A single smoked hit of the dried psychedelic secretion of a certain North American toad can potentially improve a person’s mental health, according to new research.
The study, published this month, found that people reported feeling more satisfied with life right after intake, and that increase in satisfaction persisted even four weeks later. They also reported feeling more mindful over time.
“Ratings of depression, anxiety, and stress decreased after the session, and reached significance at 4 weeks,” the researchers wrote.
The substance in question is called 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT), which was initially discovered in the bark of a plant. Researchers later realized the Bufo alvarius toad, more commonly known as the Colorado river toad, secretes a poisonous, milky-white substance in its skin and glands that also contains the 5-MeO-DMT compound.
People who smoke 5-MeO-DMT report having mystical-type experiences, characterized by awe, amazement, intense self-awareness and timelessness, among other effects. Past research has also shown that the compound is associated with a reduction in symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress, and has effectively helped consumers deal with alcoholism and drug abuse.
As first reported by IFL Science, the current study, led by Malin Uthaug of Maastricht University, aimed to better understand just how effective 5-MeO-DMT could be as a treatment for certain mental health conditions. The authors recruited a total of 75 people from Czech Republic, Spain and The Netherlands to participate in their observational research. Forty-two percent of participants said they were interested in the practice because they wanted to better understand themselves, while problem-solving and spiritual healing were cited as other motivations.
The study’s authors assessed participants using several psychiatric tests at three different points: prior to the session during which they inhaled the vapor containing 5-MeO-DMT, 24 hours after use and four weeks post-inhalation. During the sessions, facilitators reported participants inhaled a range of 20 milligrams up to 120 milligrams of the dried toad secretion.
According to the study’s findings, which were published in the journal Psychopharmacology, a single dose of the dried toad secretion containing 5-MeO-DMT produced both short and long-term improvements in self-reported ratings of satisfaction with life, depression, anxiety and stress. Not only did life satisfaction increase 7 percent one day after the smoke session, the average rate of depression among participants dropped 18 percent below baseline levels, anxiety by 39 percent and stress by 27 percent.
Four weeks later, the authors found that life satisfaction had increased to 11 percent above baseline, while depression ratings had dropped 68 percent. Anxiety and stress were also down 56 percent and 48 percent, respectively.
Some participants who had especially intense 5-MeO-DMT sessions reported even greater effects on their moods.
Those who “experienced high levels of ego dissolution or oceanic boundlessness during the session displayed higher ratings of satisfaction with life and lower ratings of depression and stress,” the study found.
Understanding how or why dried toad secretion may help improve symptoms of depression and anxiety was outside the scope of this study. The authors, however, offer a few theories, including the notion that psychedelic compounds such as 5-MeO-DMT may bind to certain receptors in the brain, thus reducing inflammation and improving symptoms associated with some neuropsychiatric diseases, such as depression.
It’s important to point out, however, that one of the study’s limitations was inconsistent participation. Of the 75 participants, 42 completed the test assessments both before inhalation of the dried toad secretion vapor and within 24 hours, while only 24 completed the test battery at the final assessment.
Despite the lack of a proper control group, the results are promising, the authors said. “This study suggests that a single administration of vapor from toad secretion containing 5-MeO-DMT produces rapid and persistent improvements in satisfaction with life, mindfulness and psychopathological symptoms, and that these changes are associated to the strength of the psychedelic experience,” they concluded, adding a call for more research.
The results also support a separate recent study that found a synthetic version of 5-MeO-DMT also appeared to offer therapeutic benefits to those who inhale it. In a survey of 362 adults who said they’d had a mystical experience with 5-MeO-DMT in a group setting, approximately 80 percent reported their anxiety or depression had improved afterward.
Alan Davis, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was one of the authors on that study, which was published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in March. “Research has shown that psychedelics given alongside psychotherapy help people with depression and anxiety,” Davis said in a statement. “However, psychedelic sessions usually require 7-8 hours per session because psychedelics typically have a long duration of action. Because 5-MeO-DMT is short-acting and lasts approximately 30-90 minutes, it could be much easier to use as an adjunct to therapy because current therapies usually involve a 60-90 minute session.”
Photo courtesy of Renee Grayson.
Legalizing Medical Marijuana Makes People Have More Sex, Study Shows
Legalizing medical marijuana appears to encourage people to have more sex, according to a recent study.
“We find that [medical marijuana laws] cause an increase in sexual activity,” researchers from the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University concluded.
