This Year in Psychedelics

This Year in Psychedelics - 2017

  Image by  Dahtamnay , courtesy of  Creative Commons  licensing.

Image by Dahtamnay, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy New Year's Eve! 2017 had a lot in store for the psychedelic community this year. I've attempted to capture as much of it as I could below, although I'm sure there are some important events and items that I have missed.

This year's psychedelic-related news is broken up into various sections, each including the news items that were covered for each substance this year. The final section is a compilation of items that include frequently-seen themes in 2017, psychedelic research updates, and news about individual people in this space.

So without further ado, here is this year in psychedelics:

Cannabis

Cannabis had an extremely busy year in 2017. The new year started with someone changing the iconic Hollywood sign to say Hollyweed, and only got weirder from then on out. There were quite a few political things going on in America, including Donald Trump getting sworn in as the President of the United States. Pot protesters made sure to be there for his inauguration, passing out roughly 9000 joints to help keep the peace during the tumultuous times. No one has been able to get a clear read on how his administration is going to address the existing drug war, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions evading a firm answer on how the federal government is going to treat state marijuana laws and claiming outrageous things such as his opinion that cannabis is only "slightly less awful" than heroin.

Although marijuana prohibition turned 80 this year, there were still some good things to happen. Nevada's recreational cannabis market opened up for business and New Hampshire's decriminalization law took effect. Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey introduced a bill that could legalize cannabis nationwide. Vermont's legislature became the first to approve recreational cannabis, but its Governor later vetoed the bill. A legalization coalition in Michigan obtained 360,000 signatures to place the issue on its 2018 ballot and New York added PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.

Even with all the positive movement in the cannabis medicalization and legalization efforts, news came out that more people were arrested in 2016 for pot than for murder, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery—combined! California also banned the use of drones and self-driving cars for weed delivery. And Maine's Governor vetoed legislation that would've allowed for retail legalization. We still clearly have a long way to go before the laws in America reflect the fact that support for legalization is at an all-time high.

However, a few other countries have already moved in that direction, and others plan to do so in the near future. Ireland legalized medical marijuana, Israel decriminalized recreational cannabis, Canada plans to legalize cannabis in 2018, Uruguay now allows for the sale of recreational cannabis in its pharmacies, France is getting rid of prison terms for cannabis users, Poland legalized medical marijuana, and Mexico announced that it is going to allow cannabis-based foods, drinks, medicines, and cosmetics beginning early next year.

Cannabis research was also pretty fruitful this year, showing that cannabis could help treat Alzheimer's and even reverse the brain's decline in old age, that cannabis use is linked to lower medicaid costs and often substituted for more dangerous prescription medicines, as well as evidence that it can help treat epilepsy in children and reduce migraine frequency. In addition, another study found that cannabis use is not independently linked with IQ decline, it may be helpful for treating schizophrenia and Tourette syndrome, and that Colorado's recreational market may have resulted in reductions in opioid deaths. Finally, cannabis use was also inversely associated with fatty liver disease, alcohol was found to be 10 times more deadly than cannabis on the road, alcohol sales have fallen since cannabis legalization, and a study found that cannabis users have more sex.

In miscellaneous cannabis news, the technicolor International Church of Cannabis opened its doors in Denver, microdosing marijuana became more popular, adolescent cannabis use hit a 15-year low despite legalization, domestic hemp production more than doubled, a Colorado girl is suing Jeff Sessions to legalize medical marijuana nationwide, and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin helped the cannabis industry find an alternative to its banking issues. Looking forward to the next year, here are the states that are likely to legalize cannabis in 2018.

LSD

There was also a ton of LSD-related news this year. Norway decriminalized LSD, sentencing people who use LSD to community service instead of jail time. A documentary about two of history's most prolific LSD manufacturers called The Sunshine Makers and a docudrama about the CIA's secret LSD mind control experiments called Wormwood were added to Netflix's catalogue. Shortly after that, one of the chemists featured in The Sunshine Makers, Nicholas Sand, died at 75. An interesting interview with his partner Tim Scully delved into his experience of manufacturing 750,000,000 doses of LSD in order to save the world and another interview asked how 100 therapeutic LSD trips helped Cary Grant prepare for the future. A stash of reel-to-reel recordings called the Sonic Journals, recorded by another big LSD manufacturer by the name of Owlsley Stanley, were released. There was a bunch of coverage of Ayelet Waldman's book about microdosing LSD called A Really Good Day this year.

