Saturday, April 28, 2007

Turn on, tune in & suspend your critical faculties

This recent article in Time asks whether Tim Leary was right - psychedelics are good for you?
The study of psychedelics in the '50s and '60s eventually devolved into the drug free-for-all of the '70s. But the new research is careful and promising. Last year two top journals, the Archives of General Psychiatry and the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, published papers showing clear benefits from the use of psychedelics to treat mental illness. Both were small studies, just 27 subjects total. But the Archives paper--whose lead author, Dr. Carlos Zarate Jr., is chief of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Research Unit at NIMH--found "robust and rapid antidepressant effects" that remained for a week after depressed subjects were given ketamine (colloquial name: Special K or usually just k). In the other study, a team led by Dr. Francisco Moreno of the University of Arizona gave psilocybin (the merrymaking chemical in psychedelic mushrooms) to obsessive-compulsive-disorder patients, most of whom later showed "acute reductions in core OCD symptoms." Now researchers at Harvard are studying how Ecstasy might help alleviate anxiety disorders, and the Beckley Foundation, a British trust, has received approval to begin what will be the first human studies with LSD since the 1970s.'
Of course these types of studies have nothing to do with whether these drugs are good for you. These experiments record how certain psychedelics can help resolve certain psychopathologies. One hopes they will not launch another 1970s bought of self-medication. Much the same sorts of reports were made in the 1060s and 1970s when LSD was commonly used as a treatment tool in Australian psychiatric hospitals. I'd be suspicious - recall that Leary himself was a psychologist at one of the most eminent US universities, Harvard, until he was sacked in 1963.

Here's one old clip of Tim Leary teaching us how the 'natural state of the brain is chaos'. What a load of nonsense! You would have to be drug-addled to believe this stuff.


Francis Xavier Holden said...

Funny you should mention TIM. I had thought of him in relation to the post below on older people and drug use. When he was dying from cancer he posted on his web page, basically a blog /diary, of his daily palliative drug regime. I followed it at the time and it was impressive.

I don't know if it's still up somewhere but as far as I can remember after some experimentation one of his recomendations, based on what worked for him. I think in relation to some pain, depressed or non existent appetite (a big problem for many in similar situations)and his need to stay at least a bit alert and focussed when awake, was one or so ( a extremely modest amount) glass of white wine at night and one not particularly large joint of dope.

All in all it made a lot of sense.

As far as the psychedelics go they were originally used in the 60s /70s and had success with treating alcoholics, some depression and certainly OCD. From memory the treatments were close to one off or limited sessons certainly not ongoing. In fact the one off type "cures" was a large part of the attraction. I'm not aware that there was a suggestion that dosing yourself without "therapy" assistance would cure anything.

Much the same sorts of reports were made in the 1060s and 1970s when LSD was commonly used as a treatment tool in Australian psychiatric hospitals.

I'm not sure they were all that "commonly" used but they certainly were used and were legal I think until around 1972.

One hopes they will not lauch another 1970s bought of self-medication

I'm not sure what you mean here but on balance I don't see evidence that the ingestion of psychedelics 30 years ago has left us a great legacy of damage.

I wouldn't take everything old Tim said as gospel but he certainly wasn't all bad and his early work on personality and diagnosis is / was well respected. One of his early books on psychometrics was used not that long ago in psychology can still be found in University libraries.

One doesn't have to be a warm wet fuzzy lefty hippy to see that Leary's notoriety and criminality was often a beat up by others.

Francis Xavier Holden said...

I've just looked up the wiki entry on Tim, which I should have used to refesh my memory before I posted, and I think it does a pretty good job.

conrad said...

"I don't see evidence that the ingestion of psychedelics 30 years ago has left us a great legacy of damage. "

cf. "I don't see evidence that the inhalation of lead from fuel 30 years ago has left us a great legacy of damage. "

Also, was the ingestion of psychedelics in the 70s that much more than now?

derrida derider said...

Yes it most certainly was, Conrad. A pity that other drugs became popular instead, for a variety of reasons.

I reckon these drugs turned out to be either mildly harmful or mildly helpful for for most users and very harmful indeed for a minority. There's a lot of drugs, licit and illicit, you could say that of. But we should be open to the possibility that they could be very helpful indeed for a small minority, and be prepared to do objective, rigorous testing of them with a view to this.

As for palliative care, if I ever get diagnosed with terminal cancer I will then try every psychoactive drug I can get my hands on before I go.

Francis Xavier Holden said...

conrad - in relatin to evidence.

I'd assume that if the "psychedelics" did some psychic damage we would be seeing a lot of mid 50s people turning up in mental health facilities right now or increased rates of say certain kinds of dementia. We don't see that.

As to whether they had other more subtle effects, like fading of genes (jeans)then we will probably never know due to lack of any long term studies or controls.

Conrad - I can't see the comparision with lead - the dangers of lead are pretty well known.