring mycologist Paul Stamets, who extolled the benefits of mushrooms. Looking back, Lavasani calls it her “Hail Mary” moment.

“It blew my mind a little bit,” she said. “I do try to keep my life as natural as possible. I eat well, try not to use too many chemicals at home. This made sense to me.”

Lavasani and her husband scoured the internet for tutorials on how to grow the fungus at home. They dedicated the top shelf of their bedroom closet to the experiment and waded through trial and error before the mushrooms blossomed.

At first, Lavasani, who had never used psychedelics, took only tiny doses, or microdoses, of the fungi. She said it was like “waking up after a great night’s sleep.”

As Lavasani became more comfortable with mushrooms, she decided to experiment with ayahuasca, a psychoactive tea often ingested during shamanistic rituals. She attended a few guided ceremonies and returned home with a new perspective.

“Our health care system doesn’t have solutions for mental health issues,” she said. “I think people are fed up with being prescribed medications that don’t work.”

Therapeutic hallucinogens have been studied in the U.S. since the discovery of LSD in the 1940s. But research stalled when psychedelics became illegal in the 1960s. Interest renewed in the last 20 years as institutions around the world, including Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, received regulatory approval to kickstart research in the field.

Medical associations appear largely united in supporting more studies and psychedelic therapies. The American Psychiatric Association opposed Oregon’s measure but only because psilocybin has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and requires more scientific understanding.

Still, advocates and researchers have started to recommend mushrooms, ketamine, a prescription pain reliever and sedative, and MDMA, sometimes called by its street name Ecstasy, to treat a host of mental health disorders, including depression, PTSD and anxiety.

In a recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins, researchers found that psilocybin, the active ingredient found in mushrooms, combined with psychotherapy was more effective at treating major depressive disorder than traditional antidepressants.

Participants in the study received two doses of psilocybin weeks apart between August 2017 and April 2019. The doses were administered in a comfortable, supervised setting with facilitators standing by to offer physical or emotional assistance if needed. Each treatment, which included supportive psychotherapy, lasted about 11 hours with the participants lying on a couch, wearing eye shades and listening to music on headphones.

“The magnitude of the effect we saw was about four times larger than what clinical trials have shown for traditional antidepressants on the market,” said Alan Davis, co-author of the study and a faculty member at Johns Hopkins medical school. “Because most other depression treatments take weeks or months to work and may have undesirable effects, this could be a game changer if these findings hold up in future ‘gold-standard’ placebo-controlled clinical trials.”

A Push to Legalize Psilocybin Mushrooms
Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms.The Washington Post / The Washington Post via Getty Images

In a separate Johns Hopkins study, patients received synthetic psilocybin to help with cancer-related depression and anxiety. Eighty percent said their symptoms faded, and the effects lasted six months.

Dr. Evan Wood, an addiction specialist at the University of British Columbia, said psychedelic therapy is radical because it aims to cure disorders not just manage them.

“If you look at the existing medications to treat mental health disorders, a number of them are very addictive, others have nasty side effects,” he said. “These therapies are not about symptom management – it’s about approaching disorders with a curative intent.”

The recent Johns Hopkins research comes less than two years after the FDA approved a nasal spray containing ketamine for treatment-resistant depression.

Jackie Stang, a Southern California resident and co-founder of Delic Corp., a wellness company focused on destigmatizing psychedelics, has been using doctor-prescribed ketamine for the last year to treat her anxiety and depression. When combined with psychotherapy, ketamine has done more for her in one year than a lifetime of traditional medications.

“It takes away the doubt monster on your shoulder and shoves it in the closet,” she said.

Psychedelics clinics started popping up around the country after the FDA approved ketamine nasal spray. Field Trip Health, a Toronto-based company, has three locations in the U.S. where patients can combine talk therapy with the drug.

The experience is more like a luxury spa than the raves and nightclubs often associated with ketamine, according to Ronan Levy, Field Trip co-founder and executive chairman. He credits the cannabis industry with the emergence of a legal psychedelic market driven by science not activism.

“Supportive therapy is as important as the drug,” he said. “That is where the magic happens.”

Kevin Matthews, the driving force behind Denver’s decriminalization effort, described a “fog lifting” when he started using psilocybin to self-treat his depression. The former West Point cadet was forced to leave the academy in 2008, one year shy of graduating, because his mental health was crumbling.

