Rethinking the Hope of Psychedelics

The Psychedelic Experience, 50 Years On

The name for The Doors occurred to Jim Morrison after a weekend experimenting with psychedelics. (Wikimedia Commons)

Editor’s note: John Densmore is the legendary drummer of  The Doors. To learn more about Densmore, listen to Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer’s interview with the musician here

All this to say—if you are up against that wall—in a place where it feels like there are no options—and your intuition says it’s right … go ask Alice.

I’m 73 years old and still feeling quite good about myself. Well, I know I’m on the descent, but it’s a nice ride … right now. I know it’s going to get more difficult, but if I can just hang on to what I experienced 50 years ago, I’ll make it to where I’m supposed to go.

So play the game “Existence” to the end … of the beginning, of the beginning

Fifty years ago, my friends and I were street scientists, experimenting with then-legal psychedelics. At Monday rehearsals, we would all share what happened on our weekend “trips.” On one of those Mondays, Jim suggested we call our new group The Doors, after the Aldous Huxley book, “The Doors of Perception.” It seemed the esteemed British scholar had written a little book about his mescaline experienceThe new name quickly became unanimous. All of us went through the gauntlet—tough moments that lasted for a few minutes, or quite a while. A few friends never came back fully to their former mental selves, and actually, all of us were in some way changed forever—mostly in quite positive ways.

Lifting the veil is dangerous, but if the environment is supportive, the outcome can be life-changing. I only took the trip a few times, but the opening is still with me. I realized these experiments were extremely rigorous on the nervous system, so I found myself heading toward a less shattering route: meditation. But the initial couple of liftoffs have definitely impacted my life permanently.

Now, 50 years later, I still can touch the feeling of wonder that I got from these initial excursions. It’s hard to describe any more than that; kind of like trying to describe God. My 90-year-old cousin, who is a diligent thinker, laments the loss of the framework of organized religion. I told him that the impact of a tab of acid made a much bigger impression on my spiritual life than the communion wafer at mass. And I can’t go back. Even though Pope Francis is challenging my renegade Catholicism because he is so wonderful, I still can’t go back. The great mythologist Joseph Campbell says that the new mythology might take 100 years or so to fully form. So I comfort myself with a patchwork cosmology: a little Hinduism here, a dash of Buddhism there, and a whole lot of indigenous wisdom.

Let me be clear—I am not advocating indiscriminate drug use. But recent studies have shown that used carefully, some psychedelics can actually help treat addiction to other drugs. Plus, carefully conducted scientific studies from nonprofit organizations and major universities are showing many physical and psychological benefits, including a powerful treatment for PTSD and anxiety in people with serious illness. Even the much-maligned weed is showing stunning evidence as an important medicine that fights diseases like epilepsy and cancer.

These are very exciting studies, but psychedelics still have a stigma: the old patriarchal, mistaken outlook that all drugs are the same. We now know that “Just Say No” is an extremely simplistic and misleading response to a very complex issue. As Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance said years ago, the appropriate phrase is “Just Say Know.” This is apparently lost on the new U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who is trying to go back in time with tough policies that have failed. Sessions’ predecessor, Eric Holder, has called this “dumb on crime.”

Of course, there are those who will quickly judge this rant as a “hippie flashback.” If that’s what this is, then bring it on. I have raised a family, have grandkids, written three books, a significant amount of music, and many articles. No slacker’s or stoner’s rant is this. In fact, I’m very careful now about what I put into my system, and those early days of exploring my mind were key in forming my values and my spiritual path.

Now here’s the cosmic part (you saw it coming): when I stepped outside while under the influence of LSD, I saw God in every leaf. OK, now you expect me to say I started eating those botanicals since I was so loaded, but what I really came away with is a sense (which is still with me) that this moment in time is not the only moment happening at this moment! This might sound like double-speak, but there are other realities going on right now outside of our awareness.

