Discover more from The Microdose
We’re One! Lawyers appeal the DEA’s refusal to reschedule psilocybin, decrim in Australia, best practices for therapists, and psychedelics for schizophrenia
Plus: Wavy Gravy, The White Panthers, and the history of psychedelic churches
Happy Friday, and welcome back to The Microdose.
The Microdose Turns One!
We published our first newsletter post, an introduction written by Michael Pollan, one year ago today on October 28, 2021. It's been an eventful, messy, and fascinating year in psychedelics. We’ve covered the developing landscape around psilocybin treatment centers in Oregon, psychedelic therapy abuse, new patents (and patent challenges), advocates’ fight with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and even the history of psychedelics in ancient religion.
On the occasion of this first anniversary, we'd love to hear from you, our readers. Here are some questions to consider:
What do you like about reading The Microdose?
Are there issues or people you think we should cover more (or less)? Why?
Whom would you like to see interviewed for 5 Questions?
We value your feedback. Feel free to send us an email at email@example.com and/or add your thoughts in the comments.
Lawyers appeal the DEA’s refusal to reschedule psilocybin
The skirmish continues between the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the legal team representing terminally ill patients petitioning for access to psilocybin-assisted therapy. In late September, the DEA denied an official petition requesting that the agency look into rescheduling psilocybin from Schedule I to Schedule II. This week, lawyers filed a request to review that decision.
Some background: Since 2021, AIMS Institute’s Sunil Aggarwal and his patients have been seeking guidance from the DEA about how to access psilocybin through federal Right to Try laws. Because psilocybin is a Schedule I drug, it’s not easily obtainable and is illegal to use outside of research. Aggarwal’s team hoped the DEA might grant them an exemption to administer the substance in treatment. Their case went to the 9th Circuit Court but was dismissed because the court had no jurisdiction to rule. In an effort to find another way to access the drug, Aggarwal’s team sent a formal petition to the DEA requesting that it review psilocybin’s scheduling.
In its denial letter, the DEA said that a prerequisite to rescheduling a drug is a determination from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that a drug has “currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” “To date, the FDA has not articulated any accepted medical use for psilocybin in treatment,” the letter said, so the Controlled Substances Act requires the drug to remain in Schedule I. “We believe our chances of success on the appeal of the rescheduling denial are strong,” Kathryn Tucker, an attorney working on the case, said in an email announcing the team’s appeal.
Wavy Gravy, The White Panthers, and the history of psychedelic churches in America
In the forthcoming book Dictionary of Contemporary Esotericism, religious studies scholar J. Christian Greer writes about psychedelicism, or the belief that psychedelic use can expand minds and help people “perceive higher knowledge,” and the history of what Greer calls “psychedelicist” churches in the U.S. Those churches, Greer writes, have “taken on a variety of institutional forms, including rural communes, secret brotherhoods, criminal syndicates, revolutionary cadres, sex clubs, biker gangs, experimental performance groups, therapy centers, and academic research associations.” There were hundreds of such churches in the 1960s, including the League of Spiritual Discovery, the Church of the SubGenius, Wavy Gravy’s Hog Farm commune, and the White Panther Party, whose founders thought “the government persecution of psychedelicists and oppression of black people were part of the same struggle,” Greer writes.
A free newsletter from the U.C. Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics
Microdoses of psychedelics for schizophrenia?
Researchers are studying how psychedelic-assisted therapy might help treat a wide variety of ailments, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, cluster headaches, addiction, eating disorders, and more. But most studies specifically exclude participants with a personal or family history of one particular condition: schizophrenia. Researchers are concerned that psychedelic drugs could induce psychosis in those at risk or worsen schizophrenia symptoms. But in a new paper published this week in Molecular Psychiatry, researchers argue that psychedelics might actually be helpful in treating schizophrenia.
Though researchers still don’t fully understand why some people develop schizophrenia, there is evidence the condition is associated with structural atrophy in some areas of the brain. Because psychedelics are thought to increase brain plasticity, they might be useful in treating schizophrenia, the paper’s authors write. In fact, in the 1950s and 60s, researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health and children’s hospitals investigated this possibility, though their work was inconclusive.
“Administration of psychedelic doses of psychedelic drugs to patients with schizophrenia would clearly be a hazardous undertaking and is not recommended here,” the authors write. Instead, they suggest patients could receive either microdoses of psychedelic drugs or lab-derived versions of the drugs that are engineered to lack “trip-inducing properties.”
Best practices for psychedelic-assisted therapy
In a new report, mental health advocacy group BrainFutures lays out emerging best practices for psychedelic-assisted therapy. “This report is not a guide or instruction manual for practicing psychedelic-assisted therapy,” the organization writes. Still, the report provides a useful overview for practitioners considering psychedelic-assisted therapy.
The organization interviewed 22 researchers and practitioners about how best to design psychedelic-assisted therapy treatments, from initial screening to post-treatment integration sessions. The report also gives an overview of major safety and ethics concerns in the field, including psychosis and suicidality as a result of treatment, and vulnerability to therapist misconduct. BrainFutures has also published reports on psychedelic-assisted therapy in clinical settings, and a review of psychedelic research.
Decrim in Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory, a small region in the southeast of the country that’s home to the capital city Canberra, just decriminalized small quantities of illicit drugs. It’s the first Australian territory to pass a law lowering penalties for possessing “personal” doses of drugs like heroin and cocaine, as well as psychedelics like psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD.
Australia tends to be relatively conservative when it comes to drug policy. In 2019, one researcher wrote that the country’s failure to fund psychedelic research meant it was “falling behind” other countries like the U.S., Brazil, and Israel. In 2021, when the country announced a $15 million grant for psychedelics research, another scientist told Guardian Australia: “Australia used to be leaders in the world when it came to drug and alcohol policy, but in the last 10 to 15 years we’ve slipped back to a zero-tolerance, prohibition approach and we are way behind the rest of the world, who are decriminalizing and revolutionizing these types of drugs.”
Researchers at the University of Greenwich are studying negative experiences after psychedelic trips through an online survey. People who feel that their psychedelic experience negatively affected them for more than a day after are eligible to participate in the study.
The New York Times reviews the psychedelic patent wars.
NBC News interviewed Johns Hopkins researchers about their work using psychedelics to help people stop smoking cigarettes.
Emory University announced its new Center for Psychedelics and Spirituality. In a press release, the university calls it “the world’s first center to fully integrate clinical and research-based expertise in psychiatry and spiritual health to better understand the therapeutic promise of psychedelic medicines.”
You’re all caught up! Have a great weekend. We’ll be back in your inbox on Monday with a new issue of 5 Questions.
If you know anyone who might like the latest on psychedelics in their inbox, feel free to forward this to them, or click below.
Got tips? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.