He turned to mushrooms first for fun and then for wellness. Eventually, he weaned himself off sleep aids and antidepressants. He remembers his initial experience with psilocybin as “joyous” yet challenging. He cried, but he also “plugged back into life,” a feeling that had been erased when he was taking traditional pharmaceuticals.

“Drugs are winning the drug war right now,” he said. “Prepare to see a lot more of this.”Alicia Victoria Lozano

Alicia Victoria Lozano is a Los Angeles-based digital reporter for NBC News. 

Handwriting expert looks at Trump’s, years ago.

Many have commented on the oddity of Donald Trump’s huge and illegible signature.  When Trump announced his candidacy,  I was reminded of the time in about 1988 when his handwriting was analyzed by Felix Klein, a world-renowned  graphologist, author and court-recognized document examiner. It was during a master-level seminar that I attended in NYC while pursuing my doctoral degree in clinical psychology. I had become interested in graphology several years earlier after reading that it was taught in European and Israeli graduate-level psychology programs and used clinically and for business personnel selection.  I was further intrigued after learning how clinical projective tests, such as the House-Tree-Person and Kinetic Family Drawings Test, shared many interpretative similarities with gestalt handwriting analysis. Although children learn cursive using a standard writing form template (New York schools through the 1960’s taught the Palmer Method or one of its derivatives), within a year or so most children’s writing starts to differentiate from that model. These writing changes, which are unconscious symbolic representations, can reveal a person’s developmental history, either positive, when their physical and emotional needs were met, or traumatic, if they were not.  Personality characteristics and subsequent behaviors are largely determined by our primal and childhood experiences, for better or worse.

Klein had presented our study group with a full page of Trump’s adult handwriting, with only his gender, age (about 40) and handedness (right), but without his signature which might identify him.  We were all taken aback, having not seen anything quite like it before, and we each took a turn analyzing it. After this exercise, Klein revealed who the writer was and showed us Trump’s overly large, narcissistic signature (with which we are all too familiar now, as he loves to show it off when he signs bills).  Klein began his analysis saying that Trump’s writing revealed his immense insecurity, aggressiveness and rigid inability to think and perceive the world accurately. He said Trump was grandiose, extremely narcissistic and paranoid, so much so that he considered him delusional. Moreover, Trump was unable to relate to other humans with any degree of emotional attachment or consideration. People to him were objects, only useful to feed his insatiable need for adoration and attention.  In looking specifically at his signature, Klein explained that Trump’s rigidly angular letter connections formed what he called shark’s teeth, which is indicative of rage and the capacity for extremely aggressive, acting out behaviors.LISTEN: Mark Cuban Joins The New Raw Story Podcast!

Now I should explain that Felix Klein was a very soft-spoken and mild-mannered gentleman in the old-school Viennese tradition.  However, as he continued to speak, he became visibly upset and agitated which surprised me.  Attempting to calm him, I said something to the effect that, since Trump was just a vulgar real estate developer, there was no need to get upset.  He continued that Trump was a very dangerous individual, capable of all manner of criminal behavior and was a menace to society.  He went on to say that Trump was hypomanic and determined to get whatever he wanted, describing him as a “screaming locomotive running down the tracks without brakes,” adding, “and God help anyone who tries to stop him!”  Once again I tried to talk him down without success, whereupon he stopped me in my tracks, with these unforgettable, exact next words: “I’ve probably examined well over 200,000 handwriting samples over more than 60 years, and Trump’s writing is one of the worst I’ve ever seen.  In fact, the only writing that comes to mind that is as bad is Charles Manson’s.”

To say I was dumbfounded would not be an exaggeration, but I have had a long time to reflect on why Klein became so upset, as this presidency has proven him right.  I believe Trump’s writing triggered such a strong emotional reaction because of the year Klein had spent in Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps where he was forced to “entertain” his captors by analyzing their handwriting at their parties.  I cannot imagine if he were still alive how he would have reacted to Trump becoming president, not to mention his setting up his own “concentration camps” and traumatizing little children by separating them from their parents and placing them in cages.

As Trump’s re-election is looking more remote and his legal and financial predicaments are looming large and threatening to destroy him, I am left fearing how he might react to defeat.  Being so desperate and vindictive, he is capable of extreme destructiveness, not just of our democracy and its governmental agencies, but as Commander-in-Chief much worse.  This is the reason I am putting out an analysis that was done over 30 years ago, which resonates as uncannily accurate today.  I can only hope that the danger we face is clearly understood, so we are prepared to fight for our country and our very lives.