That’s not the only related effect, however, as the study also determined that there’s a decrease in the use of contraceptives and an increase in the number of births following the enactment of medical cannabis policies.
To determine how such laws influence how often people have sex, the team of researchers analyzed a large data set that included “detailed questions about sexual activity and substance use” in young people between 1997 and 2011. The survey asked respondents explicitly about past-month marijuana use and sex frequency.
The analysis found a 4.3 percent increase in the “likelihood of having sex once or more in the past month” after a medical cannabis law was enacted and “an increase in sex beginning directly after the law change.”
“The primary change in sexual behavior we observe is increased engagement in sexual activity.”
Additionally, the effect of medical marijuana laws on births translates to a 2 percent increase, or 684 more births per quarter, “for all women of childbearing range.”
“These results provide evidence that marijuana use has a considerable, unintended, and positive effect on birthrates,” the authors wrote in the paper, which was published late last month in the Journal of Health Economics.
When it comes to contraceptives, the researchers highlight that the sensory effects of cannabis “may change attitudes toward sexual risks by making users less concerned about the consequences of intercourse, resulting in decreased contraceptive use.”
Such behavioral changes could explain why birthrates increase when people have access to medical cannabis, despite what the study authors described as physiological effects associated with marijuana use that could decrease fertility.
“Our findings on births suggest that behavioral factors can counteract the physiological changes from marijuana use that tend to decrease fertility,” they wrote.
“We find that passage of [medical marijuana laws] result in both increased engagement in sexual activity and decreases in contraceptive use conditional on being sexually active,” the study concludes. “Jointly, both mechanisms suggest that behavioral responses may be due to increased attention to the immediate hedonic effects of sexual contact, increased willingness to engage in sex, as well as delayed discounting and ignoring the future costs associated with sex.”
While this study aims to describe behavioral changes in sexual activity after a medical marijuana law is in place, recent research also points to cannabis’s ability to intensify sexual pleasure and increase sex drive for both men and women.
Photo courtesy of Aphiwat chuangchoem.
People Visiting Safe Injection Sites Are Less Likely To Die Compared To Other Drug Consumers, Study Finds
As a growing number of Democratic presidential contenders are voicing support for harm reduction programs such as supervised injection facilities (SIFs), a recent study shows that these candidates are on the right track if they’re really interested in helping save the lives of people who use currently illegal drugs.
Researchers in British Columbia, Canada, found that people “who reported using supervised injection facilities on an at least weekly basis had a reduced risk of dying compared to those who reported less than weekly or no use of this health service.”
Previous studies have shown that safe injection sites help reduce overdose deaths. However, there are only approximately 140 legally operating sites in the world, including in Canada, Australia and Europe. To date, no SIFs have legal approval to operate in the U.S., though some cities are exploring allowing such facilities to open.
To understand whether SIFs affect overall mortality, researchers used data from two prospective cohort studies of people who inject drugs (PWID) in Vancouver, Canada. Every six months between December 2006 and June 2017, participants responded to a questionnaire asking about sociodemographic information, drug use, use of health interventions such as SIFs and more. They were also asked to provide blood samples for medical testing or monitoring.
Ultimately, the total sample included 811 participants. More than half (432) reported frequent (that is, at least weekly) SIF use at baseline. Over the span of the study period, 112 participants died, corresponding to a crude mortality rate of 22.7 deaths per 1,000 person-years. The leading causes of deaths were non-accidental (which included neoplasms and circulatory disease), ill-defined or unknown, overdose and HIV-related.
After adjusting for several factors, including age, sex, HIV seropositivity, public injection and more, researchers found that “frequent SIF use remained significantly associated with decreased risk of all-cause mortality.”
“Existing modeling and simulation studies indicate that SIFs avert numerous overdose deaths per year,” the study, which was published in the journal PLOS Medicine in late November, states. “Moreover, past research relying on aggregate data has demonstrated the role of SIFs in reducing local population-based rates of fatal overdose. However, we believe that ours is the first study to identify an individual-level association between frequent SIF use and decreased risk of all-cause mortality among a community-recruited cohort of PWID.”
Although researchers did not investigate why there was an association between frequent SIF use and a lower risk of all-cause mortality, they do offer some potential explanations based on existing literature. Studies have shown that supervised consumptions sites are associated with safer syringe use, including a decline in sharing, reusing, outdoor injecting and hurried injecting. Additionally, these facilities are equipped to handle medical emergencies, such as overdose, and are staffed with people trained in addiction treatment.
