Can you treat mental illness with psychedelics?


Announcer: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from HowStuffWorks.com.

Josh Clark: Whoa, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. There's Charles "Cheech" Bryant.

Chuck Bryant: Cheech. Yeah, man.

Josh Clark: Yeah, I wanted to start this one out like a 12-year-old. So, that's what I'm going with.

Chuck Bryant: A 12-year-old on acid, maybe.

Josh Clark: Maybe, which has happened before in France actually?

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: Thanks to our old friends at CIA.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, they dosed kids?

Josh Clark: They dosed a whole town -

Chuck Bryant: - Wow.

Josh Clark: - to see what would happen, and one kid came at his grandmother and tried to strangle her.

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: Yeah, I can't remember the name of the town. I blogged about it!

Chuck Bryant: - I can see why you would find that funny.

Josh Clark: But - well, no. People were, like, showing up to the hospital.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: A lot of it was funny -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, sure.

Josh Clark: - in that, like, all these 1950s Frenchies are losing their stuff for no apparent reason.

Chuck Bryant: Right, right.

Josh Clark: But the suicides that resulted -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, not funny.

Josh Clark: - from that, not very funny.

Chuck Bryant: Before we get started, I think we should do, like, an official COA for this one.

Josh Clark: I think that is a very good idea.

Chuck Bryant: Because what Josh and I are about to talk about are illegal drugs and we are not endorsing the use of these, okay?

Josh Clark: They are illegal after all.

Chuck Bryant: We'll probably say this later on, too.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: But we just find it fascinating that they used to be used for certain things, and they're starting to be used again in certain scientific research labs for these things.

Josh Clark: It is extremely fascinating, which is what we're talking about, right?

Chuck Bryant: Exactly.

Josh Clark: But -

Chuck Bryant: - I guess this could be a followup to our MKULTRA cast.

Josh Clark: It's a followup, and it's an epilogue, and a prologue.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Very nice.

Josh Clark: Because we kinda came into the CIA, LSD, MKULTRA podcast, like, right in the middle of the history of LSD, pretty much.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, yeah.

Josh Clark: Well, we toured the beginning, but one of the things, after 1943 when Albert Hoffman, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: The chemist who created LSD and -

Chuck Bryant: - LSD 25.

Josh Clark: - tried to - yeah. It was his 25th attempt and tried it on himself intravenously, as I understand it. He injected it.

Chuck Bryant: It says first he took it by mistake.

Josh Clark: Yeah, because it was a blood thinner.

Chuck Bryant: And then he took it for real -

Josh Clark: - Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: - on purpose.

Josh Clark: After that first bike ride home he was like, "I gotta do some more of this."

Chuck Bryant: Can I read his quote?

Josh Clark: Please.

Chuck Bryant: "I became aware of the wonder of creation, the magnificence of nature."

Josh Clark: - Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: - to create Dr. Hoffman.

Josh Clark: Yeah, and he was just some Swiss guy - some chemist. He was not the first person to come up with a synthetic hallucinogen.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: Back in 1914, a German chemist who worked for Merck, the pharmaceutical company, came up with MDMA -

Chuck Bryant: - Really?

Josh Clark: - better known as Ecstasy.

Chuck Bryant: That far back, huh?

Josh Clark: Yeah and here's a tip for you, Chuckers: Any time, according to the Associated Press, you write about a designer drug and use it by its designer name, capitalize it. So, Ecstasy is always capitalized.

Chuck Bryant: The word "Ecstasy"?

Josh Clark: When you're talking about the drug, yes.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, well, sure.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And not just the euphoric feeling you get from life.

Josh Clark: That's different.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: That's lowercase.

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: But it should be all caps.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, sure.

Josh Clark: So, it was 1914 that MDMA was created, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: That's crazy.

Josh Clark: Yeah, and it was - I guess it served as a - it's not a catalyst because I think it's changed, but it was to be used in the synthesis of other chemicals.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And it kinda sat on the shelves for a little while until somebody along the way said -

Chuck Bryant: - Listened to trance music?

Josh Clark: - "I wonder what happens if I take this stuff."

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And they did, and the CIA again, looked at it, wanted to see what it could do, passed it up. A guy by the name of Alexander Shulgin, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: He's a Dow chemist, and in 1978, at the age of 74, he published a study on the euphoric effects of MDMA. It was the first time anyone had ever published a study about -

Chuck Bryant: - What year?

Josh Clark: 1978.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: But he was 74 and he first noticed the euphoric effects because he liked to take it and go to cocktail parties.

Chuck Bryant: Of course he did.

Josh Clark: Yeah. So, he's like, "Hey, man. This stuff is the bomb and here's my study on it. Here are my findings and let's everybody start taking this." So, he starts to giving it to his friends, including some psychiatrists.

Chuck Bryant: Did he give out pacifiers?

Josh Clark: Not yet.

