OPEN Foundation

Cacti / Mescaline

Spotlight commentary: REBUS and the anarchic brain

Abstract

In ‘REBUS and the Anarchic Brain: Towards a Unified Model of the Brain Action of Psychedelics’, Carhart-Harris and Friston offer an important analysis of what the predictive processing framework has to offer our understanding of psychedelic experiences, providing an invaluable ground for psychedelic psychiatry. While applauding this, we encourage paying greater attention to contextual factors shaping extreme experiences and their sequalae, and suggest that the authors’ comparisons with certain non-psychedelic altered states may overlook more informative parallels that can be drawn elsewhere. Addressing both points will prove fruitful, ultimately, in identifying the mechanisms of action of greatest interest in psychedelic experiences.
Carhart-Harris, R. L., & Friston, K. J. (2019). REBUS and the anarchic brain: toward a unified model of the brain action of psychedelics. Pharmacological reviews71(3), 316-344., https://doi.org/10.1093/nc/niaa007
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Mystical Experiences in Retrospective Reports of First Times Using a Psychedelic in Finland

Abstract

Despite their acutely inebriating and sometimes unpleasant effects, some people report positive changes in life satisfaction, well-being, or mental health after taking psychedelic drugs. One explanation may be the ability of psychedelics to trigger mystical-type experiences. We examined the validity, reliability, and factor structure of a novel Finnish translation of the Revised Mystical Experiences Questionnaire (MEQ30) among 288 people retrospectively reporting on their first time using a psychedelic. We found evidence for internal consistency reliability and preliminary evidence for criterion and discriminant validity of the Finnish MEQ30. A four-factor structure with factors for mystical qualities, positive mood, transcendence, and ineffability had the best, fair to reasonable fit to the data. MEQ30 scores and having a full mystical experience were highly associated with describing the experience as mystical, spiritual, or religious, and as personally significant, and somewhat associated with the experience being sad or difficult. Mystical experiences were especially associated with positive changes in relationships with nature and oneself and in creativity. Mystical experiences were more common with larger doses. Increasing research suggests mystical-type experiences to relate to positive changes after taking psychedelics. The Finnish MEQ30 is able to tap into relevant information about this aspect of people’s psychedelic experiences.
Kangaslampi, S., Hausen, A., & Rauteenmaa, T. (2020). Mystical Experiences in Retrospective Reports of First Times Using a Psychedelic in Finland. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2020.1767321
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Natural Psychoplastogens As Antidepressant Agents

Abstract

Increasing prevalence and burden of major depressive disorder presents an unavoidable problem for psychiatry. Existing antidepressants exert their effect only after several weeks of continuous treatment. In addition, their serious side effects and ineffectiveness in one-third of patients call for urgent action. Recent advances have given rise to the concept of psychoplastogens. These compounds are capable of fast structural and functional rearrangement of neural networks by targeting mechanisms previously implicated in the development of depression. Furthermore, evidence shows that they exert a potent acute and long-term positive effects, reaching beyond the treatment of psychiatric diseases. Several of them are naturally occurring compounds, such as psilocybin, N,N-dimethyltryptamine, and 7,8-dihydroxyflavone. Their pharmacology and effects in animal and human studies were discussed in this article.

Benko, J., & Vranková, S. (2020). Natural Psychoplastogens As Antidepressant Agents. Molecules25(5), 1172., https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25051172
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From Egoism to Ecoism: Psychedelics Increase Nature Relatedness in a State-Mediated and Context-Dependent Manner.

Abstract

(1) Background: There appears to be a growing disconnection between humans and their natural environments which has been linked to poor mental health and ecological destruction. Previous research suggests that individual levels of nature relatedness can be increased through the use of classical psychedelic compounds, although a causal link between psychedelic use and nature relatedness has not yet been established. (2) Methods: Using correlations and generalized linear mixed regression modelling, we investigated the association between psychedelic use and nature relatedness in a prospective online study. Individuals planning to use a psychedelic received questionnaires 1 week before (N = 654), plus one day, 2 weeks, 4 weeks, and 2 years after a psychedelic experience. (3) Results: The frequency of lifetime psychedelic use was positively correlated with nature relatedness at baseline. Nature relatedness was significantly increased 2 weeks, 4 weeks and 2 years after the psychedelic experience. This increase was positively correlated with concomitant increases in psychological well-being and was dependent on the extent of ego-dissolution and the perceived influence of natural surroundings during the acute psychedelic state. (4) Conclusions: The here presented evidence for a context- and state-dependent causal effect of psychedelic use on nature relatedness bears relevance for psychedelic treatment models in mental health and, in the face of the current ecological crisis, planetary health.
Kettner, H., Gandy, S., Haijen, E. C., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2019). From Egoism to Ecoism: Psychedelics Increase Nature Relatedness in a State-Mediated and Context-Dependent Manner. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health16(24), 5147., https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16245147
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Emotional breakthrough and psychedelics: Validation of the Emotional Breakthrough Inventory

