How A Psychedelic Drug Helps Cancer Patients Overcome Anxiety


December 3, 20167:00 AM ET

Robin Marantz Henig

 

Psychedelic drugs could provide relief for anxiety and depression among advanced cancer patients.

The brilliantly-colored shapes reminded Carol Vincent of fluorescent deep-sea creatures, and they floated past her languidly. She was overwhelmed by their beauty — and then suddenly, as if in a dream, she was out somewhere in deep space instead. “Oh, wow,” she thought, overwhelmed all over again. She had been an amateur skydiver in her youth, but this sensation didn’t come with any sense of speeding or falling or even having a body at all. She was just hovering there, gazing at the universe.

Vincent was having a psychedelic experience, taking part in one of the two studies just published that look at whether cancer patients like her could overcome their death-related anxiety and depression with a single dose of psilocybin.

It turned out they could, according to the studies, conducted at New York University and Johns Hopkins and reported this week in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. NYU and Hopkins scientists gave synthetic psilocybin, the hallucinogenic component of “magic mushrooms,” to a combined total of 80 people with advanced cancer suffering from depression, anxiety, and “existential angst.” At follow-up six months or more later, two-thirds of the subjects said their anxiety and depression had pretty much disappeared after a single dose.

And about 80 percent said the psilocybin experience was “among the most personally meaningful of their lives,” Roland Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and leader of the Hopkins team, said in an interview.

That’s how it was for Vincent, one of the volunteers in Griffiths’ study. By the time she found her way to Hopkins in 2014, Vincent, now 61, had been living for six years with a time bomb of a diagnosis: follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which she was told was incurable. It was asymptomatic at the time except for a few enlarged lymph nodes, but was expected to start growing at some undefined future date; when it did, Vincent would have to start chemotherapy just to keep it in check. By 2014, still symptom-free, Vincent had grown moderately anxious, depressed, and wary, on continual high alert for signs that the cancer growth had finally begun.

“The anvil over your head, the constant surveillance of your health — it takes a toll,” says Vincent, who owns an advertising agency in Victoria, British Columbia. She found herself thinking, “What’s the point of this? All I’m doing is waiting for the lymphoma. There was no sense of being able to look forward to something.” When she wasn’t worrying about her cancer, she was worrying about her son, then in his mid-20s and going through a difficult time. What would happen to him if she died?

Participating in the psilocybin study, she says, was the first thing she’d looked forward to in years.

The experiment involved two treatments with psilocybin, roughly one month apart — one at a dose high enough to bring on a markedly altered state of consciousness, the other at a very low dose to serve as a control. It’s difficult to design an experiment like this to compare treatment with an actual placebo, since it’s obvious to everyone when a psychedelic experience is underway.

The NYU study used a design similar to Hopkins’ but with an “active placebo,” the B vitamin niacin, instead of very-low-dose psilocybin as the control. Niacin speeds up heart rate but doesn’t have any psychedelic effect. In both studies it was random whether a volunteer got the dose or the control first, but everyone got both, and the order seemed to make no difference in the outcome.

Vincent had to travel from her home in Victoria to Baltimore for the sessions; her travel costs were covered by the Heffter Research Institute, the New Mexico nonprofit that funded both studies. She spent the day before each treatment with the two Hopkins staffers who would be her “guides” during the psilocybin trip. They helped her anticipate some of the emotional issues — the kind of baggage everyone has — that might come to the fore during the experience.

The guides told Vincent that she might encounter some hallucinations that were frightening, and that she shouldn’t try to run away from them. “If you see scary stuff,” they told her, “just open up and walk right in.”

They repeated that line the following day — “just open up and walk right in” — when Vincent returned to Hopkins at 9 a.m., having eaten a light breakfast. The treatment took place in a hospital room designed to feel as homey as possible. “It felt like your first apartment after college, circa 1970,” she says, with a beige couch, a couple of armchairs and some abstract art on the wall.

Vincent was given the pill in a ceramic chalice, and in about 20 minutes she started to feel woozy. She lay down on the couch, put on some eye shades and headphones to block out exterior sights and sounds, and focused on what was happening inside her head. The headphones delivered a carefully-chosen playlist of Western classical music, from Bach and Beethoven to Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” interspersed with some sitar music and Buddhist chants. Vincent recalled the music as mostly soothing or uplifting, though occasionally there were some brooding pieces in a minor key that led her images to a darker place.

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With the music as background, Vincent started to experience a sequence of vivid hallucinations that took her from the deep sea to vast outer space. Listening to her describe it is like listening to anyone describe a dream — it’s a disjointed series of scenes, for which the intensity and meaning can be hard to convey.

She remembered seeing neon geometric shapes, a gold shield spelling out the name Jesus, a whole series of cartoon characters — a fish, a rabbit, a horse, a pirate ship, a castle, a crab, a superhero in a cape — and at some point she entered a crystal cave encrusted with prisms. “It was crazy how overwhelmed by the beauty I was,” she says, sometimes to the point of weeping. “Everything I was looking at was so spectacular.”

