Lucy In the Sky, With Therapists 

Lucy In the Sky, With Therapists 
Posted by FoM on November 10, 2000 at 14:39:29 PT
By Kristen Philipkoski 
Source: Wired News
Psychedelics such as ecstasy, LSD and mushrooms aren't just for ravers and Deadheads. Not by a long shot. Psychotherapists around the country say if you're using these hallucinogenics as party drugs you're missing the point. As psychotherapeutic agents, many researchers say, they are an immensely valuable and untapped resource. 
Folks ranging from computer executives to elderly women to church leaders are participating in psychotherapy enhanced by psychedelics, typically thought of as party enhancers for teenagers or burn-outs. "It's one of the most fascinating things happening in psychology today," said a San Francisco clinical psychotherapist who asked to remain anonymous. "I have no question that in many ways it's much better psychotherapy than I could ever do by sitting and talking. But basically I don't choose to do that out of a fear of going to jail." Indeed, people who facilitate and participate in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy are an extremely underground and secretive bunch. The $350 to $400 sessions, mostly done in groups, are never advertised. It's strictly word of mouth. There are at least seven such therapy groups in the San Francisco Bay Area, and certainly plenty of others around the country, whose members risk jail time in order to, they say, explore the deepest crevasses of their minds. The legal risks are worth the insights gained, according one longtime client of the psychedelic sessions who asked to remain anonymous. "This kind of work goes to a much deeper level," she said. "You get a whole lot more than you would in a one-hour session with a therapist.... It reaches different transpersonal levels." They also say it's worth the possible health risks. The first study on methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA (better known as ecstasy), to show proof that MDMA dangerously depletes the brain of the mood-regulating hormone serotonin was published in Neurology in June. Federal research has found that other drugs used in these group therapies -- lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and ketamine (also called Special K) -- can result in confusion, memory loss, high blood pressure, delirium, psychosis, coma and even death. Dr. Lester Grinspoon, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who sued the DEA when it declared ecstasy a schedule 1 controlled substance in 1985, said he doesn't quite trust studies performed by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Marijuana The Forbidden Medicine"The NIH is a wonderful institution as a whole and truly their interest is in science," Grinspoon said. "But the NIDA really lost its where science is concerned and has become a ministry of drug propaganda." National Institute on Drug Abusehttp://www.drugabuse.govStill, researchers outside the United States have come to similar conclusions. Dr. Andy Parrott, of the department of psychology at the University of East London, published a study in the medical journal Psychopharmacology showing that young, recreational ecstasy users had impaired memory function compared with non-user controls. "This drug should not be administered to humans, especially on a repeated basis," Parrott said. Nevertheless, many medical professionals and psychologists say the gains outweigh the risks. The longtime client mentioned above is also about to become a therapist herself. She has completed her master's degree in psychotherapy, and is in the process of completing 3,000 hours of a client-work internship necessary to become a licensed therapist. She has participated in about 12 psychedelic therapy sessions in the past two years. She said she has no fear of ill-effects from most of the drugs, although she favors more studies of ecstasy to determine the effects of its repeated use. "In terms of going into a psychotic state, that might happen when drugs are used in very careless way, such as without a group involved or as a party drug," she said. "(The group therapy) is very careful both in terms of dosage and of what they use for your particular issues." Responsible use of psychedelics, she said, means being sufficiently prepared for the session, having a guide on hand at all times and knowing how to "integrate" the experience afterward. A typical session -- which is, pardon the expression, an overnight trip -- goes something like this: Clients typically arrive at a rented space in a rural setting on a Friday evening, after having fasted for the previous 12 hours. Medical professionals are commonly on hand and the facilitators are often experienced and licensed therapists. Individuals get acquainted with one other as well as with the facilitators. Each client spends up to 30 minutes discussing with a facilitator what emotional points they want to cover during the so-called journey: a relationship issue, a personal fear, a family problem. "Working with a guide who's experienced and creating a safe setting to do the work -- because in the psychological state people tend to be hypersensitive -- is very important," said Roger Marsden, a marriage and family therapist completing a dissertation on these groups who has also participated in the therapy as a client. Clients are encouraged to bring personal items, such as photographs, to keep with them or place on an altar. They go to bed that night, and take the "medication" Saturday morning. The session typically begins with either psychedelic mushrooms or ecstasy, which are known for their ability to relax people and make them feel safe. After that, perhaps LSD or ketamine, or both. As soon as the medication is given, everyone is blindfolded to be sure individuals focus on themselves rather than getting too wrapped up in what's going on around them. No one is ever left alone, not even to go to the bathroom. "Not that you could go alone when you're on as much as