In 2012 the nation’s largest underwriter of medical research—the National Institutes of Health—doled out $30 billion on research. But none of that money went to study the use of psychedelic drugs to treat human suffering. Consider the lot of smokers who hope to quit. The most effective smoking-cessation medication is Chantix. As in most addiction programs, the drug is combined with counseling. Nearly a quarter of Chantix users go a year without smoking—if they attend at least 12 counseling sessions. If patients use the medication alone, fewer than 10 percent will quit. But Matthew Johnson, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, suggests psilocybin can be much more successful than any known nicotine-addiction treatment. If psilocybin is administered in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy, 80 percent of smokers refrain from using tobacco for six months. According to Johnson’s study, 83.3 percent of patients said psilocybin changed their orientation “toward the future so that long-term benefits outweighed immediate desires.” A 2012 analysis of six clinical trials found that LSD sessions doubled the odds that alcoholics would be alcohol-free at their first follow-up and for up to six months afterward. A pilot study also showed that MDMA, when integrated with psychotherapy, cured 83 percent of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, versus 25 percent of those who had been given just therapy.
Such studies are part of a psychedelic-research renaissance that has been going on for the past quarter-century. But support from the federal government and major nonprofits remains absent—even when data suggest psychedelics can be useful. “They have the drug war and misinformation in the back of their minds,” says Virginia Wright, director of development at the Santa Cruz, California–based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. “It’s difficult to say yes when funding psychedelics diminishes their standing in the community.” The association’s studies are approved by the FDA, but preconceptions are inescapable. “The public doesn’t know how drug development works,” Wright says. “It’s dangerous. All prescription drugs are. But if you compare prescription-drug development with psychedelics, what we’re doing is not so harmful.” MAPS is currently conducting five trials for MDMA-PTSD treatment, after which it will pursue a $16 million Phase 3 trial, the first of its kind. Researchers need that data for further trials. When asked why their work still faces such resistance, Wright says, “I think it’s cultural, because if you look at the science, it doesn’t make logical sense.”
Mike Seay of Lindenhurst, Illinois lost his daughter in a car accident in February 2013. He was shocked to come home one day this January to find junk mail from OfficeMax addressed to “Mike Seay, Daughter Killed in Car Crash, or Current Business.”
Everyone knows the National Security Agency watches us while we play Angry Birds. But few of us know how closely we’re being monitored by marketers, who sell a disturbing array of our personal information. Want to buy a list of rape victims or HIV patients? How about Hispanic payday-loan applicants? No problem. Data brokers have built an industry that in 2012 generated $156 billion selling information about consumers, and their actions are surprisingly unregulated. A recent Senate Commerce Committee report points out that brokers prevent consumers from knowing when their private information is being collected and to whom it is being sold. “It doesn’t matter that the data is about the consumer,” Pam Dixon, founder of the World Privacy Forum, said before the commerce committee in December. “The data broker has all the rights, and the consumer has none.”
OfficeMax issued Seay an apology, blaming a “mailing list rented through a third-party provider.”