NYT on medical research into hallucinogens

April 12, 2010

Psychedelic pioneer Timothy Leary, whose research into therapeutic uses of hallucinogenic drugs is being taken up once again in the US. Photo via AP/Wide World Photos.

“All of a sudden, everything familiar started evaporating,” he recalled. “Imagine you fall off a boat out in the open ocean, and you turn around, and the boat is gone. And then the water’s gone. And then you’re gone.”

…thus explains retired clinical psychologist Clark Martin in today’s New York Times his first psychedelic experience, as part of a medical study on the effect of psilocybin on cancer patients.

Noting that federal regulators have recently begun again to approve controlled experiments with psychedelics, the article highlights some of the research currently being conducted from Johns Hopkins to Harvard to UCLA. Nevertheless, the NYT notes, federal funding is not so forthcoming. Studies like the one Martin participated in are mostly funded by nonprofits — notably MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, whose annual conference is taking place this weekend in California.

For more on the history of the psychedelic therapy movement, and the central role of Harvard University, see Don Lattin’s new book, The Harvard Psychedelic Club.

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Recommendations released for DSM-5

February 10, 2010

The NY Times reports today on the proposed draft revisions for the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It’s a short read, and highlights several debates over the working of the mind the resolution of which will bring some pretty important consequences. In the article, Columbia University psychiatry professor Dr. Michael First explains why:

“Anything you put in that book, any little change you make, has huge implications not only for psychiatry but for pharmaceutical marketing, research, for the legal system, for who’s considered to be normal or not, for who’s considered disabled… And it has huge implications for stigma… because the more disorders you put in, the more people get labels, and the higher the risk that some get inappropriate treatment.”