[sixties-l] Fwd: Lucy in the Sky, with Therapists

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 11/12/00

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    >Lucy In the Sky, With Therapists
    >by Kristen Philipkoski
    >Nov. 9, 2000
    >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.
    >"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."
    >Still, 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
    >"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
    >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 MKULTRA 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
    ><http://www.maps.org/research/psyprojects.html> of research
    >both past and present at Multidisciplinary Association for
    >Psychedelic Studies <http://www.maps.org/> , which helps
    >scientists design, fund, and get approval for research on
    >Regardless 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
    >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
    >"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
    >"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."

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