you are," the intern said. Clients may go through the full range of emotions; some have even relived their own birth. "There's anecdotal evidence that MDMA as well as other psychedelics can help people to recapture very early memories," Grinspoon said. Marsden also described a "rebirthing" episode. This client, who had trouble dealing with an ongoing feeling that his birth was unwanted, was apparently able to resolve the issue by reliving his birth with the help of a psychedelic drug, Marsden said. The blindfolds are kept on until the drugs start to wear off, anywhere from eight to 12 hours later. Some groups require clients to spend another night at the retreat, others don't. But group members always reconvene to talk about their experiences before taking what they've learned and trying to apply it to their lives. "The process has given me more strength in the ability to go to these dark places and work with some of the most scary issues I have had to deal with," the intern said. "After that, you look at problems in daily life and say, 'O.K., I can handle that.'" Marsden echoed her thoughts: "When you have this internal experience where you're really confronted with your deepest fears and anxieties, and there's nowhere for you to go, and you just have to face those demons whatever they are, it's something very empowering." Of course, psychotherapists aren't the first to use psychedelics to search for a kind of "truth." The CIA launched a project in the fifties called M KULTRA to investigate the use of LSD as vehicle for mind control or truth serum. CIA researchers slipped the drug to prisoners, brothel patrons, and terminally ill patients, among others, without their knowledge. Some subjects were given the drug for months on end. The project went on for more than a decade, and resulted in at least one suicide. (You can see a summary of research both past and present at Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which helps scientists design, fund, and get approval for research on psychedelics.) of what psychological therapeutics psychedelics may offer, they remain illicit and won't likely be legal, even for research, any time soon. Grinspoon, and others, say this is a shame. "Here is a drug that patients and people report helps them to be able to overcome, at least on a temporary basis, defensive approach areas of the mind that ordinarily we stay away from," Grinspoon said. "It allows the intellect to visit parts of the mind that are ordinarily off limits." But even if the drugs are effective, there are other perils that keep most psychotherapists from embracing them. Like the loss of one's career. "I've invested 15 years and a quarter of a million dollars on my education," the San Francisco psychologist said. "It would only take one bad thing to happen and I lose my license." He added that the fear of incarceration may also inhibit potential long-term therapeutic effects. "Out of his or her fear of going to jail, the facilitator asks you to promise not to tell anyone about the most incredible experience of your life," he said. Some groups have gotten around the isolation by functioning as a community, living together as well as doing therapy together. "They can talk among themselves, but it still creates an 'us vs. the world' mentality," the clinical psychologist said. Despite the drawbacks, clients swear by the method. The female client mentioned earlier says that following a particularly good session, she was able to abandon her medicine. "I was in a place where having to take prescription medication for psychological reasons," she said. "After this journey I didn't need them any more." Source: Wired News (US Web)Author: Kristen PhilipkoskiPublished: November 9, 2000 Address: 660 3rd Street, 4th FloorSan Francisco, CA 94107 Copyright: 2000 Wired Digital Inc. Contact:  newsfeedback Website: Direct Link:,1282,39796,00.htmlSee also: Check yourself into Med-Tech Future of Drugs Through Inner Space Drug Discovery,1367,39907,00.html
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Comment #8 posted by morning-glory on April 23, 2001 at 18:38:58 PT
RE: Correction to Comment #4
I recently read an article and the comment made in "Comment #4" regarding the meaning of IFIF, he/she was close, it stands for "International Federation of Internal Freedom". This started in '62 when Leary came under fire from Harvard regading his "research" into the deep depths of the mind. 
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Comment #7 posted by Dimitrius on November 13, 2000 at 10:13:15 PT
Us vs. Them
It IS us vs. them, and they started the war. Every user of an illegal drug in the world is familiar with this concept. Regardless of whether one uses said drugs for medicinal, religious, recreational or therepeutic reasons, most of us would prefer to just be left to our collective devices to do our drugs in peace and interact normally with the world as real people do.Of course, the powers that be (Pfizer, Dow, etc) aren't quite so live-and-let-live, so they make the government hunt us down like dogs, and we live in fear. We all know those places and people where and to whom we can speak freely, and similarly we know where and to whom we must put up false pretenses so as not to lose our jobs, families and freedom. My friends, multi-billionaires have declared war on us (who do you think the war on drugs is against, anyway, our Colombian allies?) and all we have to fight back with is the truth and civil disobedience. I say "BRAVO!" to those who bravely and brazenly ignore these contrived and restrictive laws. The glove has been thrown down, the challenge issued: We will have control over the chemicals we introduce into out own bodies, for whatever purpose.Ok sorry, I didn't mean to climb up on the ol' soapbox there, but it felt real good, and in the end, isn't that what this whole argument is about? Shouldn't we all have the right to feel good (and no, I don't just mean high), regardless of the path we take to get there?
