People’s expectations influence microdosing outcomes, Canadians sue government for psilocybin access, and a post-mortem on the DEA’s canceled tryptamine ban
Plus: SB 519 back in play, and still more Oregon counties look to opt-out of psilocybin services
Happy Friday, and welcome back to The Microdose. Here’s the news of the week:
People’s expectations influence microdosing outcomes, a new study suggests. Microdosing is on the rise, but the science behind the practice is still murky. While taking small amounts of psychedelic drugs has been associated with improved mood and decreased anxiety, it’s unclear how much the drugs drove these effects, versus participants’ expectations. A new study, published this week in Translational Psychiatry, suggests the latter has a significant effect on microdosers’ experiences.
Researchers at the University of Buenos Aires and University of Chemistry and Technology Prague completed a double-blind, placebo-controlled study in which participants received 0.5 gram of dried mushrooms or a placebo. (This amount was intended to be “sub-perceptual”— too small to noticeably affect participants’ perceptual or cognitive functioning — but the study’s results suggest participants perceived the dose nonetheless.) Then, participants took cognitive tests and surveys probing their personality and subjective experiences during the session, and their brain activity was recorded via electroencephalography (EEG).
The scientists report that EEG recordings of participants who received a microdose looked different from those who received a placebo, but that microdosing had no effect by other measurements. “Low doses of psilocybin mushrooms can result in noticeable subjective effects and altered EEG rhythms, but without evidence to support enhanced well-being, creativity and cognitive function,” they write. “We conclude that expectation underlies at least some of the anecdotal benefits attributed to microdosing with psilocybin mushrooms.”
Canadians sue government for psilocybin access. Currently, there are limited options for Canadians who wish to legally access psilocybin. They can enroll in a clinical trial, have a physician request authorization through Health Canada’s Special Access Program (an option rolled out early this year), or petition Canada’s Minister of Health for a personal exemption. This week, eight Canadians — seven patients and a healthcare practitioner — are suing the Canadian government for access to psilocybin-assisted therapy, arguing that the three available methods to access psilocybin “do not adequately serve the needs of patients,” The National Post reports.
Canadian psilocybin non-profit advocacy group TheraPsil is supporting the legal challenge. The organization has also been working to help terminally ill patients and psychedelic practitioners-in-training gain legal access to psilocybin-assisted therapy.
There has never been a more exciting – or bewildering – time in the world of psychedelics. Don’t miss a beat.
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A post-mortem on the DEA’s canceled tryptamine proposal. Last week, The Microdose reported on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s decision to abandon its plans to classify five previously unscheduled psychedelic tryptamines as Schedule I substances. This week, Psychedelic Alpha released a special report analyzing the saga; it reviews the history and context of the DEA’s initial proposal, as well as its potential ramifications and behind-the-scenes goings-on. Had the proposal become policy, access to the five tryptamines for research purposes would have been severely curtailed by high costs and the bureaucratic red tape that comes with doing research with Schedule I drugs.
Ultimately, the scientists, companies, and lawyers’ biggest criticism of the DEA proposal was the outdated evidence it relied on for scheduling the drugs, which came from a U.S. Health and Human Services evaluation of the drugs published in 2012. A huge amount of new psychedelic research has been published since then — some funded by federal agencies, Psychedelic Alpha points out, and that “has fundamentally questioned assumptions about these drugs’ abuse potential.” Prominent officials like Brett Giroir, a former Assistant Secretary for Health, submitted declarations making this point: In the last decade, “our medical and scientific understanding of hallucinogenic and dissociative compounds has progressed considerably,” Giroir wrote. “There is a compelling need for a new medical and scientific evaluation. . . that is not a decade old and reflects the current state scientific knowledge regarding the compounds at issue.”
The report also includes some interesting details showing how an administrative law judge clashed with the head of the DEA during the proposed scheduling process. “It’s clear that the Administrative Law Judge assigned to the matter is frustrated by the possibility that the DEA’s Administrator might be making decisions unilaterally,” according to the Psychedelic Alpha report.
The State of Psychedelics: SB 519 back in play. In California, Senate Bill 519, which would allow possession and “social sharing” of psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine, mescaline, LSD, and MDMA for anyone over 21, was scheduled to be heard in the Senate’s appropriations committee on Wednesday. (For more on the bill, read The Microdose’s 5 Questions for Scott Wiener, the California state senator who introduced the legislation.) Lucid News reports that the bill’s authors will likely push SB 519 to the Assembly Suspense File, where any bill that requires more than $150,000 in funding is sent. Lobbyists are planning to meet with Assembly members this week, Lucid reports. “Sources close to SB 519 are hoping to whip up support for the legislation before pushing for a vote on the floor of the Assembly.”
The Latest in Oregon: A majority of Oregon counties are considering a psilocybin services ban. The number of Oregon counties and towns considering ballot initiatives to ban psilocybin services continues to grow. This week, Marion, Clatsop, Union, and Wallowa joined the list of counties considering putting a ban to voters in November, while Washington County voted against adding such a ban to the ballot. Portland TV station KATU reports that a majority of Oregon counties — 24 of 36 — “have already started the public hearing process required to put an opt-out measure on the ballot.”
Can the psychedelics world avoid the same mistakes the cannabis industry made during its rollout? Rolling Stone explores the question.
Johns Hopkins has recently begun a clinical trial investigating whether psilocybin can help patients with symptoms associated with post-treatment Lyme Disease.
Social workers training at Columbia University and nursing students at the University of Pennsylvania will be trying out a new psychedelic-assisted therapy curriculum. If all goes well, the curriculum will be available to other institutions “at little or no cost,” according to a press release from Columbia.
On a podcast episode with supplement company founder Aubrey Marcus, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers spoke about his experiences with ayahuasca and DMT, crediting psychedelics for contributing to his best football season yet. (After a record-breaking 2021 season, Rodgers was crowned the National Football League’s most valuable player for the second year in a row.) In an op-ed, Sports Illustrated writer Jimmy Traina wonders whether — and how — the NFL will address Rodgers’ comments.
Correction: Last week, we mistakenly reported that Colorado’s Initiative 61, which would make the possession, use, cultivation, and sharing of entheogenic plants and fungi state-legal, reached the requisite 125,000 signatures to appear on the state’s ballot in November. It has not, and the initiative’s organizers have until August 8 to do so. We regret the error, and we appreciate the readers who wrote in to inform us of it.
You’re all caught up! Have a great weekend — and a great rest of the month! The Microdose will be in vacation mode for the remainder of August; this will be the last installment of This Week in Psychedelics until September, but look for new 5 Questions interviews on August 8, 15, and 29.
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Regarding the situation in Canada... While technically illegal there are online dispensaries which operate openly here. They're reliable and very professional, at least the one that I've used. Afaik I know they're in the same position cannabis dealers were for many years before legalisation: the cops have said they're not going after the dispensaries because they have "bigger things to worry about."
Of course, a fungus that grows naturally and which has many medical uses and very few side effects should not be illegal AT ALL.
Thank your for the work you do. I am new to this substack but not new to the subject matter. Bless you.