Magic mushrooms could treat patients with alcohol use disorder 

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Magic mushrooms could treat patients with alcohol use disorder 

New report shows success in preventing alcohol abuse with psychedelic mushrooms

Psychedelic mushrooms and psychotherapy treatment could help treat patients who suffer from alcohol use disorder, according to a new study.

 

Classic psychedelic medications, whose primary effect is to trigger non-ordinary states of consciousness have shown promise in the treatment of alcohol use disorder, but the research is still inconclusive.

There has been a growing interest in the clinical potential of psilocybin and other classic psychedelics to treat neuropsychiatric conditions, including substance use disorders.

 

A new study released in August, reported that psychedelic mushrooms could be used to treat people who are struggling with abusing alcohol. 

The study was released in partnership between New York University Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine, New York University Grossman School of Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, University of Alabama and University of New Mexico.

 

The objective of the study was to see whether two administrations of high-dose psilocybin reduce the percentage of heavy drinking days in patients with alcohol use disorder undergoing psychotherapy.

 

In the study, psilocybin administered in combination with psychotherapy was associated with robust and sustained decreases in drinking.

 

Patients who were affected by psilocybin had the same psychotherapy which reduced their percentage of heaving drinking days by more than 50%.

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New report finds rise in arrests didn’t slow an explosion of meth use and overdose deaths across America

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New report finds rise in arrests didn’t slow an explosion of meth use and overdose deaths across America

From 2015-2019, the data studied showed arrests rose in 40 out 43 states by an average of 80% in each state, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts’ new report

By LJ Dawson
By LJ Dawson

Founder of The Des and freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C.

Despite a rise in arrests for possession of meth, both the use of meth and subsequent overdose deaths skyrocketed from 2015-2019, according to a new report from The Pew Charitable TrustsThe report found that arrests for meth possession increased by almost 60% across the country while people using meth rose by 37% and overdose deaths more than doubled.

Earlier research from Pew showed that drug arrests overall did not drop from 2009 to 2019 despite lower arrest rates for cannabis. This was due to higher rates of arrest for meth. This inspired them to look deeper into drug use by type of substance across the country, according to Tracy Velázquez, senior manager for safety and justice programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

 

“This is not a problem that because you live in a state that hasn’t traditionally had a big meth use problem you can ignore,” Velázquez said.

 

The Pew analysis found that more than 2 million people used meth in 2019, the most recent data available, and half of those users qualified for substance use disorder, meaning that meth use significantly impacted their ability to function. In 16 states, at least 1 in 100 adults used meth in 2019.

 

“Meth use is growing across the country, overdoses are growing across the country, and policymakers and states that have not traditionally thought about it as a problem they need to deal with, they need to start thinking about dealing with it,” she said.

“Lacking other tools to deal with this growing meth problem, communities are hoping that they can arrest their way out of it."

Tracy Velázquez, senior manager for safety and justice programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Other studies and reports show that overall drug use and overdoses continue to rise since the pandemic. Preliminary data reported 1 in 3 drug overdose deaths nationwide involving meth in 2021, compared with 1 in 4 in 2019.

 

And the meth people are using is deadlier. Overdose deaths more than doubled from 2.1 to 5.6 per 100,000 people. Part of this is due to meth contaminated with fentanyl. Deaths involving fentanyl more than quadrupled from 7% to 31% over the five years.

On average, meth possession arrests rose almost 80% across the country. They more than doubled in nine states and rose in 40 out of 43 states. Ohio, Illinois, New York and Nevada lead the country with increases over 200%. 

 

“Lacking other tools to deal with this growing meth problem, communities are hoping that they can arrest their way out of it,” Velázquez said.

 

Previous research shows that increasing arrests for drug possession does not lead to a reduction in drug use. Velázquez said there is no reason to think that targeting meth use through arrests would work this time around. She said that they hope the report encourages the federal government to develop and research novel treatments such as a Narcan, which counteracts opioid overdoses, for meth overdoses.

 

Velázquez also pointed to harm reduction strategies which address underlying mental health issues that spur self-medicated illicit drug use and also attempt to reduce the risk of drug consumption such as supervised drug use sites. 

Tracy Velázquez, senior manager for safety and justice programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts

“We feel that it’s a sort of an inflection point, where how we address the issue of meth use going forward can make a big difference in what this looks like, five years from now,” Velázquez said.

 

“I am hopeful that substance use disorder is seen as a health issue that isn’t someone’s fault. It’s not a personal failing, but rather a result of both their own biology and environment.”

 

Read the full report here.

credit: Pew Charitable Trusts
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Euphoria laid bare the pitfalls of the criminalizing addiction

Euphoria laid bare the pitfalls of the criminalizing addiction

Drug addiction is sweeping the nation, star of Euphoria, Zendaya portrays the importance of forgiveness and treatment for people struggling with substance abuse.

By Emily Sullivan
By Emily Sullivan

Emily started working for The Des in 2021, as a junior in Public Relations and Marketing Communications at Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts; alongside a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies

One of the most heart racing moments of Euphoria’s latest season was Rue’s escape from the police. She was deep in the throes of withdrawal from her addiction and nearing rock bottom again. It was a painful scene to watch, she’s puking and running and barely escapes the officers after breaking into a house to try and steal money to pay for drugs.

It’s the perfect example of how addiction so often leads to criminal activities, and it’s not until it does that people receive help. And that help is often in the form of arrest and jail and incarceration which just throws a life into more chaos and often prevents a person from finding help. While the justice system most often criminalizes drug users, addiction is more a mental and public health concern.

 

“In 2018, there were 1,654,282 drug arrests in the U.S., the vast majority of which (86%) were for drug possession or use rather than for sale or manufacturing,” according to a March 24, 2020 report from the Prison Policy Institute. Drug arrests are often for nonviolent crimes like usage and possession that do not directly harm others or the public.

"It’s the perfect example of how addiction so often leads to criminal activities, and it’s not until it does that people receive help. And that help is often in the form of arrest and jail and incarceration which just throws a life into more chaos and often prevents a person from finding help."

We see Rue and her minor run-in with the law after robbing a house where she gets caught by the house owners and then gets chased out of the house. She comes across a police car that notices she is not doing well. When she immediately dashes away, she spends the rest of the night dodging the cops. Rue’s perception of the situation is that she would have gotten in trouble had she talked to the police. The police are unapproachable in situations like Rue because where she really needs help, she would have been punished.

Prison Policy Initiative
Prison Policy Initiative

Katie Zuber, Patricia Strach, and Elizabeth Pérez-Chiqués from the Rockefeller Government Institute wrote a piece that addresses the “tough on crime approach” adopted by some policy makers.

 
In a Vox article from April 2018, German Lopez wrote “At the federal level, policymakers have been widely criticized for reinstating harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders… imposing a ten-year minimum sentence on first offenders who make, sell, or transport illicit opioids and authorizing law enforcement to charge drug dealers with homicide has been considered in states like Arizona and New York, respectively.”

 
These policies contribute to why the police are unapproachable when dealing with drug abusers who really just need help.


The Prison Policy Institute reported that in 2018, there were 450,000 people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses on any day. The majority were in state facilities or local and private prisons.

 
Rue’s close calls with the police bring to light the intersection of the criminal justice system and addiction.

 
Zendaya’s parting words after episode five inspire the attitude she wants people to have towards Rue.

 
“It’s my hope for people watching that they still see her as a person worthy of their love… I think that if people can go with her through that, and get to the end, and still have hope for her future, and watch her make changes and steps to heal and humanize her through her sobriety journey and her addiction, then maybe they can extend that to people in real life.”

People with drug addictions need treatment, support and most importantly forgiveness and compassion. They are human beings. Incarcerating them does not treat the core problem.

Emily Sullivan
Screenshot from Euphoria

The theme of forgiveness is cemented in the last episode of the season. Rue learns the importance of forgiving herself. She recognizes that she is a human being who has gone through difficult life circumstances (her father died from cancer). Rue also realizes the importance of forgiveness towards others. She forgives her friend Elliot for uncovering her relapse, she forgives her girlfriend Jules for their relationship problems.

 

Rue also uses compassion to apologize to those she has affected in her addiction journey. She apologizes to her mother, one of her more important relationships. She apologizes to her best friend Lexi for not being present in her life.

 

It is through Rue’s forgiveness, compassion and most importantly, humanity, that she begins to recognize her worth and has the courage to turn the corner in her addiction. If she had been arrested and sent to jail after robbing the house it would have blocked her from going through these processes.

