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Your New Anti-Depression Medication: LSD
Therapeutic research on LSD stopped in 1968. Now we're rediscovering its value.
Shortly following its synthesis in 1938, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) fascinated mystic explorers of consciousness while wreaking havoc on those that didn’t realize they might be going in over their head. Briefly marketed in therapeutic settings in 1947 (and used by the CIA in mind control experiments shortly thereafter), LSD was deemed illegal in the United States in 1968.
As the cycles of history go, we have returned to therapeutic applications. While still illegal in the US, LSD is showing promise in treating patients suffering from depression. This study is particularly interesting in that it investigates the role of the human brain’s default-mode network in mental time travel. As it turns out, those of us with an active DMN are more likely to reflect on the past and hence wax romantic about what is not present, a reliable marker of depressed states.
Psychedelics appear to deactivate the DMN, forcing users to stay in the present moment. Ironically, the DMN has been championed in Flow states, in which the experiencer is also in the throes of “ego dissolution,” the term LSD researchers employ regarding the deactivation of the DMN. Flow states apparently shut down the brain’s central executive mode (the other major mode) in its own form of ego destruction.
There’s even a style of introspection associated with the DMN: nondirective meditation. Also known as ‘mind wandering,’ this study showed a positive link between activation of the DMN with emotional processing and memory retrieval.
This form of meditation is not simply daydreaming, though that too is pertinent: we have an average of two thousand daydreams every day, each lasting an average of fourteen seconds. Nondirective meditation takes its cue from mindfulness, noticing thoughts arise while abstaining from creating a narrative. Our brain produces thoughts, but the conscious ‘I’ has a role in what stories it tells from those mental images.
Which puts the activation—or, in the case of LSD, deactivation—of the DMN into the spotlight. The human brain is complex and interactive, a symphony not a solo. What appears to be true regardless of how you get there is the necessity of ego dissolution when dealing with emotions. Perhaps better put, not taking things so seriously.
Certainly a monumental task, this quieting of that pesky inner voice always speaking forward and backward with so little regard for the moment. In 1970, when LSD had become illegal, the philosopher Alan Watts put forward his own thoughts on the topic in his essay, ‘Psychedelics and Religious Experience.’
Watts considered the incessant individualistic focus of American culture to be one of the failures of imagination that LSD prominently points out. Societies mimic brains in breadth of connections—think of neurons as people interacting and communicating. If you consider yourself an island separate from the populace, depression is guaranteed; if everything that happens is happening to you, life becomes a conspiracy aimed at your demise.
Watts continues along this line:
All forms of life and being are simply variations on a single theme: we are all in fact one being doing the same thing in as many different ways as possible.
While Watts enjoyed his experiences with psychedelics, especially LSD and cannabis, he recognized their limitations. They can introduce you to important ideas that you might not have considered, but you have to stay there on your own, which is essentially the same argument being made about LSD as a depression reliever. In fact, microdosing has become a popular therapeutic technique with strong anecdotal results.
Watts points out another issue that today is slowly dissolving in America: the religious fear of union. In Buddhist and Hindu systems, Watts’s specialty, man has every opportunity to become one with the godhead. In Western faiths this is blasphemous. A loss of ego, one of the most discussed consequences of LSD, connects you with the ebbs and flow of existence. Hold too tightly the reigns, your hands are burned.
Surrender is key. Psilocybin is proving especially effective in treating patients at the end of their lives, particularly with the existential quandary of transience. We need medicine in the prime of life as well. Research on LSD continues to be promising. With all the talk of ending the ‘drug wars’ in political and prison system circles, America needs to rethink its relationship to psychedelics as well.
Image: E. Bacon / Getty Images
Derek Beres is a Los-Angeles based author, music producer, and yoga/fitness instructor at Equinox Fitness. Stay in touch @derekberes.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Got $55 million lying around? If so, you might be able to score a spot aboard the International Space Station starting 2024.
- NASA awarded a contract to startup Axiom Space to attach a "habitable commercial module" to the International Space Station.
- The project will also include a research and manufacturing module.
- The move is a major step in NASA's years-long push to privatize.
Image: Axiom Space<p>But first, space-tourist-hopefuls would have to pass through physical and medical exams, and 15 weeks of expert training. After that, the trip sounds pretty comfy:</p><p>"There will be wifi," Suffredini <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/09/style/axiom-space-travel.html" target="_blank">told the New York Times</a> last year. "Everybody will be online. They can make phone calls, sleep, look out the window. [...] The few folks that have gone to orbit as tourists, it wasn't really a luxurious experience, it was kind of like camping. [...] Pretty soon we're going to be flying a butler with every crew."</p>
A render of the ISS tourist experience.
Image: Axiom Space<p>In a blog post, NASA wrote:</p><p>"Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-opens-international-space-station-to-new-commercial-opportunities-private" target="_blank">five elements</a> of NASA's plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA's long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit."</p>
NASA's push to privatize the ISS<p>When a Russian rocket launched the first module of the ISS into space in 1998, NASA expected the space station to operate for about 15 years. But the agency has extended the life of the ISS twice, with funding currently set to expire in 2024. NASA spends between $3 and $4 billion per year operating and shuttling astronauts to and from the station. That's a decent chunk of the agency's $22.6 annual budget. What's more, the "major structural elements" of the ISS are certified only through 2028.</p><p>Meanwhile, NASA has been eyeing other projects, namely: putting humans back on the moon in 2024 and establishing a lunar presence. So, to save and redirect money, the agency has been starting to hand over the aging space station to the private sector, which could use it for commercial research and space tourism.</p><p>But some have questioned the move to privatize the ISS, including NASA's own inspector general, Paul K. Martin.</p><p>"An obvious alternative to privatization is to extend current ISS operations," Martin wrote in a <a href="https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/CT-18-001.pdf" target="_blank">2018 report</a>. "An extension to 2028 or beyond would enable NASA to continue critical on-orbit research into human health risks and to demonstrate the technologies that will be required for future missions to the Moon or Mars."</p>
Image: Axiom Space<p>Martin noted that "research into 2 other human health risks and 17 additional technology gaps is not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2024," meaning that any slip-ups in the process would mean such research might go uncompleted. He also wrote that it's "questionable" whether the private sector could turn a profit on the ISS without "significant" government funding. The Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, <a href="https://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20180517/108302/HHRG-115-SY00-Wstate-LalB-20180517.pdf" target="_blank">also found</a> that it "is unlikely that a commercially owned and operated space station will be economically viable by 2025."</p><p>The implication is that, if the ISS is handed over to the private sector, taxpayers could end up indirectly supporting space tourism for the ultra-rich. Whether that's worth any of the research benefits that might come from the ISS post-2024 is anybody's guess.</p><p>As the ISS enters its final years, China <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/17/c_138479514.htm" target="_blank">plans</a> to complete construction of a manned space station in 2022.</p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
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Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
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Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?