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Philosophy

Psilocybin Therapeutic Research: The Present and Future Paradigm

Abstract

Psilocybin, an active component in “magic mushroom”, may have the potential to meet the therapeutic needs for a number of indications without the addictiveness and overdose risk of other mind-altering drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, alcohol, methamphetamine, and so forth. The need for new therapies is urgent because addiction, overdose, and suicide deaths have risen throughout the United States and around the world. Anecdotal and contemporary pharmacological reports have provided some indication about the therapeutic use of psilocybin for the treatment of mental health disorders such as major depressive disorder and addiction disorders. In this Viewpoint, I summarize the current state of psilocybin therapeutic research and attempt to provide some insight into future directions on which the scientific community may wish to focus.

Kargbo, R. B. (2020). Psilocybin Therapeutic Research: The Present and Future Paradigm. ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters11(4), 399-402.; 10.1021/acsmedchemlett.0c00048

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A Jamesian Response to Reductionism in the Neuropsychology of Religious Experience

Abstract

The neuroscience revolution has revived interpretations of religious experiences as wholly dependent on biological conditions. William James cautioned against allowing such neurological reductionism to overwhelm other useful perspectives. Contemporary psychologists of religion have raised similar cautions, but have failed to engage James as a full conversation partner. In this article, we present a contemporary, applied version of James’s perspective. We clarify the problem by reviewing specific James-like contemporary concerns about reductionism in the neuropsychological study of religion. Then, most centrally, we employ three of James’s conceptual tools—pragmatism, pluralism, and radical empiricism—to moderate contemporary reductionism. Finally, we point to a constructive approach through which neuroscientists might collaborate with scholars in the humanities and psychosocial sciences, which is consistent with our conclusion that it is often no longer fruitful to separate neurobiological studies from studies that are psychosocial or sociocultural.

Kime, K. G., & Snarey, J. R. (2018). A Jamesian Response to Reductionism in the Neuropsychology of Religious Experience. Archive for the Psychology of Religion40(2-3), 307-325., 10.1163/15736121-12341357
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Increased nature relatedness and decreased authoritarian political views after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression

Abstract

RATIONALE:
Previous research suggests that classical psychedelic compounds can induce lasting changes in personality traits, attitudes and beliefs in both healthy subjects and patient populations.
AIM:
Here we sought to investigate the effects of psilocybin on nature relatedness and libertarian-authoritarian political perspective in patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD).
METHODS:
This open-label pilot study with a mixed-model design studied the effects of psilocybin on measures of nature relatedness and libertarian-authoritarian political perspective in patients with moderate to severe TRD ( n=7) versus age-matched non-treated healthy control subjects ( n=7). Psilocybin was administered in two oral dosing sessions (10 mg and 25 mg) 1 week apart. Main outcome measures were collected 1 week and 7-12 months after the second dosing session. Nature relatedness and libertarian-authoritarian political perspective were assessed using the Nature Relatedness Scale (NR-6) and Political Perspective Questionnaire (PPQ-5), respectively.
RESULTS:
Nature relatedness significantly increased ( t(6)=-4.242, p=0.003) and authoritarianism significantly decreased ( t(6)=2.120, p=0.039) for the patients 1 week after the dosing sessions. At 7-12 months post-dosing, nature relatedness remained significantly increased ( t(5)=-2.707, p=0.021) and authoritarianism remained decreased at trend level ( t(5)=-1.811, p=0.065). No differences were found on either measure for the non-treated healthy control subjects.
CONCLUSIONS:
This pilot study suggests that psilocybin with psychological support might produce lasting changes in attitudes and beliefs. Although it would be premature to infer causality from this small study, the possibility of drug-induced changes in belief systems seems sufficiently intriguing and timely to deserve further investigation.
Lyons, T., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2018). Increased nature relatedness and decreased authoritarian political views after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0269881117748902.
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LSD Increases Primary Process Thinking via Serotonin 2A Receptor Activation

Abstract

Rationale: Stimulation of serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptors by lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and related compounds such as psilocybin has previously been shown to increase primary process thinking – an ontologically and evolutionary early, implicit, associative, and automatic mode of thinking which is typically occurring during altered states of consciousness such as dreaming. However, it is still largely unknown whether LSD induces primary process thinking under placebo-controlled, standardized experimental conditions and whether these effects are related to subjective experience and 5-HT2A receptor activation. Therefore, this study aimed to test the hypotheses that LSD increases primary process thinking and that primary process thinking depends on 5-HT2A receptor activation and is related to subjective drug effects.