When it comes to LSD research, it is being studied for depression treatment and some evidence surfaced that shows that it may actually heal the brain. Scientists also figured out why acid trips last so long.

I saw a few articles about a doomsday cult that gave children LSD, which is a pretty interesting (albeit tragic) story. Silicon Valley's microdosing habit, the world's first online LSD microdosing coach, and an article on why it feels like you can communicate with nature while on LSD are also worth a read. I especially enjoyed this article about how ergotism influenced renaissance painting, a fateful hunt for a buried stash of the greatest LSD ever made, and a hilarious video about what it would be like if Mormon missionaries tried LSD for the first time. As you can see, there was a ton of LSD news this year! So much that USA Today even reassured its readers that they're not tripping—LSD really is making a comeback.

Psilocybin/Magic Mushrooms

When it comes to magic mushrooms, the most exciting news is probably that California and Oregon are both considering decriminalizing them for recreational use. Impressively, a study found them to be the safest recreational drug. The potential benefits of psilocybin that were covered this year include the treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, cluster headaches, and a decrease in criminal behavior. A study giving psilocybin mushrooms to religious leaders is being conducted to test the effects of psychedelics on religious experience. And an article about Terence McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory and the obligatory article about how Santa Claus is actually a psychedelic mushroom closed out the year.

MDMA/Ecstasy

There were some extremely exciting things that happened in the MDMA space this year, including the fact that the FDA designated MDMA as a breakthrough therapy for PTSD treatment. Several articles talked about how MDMA could be made legal within the next five years, which may happen even faster now that Dr. Bronner's pledged millions of dollars to MAPS for MDMA research. There was a fantastic article about the promise of MDMA for PTSD in The New York Times and Scientific American took its readers on MDMA's journey from Molly to medicine. There were some articles about the highest levels of MDMA consumption in Australia and Ireland, and a study found that young adults with higher education are the most likely demographic to use MDMA. In addition to PTSD treatment, purported benefits from taking MDMA included the curation of tinnitus, saving relationships, and the treatment of alcohol addiction. Finally, a new MDMA overdose drug was developed, an exhibition of ecstasy artwork was put on display, and a father who lost his two songs to MDMA is now advocating for its legalization

Ayahuasca/DMT

The vine of the soul known as ayahuasca had a decent amount of positive media coverage this year. Two new ayahuasca films—The Last Shaman and Icaros: A Vision—were reviewed by mainstream media. Some research came out showing that ayahuasca and meditation change the brain in similar ways, with ayahuasca even stimulating the birth of new brain cells. However, Ayahuasca tourism has been a bit of a mixed blessing for the Amazon, and it is important to understand that over-popularizing ayahuasca sets bad expectations and could potentially give it a poor reputation. The ayahuasca ceremony is going to be studied a bit closer using the scientific method, which is good because there hasn't been a whole lot of scientific research going on in this realm so far. There has been a fight to allow people to use ayahuasca for religious reasons, and the Santo Daime Church was granted religious exemption to use it in Canada. I enjoyed these articles on the spiritual and therapeutic benefits of icaros songs sung in ayahuasca ceremonies and a breakdown of the various plants commonly used in ayahuasca. In addition, Brazil started giving its prisoners ayahuasca as a part of their rehabilitation process and there is some evidence showing that ayahuasca may be able to help in the treatment of eating disorders.

Peyote/San Pedro/Mescaline

When the media covers peyote, it usually focuses on the fact that peyote was approved for religious use by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. However, this year there were articles about how racist thinking still shapes how we understand peyote drinking, a well-done overview of the cactus, tripping on peyote in Navajo nation, and a short video about peyote's complicated history. And when it comes to san pedro, High Existence had a nice piece on how it is one of the most potent psychedelic plants in the world, Reset.me covered how it can be a healing medicine for modern times, and there was an awesome timelapse of the cactus flower blooming that offers up some beauty for your eyes to feast on.

