Religious leaders get high on magic mushrooms ingredient – for science

A Catholic priest, a Rabbi and a Buddhist walk into a bar and order some magic mushrooms. It may sound like the first line of a bad joke, but this scenario is playing out in one of the first scientific investigations into the effects of psychedelic drugs on religious experience – albeit in a laboratory rather than a bar.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have enlisted two dozen religious leaders from a wide range of denominations, to participate in a study in which they will be given two powerful doses of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.

Dr William Richards, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland who is involved in the work, said: “With psilocybin these profound mystical experiences are quite common. It seemed like a no-brainer that they might be of interest, if not valuable, to clergy.”

The experiment, which is currently under way, aims to assess whether a transcendental experience makes the leaders more effective and confident in their work and how it alters their religious thinking.

Despite most organised religions frowning on the use of illicit substances, Catholic, Orthodox and Presbyterian priests, a Zen Buddhist and several rabbis were recruited. The team has yet to persuade a Muslim imam or Hindu priest to take part, but “just about all the other bases are covered,” according to Richards.

After preliminary screening, including medical and psychological tests, the participants have been given two powerful doses of psilocybin in two sessions, one month apart.

The sessions will be conducted in a living room-like setting at New York University and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore with two “guides” present. The participants will be given the drug and then spend time lying on a couch, wearing eyeshades and listening to religious music on headphones to augment their inward spiritual journey.

“Their instruction is to go within and collect experiences,” Richards said, after presenting his work at the Breaking Convention conference in London this month. “So far everyone incredibly values their experience. No one has been confused or upset or regrets doing it.”

A full analysis of the outcomes will take place after a one-year follow-up with the participants, whose identities are being kept anonymous. “It is too early to talk about results, but generally people seem to be getting a deeper appreciation of their own religious heritage,” he said. “The dead dogma comes alive for them in a meaningful way. They discover they really believe this stuff they’re talking about.”

There is also a suggestion that after their psychedelic journey, the leaders’ notions of religion shifted away from the sectarian towards something more universal. “They get a greater appreciation for other world religions. Other ways up the mountain, if you will,” said Richards.

“In these transcendental states of consciousness, people seem to get to levels of consciousness that seem universal,” he added. “So a good rabbi can encounter the Buddha within him.”

The notion that hallucinogenic drugs can bring about mystical experiences is not new and was previously studied in a famous Harvard study known as the “Good Friday experiment”. The study involved a group of seminary scholars being given psilocybin during the Easter-season service to see how it altered their experience of the liturgy. The latest work is thought to be the first involving religious leaders from different faiths.

Is this work really science, though? Richards argues that it is, saying that the team is using detailed psychology questionnaires and independent raters in their assessments.

The John Hopkins team are one of several research groups around the world making the case for using psychedelic drugs, such as psilocybin, LSD and MDMA, in psychiatry. Psilocybin has been shown to be remarkably effective at lifting acute anxiety in cancer patients at the end of life, while other current trials are looking at the use of psychoactive drugs in treating conditions ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to severe depression and alcoholism.

As the use of mind-expanding drugs makes the transition from counter-culture to mainstream medicine, scientists take different views on how the field should be presented to the outside world.

Ben Sessa, a clinical psychiatrist and researcher at Imperial College London, has urged journalists to focus on the “rigorous science”. “Are you going to focus on the tie-dye and the dreads … or are you going to look at the cutting-edge neuroscience here?” he asked. “I can’t tell you how to do your job, but if I was you, I’d not look back to the past, I’d look to the future.”

Others are more openly enthusiastic about the broader, non-medical, uses of psychedelic drugs. “My wild fantasy is that, probably some time after I’m long dead, these drugs are used in seminary training, rabbinical training,” said Richards, who began research into psychedelics in the 1960s. “Why shouldn’t the opportunity be there to explore deeply spiritual states of consciousness in a legal way?”

Stunning research shows that Yoga and Meditation literally repair DNA to eliminate disease and depression

