Psychodelics and Plant Medicine

Psyched Out: Documentary on Psychodelics and Plant Medicine

Directed by Giovani Bartolomeo (2018)

Film Review

The first video below is a documentary based mainly on the work of the late Terrence McKenna, a US ethnobotanist who was one of the first to investigate the healing effects of psychodelic plants. The film also features contemporary psychodelics advocates Dr Gabor Mate and British author and journalist Graham Hancock. The second video concerns a bank robber who was trained as an ayahuasca* shaman by a fellow prisoner.

Psyched Out begins by tracing the history of psychodelic use in healing and religious ceremonies. DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) was widely used by ancient Egyptians. McKenna believes Moses was under the influence of DMT when the burning bush spoke to him. He also suggests the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden was actually the amanita mushroom. He also also sees a fundamental role for psylocybin in the supercharged evolution of the human brain occurring 15,000 – 20,000 years ago.

Between 3,000 – 1,500 BC, the use of psychodelics in healing and religious ceremonies occurred in all major civilizations. It ended in Western civilization in the 4th century AD with the Roman emperor Constantine’s formalization of the Catholic Church as a political body. Beginning with European colonization in the 15th century, psychodelics were banned nearly everywhere in the world.

McKenna and others believe the early church banned psychodelics because their role in expanding consciousness (ie these plants make people aware of their unconscious processes) leads people to question their fundamental beliefs about authority and their role in society.

For me the most interesting part of the film were the testimonials given by three patients who took ayahuasca and experienced total remission of longstanding opiate addiction, panic disorder/insomnia, and incapacitating scleroderma.**

I was also intrigued to learn of important discoveries and inventions directly related to psychodelic use, including the DNA double helix, the polymerase chain reaction, and several of Steve Jobs’ innovative Apple products.


*Ayahuasca is a hallucinatory tea made from a plant and vine containing DMT.

** Scleroderma is a group of autoimmune diseases that may result in changes to the skin, blood vessels, muscles, and internal organs. The disease can be either localized to the skin or involve both skin and other organs.

Kentucky Ayahuasca Episode 7

Vice (2019)

Film Review

I normally hate reality TV, but that was before I watched Kentucky Ayahuasca. Steve Hupp offers two-day Ayahuasca ceremonies with his wife and two apprentice therapist With 15 years experience, he boasts an 80% success rate for refractory PTSD, depression, and addiction and bipolar disorders.

Although, as a Schedule 1 drug, ayahuasca is illegal in the US, Native Americans are allowed to use it in religious ceremonies. Hupp calls his church the Aya Quest Native American church.

Readers can view the entire Kentucky Ayahuasca series at

https://video.vice.com/en_us/show/kentucky-ayahuasca

Treating Depression with LSD Microdosing

LSD: Microdosing LSD in the Name of Self-Improvement

DW (2019)

Film Review

As it’s title suggests, this documentary concerns LSD “microdosing,” a fad originating with Silicon Valley tech executives. They discovered that tiny doses (10-15 micgrograms) of LSD greatly improved their mood, energy, focus and creativity. Microdosing has since taken off in Germany and other parts of Europe.

The film begins with testimonials from anonymous German microdosers who believe that LSD has totally turned their life around. One man whose depression failed to respond to any other treatment (including antidepressants, psychotherapy and alternative medicine) finally obtained relief after a brief period of microdosing.

Filmmakers also interview Paul Austin, a Silicon Valley microdosing coach, and James Fadiman, leading expert on LSD and psilocybin microdosing and author of the 2011 Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide.

Researchers in Germany and Switzerland are conducting double blind studies of LSD microdosing. At doses between 10-15 mg, their subjects experience a clear improvement in concentration, mood and anxiety in contrast to placebo control groups. Moreover, unlike antidepressant trials, there are no apparent adverse effects.

The film also looks at promising double blind research of the psychedelic psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) in treating depression. Unlike LSD, “shrooms” are legal in the Netherlands and have been decriminalized in a number of US cities. Portugal legalized all mind-altering drugs in 2001 (see British Medical Journal Calls for Legalization of All Drugs)

Other research has shown psilocybin and other psychedelics to be helpful in treating PTSD and alcoholism. See Why Are We Sending Vets to Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico

 

The Demonization of Psychodelic Drugs

Neurons to Nirvana: Understanding Psychodelic Medicines

Directed by Oliver Hockenhull (2013)

Film Review

Neurons to Nirvana is about the detrimental effects of the War on Drugs on research into the medical and sociological benefits of hallucinogenic drugs.

Psychodelics have been used medicinally and in religious rituals for over 10,000. They’ve been used in nearly every culture except our own European culture. Psychodelic plants co-evolved with human beings to enhance our understanding and respect for the interconnectedness of the ecological system that supports our existence. Plants have important investment (to enhance their survival) in interacting with human beings via the chemicals they produce (see How Plants Control Us).

The filmmakers maintain that no brain theory will ever be complete without a complete examination of the the effect of psychodelic drugs. Yet it’s extremely difficult to undertake this type of research in the US or Britain, owing to their archaic drug laws.

Neurons to Nirvana argues the crackdown on psychedelic drugs in the sixties and seventies was motivated mainly by the political threat they pose. This relates in part due to their ability to break down barriers between ethnic groups and social classes and in part due to their ability to disrupt the “consensus trance” created by our constant bombardment with pro-government and pro-corporate propaganda.

The film also makes the point that legalizing psychodelics might be the only solution at this point to breaking through the zombieized mind set that’s destroying our plant. After viewing this documentary, I tend to agree with them.

The documentary divides specific therapeutic effects by drug category:

LSD

First discovered in 1943, LSD is the best study because psychiatrist used it in psychotherapy in the fifties and sixties. LSD research would lead to the identification of the neurotransmittser serotonin in 1948. Serotonin pathways play a major role in regulating the speed and scope of neural interconnections. LSD appears to counter the control Serotonin exerts over these interconnections.

With a dose of LSD, patients experience the ability to make new connections. Use in controlled therapeutic settings can enable patients to connect with repressed and suppressed memories and emotions. LSD users commonly report the realization that there is no “other”, ie that all people and things are interconnected.

Research reveals a single dose of LSD to be the most effective treatment for chronic alcoholism.*

Psilocybin (magic mushrooms)

Most psilocybin research has focused on its use in relieving pain and anxiety in terminal cancer patients. Single doses have also been useful in refractory depression.

Ecstasy (MDMA)

The DEA made ecstasy a Schedule 1 drug (effectively banning it) in 1985, despite a DEA administrative law judge’s recommendation that it be designated Schedule 3 (closely controlled but available by prescription). It’s an extremely effective as a rapidly acting, non-sedating, non-addicting anti-anxiety drug. Its best known therapeutic effect is as a catalyst for psychotherapy in veterans with treatment refractory PTSD.

Cannabis (marijuana)

Cannabis has a wide range of medical benefits and has been used to treat a variety of conditions for 4,000 years. Queen Victoria used it for period pain and the pain of childbirth. Senior citizens are the most rapidly growing demographic of marijuana users. They use it mainly to treat cancer, pain and nausea stemming from chemotherapy.

It contains more than 100 compounds with medial benefits, with cannabidiol the most widely studied.

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is a drug used for thousands of years in South American shamanic rituals. It’s primary medical use is in psychotherapy for trauma-related depression.

*Igobaine is another psychedelic effective in treating alcoholism, heroin addiction and PTSD. See Why Are We Sending Veterans to Costa Rica, Canada and Mexico