These ‘Psychedelic Cryptography’ Videos Have Hidden Messages Designed to Be Seen While Tripping

A new competition focused on “Psychedelic Cryptography” has awarded cash prizes to artists who made videos encoded with hidden messages that can be most easily deciphered by a person who is tripping on psychedelic substances, such as LSD, ayahuasca, or psilocybin mushrooms.

Qualia Research Institute (QRI), a California-based nonprofit group that researches consciousness with backing from tech investors and experts, announced the winners of its Psychedelic Cryptography (PsyCrypto) contest last week. The goal of the exercise was “to create encodings of sensory information that are only meaningful when experienced on psychedelics in order to show the specific information-processing advantages of those states,” according to the original contest page, which was posted in March.

Artist Raimonds Jermaks clinched the first and second place prizes in the contest for videos entitled “Can You See Us?” and “ We Are Here. Let’s Talk.” The third prize went to Rūdolfs Balcers for the video “The Key.” The contest entries were judged by members of QRI’s international phenomenologist network, and evaluated based on their effectiveness, specificity, and aesthetic value.

The winning videos play on the common psychedelic experience of seeing radiant “tracers,” which are trails of colors and afterimages that linger in the visual field. The winning artists used this effect to write out tracer-based messages that are incomprehensible to a sober person, but that can be understood while tripping.  

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New Study Analyzes Efficacy of Psilocybin as Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

A recent study published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors by the American Psychological Association on June 5 has found that psilocybin can be an effective treatment for people with alcohol addiction.

Officially entitled “Reports of self-compassion and affect regulation in psilocybin-assisted therapy for alcohol use disorder: An interpretive phenomenological analysis,” the study was conducted by researchers from New York University and University of California, San Francisco, as well as a psychedelic integration and psychedelic-assisted therapy business called Fluence.

The study objective was to “delineate psychological mechanisms of change” for those who suffer from alcohol use disorders (referred to as AUDs). All participants were engaged in interviews about their experiences, and asked questions about their alcohol use before and after the study. They were also asked about their coping patterns when enduring “strong emotions, stress, and cravings for alcohol.”

According to the study results, researchers examined how psilocybin helped them overcome various stressors. “Participants reported that the psilocybin treatment helped them process emotions related to painful past events and helped promote states of self-compassion, self-awareness, and feelings of interconnectedness,” researchers stated. “The acute states during the psilocybin sessions were described as laying the foundation for developing more self-compassionate regulation of negative affect. Participants also described newfound feelings of belonging and an improved quality of relationships following the treatment.”

Through this evidence, they explained that psilocybin “increases the malleability of self-related processing, and diminishes shame-based and self-critical thought patterns while improving affect regulation and reducing alcohol cravings,” the authors concluded. “These findings suggest that psychosocial treatments that integrate self-compassion training with psychedelic therapy may serve as a useful tool for enhancing psychological outcomes in the treatment of AUD.”

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NY farmers with 300K pounds of weed fume over state’s slow shop roll-out

New York’s weed farmers are fuming over the snail’s-pace rollout of legal cannabis shops in the Empire State — complaining they are sitting on mountains of spoiling marijuana crops.

The state’s failure to follow through on OK’ing dozens of dispensaries for legal marijuana as predicted by Gov. Kathy Hochul last year has thwarted the roughly 200 New York farmers who grew 300,000 pounds of cannabis — the equivalent of more than 272 million half-gram joints.

The farmers say their product, most of which is eventually converted into CDB oil, has been going nowhere fast, worrying them that it could soon become too old to peddle.

And this season’s new crop is already on the horizon.

“We’re really under the gun here,” New York marijuana farmer Seth Jacobs told The Associated Press. “We’re all losing money. Even the most entrepreneurial and ambitious among us just can’t move much product in this environment.”

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Magic mushrooms go mainstream in Colorado

Fungi are ready for their close-up.

Driving the news: After Coloradans voted to legalize psilocybin in 2022, “magic mushrooms” are now becoming more mainstream, with a first-of-its-kind study and a national psychedelic conference on the horizon.

State of play: The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora this month announced it would launch the first modern-era psilocybin clinical trial for depression this fall.

