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The Emerging Science of Psychedelic Therapies for Our Wellbeing

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Psychedelic Therapies
PHOTO | Martina

This month, the city of Dever Colorado made the landmark decision to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. It’s the first U.S. city to do so. More famously known as “magic mushrooms” these intoxicating yet non-addictive fungi grow naturally throughout most of the United States. And yet, psilocybin and psilocin have been illegal in the country since 1969, when the use of psychedelic drugs became widespread in consumer culture.

In Denver, the initiative to decriminalize passed with a narrow margin—50.6 percent of voters approved the bill. Dubbed Initiative 301, the bill makes the personal possession of magic mushrooms among those 21 and older one of the lowest law enforcement priorities. The bill also prevents city authorities from spending money on resources dedicated to prosecuting or pursuing criminal charges against adults who possess or consume the mushrooms.

The recent change not only makes Denver the most psychedelic-friendly city in the United States, but it also represents a major shift in cultural, political, and even medicinal views on mind-altering plants and other natural products. Westerners have found themselves amidst a revived psychedelic therapies renaissance, a renaissance supported by a new wave of scientific research.

A New Psychedelic Renaissance (Yet Again)

This unique time period in Western culture has recently been dubbed the second psychedelic renaissance. All jokes comparing modern-day millennials and free-loving hippies aside, the “second psychedelic renaissance” is, in reality, far from the second. Back in the 1960s and 70s, psychedelics were first introduced to a consumer-focused capitalist culture. Yet, the use of mind-altering plants and periods of intense social drug consumption have dotted history books for generations.

Take, for example, the mid-1800s when European elites had their first taste of hashish. The habit was originally picked up by French soldiers in Egypt, who brought the compressed cannabis resin home with them after the French invasions led by Napoleon Bonaparte. The almost hallucinogenic experiences the hashish provided lead to a slight cultural obsession with hallucinogens among those who could afford the substances, and novelists like the great popularized the hallucinogenic experience through their writings.

As early as 1729, Chinese Emperor Yung Chen issued the first rulings criminalizing the recreational use of opium. While opium is not a hallucinogen, a growing culture of recreational drug use and addiction originally propagated by Portuguese imports of the plant into China inspired Chinese leadership to continue to crack down on opium trade over the next three centuries. It is important to mention, however, that unlike psychedelic drugs, narcotics such as opium come with a high risk of addiction.

These are simply examples from the last three hundred years. And yet, if archeological evidence is any indication, human civilizations across the globe have always had some sort of relationship with psychoactive substances — just recently, archeological researchers in Bolivia found evidence of a 1,000-year-old pouch that contained traces of five different psychoactive plants.

The tradition of medical cannabis consumption in China is thought to date as far back as 2,737 BC when mystical Emporer Shen-Neng is believed to have introduced cannabis and many other plants into medical practice. Shen-Neng is believed to be the father of traditional Chinese medicine, although the medicinal uses of cannabis in China were not recorded until the first or second century A.D.

More recently, however, this old tradition has been reintroduced to Western scientific practice. After medical researchers took a brief hiatus from psychedelic research during the late 70s, through the early 90s, psychiatrists and other medical professionals are once again exploring the opportunities of these unusual and transformative therapies.

For the city of Denver, greater tolerance for psilocybin may provide the first of many long steps toward decreasing barriers for researchers and other psychedelic proponents who hope to develop the medical and spiritual legitimacy of the psychoactive experience.

The Vast Potential of Psychedelic Therapies

The most profound implications of psychedelic medicine lie in the arena of mental health. In 2016, the first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans provided glimpses into the brain on LSD. Colloquially known as “acid”, LSD is considered a classical psychedelic capable of radically altering cognition and cultivating feelings of harmony and oneness with the universe.

When put under the MRI machine, the brains of those on LSD did something magnificent — they lit up, nearly all the way up. Normally, when the human brain processes visual imagery, very specific regions of the brain activate. These regions are the visual cortex and the visual association areas that normally process information taken in by the eyes.

After an injection of LSD, however, brain scans revealed that networks across the entire organ were activated, linking portions of the brain that do not typically fire together. The psychoactive truly inspired a whole-brain experience. According to the leading scientists on the experiment, those that were given LSD were “seeing with their eyes shut.”

Brain scans of the effects of psilocybin extracted from mushrooms have made similar findings. In 2014, research published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface used functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) to map the effects of the psychoactive substance on communication pathways between various processing networks in the brain.

Similar to the LSD study, the brains of patients given psilocybin were extra-active. The psychotropic compound caused a marked increase in connections between various networks, transforming normal pathways into a super-highway system with dense web-like construction.

Psychedelics, it would seem, encourage a unique explosion of brain activity that links up previously remote pockets of the mind. This mind-melting may have long-lasting positive effects to boot—research suggests that the “mystical-type” experiences inspired by psilocybin provided some of the most meaningful moments of spiritual significance in the lives of study participants.

Depression

Some of the most groundbreaking research in psychedelic therapies are occurring in the arena of depression. A handful of trials have examined the potential of psychotropic therapies in depression in patients with life-threatening illnesses, yet hallucinogenic therapies may be useful in treatment-resistant depression as well.

In 2017, for example, researchers from Imperial College London found that psilocybin seemed to press the brain “reset” button in patients with clinical depression. The study found that after taking the psychedelic, activation of brain regions responsible for fear and anxiety became less active. Further, the brain’s “default mode”, so to speak, became more stable after treatment.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Back in 2006, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that psilocybin was effective in reducing the acute symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The study, however, only included nine total participants. More recently, however, a clinical trial of psilocybin for OCD is underway at Yale University and the Heffter Research Institute. The trial contains 30 active participants, although the final results will not be published until 2022.

