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  The Trip Report
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The Trip Report

Overwhelmed by all the latest advancements in psychedelics? Don’t worry. We’ll guide you through this.

Damon Orion

Want some proof that the culture at large is starting to embrace psychedelics in a big way? Chew on this: Police officers are now openly using ayahuasca, mushrooms and MDMA for relief from PTSD. Historically, law enforcement and counterculture have gone together like shooting ranges and meditation, so this is truly a sign of the changing times.  

That’s just one of many indications that societal views of these compounds are shifting, though. Here are some more offerings from the “Never Thought We’d See the Day” files:

  • Psychedelics are being legalized, decriminalized and rescheduled in regions all over the globe.   
  • MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD may be approved as soon as this August.
  • A recent survey determined that 89 percent of Americans approve of psilocybin therapy on a moral level.  
  • Boulder, Colorado’s Naropa University has announced plans to offer a psychedelic studies minor as part of its Bachelor of Arts program.
  • Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, is on Time Magazine’s list of 2024’s 100 most influential people in health. 
  • In the near future, the health insurance you get through your job might cover psychedelic medicine. (Sounds far-fetched, you say? What if we told you it’s already starting to happen?) 

Pretty wild stuff … but that’s not even the half of it. In the past several months, we’ve seen a whirlwind of advances in psychedelic research and legislation, some of which make the coming reclassification of marijuana look like a mere side dish. Here’s a macrodose of recent breakthroughs in the psychedelic sphere.

Recent Psychedelic Research Highlights

  • Many a psychonaut has experimented with sex on psychedelics, but less is known about the effects of psychedelics on sex. An intrepid team of clinicians at Imperial College London is doing its part to change that. In this trial, “naturalistic use of psychedelics was associated with improvements in several facets of sexual functioning and satisfaction, including improved pleasure and communication during sex, satisfaction with one’s partner and physical appearance.” 
  • Don’t be too quick to use the term “mind-bending drugs” disparagingly. A recent study found that even when taken in microdoses, psilocybin is conducive to “loosening of mental structures.” The results of a separate trial suggest that group psilocybin therapy may have the same limbering effect on the mind, while this new study links psilocybin’s ability to induce greater cognitive flexibility with its success in treating depression. 
  • While we’re on that subject, scientists from Oxford have completed a new trial confirming psilocybin’s antidepressive value. Success rates were highest among seniors, patients with prior psychedelic experience and those whose depression was tied to an underlying disease. 
  • Brain scans can help predict the extent to which psilocybin therapy may alleviate a patient’s depression symptoms. By measuring the functional connectivity of visual, executive and default mode networks, scientists have accurately foreseen early improvements, while salience network measurements enabled the researchers to reliably forecast levels of long-term success.  
  • A recent study found that repeated doses of ketamine “significantly reduced depression, generalized anxiety, and social anxiety with no major adverse events and minimal tendency towards long-term use observed.” In a separate trial, ketamine therapy in supportive environments “preceded large reductions in PTSD symptoms.” The team concluded that “intravenous ketamine in a psychedelic paradigm may be a promising new option” for sufferers of treatment-resistant PTSD. 
  • According to these researchers, a history of childhood trauma doesn’t appear to heighten the risk of having a difficult ayahuasca trip. The same investigators “found no difference in ayahuasca-related posttraumatic growth [psychological change for the better after a traumatic experience] in people who had challenging psychedelic experiences related to ayahuasca intake versus those who did not.”
  • The biopharmaceutical company Beckley Psytech has developed a formulation of 5-MeO-DMT called BPL-003. According to early results from Beckley’s Phase 2a study of this compound, decreases in depression were found in 55 percent of the participating patients the day after a single dose of this compound was administered. The same percentage of subjects remained in remission from depression 29 days after the treatment. 85 days in, the remission rate was at 45 percent. As well as testing BPL-003 as a potential treatment for alcohol dependency, Beckley is currently working to determine whether this medicine is safe and effective for patients who take SSRIs. 
  • By using a slightly modified analog of 5-MeO-DMT, researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Icahn School of Medicine have determined that the serotonin receptor 5-HT1A may play a pivotal role in the potential antidepressive properties of 5-MeO-DMT and other psychedelic compounds. These findings may eventually aid in the development of non-psychoactive medicines that derive from entheogenic substances. 
  • The results of an innovative study suggest that psilocybin can magnify the benefits of meditation. These include enhanced levels of insightfulness, focus, neuroplasticity, meta-awareness (attention to the contents of one’s own mind) and positive alterations in perceptions of one’s environment. 
  • New data indicates that psilocybin-containing mushroom extract may be more therapeutically effective than synthetic psilocybin. Most notably, the former appears to have a stronger and longer-lasting effect on synaptic plasticity, which is thought to be a keystone of psychedelics’ therapeutic value. As a press release observed, “To date, clinical trials have generally been conducted with chemically synthesized psilocybin.” This finding could have important implications for the therapeutic use of psilocybin and many other medicines, psychedelic and otherwise. 
  • A small, non-peer-reviewed study linked the use of psychedelics to improvements in psychological functioning among test subjects with personality disorders. No significant increases in suicidal ideation were found, though elevated levels of depression and anxiety were reported. 

