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The joy of magic mushrooms Science is finally explaining how hallucinogenics can trick your mind

Have you ever, like, properly looked at your hands? (Photo by Ralph Ackerman/Getty Images)

Have you ever, like, properly looked at your hands? (Photo by Ralph Ackerman/Getty Images)


April 21, 2021   8 mins

For a glorious period in the mid-2000s, some loophole appeared in the UK drug laws and it became possible to buy magic mushrooms in Camden Market or any number of high-street shops that smelled of joss sticks. You could only sell them fresh, not dried, for some weird regulatory reason, even though it made no discernible difference to how well they worked. Then someone noticed that young people were having fun, so obviously that was stopped.

Psychedelics, like psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), are strange drugs. They don’t automatically make you happier, like MDMA, or more confident, like alcohol. Instead they do … something. They make the world seem unfamiliar. You can see this in any depiction of them in popular media: the spaced-out teenager staring at her hand for hours. “Have you ever really, like, looked at your hand, man?” It’s like an artificial dose of deep-and-meaningfulness.

A few days ago, there was some excitement over a study that found that psilocybin was as effective as escitalopram — the joint-best-performing antidepressant — in the treatment of depression. What’s interesting about the way it is theorised to work is, in fact, in the exact way that it makes the spaced-out teenager look at her hand: it removes the familiarity from our surroundings. And that mechanism can tell us something profound about how our brains interact with the world.

First, though, the study. It took 59 patients diagnosed with moderate-to-severe depression, and gave 30 of them two quite large doses of psilocybin three weeks apart, as well as a course of placebo capsules every day for six weeks; it gave the other 29 a normal daily dose of escitalopram, and a tiny dose – so small as to be ineffective – of psilocybin at the same three-week interval as the others. Then they measured the subjects’ mood, using four standard scales of measuring depression; two questionnaires filled out by the patients, and two by their doctors.

The results were intriguing. The researchers preregistered one of the scales as the “primary outcome” of the study, and the other three (among other things, including measures of well-being, suicidality, work and social functioning, and anxiety) as “secondaries”. That’s to avoid “p-hacking” or “hypothesising after results are known” – getting your data and chopping it up until you can make it say whatever you like.

On the primary outcome, psilocybin did not outperform escitalopram. Or, rather, it did, but not by enough to reach “statistical significance”, so, by convention, scientists say that the result could have been a fluke. Still, though: magic mushrooms did at least as well as the best antidepressant in treating depression, which is quite exciting.

And it did reach statistical significance on several of the secondary measures, and it also had a faster onset and fewer and less troubling side-effects. Preregistration is there for a reason, and we should pay more attention to the primary outcome than the secondary, but it’s all interesting and suggests more research is worthwhile.

Some caveats: First, it’s a small study, and study leader Dr Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London pointed out to me, correctly, that by the standards of exploratory Phase II trials it’s a pretty fair size (and we’ve all been spoiled by these N=30,000 Covid vaccine trials). But still, it’s small and should be treated with caution. 

Second, RCTs like this are supposed to be “double-blind” – that is, neither the subject nor the doctor know who’s had the real drug and who’s had the control. Obviously it’s hard to properly hide from people whether they’ve had a psychedelic trip or not, but they hoped the way it was administered would put some doubt in people’s minds. Dr Carhart-Harris said that even in clinical trials into “normal” SSRI antidepressants, about 80% of subjects can correctly guess whether they’re in the treatment group or the placebo one, so this isn’t completely unusual.

And third, the people on the trial were not randomly selected from the population but were self-referred, and were probably all people who wanted to try psychedelics. Dr Carhart-Harris agreed that those who didn’t get the “big, mystical experience you get with psilocybin” would likely have been disappointed.

These are good reasons to be a bit cautious. Certainly the study hasn’t “proved” anything. But I think it’s one more decent data point in a growing body of evidence that psychedelics can have a positive effect on depression, and as long as everyone is upfront about the fact that it’s exploratory and should simply point us towards the value of doing more research, then it’s fine. Other scientists broadly seem to say that it’s definitely good new evidence, if not some huge breakthrough.

