Use patterns and self-reported effects of Salvia divinorum: An internet-based survey

Background There is growing use of Salvia divinorum (SD), a psychoactive plant that produces hallucinogen-like effects through a kappa opioid receptor (KOR) mechanism. Little is known about KOR agonist effects in humans and about users of SD. Objectives To characterize the reasons, methods, and reported consequences of SD use. Methods Individuals reading SD-related pages of a drug-information website were invited to anonymously complete an online questionnaire if they had used SD. Results Participants (N = 500) were 92.6% male and 23.4 ± 8.7 (mean ± s.d.) years old. They had used a median of six times (range 1–250). 80.6% probably or definitely would use SD again. Most participants (92.6%) typically smoked or vaporized SD product. When smoked, the drug’s main effects were estimated to last 14.1 ± 12.8 (range 0.5–120) minutes. When asked to compare SD effects to other methods of altering consciousness, the most common answer was that SD was unique (38.4%). 25.8% reported persisting (≥24 h) positive effects (often described as increased sense of well-being) on at least one occasion. 4.4% reported persisting negative effects (most often anxiety). Conclusions SD is typically smoked, acute effects are brief, and persistent adverse effects are uncommon. In addition to acute hallucinogenic effects, SD may produce subacute increases in subjective well-being. Such a subacute effect would be unusual for a drug that is used non-medically, as withdrawal from other drugs typically either does not affect mood or causes dysphoria. Findings from this convenience sample should be confirmed and extended using surveys of random samples and controlled clinical studies.

Salvia (Sage): A Review of its Potential Cognitive-Enhancing and Protective Effects

Genus Salvia, commonly known as sage, is the largest genus in the Lamiaceae family. It comprises many species traditionally used as brain-enhancing tonics. In vitro and animal studies have confirmed that several Salvia species contain a large array of active compounds that may enhance cognitive activity and protect against neurodegenerative disease. In this review, the active constituents in plants belonging to the genus Salvia are summarised, and their influence on pharmacodynamics pertinent to cognitive activity are detailed. In particular, the effects of plants belonging to the genus Salvia and their constituents on cognitive skills including memory, attention and learning are detailed. Their potential effects in dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are also examined. Completed human trials are summarised, and factors influencing the potency of Salvia plants are covered. Finally, directions for future research are proposed to enhance our understanding of the potential health benefits of Salvia plants. Key Points Salvia plants and their constituents can influence several biological mechanisms associated with cognition including their effects on amyloid-β, cholinergic activity, neurotrophins, oxidative stress, inflammation and anxiolytic/antidepressant behaviours. Several studies have confirmed the many Salvia species have promising, cognitive-enhancing effects in human adults. Further research is required to examine the longer-term cognitive-enhancing effects of Salvia species on cognition, memory and the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Hallucinogens and dissociative agents naturally growing in the United States

It is usually believed that drugs of abuse are smuggled into the United States or are clandestinely produced for illicit distribution. Less well known is that many hallucinogens and dissociative agents can be obtained from plants and fungi growing wild or in gardens. Some of these botanical sources can be located throughout the United States; others have a more narrow distribution. This article reviews plants containing N,N-dimethyltryptamine, reversible type A monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI), lysergic acid amide, the anticholinergic drugs atropine and scopolamine, or the diterpene salvinorin-A (Salvia divinorum). Also reviewed are mescaline-containing cacti, psilocybin/psilocin-containing mushrooms, and the Amanita muscaria and Amanita pantherina mushrooms that contain muscimol and ibotenic acid. Dangerous misidentification is most common with the mushrooms, but even a novice forager can quickly learn how to properly identify and prepare for ingestion many of these plants. Moreover, through the ever-expanding dissemination of information via the Internet, this knowledge is being obtained and acted upon by more and more individuals. This general overview includes information on the geographical range, drug content, preparation, intoxication, and the special health risks associated with some of these plants. Information is also offered on the unique issue of when bona fide religions use such plants as sacraments in the United States. In addition to the Native American Church’s (NAC) longstanding right to peyote, two religions of Brazilian origin, the Santo Daime and the Uniao do Vegetal (UDV), are seeking legal protection in the United States for their use of sacramental dimethyltryptamine-containing “ayahuasca.”

