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I’ve moved most of my activity to Google+ where, among other things, I have set up a Psychedelic Research Community.  Come join us there!  – M@

Can Psychedelics Improve Personality?

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Katherine MacClean, Matthew Johnson, and Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins have published their study of changes in personality after psilocybin-occasioned mystical experience. (Full disclosure: they’re friends.) From the abstract:
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2010: the year in review

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Faithful readers will notice that we had a long hiatus here as I completed my dissertation and then recovered from the resulting snake-fight injuries. Meanwhile, the year 2010 saw a number of landmark papers and subtle shifts in the scientific terrain.
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Paper on MDA in PLoS One

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Please allow me to indulge in a little self-promotion: My colleagues and I have a new paper out on the effects of MDA in healthy volunteers, published in the open access online journal PLoS One. This study was NIH-supported, although I received some important early support from The Beckley Foundation. This is the first study of MDA in people in over 30 years. It is also the second study I know of to measure mystical-type experiences with a validated measure in volunteers receiving a psychedelic in a controlled clinical setting. Because the paper is published in a Public Library of Science journal, anyone can read it at the official journal website:

One interesting point that we don’t discuss in the article is that this dose of racemic MDA clearly lasts longer than an equivalent dose of MDMA, which has been discussed on erowid. We are preparing a second paper that will address in more detail some of the similarities and differences of MDA and MDMA. One could also compare MDA to a classical hallucinogen, such as psilocybin. Here is a plot comparing average ratings made by our participants after placebo (black circles) and MDA (green circles) to psilocybin data (blue shapes) from other groups’ studies. (Click to see the full image.)

The top box shows scores from the Hood Mysticism Scale. The middle box shows scores from Dittrich’s Altered States of Consciousness questionnaire (ASC, or APZ-OAV, or sometimes just OAV), which was recently the topic of this interesting paper in PLOS One. The bottom box shows scores from the traditional clusters of the ASC Visionary Changes (commonly called “Visionary Restructuralization” in the literature) scale. For more information on these measures, you can read our paper or the other one in PLOS one.  This figure is similar to one of the figures in the article, but I have added data from these two papers:

1) (blue squares) R. R. Griffiths, W. A. Richards, U. McCann, R. Jesse. Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained
personal meaning and spiritual significance. Psychopharmacology, 2006. 187:268-283.

2) (blue triangles) F. Hasler, U. Grimberg, M.A. Benz, T. Huber, F.X. Vollenweider. Acute psychological and physiological effects of psilocybin in healthy humans: a double-blind, placebo-controlled dose–effect study. Psychopharmacology, 2004. 172:145-156.

I should note that it is a little risky to compare our participants to those of the Griffiths study because those individuals were hallucinogen-naïve and all had some type of spiritual practice. In addition they wore blindfolds throughout much of the drug administration session.

Baggott MJ, Siegrist JD, Galloway GP, Robertson LC, Coyle JR, et al. 2010 Investigating the Mechanisms of Hallucinogen-Induced Visions Using 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA): A Randomized Controlled Trial in Humans. PLoS ONE 5(12): e14074. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014074

Sasha Shulgin

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Alexander Shulgin, the one-of-a-kind chemist who crossed a diamond with a pearl, is in the hospital after a stroke.   Friends are suggesting that donations can be made via the second link on this page: Support the Shulgin Collection.

Update: More details are emerging. Family friend Greg M. writes that:

[Tuesday (11/16)] “on the way to the hospital for a scheduled test, Sasha had a stroke. He has been struggling for six months with an ulcer on his left foot that won’t heal, hoping to avoid amputation. Sasha & Ann have been in serious financial trouble for some years, and the coming medical bills will be a burden they can’t bear alone… For non-tax-deductible contributions: Paypal $ to [] or snailmail: Sasha Shulgin, c/o Transform Press, PO Box 13675, Berkeley CA 94712. For tax-deductible online donations to support the completion of Shulgin publishing projects that are underway:

For background reading, Alexander Shulgin’s wikipedia entry is here and a historical article by Benzenhöfer and Passie describes Shulgin’s role in the history of MDMA, a topic we have previously blogged.

Sasha’s stroke was mild, and the effects are reportedly beginning to show signs of healing. He is alert and making puns again. His speech is clearer, although a speech therapist will be coming once or twice a week for a while. Meanwhile, Sasha’s left foot, which has had an ulcer, is healing enough to make a skin graft a good option, likely in the near future.

Outer space/Inner space: July 16th in History

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On July 16th 1969, Apollo 11 set off for the Moon. On July 16th 1930, thirty-nine years earlier, humanity first encountered an MDMA-like drug as Gordon Alles began his self-experiments with MDA. Even though it appears in several percent of illicit ‘ecstasy’ tablets, MDA has received little attention in recent years. That just changed. This month, we finished collecting data in the first human study of MDA in over 30 years.
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Increased oxytocin concentrations and prosocial feelings in humans after ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) administration.

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Glenn Dumont and colleagues have an excellent new paper in social neuroscience showing that 100 mg MDMA increases oxytocin and prosocial feelings in people a controlled laboratory setting. It’s about time someone properly confirmed this theory!
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The passing of Abraham Hoffer

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My pace of posting has slowed as I am deep in dissertation writing.  So I have been remiss in failing to celebrate several good new articles, including a study of MDMA-cannabis interactions from Dumont and colleagues and an exciting article that considers one of my favorite topics: hallucinogens from a Bayesian perspective.  However, my primary motivation for this entry is to note the death of psychedelic researcher Abraham Hoffer.
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