Happy Bicycle Day!

On 19 April 1943, Albert Hofmann intentionally ingested 250 micrograms of LSD. This day is now known as “Bicycle Day,” because after starting to feel the effects of the drug he rode home on a bike, and that became the first intentional acid trip.

“Little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colours and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in coloured fountains, rearranging and hybridising themselves in constant flux.”

Imagine what the bicycle made of it.

What LSD Tells Us About Human Nature

Marc Lewis on human nature and psychedelics:

“It seems that our brains, with their intrinsic tendency to parse and segregate, were well designed to veer toward over-control in response to the hardships of existence. Or, more accurately, we came by our tendency toward over-control because it manifests a key principle of brain design.

But nature provided us with a different antidote to isolation and irrelevance. LSD was created in a lab in Switzerland in the 1930s. But other chemicals with the same psychedelic properties dwell in the flesh of cactuses throughout North America (mescaline), mushrooms found across much of the northern hemisphere (psilocybin), and the vines of the Amazon (DMT–ayahuasca). These naturally evolved chemicals undo the locks our brains construct to keep us on the straight and narrow, pursuing short-lived victories over inevitable failures.”

LSD’s Impact on The Brain Revealed in Groundbreaking Images

Ian Sample on a new LSD study:

“David Nutt, the government’s former drugs advisor, professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, and senior researcher on the study, said neuroscientists had waited 50 years for this moment. ‘This is to neuroscience what the Higgs boson was to particle physics,’ he said. ‘We didn’t know how these profound effects were produced. It was too difficult to do. Scientists were either scared or couldn’t be bothered to overcome the enormous hurdles to get this done.’”

Considering David Nutt’s battle against government regulation, it is inspiring to see him continue to do this type of research. The brain scan images speak for themselves.

The Hopes and Fears of Psychedelic Science

James Rucker on modern psychedelic research:

“To that extent psychedelics aren’t some sort of panacea, and no one is suggesting they are. But if you are willing to go where they take you and, as Bill Richard’s describes, look your demons in the face with a curiosity and a friendly smile, you’ll most probably find they were never as frightening as you thought they were going to be. Our human minds have a fantastic ability for fantasy, and sometimes we believe the fantasies we create for ourselves.”

Getting Past the Shotgun Approach to Treating Mental Illness

Daniel Barron on progress in psychiatry:

“Alexia had been in-and-out of intensive psychiatric therapy for nearly two decades by the time we met. She suffered from bipolar disorder, which meant that she cycled between explosions of boundless energy and black holes of suicidal despair. Despair brought her to our unit.

Her long chart chronicled how previous psychiatrists had emptied the armory: antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, mood stabilizers, group and intensive inpatient therapy, psychotherapy, dialectic and cognitive behavioural therapy. Nothing had a lasting effect.

What struck me was the shotgun approach: try everything. Her medications spanned the molecular gamut: some stopped the disposal of the neurotransmitter serotonin, allowing more to be present in the brain; some focused on norepinephrine; others blocked the action of dopamine; yet others had an unknown target but had proven helpful to some patients. The imprecise approach to treating this most sophisticated of organs, the brain, seemed odd.”

A clear insight into psychiatry’s struggle to understand how best to treat patients. Daniel seems relatively positive about recent discoveries regarding ‘genetic pathways’ but it is still early days. Also worth reading Richard Bentall’s piece against a purely genetic approach.

Do Psychedelic Drug Laws Violate Human Rights?

Charlotte Walsh on the UK Psychoactive Substances Act 2016:

“It’s a piece of legislation that renders it unlawful to trade in any substance capable of producing a psychoactive effect of any kind regardless of harm or benefit. If you read the text of the Act, it’s extraordinary, most notably its lack of any reference to the concept of harm.”

Considering all the positive research on psychoactive substances, including the recent Beckley-Imperial study into LSD, a blanket ban on “any substance which is capable of producing a psychoactive effect in a person who consumes it”, feels like a huge step in the wrong direction. Read the full Act here.