Details: The hospital is working with the Food and Drug Administration on the study, though the federal government classifies psilocybin mushrooms as a Schedule 1 narcotic.

  • It’s grouped with the most serious category of illicit drugs, including heroin and cocaine.

The intrigue: Gov. Jared Polis last week signed a bill implementing Proposition 122, which allows people 21 and older to grow and share magic mushrooms.

  • The bill also creates a regulated therapy system for medicinal use — establishing “healing centers” for people to use psilocybin under supervision — and removes criminal penalties for personal possession.

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Kentucky’s Risky Million-Dollar Bet to Fight the Opioid Crisis With Psychedelics

On the steps of the state capitol building in Frankfort on May 31, the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission (KYOAAC) announced the launch of a new state-funded program that would aim to help stem the damage and destruction wrought by the ongoing opioid crisis that has devastated the lives of millions and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. But the new initiative wasn’t simply to throw more money and resources into tried-and-true public health programs.

Instead, the commission announced it was going to explore allocating tens of millions of dollars toward studying and promoting the use of the controversial, plant-based hallucinogen ibogaine in psychedelic-assisted therapy to combat the opioid crisis, as well as treat a host of other mental health issues. The goal is to make Kentucky the first state in the nation to pursue a clinical program around ibogaine—currently legal only in Mexico and New Zealand.

“This administration recognizes that the opioid epidemic is one of the most tragic and visible symptoms of spiritual affliction which pervades our society,” Bryan Hubbard, chairman and executive director of KYOCC, told The Daily Beast. “We must do better. We must explore every possible avenue which holds the potential for improvement.”

The news was lauded by advocates of psychedelic-assisted therapy, an increasingly popular form of mental health treatment.

“With yesterday’s announcement, Kentucky is taking a bold leadership role to addressing the opioid epidemic,” Jesse MacLachalan, state policy and advocacy coordinator for Reason For Hope, a psychedelic therapy advocacy nonprofit, told The Daily Beast. “This is a prudent and measured approach to explore innovative solutions to the greatest addiction crisis our country has experienced in its history. We applaud the Bluegrass State for the example they are setting for states across the country.”

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Hunter Biden, Second Amendment Warrior?

President Joe Biden has long been an advocate for strict restrictions on guns, so his son makes something of an unlikely advocate for expanded gun rights. But Hunter Biden may soon find himself on the opposite side of his father’s gun control crusade in at least one aspect. The younger Biden is reportedly considering a challenge to a federal law that bans illegal drug users from owning guns.

The issue hits close to home for Hunter: The Department of Justice is investigating a gun purchase he made in 2018. This is a time period during which he has admitted to regularly using crack cocaine. That could put him afoul of the law against drug users having guns.

Hunter Biden’s “lawyers have already told Justice Department officials that, if their client is charged with the gun crime, they will challenge the law under the Second Amendment, according to a person familiar with the private discussions granted anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly,” reported Politico. “That could turn a case that is already fraught with political consequences into a high-profile showdown over the right to bear arms.”

Here’s hoping?

The provision in question—part of the Gun Control Act of 1968—is, frankly, insane, preventing any person “who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance” from buying a gun. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has interpreted this provision to mean that anyone who has used any illegal drug in the past 12 months cannot legally purchase a gun.

And the time may be just right for challenging it. This Supreme Court has proved willing to strike down overreaching gun laws.

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ATF: Marijuana users in Minnesota can’t own firearms despite new law

Just one day after Minnesota legalized the recreational use of marijuana, an agency that regulates the use of firearms warned that any current user of marijuana is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition.  

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (AFT) field office in St. Paul, Minn., issued the clarification Tuesday shortly after Gov. Tim Walz (D) signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana. The clarification states that under federal law, current users of marijuana are prohibited from possessing, receiving, transporting or shipping firearms or ammunition.  

“Until marijuana is legalized federally, firearms owners and possessors should be mindful that it remains federally illegal to mix marijuana with firearms and ammunition,” Jeff Reed, ATF’s acting special agent in charge of the St. Paul Field Division, said in a statement.

