Aujourd’hui dans le New York Times, comme il n’y a pas longtemps dans The Lancet psychiatry, ou même dans le Daily express de Londres, paraissent des articles au sujet de la remise en cause de l’interdiction du LSD, du MDMA ou de la psilocybine, des substances frappées lourdement d’interdit en dépit de leur potentiel thérapeutique énorme.
Une amie revenait d’une session d’ayahuasca au Pérou en précisant qu’elle ne recommanderait ça à personne tant cela peut être dur (de se retrouver, quasiment seule, une semaine comme perdue dans la jungle…), mais pouvait témoigner de son impression d’avoir économisé dix ans de thérapie en une semaine.
Le Dr Nutt, qui dirige les recherches sur le sujet à la Beckley Foundation, souligne aussi l’énorme potentiel du LSD comme du MDMA ou de la psilocybine, que ce soit pour traiter les comportement compulsifs ou les dépressions : « on se retrouve enfermé dans un dispositif mental de pensée dépressif dont on ne parvient pas à se désengager, et les psychédéliques semblent produire un effet disruptif qui permet de penser différemment » – d’envisager les choses autrement. Puissant remède.
« Plus de 30 millions d’adultes américains ont usé de drogues psychédéliques et il n’y a pas beaucoup d’indications que cela produise des problèmes de santé ». Une étude norvégienne n’est pas parvenue à établir de lien entre le LSD ou les champignons hallucinogènes (soit la psilocybine) avec quelque dommage cérébral.
De même, une enquête a été menée, sur la base de données recueillies par le National health institute US, en étudiant un échantillon de 135 000 personnes parmi lesquelles 19 000 avaient consommé des drogues hallucinogènes, et on n’aura trouvé aucune association entre drogues et psychoses pas plus qu’avec des désordres psychologiques, ou de l’anxiété, ni avec des pensées ou pulsions suicidaires.
« Il est temps d’en finir après cinquante ans de prohibition des drogues hallucinogènes qui inspiraient les Beatles dans les années soixante », affirme en conclusion le Dr Pal-Orjan Johansen, de l’Université norvégienne de Science et Technologie.
Dans la lettre de The Lancet psychiatry, d’avril 2015, Teri Suzanne Krebs explique : « Ces 50 dernières années on aura consommé au moins un demi-milliard de doses de psychédéliques… C’est en se fondant sur une expérience humaine extensive qu’on reconnait généralement qu’il n’y a pas d’addiction ni d’usage compulsif avec les psychédéliques, pas plus qu’on n’enregistre de naissances défectueuses, dommages chromosomiques, maladie mentale durable, ni d’effet toxique sur le cerveau ou d’autres organes. Bien que les psychédéliques puissent produire un état de confusion temporaire et des secousses émotionnelles, les cas d’hospitalisation ou de blessure grave sont extrêmement rares. Dans l’ensemble, les psychédéliques ne sont pas particulièrement dangereux comparés à d’autres activités humaines. »
Le docteur Krebs a engagé des correspondances avec la DEA (la police des drogues américaine), ainsi qu’avec d’autres agences de contrôle des stupéfiants, et dit n’avoir reçu aucune réponse satisfaisante pour justifier de l’interdiction sur des bases sanitaires. Au mieux l’aura-t-on renvoyée à la loi, instaurée aux Etats-Unis en 1969 – en France dès 1966 ! – et mondialement en 1970, qui repose sur un rapport de l’OMS de 1969 lequel rapportait que les psychédéliques « sont ordinairement consommées dans l’espoir d’induire une expérience mystique menant à une meilleure compréhension de soi, et de ses problèmes personnels, comme de l’univers ». Mais le rapport ne contenait pas un seul exemple de dommages induit par la consommation de psychédéliques naturels, comme la psilocybine ou la mescaline, et ne relevait qu’une poignée d’anecdotes relatives au MSD. « Ceci ne constituait d’aucune façon une démonstration des dommages » qui allaient pourtant justifier l’interdiction générale de ces drogues, classées au sommet de la dangerosité, et accompagnée d’une réputation sulfureuse telle que la plupart des gens restent persuadés qu’il s’agirait d’une pratique à grands risques.
Au Pays-Bas, la vente de champignons s’est généralisée, dans les smart shops, au bénéfice d’un vide juridique, il y a vingt ans maintenant et ceci jusqu’à ce qu’un gouvernement réactionnaire fasse adopter l’interdiction depuis 2008, alors que près de quinze années de consommation massive, surtout parmi de nombreux touristes qui ne consommaient pas ça dans des conditions optimums, n’auront pas permis de constater de désordres publics attribuables à leur consommation et l’Institut national de Santé néerlandais considère leur usage comme « relativement sûr ».
