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Hallucinogens: A Way to Soothe Mental Illness, Even Get Ahead
Psychedelics came en vogue in the 1960s and since then have been maligned as inducing psychosis. Today, some evidence suggests that tiny doses of these drugs may be useful for curing psychological disorders such as depression, PTSD, and social anxiety, among others. But more research is needed and there are hurdles to overcome.
Psychedelics have been with humans for over two millennia. Ethnobotanist Terence McKenna’s “stoned ape theory,” postulates that the development of language may have started with our ancient ancestors taking psychedelics, as they have the propensity to make one talkative and interested in sounds.
Shamans and medicine men of Africa and the America’s have used hallucinogens for thousands of years in religious practices—to divining prophecy, as a rite of passage, and more. These have been so paramount to certain cultures that Native Americans in the West have won court cases to be allowed to continue their use in rituals. Some anthropologists say these ancient cultures respect for such substances, within the confines of ritual, have safeguarded their users from addiction, and allowed for great insights. As for ancient civilizations, it is thought that the soma beverage of the Vedas, the sacred texts of Hinduism, contained psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms as an ingredient.
In Western society how hallucinogens were regarded has swung back and forth like a pendulum. Ergot is a parasitic fungus that grows on rye and rye bread which can cause hallucinations. During the Black Death and again in the 16th and 17th centuries, bouts of insanity, which were sometimes interpreted as witchery or demonic possession, was often caused by ergot poisoning. In Medieval times and during the Renaissance, ergot victims suffered from what was known as St. Vitus dance, or the Dance of Death. The latter can be found throughout medieval iconography. Some historians have linked certain weather conditions and the likelihood of ergot with the witch hunts of Europe and colonial America—most famously in Salem.
The Salem witch trials may have been from accidental ergot poisoning.
Fast forward to the 20th century, and we have Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman who in 1938 created a synthetic version of ergotamine that within a few decades would be all the rage with young hippies. He accidently discovered lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), trying to find a drug that stimulated breathing and circulation. While experimenting on himself, he found that he experienced incredible and sometimes horrific hallucinations. Soon the U.S. government became interested. From 1953 to 1964 the CIA conducted a series of LSD experiments as part of Project MK Ultra. In this program, American citizens were given different biological and chemical agents, often without their knowledge. The documents surrounding this program were destroyed before a 1973 Senate investigation came underway.
The program included Secret LSD experiments which took place at 30 universities. Author Ken Kesey was one such subject. Later on, he experimented with mescaline while conducting his nighttime duties at a psychiatric institution, at which he worked, and wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. As for the CIA experiments, many speculate that they were to see whether or not a person would be more susceptible to hypnosis, in order to brain-wash them into becoming a CIA assassin. Project MK Ultra became the basis of The Manchurian Candidate and George Clooney’s character in Men Who Stare at Goats.
The counterculture movement of the 1960’s gleaned onto psychedelics, and many artists over the years admit to being inspired by them. Two camps quickly formed. Those in the quite, contemplative Eastern aesthetic flocked to Dr. Timothy Leary, who took LSD with groups of followers to accentuate meditation. A more ecstatic group admired Ken Kesey and his merry pranksters, whose antics are laid bare in, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Concurrently, in the 1950’s thru the early 1970’s, medical experiments using psychedelics to treat addiction and mental illness were considered cutting-edge.
LSD and other psychedelics were thought mind-expanding in the 1960’s. That attitude may be back.
The 1980’s brought the War on Drugs and so the end of such research. Some say the baby boomers who embraced psychedelics in the 60’s, didn’t want their kids doing them. But now that they are older and have fond memories of their former years, public opinion on has once again shifted. In the last two decades or so, a resurgence of research in LSD and psilocybin—the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, has occurred.
A 2006 study out of the University of Arizona found that psilocybin helped reduce the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Research at both UCLA and NYU have helped relieve the anxiety of cancer patients using psilocybin. A small 2014 study found that LSD reduced feelings of anxiety permanently from those suffering anxiety disorder. A British study last year found that psilocybin decreased depression symptoms without any serious side effects. Other studies have shown remarkable results.
In one, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, 10 alcoholics given psilocybin. It reduced cravings even months after treatment. In a 2014 Johns Hopkins study 15 smokers were given psilocybin. 12 out of 15 remained smoke free at the six month follow-up. There is some evidence that the hallucinogenic drink Ayahuasca can help with anxiety and depression, according to Evan Wood. He is a psychiatric researcher at the University of British Columbia. Also MDMA, the active ingredient in Ecstasy, may help ease the symptoms of PTSD.