“Together with the findings of previous research,” the authors write, “our findings underscore the need for continued efforts to enhance access to SIFs as a strategy to reduce mortality among PWID. In particular, given that SIFs have limited geographic coverage and that PWID have been found to often encounter long wait times in accessing SIF services in this setting, the broader expansion of SIFs may serve to improve service accessibility and thereby reduce the potential for mortality and other harms among this population.”
At a time when evidence-based interventions are urgently needed to address the disproportionately high burden of preventable deaths and suffering experienced by people who use drugs, efforts to scale up access to supervised injection facilities should be a public health priority.
— Mary Clare Kennedy, PhD (@MCKennedy_) November 27, 2019
Lead author Mary Clare Kennedy summarized her study results online, tweeting in part: “Our findings add to the large body of scientific evidence demonstrating the critical role of supervised injection facilities in saving lives, reducing harm & promoting health among people who inject drugs.”
“At a time when evidence-based interventions are urgently needed to address the disproportionately high burden of preventable deaths and suffering experienced by people who use drugs, efforts to scale up access to supervised injection facilities should be a public health priority.”
On the presidential campaign trail, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have all voiced support for safe consumption sites.
Photo by Jair Lázaro on Unsplash
Scientists Uncover ‘Strong Relationship’ Between Psychedelic Use And Connection With Nature
People who claim a stronger bond with nature following a psychedelic experience aren’t just blowing smoke, according to new research.
“We found a strong relationship between the amount of lifetime use of psychedelics and nature relatedness, as well as increases in nature relatedness from before to after psychedelic use,” researchers concluded in a study published last month in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
To measure how psychedelics influence perspectives on nature, 654 people planning to take substances such as psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, ayahuasca, DMT, mescaline and ibogaine were invited by Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research to take part in the online study. Participants were then sent email reminders “at multiple time-points before and after the indicated date of the experience.”
Using statistical analysis, the researchers found that “nature relatedness was significantly increased with two weeks, four weeks and two years after the psychedelic experience” and that participants’ experience boosted feelings of “well-being” when their attitudes toward nature increased.
In other words, psychedelic-induced appreciation for the natural world seems to correspond with psychological health.
“A significant positive association was observed between changes in nature relatedness and changes in psychological well-being,” the authors wrote.
“The here presented evidence…bears relevance for psychedelic treatment models in mental health and, in the face of the current ecological crisis, planetary health.”
Surprisingly, associations with nature were “not only sustained, but rather elevated even further after two years” following the experience. According to the authors, the participants could be experiencing a “positive-feedback-like effect,” where psychedelic use “led individuals to subsequently seek more exposure to nature,” thus reinforcing connections with the natural world.
“These findings point to the potential of psychedelics to induce enduring positive changes in the way humans relate to their natural environments,” the authors wrote.
The research team noted that the sample population’s baseline connection with nature was “substantially higher than demographically similar populations,” but that “may be explained by the psychedelic-experienced nature of the current sample—implying that prior psychedelic use had already caused an increase in nature relatedness.”
“It is an increasingly well-established principle that the quality of an individual’s acute experience under a psychedelic is predictive of subsequent long-term psychological outcomes—such as improvements in mental health.”
According to the researchers, this study is “the first empirical evidence for a causative role of psychedelic use in the enhancement of nature relatedness in a large sample of healthy participants.”
“By meaningfully connecting with nature during a psychedelic experience (especially so if the experience is within the context of pleasing natural surroundings), otherwise healthy individuals may be enticed to spend more time in nature in the future, thereby adopting healthier, more nature-related lifestyles,” the study concluded.
The research results come amid a growing nationwide movement to decriminalize psychedelics across the U.S. following successful campaigns last year to reform laws criminalizing psilocybin in Denver, and those covering a broader array of psychedelics in Oakland.
Decriminalize Nature, the aptly named group that led the Oakland campaign, is now spearheading similar efforts that have extended to nearly 100 other cities. Localities considering decriminalizing psychedelics next include Chicago, Berkeley and Dallas.
A separate group is working to qualify a statewide measure for Oregon’s 2020 ballot that would legalize psilocybin for therapeutic use. Additionally, activists in Portland also began collecting signatures last month for a local measure that would decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics such as mescaline and ayahuasca.
Meanwhile, California activists are aiming to place an initiative on the state’s ballot to legalize psilocybin for adult use.
The psychedelics movement is also reaching the presidential campaign, with Democratic contender Andrew Yang saying last month that he wants to make psilocybin mushrooms “more freely available,” especially for military veterans.