History Of The User & Society: An Introduction

drugsBy Terry Gotham

I’ve been exceptionally lucky to be able to report on new, interesting and potentially dangerous trends in drug and alcohol use/abuse for Burners.me. Whether it was novel psychoactive substances, designer Xanax, Fentanyl as the scourge of North America or even just about the commercialization of cannabis, I’ve tried to ensure my points were data-driven and relevant in the current day. This next segment of my reporting for Burners.me is going to be less focused on the present and more the past.

Tens of thousands of people have written about drug use, both recreational and medicinal, in addition to the nature of using. What far fewer have written about is the systematic segmentation of consumers of certain substances as “addicts” or “problematic users.” Drug use goes back as far as we have written records, but the labeling of certain populations as addicted/sick/bad for society is a far more recent practice. In researching to help me understand why and how this designation came about, I was stunned how many commonly held beliefs about substance use and who was using what and why were smashed. Everything from conventional wisdom surrounding The Civil War to how societal markets were shaped by tea, coffee & chocolate. Continue reading

Ten Questions With Terry Gotham: Brad Burge – MAPS

(Interviewing the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies has been a dream of mine for years. I’m honored to present this conversation with their Director of Communications & Marketing Brad Burge. Not only does he give us an update on the SIX (6!) Phase II clinical trials of MDMA for PTSD, but he also shares totally new developments & tips on how to talk about this stuff for people who don’t quite dig yet. And a couple of his favorite tunes to boot!)
~Interview By Terry Gotham


brad_burge1. How was 2015 for MAPS? Any good news from the front to share?
Just a little.

I can say without hesitation that 2015 was our busiest, most exciting year yet. This year (2016) we celebrate MAPS’ 30th anniversary, and all that we’ve accomplished in those three decades. Our Phase 2 clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are now nearly complete, and this year we’ll be meeting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to plan the much larger Phase 3 trials needed to make MDMA a legal prescription medicine, approved for use in conjunction with psychotherapy to treat PTSD. We are on track for FDA approval as soon as 2021.

As one of the first steps to getting this first approval, in February 2015, we announced the formation of the MAPS Public Benefit Corporation (MPBC), a new wholly owned subsidiary of MAPS which will serve as a vehicle for conducting MAPS’ research, and for balancing social benefits with income from the legal prescription sale of MDMA, other psychedelics, and marijuana. We also initiated the purchase of one kilogram of pharmaceutical grade MDMA manufactured under current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) to be used in our Phase 3 trials. This batch of MDMA will cost us approximately $400,000, which we are seeking to raise this year through the Global Psychedelic Dinners and 30th Anniversary Banquet in Oakland, Calif.

Another major 2015 success is our Canadian Phase 2 study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, which finally started after eight years of effort. This study has already completed treatments as of early 2016, and has been the first clinical psychedelic therapy trial in Canada in over 40 years. In 2015, we also completed and fully funded our two largest Phase 2 clinical trials, one in South Carolina primarily in U.S. military veterans, and one in Colorado primarily in female survivors of sexual assault and abuse.

Continue reading

Microdosing: Rebellious in a Conformist, Privileged Sort of Way.

by Terry Gotham

Unless you’ve been under a sober rock, it’s been impossible to miss the recent barrage news/sites reporting on “microdosing.” The practice was mentioned in Rolling Stone & since then it’s appeared in dozens of media outlets. VICE actually did some interviews, while Alternet actually researched it and provided info & a lecture about it in 2011. But from what I can tell, the majority of coverage seems to just summarize and link back to the same 6 paragraph Rolling Stone piece. RS spoke to “Ken,” a month later, Breitbart is telling flyover country USA that Silicon Valley “executives” are taking LSD every day. Breitbart also used the opportunity to shit-talk Burning Man.

There are a couple of things that haven’t been mentioned about the practice that I’d like to (be the only person) to mention. Firstly, the reports concerning microdosing are anecdotal. All of them. These individual reports suffer from not only confirmation & survivorship bias, but useless in extrapolating the viability of the practice on a larger scale. It’s an interesting premise, but we need to be careful because doing this isn’t as simple as deciding to take Omega-3 supplements. It requires a decently sized cache of drugs, which, as I’ve mentioned before, may not be entirely pure.

Microdosing requires steady/uninterrupted access to quality/pure LSD, something an overwhelming majority of Americans do not have. I don’t care how “good” your guy is, most people don’t test their drugs, and even fewer regularly test their drugs from their usual dealers. If you’re not testing your stuff each time, there’s no reason to believe this kind of unsupervised experiment can’t go terribly wrong. If you suddenly get a bit of 2cb, 2ci or psilocybin instead, that will probably just remain non-psychoactive and your day will be fine. But if you get NBOMe or a 2nd/3rd generation bath salt instead of LSD, who knows where your day will take you. Also, you have to have enough disposable income to purchase two tiers of productivity enhancing drugs. The first being your Starbucks/e-cig/adderall/cocaine and your second tier being your LSD/psilocybin. That leads to a healthy budget being spent on psychoactive chemicals. Most urban office workers can’t even afford Starbucks every day, truth be told. Though with some Silicon Valley employees, money isn’t a problem of course.

This leads me to my final point. Only certain industries have workplace culture that would allow people to get the dose right. Story after story mention that sometimes microdosers get the dose wrong and end up in a vaguely floaty, but not quite tripping state. If this happens to you and you’re a Google engineer, you can just relax in the ball pit or take an extended lunch to smooth yourself out. I can think of a dozen industries (healthcare, law & construction come to mind first) where making that mistake would not only be grounds for dismissal, but a healthy lawsuit. I think we need to temper our enthusiasm with this practice with a reminder that only the most privileged can do it.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the individuals reporting positive experiences are lying/wrong/don’t know what’s good for them. If people are able to microdose in a way that doesn’t disrupt their professional life and benefits them day-to-day, I’m 100% in support of them doing this, without being harassed by their friends or Johnny Law. If you know someone who gets their drugs off the Silk Road, tests them, and has kept a journal documenting the effects of microdosing, more power to them & I’d love to talk to them about their experiences. And give them a high five because they’re living in the future and it sounds like a great time.

But microdosing to enhance corporate productivity, as opposed to doing so to create a better mind/life for oneself, does seem to me a little counter-intuitive. To put a finer point on it, Silicon Valley has a halo around itself, but these companies aren’t exactly charitable organizations. The idea that Uber brogrammers are microdosing with LSD to figure out how to more smoothly & effectively obliterate the taxi industry seems like it would give Timothy Leary the willies. The fact that the strongest advocacy I saw for microdosing research came from Forbes makes alarm bells go off in my head. If you’re really interested in doing this, some info on how has been provided here and to VICE here. Good luck, but be honest as to why you’re doing this.