HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Is Doctor-Prescribed LSD and 'Shrooms on the Way?
Pubdate: Wed, 10 Sep 2008
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2008 Independent Media Institute
Author: Arran Frood, BBC
Cited: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)
Bookmark: (Hallucinogens)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


It might sound far-fetched, but just a decade ago it seemed unlikely
that the prohibited and mildly hallucinogenic drug cannabis would
become a mainstream pain-killing medicine. But it is happening:
Cannabis pain-killing pills and sprays are being developed to help
people with multiple sclerosis, cancer and Aids.

Now some scientists and psychotherapists think more powerful
psychoactive drugs like psilocybin, found in 'magic mushrooms', could
have a future as medicinal agents for a number of conditions.

In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved, but
not funded, a pilot study aiming to see if the euphoria and insight of
a mild psychedelic 'trip' can ease the physical and emotional pain
experienced by thousands of terminal cancer patients each year.

Charles Grob, Professor of Psychiatry and Paediatrics at the
Harbor-UCLA Medical Centre, California, and lead scientist on the
cancer-psilocybin trial, said: "There is great potential. A
significant patient population may gain benefits from these

Professor Grob will be one of the first scientists in 25 years to
administer psilocybin to a person in a therapeutic setting.

He wants to see if people's lives can be improved if psychoactive
drugs are used under carefully controlled conditions.

Past Success

In the past it seemed to work: in the 60s, cancer sufferers reported
less anxiety, a reduced fear of death, better moods, and surprisingly,
even less pain in the weeks after treatment with LSD, which is similar
in structure and effect to psilocybin.

So, what will happen during a 21st century psychedelic therapeutic

The subjects will lie down wearing an eye mask to screen out
distractions and headphones pumping in gentle music to fully immerse
them in their journey.

"We are going to let the patients guide their own experience by
reacting only to their needs," said Professor Grob.

"We are there to hold their hands and talk if they feel the need, but
we will not overtly attempt to take it in any spiritual or religious
direction. It is up to them."

The rationale says it is better to let the drug gently lift the veil,
divorce the association between mind and body and let the patient
enjoy the full-on experience as they wish, than interfere in a way
that may be incompatible with the patient's psyche.

UK Perspective

Could this ever cross the water? In the 50s, 60s and 70s, Britain and
many European countries were active centres of psychoactive drug research.

Dr Kate Law, of the charity Cancer Research UK, said: "With full,
informed consent, we have no problem with it in principle.

"These patients are adults and people make their own choices. It is
right that we look at these chemicals with the same stringent
standards as we do for other drugs.

"People shy away from the fact that other powerful drugs like heroin
are used when caring for cancer patients, many of which have
side-effects of their own."

However, Dr Law said Cancer Research UK will only support this type of
research if there was an analgesic effect -- and the preliminary
results suggest the overall procedure did not confuse or harm the patient.

Could the drug experience provide the patient with a greater delusion
and a more fantastical escape?

Would it allow patients, perhaps already in denial, to become even
more withdrawn, hidden, aloof even?

Dr Ken Checinski is a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and
senior lecturer at St Georges Medical School, London.


Although he does not represent the RCP, he says his opinions may be
typical of many psychiatrists. He says it is a question of balancing
the benefits and the risks.

"In terminal care the patient has a right to be pain free, but also
has a right to go about their business in the usual way during the
final weeks of their lives.

"It's unacceptable to be made psychologically unwell during this

"But most drugs also have a medical use -- amphetamine and cocaine
derivatives, opiates, tranquillisers and now the cannabinols -- so
there is no reason why we shouldn't consider using the serotonin
agonists (hallucinogens).

"However, governments should provide funding for this type of
research, not vested interest groups."

The scientific use of mind-altering drugs has often been
controversial. But Professor Grob and his scientific allies have
fought long and hard for a reconsideration of the hallucinogens as
serious medicines.

A not-for-profit collective of like-minded scientists, groups like
MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies)
believe outlawed drugs like MDMA (ecstasy) and psilocybin have a
better chance than conventional treatments of successfully managing
many conditions.

Credibility Established

A similar study involving psilocybin and the treatment of Obsessive
Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is nearing completion at the University of

And an MDMA (ecstasy) trial for the counselling of Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder (PTSD) victims is finally underway after a
bureaucratic bad-trip with red tape.

"We are re-opening an area that has been shut down for 25 years," said
Professor Grob.

"A couple of groups have established credibility through the formal
channels. It may take time but it's possible."

Nevertheless, more state-tolerated than state-sponsored, MAPS and
their academic friends know that the eyes of the authorities and a
wider scientific community are upon them.

The study is funded by the Heffter Research Institute.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake