Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that always makes it up to you with a good time. I’m your host this week, Aaron, and with me are:
I’m Steve, and I read recently that microdosing LSD makes one more productive and creative at work. But I also learned that a microdose of LSD is a lot smaller than I thought it would be…
I’m Shea, and this week I learned that before crowbars were invented, crows had to drink at home.
I’m Jenn, and this week I learned about magic mushrooms and reindeer. Did you know that reindeer in Alaska liked to eat stoner mushrooms? Like for real. Shamans of the area would collect urine from the stoned out reindeer and ingest that as a secondary high.
Clears up Santa’s flying reindeer, doesn’t it?
A quick word about last week’s missing show and this week’s longer show. Weddings are hard and despite the planning that I promise we all did, I dropped the ball, and last week’s show didn’t air. Therefore, this week’s show is longer!
I know it’s not the same, and my apologies for that, but hopefully this kinda makes up for it. Back to regular programming next week!
Shea, take it away…
A recent discovery in Bolivia has taught us that Native Americans living in South America over 1000 years ago had quite a powerful medical tool kit. Well, I say medicine… these drugs can certainly make you feel better. What anthropologists found was the largest number of psychoactive substances ever found in a single archaeological assemblage from South America. Drugs and paraphernalia were found in a pouch, stitched together from three fox snouts, yes I said fox snouts. the leather bag contained two wooden tablets for grinding psychotropic plants into snuff, two bone spatulas, a woven headband, and a tube with two human hair braids attached, for smoking hallucinogenic plants.
“We already knew that psychotropics were important in the spiritual and religious activities of the societies of the south-central Andes, but we did not know that these people were using so many different compounds and possibly combining them together,” said anthropologist Jose Capriles of Penn State.
Archaeologists weren’t specifically searching for psychotropics, but rather an evidence of human habitation in the dry stone shelters of the Sora River Valley Bolivia. There, in a cave, Cueva del Chileno, they found a leather bundle. Radiocarbon dating of the leather wrapping put its age at around 1,000 years old. The team took a small scraping of the material coating the inside of the fox pouch and analyzed it using liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry. They found that the pouch could have contained four or five different plants – but definitely at least three.
“Chemical traces of bufotenine, dimethyltryptamine, harmine, and cocaine, including its degradation product benzoylecgonine, were identified, suggesting that at least three plants containing these compounds were part of the shamanic paraphernalia,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “This is also a documented case of a ritual bundle containing both harmine and dimethyltryptamine, the two primary ingredients of ayahuasca [a plant-based psychedelic tea].”
Bufotenine is a powerful hallucinogen found in some “magic” mushrooms and secreted from some well-licked frogs. Dimethyltryptamine or DMT is an intense naturally-occurring psychedelic. Harmine is a hallucinogenic alkaloid found in some plants and we all are familiar with coke. Of course, it’s impossible to gauge from this sample how the plants were prepared, but it does show that the inhabitants of the Sora River Valley knew about the plants’ properties 1,000 years ago.
The owner of this bag was likely a shaman. These spiritual leaders were the ones who knew how to use plants to reach an altered state of perception in order to communicate with the spirit world/get real high.
“None of the psychoactive compounds we found come from plants that grow in this area of the Andes, indicating either the presence of elaborate exchange networks or the movement of this individual across diverse environments to procure these special plants,” said archaeologist Melanie Miller of the University of Otago.
“This discovery reminds us that people in the past had extensive knowledge of these powerful plants and their potential uses, and they sought them out for their medicinal and psychoactive properties.”
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I love a bit of woo, especially when it explains interstellar travel’s relationship to the Iraq war – patrons are in the know, are you?
But there’s been a steady tide of rising pot woo. As more and more states and countries legalize the market for pot, and sadly, pot-related woo is growing rapidly. I’m going to do a story at some point on CBD and chronic pain but frankly, that’s a full episode. Instead, I’m going to narrow the focus some to the emerging market of animal-CBD.
You won’t have to look far to find dog biscuits with CBD. Or oils, foods, liquids to be mixed into water bowls, enemas, or eye drops for Fido. Most are designed to help your dog with his 1st-world puppy-problems like stiff joints, irritable personality traits, glaucoma, or nervousness… which totally isn’t because they know their owners are willing to chemically experiment on them.
