News

Scientists Explore Hallucinogen Treatments for PTSD, Sex Abuse Victims

Potential of psychedelics to treat mental problems and explore consciousness examined

A volunteer, during a supervised psilocybin session at Johns Hopkins University, participating in a clinical trial that explores the link between the psychedelic state and mystical experience.
A volunteer, during a supervised psilocybin session at Johns Hopkins University, participating in a clinical trial that explores the link between the psychedelic state and mystical experience.

Multimedia

Audio

Mind-altering compounds, such as LSD and psilocybin, stirred controversy in the 1960s. As the counter-culture’s psychedelic drugs of choice, the widespread use - and abuse - of hallucinogens prompted tougher anti-drug laws.

That also led to a crackdown on clinical studies of the drugs’ complex psychological effects.

However, now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun to approve limited research into the potential benefits of psychedelic drugs.

Fresh look

No one is more aware of the stigma attached to psychedelics than Rick Doblin, director of the Multi-Disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a drug development firm that funds FDA-approved clinical trials to examine the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelics.

Doblin says the virtual blackout on research that resulted from aggressive federal drug-control policies in the 1960s finally began to ease in 1990, when new regulators at the FDA decided to take a fresh look at psychedelic drugs.

UCLA researchers found the psychedelic compound, psilocybin - found naturally in certain mushrooms - can ease end-of-life anxiety in cancer patients.
UCLA researchers found the psychedelic compound, psilocybin - found naturally in certain mushrooms - can ease end-of-life anxiety in cancer patients.

"They decided they would put science over politics and permit research to go forward," he says. "They were willing to acknowledge that these drugs could be administered in a safe-enough context and that there were promising hints of potential benefits and therapeutic uses. Today, there is more psychedelics research taking place than in the last 40 years.”

'Ecstasy' helps recall lost memories

One especially active focus of FDA-approved research has involved MDMA - also known as “Ecstasy.”

This potent drug is being studied for its potential therapeutic value for sex-abuse victims and combat veterans suffering from chronic, treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

Dr. Michael Mithoefer conducted small FDA-approved clinical trials using MDMA and a placebo. He found the drug - when administered in tandem with psychotherapy - helped patients recall traumatic, but long-buried, memories.

DEA-confiscated LSD soaked “blotter” of the type often used by the 1960s counterculture.
DEA-confiscated LSD soaked “blotter” of the type often used by the 1960s counterculture.

“So what we are seeing with MDMA is it seems to allow people to access the trauma, revisit it with a sense that they are not going to be overwhelmed by the fear and anxiety," Mithoefer says, "but at the same time, helps them to overcome whatever emotional numbing they have so they can connect with the emotions, and process the trauma that way.”

Two months after their sessions, 83 percent of the subjects who had been given MDMA had significantly fewer PTSD symptoms, or none at all, while 25 percent of subjects in the placebo group showed such improvements. And the benefits lasted more than three years.

Psychedelic drug possibilities

Other psychedelic drugs also show clinical possibilities. For example, University of San Diego researcher Thomas Brown found that a plant-derived psychedelic, called ibogaine can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings in heroine and methadone addicts.

In another study, UCLA researchers reported that the psychedelic compound, psilocybin - found naturally in certain mushrooms - can ease end-of-life anxiety in cancer patients when administered in carefully controlled and monitored sessions. Similar studies are under way at Johns Hopkins, New York University and Harvard.  

The word “psychedelic” literally means “mind manifesting.” Psychologist Neal Goldsmith authored “Psychedelic Healing,” a survey of the many uses for these powerful psychoactive drugs. According to Goldsmith, some psychedelics have proved helpful in couples therapy, and as aids to meditation and other spiritual practices.   

“From my perspective, psychedelics bring us awareness that our deepest, truest nature is healthy, whole, perfect, loving," he says. "So it’s a very interesting time now, where we are rediscovering our spiritual natures through a scientific method.”

Spiritual link

The link between psychedelics and spirituality has been of special interest to Roland Griffiths, a behavioral biologist at Johns Hopkins University.

In two FDA-approved experiments, his research team gave large doses of psilocybin to carefully-screened volunteers. They were placed in a pleasant, home-like laboratory environment, outfitted with eyeshades to avoid distractions, and given headphones through which they could listen to music.

Griffiths wanted to see if the psilocybin could induce spiritual experiences similar to those mystics have reported as a natural result of meditation and prayer. Griffiths says that in almost every case the psychedelic triggered a profound sense of spirituality.   

“That is, an experience of the interconnectedness of all peoples, an experience that is permeated with a sense of the 'sacred,' an experience of heart-opening or infinite love, a collapse of time and space and, perhaps most importantly, a sense that the experience is more real and more true than everyday waking consciousness."

Not for everyone

Some people don't respond well to psychedelic drugs, according to Griffiths.

Fear and confusion, coupled with physical discomfort, dizziness or nausea can create an unpleasant, even terrifying experience.

Griffiths doesn’t advocate the unsupervised use of these powerful drugs.

But he believes, in the hands of properly trained professionals, psychedelics are a valuable and still largely unexplored tool for healing and understanding the human mind.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: william
March 22, 2012 5:40 AM
Yeah it sure stopped the manson gang from murdering people.

by: Adonis Alexander
March 14, 2012 10:14 PM
There is no spiritual connection with any drug. A drug may bring about certain psychical phenomenon but that is mere mental stimulation. Spirituality is not an experience. The ultimate reality is not something you can touch through any means.

www.spiritual-awakening-now.com

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs