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Journal: Journal of psychoactive drugs


Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a psychoactive plant that has been used since at least 1836 in folk medicine in Southeast Asian countries. More recently, kratom has become widely available in the West and is used for both recreational and medicinal purposes. There has, however, been little scientific research into the short- and long-term effects of kratom in humans, and much of the information available is anecdotal. To supplement the increasing scientific understanding of kratom’s pharmacology and research into its effects in animals, we report the results of a qualitative analysis of first-hand descriptions of human kratom use that were submitted to, and published by, a psychoactive substance information website ( Themes that emerged from these experience reports indicate that kratom may be useful for analgesia, mood elevation, anxiety reduction, and may aid opioid withdrawal management. Negative response themes also emerged, indicating potential problems and unfavorable “side” effects, especially stomach upset and vomiting. Based on our analyses, we present preliminary hypotheses for future examination in controlled, quantitative studies of kratom.

Concepts: Scientific method, Opioid, Morphine, Quantitative research, Psychoactive drug, Ketamine, Recreational drug use, Psychoactive drugs


The psychedelic experience (including psychedelic-induced ego dissolution) can effect lasting change in a person’s attitudes and beliefs. Here, we aimed to investigate the association between naturalistic psychedelic use and personality, political perspectives, and nature relatedness using an anonymous internet survey. Participants (N = 893) provided information about their naturalistic psychedelic, cocaine, and alcohol use, and answered questions relating to personality traits of openness and conscientiousness (Ten-Item Personality Inventory), nature relatedness (Nature-Relatedness Scale), and political attitudes (one-item liberalism-conservatism measure and five-item libertarian-authoritarian measure). Participants also rated the degree of ego dissolution experienced during their “most intense” recalled psychedelic experience (Ego-Dissolution Inventory). Multivariate linear regression analysis indicated that lifetime psychedelic use (but not lifetime cocaine use or weekly alcohol consumption) positively predicted liberal political views, openness and nature relatedness, and negatively predicted authoritarian political views, after accounting for potential confounding variables. Ego dissolution experienced during a participant’s “most intense” psychedelic experience positively predicted liberal political views, openness and nature relatedness, and negatively predicted authoritarian political views. Further work is needed to investigate the nature of the relationship between the peak psychedelic experience and openness to new experiences, egalitarian political views, and concern for the environment.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Linear regression, Experience, Big Five personality traits, Trait theory, Openness to experience, Psychedelic drug, Liberalism


Eating disorders (EDs) are serious health conditions that are among the most difficult to treat. Innovative treatments are needed and modalities from across cultures must be considered. Ayahuasca is a psychoactive plant-based tea originally used by Amazonian indigenous groups. A growing body of research points to its promise in the healing of various mental health issues. This study explored the potential therapeutic value of ayahuasca in the context of EDs, including the perceived impact of the preparatory diet and the ayahuasca purge. Sixteen individuals previously diagnosed with an ED participated in a semi-structured interview relating to their experiences with ceremonial ayahuasca drinking. Interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis. Themes presented relate to the reduction or cessation of ED and mental health symptoms, shifts in body perception, and the importance of a ceremonial setting and after-care. For some, the preparatory diet resulted in familiar patterns of concern; however, none felt triggered by the purge in ayahuasca. Ceremonial ayahuasca drinking shows promise in the healing of EDs and warrants further research.

Concepts: Psychology, Nutrition, Mind, Mental disorder, Dieting, Interview, Exploratory research, Indigenous peoples


