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UK Approves Psychedelic Drug DMT for First-Ever Trials to Treat Depression

Regulators in the U.K. are set to begin the first-ever clinical trial of DMT to gain a better understanding of how the psychedelic drug can be used to treat various mental health disorders.

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Regulators in the U.K. are set to begin the first-ever clinical trial of dimethyltriptamine (DMT) in hopes to gain a better understanding of how the psychedelic drug can be used to treat various mental health disorders, such as depression.

The drug was given the go-ahead by the Medicines and Healthcare product Regulatory Agency (MHRA) earlier this week, reports the Guardian.

In its initial stages, the drug will be administered to healthy individuals, but the second trial is likely to involve patients suffering depression, where DMT will be given along with psychotherapy.

Taking DMT prior to therapy is similar to shaking up a snow globe before letting the flakes settle, according to Carol Routledge, the chief medical and scientific officer at Small Pharma, which will run the trial alongside the Imperial College in London.

“The psychedelic drug breaks up all of the ruminative thought processes in your brain – it literally undoes what has been done by either the stress you’ve been through or the depressive thoughts you have – and hugely increases the making of new connections,” Routledge explained.

“Then the [psychotherapy] session afterwards is the letting-things-settle piece of things – it helps you to make sense of those thoughts and puts you back on the right track,” she continued. “We think this could be a treatment for a number of depressive disorders besides major depression, including PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and possibly some types of substance abuse.”

DMT – also known as the “spirit molecule” for its extremely potent hallucinogenic properties –  is one of the major psychoactive compounds found in ayahuasca, a brew consumed in shamanistic rituals that has been used for centuries in South America before finding its way into North America and Europe as a recreational drug.

Experts and users of DMT have said that the drug has a similar impact to such other psychedelic drugs as LSD and psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms. However, the psychedelic experience or so-called “trip” from DMT is much shorter in duration than either of the other psychedelic drugs.

DMT – like psilocybin and acid – remain classified by British authorities as a Class A drug, alongside cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Possession of the substance carries a penalty of up to seven years in jail or life imprisonment for trafficking.

Researchers hope that the initial DMT trials could begin as soon as January. The trial will ascertain the lowest possible DMT dose necessary to spark a psychedelic experience and will involve 32 healthy volunteers who have never taken a psychedelic drug, including ecstasy or ketamine. The second trial will involve 36 patients who suffer from clinical depression.

The approval of clinical trials for DMT come as psilocybin mushrooms are gaining increased mainstream acceptance as a therapeutic treatment, with authorities in Canada and various cities and states in the U.S. allowing for the use of the substance in therapeutic settings. According to a December 2016 study from NYU, a single dose of psilocybin rapidly and drastically reduces depression and anxiety among cancer patients, with few side effects.

In the case of DMT, the psychedelic experience is far more intense and comes about much faster before quickly ending.

“Whereas a psilocybin session takes all day – and if you’re doing two or even more of those, that’s a large time commitment – a DMT session, all in, will probably take under two hours,” said Small Pharma CEO Peter Rands.

“We expect DMT to be rapid-acting, equivalent or perhaps even better than psilocybin, so within hours of a session you will get rapid relief [from your depression],” he added. “We also expect the effect to be sustained over a similar time period.”

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Health

Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People

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The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.

Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.

Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.

Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.

Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.

“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”

However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.

In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”

“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”

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Environment

Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say

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With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.

According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.

The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.

The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.

While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.

Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.

“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.

“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.

Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced

However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.

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Health

Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact

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Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.

And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.

Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.

Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.

Death Toll, by Percent of Population

In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.

Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.

The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.

Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.

History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning

While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.

In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.

What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?

Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics

Republished from ZH with permission.

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