Methods: Twenty-five healthy subjects performed an audio-recorded mental imagery task 7 h after drug administration during three drug conditions: placebo, LSD (100 mcg orally) and LSD together with the 5-HT2A receptor antagonist ketanserin (40 mg orally). The main outcome variable in this study was primary index (PI), a formal measure of primary process thinking in the imagery reports. State of consciousness was evaluated using the Altered State of Consciousness (5D-ASC) rating scale.

Results: LSD, compared with placebo, significantly increased primary index (p < 0.001, Bonferroni-corrected). The LSD-induced increase in primary index was positively correlated with LSD-induced disembodiment (p < 0.05, Bonferroni-corrected), and blissful state (p < 0.05, Bonferroni-corrected) on the 5D-ASC. Both LSD-induced increases in primary index and changes in state of consciousness were fully blocked by ketanserin.

Conclusion: LSD induces primary process thinking via activation of 5-HT2A receptors and in relation to disembodiment and blissful state. Primary process thinking appears to crucially organize inner experiences during both dreams and psychedelic states of consciousness.

Kraehenmann, R., Pokorny, D., Aicher, H., Preller, K. H., Pokorny, T., Bosch, O. G., … & Vollenweider, F. X. (2017). LSD Increases Primary Process Thinking via Serotonin 2A Receptor Activation. Frontiers in Pharmacology8, 814. 10.3389/fphar.2017.00814
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Psychedelic pleasures: An affective understanding of the joys of tripping

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
This paper considers the pleasures of psychedelic drugs and proposes a Deleuzian understanding of drugged pleasures as affects. In spite of a large body of work on psychedelics, not least on their therapeutic potentials, the literature is almost completely devoid of discussions of the recreational practices and pleasures of entheogenic drugs. Yet, most people do not use psychedelics because of their curative powers, but because they are fun and enjoyable ways to alter the experience of reality.
METHODS:
In the analytical part of the paper, I examine 100 trip reports from an internet forum in order to explore the pleasures of tripping.
RESULTS:
The analyses map out how drugs such as LSD and mushrooms – in combination with contextual factors such as other people, music and nature – give rise to a set of affective modifications of the drug user’s capacities to feel, sense and act.
CONCLUSION:
In conclusion it is argued that taking seriously the large group of recreational users of hallucinogens is important not only because it broadens our understanding of how entheogenic drugs work in different bodies and settings, but also because it may enable a more productive and harm reductive transmission of knowledge between the scientific and recreational psychedelic communities.
Bøhling, F. (2017). Psychedelic pleasures: An affective understanding of the joys of tripping. International Journal of Drug Policy49, 133-143. 10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.07.017
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Psychedelic pleasures: An affective understanding of the joys of tripping

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
This paper considers the pleasures of psychedelic drugs and proposes a Deleuzian understanding of drugged pleasures as affects. In spite of a large body of work on psychedelics, not least on their therapeutic potentials, the literature is almost completely devoid of discussions of the recreational practices and pleasures of entheogenic drugs. Yet, most people do not use psychedelics because of their curative powers, but because they are fun and enjoyable ways to alter the experience of reality.
METHODS:
In the analytical part of the paper, I examine 100 trip reports from an internet forum in order to explore the pleasures of tripping.
RESULTS:
The analyses map out how drugs such as LSD and mushrooms – in combination with contextual factors such as other people, music and nature – give rise to a set of affective modifications of the drug user’s capacities to feel, sense and act.
CONCLUSION:
In conclusion it is argued that taking seriously the large group of recreational users of hallucinogens is important not only because it broadens our understanding of how entheogenic drugs work in different bodies and settings, but also because it may enable a more productive and harm reductive transmission of knowledge between the scientific and recreational psychedelic communities.
Bøhling, F. (2017). Psychedelic pleasures: An affective understanding of the joys of tripping. International Journal of Drug Policy49, 133-143. 10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.07.017
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Entheogenesis: Toward an Expanded Worldview for Our Time

Whereas the terminology of psychedelics has acquired spurious cultural associations of “tripping,” the historically primal concept of consciousness expansion has two advantages. One, it connects psychedelic drugs with other modes of consciousness expansion, such as meditation and creative visioning; and two, it suggests contrasting comparison with the consciousness contraction involved in concentration and focus. Both expansions and contractions can be observed at the level of an individual’s states of consciousness and also at the level of the shared worldview of society. Contemporary world culture is moving toward an expanded worldview that recognizes both the material and the spiritual dimensions of our existence.
Metzner, R. (2017). Entheogenesis: Toward an Expanded Worldview for Our Time. Journal of Humanistic Psychology57(5), 443-449. 10.1177/0022167817723405
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The hyperassociative mind: The psychedelic experience and Merleau-Ponty’s “wild being”

Abstract

Purpose

In contemporary phenomenology, Dieter Lohmar has suggested that the new task of phenomenological research is to analyze the “alternative representational systems” of fantasy. In line with this program, we propose that psychedelic experience could also be suitable subject to this project subsumed under the wider category of fantasy activity. The aim of this paper is to show that psychedelic experiences offer a favorable situation to study the imagination.

