Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fortean / Oddball News - 9/12/2010

'Magic Mushroom' Ingredient May Have Medical Benefits

latimes - The psychedelic drug psilocybin, the active ingredient in "magic mushrooms," can improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression in terminal cancer patients, Los Angeles researchers reported Monday.

A single modest dose of the hallucinogen, whose reputation was severely tarnished by widespread nonmedical use in the psychedelic '60s and ethical lapses by researchers such as Timothy Leary, can improve patients' functioning for as long as six months, allowing them to spend their last days with more peace, researchers said.

The research was a pilot study involving only 12 patients, but it is viewed as a first step in restoring the drug to respectability.

"This is a landmark study in many ways," said Dr. Stephen Ross, clinical director of the Center of Excellence on Addiction at New York University's Langone Medical Center, who was not involved in the research. "This is the first time a paper like this has come out in a prestigious psychiatric journal in 40 years."

The research conducted on psychedelic drugs in the 1950s and '60s "was promising, but by no means did it reach the kinds of scientific standards that we would expect today," said behavioral biologist Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University, who was also not involved in the study.

The new research "is just a pilot study and really needs to be considered preliminary, but it demonstrates that such research can be conducted safely and that doses have palliative effects," Griffiths said.

Ross and Griffiths have ongoing studies examining the use of psilocybin in cancer patients, but Dr. Charles Grob, a psychiatrist at Harbor- UCLA Medical Center and the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, is the first to report results.

Grob and his colleagues studied 12 patients, ages 36 to 58, with advanced-stage cancer and anxiety resulting from their diagnoses. Each patient went through two sessions, one in which he or she was given the drug and another with a placebo, the drug niacin, which provokes a physiological but not a psychological reaction. Although the doses were blinded, about 80% of the time both patients and physicians could tell which drug patients were getting.

Subjects were given the drugs in a hospital research unit and were then closely monitored for six hours. They were encouraged to lie in bed, wear eyeshades and listen to music during the sessions.

The patients were given a relatively low dose of psilocybin, 0.2 milligram per kilogram of body weight. Nonetheless, the team reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry, all patients reported a significant improvement in mood for at least two weeks after the psilocybin treatment and up to a six-month improvement on a scale that measures depression and anxiety. Most also reported a decreased need for narcotic pain relievers. No adverse reactions were observed.

These types of patients normally do not respond well to psychological therapy, Grob said, but his study showed that the drug has "great promise for alleviating anxiety and other psychiatric symptoms."

Ross and Griffiths are using psilocybin doses 50% higher than in Grob's study and are obtaining similar results, they said in interviews. All three researchers had to jump through many federal and local regulatory hoops to obtain approval for the experiments.

Now the problem is obtaining subjects, Griffiths said. Because the drug has "such a tarnished history … many oncologists are reluctant to refer volunteers," he said.

All three discouraged cancer patients from using the hallucinogen on their own. The drugs "are, in fact, dangerous and, under nonmedical conditions, people can have fearful reactions, panic reactions, engage in dangerous behavior and do great harm to themselves," Griffiths said. "But the studies underscore the fact that we can screen people and prepare them in a way that minimizes any harmful effects."

Psilocybin is illegal and listed in the same class of drugs as LSD and heroin, according to the Department of Justice.


Nephew Kills Old Couple For Alleged Witchcraft

An old couple was killed by their own nephew in San Carlos City, Pangasinan, Philippines for allegedly practicing witchcraft, police said Saturday.

Superintendent Marlon Tayaba, chief of the San Carlos City police, identified the fatalities as Angelo Pascua, 68 and wife, Emilia, 66, residents of Sitio Matabang, Barangay Apunit.

The victims' grandchild, who witnessed the killing, said the couple's nephew, 39-year-old JOrge Arcangel, shot them with a .45 pistol at close range.

The witness said Arcangel, who was under the spell of alcohol, arrived at the couple's house around 6:30 p.m. Friday.

"Nagmano pa siya pero bigla niyang binaril si lolo," the victims' grandchild said.

The old woman died on the spot with 3 gunshot wounds in the head and body while her husband died in a hospital while being treated for a gunshot wound in the abdomen.

Tayaba said that according to the relatives of the victims, Arcangel has been accusing the couple of placing a curse on his sibling, who had just recently died.

The city police chief said Arcangel escaped after the killing.

"Pinaghahanap na namin siya ngayon," he said.


Female Marine Snails Growing Male Genitalia...On Their Heads

perthnow - Female marine snails living off the Perth coast are growing male sex organs on their heads after exposure to the chemical TBT, according to local researchers.

Curtin University researchers have revealed the snails are suffering from imposex, a condition that involves the development of a second sex organ after being exposed to the chemical.

Unlike garden snails, which are hermaphrodites, this species of marine snail has distinct sexes.

Curtin's Environment and Agriculture associate professor Monique Gagnon said studies on the marine snail thais orbita over the past 10 years showed that although TBT contamination had declined at sites visited by recreational boats, a 100 per cent rate of imposex still existed at sites where commercial vessels were present.

``These high levels are believed to be related to the continuous input of TBT into the area over a period of years, resulting in the presence of significant quantities in the sediment on the sea floor,'' she said.

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Prof Gagnon said Fremantle port and the Garden Island naval facility were the main sites where TBT contamination was present in the Perth region.

She said studies had shown that imposex could stop the females from procreating, potentially reducing the number of snails in the shoreline environment.

The samples of thais orbita were collected along the Perth coast between March and June 2009.


Sauerkraut Explosion Prompts Quarantine

CBC - Twenty-four students and four staff members at a central B.C. high school were briefly quarantined after a can of sauerkraut exploded Friday in a food science class.

The fire department, a hazardous materials unit and RCMP were called to Kelly Road Secondary School in Prince George at about 2 p.m. PT.

RCMP Const. Lesley Smith said school officials were concerned about a possible botulism outbreak after the contents of a years-old can of pickled cabbage splattered on students.

Officials later determined there was no cause for alarm.

The students briefly returned to their classes, then were dismissed early.


Cold Eggs = 6 Deaths

BBC - A man has killed himself after shooting dead five people, including his wife and stepdaughter, in an argument about his breakfast.

Stanley Neace, 47, went on the killing spree in a trailer park in Jackson, rural Breathitt County, Kentucky.

He chased his wife into a neighbouring trailer where he shot her, her daughter and three witnesses, reports say.

State troopers found Mr Neace dead at the porch of his trailer, slumped over his own gun.

Mr Neace flew into a rage when his wife Sandra, 54, brought him some eggs for breakfast, a relative of the neighbours he killed said.

Mrs Neace's daughter Sandra Strong, 28, was also killed.

The other victims were named as neighbours Dennis Turner, 31, Teresa Fugate, 30, and Tammy Kilborn, 40.

Over eggs? I thought that was crazy. I mean just because his eggs weren't hot?”

Ms Fugate was shot in front of her seven-year-old daughter, who Mr Neace spared.

"Her daughter said, 'Please, please don't shoot me,' and he said, 'All right, you can leave,' and she ran out," Ms Fugate's sister Sherri Anne Robinson told the Associated Press.

Mrs Kiborn was another neighbour who stepped out onto her porch during the commotion, reports said.

Mr Neace apparently waited an hour for the police to arrive before turning the gun on himself, police heard the shot as they drove up to the trailer.

Other neighbours had fled in terror during the rampage.

Breathitt county is Kentucky's rural eastern region, where gun ownership numbers are high.

"Over eggs? I thought that was crazy. I mean just because his eggs weren't hot?" Ms Robinson said.

Fortean / Oddball News - 9/12/2010
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