Sounding Circle: Study: Religious use of peyote not harmful to American Indians

 Study: Religious use of peyote not harmful to American Indians14 comments
6 Nov 2005 @ 06:43, by Raymond Powers

Study: Religious use of peyote not harmful to American Indians
By Michael Kunzelman, Associated Press Writer | November 4, 2005

BOSTON --For John Halpern to study the effects of peyote on American Indians who use the hallucinogenic cactus in religious ceremonies, observing from a distance was not an option.

Halpern lived on the Navajo Nation reservation for months at a time and participated in prayer ceremonies. Earning their trust and cooperation would have been impossible if he refused to ingest peyote, he said.

"It never would have happened if I hadn't done that. It's one of the ways they take the measure of a man," said Halpern, a psychiatrist at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital in Belmont, just outside of Boston.

A 1994 federal law allows roughly 300,000 members of the Native American Church to use peyote as a religious sacrament, but Halpern set out to find scientific proof for the Navajos' belief that the substance is not hazardous to their health.

After five years of research, Halpern and other McLean researchers did not find any evidence of brain damage or psychological problems in church members who frequently use peyote, which contains the hallucinogen mescaline.

In fact, they found that members of the Native American Church performed better on some of the neuropsychological tests than other Navajos who do not regularly use peyote.

Church members believe peyote offers them spiritual and physical healing, but Halpern and his colleagues could not say with any certainty that its pharmacological effects are responsible for their test results.

"It's hard to know how much of it is the sense of community they get (from the religion) and how much of it is the actual experience of using the medication itself," said Harrison Pope, the study's senior author and director of McLean's biological psychology laboratory.

Test results for 61 church members who have used peyote at least 100 times were compared against those for 79 Navajos who do not regularly use peyote and 36 tribe members with a history of alcohol abuse but minimal peyote use. Those who had abused alcohol fared worse on the tests than the church members, according to the study.

The researchers argue that their findings should offer "reassurance" to the 10,000 Native American Church members serving in the military who were barred from using peyote before new guidelines were adopted in 1997.

"We find no evidence that a history of peyote use would compromise the psychological or cognitive abilities of these individuals," they wrote in a paper published in the Nov. 4 issue of Biological Psychiatry.

The researchers are quick to note that their study draws a clear distinction between illicit and religious use of peyote. And they did not rule out the possibility that other hallucinogens, such as LSD, may be harmful.

"In comparison to LSD, mescaline is described as more sensual and perceptual and less altering of thought and sense of self," they wrote, adding that peyote does not seem to produce "flashbacks" the same way that LSD apparently does.

However, the researchers are optimistic that their findings could open the door to another area of research: testing the theory that peyote could be an effective treatment for alcoholism.

"It's an anecdote you hear from the Navajo themselves but something that has never been formally tested in any fashion," Pope said.

Halpern settled on members of the Native American Church as ideal subjects for his research because they have had little or no exposure to other drugs. But he met with stiff resistance when he first visited the Navajo reservation in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

"These are very proud peoples, and many of them are smarting over the stigmatizing cliche about (American Indians') substance abuse," he said. "It's a real problem, but it's a real problem in many communities."

Halpern found an ally on the reservation in Victor Clyde, who was a vice president of the Native American Church of Navajoland. Clyde persuaded skeptical church members to cooperate with Halpern.

"A lot of members did not want to allow him to do the research," said Clyde, a justice of the peace in Chinle, Ariz. "No one wants to be put under the microscope like that."

The project was funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A NIDA spokeswoman would not comment on the study.

Lester Grinspoon, a Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor who was not involved in Halpern's research, said the study lends scientific weight to a long-held belief that peyote is not harmful.

"The thing that excites me most about the paper is that the study was actually done," he said. "The U.S. government -- and NIDA, in particular -- has been rather balky about allowing studies of psychedelic drugs of any kind."


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14 comments

6 Nov 2005 @ 08:16 by vibrani : Sometimes I wonder
about people at NCN and their being observant of other members. I posted this article the other day on my log, and you didn't even notice. So now there are two, oh well.  


6 Nov 2005 @ 11:01 by jazzolog : Ditto
Me too, Vi.  


6 Nov 2005 @ 13:21 by jmarc : i think Vibes
judging by past questions I have answered other members, about how other members view their logs, that not everyone gets to their newslog the same way, and so don't necesarily see other logs as they navigate to their own. I'm just guessing though.  


6 Nov 2005 @ 16:54 by soultruth : Gifts......
I wonder how anyone could honestly think that plants/herbs of the earth are harmful. they are tools for mind and consciousness expansion. Hallucinations are really expansion of the use of the mind/brain and just because we don't use these parts of the brain daily, doesn't mean it is harmful, or not part of reality, or only imagination, only that we are not fully developed yet. The brainwashing/propaganda really does it's job if we think that these precious plants that God/Source/Nature gave to us are so harmful. If some have bad experiences or it seems to harm in some way, don't blame the plant, it is a tool/gift....look within.  