But the reason I find it really interesting is the theory behind it. The idea is that depression is caused by our mental models of the world going wrong, and that psilocybin relaxes the hold those models have on our sense of reality.

Here’s what I mean by that. We feel like we’re looking out through a clear, unvarnished window onto the world, but (obviously) that’s not how it is. We only see colour and sharpness in a tiny area in the centre of our field of vision; the image on your retina is distorted by the curve of the eyeball and half-hidden by blood vessels; there’s a big missing bit where the nerve cables to the brain leave the eye. It blurs and moves constantly as our eyes, head and body move around. But our brain is constantly using that information to create what feels like a pin-sharp, three-dimensional image of our surroundings, in real time.

It does that by combining the information from your senses with an existing model. If new information doesn’t meet expectations, it is either ignored or used to update the model. So, to use an example from an earlier paper of Carhart-Harris’s, I have a strong prior belief that walls don’t move rhythmically as though they’re breathing. The unfiltered sense data coming in from my senses is noisy and weird and sometimes it might contain information that could be interpreted as “the walls are breathing”. But my top-down model of the world has that strong prior belief – walls don’t breathe! – so the information is ignored as an anomaly.

Of course, if I had some weaker belief, such as “I used the yellow cup when I made coffee,” and then I looked down at my cup and it seemed blue, then the sense data would override my prior belief, updating it (and it would register as a surprise: my attention would be called to it). 

You can see your priors at work when you interpret ambiguous illusions, such as the McGurk Effect or this video of a mask. You don’t tend to see inside-out faces, so your brain really struggles to see one: your strong prior belief is that faces come out, not in.

What psychedelics seem to do is reduce the strength of your top-down models, your prior beliefs, about the world. That means that the sense data coming in can update them more easily. Your rock-solid assumption that walls don’t breathe is rendered much weaker, so random noisy fluctuations in the data coming from your eyes override it, and (as often happens with psychedelic experiences) still objects seem to move: walls seem to breathe, patterns on wallpaper seem to crawl. Things that are utterly familiar which your attention would normally ignore altogether – things like your hand – become strange and alien. I assume you’d be much more capable of seeing that the mask was inside-out if you were on mushrooms.

(People may recognise that this is just Bayes’ theorem: you have a prior belief, of some given level of confidence; new information comes in, and you update that level of confidence appropriately. If your prior belief is strong enough, then it will take a lot of new information to shift it.)

I’ve been talking about visual “beliefs” here – walls don’t move, my coffee cup is yellow, my hand is a pretty normal thing which I don’t need to pay too much attention to. But this system of prior beliefs updated with new information applies to much higher-level concepts as well. Imagine I have a prior belief that I am a productive and decent member of society, and then some new information comes in that I am in fact a chiselling little crook: say, I get convicted of fraud. Depending on the confidence of my prior belief and the strength of the new information, I will reduce my confidence in my belief or even change it altogether.

What Carhart-Harris and Karl Friston suggested in their previous paper (see here for a good writeup) was that in depression, our prior beliefs get stuck in a sort of “hole” that is too deep for new information to shift it out of. We form pathological, incorrect beliefs about how terrible everything is or how worthless we are, and the belief is so confident that new information coming in – good news or positive feedback or whatever – is unable to shift it.

They have a metaphor of a sort of belief “landscape”, with hills and valleys. You are a little car or something on the landscape; you naturally roll downhill, but you can go a little way uphill, with work. The further down you are, the “truer” your beliefs are, or – more precisely – the more accurately they match your experiences. So your goal is to get as low as possible. Strong beliefs like “walls don’t breathe” are very deep valleys, and it takes huge amounts of new information to “drive” up the sides of them to get out; weaker beliefs such as “my coffee cup is yellow” are shallower, and just a little bit of information lets you get out and roll down into the deeper, more accurate valley, marked “my coffee cup is blue”.

The trouble is, you might end up getting stuck in a local dip, unable to climb out into the deeper, better valley next door. That’s a delusional state: you have some belief, “the US government is run by paedophiles out of a pizza restaurant”, say. The world would make more sense if you didn’t hold that belief, but the sides of the valley are too steep to get out into the next one, in which the US government isn’t run by paedophiles out of a pizza restaurant. So even though new information comes in, it’s never enough to shift you out, and you keep rolling back down.