Abstract

Background: Psychedelic therapy is gaining recognition and the nature of the psychedelic experience itself has been found to mediate subsequent long-term psychological changes. Much emphasis has been placed on the occurrence of mystical-type experiences in determining long-term responses to psychedelics yet here we demonstrate the importance of another component, namely: emotional breakthrough.
Methods: Three hundred and seventy-nine participants completed online surveys before and after a planned psychedelic experience. Items pertaining to emotional breakthrough were completed one day after the psychedelic experience, as were items comprising the already validated Mystical Experience Questionnaire and the Challenging Experience Questionnaire. Emotional breakthrough, Mystical Experience Questionnaire and Challenging Experience Questionnaire scores were used to predict changes in well-being (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale) in a subsample of 75 participants with low well-being baseline scores (⩽45).
Results: Factor analyses revealed six emotional breakthrough items with high internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha=0.932) and supported our prior hypothesis that emotional breakthrough is a distinct component of the psychedelic experience. Emotional breakthrough scores behaved dose-dependently, and were higher if the psychedelic was taken with therapeutic planning and intent. Emotional breakthrough, Mystical Experience Questionnaire and Challenging Experience Questionnaire scores combined, significantly predicted subsequent changes in well-being (r=0.45, p=0.0005, n=75), with each scale contributing significant predictive value. Emotional breakthrough and Mystical Experience Questionnaire scores predicted increases in well-being and Challenging Experience Questionnaire scores predicted less increases.
Conclusions: Here we validate a six-item ‘Emotional Breakthrough Inventory’. Emotional breakthrough is an important and distinct component of the acute psychedelic experience that appears to be a key mediator of subsequent longer-term psychological changes. Implications for psychedelic therapy are discussed.

Keywords: Psychedelics; catharsis; emotion; therapy.
Roseman, L., Haijen, E., Idialu-Ikato, K., Kaelen, M., Watts, R., & Carhart-Harris, R. (2019). Emotional breakthrough and psychedelics: validation of the emotional breakthrough inventory. Journal of Psychopharmacology33(9), 1076-1087., https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881119855974
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100 years of mescaline

Abstract

In the hundred years since Ernst Späth’s synthesis of mescaline, it has been used in clinical research for many purposes, including the study of hallucinations, creativity, and schizophrenia. After Aldous Huxley described his experience with it in The Doors of Perception, it became a public sensation. During the 1960s it was largely replaced as a research compound by LSD. Today its scientific use is subject to strict controls, but the synthetic phenethylamines developed from it are widely used.

Jay, M. (2019). 100 years of mescaline. Monatshefte für Chemie-Chemical Monthly150(5), 957-959., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00706-019-02425-3
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Classic psychedelics: the special role of the visual system

Abstract

Here, we briefly overview the various aspects of classic serotonergic hallucinogens reported by a number of studies. One of the key hypotheses of our paper is that the visual effects of psychedelics might play a key role in resetting fears. Namely, we especially focus on visual processes because they are among the most prominent features of hallucinogen-induced hallucinations. We hypothesize that our brain has an ancient visual-based (preverbal) intrinsic cognitive process that, during the transient inhibition of top-down convergent and abstract thinking (mediated by the prefrontal cortex) by psychedelics, can neutralize emotional fears of unconscious and conscious life experiences from the past. In these processes, the decreased functional integrity of the self-referencing processes of the default mode network, the modified multisensory integration (linked to bodily self-consciousness and self-awareness), and the modified amygdala activity may also play key roles. Moreover, the emotional reset (elimination of stress-related emotions) by psychedelics may induce psychological changes and overwrite the stress-related neuroepigenetic information of past unconscious and conscious emotional fears.