The Psychedelic Renaissance and the Limitations of a White-Dominant Medical Framework: A Call for Indigenous and Ethnic Minority Inclusion

In recent years, the study of psychedelic science has resurfaced as scientists and therapists are again exploring its potential to treat an array of psychiatric conditions, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and addiction. The scientific progress and clinical promise of this movement owes much of its success to the history of indigenous healing practices; yet the work of indigenous people, ethnic and racial minorities, women, and other disenfranchised groups is often not supported or highlighted in the mainstream narrative of psychedelic medicine. This review addresses this issue directly: first, by highlighting the traditional role of psychedelic plants and briefly summarizing the history of psychedelic medicine; second, through exploring the historical and sociocultural factors that have contributed to unequal research participation and treatment, thereby limiting the opportunities for minorities who ought to be acknowledged for their contributions. Finally, this review provides recommendations for broadening the Western medical framework of healing to include a cultural focus and additional considerations for an inclusive approach to treatment development and dissemination for future studies.

Inclusion of People of Color in Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy: A Review of the Literature

Background Despite renewed interest in studying the safety and efficacy of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of psychological disorders, the enrollment of racially diverse participants and the unique presentation of psychopathology in this population has not been a focus of this potentially ground-breaking area of research. In 1993, the United States National Institutes of Health issued a mandate that funded research must include participants of color and proposals must include methods for achieving diverse samples. Methods A methodological search of psychedelic studies from 1993 to 2017 was conducted to evaluate ethnoracial differences in inclusion and effective methods of recruiting peopple of color. Results Of the 18 studies that met full criteria (n = 282 participants), 82.3% of the participants were non-Hispanic White, 2.5% were African-American, 2.1% were of Latino origin, 1.8% were of Asian origin, 4.6% were of indigenous origin, 4.6% were of mixed race, 1.8% identified their race as “other,” and the ethnicity of 8.2% of participants was unknown. There were no significant differences in recruitment methodologies between those studies that had higher (> 20%) rates of inclusion. Conclusions As minorities are greatly underrepresented in psychedelic medicine studies, reported treatment outcomes may not generalize to all ethnic and cultural groups. Inclusion of minorities in futures studies and improved recruitment strategies are necessary to better understand the efficacy of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy in people of color and provide all with equal opportunities for involvement in this potentially promising treatment paradigm.

Race As a Component of Set and Setting: How Experiences of Race Can Influence Psychedelic Experiences

Background and aims Set and setting function both as a concept that guides research and practice with psychedelic drugs and as a meme aimed at reducing harm among psychedelic users. Referring to non-pharmacological factors that shape drug experiences, the concept of set and setting was popularized in the West during the mid-20th century. However, little theoretical development has occurred regarding what falls under the umbrella of set and setting since its conception. Methods By bridging set and setting theory with research from the fields of social psychology and sociology of medicine, this review calls attention to how race can contribute the set and setting for a psychedelic experience. Results I argue that psychosocial factors influencing racial differences in mental health also constitute meaningful differences in set. Furthermore, I suggest that the character of race relations in the United States provides a distinct cultural setting for racialized psychedelic users, both in therapeutic and naturalistic contexts. In turn, racial identification may contribute to the variation in framing and interpretation of psychedelic experiences. Conclusion These considerations have important implications beyond understanding non-pharmacological influences on psychedelic experiences, including developing protocols for clinical applications of psychedelics, educating future practitioners, and meeting the needs of diverse patient populations.

Diversity, equity, and access in psychedelic medicine

Although it is exciting to witness the culmination of decades of drug policy advocacy and clinical research, the psychedelic science movement struggles with many of the same social issues that plague healthcare in general. The healing properties of plant medicines and their derivatives were originally brought to Western consciousness by indigenous cultures from all over the world. These practices are now being adapted to Western models of healthcare, in part, to achieve governmental approval as medical treatments. The current models of psychedelic psychotherapy being utilized in clinical trials are resource-intensive and therefore likely to remain out of reach for the socioeconomically disadvantaged if approved as medical treatments. Moreover, people of color and women are uncommon in leadership positions in the psychedelic research community, and few people of color are included as research participants in psychedelic studies. This piece introduces a special issue with a focus on issues of diversity, equity, and accessibility in psychedelic medicine.