Method

The paper applies the conceptual framework of the late Merleau-Ponty, developed in The Visible and the Invisible, using his mescaline analyses which have been elaborated in The Phenomenology of Perception.

Results

We demonstrate that psychedelic visions and emotional states can be discussed within the Merleau-Pontian framework of “wild world.” From the viewpoint of phenomenology, we suggest that psychedelic visions represent an ongoing sense-making and Gestalt-formation process in which the role of the elaborative activity of the subject is crucial. These – often unsettling – visions show the basic volatility and ambiguity of perception and fantasy, which also sheds light to the hidden schemes of perception, thinking, and emotion of normal consciousness.

Conclusions

Freud claimed that dreams are “the royal road” to the unconscious. In an analogous manner, while dreams were the primary psychoscope to the unconscious of psychoanalysis, in contemporary phenomenology psychedelic experiences may show a possible way to an another kind of unconscious, the phenomenological unconscious. This unconscious comprises the hidden schemes and basic affective emotional attitudes of the knowing subject.

Szummer, C., Horváth, L., SzabÓ, A., Frecska, E., & OrzÓi, K. (2017). The hyperassociative mind: The psychedelic experience and Merleau-Ponty’s “wild being”. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, (0), 1-10. 10.1556/2054.01.2017.006
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Self unbound: ego dissolution in psychedelic experience

Abstract

Users of psychedelic drugs often report that their sense of being a self or ‘I’ distinct from the rest of the world has diminished or altogether dissolved. Neuroscientific study of such ‘ego dissolution’ experiences offers a window onto the nature of self-awareness. We argue that ego dissolution is best explained by an account that explains self-awareness as resulting from the integrated functioning of hierarchical predictive models which posit the existence of a stable and unchanging entity to which representations are bound. Combining recent work on the ‘integrative self’ and the phenomenon of self-binding with predictive processing principles yields an explanation of ego dissolution according to which self-representation is a useful Cartesian fiction: an ultimately false representation of a simple and enduring substance to which attributes are bound which serves to integrate and unify cognitive processing across levels and domains. The self-model is not a mere narrative posit, as some have suggested; it has a more robust and ubiquitous cognitive function than that. But this does not mean, as others have claimed, that the self-model has the right attributes to qualify as a self. It performs some of the right kinds of functions, but it is not the right kind of entity. Ego dissolution experiences reveal that the self-model plays an important binding function in cognitive processing, but the self does not exist.
Letheby, C., & Gerrans, P. (2017). Self unbound: ego dissolution in psychedelic experience. Neuroscience of Consciousness3(1). 10.1093/nc/nix016
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Looking for the Self: Phenomenology, Neurophysiology and Philosophical Significance of Drug-induced Ego Dissolution

Abstract

There is converging evidence that high doses of hallucinogenic drugs can produce significant alterations of self-experience, described as the dissolution of the sense of self and the loss of boundaries between self and world. This article discusses the relevance of this phenomenon, known as “drug-induced ego dissolution (DIED)”, for cognitive neuroscience, psychology and philosophy of mind. Data from self-report questionnaires suggest that three neuropharmacological classes of drugs can induce ego dissolution: classical psychedelics, dissociative anesthetics and agonists of the kappa opioid receptor (KOR). While these substances act on different neurotransmitter receptors, they all produce strong subjective effects that can be compared to the symptoms of acute psychosis, including ego dissolution. It has been suggested that neuroimaging of DIED can indirectly shed light on the neural correlates of the self. While this line of inquiry is promising, its results must be interpreted with caution. First, neural correlates of ego dissolution might reveal the necessary neurophysiological conditions for the maintenance of the sense of self, but it is more doubtful that this method can reveal its minimally sufficient conditions. Second, it is necessary to define the relevant notion of self at play in the phenomenon of DIED. This article suggests that DIED consists in the disruption of subpersonal processes underlying the “minimal” or “embodied” self, i.e., the basic experience of being a self rooted in multimodal integration of self-related stimuli. This hypothesis is consistent with Bayesian models of phenomenal selfhood, according to which the subjective structure of conscious experience ultimately results from the optimization of predictions in perception and action. Finally, it is argued that DIED is also of particular interest for philosophy of mind. On the one hand, it challenges theories according to which consciousness always involves self-awareness. On the other hand, it suggests that ordinary conscious experience might involve a minimal kind of self-awareness rooted in multisensory processing, which is what appears to fade away during DIED.
Millière, R. (2017). Looking For The Self: Phenomenology, Neurophysiology and Philosophical Significance of Drug-induced Ego Dissolution. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11. 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00245
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