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: That's coming though. That's very, very close - 1978 - pacifiers came about in 1988.

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: So, Shulgin gives some to a friend who's a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists - some of the more avant garde psychiatrists -

Chuck Bryant: - Sure.

Josh Clark: - start giving it to their patients. It gets called ADAM for a little while. So while this is going on - it's being used by established psychiatrists - a mysterious financier in Dallas, Texas finds out about this stuff, and starts taking it, hires an underground chemist, and has it made himself, and then, starts selling it at clubs all over Dallas. So this illicit use of this substance, simultaneous to its emergence on the club scene in about the mid-'80s, led to the outlaw of MDMA! We'll get into it more.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: But the point is - to this very long and rambling intro - both of these drugs and others, were legal at one time -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, sure.

Josh Clark: - were put to good use, beneficial use, and then outlawed, possibly unfairly, and then now, we're starting to see them come back into use: hallucinogens being used to treat mental illness and mental harm.

Chuck Bryant: In legitimate circles.

Josh Clark: Very legitimate.

Chuck Bryant: Quick question. Was that Dallas person - was that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones?

Josh Clark: I don't know.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, I was just wondering -

Josh Clark: - I don't think anybody knows who it is still.

Chuck Bryant: - if that's how he got his start maybe.

Josh Clark: Yeah, probably.

Chuck Bryant: That's not true at all.

Josh Clark: I think he had some dough to begin with.

Chuck Bryant: So Josh, you mentioned the CIA. I do wanna point out, it wasn't just the Americans. The Canadian government and Britishes - Britshes?

Josh Clark: - It works.

Chuck Bryant: - Britain's MI6 also experimented with LSD and between 1950 and '65, 40,000 people all over the world had been treated with LSD.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: In treatments.

Josh Clark: Cary Grant -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, can we go back to Hollywood?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And the 19 - what year was this?

Josh Clark: '50s.

Chuck Bryant: 1950s?

Josh Clark: Uh-huh.

Chuck Bryant: So, a couple of guys set up shop - Arthur Chandler - what was the other guy's name?

Josh Clark: Oh, Hartman?

Chuck Bryant: Hartman - Mortimer Hartman, who was a radiologist, took acid -

Josh Clark: - Mortimer Hartman.

Chuck Bryant: - and said, "You know, I'm gonna get into psychiatry." These guys set up a shop called the Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills, right in the middle of Beverly Hills, and this is back in the day when things were - there was clean living going on, aside from the rampant alcoholism and cigarettes being smoked.

Josh Clark: Yeah, adultery.

Chuck Bryant: Probably some marijuana use going on.

Josh Clark: Here, there, but that was among the hopheads.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, exactly. So, he sets up a couple of rooms with a couch and starts booking patients at a rate of, like, six or eight hours a session, depending on what was going on with the person. Five days a week, they were booked solid.

Josh Clark: $100.00 a pop.

Chuck Bryant: $100.00, which is a lot of money back then.

Josh Clark: Sure.

Chuck Bryant: I guess that included the drugs.

Josh Clark: The drugs and the time that you were there.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So, they would sit with you. They would give you some blinders to block out distractions and then you would go into sorta, like, the more meditative sorta acid trip, essentially.

Josh Clark: You were tripping -

Chuck Bryant: - Tripping.

Josh Clark: - hard.

Chuck Bryant: And they would -

Josh Clark: Because you were on pharmaceutical grade LSD, produced by the Sandoz Company.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, we're talking about Aldous Huxley, novelist. Who else?

Josh Clark: Yeah, any actually he died tripping. Did you know that?

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: Yeah, he had throat cancer, I think. And the last thing he ever wrote was a note to his wife requesting such and such milligrams of LSD or micrograms of LSD injected intramuscularly.

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: And that was about six hours before he died. So, he died tripping hard.

Chuck Bryant: And a Grateful Dead record. That was his last request.

Josh Clark: Right, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Before the Grateful Dead was around.

Josh Clark: "Bring me Truckin'."

Chuck Bryant: Screenwriter Charles Brackett took it. Director Sidney Lumet - is it "La-may" or "Lu-met"?

Josh Clark: "Lu-met," I think.

Chuck Bryant

Okay, I always said "La-may," but I think I'm wrong. He took it a few times, went through sessions, called it wonderful. He reexperienced his own birth -

Josh Clark: - Um-hum, a lot of people did.

Chuck Bryant: - which apparently, a few people did. I'd never heard of that.

Josh Clark: I haven't either.

Chuck Bryant: And Clare Boothe Luce, who was a playwright, married to Time magazine publisher, Henry Luce -

Josh Clark: - She was also an ambassador and possibly an agent for the U.S. government secretly.

Chuck Bryant: - and they both took acid, so much that Henry Luce and Time magazine said, "We need to write about this. This is awesome."

