10 Questions With Terry Gotham: Brad Burge (MAPS)

(When meeting Brad Burge several years ago, I was immediately struck by his masterful ability to communicate to all comers at an academic conference we were speaking at. He connected immediately, and never lost the purpose, message, or empathy that we all strive to have when speaking to people we care about, even when addressing someone he’d never met before. He’s become one of MAPS’ most effective ambassadors, overseeing a period of rapid visibility expansion, to the point where MDMA & PTSD is coming up at the watercooler and at the holiday dinner table. I wanted an update on the MDMA/PTSD clinical trial after my previous article on it, so I was overjoyed when he obliged! Enjoy the chat, and feel free to refer to it while talking about MDMA & PTSD with your family over the holidays!)

Photo courtesy of MAPS.

Interview by Terry Gotham

1. Even with the recent Breakthrough Therapy designation, how do you keep going in the Age of Trump?
We have been able to make a lot of progress since the election, including getting the FDA’s stamp of approval for Phase 3 trials and the Breakthrough Therapy Designation, which came in August. Trump has taken a fairly hands-off policy when it has come to the FDA so far and has given every indication that his administration supports facilitating accelerated development of pharmaceuticals and new medical treatments. Plus, and more importantly, we see psychedelic science and psychedelic therapy research as bipartisan issues, since they are not about being countercultural or revolutionary or being oppositional in the traditional sense, but rather about being careful scientists and treating serious mental health conditions. Of course we think that this research has tremendous transformational value, and that the approval of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD is likely to change how our culture understands and treats mental illness, but we are working with the system to make those changes happen, not outside it. We have had equally positive media reports, for example, from The New York Times and Scientific American as from Fox News and Breitbart.

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Party Like A Rockstar: A Primer On Drugs And Cardiovascular Health

heart-pills5

By Terry Gotham

Since we’re not getting any younger, cardiovascular issues will continue affect the Burner population in increasing numbers. Considering Burners also party like rockstars, in one of the harshest climates on earth, I wanted to take this time to go over some of the research associated with drugs & your heart. As a disclaimer, once again, many popular recreational drugs are specifically contra-indicated for people with anywhere from mild to major heart issues, but if you listened to your doctor, you probably wouldn’t be going to Burning Man with your minor CV distresses. As 30% of this country has High Blood pressure, and quadruple & quintuple bypass are now commonplace, these issues aren’t esoteric, so let’s meet them head on.

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Ten Questions With Terry Gotham: Linnae Ponté – The Zendo Project

I am honored to be bringing you this chat I had with Linnae Ponté, director of The Zendo Project. This effort, funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), provides psychedelic harm reduction at Burning Man. This is one of those crucial services that can only be found at Burning Man, and nowhere else in the festival landscape. Trained professionals help people through (not out of) difficult experiences, and have probably saved someone you know from a really bad night on the playa. They’re currently raising money to have 2 locations at Black Rock City this year, and definitely need our help. If you’ve got it, they could use it. And most likely, when you’ve taken too much Saturday night, they’re going to be the ones taking care of you. CrowdRX may be in over their heads this year, so I anticipate The Zendo Project will need all the help they can get.Linnae FM 20141. How was Lightning In A Bottle & Costa Rica? Have you been anywhere else this year? Both events were awesome. Not only are both venues gorgeous in their own ways (I mean who wouldn’t want to be in a tropical paradise or amongst sacred California oaks), but we had great placement for the Zendo in centralized locations and worked in what seemed like seamless harmony with medical, rangers, security, and law enforcement. We served 83 guests at Envision and 62 at LIB, and helped countless more by providing water, electrolytes, and drug education.

We also set up services at AfrikaBurn, which is the largest regional burn, in the beautiful Tankwa Desert and served over 70 individuals. Continue reading

Psychedelic Libertarianism: An Emerging Trend

by Terry Gotham

I recently gave a presentation on the dangers posed by largely untested new psychedelic substance use. Afterwards, I was chastised by someone who was very concerned I was carrying water for the DEA. She told me that I shouldn’t be exacerbating the problems associated with these drugs, as she had purchased them from a trusted source & used them safely. I asked what she did and she told me she was a technology professional living in San Francisco. She’d done quite a bit of research and had a very lovely time on all of the ones I mentioned. I asked if she’d tested them, and she replied that she didn’t need to, because she knew her source. And therein lies my thesis. Libertarian “every man for himself” thinking ensures lower quality drugs for everyone. Privilege and access is stratifying drug use in ways that we’ve never seen before, which ultimately hurts all users.