Les avocats du LSD plaident aussi pour l’atteinte aux droits humains, et à la liberté individuelle d’explorer sa conscience et de disposer de son esprit librement. Les Etats craignent qu’on puisse voir les choses autrement, expliquent-ils. Qu’un Steve Jobs ait pu témoigner de combien l’apport du LSD avait été décisif pour lui ne semble pas plus émouvoir des législateurs engoncés dans un puritanisme hors d’âge.
Odd Push in Drug-Averse Norway : LSD Is O.K.
By ANDREW HIGGINS, MAY 4, 2015
Pal-Orjan Johansen, a Norwegian researcher, and his wife, Teri Krebs, with their children in Oslo. Mr. Johansen and Ms. Krebs are leading a drive to provide safe and regulated access to drugs like LSD and Ecstasy, which they say have health benefits.
OSLO — In a country so wary of drug abuse that it limits the sale of aspirin, Pal-Orjan Johansen, a Norwegian researcher, is pushing what would seem a doomed cause : the rehabilitation of LSD.
It matters little to him that the psychedelic drug has been banned here and around the world for more than 40 years. Mr. Johansen pitches his effort not as a throwback to the hippie hedonism of the 1960s, but as a battle for human rights and good health.
In fact, he also wants to manufacture MDMA and psilocybin, the active ingredients in two other prohibited substances, Ecstasy and so-called magic mushrooms.
All of that might seem quixotic at best, if only Mr. Johansen and EmmaSofia, the psychedelics advocacy group he founded with his American-born wife and fellow scientist, Teri Krebs, had not already won some unlikely supporters, including a retired Norwegian Supreme Court judge who serves as their legal adviser.
The group, whose name derives from street slang for MDMA and the Greek word for wisdom, stands in the vanguard of a global movement now pushing to revise drug policies set in the 1970s. That it has gained traction in a country so committed to controlling drug use shows how much old orthodoxies have crumbled.
The Norwegian group wants not only to stir discussion about prohibited drugs, but also to manufacture them, in part, it argues, to guarantee that they are safe. It recently began an online campaign to raise money so that it can, in cooperation with a Norwegian pharmaceuticals company, start quality-controlled production of psilocybin and MDMA, drugs that Mr. Johansen says saved and transformed his life.
“I helped myself with psychedelics and want others to have the same opportunity without the risk of arrest,” said Mr. Johansen, a 42-year-old researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. He recalled how, as a young man, he defeated an alcohol problem, a smoking habit, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression by taking psilocybin and MDMA.
The drugs are banned in Norway, as in most countries, but can, under tight supervision, be used for medical purposes and in scientific research.
While it took decades for pro-marijuana campaigners in the United States to shift public attitudes and government policy, Norway’s psychedelic champions insist that they already have science and even the law on their side.
But even politicians who support them, all of them quietly because of the extreme sensitivity of drug policy, caution that it will be a long struggle. EmmaSofia has nonetheless succeeded in making its cause an issue, with Mr. Johansen appearing in debates on NRK, the state broadcaster, and in a lengthy profile in a leading newsmagazine.
Eager to sidestep the tight rules in Norway, Mr. Johansen and his supporters tap into a more freewheeling side of this button-down Nordic nation and point to a long tradition of nature-worshiping shamans, particularly among Norway’s indigenous Sami people.
Also lending a hand are the Vikings, who, at least according to fans of psychedelic drugs, ate hallucinogenic mushrooms to pep them up before battle.
Cato Nystad, a 39-year-old drum maker, EmmaSofia supporter and organizer of traditional ceremonies that involve psychedelic potions, said many Norwegians wanted to get in touch with their wilder, more spiritual sides.
Steinar Madsen, the medical director of the Norwegian Medicines Agency, said he had no objection in principle to what he called EmmaSofia’s “interesting project,” but cautioned that “it is a very long shot.”
He scoffed at the argument that Norway needs to reconnect with its shamanistic past. “I don’t believe this stuff,” he said, adding that “drugs were not part of this tradition in Norway.”
Ina Roll Spinnangr, a Liberal Party politician who supports a more relaxed policy on drugs, said the best way to bring about change was not to attack Norway’s paternalistic government but to turn it on its head.
“You have to use a nanny argument : The government needs to take control and regulate the market instead of leaving it to criminals,” she said. “The argument that you decide yourself what you put in your own body will never work in Norway.”