Josh Clark: Yeah, there was a lot of good press that Time magazine gave LSD in the '50s as basically a cure-all. Again, Cary Grant got into it big time. Now apparently, he had, like, at least 100 trips, I believe.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, he was - yeah, let's talk about him for a second because he was one of these guys that carefully constructed his persona. He worked very hard at - apparently, he was - the line he always gave was, "A lot of people wanna be Cary Grant and I'm one of them."

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Indicating that this suave, Mr. Cool persona was completely fabricated and created by himself so he could get the fame and everything.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: But deep down, he suffered as a human - until he started taking acid.

Josh Clark: Right, and then he had - well, he had some pretty interesting revelations, one of which I read. Somebody thought to write down the stuff that he - some of the insights he had. Some were kinda deep. Others were like, "If I have to look at a man, he should be required to comb his hair, and brush his teeth, and wear a clean shirt."

Chuck Bryant: - That was an acid revelation?

Josh Clark: - Apparently again - yes, it was.

Chuck Bryant: Interesting.

Josh Clark: So, it kinda ran the gambit, but yeah. He became a real devotee of LSD. He saw that it could -

Chuck Bryant: - He and his ex-wife, too.

Josh Clark: Yeah, and well, she got him into it, right?

Chuck Bryant: I think so.

Josh Clark: Who wrote that - part of this, we're basing this part on a Vanity Fair article that just came out.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, a really good article.

Josh Clark: Yeah, it's called Cary in the Sky with Diamonds, but he was a huge advocate for LSD. He wasn't the only one.

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: But he lived to see it outlawed and public sentiment turn against it, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: Just like MDMA, psilocybin - magic mushrooms, and part of the - well, really one of the - you could say that Timothy Leary, almost singlehandedly led to the tremendous suffering of a lot of people, who might otherwise have been helped by LSD -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, ironically.

Josh Clark: - with his naïve bravado of, "The establishment just needs to get over its hang-ups and we should all take acid." Whether or not you agree that that's a good idea, it's a stupid thing to say.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: Leary was originally a Harvard psychiatrist, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: And he started taking, I think, mushrooms. Then, he eventually started taking LSD and was fired from Harvard because he turned into a hippie [inaudible]. And that was pretty much the beginning of the end of LSD.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they may have continued to use LSD as treatment for mental patients - mental illness and depression - if not for Timothy Leary, who was trying to spread the word about acid.

Josh Clark: That's right.

Chuck Bryant: Back to Cary Grant real quick. He was so into it, Josh, he had a couple of stories written about him in 1959 in Look magazine. The Curious Story Behind the New Cary Grant gave a glowing account of LSD and then - this is the best - the following year, the Good Housekeeping magazine - it got the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval in the 1960 issue and they called the secret of Grant's second youth.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: I wanna get a copy of that magazine.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: How awesome would that be?

Josh Clark: Yeah, and that's kinda like the theme of this podcast - is it's so weird that these things were considered incredibly wonderful and benign, and now, they're just viewed as just so - they're evil and they're outlawed simply because they were made illegal.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: They were prohibited.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And again, there's kinda a movement toward saying, "Hey, maybe Timothy Leary did give this a bad name. Maybe that underground chemist in Dallas really kinda put a terrible spin on this and we should look at these again," right?

Chuck Bryant: Could I add to one more story -?

Josh Clark: - Yes.

Chuck Bryant: - from Hollywood in the 1960s?

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: Esther Williams, famous diva actress from the MGM studio, friend of Cary Grant's, called Cary Grant up after these articles and said, "Hey, can you introduce me to your doctor - Dr. Hartman?" He did so. At the time, she was aging, just had gone through a divorce. Her husband left her with huge debt with the IRS and she was still struggling with the death of her 16-year-old brother. She goes in the office, she takes acid, does her session, goes home to her parents still on acid, has dinner with them, and then goes into the bathroom mirror, says good night to her parents, looks in the mirror - and I'm gonna read this quote. "I was startled by a split image. One half of my face - the right half was me. The other half was the face of a 16-year-old boy. The left side of my upper body was flat and muscular. I reached up with my boy's hand to touch my right breast and felt my penis stirring. It was a hermaphroditic fantasm and I understood perfectly in that moment when my brother died, I took him into my life so completely, he became part of me."

Josh Clark: Yeah, that's a pretty huge thing to understand -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah.

Josh Clark: - and pretty jarring way to come terms with that, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, but that's what they're finding out now though, is that these people are having these breakthroughs in the throes of their final days of, let's say, cancer, and they have these epiphanies.

Josh Clark: Before we get to that - so, LSD is outlawed. We're following a timeline here.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: LSD is outlawed in, I think, '65 - something like that, at the latest, 1970.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they shut down the shop in Beverly Hills.

Josh Clark: Yeah, and Sandoz stopped making it, and it was outlawed, and pushed underground. MDMA made it until 1985 and MDMA's story is linked very closely to a guy named Dr. George Ricuarte, who is Johns Hopkins researcher.