At one point she heard herself laughing in her son’s voice, in her brother’s voice, and in the voices of other family members. The cartoon characters kept appearing in the midst of all that spectacular beauty, especially the “comical crab” that emerged two more times. She saw a frightening black vault, which she thought might contain something terrifying. But remembering her guides’ advice to “just open up and walk right in,” she investigated, and found that the only thing inside it was herself.

When the experience was over, about six hours after it began, the guides sent Vincent back to the hotel with her son, who had accompanied her to Baltimore, and asked her to write down what she’d visualized and what she thought about it.

Griffiths had at first been worried about giving psychedelics to cancer patients like Vincent, fearing they might actually become even more afraid of death by taking “a look into the existential void.”

But even though some research participants did have moments of panic in which they thought they were losing their minds or were about to die, he said the guides were always able to settle them down, and never had to resort to the antipsychotic drugs they had on hand for emergencies. (The NYU guides never had to use theirs, either.)

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Many subjects came away feeling uplifted, Griffiths says, talking about “a sense of unity,” feeling part of “an interconnected whole.” He adds that even people who are atheists, as Vincent is, described the feeling as precious, meaningful or even sacred.

The reasons for the power and persistence of psilocybin’s impact are still “a big mystery,” according to Griffiths. “That’s what makes this research, frankly, so exciting,” he says. “There’s so much that’s unknown, and it holds the promise for really understanding the nature of human meaning-making and consciousness.”

He says he looks forward to using psilocybin in other patient populations, not just people with terminal diagnoses, to help answer larger existential questions that are “so critical to our experience as human organisms.”

Two and a half years after the psychedelic experience, Carol Vincent is still symptom-free, but she’s not as terrified of the “anvil” hanging over her, no longer waiting in dread for the cancer to show itself. “I didn’t get answers to questions like, ‘Where are you, God?’ or ‘Why did I get cancer?’ ” she says. What she got instead, she says, was the realization that all the fears and worries that “take up so much of my mental real estate” turn out to be “really insignificant” in the context of the big picture of the universe.

This insight was heightened by one small detail of her psilocybin trip, which has stayed with her all this time: that little cartoon crab that floated into her vision along with the other animated characters.

“I saw that crab three times,” Vincent says. The crab, she later realized, is the astrological sign of cancer — the disease that terrified her, and also the sign that both her son and her mother were born under. These were the three things in her life that she cared about, and worried over, most deeply, she says. “And here they were, appearing as comic relief.”

Science writer Robin Marantz Henig is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and the author of nine books.

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The Tyranny at Standing Rock: The Government’s Divide-and-Conquer Strategy Is Working


 

Image result for standing rock

 

 

By John Whitehead

What we’re witnessing at Standing Rock, where activists have gathered to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline construction on Native American land, is just the latest incarnation of the government’s battle plan for stamping out any sparks of resistance and keeping the populace under control: battlefield tactics, military weaponry and a complete suspension of the Constitution.

Militarized police. Riot and camouflage gear. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Drones. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Concussion grenades. Arrests of journalists. Intimidation tactics. Brute force.

This is what martial law looks like, when a government disregards constitutional freedoms and imposes its will through military force.

Only this is martial law without any government body having to declare it.

This is martial law packaged as law and order and sold to the public as necessary for keeping the peace.

These overreaching, heavy-handed lessons in how to rule by force have become standard operating procedure for a government that communicates with its citizenry primarily through the language of brutality, intimidation and fear.

What Americans have failed to comprehend is that the police state doesn’t differentiate.

In the eyes of the government–whether that government is helmed by Barack Obama or Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton–there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats, between blacks and whites and every shade in the middle, between Native Americans and a nation of immigrants (no matter how long we’ve been here), between the lower class and the middle and upper classes, between religious and non-religious Americans, between those who march in lockstep with the police state and those who oppose its tactics.

This is all part and parcel of the government’s plan for dealing with widespread domestic unrest, no matter the source.

Divide and conquer.

For too long now, the American people have allowed their personal prejudices and politics to cloud their judgment and render them incapable of seeing that the treatment being doled out by the government’s lethal enforcers has remained consistent, no matter the threat.

The government’s oppressive tactics have not changed.

The same martial law maneuvers and intimidation tactics used to put down protests and muzzle journalists two years ago in Ferguson and Baltimore are being used to flat-line protesters and journalists at Standing Rock this year.

The same infiltration and surveillance of ranch activists opposing the Bureau of Land Management in Oregon and Nevada over the past several years were used against nonviolent anti-war protesters more than a decade ago.