Iboga/Ibogaine

This substance was talked about pretty often in the media this year. Most articles focused on how iboga can treat drug addiction, including its success rate, but some started to wonder if it could even help solve the opioid epidemic. An interview with an ibogaine aftercare provider talked about the process of recovering from addiction using ibogaine, and Psymposia ran an eight-part series called The Ibogaine Conversation that is definitely worth checking out. When it comes to iboga and ibogaine, the coverage was mostly positive and well-informed this year.

Salvia Divinorum

There wasn't a tremendous amount of coverage related to salvia divinorum this year—it's certainly not one of the substances that is covered all that often nowadays. Most important was the fact that scientists synthesized salvia for its opiate-like painkilling effects. In addition, there was a story about how a 15 year-old got sick from using salvia and one about how experts in Lebanon are concerned about the drug's increasing popularity.

Morning Glory Seeds

There also wasn't a whole lot of coverage on morning glory seeds this year. In fact, there were only a couple of articles that I felt were worth sharing here—an explanation of why morning glory seeds get you high and the news story about how morning glory could potentially be one of the first crops that is grown on Mars.

Synthetic Cannabinoids/Psychoactive Research Chemicals

Most of the coverage of psychoactive research chemicals and synthetic cannabinoids was pretty negative, focusing on a couple of NBOMe deaths, the so-called spice epidemic, deaths from unknown substances that were sold as something else, deaths from synthetic cannabinoids in New Zealand, warnings about bath salts, and how much worse synthetic cannabinoids are than actual marijuana is when it comes to leading to harder drugs like heroin and ecstasy. Apparently Hyderabad has become a bit of a hub for manufacturing psychoactive research chemicals, and China was contributing a lot to that effort as well. A man was arrested for selling fake drugs at Bonnaroo and thought he was doing "God's work". During some drug checking, people found that some of their festival-bought drugs contained concrete, of all things. Pentylone was singled out as something that we should keep our eyes on, a German therapist is facing trial for providing banned psychedelics to his patients, and the legend of "zombie drugs" still hasn't died yet.

Dissociatives

Ketamine

There were several articles about the potential benefits of using ketamine, including how it could help alcoholics quit drinking, the ketamine clinics that are showing promise for treatment-resistant depression, the prehospital management of severe asthma, migraine treatment, and healing from PTSD. There is even a handy dosing guide that can be used for ketamine therapy.

PCP

When it comes to PCP, the news coverage is once again almost exclusively negative, including articles on PCP users killing their friends, crashing into ambulances, getting shot and killed by police, setting fire in courthouses, pointing cellphones at drivers passing by like a gun, throwing rocks and running around naked, hitting officers in the face, and stopping rush hour traffic to masturbate. I generally try to keep news articles about simple drug crimes out of my news media roundups, but when it comes to PCP the scenarios are so fascinating that I will often include them. When it comes to psychoactives, PCP seems to consistently get the worst rap of them all. However, there was an article describing how to treat a PCP overdose, a new research project that is going to study PCP's effects on the brain, and some trips down memory lane from when the movie crew for Titanic ate PCP-spiked clam chowder and when David Letterman accidentally smoked marijuana laced with PCP.

Opiates/Opioids

Each year seems to get worse when it comes to opiates and opioids. Heroin and prescription drug use became so bad in 2017 that President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, with the rate of U.S. heroin overdoses quadrupling during the last five years. Even though America is fighting the drug war abroad, Afghanistan still saw its opium production growing at a frantic pace. However, a 14-year trend of rising opioid deaths was reversed in Colorado after recreational cannabis was legalized, safe injection sites in Seattle and Denver are aiming at reducing harms related to opiate use, the overdose reversal naloxone spray Narcan is now stocked by all Walgreens pharmacies, a vaccine was developed that could make the brain immune to opioids, and a study showed that psychedelics could help play a role in tackling the opioid epidemic. In addition, a fish was identified that drugs its enemies with opioids and fentanyl was found in samples of MDMA and cocaine that were drug-checked this year.

Absinthe

The Wall Street Journal probably said it best in its article titled "Absinthe Was Once Banned for Being Evil—Now It's Just Meh". That's because there wasn't a whole lot of interesting coverage of absinthe in 2017. There was an article about five things you should know about absinthe, another about some of the most ridiculous scenes of people tripping on absinthe, and the best absinthe bars in America. But that's about it. Maybe there will be some more coverage about the Green Fairy in 2018?

