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Entheogenic plant and fungi treat addiction & other psychiatric disorders



Monday, June 14, 2021


Dear Decriminalize Nature Supporters:


Executive Summary

  • Over the last decade there has been a significant resurgence in the scientific study of entheogenic plant and fungi products for use in the treatment of psychiatric disorders and addictions. This research is currently underway at several universities, including well respected institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, New York University, Yale University and Harvard University.

  • “Entheogenic plants and fungi were used safely for thousands of years in ritual contexts.”

  • “As is well documented by now, racial and ethnic minorities are much more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for substance possession. In this era of increased awareness about structural racism, you have an opportunity to reduce this injustice by decriminalizing entheogenic plants and fungi, so that minorities have the same access to these potentially healing substances as white Americans”.


Full Text

Brian Barnett, MD

1730 W 25th Street Cleveland, OH 44113

Phone: 216-536-7857 Email: barnetb3@ccf.org


August 11, 2020


RE: Decriminalization of entheogenic plants and fungi


Dear Grand Rapids City Commission,


My name is Brian Barnett, and I am an addiction psychiatrist as well as an Assistant Professor of Medicine. I am a clinician, writer, and researcher, with one area of research focus being psychiatrists' knowledge of and opinions about psychedelic substances.

I am writing in support of the effort to decriminalize entheogenic plants and fungi in the city of Grand Rapids (this opinion is my own and does not reflect that of my employer). Below is just some of the evidence that supports my opinion:


1. Entheogenic plants and fungi were used safely for thousands of years in ritual contexts by indigenous people before being outlawed in much of the Western World in 1970. However, some modern indigenous groups still continue to use them to their benefit. For example, research on the Navajo tribe's ongoing use of mescaline has revealed that it has no detrimental effects on cognition, even for individuals who have used it for decades (1).


2. Over the last decade there has been a significant resurgence in the scientific study of entheogenic plant and fungi products for use in the treatment of psychiatric disorders and addictions. This research is currently underway at several universities, including well respected institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, New York University, Yale University and Harvard University. So far studies have found that:


a. Psilocybin assisted psychotherapy was associated with significant improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms in patients with life threatening cancer in a randomized controlled trial.


b. Psilocybin assisted psychotherapy was associated with dramatic improvement in treatment resistant depression that was sustained at 6 months in a randomized controlled trial.


c. Psilocybin assisted psychotherapy was associated with high rates of smoking cessation in an open-label trial, with 60% of smokers remaining abstinent 30 months after the trial.


d. Psilocybin assisted psychotherapy showed promise in a small pilot study of 10 patients with alcohol use disorder, with significant reductions or cessation in alcohol use largely maintained at 36 weeks after the trial


e. Though less studied, ayahuasca (which contains the psychoactive compound dimethyltryptamine) also appears to be associated with reduced substance misuse when used in religious settings (6).This [is] also supported by preliminary research in animal models (7).


f. Ibogaine, also not as well studied, has shown promise in the treatment of opioid use disorders and is drawing increasing attention from companies looking to obtain FDA approval for this indication amid the opioid epidemic.


Entheogenic plants and fungi are not addictive and do not result in physical dependence like other psychoactive substances (benzodiazepines, opioids, stimulants, etc.) in particular are truly a different class of psychoactive compounds that should not be conceptualized as being in any way related to other ones that have significantly harmed our society due to their addictive potential.


As is well documented by now, racial and ethnic minorities are much more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for substance possession. In this era of increased awareness about structural racism, you have an opportunity to reduce this injustice by decriminalizing entheogenic plants and fungi, so that minorities have the same access to these potentially healing substances as white Americans.


Your city has been presented with a powerful opportunity to help lead the way in re- establishing humanity's relationship with entheogenic plants and fungi. I hope you embrace it for the sake of us all.


If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to be in touch.


Sincerely,

Brian Barnett, MD

References

Halpern JH, Sherwood AR, Hudson JI, Yurgelun-Todd D, Pope HGJ. Psychological and cognitive effects of long-term peyote use among Native Americans. Biol Psychiatry. 2005 Oct;58(8):624-31.


Ross S, Bossis A, Guss J, Agin-Liebes G, Malone T, Cohen B, et al. Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial. J Psychopharmacol. 2016 Dec;30(12):1165-80.


Carhart-Harris RL, Bolstridge M, Day CMJ, Rucker J, Watts R, Erritzoe DE, et al. Psilocybin with psychological support for treatment-resistant depression: six month follow-up. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2018 Feb;235(2):399-408.


Johnson MW, Garcia-Romeu A, Griffiths RR. Long-term follow-up of psilocybin facilitated smoking cessation. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2017 Jan;43(1):55-60.


Bogenschutz MP, Forcehimes AA, Pommy JA, Wilcox CE, Barbosa PCR, Strassman RJ. Psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence: a proof-of concept study. J Psychopharmacol. 2015 Mar;29(3):289-99.


Arbosa PCR, Strassman RJ, da Silveira DX, Areco K, Hoy R, Pommy J, et al. Psychological and neuropsychological assessment of regular hoasca users. Compr Psychiatry. 2016 Nov;71:95-105.


Nolli L. Evaluation of the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca in the treatment of alcohol dependence in an experimental model. Journal of Addiction Res Therapy. 2018 ;9.


Brown TK, Alper K. Treatment of opioid use disorder with ibogaine: detoxification and drug use outcomes. Am Journal of Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2018;44(1):24-36.



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