So, what’s the big deal? First of all, regardless of its source, CBD doesn’t work on its own. It needs key additional chemicals to “activate” it’s questionable healing properties. This is why human products are often sold as 1-to-1 THC/CBD. Of course, THC is only legally allowed to be sold in a few places whereas CBD is unregulated by the FDA and generally ignored by other federal groups. Depending on manufacturing, source, or sales processes it lives in a nebulous legal place following a June 2018 FDA approval for CBD containing derivative designed to help epilepsy. Apparently, this works, but the key phrase there is “derivative.” Pet foods, treats, and “natural” cures are almost entirely unregulated and you’ll find various kinds of CBD for Chewy damn near everywhere.
But does it actually do anything? Spoiler alert, no. No, it doesn’t. Unless you want a dead dog, in which case, yes, it can do something.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has reported a more than 700 percent increase in calls related to marijuana to its poison center in 2019. And while this isn’t conclusive, I think it helps to frame the discussion.
Marijuana – also known as Cannabis sativa – is comprised of somewhere between 66 and 113 different cannabinoid compounds. Of these, recreational use of marijuana is sought after for the psychotropic “high” produced by delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. When made for humans we often jokingly refer to THC-treats as brownies. But we all know chocolate is bad for dogs… Also grapes, avocado, alcohol, coffee/caffeine, coconuts or their oil, macadamia nuts, xylitol (found in gum), and active-yeast dough. The more you know…
Crucially, the list also contains THC. Weed is known to be bad for dogs, causing marijuana toxicosis which can cause inactivity; incoordination; dilated pupils; increased sensitivity to motion, sound, or touch; hypersalivation; and urinary incontinence. A veterinary exam can reveal depression of the central nervous system and an abnormally slow heart rate. Less common signs include restlessness, aggression, slow breathing, low blood pressure, an abnormally fast heart rate, and rapid, involuntary eye movements. In rare cases, animals can have seizures or become comatose.
Of course, those last bits are dependant on quantity, but it doesn’t take much more to go into full-on death. Because of this most pet “friendly” CBD products are made from Hemp. Another hippy-woo favorite. I’m not going to go into the value of help, I think it’s pretty well known for making durable clothing, fantastic ship-sails, tough rope, and desirable papers. It’s used for pet treats because, in addition to marketing benefits, it’s naturally low in THC so it can squeak in under most regulations. That said, help CBD is even less well studied than pot-CBD. The studies I read were to do with pot-THC, but some used help-CBD as controls.
From a study called “Pharmacokinetics of cannabidiol in dogs,” in Drug Metabolism and Disposition, by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. They gave 6 dogs between 16 and 24 kilos 45 or 90 mg of intravenous CBD and later 180mg of raw CBD orally. Then drew a ton of blood at regular intervals. In a nutshell, all of it was out of the dogs in 24 hours, with the largest drop seen in the first 360 minutes. Basically, the update of CBD by cells was for shit at between 0.67 and 0.02 blood/plasma ratios. So if you gave the drugs to the dogs to prevent arthritic pain, you best be feeding them 180 mg every hour…
From a study called “Comparison of Acute Oral Toxicity of Cannabinoids in Rats, Dogs and Monkeys” published in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology; they had a few hundred rats they gave CBD/THC 1.0ml/100g of body weight by dissolving it into sesame oil. They all died in a 10 to 36-hour timeline. For the dogs, they used a handful of Beagles. They were given their drugs orally at different levels. After 45 minutes of administration all the dogs were sick and the one who received the highest dose, 5g per kg by weight, died. They used 22 monkeys with more or less the same numbers, THC/CBD by weight.
All became sick, one became hypothermic the same way half the rats did, none were prostrate. Apparently, it gave them Anorexia too. The animals that lived all showed signs of massive depression in about 10 days.
In, Possible Drug-drug Interaction in Dogs and Cats resulted from Alteration in drug metabolism: A mini-review published in the Cairo Journal of Advanced Research by Japanese veterinary scientists found that, among other things, giving your dogs pot-derived supplements would royally fuck the efficacy of any drugs they might already be on, to the point of almost certain fatality.