Chuck Bryant: This floored me.

Josh Clark: So, in 1985, about the time DEA is reeling from being caught totally unaware by the crack epidemic -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah.

Josh Clark: - and basically, a lot of people think looking for a whipping post.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: They start considering outlawing MDMA. At that moment, this guy - Dr. George Ricuarte - publishes a study that he says, "This drug depletes your serotonin levels permanently, causing brain damage," right?

Chuck Bryant: It can kill you.

Josh Clark: Yeah, well, that didn't - that came later.

Chuck Bryant: - Oh, is that later?

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: So, this guy, who is unknown at the time, publishes this study, starts to get National Institute of Drug Abuse funding.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: So basically, this is his job. He starts a career creating scientific evidence in favor of banning drugs - leads to the outlaw of MDMA, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: That wasn't quite enough. They scheduled it. The feds went after MDMA even harder and in 2002 they came up with this thing called The RAVE Act.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, that's okay.

Josh Clark: It's - oh, what does RAVE stand for - Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy.

Chuck Bryant: I wonder how long they sat around looking at the word "rave" saying, "We gotta make it fit. We gotta make it fit."

Josh Clark: Yeah, so the RAVE Act basically said if you are a club owner, and somebody gets caught taking Ecstasy or has Ecstasy at your club, we're gonna shut down your club.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: It was a huge, huge law, and it was bolstered by another study by Dr. George Ricuarte that found that - he tested on ten monkeys.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, this is the big one.

Josh Clark: He injected them with MDMA. A bunch of them went psychotic. Some of them showed early signs of Parkinson's all of a sudden.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And two of them died almost immediately after being injected.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: So, people started asking questions about this. Like, "Whoa, what are you talking about? People have been taking this drug forever, and this has never happened."

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: So, they started kinda going after Ricuarte and they found out that he had actually injected them with methamphetamine -

Chuck Bryant: - Right.

Josh Clark: - not MDMA.

Chuck Bryant: The first thing that tipped them off though was that he injected them because people were like, "Well, you don't inject Ecstasy. So, that's kinda a weird way to do it."

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: And then they found out it was methamphetamines, which he blamed on a mislabeling of a drug shipment, which they had traced back, and they went, "No, the label right here -"

Josh Clark: - Yeah, the drug provider was like, "Don't blame us, pal."

Chuck Bryant: It's pretty clear.

Josh Clark: So, by this time, the RAVE Act is already passed - the RAVE Act didn't get passed, but something that included that was passed by that time.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: The study that Ricuarte produced was published in Science - The Journal of Science. Like, that as high-brow as you get as far as scientific journals go.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And finally, he gets beaten up enough that he prints a full retraction.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, he came clean.

Josh Clark: Science runs this retraction saying, "The whole study that I produced, just forget it ever existed."

Chuck Bryant: I bet that doesn't happen much.

Josh Clark: No, it doesn't. That's very unusual. So Ricuarte, I get the impression, is kinda this - well, he just kinda seems like the scientific community views him largely as a shill for the government.

Chuck Bryant: I would say so.

Josh Clark: Yeah. There's a couple of articles that he shows up in on Reason - in Reason magazines we're checking out.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and you know the other interesting thing about that whole story, about the big fake study he did with methamphetamines as Ecstasy is that the Parkinson's Foundation - Parkinson's researchers said, "I don't think that that's true. That doesn't make much sense to us either that they would show signs of Parkinson's."

Josh Clark: Right. So, they looked into it. People went about reproducing a study and the people who run the Parkinson's foundation actually issued a statement saying, "Ecstasy does not do this."

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: So, they basically came out in favor of Ecstasy. It's kinda neat to watch from the outside because there's this guy, who's again, kinda viewed as a shill for the government, who's beating up on this drug that a lot of people, who are also in the scientific community, feel is being unfairly outlawed.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: And so, there's kinda beating up on him in retaliation.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: It's kinda neat to see eggheads beat up on one another.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, nerd fights?

Josh Clark: Uh-huh.

Chuck Bryant: And the NIDA went so far that the NIDA just kinda quietly pulled their fact sheet on Ecstasy and was like, "Um, let's just take this down off the website."

Josh Clark: After the retraction in 2003.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, "And we'll rewrite it." I'm sure it's back up now as something else.

Josh Clark: Sure, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: But it doesn't include immediate death and Parkinson's disease, I would imagine.

Josh Clark: That's right. So, Timothy Leary dies. He gets shot into space. He's out of the picture entirely. Everybody gets sick of hippies, generally.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: George Ricuarte is basically the guy who's singlehandedly getting Ecstasy outlawed. His work comes into great, great question.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And people start going back and looking at MDMA again, and they started looking at LSD again, and that's where we find ourself right now.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Slowly but surely, people are starting to run studies on whether or not you can use these hallucinogens to treat mental illness, and the results are pretty astounding actually.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and you know where they're leading the charge? In Switzerland -

Josh Clark: - Uh-huh.

