to participate in a scientific study of self-exploration
and personal meaning
In recent years, scientists at some U.S. universities have been conducting studies using entheogens, resuming research in pharmacology, psychology, creativity, and spirituality that was suspended following the drug excesses of the 1960s.
Entheogens include the peyote cactus used by the Native American Church, the psilocybin-containing mushrooms used as sacraments in Mesoamerica, and certain other plants and chemicals. Such substances have been used for thousands of years in cultures from the Amazon to ancient Greece as a means of inducing non-ordinary states of consciousness for psychological self-exploration and spiritual or religious purposes.
These states of consciousness are most widely known in connection with practices such as meditation and prolonged fasting. Context seems to play a major role in shaping entheogen experiences and their consequences. Despite the well-known problems that can arise in unstructured settings, the risks of entheogens in research and ritual contexts have proven to be very small.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University are seeking volunteers with a current or past diagnosis of cancer who have some anxiety or are feeling down about their cancer to participate in a scientific study of self-exploration and personal meaning brought about by the entheogen psilocybin, a psychoactive substance found in mushrooms used as a sacrament in some cultures, given in a comfortable, supportive setting. Questionnaires and interviews will be used to assess the effects of the substance on consciousness, mood, and behavior.
Volunteers enrolled in the study will receive careful preparation and 2 sessions in which they will receive psilocybin. Structured guidance will be provided during the session and afterwards to facilitate integration of the experiences. The study complies with FDA regulations.
Volunteer must be between the ages of 21 and 70, have no personal history of severe psychiatric illness, or recent history of alcoholism or drug abuse, have someone willing to pick them up at the study site at the end of the two psilocybin sessions (around 5:00 PM).
If you would like to discuss the possibility of volunteering, please call 410�550�5990 or email [email protected] and ask for Mary, the study�s research coordinator. Confidentiality will be maintained for all applicants and participants
That is interesting. It sounds like a pretty bold experiment in our modern medical environment. I can't wait to see the results of the completed study.
Dr. Andrew Weil discussed this topic in the recent past:
Question- I understand there was a recent study of psychedelic mushrooms. I haven't heard anything about "magic mushrooms" for years. What's up?
Answer (Published 10/16/2006)
The latest on magic mushrooms is pretty exciting. Researchers at Johns Hopkins have published what has been described as a "landmark" study seeking further understanding of drugs that can affect human consciousness and, beyond that, how thought, emotion and, ultimately behavior are grounded in biology. The Hopkins researchers looked at the effects of psilocybin, the active agent in sacred or "magic" mushrooms responsible for their spiritual or mystical effects.
Controversy surrounding the drug culture of the 1960s pretty much closed the door on scientific research into what substances like psilocybin might reveal about the nature of consciousness and what beneficial effects they might have. The Hopkins study was published in the July 11, 2006, online edition of Psychopharmacology and generated front-page news around the world.
The researchers noted that more than 60 percent of their 36 volunteers reported effects that met criteria for a "full mystical experience" as defined by established psychological scales. One third of the participants said that the experience was the single most spiritually significant of their lives and more than two-thirds rated it among their five most meaningful and spiritually significant events. The effects appeared to be lasting: two months after the study ended, 79 percent of the subjects reported "moderately or greatly increased well-being or life satisfaction" compared with volunteers who got a placebo rather than the psilocybin.
On the downside, about one third of the study subjects reported extreme anxiety in response to the drug that researchers said could escalate into dangerous behavior under less carefully controlled conditions. In my experience, effects of psychoactive drugs are very dependent on set and setting (expectation and environment), and the probability of negative reactions to them can be minimized by attention to these variables.
The average age of the study volunteers was 46 and none had a history of drug abuse or mental illness. Because of the reputed effects of psilocybin, the researchers sought out volunteers with an interest in spirituality. Each of the subjects attended two eight-hour drug sessions, two months apart. At one session they got the psilocybin; at the other, they got Ritalin, the active placebo.
The same group of researchers is now planning a study to test psilocybin on patients suffering from depression or anxiety related to advanced cancer and is designing other studies to investigate whether psilocybin can help treat drug dependence.