Picture via Cracked

Psychoactive substance use, contrary to the belief of the British government recently, has been a facet of organized society for thousands of years. However, tribal usage has slowly morphed into recreational usage, especially for the 1%. In the United States, the “bowl of cocaine” fantasy remains a much more compelling goal than the white picket fence. These privileged few have the square footage, support structures, self control & bank roll to do drugs in a controlled environment, largely away from harm or legal consequences. Others are forced to buy drugs on the street, at non-negotiable price points with questionable purities. In the last 5 years, this unnerving trend has sharpened as the 1% & 99% diverge in how they experience Western recreational pharmacology. The replacement of MDMA & LSD with new psychedelic substances such as MDPV, alpha-PVP, NBOMe & other synthetics such as methylone and the cathinones have created new problems that I believe can scale up in ways that previous issues could not.

The success of MDPV, methylone & the synthetic cathinones available in the UK, Australia & the USA is something that wasn’t possible years ago. When 2cb/2ci & the first wave of research chemicals arrived in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, you were lucky to get a certain level of chemical quality, purchased either online or offline. If you were buying something legal you were still taking a shot in the dark, as these chem companies didn’t exactly have a “for human consumption” best case practice involved with these drugs. But, 2cb was relatively non-toxic & less taxing on your cardiovascular systems than most illegal drugs at the time. The best estimate we had for research chemical production a decade ago was maybe 2-4 got from synthesis to production & sale on a large enough level that they would hit the “mainstream” of psychedelic drug culture. The number available to anyone who has done their research & has a decent network size is now approaching 50 a year. That’s 50 totally new chemicals that you can beta test with your cardiovascular system.

The problem is that for someone who is experimenting with new psychedelic substances in a controlled environment, they’re probably reasonably safe. However, more and more kids are getting these drugs not only at major dance music festivals, without knowing what they’re taking. This is a real problem that has killed a non-zero number of people, but the privileged wouldn’t know it. If you have a good network and disposable income, it’s quite possible that you won’t ever need to buy drugs from someone you’ll never see again, or that you’d even think to test. That means that over time, it becomes even less likely for someone to empathize with the needs of the average festival kid who has probably never experienced “pure” MDMA. This divergence in experience based on income & network effects is a terrible step backwards.

When 30% of the people who think they’re taking MDMA at Ultra Music Festival are actually taking a drug called Alpha-PVP…Burning Man may be good, but I don’t imagine it’s perfect. The problem exacerbates itself in an exceptionally hostile environment. Even in the perfect world, you’re still rolling the dice, which is a point I don’t think most people realize.

To be very specific, even if you test everything you buy, whether it’s from a “trusted” (family/fam/house/”that guy”) source, you don’t know what you’re getting. All reagent kits operate on a binary principle. You run the test, it tells you whether you have something. Yes or no. Not percentages, amounts, or anything more sophisticated than “this has/doesn’t have x.” From any serious industrial chemistry process standpoint, this is totally inappropriate for human consumption. Even if you’re buying from the perfect dealer on the Dark Web that has 100% positive user feedback, you’re not any better off than the person testing the shit Stevie bought from the white guy with dreads at Electric Daisy Carnival. It could still be shit, and for all we know, it might kill you.

It may seem like you’re safe because you know people who are synthesizing this stuff at the chemical labs in California, or because you’re embedded so deeply in the Silicon Valley psychonaut universe. But even there you’re not 100% safe. These drugs have been taken by 1/1,000th of the population of users of MDMA, LSD and psilocybin, so even if the drugs are safe in the micro (read: they don’t kill you at the party), we have no idea what these chemical modifications do to the safety of the substance long term. It’s easy to tell someone not to smoke because we know that cigarettes kill you. We don’t know what NBOMe or Alpha-PVP or DOI will do in 20 years. People can speculate, but the plural of anecdote is not data.