Culture and psychedelic psychotherapy: Ethnic and racial themes from three Black women therapists

Psychedelic medicine is an emerging field of research and practice that examines the psychotherapeutic effects of substances classified as hallucinogens on the human mind, body, and spirit. Current research explores the safety and efficacy of these substances for mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although current studies explore psychotherapeutic effects from a biomedical perspective, gaps in awareness around cultural issues in the therapeutic process are prominent. African Americans have been absent from psychedelic research as both participants and researchers, and little attention has been paid to the potential of psychedelics to address traumas caused by racialization. This paper examines cultural themes and clinical applications from the one-time use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) as part of an US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved clinical trial and training exercise for three African American female therapists. The primary themes that emerged across the varied experiences centered on strength, safety, connection, and managing oppression/racialization. The participants’ experiences were found to be personally meaningful and instructive for how Western models of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy could be more effective and accessible to the Black community. Included is a discussion of the importance of facilitator training to make best use of emerging material when it includes cultural, racial, and spiritual themes. A lack of knowledge and epistemic humility can create barriers to treatment for underserved populations. Implications for future research and practice for marginalized cultural groups are also discussed, including consideration of Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP) as an adjunct to the psychedelic-therapy approaches currently advanced. As women of color are among the most stigmatized groups of people, it is essential to incorporate their perspectives into the literature to expand conversations about health equity.

Ethical and legal issues in psychedelic harm reduction and integration therapy

Psychedelic-assisted therapy may represent an upcoming paradigm shift in the treatment of mental health problems as recent clinical trials have demonstrated strong evidence of their therapeutic benefits. While psychedelics are currently prohibited substances in most countries, the growing popularity of their therapeutic potential is leading many people to use psychedelics on their own rather than waiting for legal medical access. Therapists therefore have an ethical duty to meet this need by providing support for clients using psychedelics. However, incorporating psychedelics into traditional psychotherapy poses some risk given their prohibited status and many therapists are unsure of how they might practice in this area. This paper explicates such risks and describes ways in which therapists can mitigate them and strive to practice within legal and ethical boundaries. A harm reduction approach will be emphasized as a useful framework for conducting therapy around clients’ use of psychedelics. It is argued that therapists can meet with clients before and after their own personal psychedelic experiences in order to help clients minimize risk and maximize benefit. Common clinical scenarios in this growing clinical area will also be discussed.

Survey of subjective “God encounter experiences”: Comparisons among naturally occurring experiences and those occasioned by the classic psychedelics psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca, or DMT

Naturally occurring and psychedelic drug–occasioned experiences interpreted as personal encounters with God are well described but have not been systematically compared. In this study, five groups of individuals participated in an online survey with detailed questions characterizing the subjective phenomena, interpretation, and persisting changes attributed to their single most memorable God encounter experience (n = 809 Non-Drug, 1184 psilocybin, 1251 lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 435 ayahuasca, and 606 N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT)). Analyses of differences in experiences were adjusted statistically for demographic differences between groups. The Non-Drug Group was most likely to choose “God” as the best descriptor of that which was encountered while the psychedelic groups were most likely to choose “Ultimate Reality.” Although there were some other differences between non-drug and the combined psychedelic group, as well as between the four psychedelic groups, the similarities among these groups were most striking. Most participants reported vivid memories of the encounter experience, which frequently involved communication with something having the attributes of being conscious, benevolent, intelligent, sacred, eternal, and all-knowing. The encounter experience fulfilled a priori criteria for being a complete mystical experience in approximately half of the participants. More than two-thirds of those who identified as atheist before the experience no longer identified as atheist afterwards. These experiences were rated as among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant lifetime experiences, with moderate to strong persisting positive changes in life satisfaction, purpose, and meaning attributed to these experiences. Among the four groups of psychedelic users, the psilocybin and LSD groups were most similar and the ayahuasca group tended to have the highest rates of endorsing positive features and enduring consequences of the experience. Future exploration of predisposing factors and phenomenological and neural correlates of such experiences may provide new insights into religious and spiritual beliefs that have been integral to shaping human culture since time immemorial.