But before I stepped outside, I had a few minutes of absolute terror. My friend, who was also “tripping,” pulled me out of it by laughing hysterically. You see, in those days, we didn’t have doctors like today at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore carefully monitoring our voyage. Due to our early experiments, and of course centuries-old shamanic cultures, researchers are now clear about the safe boundaries needed to make the excursions the most fruitful. Knowledge is often surrounded by danger. You have to get out on the edge to see the whole clearly.

Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream … It is not dying, it is not dying

Every night when we choose to go to bed, we are accepting a “little death,” giving up our conscious daily life. We know we need rest to reset our body for another day of sentient life. In effect, it’s a small rehearsal for the big “D” coming at the end of our time here on planet Earth. When that time arrives, going peacefully is what we all want. For thousands of years, Tibetan Buddhists have believed it is crucial to be calm in the moments before crossing, or you won’t get to where you’re supposed to go. Now we are seeing terminal cancer patients receiving effective help via psychedelics with the “little death” rehearsal.

Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void … It is shining, it is shining

So once again, the U.S. government is very slow to get the message and continues to interfere with the availability of traditional indigenous medicine. Bipartisan support for criminal justice reform has been halted. Medicine that has helped people for centuries is once again under attack. It’s sad, because Vietnam vets that have been metaphorically stuck in the jungle have been finding their way out of years of mental and emotional torture thanks to medicinal plants.

Retired Sgt. Jonathan Lubecky, who served in Iraq, says about MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, “This treatment has made it possible for me to watch my son grow up. He will not be presented with a folded flag on behalf of a ‘grateful nation’ in recognition of a parent who took his own life.” So unfortunately, there are more roadblocks to the “good” drugs, but thank God for human enterprise. No wall can keep out the human spirit, which seeks healing.

All this to say—if you are up against that wall—in a place where it feels like there are no options—and your intuition says it’s right … go ask Alice. Make sure you have planned your excursion, have a guide, and this is really what you need to do. Then you will build a bridge or dig a tunnel into your soul and find yourself.


Yoga & Health

9 Health Benefits of Yoga

yoga man

We’ve all heard at one time or another about how yoga is great for our holistic well-being and some of us have a daily yoga practice we do with that in mind. What you may not know is that the list of life enriching benefits of yoga just keeps on growing and here we look at several new discoveries about the wonderful benefits of yoga that have emerged in recent years. If you don’t incorporate some form of yoga into your daily life you may reconsider after reading this and become a yogi or yogini yourself!

Yoga gives an immune boost to breast cancer survivors

In breast cancer survivors, the Iyengar method of yoga not only promotes psychological well-being, but seems to offer immune system benefits as well, according to new research. The Iyengar method, created by B. K. S. Iyengar, “is considered to be one of the more active forms of yoga,” says lead researcher and presenter Pamela E. Schultz
“It still has the meditative component, but it’s been shown to have a physical output equivalent to a moderate-intensity exercise.” –Source

Yoga reverses the risk of heart disease

Ycan reverse the clinical and biochemical changes associated with metabolic syndrome, according to results of studies from Sweden and India. Waist circumference, blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglycerides were significantly lower, and “good” HDL cholesterol levels were higher in the yoga group as compared to controls, Agrawal’s team reports in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice. –Source

Yoga proven to help back pain

Research shows that regular yoga sessions may be an effective way to combat back pain. In one study, those who practised weekly 75-minute yoga classes made greater progress than those who took part in strengthening and stretching classes. The researchers found that at the end of 12 weeks patients in the yoga group were better able to do daily activities involving the back. After another 14 weeks they also reported less pain, and used less pain relieving drugs. –Source

Yoga enhances sexual performance

A study published in the December 2008 edition of The Journal of Sexual Medicine showed women who were not satisfied with their sex life experienced heightened arousal and better orgasms when they practiced yoga. Another study published in the same journal in 2007 showed yoga was the most effective solution for men dealing with premature ejaculation in comparison to Prozac and non-prescription drugs. –Source