Of course, the solution to this is regulation, legalization & FDA approvals. We can all hope and dream about the days when basic bitches will be able to buy gingerbread flavored cocaine to go with their Pumpkin Spice latte. But until then, we need to be cognizant of the risks many of us no longer face. I survived being a young idiot with access, so did many of the people who read this blog. The stakes are higher now, so maybe yelling at & shitting on efforts to inform, or acclimate the younglings by organizations like DanceSafe & Drug Policy Alliance isn’t the best idea. Even if they’re never going to make it to Burning Man or think Steve Aoki, bath salts & the Swedish Fish Mafia are the most important thing to happen to Western society since someone figured out how to lower their low end import car.

I think it’s important to have this conversation & I think Burners are the only ones that can have it. Other communities either totally disavow drugs or they revere them to a point where it’s not possible to have an honest conversation about the damage they do. What do you think? Do you check your drugs using kits? Do you have friends who have ordered new psychedelic substances using the DarkWeb? Do your poor friends complain about the quality of the substances they’ve done as of late?

DEA Approves Ecstasy for Clinical Trials [Update]

E Ecstasy pills or tablets close up studio shot methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Image shot 2004. Exact date unknown.

From YourNewsWire.com:

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has approved the first clinical trial of MDMA to treat anxiety and other psychological illnesses, amid a growing resurgence in therapeutic psychedelic drug usage in the medical community.

Aljazeera.com reports:

“The tide has changed for psychedelic research,” said Brad Burge, the communications director for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a California-based nonprofit research group that studies medicinal uses for psychedelics and marijuana and is sponsoring the study. The DEA approved the project on Friday, he said.

Unlike Ecstasy or Molly — names for MDMA sold on the street and often mixed with dangerous adulterants — pure MDMA has been proved “sufficiently safe” when taken a limited number of times in moderate doses, MAPS says on its website. The DEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

MDMA can be useful in psychotherapy for people suffering from anxiety due to life-threatening illnesses because it produces in users a sense of calm, trust and confidence, Burge said. Unlike psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin, MDMA does not produce hallucinations, he added.

The clinical trial will be held in Marin, California, in a psychologist’s office, as opposed to a hospital setting, Burge said. The patients will lie on a couch with a therapist nearby for support and conversation.

In the trial, 18 subjects diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses will attend months of psychotherapy, with MDMA being used in a few sessions in order to facilitate the process, he said. The outcome will be measured by whether using the psychedelic helps reduce people’s anxiety, which will be determined at the end of the sessions by the patient’s feedback and the therapist’s assessments.

Researchers hope that using MDMA alongside psychotherapy will let subjects confront their situation more clearly and allow the positive steps they take during the therapy to “stick,” Burge said. “It opens them up and makes them more comfortable with the therapist while reducing fear and making them more able to talk about difficult emotions.”

If the pilot is successful, MAPS plans to continue with further studies involving more subjects and different approaches. For now, researchers hope to establish basic safety and effectiveness, he said.

The trial is part of a larger $20 million plan to make MDMA an FDA-approved prescription medicine by 2021, Burge said. MAPS is the only organization in the world funding MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials, he added.

The institute has carried out successful pilot studies of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, adding to the drug’s scientific credibility, he said. Other research by the institute includes ayahuasca-assisted therapy for drug addiction, LSD for cluster headaches and psilocybin for nicotine addiction.

Researchers hope to back up growing evidence that psychedelics have legitimate therapeutic uses — and to counter the narrative that has demonized them as mind-destroying drugs.

That’s what the really good science shows, despite decades of propaganda and government misinformation,” Burge said. “Just a couple weeks ago, a phenomenal study showed that there are no long-term associations between psychedelic use and mental illnesses.”

That study was published this month in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. In addition, a recent report by Johns Hopkins Medicine, a leading U.S. medical institution combining the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Hospital, showed that the use of psychedelic drugs — primarily psilocybin and LSD — could reduce psychological distress and suicidal thinking.

[Source]

ecstasy tongue

No link between psychedelics and mental illness? Tell that to this guy...

No link between psychedelics and mental illness? Tell that to this guy…

[Update 5/5/15 1:54pm]

This post is generating a lot of comments on Facebook, mostly positive but not everyone is supportive. Thanks to Maistresse Sybs for sharing this documentary. “This is a major event in drug history…the facts about ecstasy use are astonishing”.