Psychedelic Legislation in 2024

  • Through an out-of-court settlement, an Arizona-based spiritual group known as the Church of the Eagle and the Condor (CEC) has become the first non-Christian church with legal clearance to use ayahuasca as a sacrament. A press release from the CEC notes that this “paves the way for other Indigenous-based and syncretic religions.” 
  • On May 1, doctors in Utah got the go-ahead to legally prescribe psilocybin and MDMA for clinically supervised behavioral health treatments within a medical setting. Meanwhile, Medford, Massachusetts has joined the growing list of U.S. cities that have decriminalized the possession, cultivation and use of psychedelic plants and fungi. Come November, that state’s ballot may include a controversial initiative to legalize facilitated psychedelic use. 
  • Also in April, Missouri legislators advanced a bill that would allow adult-aged patients to use psilocybin for the treatment of conditions like PTSD, depression and substance use disorder. Lawmakers in the same state have been deliberating over HB 2010, which would put $10 million in funding from an opioid settlement toward research on psilocybin as a treatment for opioid use disorder. 
  • Wes Moore, the governor of Maryland, has signed two bills authorizing the creation of psychedelic task forces: teams of experts who would advise lawmakers on policies, science and laws around psychedelic medicine. Legislators in Vermont, Maine and Alaska have advanced similar bills.

On the Horizon: The Future of Psychedelics

How’s that for an amazing first half of the year? 

Before you ride out into the sunset, here’s a quick peek at some advances in psychedelics we might be seeing in the near future: 

  • The LSD-derived drug MM120’s breakthrough success in treating anxiety has put it on the fast track for FDA approval. 
  • The legal use of entheogenic medicine to help alleviate end-of-life depression and anxiety is being considered in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 
  • The National Institutes of Health is shelling out $20 million in grant money for clinical studies of psychedelic therapy for the treatment of chronic pain, and the Australian government is putting nearly $4 million into a clinical trial of MDMA and nature therapy for the treatment of natural disaster-induced PTSD. 
  • AbbVie and Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals are working together to develop non-hallucinogenic medicines that derive from psychedelic compounds. 

We leave you with this important caveat: For all the promise they hold, psychedelic medicines also have their dangers, and studies like the ones we’ve just spotlighted are not above scrutiny. If you’re considering diving into this realm, please do your homework and weigh the pros and cons carefully. 

Damon Orion is a writer, musician, artist, and teacher based in Santa Cruz, CA. His work has appeared in Revolver, Guitar World, Spirituality + Health, Classic Rock, High Times, Reality Sandwich, Psychedelic Times, Acceler8or, RamDass.org, Reset.me and many other publications. Read more of his work at damonorion.com.

 

Read more:

"How to Talk to Family About Psychedelics"

"The Power of Trip Sitting"

"Therapy Isn't Working. Can Psychedelics Fill in the Gaps?"

 

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