Yoga can help heal in PTSD recovery

Recently Yoga has begun to be used as a treatment to aid in healing those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In a recent study, a group of female patients suffering from PTSD were taught Hatha Yoga in eight sessions while another group of female patients underwent eight sessions of group therapy. Those who finished the Yoga training showed a substantial improvement in symptoms such as “the frequency of intrusive thoughts and the severity of jangled nerves” in comparison to those who underwent group therapy. –Source

Yoga helps in weight control through mindfulness

According to a new study headed by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, people who practice yoga regularly are less likely to be obese. The reason isn’t necessarily the exercise part of yoga but the mindfulness part that promotes a slim body. It was found that middle-age people who practice yoga gained less weight over a ten year period than those who did not. This was independent of physical activity and dietary patterns. –Source

Yoga helps in stopping binge eating

According to research conducted at the University of The Rockies, binge eaters were encouraged to take part in a 10-week yoga therapy program. These participants saw a dramatic drop in their binge-eating episodes towards the end of the program. Every week, the program included an hour of yoga and group discussion afterwards that lasted half an hour. –Source

Yoga improves mood and reduces anxiety

Yet another study has confirmed that yoga can assist in the treatment of a wide range of psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety, and cardiac disease. Chris Streeter, MD, and his colleagues from Boston University School of Medicine discovered that it may be because of yoga’s ability to increase levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an endogenous antidepressant neurotransmitter present in the brain. –Source

It’s well known yoga reduces stress; now we know why

Research has suggested for some time that psychosocial interventions like meditation reduce the adverse effects of caregiver stress on physical and mental health. However, the pathways by which such psychosocial interventions impact biological processes are poorly understood. –Source

Source: “9 Life Enriching Benefits of Yoga”, from, by Paul Lenda


Vaccines for PTSD?

Mental vaccines? Researchers now pushing vaccine for PTSD

Friday, December 20, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff

NaturalNews) Fox News is pimping the latest investigational drug that conventional scientists allege might be able to help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in individuals exposed to trauma. A recent report by the news giant explains that researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in conjunction with Massachusetts General Hospital, are working on a vaccine that supposedly blocks a natural stomach hormone linked to prolonged stress.

The new vaccine, says Ki Goosens, an assistant professor of neuroscience at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, was found in tests to block key receptors that uptake ghrelin, a hormone in the stomach that the body produces in response to stress. When given special drugs to block the excess production of ghrelin, rats induced with stress appeared to be less likely than other rats not given the drugs to develop protracted PTSD symptoms.

“We have a rat model of PTSD and what we show is that rats who’ve had a prolonged exposure to stress are more likely to have very strong fear memories when they encounter some sort of trauma and that’s the same kind of relationship between stress and trauma that we see in people,” Goosens stated to reporters.

“Our work actually suggests that if you knew somebody was going to be potentially exposed to a trauma, then putting them on a drug that could actually block ghrelin might actually lower the incidence of things like post-traumatic stress disorder, or depression.”

Blocking grehlin to maybe prevent PTSD will definitely disrupt healthy metabolism

But is another vaccine what we really need as a society, especially one that inhibits a key hormone in the body responsible for regulating hunger and appetite? Like every other drug, this new vaccine attempts to correct an underlying health condition by simply covering up its symptoms, in this case by artificially lowering levels of an important amino acid peptide that the body needs to convert food into energy.

“[G]hrelin … [has] been recognized to have a major influence on energy balance,” explains a 2007 study on both ghrelin and leptin, a similar stomach hormone, that was published in the journal Obesity Reviews. “Ghrelin … is a fast-acting hormone, seemingly playing a role in meal initiation.”

In other words, MIT researchers are in the process of wasting millions of dollars trying to prevent PTSD by creating other health problems. Blocking the production and uptake of ghrelin, according to data gathered as part of the Obesity Reviews study, will almost certainly have the side effect of inhibiting the body’s ability to regulate energy balance and food intake, thus leading to obesity.