Chuck Bryant: - and Los Angeles.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: All these years later, same place.

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: Hippie freaks.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So, yeah, Josh, they are, I think, in Switzerland - in Solothurn, Switzerland - they have been experimenting with LSD, psilocybin, which you might know as magic mushrooms -

Josh Clark: - Yes.

Chuck Bryant: - ketamine - you might know as Special K. That kinda surprised me that that was in there.

Josh Clark: Yeah, I hadn't heard much about that one either.

Chuck Bryant: And they're getting these studies published in Nature Reviews, Neuroscience, and other leading industry, peer-reviewed publications.

Josh Clark: Right, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: It's not all under-the-table, back room experiments.

Josh Clark: Oh, no. These are very heavily overseen. You have to be a very legitimate researcher to get government approval.

Chuck Bryant: They're not funded though, still. They say they're still having a hard time with funding and they're just sorta looking to get some restrictions loosened. They're not saying, "Make all this stuff legal."

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: They're not battling on the legalization front at all.

Josh Clark: No, but the reason why so many people are kinda starting to put their reputations on the line is because the results that they're seeing. So, we have antidepressants, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: They take weeks to kick in.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: They have all sorts of side-effects.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: And what we're seeing in these studies now are that the things like ketamine, MDMA, LSD, are having like a huge impact right out of the gate.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: There's one study that came out in July, I believe, and it found - it was a study of 12 people, who were diagnosed with PTSD - post-traumatic stress disorder.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's one of the big ones -

Josh Clark: - Yeah, that's huge.

Chuck Bryant: - that they're looking at.

Josh Clark: That's where you - well, it's what we used to call shell-shock. You go through a traumatic experience and you relive it over and over again, and it's debilitating. They found that of the 12 people in this study, 10 of them, after going through the study, after taking MDMA, no longer met the criteria to be diagnosed with PTSD afterward - 10 of the 12.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and for my understanding in most of the studies is it's not like you have to stay on Ecstasy your whole life.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Like a lot of people have these epiphanies and they quit taking it and they have changed their outlook. Isn't that right?

Josh Clark: Yeah, that's the impression I'm getting, too. Ketamine, apparently, is good for depression in the same way. Just a very tiny dose can get you over severe, clinical depression, or that's the results - the early results, we should say - and everything from quitting smoking to suicidal thoughts.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, cluster headaches? Harvard is studying this.

Josh Clark: Those are migraines for men, right? What they call men's migraines?

Chuck Bryant: Is it?

Josh Clark: I think so.

Chuck Bryant: I know they're so debilitating that you consider suicide, or not everyone does obviously.

Josh Clark: Sure.

Chuck Bryant: But it's just this awful, awful pain. You can't leave your house. You have to sit in a dark room. So, it's helping there and what I thought was interesting - Johns Hopkins - you might have heard of them.

Josh Clark: Sure.

Chuck Bryant: A little reputable institution.

Josh Clark: That's where Ricuarte is from.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, was it?

Josh Clark: Uh-huh.

Chuck Bryant: They did an experiment where they gave psilocybin to emotionally stable individuals. Like, this wasn't even people that were mentally ill - people that had never taken hallucinogens before, which is interesting that you would be - I think they had a 64-year-old that signed up for this.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: That's crazy. And they said - ages 24 to 64 and they said - the experiment - a year later they said, "The experience was one of the most meaningful and spiritual experiences of their entire lives."

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And those were mentally stable folks.

Josh Clark: Sure, and this is a year on.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: It still had an impact on them. They're also finding that OCD - and basically mood disorders are the primary target of hallucinogenic treatment, right - psychedelics for treatment?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And the reason being, we think, is because they target serotonin in the brain. This is another reason why they're not addictive. They don't employ the reward circuit in the brain, which is how we become addicted to things; we're flooded with dopamine. Remember?

Chuck Bryant: It just affects the mood circuits. Isn't that right?

Josh Clark: Serotonin. And we don't really have a very good grasp on serotonin and exactly how that works, but we do know that there's correlations between high levels of serotonin -

Chuck Bryant: - Right.

Josh Clark: - or low levels of serotonin and depression.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Right? And we know that using antidepressants, which block the reuptake of serotonin, reduces symptoms of clinical depression in people. So, we know that serotonin is in there somewhere.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: We know that the more serotonin you have, the better, generally. Or low serotonin is bad.

Chuck Bryant: Right, right, right.

Josh Clark: And then we also know that hallucinogens target this somehow. That's pretty much where the research stands right now.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: But it makes you wonder, "Where would be if LSD and MDMA hadn't been in the wilderness for the last few decades?"

