An important task for OUCH, no doubt about it!

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Posted by pinksharkmark ( on August 26, 2001 at 02:42:08:

In Reply to: When I read an intellegent report like this, it just boggles my mind as to why posted by Donna on August 25, 2001 at 20:36:20:

Publicity would be one good thing, yes.

The problem is, LSD and psilocybin are classed as a "Schedule 1 Controlled Substances", which means that even simple possession of them is considered a felony. In some countries, there is kind of a loophole when it comes to psilocybin, because it occurs naturally in several species of mushroom. But even in those countries possession of isolated or refined psilocybin is against the law.

The definition of a "Schedule 1 Controlled Substance" is one "for which there is no currently accepted medical use" that "has a high potential for abuse". Since the days of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, Timothy Leary, and The Grateful Dead, the DEA has decided that LSD and psilocybin (and others, such as mescaline) have a high potential for abuse.

In theory, medical practitioners can prescribe controlled substances for certain medical conditions. Heroin and cocaine, for example, do have accepted medical uses. Unfortunately, the hysteria over the recreational use of psychedelics in the 1960's and 1970's was in some ways even more fierce than the hysteria over heroin and cocaine addiction, so much so that virtually all research into these substances ground to a halt in the early 70's.

It is theoretically possible to get special dispensation from the authorities to conduct studies into these psychoactive substances, but the reality is that the process is so lengthy, expensive, and frustrating that virtually no one bothers to even try anymore.

This is a pity.

The potential benefits of this class of drugs are enormous. Most research projects conducted before the shutdown had to do with psychological applications: the treatment of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), Bi-Polar Disorder (Manic Depression), alcoholism and other addictions, even one famous study on criminal recidivism. Many psychiatrists used these drugs (successfully) as adjuncts to psychotherapy.

To the best of my knowledge, the only non-psychiatric condition for which there were clinical studies done was their use in the treatment of migraines. More than one study was completed demonstrating the effectiveness of sub-hallucinogenic doses of LSD on migraineurs. Our own Kenn was a subject in one of these studies in the late 1960's. He mentioned in several of his posts that it worked for him.

Flash has contacted pharmaceutical companies, trying to interest them in conducting new studies. The standard response has been, "Very interesting. Let us know when there is something published, and we will jump right on it". It is sort of a chicken or egg situation. No one is ready to take the first step.

What is instructive is that none of the pharmaceutical companies find the idea surprising at all. The theory is sound, chemically, clinically, and historically. After all, Albert Hofmann first synthesized LSD at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals while trying to come up with a new ergot-based compound that was more effective than the existing ergot medications that were in use at the time to treat migraines. He succeeded. Unfortunately, the more sensationalist effects of the drug quickly overshadowed the fact that it was remarkably effective at treating vascular headaches. Most researchers won't even remember it until you mention it to them, and then you can almost see the light bulb come on: "Oh, yeah... migraines... hey, that's right, I remember that now!"

As a matter of fact, the only reason that Sansert (methysergide), a mainstay in the treatment of persistent migraines and cluster headaches, was developed at all is because Sandoz Pharmaceuticals was trying to duplicate the success of LSD without the psychoactive side-effects. They were partially successful. Sansert is certainly far less psychoactive than LSD (although it is psychoactive at higher doses), unfortunately it is also certainly far less effective at treating migraines and clusters.

It is also not news that aboriginals, mostly in Central America and South America, have been using psilocybin mushrooms for centuries, maybe for millenia, in the treatment of vascular headaches. I live in the Dominican Republic, and the local "curanderos" are quite matter-of-fact about it. To them it is no big deal. Unfortunately, curanderos are not given to doing double-blind controlled clinical studies and writing up papers for peer review, so Western medicine as an institution remains largely ignorant of their knowledge.

My personal opinion is that this is the kind of research project that OUCH should be trying to promote. It won't be easy. The stigma attached to the use of these substances is significant. I can just see Joe Redneck watching 60 Minutes one night --

"Martha! C'mere! Ya gotta see this! Some whackjob sissyboy with headaches... HEADACHES, fa cryin' out loud!... is on the Tee Vee sayin' the guvvamint should let him take that LSD stuff like alla them hippies useta do! Remember when them damn longhairs wuz over ta Nathan's ole spread? Remember them loonies? All doped up on Gawd knows what, grinnin' like baboons..."

I remember corresponding with a TV producer who was interested in doing a documentary on cluster headaches. I had suggested that he include a segment on the recent surge of self-experimentation with hallucinogens by clusterheads. I had thought that it would be a natural "hook"... sort of a "light at the end of the tunnel" angle that was offbeat and controversial, but would provide some good imagery. He said that he personally agreed, but that he had run it by the powers that be and they decided it was TOO controversial. As you might have guessed, this producer didn't work for FOX.

You ask if our population is too small for them. I don't think that is really the problem, especially since hallucinogens seem to work equally well for migraineurs. Ike's migraineur friend had phenomenal success from his single dose of mushrooms. The migraine medication market is HUGE.

I think the main problem is that it is expensive, frustrating, and time-consuming just to take the very first step... parade multiple proposals past panel after panel of government functionaries in order to get permission to even start. Then run the project... because of the nature of cluster headaches, the project could take years. It won't be cheap. Then publish the results. And, at the end of it, there is STILL no guarantee that the government will ever allow the medication to be marketed, because it is, after all, illegal. People can still have fun with it.

"What if some kid gets ahold of your prescription for psilocybin, gobbles a bunch of pills, and decides he can fly off of tall buildings? Oh, no, Mr. Sandoz, no way! We just can't take that risk. Application denied!"

*THUMP of rubber stamp*

Look at the situation with medical marijuana... we KNOW that is useful for multiple diseases: MS, glaucoma, anti-nausea for AIDS treatments and chemo-therapy... yet it is STILL not approved for medical use.

Despite my pessimism, I do believe that OUCH is probably the only organization with enough clout to interest research organizations in following this up. It would be beneficial if OUCH could persuade "60 Minutes" to run a segment on it.

I'd volunteer to appear onscreen. I'm not shy.


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