Sunday, March 30, 2014

The DMT Dilemma: Part I.

"Do Not Give Up, Or At Least Not Too Easily" - C. Hitchens.

In 2011 the Federal Government of Australia proposed changing their drug policy regarding plants that contain the illegal psychedelic drug DMT. As the law stood in 2011 the drug was illegal, but plant's containing the drug were legal to own, so the Government wanted to seal up this loophole. DMT or Dimethyltryptamine had been a schedule 1 drug Internationally since most countries signed the 1971 Convention on Psyotropic Substances which prohibited DMT and many other drugs. Counter to the usual procedure of finding a drug or drug-plant and ban it, In 2012 the Australian Government's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) withdrew the proposed ban on owning plants containing DMT. Why would they do this?

The prohibition of DMT containing plants in Australia failed, the answer as to why the law was not passed is quite odd. Most plants that contain a psychoactive drug are made illegal in Australia (and elsewhere) whether there is empirical evidence to support the policy or not. For example, the esoteric South American plant Salvia Divinorum was banned in 2002 in Australia, not because the evidence showed this drug is overwhelmingly harmful, but because it is our traditional drug policy to ban any plant's containing psychoactive drugs. Regrettably, the evidence is not important in these cases, it is naive public opinion and political vote gathering that forms most drug policies.

DMT containing plants in Australia only stayed legal because of a strange twist of fate. To the embarrassment of the Government, they realized that the National Flower of Australia, which grows all over the country - including government parks and gardens, contains significant amounts of DMT! This National Flower is the Acacia or Golden Wattle and manufactures DMT in it's bark - after much political discomfort and humiliation over trying to ban a ubiquitous National Flower - the plant remains legal and rightly so.

Thanks, Brady. :)

The Methadone Diaries.

The Methadone Diaries.

This is Greg’s Methadone diary. It details what he experienced and how challenging it can be to come off the Methadone program.

Introduction. (A brief background to add context to the Diaries). 

Greg had been on Methadone since he turned 20, he had been addicted mainly to Heroin and the prescription opiates Morphine and Oxycodone. Greg went on the Methadone program to stop his expensive drug habit. He is now 28 and coming off methadone for the third time. He also recently completed his University Degree in pharmacology. Greg has not used heroin in 2 years, but he has been caught diverting his Methadone dose twice in the past, but still he gets 2 take-home doses per week. If he gets caught again, unknown to him, he will lose his take home doses and be forced off the Methadone program.

 Greg spent three months in prison after being arrested for drug related armed robberies and was sentenced to 3 months of house arrest with a tracking anklet after waiting for his trial in prison. The ankle bracelet had a buzzer that warned the local authorities if he had left his house. This ensured that Greg did not stray from the house for the three months he was wearing the anklet. He was sentenced to 3 years of probation, conditional on his completing 1 year of Drug Court rehabilitation. Greg simply had to produce urine that tested negative for drugs, to demonstrate he was no longer using drugs nicotine and methadone were excempt from the drug test. Greg passed the Drug Court program where he was significantly rehabilitated. Now Greg has finished his 3 years of probation. This week Greg will be forced to come off Methadone. Last time he came off Methadone, which was cold turkey, Greg started using Heroin again.. Almost half of people who come off Methadone relapse into opiate addiction.

Diary Entry: Day 1. 8:00-8:20am

 The Calm Before the Storm.

8:00am - Greg walks into his local pharmacy, something he has done five or more days a week, for the last half decade. He say's hello to Milo, the pharmacist, who replies with the usual formalities. Greg takes a seat and takes two plastic cups from the water dispenser, one to pour his diverted Methadone dose into, and one to act as a distraction. Greg waits while the pharmacist unlocks the drug safe to get Greg's daily Methadone maintenance dose of 100 mg's.

After a minute, Milo returns to the counter holding Greg’s Methadone in a small plastic shot cup - Methadone has water and food colouring added - It can be used intravenously if one has a micron filter to filter out any microbes - and produces a rush just short of Heroin and Oxycodone. 

Greg hands $15 dollars over to the pharmacist, to pay for 3 doses and to act as a further distraction. He also informs Milo that he will need his 2 take-home doses today. Whilst Milo is occupied - putting the money in the register and busy putting the takeaway doses into two 100ml plastic bottles - Greg pours his undiluted dose of Methadone into the cup near the water dispenser and quickly puts it in his pocket.

 Milo returns with Greg’s 2 take-home doses and Greg walks out exchanging the usual goodbyes - with all 3 doses, 300mg of Methadone in Greg’s exigent and excited possession...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Drink the Kool Aid?

"LSD can cause psychotic reactions in those who have not tried it" - T. Leary

Recent scientific findings, conducted in a few, reasonable and enlightened countries have found that some psychedelic’s possibly hold something truly priceless in value to the human species. However, there is a catch, as there inevitably always is with drugs and modern policy. The regrettable fact remains that the most commonly used psychedelic drugs on Earth are currently illegal. In some cases illegal, even for scientific research, which is ironic to the point of farce. To pile further tragedy onto this matter, psychedelics are empirically some of the least harmful drugs known to ‘man.