Chuck Bryant: Well, yeah. They have may have a pill, like, a low-dose pill. Because a lot of these studies, just so you know -back in Cary Grant's day, I mean it was full-on acid trips - but a lot of these, like the psilocybin pills they will give you will be very low-dose. So, I don't - I get the feeling that it's not like this huge mushroom trip that a lot of these patients are going through.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Because it said like, "80 percent of the people recognized when they did not have the placebo." So, if it wasn't 100 percent, then it was probably a pretty low dose -

Josh Clark: - Yes.

Chuck Bryant: - would be my guess.

Josh Clark: Would you - if - if - everything was legalized and MDMA came to be prescribed for just happiness -

Chuck Bryant: - Right.

Josh Clark: - would you take it? Would you take a happy pill that was legal and didn't have side effects? Not to say MDMA doesn't have side effects. There's basically the three days after -

Chuck Bryant: - Sure.

Josh Clark: - a depression that follows when your serotonin levels are repleting themselves.

Chuck Bryant: I don't think I would because there are "happy pills" now an I mean, it's not like I'm against antidepressants or things like that because people definitely benefit from those who need them, but I just - I don't need that kinda thing. So, I would not. I would not, sir.

Josh Clark: You are not alone, Chuck. There is a survey conducted for this BBC series on Britain of British people that found that 79 percent of them said that they would not take a happy pill that was legal and had no side effects.

Chuck Bryant: That's interesting.

Josh Clark: Yeah, because it kinda - I think that for a large segment of the population, the idea of synthesizing happiness is untoward, you know?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, yeah. It's a little weird. I mean, that's not to say I'm a square and I don't like to get down. Another aspect, Josh, I mean we're talking right now about literally the effect it has on your brain, and your serotonin levels, and your moods.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: They've also found that patients - cancer patients in particular - who consume hallucinogens or people with just traumatic events from earlier in their life, they have the ability to relive some of these memories and events from their past. They can unlock buried, traumatic episodes, deal with them, psychologically put them to rest, and come out the other side with a new understanding, free from these demons.

Josh Clark: Right. You remember in the hypnosis episode -?

Chuck Bryant: - Yes.

Josh Clark: - where we were talking about how the way it's viewed now is that you're accessing the subconsciouses more easily?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, yeah, uh-huh.

Josh Clark: It's like popping open a control panel. That's what they're seeing with MDMA apparently. You are able to access things from a very empathetic way. I think the term I've heard for it is called a psychotherapeutic catalyst.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Like, it kick-starts things.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And I think one researcher called it, "It's psychotherapy sped up -" or psychiatrist called it.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, yeah. It's like psychotherapy on acid.

Josh Clark: So, LSD specifically, hasn't been the greatest friend to everybody who's ever taken it.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, sure.

Josh Clark: And what's funny in this article that's on the site, Can We Treat Mental Illness with Hallucinogens? Tom Scheve -

Chuck Bryant: - Your buddy.

Josh Clark: - has to go to the '60s psychedelic rock scene to find examples -

Chuck Bryant: - I know it.

Josh Clark: - of people who had a bad time on acid.

Chuck Bryant: I know.

Josh Clark: And apparently, what the conventional wisdom is, is if you are predisposed to mental illness, LSD can exacerbate that.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: If you have a bad trip, you're going to have a really, really bad trip because you're already predisposed to mental illness.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, he used Brian Wilson and Sid Barrett as the two examples.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And those are stellar examples, I gotta say.

Josh Clark: They really are, but they're also counterintuitive to what we're seeing with, like, PTSD. You are already suffering from a mental illness. So, here's some MDMA.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Probably LSD would be horrible to give to a PTSD survivor.

Chuck Bryant: Sure, yeah, yeah.

Josh Clark: Right?

Chuck Bryant: I would say so.

Josh Clark: And what else, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant: Can we talk about Pamela Sakuda?

Josh Clark: Sure, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: It's a very interesting story. This was a woman, age 57 at the time of this article, who was in the final stages of colon cancer. She had outlived her prognosis. She was anxious and depressed. She was worried about her family, her husband, and what they were gonna do without her. It was not a good life she was living here at the end and she was prescribed antidepressants, of course.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: They didn't work - didn't do a thing for her, so she volunteered for an experiment at UCLA in 2005 and started taking psilocybin, the magic mushroom pill -

Josh Clark: - Right.

Chuck Bryant: - in pill form.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: She had a lot of breakthroughs. They brought her husband in at the end of one of the sessions and he said, "There's my Pammy. She was just beaming with light and I haven't seen her that joyous in so long. She was totally alive and happy." And she continued to take it until she didn't need it anymore. She had these breakthroughs and then all of a sudden her husband and Pamela were going to concerts. They went hiking at the Grand Canyon. They went on vacations. They did all these things that she hadn't been doing in a long time because of these epiphanies she had under the influence of psilocybin.

Josh Clark: Um-hum, awesome.

Chuck Bryant: And sadly, she died.

