Psychedelic Research Projects on Dying and on Autism Are Seeking Funding Support

Some of the most innovative and significant research on psychedelics within the medical/psychiatric establishment has been done by Charles Grob, M.D. at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Dr. Grob also collaborated with Dennis McKenna, Ph.D., J.C. Callaway, Ph.D. and scientific researchers associated with the UDV, one of the Brazilian ayahuasca churches, on psychological and physical effects of long-term use of ayahuasca. These studies were published in the medical-scientific literature and also described in three chapters by these researchers in my edited book on Ayahuasca – Sacred Vine of Spirits.

Doing research on dying, or even speaking openly about one’s death, is generally avoided due to the unspoken taboo which obstructs a reasoned and compassionate look at the unavoidable fact that living is a terminal condition  – with or without illness. Following suggestions from Aldous Huxley and pioneering research by Stanislav Grof, MD in the sixties on using psychedelics to relieve end-of-life anxiety, Charles Grob has done follow-up research on this area as well.

A study of using psilocybin to relieve anxiety in terminal patients with advanced stage cancer was published recently in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry considered the #1 impact publication in the field of psychiatry. (Grob, C.S, et al.  A pilot study of psilocybin treatment for anxiety in advanced-stage cancer patients.)

Charles Grob and his colleague Roland Griffiths also published an overview article on this work in the prestigious Scientific American (Dec 2010) Hallucinogens as Medicine  which is a major sign that scientific research on psychedelics is again entering a new phase of establishment acceptance after two decades of prohibition and neglect.

Establishment acceptance and FDA/DEA permission, though they are necessary preconditions for new research in this area,  are not sufficient since such research on unpatentable substances does not attract funding from pharmaceutical companies who are primarily attentive to their bottom line.

Dr. Charles Grob has written that

My colleagues and I at have completed a landmark clinical research study using a psilocybin treatment model in patients with advanced-stage cancer anxiety. We are now confident that we will be able to extend our investigations and further contribute to this long-neglected yet now resurrected field. We are eager to implement a modified treatment protocol that will allow us to utilize a somewhat higher dosage of psilocybin as well as the option to treat the subject with a second “booster” session several weeks after the first. However, as the national granting agencies have historically declined to support psychedelic research studies, it has become essential to solicit our funding from private donors. So, I am contacting you to explore whether you might be able to help us with funding support.

To get a sense of the significance and potential impact of this work with psilocybin in alleviating anxiety around dying, below are  are links to two filmed interviews with subjects who went through this program, and who have since died.

http://www.doc-jukebox.com/film/medical-research-psychedelics/annies-psilocybin-therapy

http://www.heffter.org/research-hucla.htm

A second research project that Dr. Charles Grob is initiating involves using a novel phenethylamine analog in treating autism. This area was also pioneered in the 1960s (and subsequently dropped) when psychologist Gary Fisher, Ph.D. working at Fairview State Hospital in Orange County, gave small doses of LSD to hospitalized autistic children – with some remarkable results. Charles Grob writes as follows about this project:

I also wanted to alert you to a second study for which we are in the early planning stages and that we believe may have great potential for further development and application in the future. This is a study using a psychedelic phenethylamine analogue to treat individuals who are considered to have Asperger’s Disorder, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Given the serious lack of effective treatment, and the growing numbers of young people identified with this developmental delay condition, there is no doubt a compelling need for a new therapeutic approach. Unlike our psilocybin treatment of anxiety in individuals with advanced medical illness, for which we have demonstrated feasibility and safety and have already completed our pilot clinical study, the psychedelic phenethylamine analogue study will need to be developed in its entirety, from drug preparation to pre-clinical toxicology studies to Phase 1 human investigations. Obviously, this will require greater time and expense to develop, yet we believe that this project has great potential for the vast numbers of individuals with this condition.

I’ve had a compelling interest in the potential of psychedelics to impact our culture and medical practice for more than forty years and believe that the obstacles that held the field back in the past have lifted, making it possible to explore this fascinating and potentially valuable area of research. The rate limiting factor no longer appears to be government regulators, but rather the financing of the actual studies. We have made enormous progress over the last few decades to get to this point, and are now poised to extend our work to a substantive degree. We hope you will be able to help us in this endeavor.

Dr. Grob has told me that they are seeking to raise about $150,000 for an extended follow-up study on psilocybin and end-of-life anxiety; and another $300,000 for the phenethylamine analogue autism study – more expensive since the researchers need to begin with pilot and feasibility studies in this area. The research facility where the work would be carried is a non-profit institution and can accept tax-deductible donations. It would also be possible to channel funds for these projects through the non-profit Green Earth Foundation. To learn more about these research projects and how to support them please contact Dr. Charles Grob at cgrob@labiomed.org

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