Wood says psychedelics allow an individual to feel a spiritual or mystical experience. They often have profound realizations about themselves, and it is through this that they are able to transform, and drastically change their behavior. Wood says the standard procedure for conditions like depression or anxiety, or even addiction is certain prescription drugs. These are considered lifelong chronic conditions. With psychedelics however, one dose is effective long-term. Though Drug War propaganda would have you believe that such drugs induce permanent insanity, a recent review in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found no lasting effects.
Dr. Timothy Leary proponent of LSD in the 1960’s.
Some patients today, who struggle with anxiety, depression, or even things like migraines, are taking matters into their own hands and microdosing. This is not “tripping” but taking a tiny sliver of the recommended dose in order to get an uplifting effect, without any significant side effects. No hallucinations are induced. Psychologist James Fadiman is a pioneering researcher in psychedelics who came up with microdosing. To do it with LSD for instance, one would take one-tenth of a normal dose, around 10-20 micrograms, rather than the 100-200 micrograms needed to “trip.” The microdose would be ingested once every four days in the morning. Just take it and go about your day.
Some patients are doing it to alleviate anxiety or depression. They believe this type of treatment is better than the current pharmacological approaches. A writer for the website Refinery 29 recently wrote about microdosing psilocybin mushrooms for migraines. She takes 1/100t of a dose, about 0.2-0.5 grams. A growing number of psychedelic enthusiasts are even microdosing to get creative ideas or solve problems in the work space. Wouldn’t the hippies be horrified? Rolling Stone recently uncovered this trend among young professionals in Silicon Valley.
Still, one must understand that currently there is limited research and most of the studies have been small. Another problem studying such things as LSD, such a low dose in the system is hard to detect, and so it’s effects difficult to objectively deduce. According to Fadiman, when coupled with yoga or meditation, troubled patients say with depression or anxiety sleep better, eat better, and generally feel better after taking psychedelics. Fadiman has gathered hundreds of testimonials, and is aiming for an FDA approved study. Even with some promising data in hand, most medical professionals say that hallucinogenics are dangerous and highly illegal.
Even so, with the opioid addiction epidemic raging, and the prevalence of depression and other serious disorders, many believe that microdosing psychedelics may be the future of mental health and addiction remediation, and the medical community need only shed their prejudices and catch up.
To learn more about the so-called psychedelic renaissance click here:
Evolution doesn't clean up after itself very well.
- An evolutionary biologist got people swapping ideas about our lingering vestigia.
- Basically, this is the stuff that served some evolutionary purpose at some point, but now is kind of, well, extra.
- Here are the six traits that inaugurated the fun.
The plica semilunaris<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NjgwMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NDg5NTg1NX0.kdBYMvaEzvCiJjcLEPgnjII_KVtT9RMEwJFuXB68D8Q/img.png?width=980" id="59914" width="429" height="350" data-rm-shortcode-id="b11e4be64c5e1f58bf4417d8548bedc7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The human eye in alarming detail. Image source: Henry Gray / Wikimedia commons<p>At the inner corner of our eyes, closest to the nasal ridge, is that little pink thing, which is probably what most of us call it, called the caruncula. Next to it is the plica semilunairs, and it's what's left of a third eyelid that used to — ready for this? — blink horizontally. It's supposed to have offered protection for our eyes, and some birds, reptiles, and fish have such a thing.</p>
Palmaris longus<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NjgwNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzQ1NjUwMn0.dVor41tO_NeLkGY9Tx46SwqhSVaA8HZQmQAp532xLxA/img.jpg?width=980" id="879be" width="1920" height="2560" data-rm-shortcode-id="4089a32ea9fbb1a0281db14332583ccd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Palmaris longus muscle. Image source: Wikimedia commons<p> We don't have much need these days, at least most of us, to navigate from tree branch to tree branch. Still, about 86 percent of us still have the wrist muscle that used to help us do it. To see if you have it, place the back of you hand on a flat surface and touch your thumb to your pinkie. If you have a muscle that becomes visible in your wrist, that's the palmaris longus. If you don't, consider yourself more evolved (just joking).</p>
Darwin's tubercle<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NjgxMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODUyNjA1MX0.8RuU-OSRf92wQpaPPJtvFreOVvicEwn39_jnbegiUOk/img.jpg?width=980" id="687a0" width="819" height="1072" data-rm-shortcode-id="ff5edf0a698e0681d11efde1d7872958" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Darwin's tubercle. Image source: Wikimedia commons<p> Yes, maybe the shell of you ear does feel like a dried apricot. Maybe not. But there's a ridge in that swirly structure that's a muscle which allowed us, at one point, to move our ears in the direction of interesting sounds. These days, we just turn our heads, but there it is.</p>