Josh Clark: Well, she had cancer.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, she did. Yeah, that's what she died from in 2006, and her husband said she died in his arms, but her husband was very appreciative. They actually did a benefit about a week before she died for the institute that was doing this work at UCLA.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: So, it's pretty interesting.

Josh Clark: Yeah, definitely, and one of the applications that they're finding is end-of-life care for using MDMA, or LSD, or psilocybin.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: Or Special K, apparently.

Chuck Bryant: What about this ibogaine?

Josh Clark: Um-hum. They're finding that ibogaine works really well. Ibogaine is from a hallucinatory root plant in Africa, I believe.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, uh-huh.

Josh Clark: And they're finding that you go on a 36-hour trip. That's a long time.

Chuck Bryant: That is a long time.

Josh Clark: But they're finding that it's really effective in breaking addiction and like, serious addictions, too, like heroin.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and cocaine.

Josh Clark: So, being on this stuff just for 36 hours creates a break in the addiction cycle itself.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: But what they're finding that's most notable about it is there's a lack of withdrawal symptoms that you see in every other type of -

Chuck Bryant: - That's crazy.

Josh Clark: - addiction removal, especially with heroin. Like, heroin, you're supposed to have physical withdrawal symptoms.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And people who are taking ibogaine are not experiencing that like they would if they tried to kick the habit without it.

Chuck Bryant: That's pretty remarkable.

Josh Clark: Yeah, it is very remarkable. It's very interesting. We should probably say - I don't know if we have yet - that this podcast is in no way, an endorsement of going out and buying yourself some street drugs -

Chuck Bryant: - No, no, no.

Josh Clark: - and seeing what happens.

Chuck Bryant: It's a study of what we find to be very fascinating.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: The fact that this is - there's been a resurgence in this and these qualified doctors - UCLA, Johns Hopkins - they're saying we should look into this stuff.

Josh Clark: Yeah, and they definitely are and they're getting some very interesting results.

Chuck Bryant: What about the AA guy? We should mention that really quickly. That was pretty funny.

Josh Clark: Oh, yeah, Bill Wilson.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, one of the cofounders of AA.

Josh Clark: Yeah, he apparently, took LSD in the '50s was it?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and this was long after he was sober from alcohol -

Josh Clark: - Yeah, because AA has been around since the '30s, I think.

Chuck Bryant: - and had founded AA. Oh, had it?

Josh Clark: Yeah. So, he takes LSD in the '50s and is like, "This is really helpful. So, I think everybody who comes into AA should take LSD."

Chuck Bryant: Exactly.

Josh Clark: They were like, "You should probably not do that."

Chuck Bryant: - Right, yeah. So, it did bring up -

Josh Clark: - So, they talked him out of it. But the reason why he found it helpful is that hallucinogens - part of a 12-step program is to really reflect on past wrongdoings and then elucidate them to another human being - and apparently, LSD, MDMA, these other drugs, help. They serve as a catalyst for that process.

Chuck Bryant: To tap into that.

Josh Clark: So, that's why Bill Wilson thought, "This is really helpful," because again, psychotherapy sped up.

Chuck Bryant: Fascinating.

Josh Clark: Very fascinating.

Chuck Bryant: I will say this though. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say even though we're not saying, "Oh, you should go out and do these things," I will say that some chemically-created, in a lab pill called an antidepressant isn't - I mean, what's the difference?

Josh Clark: The difference is, I think, in my opinion, from what I've seen, one's marketed and legal -

Chuck Bryant: - Exactly.

Josh Clark: - and the other is illegal. It's as simple as that.

Chuck Bryant: One is made by Merck and one is not made by Merck, but Merck used to make this stuff, too, which is ironic.

Josh Clark: Right, exactly. Public sentiment counts for everything.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: You know?

Chuck Bryant: Well, it's the same reason that alcohol - you can go into a bar and get completely wasted out of your mind and get in a car, but you can't walk into a bar and smoke a joint.

Josh Clark: Or shoot heroin.

Chuck Bryant: Or shoot heroin. And we're not lobbying for anything. It's just interesting that the things that society has deemed acceptable. Alcoholism is just fine. Well, it's not just fine, but it's legal and you can do it -

Josh Clark: - Right.

Chuck Bryant: - even though it kills all these people and this is not acceptable. It's just - it's funny how we've evolved to think some things are evil and some things are just great.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I wonder what the future holds, Josh.

Josh Clark: I wonder myself. We'll find out.

Chuck Bryant: Yes, we will.

Josh Clark: If we live that long. That is about it for this one. You should probably check out Can We Treat Mental Illness with Hallucinogens? on the site. Be sure to check out Cary in the Sky with Diamonds -

Chuck Bryant: - Great article.