Kambô

The frog venom medicine known as kambô was featured in the media quite a bit this year, with articles on the complex relationship between migraines and kambô, a guide to increasing fertility and taking kambô during pregnancy, how to stay safe in a ceremony if you have bulimia, how to increase its pain-relieving effects, and the challenges that Western companies face when trying to create synthetic compounds from kambô.

Kratom

Since it was involved in more controversy this year, kratom's coverage in the media is a bit of a mixed bag. Some thought that kratom might be a solution to the opioid epidemic, while energy drink manufacturers, Big Pharma, and the federal government wanted to ban it. Some people claimed that kratom helped them beat insomnia and kratom vending machines popped up in Arizona. There were also some articles that discussed how to avoid overdosing on kratom and whether it is healthy to consume kratom while breastfeeding.

Kava

Kava became quite a deal more popular this year, even getting some positive coverage by The New York Times. Part of that is due to articles showing how kava is a healthier alternative to alcohol or those that focus on its incredible health benefits. In addition, the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries increased their demand on the kava root extract market. Some research came out showing some insight about how kava affects reaction times and urging kava drinkers to not mix the drink with alcohol. When it comes to looking to the future, one article even asked if kava will be the cannabis of 2018. Only time will tell, but what we do know is that 2017 was definitely an interesting year for kava.

Khat

This herbal stimulant is getting more and more attention each year as it increases in popularity around the world. Khat, also known as miraa, was featured as a cheap pick-me-up for truck drivers, listed as a dangerous drug by Kenya's Health Ministry, grew to new levels of consumption as 16 percent of Ethiopians began using it, and some research came out showing how khat can damage one's liver. Considering that khat seemed to be fairly unknown just a few years ago, it's been interesting to watch its coverage pick up steam recently.

Miscellaneous Psychedelics/Psychoactives/Drug Policy

There were a few predominant themes throughout the year that showed up time and time again in the news. Microdosing continued to be frequently presented as an option for increasing productivity in the workplace. The concept of the psychedelic renaissance was brought up a few times as well. Articles about psychedelic honey also showed up a handful of times, probably because most people haven't heard about it before.

As far as psychedelic research goes, researchers gave religious leaders psychedelics to understand mystical experiences, a study came out showing that psychedelics could reduce criminal behavior, scientists came to some conclusions about what psychedelics really do to your brain, and it turns out that people who have taken psychedelics are more likely to be environmentally friendly. Although it's somewhat bizarre, scientists even went as far as growing human mini-brains in the lab and then dosing them with psychedelics—all for research. Support for psychedelic therapy continued to grow, with a majority of Americans now supporting it, and an anonymous donor known as "Pineapple Fund" donated 60 bitcoin to MAPS to assist its research efforts.

When it comes to individual people in this space, there were a few things that stood out from the rest. The Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann, stepped down from his position after nearly 17 years of work with the organization. Jeff Sessions announced his desire to resurrect the failed D.A.R.E. program. Alleged Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht lost his appeal over his life sentence without parole and has filed a new appeal to the Supreme Court. Finally, the head of the DEA resigned because of his issues with President Trump.

All in all, it's been a very busy year for the psychedelic community. There was a ton to keep up with, and it looks like we're in for even more movement in 2018. Thank you for taking the time to read about this year in psychedelics, and have a great year!

Previous Years in Psychedelics

Disclaimer: "This Year in Psychedelics" does not censor or analyze the news links presented here. The purpose of this column is solely to catalogue how psychedelics are presented by the mass media, which includes everything from the latest scientific research to misinformation.

This Year in Psychedelics - 2015

  Image by  Dahtamnay , courtesy of  Creative Commons  licensing.

Image by Dahtamnay, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy New Year's Eve! 2015 has been yet another interesting year to follow psychedelic news—both the factual representations and wildly inaccurate media "reports" have brought a lot to the table. This article will present the major themes and trends that were found in the latter half of the year, beginning on the June 5th, which corresponds with this year's first This Week in Psychedelics article.

First, I want to provide a bit of background on what it took to get here. I have been an avid Reality Sandwich reader since 2007, and I looked forward to each new edition of Neşe Devenot's This Week in Psychedelics column. Every week, she posted links to news articles from the mass media that referenced psychedelics and other similar psychoactive substances.