Goosebumps<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NzMxNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzEyNTc2Nn0.aVMa5fsKgiabW5vkr7BOvm2pmNKbLJF_50bwvd4aRo4/img.jpg?width=980" id="d8420" width="1440" height="960" data-rm-shortcode-id="8827e55511c8c3aed8c36d21b6541dbd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Goosebumps. Photo credit: Tyler Olson via Shutterstock<p>It's not entirely clear what purpose made goosebumps worth retaining evolutionarily, but there are two circumstances in which they appear: fear and cold. For fear, they may have been a way of making body hair stand up so we'd appear larger to predators, much the way a cat's tail puffs up — numerous creatures exaggerate their size when threatened. In the cold, they may have trapped additional heat for warmth.</p>
Tailbone<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NzMxNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3MzQwMjc3N30.nBGAfc_O9sgyK_lOUo_MHzP1vK-9kJpohLlj9ax1P8s/img.jpg?width=980" id="9a2f6" width="1440" height="1440" data-rm-shortcode-id="4fe28368d2ed6a91a4c928d4254cc02a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Decade3d-anatomy online via Shutterstock<p>Way back, we had tails that probably helped us balance upright, and was useful moving through trees. We still have the stump of one when we're embryos, from 4–6 weeks, and then the body mostly dissolves it during Weeks 6–8. What's left is the coccyx.</p>
The palmar grasp reflex<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTA5NzMyMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjY0MDY5NX0.OSwReKLmNZkbAS12-AvRaxgCM7zyukjQUaG4vmhxTtM/img.jpg?width=980" id="8804c" width="1440" height="960" data-rm-shortcode-id="67542ee1c5a85807b0a7e63399e44575" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Palmar reflex activated! Photo credit: Raul Luna on Flickr<p> You've probably seen how non-human primate babies grab onto their parents' hands to be carried around. We used to do this, too. So still, if you touch your finger to a baby's palm, or if you touch the sole of their foot, the palmar grasp reflex will cause the hand or foot to try and close around your finger.</p>
Other people's suggestions<p>Amir's followers dove right in, offering both cool and questionable additions to her list. </p>
Fangs?<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Lower mouth plate behind your teeth. Some have protruding bone under the skin which is a throw back to large fangs. Almost like an upsidedown Sabre Tooth.</p>— neil crud (@neilcrud66) <a href="https://twitter.com/neilcrud66/status/1085606005000601600?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Hiccups<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Sure: <a href="https://t.co/DjMZB1XidG">https://t.co/DjMZB1XidG</a></p>— Stephen Roughley (@SteBobRoughley) <a href="https://twitter.com/SteBobRoughley/status/1085529239556968448?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Hypnic jerk as you fall asleep<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">What about when you “jump” just as you’re drifting off to sleep, I heard that was a reflex to prevent falling from heights.</p>— Bann face (@thebanns) <a href="https://twitter.com/thebanns/status/1085554171879788545?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p> This thing, often called the "alpha jerk" as you drop into alpha sleep, is properly called the hypnic jerk,. It may actually be a carryover from our arboreal days. The <a href="https://www.livescience.com/39225-why-people-twitch-falling-asleep.html" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">hypothesis</a> is that you suddenly jerk awake to avoid falling out of your tree.</p>
Nails screeching on a blackboard response?<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Everyone hate the sound of fingernails on a blackboard. It's _speculated_ that this is a vestigial wiring in our head, because the sound is similar to the shrill warning call of a chimp. <a href="https://t.co/ReyZBy6XNN">https://t.co/ReyZBy6XNN</a></p>— Pet Rock (@eclogiter) <a href="https://twitter.com/eclogiter/status/1085587006258888706?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Ear hair<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Ok what is Hair in the ears for? I think cuz as we get older it filters out the BS.</p>— Sarah21 (@mimix3) <a href="https://twitter.com/mimix3/status/1085684393593561088?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Nervous laughter<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">You may be onto something. Tooth-bearing with the jaw clenched is generally recognized as a signal of submission or non-threatening in primates. Involuntary smiling or laughing in tense situations might have signaled that you weren’t a threat.</p>— Jager Tusk (@JagerTusk) <a href="https://twitter.com/JagerTusk/status/1085316201104912384?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 15, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Um, yipes.<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Sometimes it feels like my big toe should be on the side of my foot, was that ever a thing?</p>— B033? K@($ (@whimbrel17) <a href="https://twitter.com/whimbrel17/status/1085559016011563009?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Ultimately, this is a fight between a giant reptile and a giant primate.
The 2021 film “Godzilla vs. Kong" pits the two most iconic movie monsters of all time against each other. And fans are now picking sides.
The more you see them, the better you get at spotting the signs.