Császár-Nagy, N., Kapócs, G., & Bókkon, I. (2019). Classic psychedelics: the special role of the visual system. Reviews in the neurosciences.,  10.1515/revneuro-2018-0092
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Beyond LSD: A Broader Psychedelic Zeitgeist during the Early to Mid-20 th Century

Abstract

During the 1950s and 1960s, there was a tremendous surge in research into the effects of psychedelic drugs. When discussing this period of research, the discovery of the psychoactive properties of LSD in 1943 is often presented as the main, and sometimes only, driving force of the boom in research. This “Great Person,” or “Great Chemical,” historiographical lens fails to acknowledge other factors that were fundamental in setting the stage for the research. In particular, other psychedelic drugs, such as mescaline, were already being probed for their uses in psychotherapy and as models for psychosis before the effects of LSD had been discovered. Psilocybin and other classical psychedelics had also been discovered by Western researchers around the same time as the synthesis of LSD. Additionally, many of the dominant zeitgeists (e.g., pharmacological, psychoanalytic, and humanistic) in psychology during this period were congruent with psychedelic research. This article argues that while the discovery of LSD may have been a catalyst for psychedelic research in the 1950s and ’60s, there was a broader psychedelic zeitgeist that deserves acknowledgement for setting the stage.
Aday, J. S., Bloesch, E. K., & Davoli, C. C. (2019). Beyond LSD: A broader psychedelic zeitgeist during the early to mid-20th century. Journal of psychoactive drugs51(3), 210-217., https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2019.1581961
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A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics

Abstract

The phenomenon of ‘microdosing’, that is, regular ingestion of very small quantities of psychedelic substances, has seen a rapid explosion of popularity in recent years. Individuals who microdose report minimal acute effects from these substances yet claim a range of long-term general health and wellbeing benefits. There have been no published empirical studies of microdosing and the current legal and bureaucratic climate makes direct empirical investigation of the effects of psychedelics difficult. In Study One we conducted a systematic, observational investigation of individuals who microdose. We tracked the experiences of 98 microdosing participants, who provided daily ratings of psychological functioning over a six week period. 63 of these additionally completed a battery of psychometric measures tapping mood, attention, wellbeing, mystical experiences, personality, creativity, and sense of agency, at baseline and at completion of the study. Analyses of daily ratings revealed a general increase in reported psychological functioning across all measures on dosing days but limited evidence of residual effects on following days. Analyses of pre and post study measures revealed reductions in reported levels of depression and stress; lower levels of distractibility; increased absorption; and increased neuroticism. To better understand these findings, in Study Two we investigated pre-existing beliefs and expectations about the effects of microdosing in a sample of 263 naïve and experienced microdosers, so as to gauge expectancy bias. All participants believed that microdosing would have large and wide-ranging benefits in contrast to the limited outcomes reported by actual microdosers. Notably, the effects believed most likely to change were unrelated to the observed pattern of reported outcomes. The current results suggest that dose controlled empirical research on the impacts of microdosing on mental health and attentional capabilities are needed.

Polito, V., & Stevenson, R. J. (2019). A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics. PloS one14(2), e0211023., 10.1371/journal.pone.0211023.
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Effects of acute and repeated treatment with serotonin 5-HT2A receptor agonist hallucinogens on intracranial self-stimulation in rats

Abstract

The prototype 5-HT2A receptor agonist hallucinogens LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin are classified as Schedule 1 drugs of abuse by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Accumulating clinical evidence has also suggested that acute or repeated “microdosing” with these drugs may have utility for treatment of some mental health disorders, including drug abuse and depression. The goal of the present study was to evaluate LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin effects on intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS), a procedure that has been used to evaluate abuse-related effects of other classes of abused drugs. Effects of repeated LSD were also examined to evaluate potential changes in its own effects on ICSS or changes in effects produced by the abused psychostimulant methamphetamine or the prodepressant kappa opioid receptor (KOR) agonist U69,593. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were implanted with microelectrodes targeting the medial forebrain bundle and trained to respond under a “frequency-rate” ICSS procedure, in which many drugs of abuse increase (or “facilitate”) ICSS. In acute dose-effect and time-course studies, evidence for abuse-related ICSS facilitation was weak and inconsistent; the predominant effect of all 3 drugs was dose- and time-dependent ICSS depression. Repeated LSD treatment failed to alter either its own ICSS depressant effects or the abuse-related effects of methamphetamine; however, repeated LSD did attenuate ICSS depression by U69,593. These results extend those of previous preclinical studies to suggest weak expression of abuse-related effects by 5-HT2A agonist hallucinogens and provide supportive evidence for therapeutic effects of repeated LSD dosing to attenuate KOR-mediated depressant effects but not abuse potential of psychostimulants.

Sakloth, F., Leggett, E., Moerke, M. J., Townsend, E. A., Banks, M. L., & Negus, S. S. (2019). Effects of acute and repeated treatment with serotonin 5-HT2A receptor agonist hallucinogens on intracranial self-stimulation in rats. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology., 10.1037/pha0000253.
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