So, I think the takeaway here is, don’t give your dogs people food, or people drugs. While you shouldn’t take medical, legal, or veterinary advice from a podcast the science, while in its infancy, is pretty clear. THC especially, but yes, CBD, will kill your pets if you give them enough.
Closing things out with an anecdotal story, of the options you’ll find in stores you’re likely to see CBD pet supplements from Canna-Pet. They make cannabis-derived treats for cats and dogs, MaxCBD capsules, food, etc. In 2015 the FDA sent them a warning letter saying that they needed to stop making blatantly false and unverified claims like:
“We find medical benefits, behavioral benefits, prolonged life, reduced stress, and improved quality of life with our pets,” or We Recommend Canna-Pet™ as a daily food additive for all pets, but especially for those with arthritis, allergies, anxiety, or behavior issues, compromised immune systems, diabetes, digestive issues, nausea, chronic pain, cancer, seizures, and those receiving palliative care,” or “Antitumor, Antiepileptic, Anticancer, Anti-inflammatory, Bone stimulant, Analgesic, Anti-depressant, Antibacterial, Antipsoriatic, Antidiabetic, . . . Anti-nausea, Anti-anxiety, . . . Antipsychotic, . . . Immunosuppressive.” or finally, “For pets with extreme issues, who require larger doses of CBD. Most commonly these are pets suffering from seizures, although we often see pets with cancers and aggressive tumors, severe chronic pain, and in end-of-life care using our MaxCBD products.”
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Welcome to my second half of Weird, Stoned History (ree, ree, ree…). That’s right, in case it hasn’t been fuzzily clear, this is our episode on the things that make us feel even better (or crazier) than beer.
I’m here to discuss a phenomenon we’ve referenced on several occasions: you put a group of people together and we will find a way to fuck ourselves up. That’s right! I’m talking about the history of psychedelics and humanity and how at certain points we found that sort of shit (capital letters) REAL IMPORTANT.
To start things off, pretty much as long as we’ve been bipedal and can use our front limbs to dig, grab, and put randomness in our mouths, we’ve been enjoying the fuzzy-wuzzy or freaky-deaky feelings from the weird shit we can put in our face-holes. For example, Spanish researchers have found evidence of the use of psychoactive substances in prehistoric Eurasia. From livescience.com: “The evidence shows that people have been chewing the leaves of a plant called the betel since at least 2660 B.C. … The plant contains chemicals that have stimulant- and euphoria-inducing properties, and these days is mostly consumed in Asia.” (Betel juice, betel juice, betel juice!)
Obviously, this is not a huge surprise to any of us who know other people. As long as our social group isn’t composed completely of Evangelicals or Mormons or dead people, we understand that humanity is in search of things to make us not have to mentally deal with our current situations. (Tragically, the European Middle Ages peasants had limited to no access to opiates.)
From my very favorite new website ncbi.gov: “Psychedelics may be the oldest class of psychopharmacological agents known to man. Important examples of these substances include a substance used in ancient India known as Soma, which was highly revered and is frequently mentioned in the Rigveda, with numerous Vedic hymns written in praise of Soma.”
Alrighty, the first question of the tour: what exactly is Soma? From, no shit, psycheldictimes.com, comes this excellent description on a very well done webpage:
“Celebrated in both Hindu and Zoroastrian traditions and scripture, this beverage — which is talked about at length in spiritual texts like the Vedas — is widely thought to have been a potent psychedelic, and it was certainly of immense importance in religious ceremonies. These vivid descriptions paint a picture of a plant extract that was known for increasing awareness, imparting visionary mystical experiences, and helping those who took it to feel strong sensations of bliss, light, poetic inspiration, and immortality. The true origins of the soma beverage have been lost in the millennia since its use, but that has not stopped modern-day scholars from putting out many fascinating theories about what specific plants and effects these ancient people were so enamored with that they held them at the core of their religious practice.”
(TLDR: We don’t know what’s in it, but it’s amazing so we’re gonna fake it and try to make it.)
Expanding on that, one of the earliest Western quests to ride the Soma wave involved the amanita muscaria, a mushroom that is very much the fairytale standard for fanciful, pixie hang out-type mushrooms.