(Natural News) Balancing activities like Tai Chi, yoga and meditation are touted for their ability to promote a sense of well-being and reduce stress, but is there more to it than meets the eye? While these exercises are known for being great ways to relax, new research has shown that their benefits extend far past the ephemeral. The relief mind-body interventions can offer isn’t just mental; in fact, these activities can actually bring about physical changes at the molecular level.
A recent study led by scientists from Coventry University and Radboud University have shown that mind-body interventions can turn back molecular reactions within your DNA that cause disease and depression.
The study’s lead researcher Ivana Buric, from the Brain, Belief and Behaviour Lab in Coventry University’s Centre for Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement, commented, “These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, MBIs [mind-body interventions] cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.”
Buric also noted that millions of people are already reaping the benefits of mind-body exercises like yoga and Tai Chi, without even realizing how truly beneficial these activities are for their bodies. Buric states that while more studies still need to be done to fully ascertain the scope of what mind-body intervention can do, she believes that their research is a key building block for future research efforts.
Published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, their study analyzes more than a decades’ worth of research on how mind-body intervention strategies can impact the behavior of DNA. Genetic expression was a focal point of the team’s research, because the way genes are activated to produce proteins can have a system-wide impact. The biological composition of the brain, body and immune system can all be affected by the way genetic proteins are expressed.
In total, the team reviewed 18 studies with a combined 846 participants. The experts determined that when looked at as a whole, the 11 years of data “reveal a pattern in the molecular changes which happen to the body as a result of MBIS [mind-body interventions], and how those changes benefit our mental and physical health.”
It’s known that when a person undergoes a stressful event, their body goes into what’s often known as the “flight or fight” response. This process also triggers the production of a molecule that regulates gene expression, known as nuclear factor kappa B, or NF-kB.
“NF-kB translates stress by activating genes to produce proteins called cytokines that cause inflammation at cellular level,” as Science Daily explains. While this reaction is useful temporarily, when it is consistent over time, it can be quite damaging and increase the risk of diseases like cancer and disorders like depression. It can even accelerate the aging process.
However, the research team found that people who practice mind-body interventions on a regular basis showcase a reduction in the production of NF-kB and related cytokines. In turn, this leads to a decrease and reversal of pro-inflammatory gene expression. Ultimately, this lowers the risk of inflammation-related conditions.
Past research on meditation and other similar activities has also indicated that these exercises can have far-reaching effects on the brain and body. For example, recent research has shown that meditation can help keep your brain youthful and on average, reduce “brain age” by over seven years. Earlier this year, a research team from Harvard University also found that yoga can elicit positive changes in metabolic function.
These mind-body activities are clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial

 Journal of Psychopharmacology  2016, Vol. 30(12) 1165
–1180
©
The Author(s) 2016
Reprints and permissions:
sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0269881116675512
jop.sagepub.com
Introduction
Enduring clinically significant anxiety and/or depressive symp-
toms are common in patients with cancer, present in 30–40% of
patients in hospital settings (Mitchell et al., 2011). These symp-
toms are associated with a variety of poor outcomes, including
medication non-adherence, increased health care utilization,
adverse medical outcomes, decreased quality of life, decreased
social function, increased disability, hopelessness, increased
pain, increased desire for hastened death, increased rates of sui-
cide, and decreased survival rates (Arrieta et al., 2013; Brown
et al., 2003; Jaiswal et al., 2014).
Although pharmacotherapeutic and psychosocial interven-
tions are commonly used to treat anxiety and depression in
cancer patients, their efficacy is mixed and limited (Grassi
et al., 2014; NCCN, 2014). There are no US Food and Drug
Administration approved pharmacotherapies for cancer-related
psychological distress, the onset of clinical improvement with
anti-depressants is delayed, relapse rates are high, and significant
side effects compromise treatment adherence (Freedman, 2010;
Li et al., 2012).
Rapid and sustained symptom reduction
following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and
depression in patients with life-threatening
cancer: a randomized controlled trial
Abstract
Background:
Clinically significant anxiety and depression are common in patients with cancer, and are associated with poor psychiatrical and recent research suggests a role for psilocybin to treat cancer-related anxiety and depression.
Methods:
In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial, 29 patients with cancer-related anxiety and depression were randomly assigned and
received treatment with single-dose psilocybin (0.3 mg/kg) or niacin, both in conjunction with psychotherapy. The primary outcomes were anxiety
and depression assessed between groups prior to the crossover at 7 weeks.
Results:
Prior to the crossover, psilocybin produced immediate, substantial, and sustained improvements in anxiety and depression and led to
decreases in cancer-related demoralization and hopelessness, improved spiritual wellbeing, and increased quality of life. At the 6.5-month follow-
up, psilocybin was associated with enduring anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects (approximately 60–80% of participants continued with clinically
significant reductions in depression or anxiety), sustained benefits in existential distress and quality of life, as well as improved attitudes towards
death. The psilocybin-induced mystical experience mediated the therapeutic effect of psilocybin on anxiety and depression.
Conclusions:
In conjunction with psychotherapy, single moderate-dose psilocybin produced rapid, robust and enduring anxiolytic and anti-depressant
effects in patients with cancer-related psychological distress.

Continue reading “Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial”

The interior Life

cosmic-energy1

Kingsley L. Dennis, Guest
Waking Times

“We are dreaming a symbolic world, only briefly waking to what is real.” ~Arthur Deikman, M.D.

“He not busy being born, is busy dying.” ~Bob Dylan

Something is not quite right…you feel it…you may have experienced this feeling, this nagging, for a long time. So you most probably just try to ignore it and hope that it goes away; but sooner or later the persistent nagging finally brings an idea to your mind – there’s something very odd about the way the world is. Maybe you feel like you are at the cinema watching a film and yet you sense there must be something wrong about the film you are seeing. The images are all there, but there’s a feeling that something is out of sequence, or the frames are running out of ‘normal’ time. However, after a while you get used to the style of the film, and your senses adjust to its rhythm and you lose the sense of strangeness and you get pulled into the show and you go along with the ride… Continue reading “The interior Life”