“As regulators of the firearms industry and enforcers of firearms laws, we felt it was important to remind Minnesotans of this distinction as the marijuana laws adjust here in the State of Minnesota.” 

According to an analysis by the RAND Corporation, nearly 40 percent of residents in Minnesota reported owning a gun between 2007 and 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 18 percent of Americans reported using marijuana in 2019.

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L.A. County Gives Crack Pipes to Homeless to Prevent Fentanyl Deaths

Los Angeles County has begun distributing pipes used for smoking crack, methamphetamine, and opioids to the homeless population, hoping to discourage them from overdosing by injecting themselves with fentanyl.

The Los Angeles Times reported on the grim phenomenon Tuesday, which has divided homeless advocates:

By a line of ragged RVs slung along 78th Street in South Los Angeles, a seven-member team passes out glass pipes used for smoking opioids, crack and methamphetamine.

Part of the front line of Los Angeles County’s offensive against the deadly fentanyl epidemic, the group hands out other supplies: clean needles, sanitary wipes, fentanyl test strips and naloxone, medication that can reverse an overdose.

Fentanyl, which is laced in everything from weed to heroin and meth, was present in more than half of the nearly 1,500 overdose deaths of homeless people in 2020-21. In response, Los Angeles County this year increased its harm reduction budget from $5.4 million to $31.5 million. Most of the money covers staffing and programs; officials said that only a fraction of county funds — no state or federal money— goes to pipes.

Some believe that the pipes merely facilitate addiction; others argue that they slow the rate of drug intake.

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Psychedelic substance 5-MeO-DMT induces long-lasting neural plasticity in mice

The psychedelic substances 5-MeO-DMT causes a long-lasting increase in the number of tiny protrusions called dendritic spines in the brain, according to new research published in Neuropsychopharmacology. The study, which was conducted on mice, sheds light on the behavioral and neural mechanisms of 5-MeO-DMT.

Serotonergic psychedelics (such as psilocybin and LSD) have shown promise as potential therapeutics for mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Short-acting compounds are particularly interesting because they require less dosing time, which could improve patient access to treatment. In humans, 5-MeO-DMT produces a short-lasting experience due to its rapid breakdown in the body.

“My lab started research on psychiatric drugs like ketamine and psychedelics about 10 years ago. We were motivated by how basic science and clinical research can together powerfully move a drug forward to become medicine. Specifically I believe there is a lot of potential for psychedelics as therapeutics, and that drives our interest in this topic,” said study author Alex Kwan (@kwanalexc), an associate professor in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University.

5-MeO-DMT, found in the Sonoran Desert toad, has some unique pharmacological properties. It targets serotonin receptors, specifically the 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A subtypes, similar to psilocybin but with a higher affinity for 5-HT1A receptors. However, little is known about the long-term effects of 5-MeO-DMT. To address this, the researchers conducted a study using mice.

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U.S. Faces Massive Shortage Of Prescription Drugs

Record drug shortages across the United States are delaying potentially lifesaving treatments for thousands of patients around the country.

Congress and the White House are scrambling to address a shortfall in prescription drugs — everything from painkillers to cancer treatments. 

“Hospitals all across the country, on a regular basis –sometimes weekly — have to review which drugs are in short supply or not available that week.” Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) said in an interview with MSNBC.

The shortage is being most acutely felt in the generic drug market, which accounts for nearly 90% of U.S. prescriptions. The exact number of drugs being affected depends on who you ask — according to a Senate report at the end of last year, the U.S. reached a peak level of 295 active drug shortages, although as of March, the FDA claims there are 130. The American Society of Health reports 301 drug shortages as of the first quarter of 2023.

According to the FDA, the average drug shortage lasts for about 18 months, but some shortages have stretched on for over 15 years.

Some of the medicines that have been in short supply include Adderall, Tylenol, various antibiotics including amoxicillin, saline mixtures used in IVs, and almost two dozen kinds of anti-cancer drugs.

That last group is especially troubling because, unlike some other drugs in short supply, patients don’t have a lot of alternate options for treatment. Chemotherapies for breast cancers, ovarian cancers, lung cancers, bladder cancers, and some forms of leukemia have been delayed or disrupted, sometimes with fatal consequences.

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