Josh Clark: - Vanity Fair article. Type in George Ricuarte, R-I-C-U-A-R-T-E, into Reason's website. That'll bring up some cool stuff.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: There's a killer Time magazine article from, I think, 2000 or 2001 on Ecstasy - on MDMA. That's really - it's called Happiness in a Pill - something like that.

Chuck Bryant: Josh from the future. We are in New York right now, but tonight, Thursday, the 21st of October, I know that our producer, and confidant, and den mother, Jerry, will be at a fundraiser for the CoEd, the Cooperative for Education.

Josh Clark: Right, today.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, tonight.

Josh Clark: If you're in Atlanta, and you are about to pop another Chef Lonely Heart's frozen dinner for one, and drink a bottle of wine for two by yourself, and you're looking for love in the Atlanta area, stop what you're doing. Grab $20.00 and go to the Metropolitan Club in Alpharetta.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: From 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. tonight, Thursday, October 21st, CoEd is holding their Fall Fiesta ATL fundraiser and it's gonna be awesome, right? The $20.00 buys you that wine that you were gonna drink by yourself.

Chuck Bryant: Better wine, probably.

Josh Clark: Yes, and you get to drink it amongst friends, meet Jerry. There's also going to be food -

Chuck Bryant: - Better food.

Josh Clark: Yeah, entertainment, and all sorts of chances to win or auction bid, right? That's the proper verb.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they're auctioning off cool prizes like African safaris, and signed sports memorabilia, and stuff like that.

Josh Clark: Yes, and you never know. You could find love there. We're making zero guarantees whatsoever, but it's worth a shot, isn't it?

Chuck Bryant: Yes. If we weren't out of town right now, we would be there tonight.

Josh Clark: Yes, we would. So, again, if you don't remember who CoEd is, CoEd is the great nonprofit that took us to Guatemala and we did a two-part podcast on it, which is aweso me. And they pool money together to buy books for schools in Guatemala, which then in turn rent the books, and that rental fee is put into an escrow account, which after five years, is substantial enough to buy all new textbooks. So, what they start is a self-sustaining system of ownership of textbooks, and it has a huge effect. It's not just textbooks. They do computer labs, too. So, if you want more information on CoEd or the Fall Fiesta ATL tonight, go to their website: www.coeduc.org, right?

Chuck Bryant: That's right.

Josh Clark: All right, let's do this.

Chuck Bryant: So, that's it.

Josh Clark: That's it man.

Chuck Bryant: Nice job, buddy.

Josh Clark: I guess it's time now for listener mail, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes. I had a listener mail, Josh, from Rhea and this was about Octopus.

Josh Clark: Or octopi.

Chuck Bryant: We were corrected. The octopi is not right, but she says it and she works with them.

Josh Clark: Octopi is so right.

Chuck Bryant: Well, we had all these people saying, "Actually, the Latin thing, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." Jerry just laughed at that. "Hi, guys. Your podcast on octopi made my day today. Thank you. I work as an aquarist at a San Francisco aquarium and one of my favorite responsibilities is our cephalopod gallery."

Josh Clark: Nice.

Chuck Bryant: "I get to do enrichment with giant, Pacific octopods, make sure all of our eight-legged friends stay out of trouble, and I'm currently teaching a two-spot octopus how to open a jar to get his favorite food, which is live crabs." I'm right there with you, Mr. Octopus. "It was great to hear someone besides myself get a little too excited about these critters." And you know, we got great feedback on this. People love the octopus.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: It's because they're so freaky. "The story about Lucretia MacEvil especially cracked me up. I work with a GPO -" that's the giant, Pacific octopod, "- that might give her a run for her money. For the past few weeks, I've been walking around with what my colleagues call 'octopus kisses' up the length of my arms, but I'm afraid my husband is getting a little suspicious about the number of hickeys I've been acquiring." So, that's from the little suckers.

Josh Clark: Right, those little suckers.

Chuck Bryant: Clearly. "These were given to me while I tried to remove the individual from blocking the flow to his tank and stop his flooding of the entire aquarium. It's never a boring day with cephalopods in your life, guys. Thanks for all the great podcasts. If you're ever in San Francisco -" one of my favorite places, Josh -

Josh Clark: - Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: "- let me know, and I'll see if I can't work out some behind-the-scenes cephalopod goodness."

Josh Clark: Nice.

Chuck Bryant: And that is from Rhea and she says, "And don't worry, by the way. I have trouble pronouncing hectocotylus as well and have taken to calling it the sperm tentacle."

Josh Clark: Sperm tentacle works.

Chuck Bryant: "The spermicle" is what she says. She says it's time to rename that organ.

Josh Clark: Yes. Well, thanks, Rhea, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: Thank you. My dad always said, "Life is better with cephalopods in it."

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: Yeah. If you have a fantastic saying that your father, mother, grandfather, some old-timey person told you, we wanna hear it. Wrap it up in an e-mail, spank it on the bottom, and then send it to StuffPodcast@HowStuffWorks.com.

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