As a result, she added, “I would never use the word ‘legalize,’ but talk instead about regulating, not liberalizing.”
Ketil Lund, 75, the retired Supreme Court justice who advises EmmaSofia on its legal strategy, said he had never used psychedelic drugs and had no interest in trying them. But, he said, he supported Mr. Johansen’s campaign as part of a “bigger struggle” against antidrug policies in the West that he described as “an absolute failure.”
“The present narcotics policy in the West has so many detrimental effects,” he said. “These have to be balanced against detrimental effects of the drugs themselves.”
He said he was not qualified to adjudicate a raging debate over the possible hazards and benefits of psychedelic drugs like LSD. But he had been impressed by research suggesting that they were less harmful than alcohol. “People have used psychedelics for centuries,” he added.
The taboo in the West on psychedelics, however, is deeply entrenched — a legacy of government campaigns against drug use and a long backlash against the counterculture of the 1960s, when Timothy Leary, a Harvard professor and zealous promoter of LSD, urged Americans to “turn on, tune in and drop out.”
“LSD terrifies governments ; it is their ultimate fear because it changes the way people look at the world,” said David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London. He was fired in 2009 as the British government’s drug policy adviser after he told a radio interviewer that alcohol was far more harmful than LSD and other psychedelics.
He praised EmmaSofia and other groups for helping to lift the stigma and fear long attached to psychedelics, adding that “there has definitely been a renaissance” of medical research in recent years after decades of science-killing “paranoia and censorship” based on scare stories about psychedelics that fed public panic.
“We are not in the 1960s anymore and have moved on,” said Mr. Johansen, a clinical psychologist, adding, “This is a question of basic human rights.”
LSD, which was first synthesized in a Swiss pharmaceuticals laboratory in 1938, and MDMA, which was patented in 1914, won wide acceptance in Europe and the United States in the middle of the last century when they showed early promise against alcoholism and other maladies.
But initial euphoria over their medical use was then swamped by deep alarm as recreational use of psychedelics surged, leading to a cascade of horror stories in the news media.
The United States banned LSD in 1970. A year later, the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances classified LSD and MDMA as “Schedule I” drugs, those that pose a serious threat to public health.
The United Nations convention banned their use “except for scientific and very limited medical purposes by duly authorized persons.” It also exempted psychedelics contained in plants “used by certain small, clearly determined groups in magical or religious rites.”
Mr. Johansen said the dangers connected with psychedelic drugs had been exaggerated by stories that did not take into account probability. “Everything carries a risk. If you walk in a forest, a tree may fall on your head, but does this mean you should never go in the woods ?”
Dr. Madsen, of the Norwegian Medicines Agency, conceded that there “are a lot of myths” about psychedelic drugs like claims that “if you use LSD, you will jump from the roof.”
All the same, he sees no quick way around a thicket of laws and strict regulations on their use. “Everyone sees we have to be very careful with these drugs,” he said. “I don’t think the time is ripe.”
Lancet Psychiatry : People have a right to use LSD and magic mushrooms (Press Release)
POSTED ON MARCH 31, 2015
“National and international policies must respect the human rights of individuals who chose to use psychedelics as a spiritual, personal development, or cultural activity,” concludes a letter published in the April 2015 issue of Lancet Psychiatry.
(Read the full-text of the letter.)
Scientists speak out
“In the same way that climate researchers have a responsibility to discuss environmental policy, scientists in medicine and health have a responsibility to inform the public when drug regulations are not based on science, especially if they violate human rights,” says author Teri Krebs, research fellow at the Department of Neuroscience, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Krebs, who is from Boston, USA, and her Norwegian husband Pål-Ørjan Johansen have published research on LSD as a treatment for alcoholism and on mental health of psychedelic users. Their studies have been funded by the Research Council of Norway and featured in Nature News, BBC World News, Fox News, and other global media.
Profound effects, less harmful than alcohol
“Psychedelics often induce profound experiences while at the same time having a safety profile comparable to many activities of daily life, such as riding a bicycle or playing soccer. It is important to take a statistical perspective on risk, rather than focusing on anecdotes,” says Johansen. He points out that in two studies published in the Lancet, panels of experts ranked LSD and psilocybin “magic” mushrooms as much less harmful than alcohol, both to the individual user and to overall society.
Psychedelics have long been recognized as an ancient spiritual practice, protected under freedom of religion and belief, at least for certain groups. As confirmed in recent research at Johns Hopkins Medicine, most people report that the psychedelic experience was one of the most deeply personally and spiritually meaningful events of their lives, with evidence of lasting beneficial effects.
As Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, said to his biographer : “Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin… It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money.”
Not based on evidence
Over 40 years ago, psilocybin and LSD were classified as “scheduled substances” by the US and United Nations. Why this happened is not fully clear.
“In my correspondence with the US Drug Enforcement Agency and European and international drug agencies, I have not received any evidence-based rationale for why psychedelics are banned, they just point to the political process from half a century ago,” says Krebs, “People assume that drug policies have been based on solid evidence, but this is just not true.”
As explained in the Lancet Psychiatry letter, under international treaties, the World Health Organization (WHO) has responsibility to evaluate whether psychedelics are causing a “public health and social problem warranting the placing of the substance under international control.” The original 1969 WHO assessment acknowledged that psychedelics “are usually taken in the hope of inducing a mystical experience leading to a greater understanding of the users’ personal problems and of the universe,” but this assessment failed to cite a single example of harm from naturally-occurring psychedelics like psilocybin or mescaline, and cited only a handful of anecdotes related to LSD. “This was in no way an evidence-based harm assessment,” writes Krebs.
A March 2015 report from the United Nations Development Program warns that “current drug control policy has not only failed to achieve its own objectives but has generated considerable harms,” and calls for “urgent and necessary” reevaluation of drug policy with a new focus on “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
US Supreme Court recognizes right to use psychedelics
In 2006 the US Supreme Court decided in favor of a religious group that uses ayahuasca, a plant-based psychedelic with effects similar to LSD and magic mushrooms. Many mainstream religious organizations, including the National Association of Evangelicals, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Baptist Joint Committee, and other Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu organizations, wrote letters to the US Supreme Court supporting the position that the government must provide actual evidence of a serious threat before it can legally interfere with peoples’ freedom to use psychedelics as a spiritual practice. Other psychedelic-using groups, such as the Native American Church, have had legal protection in the US and other countries for many decades.
Legal and “relatively safe” in the Netherlands
As noted in the Lancet Psychiatry letter, psychedelic magic mushrooms containing psilocybin are legally sold in shops in the Netherlands. Dutch police report very few public order problems involving magic mushrooms, and Dutch health authorities report that use of magic mushrooms is relatively safe.
In the Lancet Psychiatry letter, Krebs sums up the risk profile of psychedelics : “In the past 50 years, people have used at least half a billion doses of psychedelics…. Based on extensive human experience, it is generally acknowledged that psychedelics do not elicit addiction or compulsive use and that there is a lack of evidence for an association between psychedelic use and birth defects, chromosome damage, lasting mental illness, or toxic effects to the brain or other body organs. Although psychedelics can induce temporary confusion and emotional turmoil, hospitalizations and serious injuries are extremely rare. Overall psychedelics are not particularly dangerous when compared with other common activities.”
Part of the culture
Psychedelics have been used in the Americas for thousands of years and have been part of the global culture for over half a century. As many people are using psychedelics now as in the 1960s and 1970s. Over 30 million people currently living in the US have tried magic mushrooms, LSD, or mescaline.
Expanding access to psychedelics
Krebs and Johansen have started a non-profit organization EmmaSofia (www.emmasofia.org), which is working to expand access to quality-controlled MDMA (ecstasy) and psychedelics and to promote human rights for psychedelic users. EmmaSofia is running a crowdfunding campaign to produce pharmaceutical MDMA and psilocybin for use worldwide in medicine, research, and other legal purposes.
EmmaSofia legal advisor Ketil Lund, who is a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Norway and member of the International Commission of Jurists, has stated, “The ban on psychedelics, which first and foremost seems based on ignorance and prejudice, could very well be a disproportionate intrusion into the right of individuals to freely exercise their religion, beliefs and private lives, all of which are protected by human rights conventions.”
Protecting the human rights of people who use psychedelics
In a recent Comment Ben Sessa explained how the War on the Drugs worldwide has impeded development of psychiatric treatment with psychedelics such as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms). Prohibition also had negative outcomes for the millions of individuals who find it worthwhile to use psychedelics in various cultural settings outside of those in the clinic.
People have used psychedelics in spiritual practice for at least 5700 years, pre-dating all major organised religions. 100 years ago, members of rival religious groups campaigned against Native American use of psychedelic peyote cactus. However in the 1950s, concerned scientists used evidence and human rights arguments to defend peyote users, leading to legal exemptions for specific groups. When psychedelics spread to the wider society in the 1960s, this was also acknowledged by religious scholars and governments as a spiritual movement (eg, the UK Home Office).