R. Gordon Wasson, a man with a fantastically diverse resume (American author, ethnomycologist, botanist, anthropologist and Vice President for Public Relations at JP Morgan and Co. banking institute), was one of the first modern authors to, using this adorable lil shroom, tackle the slinging of the real Soma drink.
Wasson started on his path of researching trippy edibles on his 1927 honeymoon trip to the Catskill Mtns. where he and his Russian-born wife, Valentina, per Wikipedia
“chanced upon some edible wild mushrooms. Fascinated by the marked difference in cultural attitudes towards fungi in Russia compared to the United States, the couple began field research that led to the publication of Mushrooms, Russia and History in 1957.”
(pause for Aaron repeating the title in Russian accent)
Now, that’s not terribly interesting until you learn that he and his wife decided to travel to Mexico to study the religious use of these mushrooms with the native population. (I’m sure that was a hell of a thing.) However, it gets even MORE interesting when you learn this particular mind-bending trip was funded by none other than the CIA. More specifically, ‘supposedly’ (wink, wink) by MK-Ultra.
MK-Ultra, if you aren’t familiar, is the honest-to-goodness, real CIA-led experimental program to investigate the use of mind-altering drugs as a form of mind-control. Their cocktail de jour was ‘lysergic acid diethylamide’, or our dear friend LSD. The story of MK-Ultra a subject that would require its own episode, so moving on…
LSD is a much more modern mind trip, having been synthesized by Swiss scientists in the 1930’s. But it made to the US in time to help create some of the best music and movies we ever produced and spawn some of the more fun cults and wacky religious offshoots we’ve ever been blessed with. (Again, gonna have to an entire episode to cover of those.)
So yeah, speaking of mind-wacky, what are some of the other early natural fuck-you-uppers that led early peoples to altered states? How about one of my favorite examples of the ‘I don’t care what the other side effects are, will it make me smell sounds?’ themes throughout civilization: Ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca, in case you aren’t familiar, is a hallucinogenic beverage enjoyed by many indigenous tribes of the Amazon Basin. It’s made by combining a leaf that contains a potent mind-altering substance (DMT) and a vine with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), which work synergistically with DMT to produce a long-lasting hallucinogenic experience. So one fucks you up, the other one keeps you that way.
It was used in many traditional religious ceremonies, was considered sacred, and dates back to at least 1,000 years ago.
And, of course, when the Europeans showed up they obviously wanted in on the party. Records referencing Ayahuasca from missionaries and conquistadors date back to the 1500s (called ‘work of the devil’ by the lame-ass missionaries) and has continued to be of interest to Westerners until the current times. A couple of Brazilian churches who still incorporate the brew in their services have even made it to the US. In fact, the Supreme Court voted 2006 to allow the use of ayahuasca by the UDV (the church known as União do Vegetal) under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Ayahuasca retreats are also a thing you can do, and now there are even a few open here in the states. It’s very popular with the kind of people who would drive me crazy in a conversation. This is also the point where I talk a little bit more about the additional side effects of ayahuasca and why working housekeeping at one of the retreats would a fucking nightmare. Need another hint? One of its other names is La Purga.
Per the Australian Alcohol and Drug website (FYI, Australia has no specific laws against ayahuasca, so it’s legal), “the effects begin in approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour, with maximum intensity from 1 to 2 hours. The effects last from 4 to 6 hours.” In addition to the sought after the euphoria, it is usually accompanied by intense, repetitive vomiting, profuse sweating, diarrhea, anxiety and fear, and paranoia. (No thanks)
It is also being studied, however, for possible long term usage being used to help literally rewrite brain chemistry. A paper from NCBI.gove titled ‘Sub-acute and long-term effects of ayahuasca on effect and cognitive thinking style and their association with ego dissolution’ discusses possible evidence that ayahuasca may have therapeutic potential in the treatment of mental health disorders and can enhance mindfulness-related capacities.
So, in conclusion, throughout all of our known history, we’ve enjoyed a love affair with substances that alter our reality, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be ending anytime soon.
I’m Aaron, and I’d like to thank all our listeners, supporters, and my co-hosts.
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Music for this episode was created by Wayne Jones and was used with permission.
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