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Research Reveals: Effects of Psychedelic Drugs Can Persist for Days or Weeks

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Experts advise that the story of the off-duty pilot who attempted to crash a plane a few days after ingesting “magic mushrooms” should serve as a warning.

Psychoactive researchers say that the incident should serve as a warning to anyone who believes they can overcome a persistent mental illness by taking psychedelic drugs on their own. This is especially true for those who believe that an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot who was accused of trying to bring down a plane midflight had taken “magic mushrooms” before boarding.

Officials told NBC News that the FBI is looking into whether Joseph Emerson, 44, a Californian who is an off-duty pilot, was under the influence when he attempted to turn off the plane’s engines while he was seated in the cockpit on Sunday’s flight from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco. Emerson has been charged with more than 80 counts of attempted murder.

On Tuesday afternoon, a defense lawyer for Emerson submitted a not-guilty plea to the attempted murder allegations.

Joseph Emerson is a devoted husband, father, and pilot who enjoys the support and affection of many friends, family members, and coworkers. He would never purposefully damage someone else. When Joe boarded that airplane, he was not intoxicated in any way. An Emerson lawyer told NBC News, “We will conduct a thorough investigation into all the facts and circumstances surrounding the events and request that you respect the family’s privacy.”

Research on the use of psychedelic chemicals as a form of therapy for mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and addiction has expanded during the past five years. The Food and Drug Administration released draft guidelines for structuring clinical trials for psychedelic substances, including MDMA and psilocybin, for mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders in June due to the early study results’ promise.

It’s unclear if 44-year-old off-duty pilot Joseph Emerson, who admitted to investigators that he had battled melancholy following his unsuccessful effort to turn off the plane’s engines, was attempting to self-medicate by ingesting psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.

However, some psychedelic experts are concerned the risks are being disregarded as states explore legalizing or decriminalizing psilocybin. Oregon clinics started providing psilocybin therapy last summer, and Colorado voters approved legalization in 2022.

“I’ve been monitoring the increasing support for decriminalization and anticipating a story like this to surface,” Dr. Joshua Siegel, a psychiatrist affiliated with Washington University in St. Louis’ psychedelics research program, stated. “Hopefully, this will start a thoughtful discussion about the advantages and disadvantages.”

Psychedelics can produce remarkable results when used under controlled conditions, such as screening for a history of psychosis or bipolar disorder, closely monitoring dosages, being prepared for what to expect, and receiving close medical supervision during the “trip” in addition to psychotherapy, according to researchers.

FDA Takes a Step Forward: First Draft Guidance on Clinical Trials with Psychedelic Drugs Released

In order to provide researchers looking into the use of psychedelic substances for the possible treatment of medical illnesses, including psychiatric or substance use disorders, with important considerations, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released a new draft guidance. This is the first FDA draft guidance that offers industry advice on how to plan clinical trials for psychedelic medications.

In recent years, there has been an increase in interest in the medicinal potential of psychedelic substances. The possibility of using them to treat diseases including depression, PTSD, substance abuse problems, and other ailments is being investigated. But planning clinical trials to assess these drugs’ efficacy and safety comes with a number of special difficulties that need to be carefully taken into account.

The draft advice was created to offer suggestions to researchers as they create psychedelic-containing drugs about study design and other factors. The term “psychedelics” in the draft guidance refers to “classic psychedelics,” which are typically understood to be substances that affect the brain’s serotonin system, like psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), as well as “entactogens” or “empathogens,” like methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA).

The paper outlines fundamental factors to keep in mind during the drug development process, such as trial conduct, data collection, subject safety, and prerequisites for new medication applications. For instance, psychedelic substances may result in hallucinations and other psychoactive effects including mood and cognitive alterations. Because of this, there is a chance that these medications may be abused. This is a drug safety concern that has to be carefully considered, and adequate safety precautions need to be taken to prevent misuse throughout clinical development. The proposed advice states that actions related to studies under an Investigational New Drug Application for psychedelics, which are currently Schedule I banned narcotics, must adhere to the regulations set out by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The FDA is requesting feedback from the public on the proposed recommendations. To guarantee that the agency takes your comments into account, you must submit them within 60 days.

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