“In obese subjects the circulating level of … the orexigenic hormone ghrelin is decreased,” explains the abstract of the study.

Western medicine has an obsession with vaccines

While PTSD is a very serious health condition, the idea of developing a so-called vaccine to prevent it is preposterous. The last thing people need is yet another injection loaded with toxic aluminum, formaldehyde, mercury (thimerosal), and the many other harmful adjuvant components that will most assuredly create even more disease, not to mention intentionally block an important physiological component responsible for metabolizing nutrients.

“Ghrelin is a hormone and also a neuromodulator that stimulates appetite and also enhances aspects of cognitive function,” wrote Bruce McEwen, director of the neuroendocrinology laboratory at Rockefeller University in New York, in an email to Discovery News. “A systemic vaccination might not even work and could … make people anorectic and impair other aspects of physiology by blocking good actions of ghrelin.”

Pooches with PTSD

PTSD Diagnosed Among Military Dogs

Ptsd Dogs

First Posted: 12/ 2/11 02:31 PM ET Updated: 12/ 2/11 07:57 PM ET

Now that military dogs are taking on a larger role in combat, they’re also taking on more of the risks that come with going to war, including developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

The New York Times reports that more than 5 percent of the approximately 650 deployed military dogs are developing some form of canine PTSD. While the diagnosis is still being debated, some veterinarians are prescribing agressive treatment plans, which can include Xanax or other anti-anxiety drugs.

“It really is difficult, because once the dog experiences these traumatic explosions, it’s the same as the troops,” Army Lt. Col. Richard A. Vargus, chief of the law enforcement branch at CENTCOM told the Military Times in September. “Some dogs move right through it and it doesn’t affect them. Some dogs, it takes some retraining, and some dogs just refuse to work.”

Like humans, military dogs exhibit a range of changes in temperaments when they develop PTSD. Some become aggressive, others retreat. But because dogs can’t express what the problem is, soldiers can be put at risk if their partner simply stops doing his job without warning.

“If the dog is trained to find improvised explosives and it looks like it’s working, but isn’t, it’s not just the dog that’s at risk,” Dr. Walter F. Burghardt Jr., chief of behavioral medicine at the Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base. told the Times. “This is a human health issue as well.”

And searching for such devices has become a key responsibility for military dogs. Even after spending six years and nearly $19 billion on experimenting with innovative ways to detect bombs, the Pentagon admitted in 2010 that its most sophisticated technology was no match for a dog’s nose, reported.

The number of active duty dogs has increased to 2,700, from 1,800 in 2001, according to theTimes.

“Electronic equipment is great in the laboratory, but out on the battlefield, you can’t beat the dogs,” Bill Childress,
manager of the Marine Corps working dog program told the Los Angeles Times.

One such dog, Gina — who searched for explosives in Iraq — appeared to have left the playful part of her personality behind when she came home. Gina developed into a fearful German shepherd who avoided people and hid under furniture, according to theAssociated Press.

“She showed all the symptoms and she had all the signs,” Master Sgt. Eric Haynes, the kennel master at Peterson Air Force Base, told the news outlet. “She was terrified of everybody and it was obviously a condition that led her down that road.”

She gradually improved thanks to a healthy dose of walks with friendly people and a gradual reintroduction to military noises.

Just as physicians have yet to find a surefire way to treat PTSD among humans, so too are veterinarians weighing a wide range of options when it comes to helping their canine patients, according to The New York Times. Some focus on exercise and gentle obedience training, others go the more aggressive route and prescribe medications and counterconditioning.

But offering dogs the same innovative treatments that their human counterparts get, doesn’t guarantee a full recovery, Nicholas Dodman, head of the animal behavior program at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine told the Associated Press.

“It’s a fact that fears once learned are never unlearned,” he said.