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The emergence of new psychoactive substances (NPS) – often called “synthetic drugs,” “legal highs,” or “research chemicals” – pose a number of challenges for policymakers, media covering these issues, medical and social service providers, and people who use these substances.
Unfortunately, current media and policy responses to NPS – a broad category that includes everything from synthetic cannabinoids such as “K2”, to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, to traditional plants such as kratom – have been largely fueled by misinformation rather than facts. For example, in New York City, concerns about synthetic cannabinoids led to misleading media coverage and targeted policing in communities of color and among the homeless, missing a critical opportunity to lead with harm reduction and public health strategies instead of criminalization.
These substances often come on the market as legal alternatives to illicit drugs. In the U.S., they are routinely banned, leading chemists to come up with slightly new formulations to evade existing laws. This cat-and-mouse game has led to a proliferation of these substances, whose potential harms (and benefits) are largely unknown.
Seth Fitzgerald from The Drug Classroom attended an important conversation about novel psychoactive substances on the evening of June 9th – 10th in New York City hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance. At New Strategies for New Psychoactive Substances: A Public Health Approach, the discussion included what is currently known about these substances, strategies for intervening when use becomes harmful, exploring new forms of drug regulation, and examining how messaging and media about NPS can become more constructive. The gathering laid the foundation for a series of recommendations for policymakers, medical and social service providers, researchers, and media.
Psychedelic therapy refers to the use of psychedelic (“mind manifesting”) drugs in therapeutic practice. Substances of interest like 3 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) are demonstrating the ability to enhance and augment the therapeutic relationship, a primary factor in emotional reprocessing and healing, allowing for a considerable amount of patient progress to occur in a relatively short amount of time and number of sessions. MDMA also suppresses the amygdala resulting in a decreased fight or flight response when recalling traumatic events potentially making it an ideal supplement for clients who may not be able to reprocess traumatic memories otherwise.
Psychedelics have a long history as therapeutic agents particularly with indigenous cultures in South America who use compounds like ayahuasca to facilitate emotional healing and purge individuals of negative psychic states. Now groups like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) are researching and attempting to formalize the application of certain psychedelic medicines in the therapeutic setting as a result of finding significant positive effects in the areas of trauma, stress, and end of life issue reprocessing.
The Addictive Podcast is joined by Bryce Montgomery who is the social and multimedia manager of MAPS and also serves as a volunteer for their Zendo harm reduction project which applies the therapeutic principles and practices developed in their research settings to alternative real-world applications where users of psychedelic drugs can benefit from the support, guidance, and nurturance of well trained and caring staff.
There is a significant lack of curative short-term treatments for psychological distress in western allopathic medicine and these “rediscovered” drugs/tools that can help facilitate the therapeutic process and promote an internal condition that allows for improved psychic healing are a welcome and desperately needed addition to modern comprehensive behavioral health.
Henry is a psychonaut. A psychonaut or “sailor of the soul” in literal greek, is a person who explores activities by which altered states of consciousness are induced and utilized for spiritual purposes or exploration of the human condition. These alternative states of consciousness can be achieved through a variety of means including meditation, rituals, or drugs. Henry has chosen to experience these states using variety of chemicals including LSD, AL-LAD, Salvia, and Hawaiian Baby Woodrose Seeds along with an extensive examination of the scientific literature in his search for enlightening experiences and metaphysical self improvement.
Journey with us as Henry attempts to navigate the rites of passage of young adulthood and a dangerous legal climate, while maintaining a highly functional and productive life despite a pressing need to go beyond the conventional in his own mind and the world around him. He also takes great care to maintain harm reduction practices for himself and other participants in the psychedelic experiences he describes. Seth Fitzgerald from The Drug Classroom joins your host Glen Marshall for an in-depth discussion with this highly functional future pharmacologist.
N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is the most fascinating psychedelic molecule we have discussed on The Addictive Podcast. It seems to be found in all living things, can produce teleportation-like experiences for the user, and is made in our own brains. DMT has a similar molecular structure to other psychoactive chemicals including, serotonin, melatonin, and psilocybin. Known to some researchers as “the spirit molecule”, it is the primary psychoactive compound in the Amazonian medicinal brew “Ayahuasca.” Seth Fitzgerald from The Drug Classroom and therapist Glen Marshall provide an intimate exploration of this powerful spiritually-suggestive drug.
The out-of-body experiences DMT produces can be extremely uncomfortable and unnerving for some users. Practical techniques to reduce harm suggest that any use should only occur with close proximal monitoring by a caregiver (“babysitter”) familiar with the drug to prevent the user from falling or knocking over dangerous objects. While it does not show a high potential for abuse, the intensity and short duration of DMT and the ability to frequently readminister suggests problems involving use could occur for some individuals. DMT is a Schedule I drug and is illegal.
Not all illicit drugs are used for pleasurable recreational purposes. Some substances hold great promise in helping to heal conditions like addiction, dysphoria, and other mental and physical health ailments. Ayahuasca is one such substance. This brew made from a combination of leaves and vines from specific plants found in South America is offered at a number of shamanic retreat centers for those seeking healing and catharsis through the reprocessing of trauma and past issues that may be interfering with present-day life functioning.
Seth Fitzgerald from The Drug Classroom and your host and counselor Glen Marshall provide a look down the rabbit-hole and walk-through of the Ayahuasca experience as well as what to consider in regards to best practices and safe decision-making when seeking and using this very powerful psychedelic.
The 2015 International Drug Policy Reform Conference was a biennial event that brought together people from around the world who believe that the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. This conference was the largest gathering of reformers ever and included over 1,500 attendees representing 72 different countries.
Therapist Glen Marshall and drug education advocate Seth Fitzgerald both attended and take you through their experiences at the conference as well providing takeaway and contact information you can use to make changes in your own communities.
Drug Policy Alliance
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (Northwestern University Chapter)
Families for Sensible Drug Policy
The Center for Optimal Living
HAMS – Harm Reduction for Alcohol
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Senator Mazie Hirono
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
There are hundreds of new synthetic drugs like 25I-NBOMe (aka “25i” or “NBomb”) that are unfamiliar to most, but taken by many. The same issues caused by criminalization for other illicit drugs including misidentification, an inaccurate understanding of their effects, and an inability to determine a safe dosage exist with 25I-NBOMe and can have severe consequences for the user.
Today we are fortunate to have drug education advocate, psychonaut, and nootropic enthusiast Seth A. Fitzgerald guide us through 25I-NBOMe so we can make good decisions about this psychedelic substance and others. Seth will be a frequent guest on The Addictive Podcast and we look forward to him shining his objective light in the darkness.