Under the UN 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, WHO has responsibility to evaluate international policy for psychedelic substances. The original WHO assessment said that psychedelics “are usually taken in the hope of inducing a mystical experience leading to a greater understanding of the users’ personal problems and of the universe”. The WHO assessment did not cite a single example of harm from naturally-occurring psychedelics such as psilocybin or peyote, and cited only a handful of anecdotes related to LSD. This was in no way an evidence-based harm assessment.
In the past 50 years, people are thought to have used at least half a billion doses of psychedelic drugs. Psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics are legally sold in The Netherlands. Based on extensive human experience, it is generally acknowledged that psychedelics do not elicit addiction or compulsive use and that there is little evidence for an association between psychedelic use and birth defects, chromosome damage, lasting mental illness, or toxic effects to the brain or other body organs. Although psychedelics can induce temporary confusion and emotional turmoil, hospitalisations and serious injuries are extremely rare. Overall psychedelics are not particularly dangerous when compared with other common activities.
In 2016 the UN will have a special meeting in New York to set the future for international drug policy. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Global Commission on Drug Policy say that we must “Ensure that the international conventions are interpreted and/or revised to accommodate…decriminalisation and legal regulatory policies.” National and international policies should respect the human rights of individuals who chose to use psychedelics as a spiritual, personal development, or cultural activity.
I am board leader of EmmaSofia, a non-profit organisation based in Oslo, Norway, working to increase access to quality-controlled MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) and psychedelics. I have received funding from the Research Council of Norway (grant 185924).
1. Sessa B. Turn on and tune in to evidence-based psychedelic research. Lancet Psychiatry 2015 ; 2 : 10–12.
2. Krebs TS, Johansen PØ. Mental health and suicidal behavior in psychedelic users : A population study. J Psychopharmacol 2015 ; 29 : 270–79.
3. Home Office, Department of Health and Social Security. The amphetamines and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Report by the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence. London : Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1970 : 29–36.
4. Isbell H, Chrusciel TL. Dependence liability of “non-narcotic” drugs. Bull World Health Organ 1970 ; 43 : 5–111.
Legal ban on LSD and magic mushrooms ’against human rights’, say scientists
PSYCHEDELIC drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms should be made legal as banning them is « against human rights », scientists have said.
Fri, Mar 6, 2015
Researchers say the drugs are much less harmful than alcohol, and banning them is a human rights issue because of their « spiritual » links.
The Norwegian researchers also claim there is no link between LSD and magic mushrooms and mental health problems.
They analysed information from more than 135,000 random people, including 19,000 who had used psychedelics, and found no association between the drugs and psychosis.
The study used data from the US National Health Survey and found there was no relationship with psychological distress, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts.
A previous study by the same researchers also failed to tie up LSD and magic mushrooms, also known as psilocybin, with brain damage.
Clinical psychologist Dr Pal-Orjan Johansen, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said : « Over 30 million US adults have tried psychedelics and there just is not much evidence of health problems. »
« Concerns have been raised the ban on use of psychedelics is a violation of the human rights to belief and spiritual practice, full development of the personality, and free time and play. »
He believes it is time to end the 50-year ban on the hallucinogenic drugs which inspired the Beatles and other pop groups of the Sixties.
His researcher Dr Teri Krebs added : « Drug experts consistently rank LSD and psilocybin mushrooms as much less harmful to the individual user and to society compared to alcohol and other controlled substances. »
The researchers, whose findings are published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, pointed out that unlike alcohol, psychedelics are not addictive.
They found the use of psychedelic drugs is correlated with fewer mental health problems.
Dr Krebs said : « Many people report deeply meaningful experiences and lasting beneficial effects from using psychedelics. »
But Dr Johansen admitted, given the design of the study, they cannot « exclude the possibility use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups ».
He said : « With these robust findings, it is difficult to see how prohibition of psychedelics can be justified as a public health measure. »
Earlier this week British scientists claimed psychedelic drugs could prove to be highly effective treatments for depression and alcoholism after the first brain scans of people under the influence of LSD.
Early results from the trial, involving 20 people, are said to be « very promising » and add to existing evidence that psychoactive drugs could help reverse entrenched patterns of addictive or negative thinking.
Professor David Nutt, who led the study, warned patients are missing out on the potential benefits of such treatments due to prohibitive regulations on research into recreational drugs.
Speaking at a briefing in London, the government’s former chief drugs adviser said the restrictions amounted to « the worst censorship in the history of science ».