In This Week’s Show, episode 236, we ate some tonkotsu ramen with seared steak and mushrooms… shitakies… they’re shitakies.
Now, grab a beer and help us test the god hypothesis — because, while Pythia, the high priestess of the temple of Apollo at Delphi (aka, the Delphic Oracle), hasn’t struck us down yet, we are trying her patience!
Shea’s Life Lesson
This week I learned that in 2020 there will be a whole month of 4/20 and there will a super 4/20 where everyone will smoke crack.
Jenn’s Actual Lesson
Did you know that recent geological investigations have shown that gas emissions from a geologic chasm in the earth could have inspired the Delphic Oracle to “connect with the divine.” Some researchers suggest the possibility that ethylene gas caused the Pythia’s state of inspiration.
But before we get to all that, let’s have a beer!
This Week’s Beer
Black Currant Saison by White Elm Brewing
Donated By: Brendan
- BA Link: http://bit.ly/2VqAxk9
- BA Rating: 3.89 out of 5
- Style: Belgian Saison
- ABV: 6.5%
- Aaron: 7
- Jenn: 6
- Shea: 6
- Steve: 5
Round Table Discussion
New patron Randy! Yeah, baby! Because we are CURRENT with our jokes.
Marshall: I’ve made a pledge to donate $5 to Planned Parenthood each time I see anti-choice protesters in front of their clinics.
Wonderful follow-up voicemail update from our very favorite nurse, Rebecca:
(also, we need to add a couple of math updates: $1200 pounds to dollars is about $1600. This goes into Jenn’s correction corner of her intro tidbit from last week. She TOTALLY meant BC instead of AD, but saying “the 13th of the fourth moon of the ninth year of Xiantong” is hard enough without random, religious-y letters. …
Math sucks and is hard.)
Psycho Shaman Stuff
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 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 analysed 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.”
Mile High Patronage!
The Mile High City is getting even higher. In a move leaving many asking what were they smoking, Denver has become the first city in the nation to decriminalize “magic” mushrooms for those over 21. Initiative 301 was narrowly passed this past week and will decriminalizes the possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms. There’s one keyword to remember about the initiative: decriminalization. That’s different from legalization, and definitely does not involve the sale or recreational use of magic mushrooms. Instead, Initiative 301 makes enforcing federal laws about the possession of psilocybin the lowest priority for the Denver Police Department. The distribution of mushrooms will remain illegal in the city under Colorado law. So essentially, possessing and using magic mushrooms is decriminalized in Denver, but getting a hold of them is not.
Before decriminalization, a person caught in possession of magic mushrooms could have faced up to a year in prison. However, of the 9,267 drug cases filed by the Denver District Attorney’s Office over the past three years, only 11 involved psilocybin.
So now I’m sure you’re asking why. Well this was the same path weed took to become legal in Colorado, Denver being the first city to decriminalize back in 2007. This was something of a precursor to the 2012 legislation that allowed for recreational cannabis use and distribution. As of right now, a similar path for magic mushrooms seems father off. Instead proponents of the ordinance want to be able to study the substance and test for any medical benefits. As on now psilocybin has been granted “breakthrough therapy” status by the FDA, and researchers at Johns Hopkins University have recommended that it be recategorized as a schedule IV drug due to studies that have shown it may be effective for treating depression and anxiety, without being addictive.
With that being said, Matthew Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, cautioned against the recreational use of magic mushrooms, saying that the medical benefits he studied have been in controlled, clinical settings.
“We prepare people for the experience,” Johnson said. “They are monitored and supported in the experience by people they’ve developed a rapport with, people they’ve gotten to trust.”
“Out there in the wild,” he added, “they can cause harm.”
Johnson said overdosing on the mushrooms is all-but impossible, but that a user could be harmed by what ingesting the drug makes them do.
“It’s rare, but real, when there are fatalities that fall into the category of people doing something stupid when they’re on the substance,” Johnson said. “People panicking or running into traffic or falling from a height.”
“Driving when someone is on psilocybin mushrooms is extremely risky,” he added. “Hiking the rim of the Grand Canyon when you’re on mushrooms is really not a good idea.”
As of now there are no plans in the works to legalize and distribute magic mushrooms but maybe with time and hopeful medical benefits I can see color again. I’ll keep you all updated.
We Love Beer but Humanity Loves Psychoactives.
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 phenomena 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, first question of the tour: what exactly is Soma? From, no shit, psycheldictimes.com, comes this excellent description on a very welldone 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 other 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 a 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 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 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 affect 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.
Next Week’s Beer
Shy Giant IPA by Fernson Brewing
Donated By: RW
- BA Link: bit.ly/2VpMDK9
- BA Rating: 3.68/5
- Style: American IPA
- ABV: 7%
Faith In Humanity Restored
Human Leftovers Are For Dogs
Terri Matula has been saving dozens of animals.
When Matula and her husband were in college 20 years ago, their beloved cocker spaniel named Gator suffered from an urgent third-degree heart blockage. A pacemaker could have saved Gator, but as students the 3000$ device was out of reach. Now a cardiovascular nurse Matula has put her 17 years of experience to use in saving other pets with similar conditions.
In 2017 her husband needed to change out his pacemaker. Remembering their dog, Matula asked if she could keep the old device. “The similarities between how animals and humans are treated for certain diseases are very strong,” says Matula. “When I was studying to become a nurse 20 years ago, I learned that pacemakers for human beings could be utilized in dogs, as well.
“I asked his cardiology team if I could keep the pacemaker after they replaced it and then called the University of Georgia to find out if I could donate the device to the College of Veterinary Medicine,” said Matula.
In February 2018, Matula formed the Pacemaker Donation Program.
“When a patient’s pacemaker is exchanged, upgraded or replaced, the patient is offered the option of donating their used device to the Pacemaker Donation Program,” said Beth Mann, vice president for cardiovascular services and nursing strategy at Navicent U. “Everyone – our staff and our patients – has been excited to save the lives of animals with reusable devices.”
Since starting the program they’ve donated some 41 such devices, most of them with 5+ years of battery life remaining – plenty to keep an older pup running around.
The pacemakers with less battery life are useful as teaching tools in the classroom for UGA’s veterinary students.
“This project demonstrates that with some creativity and a desire to share with others, solutions can be found,” said Gregg Rapaport, a veterinary cardiologist at UGA. “Each donated pacemaker that has benefited a person will now have benefited a dog, as well. The same resource will have positively impacted twice as many lives with no downside to anyone, and we can all feel good about that.”
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