Each week's collection of links attempted to be as unbiased as possible, demonstrating how various forms of mass media represent psychedelic culture and psychoactive substance use. This always included articles that shed psychedelics in a positive light as well as articles that demonized their use (including many articles that are factually incorrect and/or misguided representations of psychedelics).

Devenot gave up "This Week in Psychedelics" more than two years ago to pursue what has proved to be an extremely successful career in academia. This year I was able to successfully bring the column back—first on Think Wilder, and then on Reality Sandwich as well. The following is my analysis of this year's coverage of psychedelics and similar psychoactive substances.

Cannabis

Cannabis was in the news a lot this year, with articles being published on topics including drug policies, newly-discovered medical applications, cannabis scientific research, the fledging cannabis industry, a slew of hilarious poorly-executed drug delivery attempts, and more.

To begin, there were pro-cannabis drug policy movements at the state level across the United States of America, as well as on the international stage in countries like Italy, Australia, Mexico, Iran, and Colombia. Canada legalized cannabis oils and edibles, and its new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has proudly announced plans to completely legalize the plant.

Stories about cannabis oils and their affinity for helping young children with a variety of needs were aplenty. The medical uses for cannabis expanded even further, with focuses on cannabis benefits for ailments such as epilepsycolon and kidney cancers, low sex drives, broken bones, social anxieties, celiac disease, insomnia, schizophreniaAttention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Cannabis was also found to help with weight losspain management, and drug addiction treatment. Cannabis research included studies on cannabis-involved driving and an upcoming study that will look into cannabis for assisting military veterans that have PTSD.

In the area of cannabis-related crime, London police were astonished to find a cannabis "forest" as big as a soccer field. Cannabis dealers missed the mark at least three times this year, including the time that $10,000 of cannabis fell out of the sky onto a family's home, when 50 pounds of pot were accidentally mailed to the incorrect address, and when a man found cannabis stashed in an Arizona Iced Tea can that he purchased at Walmart. The FBI released data showing that there is a cannabis-related arrest every 45 seconds in the U.S.

Candidates involved with the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election have had to confront the cannabis issue several times, and this will most likely continue into next year as the election cycle continues. The cannabis industry was covered thoroughly, with topics including how women are finding success in the industry, cannabis-themed vacation resorts, and tons of cannabis exposCannabis churches began popping up to encourage and celebrate the spiritual use of (and argue for the religious right to use) cannabis. Hemp began to once again make its way as a popular building materialRussia threatened to block Wikipedia over a specific cannabis article. And finally, Australia's pitiful anti-cannabis "stoner sloth" campaign backfired terribly and was ridiculed on social media.

LSD

The main story about LSD throughout the year involved the concept of microdosing, which is not exclusive to LSD but usually involves one of the classic psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and mescaline-containing cacti). The media seemingly could not get enough of headlines comparing tiny doses of LSD to cups of coffee, and the topic was covered in a generally-favorable manner.

A man died after being left hogtied for an hour by police following a Widespread Panic show, and there have been conflicting evidence found by various autopsies performed as to whether he died from LSD toxicity (which would literally be the first occurrence of a lethal LSD dose) or from rough treatment by the police officers. In fact, LSD was blamed for several fatal "overdoses" this year, although those deaths would likely be more accurately attributed to psychoactive research chemicals like 25i-NBOMe.

Scientific studies showed that LSD can enhance the emotional response to music. Other studies looking at  the potential efficacy of LSD that are currently ongoing focus on the treatment of depression, cluster headaches, and smoking cessation.

This year also birthed the creation and performance of LSD: The Opera, and a fascinating history of the connection between the CIA and LSD.

Psilocybin/Magic Mushrooms

Compared to cannabis and LSD, there wasn't as much media coverage of psilocybin mushrooms (or "magic mushrooms" in general) this year, but two highlights include Russia banning Reddit over a single 'shroom thread and a lot of articles detailing the connection between amanita muscaria mushrooms and the origins of Christmas, including one I published last week.

Current research studies are looking into the application of psilocybin to treat depression, general anxieties, cluster headaches, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), smoking cessation, end-of-life anxiety in terminal cancer patients, schizophrenia, and the effect of psilocybin on longterm meditators.