This is what is apparently going on with depression, according to Carhart-Harris. Your prior beliefs have formed a “landscape” in which you are stuck in a delusional belief about your own worthlessness or the terribleness of the world. If you could get enough information to get you out of it, you’d roll down into the deeper, more accurate valley next door in which you’re not depressed. But you can’t.

Now, psychedelics. Remember how they weaken your Bayesian priors? In this metaphor, that means they reduce the height of the hills and the depths of the valleys: they flatten the landscape. Suddenly, while on psychedelics, pessimistic or negative beliefs are weakened (along with beliefs in non-breathing walls). So your little car can drive out of the valley and by the time the psychedelics wear off, and the hills and valleys become steep again, you have successfully moved into the non-delusional bit and stay there.

This Bayesian model seems to be the closest thing there is to a working theory of how the brain works; it seems to explain decision-making and willpower quite effectively, among many other things. We have prior beliefs and update them all the time with new information. Our brains are constantly generating a model of the world, and hallucinations happen when our confidence in that model is reduced so we pay more attention to anomalous sensory fluctuations.

Of course, the fact that there’s a convincing-sounding theory behind psychedelic therapy for depression doesn’t mean it’s true; one scientist friend says that “When people repurpose a drug/activity that they enjoy taking/doing, and say it cures depression, I’m highly sceptical. You might even call it my … prior.” So let’s remain cautious.

And, of course, even if it does work, psychedelics relax your priors on true beliefs as well as false ones – so it is possible that you would climb your way out of some real belief and then settle into a delusional one. Carhart-Harris agrees this is a risk, albeit a rare one, and that’s why it’s important to use psychedelic therapy only in carefully controlled situations.

And there’s a further problem that even if it is shown to work, there’s a strong societal and regulatory resistance to the use of recreational drugs as medicines. Professor David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology, also at Imperial and who also worked on the study, agreed that that is a difficulty, but he felt that the growing evidence of their effectiveness and the overwhelming evidence of their comparative safety should overcome it. (“I wouldn’t care if they ended up in the same category as morphine,” he said, “as long as they can be used in medicine. But they shouldn’t have been illegal in the first place.”) Other psychoactives, such as ketamine and MDMA, are also being studied for use on depression and PTSD.

I hope psychedelics turn out to be effective against depression, if only because almost nothing else is – antidepressants do “work”, as in have more effect than placebo, but it’s extremely hit-and-miss and any given SSRI will probably have no therapeutic effect in any given patient: doctors will probably have to try several before finding an effective one. But I also hope they’re effective because I think the theory is lovely and elegant, making good clinical use of this theory that our brains are Bayesian reasoning machines, and that sometimes our priors can get too strong and need a bit of massaging to relax them.

And I also hope they start selling them in Camden Market again. I’m too old for that stuff these days, but I don’t get why the young people shouldn’t be allowed to have fun.

 


Tom Chivers is a science writer. His second book, How to Read Numbers, is out now.

TomChivers

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mike lyvers
ML
mike lyvers
3 years ago

The article is about psilocybin, not LSD. The title should be changed.

George Wells
GW
George Wells
3 years ago
Reply to  mike lyvers

When I read the title, I thought it was about LSD, but I updated my priors and climbed out of the valley. And all I’ve had is half a cup of coffee.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  George Wells

Maybe the title has been changed since you and mike lyvers posted your comments. Right now, it reads “The joy of magic mushrooms”, which doesn’t immediately suggest LSD to me! Nor does the subtitle, “Science is finally explaining how hallucinogenics can trick your mind” – both psilocybin and mushrooms containing it are commonly referred to as hallucinogens.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
A Spetzari
AS
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Yes they have changed the title since it was first up

Angus J
AJ
Angus J
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

But not the URL for the article, which still reads “…how-lsd-might-cure-depression/”

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

The title has changed itself ? Freaky, man

Sean MacSweeney
Sean MacSweeney
3 years ago
Reply to  George Wells

What colour was the cup?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  mike lyvers