 

People with drug addictions need treatment, support and most importantly forgiveness and compassion. They are human beings. Incarcerating them does not treat the core problem.

Screenshot from Euphoria

A 4/20 Tale of two countries

Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform. Racial Disparities in Arrests Persist Even in States That Legalized or Decriminalized Marijuana.We go to the ACLU for a study on weed related arrests

Below are excerpts from the study.

Summary By: Natalie Mattson
Summary By: Natalie Mattson

The Study's Critical Points

  • The overwhelming majority of marijuana arrests — 89.6% — are for possession only.

 

  • Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates. 

 

  • The increasing number of states legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana has not reduced national trends in racial disparities, which remain unchanged since 2010.

 

  • In every single state, Black people were more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, and in some states, Black people were up to six, eight, or almost 10 times more likely to be arrested.

 

  • In 31 states, racial disparities were actually larger in 2018 than they were in 2010.

 

  • Montana, Kentucky, Illinois, West Virginia, and Iowa were the states with the highest racial disparities in marijuana possession arrest rates. 

 

  • In legalized states, arrests for marijuana sales also decreased greatly from 2010 to 2018 (81.3%).

 

  • Sales arrest rates also dropped in decriminalized states, although to a lesser degree (33.6%).

 

  • Marijuana possession arrest rates have dropped by approximately 15% from 2010 to 2018, resulting in a decrease in the national arrest possession rate, from 250. per 100,000 in 2010 to 203.88 per 100,000 people in 2018.

 

  • Marijuana arrests also accounts for more arrests than for all violent crime combined. In 2018, 43.2% of all drug arrests were for marijuana offenses. 

VISUAL Breakdown

Resources

For Some Medical Marijuana Patients, Non-Profits Fill Gaps in Accessibility

Photography by Taylor Ecker for This is Jane Project.

For Some Medical Marijuana Patients, Non-Profits Fill Gaps in Accessibility

Because marijuana remains subject to federal prohibitions, some patients find their medication financially out of reach even in states that have legalized it.

By LJ Dawson
By LJ Dawson

Founder of The Des and freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C.

Charlene, 50-years-old now, moved across the country in 2015, uprooting her life from New York to settle in Northern California. What drove her was the search for a place where she could legally use marijuana to treat the symptoms of her uterine fibroids, which were so large she looked eight months pregnant.  (New York didn’t create a medical marijuana program until 2016, which was severely limited by the tiny number of licensees, and the list of qualifying conditions was incredibly restrictive.)

In over two decades since her fibroid diagnosis, marijuana is the only medicine that effectively treats her life debilitating chronic health issue. The same fibroids affecting Charlene occur in more than 70% of women, 25-50% of whom show clinical symptoms. Fibroids appear earlier and with more severity in Black women than in white, according to the National Institute of Child and Human Development. Charlene, a Black woman, was diagnosed at 28-years-old. 

Fibroids appear earlier and with more severity in Black women than in white. Charlene, a Black woman, was diagnosed at 28-years-old.

Doctors originally prescribed birth control pills to Charlene to help regulate her period and heavy bleeding (her periods became regular but the bleeding was still heavy), and Anaprox to help with the pain. They also prescribed Lupron to help reduce the size of the fibroids before she had surgery to remove them, but the drug threw her into premature menopause, causing significant mood swings, hot flashes and it didn’t reduce the size, she said.

She had her first surgery a year after her diagnosis. In that time her fibroids grew from baseball size to the size of a five month fetus. The myomectomy, which involves essentially performing a c-section to remove the fibroids, left her recovering for weeks. The surgery ultimately did not work for her: her tumors not only grew back, but grew back larger.  “Five to six years later they were back,” she said. 

Dr.Tiffany Bowden

In 2008, doctors suggested another surgery for her five-month-fetus sized fibroids. But when  the economic crash happened and she lost her job at a bank, she also lost her insurance to have the surgery.

Things were looking up for Charlene, two years of living in California and ingesting raw juiced cannabis and full spectrum left her fibroids in recession. A 2017 MRI showed them degenerating. 

 

But then the Tubbs Fire burned through Sonoma. Taking her house, all the plants, cannabis products and much of the town she lived in. 

 

She had a small batch of cannabis oil she rationed for a few months then it was nothing. She was couch surfing. Her condition had improved enough over the years of using cannabis oil that she didn’t need to take pain killers. “All of the ground that I gained as far as shrinkage, I lost,” she said. 

