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I would like to see talks on the many new studies of psychedelic medicine taking place right now.

In the middle of the last century, researchers and medical / psychiatric practitioners had very promising results studying what is known as the psychedelic family of drugs - LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, etc.

As we all know, things got a little out of hand (in the eyes of government at least) when these substances began to gain popularity amongst people who were using them recreationally and for other personal reasons. This resulted in prohibition.

What is sad is that the prohibition was so thorough that access to these substances became so difficult, even for scientists and doctors, that all that promising research dropped off to almost nothing.

Things are finally changing. Certain studies recently broke the ice, and now there are a range of new and interesting efforts to explore the psychedelic (or entheogenic) substances, and results so far are overwhelmingly positive.

A John Hopkins study found that magic mushrooms provide long term improvements in quality of life and personality. A study associated with an organisation called MAPS found that MDMA is a very potent tool for combating PTSD. A UCLA study indicated that magic mushrooms have potential to relieve anxiety in terminally ill patients. There are many more, completed, ongoing, and in planning.

Sadly, funding for this promising field is still scarce. These drugs are still portrayed as dangerous 'psycho-mimetic' chemicals in much seemingly authoritative literature, notably anything related to drug enforcement agencies, and this continues to cause problems for researches who wish to gain access to the materials and funding necessary.

I suspect that if our society opens up to the possibility of integrating the experiences these substances provide into medicinal, and eventually cultural practise, then we will see many and diverse positive benefits from that.

TED could make a huge dent in the stigma by hosting a researcher, doctor, artist or writer from the psychedelic community.

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  • Mar 18 2013: Here's a great post by Sam Harris on the potential of psychedelics:

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/drugs-and-the-meaning-of-life

    "I have a daughter who will one day take drugs. Of course, I will do everything in my power to see that she chooses her drugs wisely, but a life without drugs is neither foreseeable, nor, I think, desirable. Someday, I hope she enjoys a morning cup of tea or coffee as much as I do. If my daughter drinks alcohol as an adult, as she probably will, I will encourage her to do it safely. If she chooses to smoke marijuana, I will urge moderation.[2] Tobacco should be shunned, of course, and I will do everything within the bounds of decent parenting to steer her away from it. Needless to say, if I knew my daughter would eventually develop a fondness for methamphetamine or crack cocaine, I might never sleep again. But if she does not try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in her adult life, I will worry that she may have missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience.

    This is not to say that everyone should take psychedelics. As I will make clear below, these drugs pose certain dangers. Undoubtedly, there are people who cannot afford to give the anchor of sanity even the slightest tug. It has been many years since I have taken psychedelics, in fact, and my abstinence is born of a healthy respect for the risks involved. However, there was a period in my early 20’s when I found drugs like psilocybin and LSD to be indispensable tools of insight, and some of the most important hours of my life were spent under their influence. I think it quite possible that I might never have discovered that there was an inner landscape of mind worth exploring without having first pressed this pharmacological advantage."

    Surely Harris is straight enough to get on TED to talk about this stuff.
  • Mar 8 2013: I know a guy who has done LSD several times. This man had serious qualms with religion and God; a very militant atheist. LSD showed him understanding, and he feels less angry about the way he was raised and can now defend his atheism without getting argumentative or upset. It was very therapeutic for him.
    • Mar 9 2013: I know someone just like that too.

      These substances show a wide range of therapeutic benefits which seem often to come from the perspective changes the experience of them brings. They can really help you see the big picture, about your life, the world, and how the two fit together.

      This study from John Hopkins (http://www.heffter.org/research-jhus.htm) gave participants doses of psilocybin, the major component of magic mushrooms. There was a control group also, who were given some stimulant. A majority of the mushroom group had experiences which they then and later on declared to be amongst, and often the single most, important experiences of their lives, with great improvement in attitudes towards self and life, desired changes in behavior, etc.
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    Mar 7 2013: G'Day mate.
    I suggest the probem is simply that the major pharmaceuticals do not want any remedies on the market that might undermne thier patented medicines. They have gained control of regulatory agencies and the game is theirs. The demonizing of hemp to help sell Dupon nylon rope was just the start. It had been found that clever manipulators could reduce competition by influencing the law making process, making competative substances illegal and competing products more difficult to develope.

    That said, I suspect they are all studying and experimenting with said substances.
    • Mar 7 2013: I agree that that probably happens, but they won't be able to continue that indefinitely so long as positive research keeps being carried out and published, and the more public that research is, the better.

      Ultimately if the established companies don't take on psychedelics as important and useful medicine, they may be left behind by those who do.
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        Mar 8 2013: Big Pharma knows what you know, that natural substances are the source of medicine. They seek them out and then their lawyers establish an element of propiety and get a patent, to keep competitors at bay.


        It's the Liberals versus the conservatives. The Liberals work outside the box and the Conservatives hold on to what they've got. Knowledge evolves constantly and it can't be eliminated.

        If one of your clear thinking countrymen were to isolate a substance from psilocybin mushrooms that gave a perfect restful sleep and wonderfull dreams, you can be sure that there would be people ready to buy or steal it.

        Of couse, we live in a culture that has grown out of the idea that religion is the route to higher understanding and that other routes are bad, So even when a new miracle drug is deveolped, it will probably be hard to market, for fear it might be toyed with, and millions would continue to lay awake all night.

        Timothy Leary showed clearly that certain chemicals in the brain enabled astounding analytical access.

        Of course if they can find a magic bullet for cancer, all doors will open.
        • Mar 9 2013: The thing about the plants and mushrooms is that they can't be patented like a chemical. All that the pharmaceutical companies can do is lobby for them to be kept illegal, and I believe that those efforts can not withstand the increasing public and academic interest in the substances.

          Positive research keeps coming out and awareness keeps rising. Faith in the integrity of medicine corporations is at an all time low. Short of descending into open totalitarianism, I don't see how big pharma can win this fight. It's just a matter of time.
  • Mar 20 2013: I think a "safer way" to expand the existing paradigm would to start with and focus on natural entheogens such as Ayahuasca, San Pedro and similar. They do not come with the stigma - founded or unfounded - of illegal, chemical drugs.

    Would be great to hear more TED talks by people such as Gabor Mate, Graham Hancock, Ruper Sheldrake etc. but TED already has difficulties with talks by Hancock and Sheldrake challenging the orthodox.
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    • Mar 9 2013: Was that a Wade Davis talk? Sounds like his perspective, and I have heard him refer to entheogen use in at least one talk.
    • Mar 7 2013: Yes I have. That was an interesting study, most of all because of the way Strassman managed to weave and dodge his way through all the red tape to conduct it, and he recorded exactly how he did that, opening the path up to other studies. He's a real pioneer.
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        Mar 7 2013: Truthfully I think the real pioneers are the ones who got medial marijuana started. I think they paved his way. But yes he is definitely a pioneer as well