The article could well be ‘Guys who loved tripping as University students find tripping is good for curing stuff.’

written by a writer who tripped as a young guy, and also liked tripping, with free cod-psychology thrown in. ‘its like your perception thinks you are a pencil, but you know you are not, so tripping makes things seem like paper, and so…

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Is this all part of the micro-dosing thing that Joe Rogan and otters have been going on about for some time? Obviously, it’s better that people take a natural product like mushrooms instead of whatever concoction the drugs companies come up with. However, it seems to me that nobody is really ‘cured’ of their depression here. Instead, they are simply mollycoddled into enjoying a more pleasing view of the world that bears no relation to reality.

Carl Goulding
CG
Carl Goulding
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Yes, it smacks of Soma.

Dave H
DH
Dave H
3 years ago
Reply to  Carl Goulding

How?

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave H

Because Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World and The Doors of Perception, so Soma and psychedelics must be the same?

Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Carl Goulding

Smacks of ‘Fu** ing with some crazy guy’s head, as we might have said back in the 70’s. But then we were stoned most of the time so would not be a reliable source of medical information.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I shouldn’t pick up on a spelling mistake, but I think it highly appropriate that Joe Rogan and a choir of otters are trying to improve our access to druuuuuugs, man! (this stuff’s good!)

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago

I normally wouldn’t either, but Fraser did it to me last week so I leapt on this like a tramp on a bag of abandoned chips. 🙂

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

I now have images of otters playing table tennis – see Fraser’s other response here below. Perhaps I don’t need mushrooms….

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Otter Kotaro & Hana || Kotaro the Otter loves to play with Ping Pong Ball Shooter
Facebook video

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

amazing!

mike otter
MO
mike otter
3 years ago

Otters are known for their love of playing, and by playing i mean getting wasted, maan.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I know that Joe Rogan loves this stuff, but wasn’t aware that otters were also advocates 🙂
I agree though, there’s a distinct whiff of “brave new world” about this… “Take this pill and you’ll soon see things our way”. Fascinating article.

Dave H
DH
Dave H
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Is this all part of the micro-dosing thing

Nope. This is more to do with a few larger doses to help do a sort of ‘reset’ on some of your thought patterns. Micros-dosing is used by hip silicon valley types to try to enhance their creative edge, and is probably just a placebo.

Instead, they are simply mollycoddled into enjoying a more pleasing view of the world that bears no relation to reality.

Did you read the article? This is about using psychedelics to shift people out of harmful thought patterns. Depression itself bears no relation to reality, pretty much by definition it is unreasonable and not related to outside circumstance.

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave H

Yes, I have read the article. Twice. And for much of the last eight years I have been visiting various psychiatric clinics once or twice a week to support a friend with depression (among other issues). My table tennis has come on tremendously…
But it still seems to me that this is just another form of Soma, as someone else has said. Ultimately, these things don’t seem to be ‘curable’, so all you can do is find the least harmful way of alleviating them. That said, there does seem to be a growing inability across the West to acknowledge any form of reality.

Dave H
Dave H
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

But it still seems to me that this is just another form of Soma, as someone else has said.

Given this is a form of therapy that is used infrequently in managed sessions, rather than being used constantly, I find it very hard to understand that viewpoint. Current antidepressants, which one must take regularly to build up a background level in the body, and are effective through constant action, seem a far better match to that particular fictional drug. The pitch here is that a few doses can actually help make longer term changes to someone’s mind, and get them out of the depressive rut, not leave them dependent on dosing every day just to function.
How on earth is that like Soma? Soma is more akin to a benzodiazepine, something that masks anxiety and relaxes you (and is massively addictive…), stopping you thinking about things too much.
If you’re that close to someone suffering from this, you know it’s not a rational or desirable state for them to be in, why would you be so suspicious of something that might knock them out of that and allow them to come to a different view of things? One that may be more aligned with reality?

Ultimately, these things don’t seem to be ‘curable’

So you’re willing to discount new research out of hand because of your preconceptions?

Last edited 3 years ago by Dave H
Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The difference is that soma had to be taken continuously, like alcohol or heroin. As soon as it’s out of your system you are back to where you were before, it worse because you are withdrawing.