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on November 12, 2000 at 19:38:55 PT:
Related Article
Hi Everyone, I just posted this article directly to the archives. A new feature Matt Elrod made for me today. It's an 8 part article. I hope you find this interesting.The Future of Drugs
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Comment #5 posted by MikeEEEEE on November 11, 2000 at 11:11:29 PT
I can't believe these sessions are illegal, they're helping people.This proves theres too many controls, when we can't help ourselfs theres too much control.
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Comment #4 posted by legalizeit on November 10, 2000 at 17:46:38 PT
Let 'em all dose, and make us a better world
The world would be such a nicer place if all prohibitionist propagandists, narks, guerrillas, terrorists, Israelis, Palestinians, RepubliCrats, and evil dictators would attend a session such as this, or a ceremony with the Native American Church.They would gain new insight into their lives and possibly open the doors of perception so that they could get a glimpse inside the lives of those they are destroying with their violent nonsense, and maybe realize that peace is a much stronger force than war in the world.This article reminded me of a passage (I think it was in Alpert and Cohen's famous book, "LSD") talking about plans for, after legalization, founding an organization called "IFIF" (International Federation of Internal Flights) or something like that. It was to be sort of a "ground school" for those interested in becoming experienced psychonauts, having them trip with experienced guides in a controlled setting before attempting to trip on their own. A very noble iddea which would allow people to experience the transcendental properties of these sacraments while greatly reducing the possibility of adverse experiences.I think the world lost something very important when the self-righteous Christian bigots declared psychedelic sacraments evil and illegal. Psychedelics, specifically the natural ones, were placed on the earth for a purpose, and the witch-hunters have failed to understand their purpose and therefore have decided that no one should possess or use the sacraments, and put in their place a far more dangerous man-made "sacrament" whose only effect is to make people giddy, violent, hung-over and stupid. How narrowminded and selfish can these so-called people be?Hopefully this new century and new millenium will bring a close to the heavy-handed policies, lies and bigotry of the last century, and bring us the psychological assistance so many of us need - assistance which the Great Spirit himself placed upon the earth for our benefit.
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Comment #3 posted by mungojelly on November 10, 2000 at 15:44:46 PT:
anyone remember
Anyone remember when they made MDMA illegal? There was a huge hurry to develop "studies" showing some harm or another from MDMA, so that it could be prohibited as quickly as possible. Why such haste? Not because they were trying to save anyone's life or serotonin receptors (in fact at the time they hadn't yet conjured up this phony health risk -- they were putting out crazy stories about people "dying after taking one ecstasy pill") but because MDMA was beginning to be used in serious psychological research. If studies showing a psychotherapeutic use for MDMA came out before NIDA could push through a hack propoganda piece, it would be difficult to assert that MDMA has "no medical use." Fortunately (ahem), NIDA does not have the same standards of scientific deliberation as the rest of the world, and they were able to get out their bogus monkey studies before any of the numerous psychiatrists working with MDMA could publish their more rational data. Now, of course, it is no longer possible to do MDMA research in Amerika, because it is Schedule I -- and foreign research apparently does not count. It is hard to believe that this catch-22 is anything but an intentional barrier to the downscheduling of anything which the prohibitionists don't like. The paralells to marijuana prohibition are so obvious that I will not belabor them. 
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Comment #2 posted by shishaldin on November 10, 2000 at 15:30:00 PT
The Companies (Pfizer, et al) can't have that....
"I was in a place where having to take prescription medication for psychological reasons," she said. "After this journey I didn't need them any more." Can't have her or others getting off their maintenance do$ages of Paxil, Xanax, etc. That will cut into our bottom line!!!Sad. No wonder our kids (as well as the adults) are confused about drugs. Drugs are bad (the ones the policeman says are), drugs are good (the ones advertised on TV to go see your doctor about). Lots of propaganda, just like the good Dr. Grinspoon mentions coming from NIDA, very little real information in the average media....
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Comment #1 posted by J.R. Bob Dobbs on November 10, 2000 at 15:02:24 PT
Us Vs. Them
>>'us vs. the world' mentality  Nahh, most of us in the real world support this sort of thing. What it creates is an us vs. the government mentality - which wouldn't be there if the government didn't have one first.
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