Huberman on the Emerging Science Around Psychedelics

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Andrew Huberman

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Andrew Huberman, PhD, is a neuroscientist and tenured professor at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. Andrew is also the host of the Huberman Lab podcast, which aims to help viewers and listeners improve their health with science and science-based tools. New episodes air every Monday on YouTube and all podcast platforms. www.hubermanlab.com

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This is now really big science and pharma's moving in very quickly. What they're trying to do is create non-psychadelic psychedelics, figure out what sorts of chemistry changes that doesn't give you hallucinations and create new antidepressants. That's what they want to do with psilocybin because doing two journeys on a drug and then you're done, that's not good business. And what I love about what Michael Pollan is saying is that he's the one that's really, he's really hitting the drum on this one. He's saying these things work. The clinical data are showing that. 65% plus success rate for what would otherwise be intractable, untreatable suicidal depression. Incredible. And now the universities are behind it. But they're behind it because laboratories are getting funded to do it. Laboratories are getting funded to do it because there are grants. Why are there now grants from the federal government? Well, philanthropists came in early and provided money. And now people are starting to see that there are big, big potential outcomes at the level of pharma. Now the classic psychedelics community isn't going to like that. They're like, no, this is plant medicine. It's got a hundred thousand year history or more. Indigenous people, et cetera. Academia and pharma don't care about that. And I'm not, I'm one of these people. I don't, I'm not saying they're bad and they're good. I'm saying that it's humans again. So why are universities suddenly okay with the idea of discussions about psychedelics in front of their top tier donors, the people that literally supply the blood to the university? Well, because top tier donors are now really interested in psychedelics. So what drives every aspect of it from the student who's pipetting in the lab to the highest tier of administration in the university, all the way up to directors of NIH, it's all interconnected at the level of incentives. Right, but the top tier donors are clearly influenced by the zeitgeist. And the way people have approached and thought about psychedelics has radically changed over the last 10 years. And Michael Pollan is one of the reasons for that because the omnivore's dilemma, he had established himself as a legitimate journalist who would comb through, imparse through all the data to give you a comprehensive understanding of what exactly is going on. And he went out and did them, or at least some of them, as a kind of late, the typical person, and didn't come out with wearing a robe, or sit in the lotus position or something. And he can discuss them like a journalist. And then having podcasts discuss it, then you're getting these positive drug stories out to, and I don't even like calling them drugs, positive compound stories about psychedelics that are going out to millions and millions and millions of people. And you're hearing about these people, particularly soldiers who are coming back of PTSD, who are having tremendous results, people with overwhelming depression, people with all sorts of problems with drug addiction and so many different ailments that are being helped in this way. Yeah, absolutely. And look, you deserve tremendous credit here. I know you're not wanting to sit here and take praise from your guests, but I'm gonna just say that you've been talking about this for a long time, about the tremendous value of these things, not just for gaining new perspective, because I think in the sixties and seventies, remember it was tune in and drop out, right? Now we're talking about the use of psychedelic medicine to be able to lean into life in a healthy way. That's the major difference. And you've really pioneered the discussion around that Michael Pollan and there are others too, I realize, but at a time when it was considered really wacky and out there, now it's becoming, it's headed towards mainstream medicine. And I think it's fundamentally important. I mean, I think Robin Cardard Harris's laboratory at UCSF has a paper out just today on the use of DMT for treatment of psychiatric illness. His laboratory has been looking at high dose psilocybin, two sessions, guided sessions, treatment of anorexia, ADHD and depression with very high success. Nolan Williams Lab at my university at Stanford, he's a triple board certified psychiatrist, neurologist, running the studies with Veteran Solutions, the group down in Mexico of tier one operators and other people who come back who are just messed up. They're either heading towards suicidal depression or they're just not feeling quite right and using Ibogaine DMT in tandem and getting tremendously positive results. So he's doing the neuroimaging on them. So times are really changing and you and Michael and others really deserve a token of gratitude. I've completely revamped my stance on psychedelics. I'm still yet to do a high dose psilocybin journey. I haven't done that yet. What was your original stance on psychedelics? I don't wanna lose my job and I'll be honest. So I was kind of a wild youth, barely finished high school and I did recreationally. I took LSD and psilocybin in high school, hung around with a wild bunch and we were just partying with it. I didn't know what I was doing. So my view of it was it was associated with a time in my life where I was pretty wayward. Then I never touched it, drank a little bit, smoked a little bit weed here and there, but never really liked weed very much. It just wasn't my thing. And then when I did this three sessions with MDMA, that completely transformed my understanding of how these drugs work. I also realized, you might, you probably already know this, but I was very curious about MDMA and the reputation that puts holes in the brain, kill serotonin neurons. The study on MDMA that showed neurotoxicity was retracted from science. They actually inadvertently injected methamphetamine into those monkeys, but you never hear about that. How do you inadvertently inject methamphetamine? They're like, oh, I thought it was aspirin. You don't hear about that retraction. You hear that. So they now have data in humans asking, what are the safety profiles on MDMA for people that take it every once in a while to people who have taken hundreds of doses of MDMA? And there's one population of people that you can do this on that makes it a really good experiment. Those people can't do any other drugs because then it becomes confounded by, are they doing meth, are they doing coke, are they getting kensilocybin, what else? It's not a good experiment. You want single variable manipulation. There's only one group that you can do that on, and that's who they did it on, and that's Mormons. So the Church of Latter-day Saints has one drug that's not on the banned substance list, and that's MDMA. And I'm not saying all Mormons- They can't even drink coffee. It makes it an even better experiment. And so I'm not saying that Mormons are all taking MDMA, but there is a substantial number of LDS, Latter-day Saints, I think they call themselves now Mormons, as most people know them, who have taken tons of MDMA, and they've done brain imaging and psychiatric profiles on them. Those data say that as long as it's not contaminated with something else, which is a serious issue, the neurotoxicity is nil to none.