The idea of the psilocybin cure is that you only take it once or twice and it has the effect of ‘resetting’ something in your brain that opens your mind to a different (hopefully better) view of yourself and the world.

That’s a huge qualitative difference.

mike otter
MO
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Hilary Easton

I’m not sure its as simple as that. I do trips occasionally and benefit from a sense of “reset” or “newness” in the days following. However when i used to do it regularly i developed tolerance quickly, mixed tripping with other drugs and noticed the reset stopped happening. Considering Mennal Elf is often accompanied by brain chemistry disruption, especially serotonin and dopamine, i think advocates need to tread very carefully.

Ian Perkins
IP
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

What do you make of Mike Boosh’s “Take this pill and you’ll soon see things our way” comment? I wouldn’t have thought psychedelics, whatever their merits or drawbacks, lent themselves to imposing any particular view on those given them.

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

I agree – if anything it may make users less likely to behave the way the sheeple behave. It was once thought DMT could do this and some clown thought he’d synthesized a drug called “telepathine” from ayahuasca vine (banisteriopsis sp.) which enabled the control of useres mids. I think the chap was a medico, a “scientist” in the covid sense of the word. Anyhoo it came to naught. There is evidence people are highly suggestable when high on dissociatives like Ketamine, MXP ( rhino- ket) and PCP. It seems “devils breath” is both dissociative and an hallucinogen. AFAIK its a plant based alkaloid and sounds like the effects are similar to DMT. Whatever its active ingredients its pretty evident that the mind control part ends when the drug wears off. Unlike fear, as used by this and other governments recently. Fear can induce long term cognative dissonance, mental weakness and overall bad outcomes for the sufferer and those around them

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

I think datura and DMT experiences are radically different.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Wait till bad trips happen. Messing with drugs leaves some people really messed up. Also, you can really mess with a person’s head when they are tripping. I worry this seems good to people who loved tripping, and so bias is very much in the experiment.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I agree. A very good friend was given a massive overdose of mushrooms by some hippies as her first trip and has had a massive fear of such drugs since.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Are you one of those otters Frasier keeps on about above? I am off to a wildlife refuge in a bit to get a dog in exchange for a rooster (I have an extra rooster and they have a dog they want to rehome) and they have a orphan baby otter, amazing things to hold. I get otters on my property. Ever read Gavin Maxwell’s books? ‘Ring of Bright Water’? (And best of all, A Reed Shaken By The Wind) where he toured the Great Iraqi Marshes with Thesiger (which Saddam drained to punish the native Marsh Arabs, Shia’s)

mike otter
MO
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave H

I have never seen anyone recover from depression or any other mental health condition by doing drugs. They just end up worse and often addicted. Of particular harm are any drugs ending in the letters “pram” and all benzos. You may as well use methedrine ( if made properly) or even coke, as the harms are no different.

Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

I am not so against benzos, tricky drugs though, but definitely have a place on the counter when used correctly. Remember the old song ‘And she runs to the shelter of mother’s little helper’ that was Valium? That was 60’s – 70’s days when every house wife was going nuts at home and benzos were handed out so easily.

The ones ending with al, Tuinal and numbutal, and pentothals, those were the days…barbiturates everywhere….

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Never knew that – always thought it was benzedrine. I agree there may be medical uses for diazapine for mania, anxiety, amphetamine psychosis etc but they are very dangerous and i cannot understand why they are so popular now. Its a good thing we don’t all want the same things!

Ian Perkins
IP
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Withdrawal from both benzodiazepines (‘pam’s) and barbiturates (‘al’s) can be life threatening.