MDMA/Ecstasy

MDMA and ecstasy experienced a bit of both sides this year, with a lot of negative media coverage focused on things like overdoses and deaths as well as positive reports concerning the findings of ongoing MDMA scientific research studies.

There were many articles covering MDMA-related overdoses and deaths, although it is not certain that MDMA was the actual substance involved in every one of these articles. The media tends to over-report deaths that might possibly be related to MDMA, which are actually few and far between, while ignoring the deaths and other issues caused by alcohol. Due to these incidents, there were many efforts made by authorities to ban raves entirely, which is a bit odd because that seems a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water. There were also warning about ecstasy tablets being "too pure", which sounds confusing at first but ultimately makes sense within the full context. Although drug users would most likely appreciate receiving extremely-pure drugs, if they are accustomed to taking a large dose because all they have been acquiring in the past is not actually the drug they thought it to be, then when they receive the real thing and take the same dose, it can be too large and cause several issues. As happens every year, parents were warned in October that their children may be given ecstasy tablets disguised as candy, an assertion that doesn't make any sense, as drug dealers sell drugs to make profit, not to give away for free to children.

Regarding MDMA-related scientific studies, the DEA approved a study that will look at treating anxiety with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, and ongoing studies include MDMA's potential role in helping people on the autism spectrum and sufferers of PTSD. There was definitely more negative coverage of MDMA than positive coverage, but the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is well on its way to legitimizing MDMA in the eyes of the FDA due to its it's decades-long dedication to psychedelic research, and is still on target to legalize MDMA to be used for psychotherapeutic use by 2021.

Ayahuasca/DMT

A Hebrew professor set forth an argument that Moses was under the influence of DMT when he saw the "burning bush". There have been claims of a legal ayahuasca church in the U.S., but the church's actual legal standing has been called into question.

Sadly, as has been the case for the past few years, ayahuasca was involved in the death of at least two people this year. One man died in Peru as a result of a tobacco purge ceremony, but ayahuasca was mentioned in the story because he was also in Peru to experience the medicine. And another man was stabbed to death by a fellow ayahuasca ceremony participant in a rare display of ayahuasca-related violence.

Ongoing scientific studies regarding ayahuasca include the treatment of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. A study also found that ayahuasca drinkers regularly have improved mental health.

Iboga/Ibogaine

Iboga and ibogaine were mainly presented as detox treatments for opiate and methamphetamine addictions, which has been found to be extremely successful for many. There was also a powerful account of how iboga helped a schizophrenic drug addict reclaim his life.

Salvia Divinorum

Aside from being announced as another potential plant useful for treating substance abuse and addictions, salvia divinorum didn't show up much in the media at all this year.

Synthetic Cannabinoids/Psychoactive Research Chemicals

There was quite a bit of media coverage earlier in the year a scourge of the synthetic cannabinoid blend called "spice" (also known as "K2") in the northeast, but that story has mostly died off as of late. There has been a lot of negative coverage of the compound 25i-NBOMe (also known as "N-Bomb") and there was an interview with the man who originally synthesized it. "Legal highs" have been making their way into jails and prisons by being soaked into letters and pages of books. And a homeopathy conference ended terribly after attendees erupted in panic after being dosed with 2C-E.

Dissociatives

Protesters in the United Kingdom staged a demonstration against the Psychoactive Substances bill by inhaling nitrous oxide in front of the Parliament building. Basically every PCP story was framed in a negative light and played up an illegal act performed by someone high on the substance.

Ketamine had a lot of favorable coverage due to studies showing that it is helpful in treating depression. And due to the increased media coverage, governments around the world began considering placing ketamine under a stricter class of illegal drugs, which has worried veterinarians, pharmacists and medical health professionals because that may prevent them from being able to access the drug, even for legitimate medical reasons. Finally, a lot of time was spent arguing about whether or not a man fed ketamine to a seagull, even though he denied having done so.

Opiates/Opioids

Heroin use is in America is way up and so are overdoses—in fact, heroin usage has been widely described as an “epidemic”. Since it is mainly affecting white and middle class folks, this year's victims of heroin addiction have been mostly pitied, rather than lambasted as in years past. Still, the heroin issue has thrust the horrors of the drug war into even more people's faces, and it may prove to have a positive effect on drug policies overall.