6 Nov 2005 @ 17:02 by Raymond Powers @204.153.195.163 : Your Corrsct
In response to vibrani and jazzlog and jmarc. Your correct, I do not view everyone elses blogs daily to see if I have duplicated a post, how could I possibly read that much material. Also, I would think that the people that visit my blog, especially those that are specific to my community, may not see the posts in other places. Vibrani, you had some juice behind your comment as if you feel it is proprietary information on your blog that shouldn't be elsewhere. I would think the more blogs a story shows up on the better. More people have a chance to be exposed to the information.  


6 Nov 2005 @ 20:05 by soultruth : Priorities.....
wow, doesn't anyone want to talk about the subject and how it can help us ascend and be of a more loving and broader consciousness?

Who cares if everyone post the same log, if the info is important, it matters not how many times it is posted, it matters that people read, learn, discuss and possibly do something about it.

How about discussing the use of more parts of your brain/mind through these sacred plants of nature? How about living as though we are all connected, even to the earth and nature itself, and maybe if we actually lived this indisputable truth we would see changes that would amaze even a High Master Him/Herself.  



6 Nov 2005 @ 20:12 by vibrani : To be clear
Many times different logs talk about similar or the same subjects, we carry over from one to another on a topic. I don't mind that. Note, I said "now there are 2, oh well." Sometimes it's not easy to see what the most recent entry to a log is if people have them listed by subject and not date. Yes, there are many logs to go through - but not if you just see what's on the main communication page as titles. Then it's an easy scan. Mine was the most recent and in caps and right out there on the page for everyone to see. So I had the feeling you didn't bother to look down the list to see if someone had already posted it and you could join in there instead of duplicating it. I have noticed this happening before, too. (Some sites don't even allow duplicate topics, but NCN allows most everything.) I look at the logs and attempt to the best of my ability NOT to duplicate articles from the outside. To me, it's called caring, paying attention. To someone else, it might be something different. Look, everyone has their own way of getting around NCN. Some people are more aware of others' logs. Maybe some people feel better for some reason posting an answer to one log versus another - even if it's on the same topic.

Soultruth, what does it matter? Sure - why don't you take the discussion to my log, then? hahahaha Oh boy, that should open a can of worms.

On the subject of the peyote - I think this study is important and a breakthrough because it shatters previous myths about peyote.  



6 Nov 2005 @ 20:37 by jazzolog : Ditto Again
Besides, for those of us inside here...and not merely the recipients of projectiles from this Network launchpad...it's hard to know where to comment. Threads become hopeless. Ah yes, Network vs. Community again.  


6 Nov 2005 @ 20:58 by vibrani : You know what?
If I unwittingly posted a duplicate article and someone brought that to my attention, I'd voluntarily take it down in favor of the person who first posted it, and join that log's discussion on the topic. No skin off of my back.  


6 Nov 2005 @ 21:01 by vibrani : Soultruth
you made a comment "I wonder how anyone could honestly think that plants/herbs of the earth are harmful" - well, every plant can be medicine or poison, depends on what it is, the amounts, and how they're used. I'm sure you know about poisonous mushrooms, or other plants that can kill if eaten?  


7 Nov 2005 @ 00:13 by soultruth : Natural vs overdomesticated
There is a historical "story", (which is true, I just don't remember the names involved) so to speak, about a young man who was studying to be a physician/herbalist. He asked his teacher after years of study when he could start practicing "medicine" and help people. His teacher told him to go out into nature and find 3 plants that have no medicinal value and to come back and report his results. After weeks of looking he came back and sadly told his teacher that he could find NO plants without medicinal value. His teacher told him then that he was ready to be a physician. The moral is that all plants have value, just not all are for ingesting, and not all are known to us. Just because a plant does something we don't quite understand or seems intense doesn't mean it is harmful. Yes we must be sure of the plant's uses, but our "modern" studies aren't the end all in finding out what is good for us. It is almost comical to me that it was even considered that peyote would cause psychological problems and/or brain damage. If something like that were true at all it wouldn't be the plants fault, it wwould be the responsibility of the user. (Anyway who is the Federal Government to tell anyone what they can do in religious ceremony.) People who are close to the earth, natural and use their intuition/instincts (which are innate, as long as one isn't overdomesticated)will know if something is good for them or not. One only needs taste a very minute amount or smell something to know if the body accepts it as good or not. Only we, overdomesticated humans, need all the scietific hoopla to tell us what is good for us and what isn't.  


8 Nov 2005 @ 01:18 by scotty : Soultruth !
the more I read what you have to say the more I like it !

Thankyou for all your comments here - very enlightening !

:)  



9 Nov 2005 @ 18:14 by hgoodgame : The magic of multiple posts!
Shows it is a timely subject and the more we read about it, the better we can be informed. Also, here is a blog wide open to all member for comment whereas the other log (mentioned above by a disgruntled member) is closed for comment to several of us regulars at NCN.
Thanks, Ray, for providing us with the information in a forum we can all use for discussion.  



2 Oct 2007 @ 20:37 by Bill @24.128.205.217 : ugh
just answer my queston!  


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