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

True dat – i’ve sen them ruin many lives, and on rare occasions help – eg for alcys + junkies going through withdrawal.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

simply mollycoddled into enjoying a more pleasing view of the world that bears no relation to reality

I think that’s the crux of it though. Depressed people’s perception of reality is already skewed to some degree, hence the depression. So surely something that gently bends their mind to a more relaxed, happier perception is no bad thing.
I think the study is interesting to say the least and worth exploring further.

 it’s better that people take a natural product like mushrooms instead of whatever concoction the drugs companies come up with

Don’t mean to argue for the sake of it but I can’t agree here either. I accept a scepticism of drug companies is a good thing, but the ‘natural’ part? Nature doesn’t give a flying fig. Anthrax is natural, ebola is natural. Natural doesn’t in itself confer any benefit.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

As I understand it, far from mollycoddling you into a pleasing worldview, psychedelics can be quite an unsettling experience, bringing you face to face with deep-seated fears and habits. Which is one reason why a therapist is on hand when they’re given to people suffering from long-term intractable depression.
And why is it ‘obvious’ that mushrooms would be better than synthetic psilocybin, which is what was used in these trials? Do you treat headaches with willow bark rather than aspirin? Is digoxin inferior to foxgloves? Some would say yes to both, but it’s far from obvious to me why.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
mike otter
MO
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Aylet Waldmen wrote about the changes brought about by microdosing lsd, though specifically in the context of hormone induced psychosis which i learned is a thing and can be pretty nasty.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

Totally fascinating. One thing this is telling me, about the nature of depression, is something quite uncomfortable. It seems a challenge to the habituated models in our minds displaces depression. But such challenges are inherently uncomfortable. It’s why people have an inbuilt resistance to anything that requires time and effort to chisell away at the existing structures in our heads, say, learning a musical instrument, or grinding away at, I dunno, a book about differential calculus until it makes sense. Breaking models and replacing them with something new that is not quite ‘habit’ yet, is *hard*. And my takeaway is, a perpetual state of this type of discomfort, is the cure for depression.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

There’s a school of thought that life is not meant to be easy, and once you accept this and learn to look forward to challenges and treat setbacks as part of the game of life, it actually becomes a lot more satisfying. The problem comes from an entitled mindset that expects a life of limitless wealth, love, ease and leisure which reality cannot supply. That said, genuine depression is a serious medical condition which pop psychology won’t fix…

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

‘There’s a school of thought that life is not meant to be easy…’
It’s not a school of thought, it’s a fact. The world will always be dominated by unfairness and injustice. You will, mostly, be governed by idiots and psychopaths. The media will, mostly, be lying to you. The meek shall not inherit the earth. (Did Jesus say that? What an idiot).

Mike Boosh
MB
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

To quote Jasper Carrott: “the meek can have it. I don’t want any hassle off the meek.”
Point taken though.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

For morbid depression electroshock is still used. A totally depressed person can get their brain looped. They keep thinking ‘I am so deppressed’ and then think it again, and again, and cannot break this chain. Electro shock scrambles the brain pattern and so breaks the loop and allows them some relief, for a wile, and then it sinks back into the loop….

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Yes, it’s about breaking out of habit loops and doing something to stimulate new thought patterns. A lot of the reaction is caused by chemicals (or sometimes lack of, eg thyroxin) , although knowing that doesn’t help – a biological reaction is not so easy to control by the mere fact of knowing the mechanisms. The simplest proof is that different chemicals change the condition, eg depression drugs. Or magic mushrooms. Just biology and chemistry.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Microdosing looks promising but to give out a trips worth of psilocybin may be dangerous and unethical given the potential harm of a really bad trip. If only experienced psychonauts are in the experiment group it misses the point as they will have their priors already set to build up, body high, visuals and then introspection. I understand there are ways to curtail psilocybin trips but not sure if they work with the strong stuff like LSD, DMT etc. Someone starting to panic may be talked round by friends but the only sure way to soften a really bad trip IME is heroin (NOT opium) or benzos, both adjusted for tolerance. I think novel drugs like 2CB may well be the best bet, never seen anyone have a bad time with that. Also medicos please learn that regular or high dose use of LSD/DMT/Mescalin can cause massive problems, mental and physical. I used to think it was the vines, cactus or truffles that caused the stomach cramps and loose bowels but got some lab made DMT and can assure you its just as bad. In fact thinking about it further letting the sort of characters that work in our mental or physical health services play with such potentially harmful gear is a big mistake, and that risk is nothing to what big pharma could do if allowed the keys to the doors of perception