Fentanyl found in heroin has led to an increase in overdoses, and research is showing that legal prescription drugs are leading people to become addicted to heroin and in many cases, die from overdose. The overdose drug naloxone has been in the media spotlight—information about it has spread fairly rapidly, and the FDA approved a nasal spray version for easier application.

Kratom/Kava/Khat

There has been a series of back-and-forth debates on the issues of safety and efficacy with regard to these plants, and kava in particular has been focused on recently with research into the effects of driving under the influence of the plant. Other than those topics the majority of coverage on these plants has been related to seizures by law enforcement.

Miscellaneous Psychedelics/Psychoactives/Drug Policy

Psychedelics have made their way into mainstream entertainment, being talked discussed in songs written by musicians like A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, and Miley Cyrus. Many celebrities and other well-known people came out of the psychedelic closet, admitting to past usage of psychedelics. These include John Cusack, musician Brian Wilson, Lindsay Lohan, the late neurologist and author Oliver Sacks, Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah, radio personality Robin Quivers, CNN reporter Lisa Ling, musician Vanessa Carlton, former Apple employee Daniel Kottke, and Star Wars animator Phil Tippet. Many others have come out publicly against the drug war, including a strong assertion from David Nutt about why banning psychedelics has been the greatest censorship of medicine in human history.

Ross Ulbricht, the alleged founder of the Silk Road, was convicted and received two life sentences plus an additional 40 years. I encourage everyone to check out the website Free Ross Ulbricht, which has plenty of information about how his trial was mishandled and how he may have even been framed by the U.S. government. Even though the Silk Road is no longer in operation, purchasing illegal substances on the dark web continues to be in fashion and shows no sign of slowing down.

The DEA had an incredibly rough year in 2015. Current DEA Chief Chuck Rosenberg claimed that cannabis is "probably" not as bad as heroin and later corrected himself by admitting that it in fact is definitely not as bad as heroin. Later, he called medical marijuana a "joke", leading medical marijuana patients around the country to officially call for his resignation. DEA agents at JFK airport stole $44,000 from a legitimate nail salon owner who hadn't committed any crimes whatsoever. The two primary agents involved with the Silk Road investigation have been accused of stealing more than $700,000 in Bitcoin from the dark web site. Amtrak passengers have been routinely harassed by DEA agents. The DEA was sued by Human Rights Watch and Electronic Frontier Foundation over the illegal bulk collection of America’s telephone records and lost the case. The U.S. Senate voted to force the DEA to butt out of medical marijuana states. The DEA spent undisclosed millions of dollars the past ten years on cell phone tracking and has refused to release the acquisition documents. Agents were caught soliciting Colombian prostitutes that were supplied by the drug cartels that they are supposedly fighting. And finally, the daughter of a DEA head was busted for selling illegal drugs. So yeah, how long are we going to keep these bozos around, exactly?

Harm reduction has made headlines this year, with an emphasis on the need for drug users to test their substances before consuming them. NASA released a bunch of cool psychedelic images and videos from space. Google took it one step further and developed its "Deep Dream" code, which mimics the visual perception of a machine and resulted in some mind-blowing psychedelic videos. Oddly enough, the sale of Janis Joplin's "psychedelic Porsche" showed up in the news time and time again.  Buddhism and psychedelics showed up quite a bit. It seemed to me that there was a moment in the year where there was almost nothing but positive articles about psychedelics, mostly in regard to the current state and findings of psychedelic research studies. The New Yorker published a fantastic interview with Earth and Fire, the creators of the drug education website Erowid. Perhaps most strikingly, Richard Branson leaked the news that the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was expected to publish documents advising for the reversal of the drug war, and then it never did, allegedly because it received pressure from a country heavily involved in the drug war.

All in all, it has been quite a year! I am greatly looking forward to bringing you more news related to psychedelics and psychoactive substances in 2016. I hope that you will join me. Until next time, keep thinking wilder!

Disclaimer: "This Week in Psychedelics" does not censor or analyze the news links presented here. The purpose of this column is solely to catalogue how psychedelics are presented by the mass media, which includes everything from the latest scientific research to misinformation.