Gerry Langer, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist residing in Southern California.

despair

Is it the tension? I do not believe if Trump succeeds that I will be able to have the news switched on, any channel, at all. The world ‘out there’ will be so abhorrent, so distressing it will be unwatchable.Today I feel feckless, cannot settle, pointless. Is it reasonable to attribute it to this evil this malevolence surrounding us? This is new in my experience of the world, other rough times and disagreeable politics and politicians, Brexit was and is bad enough, but these are entirely new feelings about new depths, new dark imaginings.

Prediction

“As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

This is from a hundred years ago and written by H.L. Mencken in The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

Can psychedelics heal the world? — Nonprofit Chronicles

This is a remarkable moment for psychedelics. Elite universities, including Johns Hopkins and Imperial College in London, have opened centers to research the medical benefits of such drugs as psilocybin, a hallucinogen found in certain mushrooms. The nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Research (MAPS) is recruiting people suffering from PTSD to participate in FDA-approved clinical trials using MDMA, better known as […]

Can psychedelics heal the world? — Nonprofit Chronicles

Why does Trump’s Ukraine dealing matter to us?

My unpublished letter to The Guardian and our local paper.

Why does it matter to us here what President Trump has been up to in Ukraine?

The $400 million aid that he is alleged to have made conditional on their publicising spurious investigative attention on a political rival was not cash but anti-tank weaponry. The country has its back to the wall due to Russian military invasion taking a third of its territory. When those massive tanks come at you and your loved ones you yell to a supposed friend and ally for help and do not expect sudden arbitrary delay and imposed conditions.

As “The National Interest”[1] website tells it:

“When Russia provided military support to separatists in Ukraine, columns of Russian tanks were instrumental in turning back Ukrainian Army offensives and seizing government strongpoints, notably the Donetsk International Airport in January 2015. For hawks like Senator John McCain pushing for the United States to provide direct military aid to Ukraine, Javelin missiles were cited as a key weapon system that might have reversed the Ukrainian Army’s fortunes on the battlefield—and one far more practical to put into action than a main battle tank or jet fighter.

The U.S.-made FGM-148 Javelin is one of the premier portable anti-tank missile systems in the world. It’s also an expensive piece of kit, with each missile typically costing more than the targets it eliminates.”

At $80,000 a throw it ain’t cheap, but by shooting up in the air to come down vertically on targets it sure works.

Can we really trust this man with trade deals invading our NHS?

Sincerely

Rod Read


[1] https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-us-militarys-tank-killer-missile-russia-fears-most-22542

Sanctions stupid

It’s The Sanctions, Stupid

That is a deliberate conversion from the old Clinton motto about the economy. Underlying and motivating the Russian side is bitter anger and resentment that Hilary’s pressure on the oligarchs close to Putin really work.

They have real limits on their freedom to travel, for fear of arrest in third countries; they are unable to travel to the billionaire’s party in Davos Switzerland among other demeaning infringements of their grandiose pomposity as masters of the universe.

Putin wanted and wants to remove the personal embarrassment to himself and re-ingratiate himself with his personal and political friends by his underhand dealings with Trump to get sanctions dropped.

 The Magnitsky Act is his prime target, a bipartisan bill passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2012, intending to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009.

 Since 2016 the bill,which applies globally, authorises government to sanction human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the U.S. Names are added to the list regularly.

It hurts.

Snakes Uncoiling

Michael Cohen is attempting to straighten out!

For a wily writhing twisting personal fixer and lawyer to Trump, for over ten years, this is a noteworthy effort and fine entertainment. Of course he is trying to save his arse from some jail time, despite pleading guilty, but turning away from the skills and posture developed over a lifetime shows he knows he has reached the end of the road.

The new revelations this last week (more from Corsi, Stone, Manafort too) show the Russians had ‘kompromat’, compromising material that gave leverage over POTUS, quite astonishing. They knew many times when Trump was lying because they already had knowledge of the truth.

 As it spills out this week it is astonishing, in our time a western democratic leader of the first rank is acting as an agent of an adversarial power. Trying to lift sanctions in their interests is just part of it. Pulling on these strings as Mueller intends to continue doing will doubtless extract further shocking revelations.

 More schadenfreude please.

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