 Psychedelic molecules, or “psychedelics” come in two basic types. The Psychedelic Phenethylamines and the Psychedelic Tryptamines - two chemical cousins, with curiously similar effects. Both are ‘agonists’ of the serotonin 2(x) receptors in our brains. This is how the drug produces its reportedly profound effects.

 As you may know, your natural occurring serotonin controls much of your emotion, mood, contentedness, mental health and numerous other crucial capacities that make up a social primate's life. A psychedelic agonist is a drug that causes a neuro-chemical impulse by exciting serotonin. So a psychedelic drug, such as mescaline, shrooms, LSD or 2cB, “stimulates” the brain in a similar way that serotonin naturally does - but - as you and Leary may have noticed, obviously can produce different experiences of reality - irrespective of whether one has tried the drug.

Thanks, Brady? :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Is Everyone an Athiest?

“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”
― Bertrand Russell
We all are atheists about every single dead and "alive" God, we do not claim as our own. Even the popular, widely believed in God's have their atheist's, many of whom are theist's. For example, everyone who ever lived is an atheist in regard to Allah - including all the Hindus, the countless numbers born before the "revelation's" in pre-enlightenment Middleasten provinces occurred, and billions of other regular people alive today - the only exceptions are those who claim to be Muslims. The word Muslim can be swapped with Hindu, Christian or other Deities and the analogy does remain almost exactly the same.
So for every person who is a theist regarding Allah, to continue the example, there are those who are atheistic about him too, including ironically devout theists. This is something Bertrand Russel pointed out over a century ago. The three most popular faith's on offer in the world today, that have the most adherents, are fundamentally irreconcilable and incompatible on the claims they make about the nature of reality. So?

"We all are atheist's, some of us just do not know it yet" C. Hitchens.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Atheism and the Illusion.

"Atheism offers the Chance to live without an Illusion" C. Hitchens.

...perhaps the hopes I have confessed to are of an illusory nature, too. But I hold fast to one distinction. Apart from the fact that no penalty is imposed for not sharing them, my illusions are not, like religious ones, incapable of correction.”
― Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion

We can all be wrong about anything. After this is agreed, the discussion can become adult - this is the "incapable of correction" catchwords that Freud is talking about. If there is no demonstrable evidence for a personal, interventionist or theistic god, there is no need to embrace the position. Casting off the shackle of an illusion means one can partake in all the usual glories and grievances of life, but live that life without adopting a frequently harmful viewpoint. To the person who does not want to embrace an illusion, they should adopt a more humane, rational, cosmic and evidence based perspective, getting the benefits - but dispensing with the illusion.

Thanks, Brady.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Non-Overlapping Magisteria? I think not...

Non-Overlapping Magisteria.

"I have no need of that hypothesis, sir" Pierre-Simon Marquis de Laplace

Philosophical Deism, defined as the belief in one or more mysterious deity(s) - perhaps as a prime mover or the creator of the universe - does not "overlap" with science. It is a proposition that cannot be proved, negated or falsified - even in principle, for now. Theism on the other hand, defined as a direct or personal relationship with one or more deities, directly trespasses on many fields of scientific inquiry. Including physics, biology, psychology etc. So, when a theistic "God" interacts with our fellow primates brains, or our environment, or any part of the natural order, then one should be able to produce empirical evidence to show how this happens.

The theist does not just humbly claim that their Deity exists, an assumption which cannot be tested. The theist must also lump on further assumptions and proclaim that they can know all, or any measure of this god's will, intent or design. One must ask them; how do they know this? - Can they demonstrably prove any mechanism's by which a Deity becomes a theistic Deity. If god interacts with the natural order science can make hypotheses which can then be tested - and either falsified or supported. It seems very difficult to get from Deism to Theism, but theism can at least be tested with the effective tools and methods of science. For better or for worse, science will light the path about the veracity of theism, reaching ever closer approximations to the truth.

This relates to the god of the gaps argument - one can always find an area of scientific ignorance and assert, or rather lazily, insert god as the solution to it, yet history shows empirically that every time a mystery of the cosmos is solved the answer is not God - the real explanation can be explained naturalistically, without the assumption of any Deity, Occams razor slices off the unnecessary.

 - As Laplace said to the Emperor Napoleon, on showing him his Orary (a working model of the solar system). Laplace remarked "I have no need for that hypothesis" in response to Napoleon's question "where God was to be found in the Orary?"

Thanks, Brady.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Freedom and the Fool.

"The Wise Man Speaks because he has something to Say, the Fool Speaks to Say Something" - Aristotle. 

"I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.” - Thomas Paine.