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Thorazine is used the drug used for someone on a bad acid trip, but only a really bad trip. I am not for messing with peoples heads with hallucinogenics medically, slippery slope in the extreme.

mike otter
MO
mike otter
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

IMO thorazine, dilaudid etc are scary – BTH or Irani brown are safe by comparison.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

to give out a trips worth of psilocybin may be dangerous and unethical
They weren’t exactly given out willy-nilly. Patients were carefully selected according to the protocol, which says, “As in previous trials, we will include patients that have previous experience with psychedelic drugs, although it is anticipated that most will have never had an experience with a psychedelic,” so the group probably wasn’t only experienced psychonauts.
Benzos were on hand: “Injectable lorazepam [Ativan], as a ‘rescue medication’, will be available but would only be used in cases of severe panic that were unresponsive to psychological intervention, and where the patient’s behavior was putting themselves and/or staff in danger.” It looks like none was needed.
Psilocybin for major depression: A randomized control trial – PROTOCOL VERSION 1, Imperial College

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Never going to believe you can safely mess with other people’s consciousness. Also imperial college IMO should be defunded, razed to the ground and its covenants/bequests diverted into primary school education. Fergusons simulations are correctly coded, but the source data and its assumptions are not correct, specifically for CFR and R:0 for SARS-CoV2. This amounts to using disease as a weapon and IMO is a crime against humanity.

J Bryant
JB
J Bryant
3 years ago

This is an interesting article. I suspect much mild to moderate depression is largely due to becoming stuck in a mental rut. We view the world, and our place in it, in a particular, rather dysfunctional way. If the study cited by Chivers is correct, psychedelics can push the reset button on how we see the world and hopefully get depressives out of their mental slump.
I have known two people who suffered from severe depression. It is a crippling disease and I don’t think a distorted world view was the root of their problem. I believe people like them suffer from a major imbalance of neurotransmitters and they will still need traditional antidepressants, and maybe more severe treatments like electroconvulsive therapy, to deal with their disease.

David Smith
David Smith
3 years ago

Tom, isn’t this (would you say) a confirmation of the Kantian transcendental idealism?
Is our brain stitching together the real world in a way that we can exist within and understand it – or is it merely stitching together the imperfect views of reality our senses bring to it?

Is the advantage of the psychedelic drug in depression or altered mental states, that we can choose to reorganise our perception of reality or that we can understand that our perceptions cannot be relied upon as reality. It seems tho that even knowing, with convincing evidence, does not allow us to change our perception of reality if the baa baa and hollow face examples are anything to go by. Knowing that I don’t or can’t know doesn’t help does it?

I just wrote this as something to ponder

I know that I don’t know

My interpretation or paraphrasing – from Sinead Murphy’s Zombie University – pages 24-26

The modern human raises themselves to the level of potential deity by saying ‘I know that I don’t know’ therefore never assuming truth, for truth would be the end of knowledge. Knowing that I don’t know allows us the concept of a potential for continuous and unending (intellectual) growth, unto gods, with the infinite capacity to fulfil that prophesy and manifest it in ourselves
Unfortunately allowing that fantasy paradoxical denies us the reality because, since we are, ipso facto, excluded from knowing, it denies us the ability to know that we don’t know.

Following GK Chesterton’s proclamation on the fate of the sceptic undermining his own mines, CS Lewis said

“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it had no meaning. The very cry of skeptical objection often betrays the skeptic himself. And yet, I have no doubt that the peculiar act of undermining one’s own mines is hardly a skill left only to the skeptic.”

julian rose
JR
julian rose
3 years ago

…”professor David Nutt”…
Some people do get an apropiate name for their professional careers.

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago
Reply to  julian rose

Is it nominative determinsim or coincidence? – as for MDMA being safer than horse riding have you ever tried to snort or swallow a horse? In fairness Nutt seems wise but like Jordan Petersen, Jeremy Corbyn etc he seems to think you can treat public life like an undergrad seminar, then wonders why he gets slagged off. I wonder if he realises why Blair, Cameron etc al had their knives out for him? How the hell can we keep the funny money coming in to UK if we stop people buying coke and heroin? You will not build much of a financial empire with molly and weed, not really habit forming and cheap to grow or make.