Abstract Alexithymia refers to difficulties with identifying, describing, and regulating one’s own emotions. This trait dimension has been linked to risky or harmful use of alcohol and illicit drugs; however, the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world, caffeine, has not been examined previously in relation to alexithymia. The present study assessed 106 male and female university students aged 18-30 years on their caffeine use in relation to several traits, including alexithymia. The 18 participants defined as alexithymic based on their Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) scores reported consuming nearly twice as much caffeine per day as did non-alexithymic or borderline alexithymic participants. They also scored significantly higher than controls on indices of frontal lobe dysfunction as well as anxiety symptoms and sensitivity to punishment. In a hierarchical linear regression model, sensitivity to punishment negatively predicted daily caffeine intake, suggesting caffeine avoidance by trait-anxious individuals. Surprisingly, however, TAS-20 alexithymia scores positively predicted caffeine consumption. Possible reasons for the positive relationship between caffeine use and alexithymia are discussed, concluding that this outcome is tentatively consistent with the hypo-arousal model of alexithymia.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Linear regression, Drug, Econometrics, Caffeine, Forecasting, Errors and residuals in statistics, Recreational drug use


Recent research suggests that functional connectivity changes may be involved in the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders. Hyperconnectivity in the default mode network has been associated with psychopathology, but psychedelic serotonin agonists like psilocybin may profoundly disrupt these dysfunctional neural network circuits and provide a novel treatment for psychiatric disorders. We have reviewed the current literature to investigate the efficacy and safety of psilocybin-assisted therapy for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. There were seven clinical trials that investigated psilocybin-assisted therapy as a treatment for psychiatric disorders related to anxiety, depression, and substance use. All trials demonstrated reductions in psychiatric rating scale scores or increased response and remission rates. There were large effect sizes related to improved depression and anxiety symptoms. Psilocybin may also potentially reduce alcohol or tobacco use and increase abstinence rates in addiction, but the benefits of these two trials were less clear due to open-label study designs without statistical analysis. Psilocybin-assisted therapy efficacy and safety appear promising, but more robust clinical trials will be required to support FDA approval and identify the potential role in clinical psychiatry.

Concepts: Psychology, Effectiveness, Serotonin, Mental disorder, Clinical psychology, Schizophrenia, Psychiatry, Mental status examination


This study examines the risk factors predicting non-prescribed stimulant use (NPSU) among adolescents, with an emphasis on whether such factors are reflective of instrumental (e.g., studying) and/or recreational (e.g., partying) drug consumption settings. Using data from Monitoring the Future (2011), we employed a series of logistic regression models to establish predictors of 12-month self-reported Adderall or Ritalin use without a doctor’s note among eighth and tenth graders. Whereas studies of college students have found NPSU to correlate with instrumental motives and productivity-related demands, we find no association between NPSU and indicators of academic strain for this younger sample. Rather, we find that the age of onset and current use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are most predictive of NPSU, which are substances generally associated with social and recreational consumption settings. These findings have potential implications for practitioners concerned with mitigating the harms of general prescription drug misuse, as intervention efforts informed by research conducted among college students may not readily apply to younger populations. Drawing from central tenets of developmental and life course criminology, we call for continued inquiry into the broader socialization and developmental processes that influence NPSU and other prescription drug use patterns prior to early adulthood.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Regression analysis, Logistic regression, Prediction, Future, Drug addiction, Recreational drug use, Off-label use


Opioid use disorder (OUD) is currently an epidemic in the United States (US) and ibogaine is reported to have the ability to interrupt opioid addiction by simultaneously mitigating withdrawal and craving symptoms. This study examined opioid withdrawal and drug craving scores in 50 participants with OUD undergoing a week-long detoxification treatment protocol with ibogaine. The Addiction Severity Index (ASI) was used for baseline characterization of participants' OUD. Clinical Opioid Withdrawal Scale (COWS), Subjective Opioid Withdrawal Scale (SOWS), and Brief Substance Craving Scale (BSCS) scores were collected at 48 and 24 hours prior to ibogaine administration, as well as 24 and 48 hours after ibogaine administration. At 48 hours following ibogaine administration, withdrawal and craving scores were significantly lowered in comparison to baseline: 78% of patients did not exhibit objective clinical signs of opioid withdrawal, 79% reported minimal cravings for opioids, and 68% reported subjective withdrawal symptoms in the mild range. Ibogaine appears to facilitate opioid detoxification by reducing opioid withdrawal and craving in participants with OUD. These results warrant further research using rigorous controlled trials.