Addiction

Research from 2014 and 2015 tested the effects of psilocybin therapies in patients suffering from tobacco and alcohol addiction. The studies, which were conducted as proof-of-concept trials, found that treatment with the psychoactive compound decreased cravings for alcohol and nicotine for several months after administration. Alcohol cravings were reduced for up to 36 weeks after a psilocybin treatment. Tobacco cravings were also significantly diminished after six months of treatment.

End-of-Life Psychological Distress and Anxiety

Several human studies on psilocybin have been conducted in patients with depression and anxiety associated with life-threatening cancer diagnoses. In one 2016 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, psilocybin inspired positive changes in mood, depression, and anxiety levels in cancer patients six months after treatment with the psychoactive. An improved mood, however, wasn’t the only benefit reported by the patients. 80 percent of study participants also reported improvements in quality of life, spiritual satisfaction, and improved life meaning.

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Culture

Network in Paradise at the CanEx Jamaica Business Conference & Expo

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CanEx Jamaica
PHOTO | Konstiantyn

According to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc, the global legal cannabis market is expected to reach USD 66.3 billion by the end of 2025. Helped in part by the increasing acceptance of cannabis to treat numerous medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, arthritis, and neurological disorders, along with the lucrative revenue created by legal cannabis sales, there has never been a more crucial time for entrepreneurs and businesses to network and expand their businesses on a global scale.

As one of the leaders in international business-to-business (B2B) events, the CanEx Jamaica Business Conference and Expo brings together top cannabis industry experts from around the globe including the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and the Caribbean.

Taking place September 26-28 at the Montego Bay Convention Center, in beautiful Montego Bay, the fourth annual CanEx Jamaica Business Conference & Expo features addresses, panel discussions and presentations on a variety of topics — from advocacy, cultivation, science and medicine to investment, banking and finance, and the business of cannabis including women entrepreneurship.

Over 70 world-class speakers and panelists will provide insights into the direction of the global cannabis industry to over 3,000 delegates.

Steve DeAngelo, founder of Harboride dispensary and the Last Prisoner Project, is speaking on two panels — “Post Decriminalization of Cannabis: Towards Restorative Justice” and “Strategic Approaches to Cannabis Investments” to how the investment landscape is evolving.

Bruce Linton, founder of Canopy Growth Corp, the first cannabis producing company in North America to be listed on a major stock exchange, will host a fireside chat with CanEx founder, Douglas K. Gordon.

Former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, will host “The Global Cannabis Movement” that will explore what globalization means in practical terms for the industry, where things stand presently and the future of the global market.

Cam Battley, Chief Corporate Officer of Aurora Cannabis Inc., will be speaking on the panel “CEO Roundtable: Roadmap to Sustainable Profitability for the Industry” to discuss the global challenges and opportunities facing the cannabis Industry.

Plus, over 200 exhibitors and sponsors, from cultivators to investment firms and media experts will provide attendees opportunities for networking, business expansion and identify new areas of growth within the legal industry.

Held for the first time in 2016, CanEx Jamaica is responsible for connecting cannabis experts, researchers, business professionals, creating new strategic partnerships in a truly memorable and vibrant setting.

For more information, visit canexjamaica.com.

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After 25 Years, Supreme Closes Iconic Lafayette Store

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PHOTO | Supreme

In a move that has shocked through the streetwear community, Supreme has closed its original space on Lafayette after 25 years of business.

Back in February, the brand announced that its famous Lafayette location would be under renovation. Now, due to the unforeseen closure, the 190 Bowery location in Manhattan will now be the brand’s main location in the Big Apple.

 

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Celebrating 25 years. Pooky, Lafayette Street, New York City 1995 📷 @suekwon_

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Off the Record, It’s National Expungement Week

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National Expungement Week

“Would you like to know an absolutely crazy fact? There are 77 million people in the United States who have a criminal record.” This crazy statistic that instantly grabs your attention is how Seth Rogen opens the PSA for National Expungement Week.

Rogen also asks, “What does ‘expungement’ mean?” ‘On the record’, expungement means, clearing or sealing the record of a person’s prior arrest, criminal charges or conviction.

That’s a possibility for some of the 77 million people with criminal records — a large amount being minor offenses — which make up nearly a quarter of the population of the United States. Having a criminal record seriously impedes the ability to live for millions of people. It restricts access to jobs, housing, education, and the right to vote.

National Expungement Week aka N.E.W. is the initiative of Cage-Free Repair (the non-profit section of Cage-Free Cannabis) Cannabis and Equity First Alliance.

Cage-Free Cannabis is rooted in three kinds of justice, from reparative, to economic and environmental. Equity First Alliance works to bring reparative justice to, and be a voice for, those who have been most harmed by the War on Drugs.

The initiative will see over 40 events held in 30 cities, which will host workshops, allowing people to meet with lawyers and experts who can help them clear records, from September 21-28.

Among other company’s and businesses, N.E.W. is supported by Houseplant, the cannabis company launched by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, in the hopes of exposing the social injustices associated with cannabis convictions.

With 18 events in 15 cities that helped nearly 300 people begin the process of changing their records, the inaugural National Expungement Week in 2018 was clearly a success and led to the initiative returning this year.

If you’re interested in clearing your record or helping someone else do the same, you can find further information — including the dates and details of specific events — on the official site of N.E.W.; offtherecord.us.

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