Unable to afford to pay out-of-pocket for cannabis from dispensaries and unable to utilize any insurance coverage because of the continuing federal prohibition on all legal marijuana use, Charlene went without  — until last summer, when she found a compassionate gifting program to provide cannabis for her. By the time she found Survivors without Access, This is Jane Project’s SB-34 compliant compassion program, her fibroids had grown to make her look eight months pregnant. 


People of color, women and non-binary people have traditionally faced more hurdles to access all medical treatments, and marijuana has been no different. Charlene’s case is just one more example of how legalizing the medical use of marijuana doesn’t remove the roadblocks of cost and availability to patients.

“It’s legal, but not necessarily accessible,” Charlene told The Des. “And if it’s accessible, it’s not necessarily affordable.” 

“It's legal, but not necessarily accessible,” Charlene told The Des. “And if it's accessible, it's not necessarily affordable.”

Because of the severity of her symptoms, she often has difficulty finding work in her industry due to her condition. “It’s very frustrating to know something can heal you, but then it’s something I don’t have the money for so I can’t [use it].”

This is Jane gifting products. Credit: This is Jane Project

Charlene’s marijuana was provided to her after the This Is Jane Project, an existing compassionate cannabis gifting non-profit, launched a second gifting program, Survivors Without Access, last summer. It specifically focuses on getting medicinal cannabis to women and non-binary people who are survivors of trauma whether sexual or gender based or more general trauma like losing your home to wildfire like Charlene. And Survivors Without Access, in partnerships including partnerships with Eaze, Miss Grass, and Dear Cannabis, has given out over 300 compassion donations. Each one generally includes a variety of products from cannabis flower to edibles, tinctures, pain creams, and concentrates. 

“[The program] actually makes it accessible and affordable, which is what I need,” Charlene explained. ”Especially when you’re feeling like you can’t go out and get a second job when you can barely get one job right now,” she said. Charlene received two deliveries of cannabis products as part of This is Jane Project’s first initiative. “My condition is improving just in this short period of time,” she said.  “With what I’ve been able to ingest, I’ve lost three inches off my waistline so that tells me that my tumors are reducing.”

In California, The Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Act of 2019 allowed already licensed cannabis retailers to provide free cannabis to medical card users or primary care givers. 

In 2019 Shannon DeGrooms, the executive director of This is Jane Project, became inspired to start the new project because she did not see a gifting organization that specifically supported women and non-binary trauma survivors. 

“I think it is utterly important because women are disproportionately victims of violence and various traumas,” DeGrooms told The Des.

“I think it is utterly important because women are disproportionately victims of violence and various traumas,” DeGrooms told The Des. 

 

In addition to providing compassionate use cannabis, the This is Jane Project also partners with Leafwell to offer medical cannabis cards for $19 instead of the typical $150-100 cost — and all its services are provided to women, transgender and non-binary people.

 

“It’s important to understand that women are at risk for a lot of different conditions especially as it relates to mental health, some of those being anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, substance abuse,” Tiffany Bowden, a This Is Jane Project board member and anti-racism educator, diversity and communication specialist, said. 

Recipients of This is Jane Project’s first gifting program. Credit: This is Jane Project

And women, women of color, transgender and non-binary people face higher rates of domestic abuse, she added, highlighting the need for a compassionare care program aimed at them specifically. 

“Socio-economic factors — combined with having to navigate systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, and other societal conditions — exacerbate already existing conditions such as PTSD and anxiety,” Bowden explained. 

“Cannabis is often a safer alternative than many of the prescribed medications that are available,” to treat those conditions, Bowden said. “Also, cannabis is significantly cheaper than many of those alternatives, particularly if you're engaging through a compassionate care program.”

DeGrooms hopes to expand This Is Jane across the country as more states legalize cannabis. 

 

Charlene said she thinks about when she was first diagnosed and her fibroids were only the size of an orange. “What if my treatment was cannabis oil then? My tumors would not have grown, it would not have disrupted my life, and put me on this track.”

 

“Cannabis is real medicine,” she said. “The work that this is Jane is doing is very necessary. As someone who’s benefiting from it, I have so much gratitude for the program.”

 

To sign up for the compassionate gifting program visit This is Jane Project. 

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