Concepts: Nicotine, Opioid, Morphine, Drug addiction, Addiction, Heroin, Physical dependence, Drug rehabilitation


State legalization and regulation of cannabis, despite continued federal illegality, is a massive shift in regulatory approach. Manufactured cannabis, including concentrates, extracts, edibles, tinctures, topicals and other products, has received less attention than more commonly used dried flower, but represents emerging regulatory challenges due to additives, potency, consumption methods, and abuse and misuse potential. In November 2017, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released initial cannabis manufacturing regulations as part of a new state regulatory structure. As the largest U.S. medical cannabis market (and largest legal adult use market in the world beginning in 2018), California’s regulatory approach will potentially influence national and global policy. Comparing CDPH’s initial regulations to tobacco control best practices reveals that, while the regulations recognize the need to protect public health, prioritizing public health over business interests requires stronger approaches to labeling, packaging, and product formulations. Based on tobacco best practices, we recommend that cannabis regulations incorporate large and proportionately sized informational labels, a prominent universal cannabis symbol, rotating and pictorial health warnings, mandatory plain packaging, a comprehensive ban on characterizing flavors and addictive additives, and strict limits on the potency of inhalable products and those easily confused with non-cannabis products.

Concepts: Law, Regulation, Cannabis, State, Hashish, Administrative law, Legality of cannabis by country, Legality of cannabis


Since 2001, heroin-related overdose deaths in the United States have risen six-fold, a rise unaccounted for by the expanding user population. Has heroin become a more dangerous drug? Reports of fentanyl and its analogs, often concealed in or sold as heroin, have also increased sharply. This article investigates heroin injectors' perceptions and experiences of changes in the heroin supply in the East Coast city of Baltimore, Maryland, currently facing an epidemic in heroin- and fentanyl-related overdose deaths. Unusually, Baltimore’s heroin market is divided between two types: “Raw,” believed to be Colombian in origin and relatively pure, and the more adulterated “Scramble” (raw heroin traditionally blended with quinine and lactose). Users reported that Scramble heroin, while gaining market share, has become a highly unstable product, varying dramatically in appearance, intensity of onset, duration of action, and effect. Some considered that Scramble was no longer “heroin,” but was heavily adulterated or even replaced, mentioning fentanyl, benzodiazepines, and crushed opioid pills as additives. There was intense awareness of overdose as a present danger in users' lives, which they linked to the recent adulteration of the heroin supply. Responses to this perceived adulteration varied, including information gathering, attraction, avoidance, taking precautions, and acceptance.

Concepts: United States, Opioid, Morphine, Heroin, Maryland, Adulterant, East Coast of the United States


Since the 1990s, U.S. heroin consumers have been divided from the full range of available products: east of the Mississippi River, Colombian-sourced powder heroin (PH) dominates the market while, to the west, Mexican-sourced “black tar” (BTH) is the main heroin available. By conducting qualitative research in two exemplar cities, Philadelphia (PH) and San Francisco (BTH), we compare users' experiences of heroin source-types, markets, health consequences, and consumption preferences. The strict division of heroin markets may be changing with novel forms of powder heroin appearing in San Francisco. Our researchers and interviewees perceived vein loss stemming from the injection of heroin alone to be a particular problem of BTH while, among the Philadelphia sample, those who avoided the temptations of nearby cocaine sales displayed healthier injecting sites and reported few vein problems. Abscesses were common across both sites, the Philadelphia sample generally blaming missing a vein when injecting cocaine and the San Francisco group finding several explanations, including the properties of BTH. Consumption preferences revealed a “connoisseurship of potency,” with knowledge amassed and deployed to obtain the strongest heroin available. We discuss the reasons that their tastes take this narrow form and its relationship to the structural constraints of the heroin market.

Concepts: United States, Morphine, Heroin, 2000s music groups, Native Americans in the United States, Mississippi River, 1990s music groups, Tar