The same brutality that was in full force 20-plus years ago when the government raided the Branch Davidian religious compound near Waco, Texas–targeting residents with loud music, bright lights, bulldozers, flash-bang grenades, tear gas, tanks and gunfire, and leaving 80 individuals, including two dozen children, dead–were on full display more than 50 years ago when government agents unleashed fire hoses and police dogs on civil rights protesters, children included.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead’s aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and accomplishments, including the Hungarian Medal of Freedom. His concern for the persecuted and oppressed led him, in 1982, to establish The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization in Charlottesville, Va. Whitehead serves as the Institute’s president and spokesperson. His thought-provoking commentaries call people to action and address a wide range of contemporary issues from faith to politics and television to constitutional rights. He is also a frequent commentator on a variety of issues in the national media, as well as the editor of the award-winning pop culture magazine, Gadfly. Whitehead’s book A Government of Wolves will be published in June 2013. Please visit On Target to view Whitehead’s weekly video commentaries. He also blogs daily about the emerging police state at http://agovernmentofwolves.com/

Monsanto Tribunal and People’s Assembly


Link to video: https://youtu.be/rye7J6jnVeE
Produced By Navdanya International and FINCA
Direction, footage and editing by FINCA and ESC

The Monsanto Tribunal and the People’s Assembly were held in The Hague from 14th to 16th October 2016.
Over the last century giant agribusiness interests which came out of the war industry have poisoned life, our ecosystems, destroyed our biodiversity and pushed farmers off the land. As these corporations become bigger, they gain more power, more immunity and more rights.

Using free trade neoliberal policies and deregulation of commerce to enlarge their empires, these corporations are attacking life on earth and biodiversity. They have broadened their control over our seed, our food and freedom, robbing us of our human rights and democracy. They have established monopolies and threatened farmers’ rights to seed and people’s rights to affordable medicine through patents and IPRs.
Across the world people are rising, democratic governments are responding to stop this ecocide and genocide. These giants have responded by attacking laws and policies of governments that take action in response to people’s movements and call to protect the earth and people’s rights.

The process of holding the Poison Cartel accountable for its crimes is the culmination of 30 years of scientific, legal, social, and political work by movements, concerned citizens and scientists. Since the ground for the tribunal was laid by the movement, a parallel People’s Assembly was created to allow for movements from across the world to gather together, sharing problems, political strategies and visions of the future for a sustainable agriculture. This is the coalition that has got together to organize the Monsanto Tribunal and People’s Assembly.

The Tribunal aimed to synthesize the existing crimes and violations for which Monsanto is in courts across the world— in India, Europe, US, Mexico, Argentina, as well as to expand the scope of criminal activity to include the crime of ecocide, the violation of the rights of nature. The judges will issue an advisory opinion, they will verify whether Monsanto’s activities are in compliance with the laws as they exist in the UN, along with other legal instruments. It is an educational tribunal, that can influence international human rights law.

The People’s Assembly was a gathering of movements, seed savers, seed defenders, farmers and growers and civilians to address the crimes against nature and against humanity perpetrated by chemical and biotechnology corporations. The People’s Assembly included different aspects of the movements defending the corporate assault as well as positive people’s stories of the movements building the alternative.
After listening to witnesses and lawyers from the Tribunal, as well as to organizations, farmers, activists and common citizens from the People’s Assembly, the evidence is clear: “The poison cartel, which includes toxic makers such as Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, and the like, are together destroying both our bread and our freedom. They are corrupting governments, violating nations’ sovereignty and imposing on our planet a model of greed, poison and corruption”. Monsanto and the Poison Cartel are guilty of crimes against our planet and against humanity. This is the verdict from the People’s Assembly stated in the final press release.
Dr Vandana Shiva: “If you consider the attack on nature and the rights of nature that’s what’s called ecocide. If you take attacks on human beings in large numbers knowing that you chemicals will cause disease, knowing that your patents and royalties collection will create debt and farmers will commit suicide, in the UN definition that is called genocide.”

Andre Leu: “The reason why we have a People’s Assembly as well as the Tribunal is because while the Tribunal is a proper legally constituted trial, the real punishment is the one of public opinion.”

Nnimmo Bassey: “Coming to the People’s Assembly and the Monsanto tribunal is very important for me because we are going to build a platform for actually getting people to stand for their own rights and to fight against industrial toxic agriculture based on genetically engineered crops and toxic chemicals.”

Marie-Monique Robin: “This is really like a nightmare to be quite frank. When you see how toxic these products are and what Monsanto did to maintain its products on the market, it is really very difficult to believe. Along with the total lack of sense of responsibility and the impunity that is going on.”

Hans Herren: “Good food, quality food for the long term it’s absolutely not in the picture of these corporations. It is actually a scandal and it’s very tragic that short term profit – and the example is in all these mergers – trumps over long term sustainability and survival for humanity. We know for sure that we can produce enough quality and diverse food to nourish a populations of 10 billion with sustainable agriculture practices”

Ronnie Cummins: “Now we’ve got these massive corporations like Monsanto who are trying to control everything, including our food, our health and if we work together internationally, we can make it, we can be much more powerful.”


www.peoplesassembly.net
www.monsanto-tribunal.org
www.seedfreedom.info

 

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