Freedom of speech is an inalienable right, without it we become abject serfs. This freedom, which is one of the most basic of human rights must be defended vigorously. One can support free expression and inquiry, yet the fact is that most people do not realize what a treasured prize this kind of liberty is.
   It was not till relatively recently that the “common” person on the street was awarded this prize. Much of the world does not allow total freedom of speech in modern times. This in my view demands that we protect free speech while we have it, whilst also trying to emancipate those who do not yet share in this ‘right of man’. One must take into consideration that while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, people are not entitled to their own facts. Does this mean we must pay lip service to the “fool” Aristotle talks of? One should draw a line in the sand and say that all voices matter, but each voice does not matter as much as the next…

Thanks, Brady. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dogma and Theism?

"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion" Physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg.

 I could replace the word religion in the above quote, with the more encompassing word dogma. Dogma is a built in and dangerous flaw of theism, but the word dogma has a wider scope, and a broader area of evil to fight against. The analogy is still completely coherent, and in my view, can be more generalized and therefore potentially more effective - even if a little blunted from the original spear-point of targeting religion. In my view, dogma is inherent in most of the world's large religions, but the literal word dogma has a wider vision and covers the Nazi's and other dictators, despots, oppresors, tyrants and all the countless dogmatic caused atrocities of history. So by using the word dogma as well as, or instead of, religion, one could possibly cover two bases at the same time.

 "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." Voltaire.

Thanks, Brady.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Smoking Gun In Our Mouth's - Smoking in the 21st Century (P1)

Smoking in the 21st Century. (Part 1)

Tobacco smoking is now practiced by hundreds of millions of people around the globe. One can hardly find a country that does not have a substantial fraction of tobacco smokers within its borders. The only nation in the world that currently has a prohibition on smoking is the remote Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Bhutan forbids smoking, but allows visitors to bring tobacco into the country with them - so virtually every country has access to tobacco. However the three leading countries in tobacco use - and predictably tobacco related death - are China, India and Indonesia in sheer numbers. Indonesia alone has well over 50 million adult smokers, the actual statistic is probably many millions higher. This is significantly more than the populations of Australia and New Zealand combined, just in smokers who live in Indonesia.

One can then further imagine just how many people in India and China smoke – the number is literally in the hundreds of millions, there are more smokers in India, China and Indonesia than Russia or the USA have in gross population. This would not be an issue if tobacco use did not carry with it such high rates of mortality, illness and easy availability. These dangers, coupled with the large scale ignorance of tobacco’s risks, and their effective marketing strategies are a recipe for both current and future disasters – of epic proportion.

So, how many people worldwide will die in the next few years from smoking? – Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of us will continue to perish, year after year, time and time again – a mini, annual slaughter, that shows few signs of slowing down - That is how many and how often. There will be over well over a Billion human deaths in the coming century if we do not take this issue seriously on a global scale.

With the modern and unambiguous evidence that smoking carries high mortality rates, there can be little doubt as to whether many of the hundreds of millions of 21st Century peoples’ who smoke will someday die, or have already perished directly as a result of smoking. Two prescient facts stand out here, the first is that our species find's inhaling tobacco for its nicotine payload rather popular and shows no signs of stopping; on the whole. The second more startling fact is that these same people run the gauntlet of serious illness and death as a direct result of their tobacco use.

So why do people keep smoking? I suspect that many people are simply ignorant of the health consequences of adopting smoking as a lifetime pursuit in the first place. Once these people become dependent or addicted it may already be too late, then again, there is cause for optimism in the 21st Century. This is partly due to the decline of smoking in western countries, the rise of education about its harms, strict new policies, taxes, and new less harmful treatment options. However, after someone is dependent or addicted to tobacco the success rate of complete cessation ‘cold turkey’ is sadly not very promising. Tobacco smoking is one of the hardest drugs to stop using statistically. Even with nicotine replacement therapies, such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum, the rates of successful tobacco cessation are only around 1 in every 10 people. 

What are our species options in regard to this ongoing and perpetual tobacco genocide? What can we do to stop the death and grievances of countless millions? – In part 2 of Tobacco in the 21st Century we will examine how we could lower the harm caused by tobacco. We will discuss replacement therapies, electronic cigarettes and other policies; be they legal, political, educational or cultural. Somehow we need to minimize this truly mind boggling death rate, while also allowing for individual’s freedom.   

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gravity Waves and the God of the Gaps...

Gravity Waves Detected! (Gods may not be able to Hide)

""AA"As we learn more about the cosmos, the places gods used to hide are ever diminishing"

Now we can finally see beyond what is called the surface of last scattering or the "dark ages" in Cosmology. Optical telescopes cannot see what happened until the Universe was 300 000 years old, they cannot see past this time because light (photons) did not exist yet, but gravity waves did!.

For decades now, we could only see or measure what happened 300-000 years AFTER the Big Bang. Now we have finally measured Gravity waves, we can potentially now "see" ALL the way back, past the "dark ages" - How far back? - Virtually to the beginning of the Universe! - Literally a nanosecond after time and space itself began!

This is a great discovery, maybe even greater than the Higgs Boson. As it is the first direct confirmation of the Inflationary Big Bang model, and it now may be within our grasp to 'see' and possibly understand the origin of our very own origin!

Let's continue this amazing journey, the unravelling of not only our own origins, but what our whole cosmic origin actually is.

Thanks. Brady.