Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 10th, 2021

Largest psilocybin trial finds the psychedelic is effective in treating serious depression

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Depression is another one of the most common psychiatric disorders in the U.S. Approximately 17.3 million adults in the United States suffer from major depressive disorder, while about 1.9 million children struggle with diagnosed depression.

That’s from a page listing the most common mental illnesses in the US, and it’s worth a look since “depression” is an umbrella term applied to a variety of disorders.

Because depression is so common, the search for effective treatments and interventions is ongoing. In STAT Olivia Goldhill describes one possibility:

Eagerly awaited results of the largest-ever study of psilocybin were announced Tuesday, with Compass Pathways revealing the psychedelic drug was highly efficacious as a therapy for treatment-resistant depression. Still, the company’s stock price dropped 16.4% by the close of trading, perhaps because of safety concerns among investors.

The Phase 2b study is the largest randomized, controlled, double-blind trial of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms. The company said it found that patients who were given the highest dose, 25 milligrams, had a significant decrease in depressive symptoms compared to those given 1 milligram, which is such a low dose it functions as a placebo.

Overall, 29.1% of patients in the highest-dose group were in remission three weeks after treatment, compared to 7.6% of those in the control group, and more than a quarter of the patients in the 25-milligram arm were still in remission three months after treatment.

Those who received the highest dose also experienced an average reduction on a measure of clinical depression (the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale) that was 6.6 points greater than those who took 1 milligram. Other patients were given a 10-milligram dose, but there was not a statistically significant impact for those patients compared with the 1-milligram arm.

“Everyone agrees such a result hasn’t been seen before in depression research, so we’re incredibly happy with that result,” said Lars Christian Wilde, co-founder and president of Compass.

Boris Heifets, a neuroscience researcher at Stanford who studies psychedelics and was not part of the study, agreed the results are “super promising.” The effectiveness of psilocybin at three weeks, according to Compass’ study, is roughly comparable to the effects of ketamine at one day, according to a smaller 2013 study, he added, which suggests the benefits of psilocybin hold up well over time.  “We’re still missing a lot of the detailed data,” he added, but the summary results are “pretty good news.”

The study, which enrolled 233 patients at multiple sites across Europe and North America, is the most rigorous trial on psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression and adds considerable weight to earlier, smaller studies of the drug that were also promising. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2021 at 10:47 am

There are two kinds of categories for a given context: Those that are useful in that context and those that are not

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The title exemplifies the simplest of all categorizations: the dichotomy. Another example: “There are two kinds of people: Those who divide everything into two categories, and those who do not.” In a grad school math class in Real Analysis, my professor pointed out that dividing functions into linear functions and non-linear functions was like dividing the universe into bananas and non-bananas. 

Still, dichotomies abound and often are useful or even critical — for example, citizen or not (or, more generally, member or not — the basic dichotomy here being “us” and “them”); introvert or extravert; drunk or sober. The last illustrates that a dichotomy is often but two extremes of a spectrum. A.E. Housman, in speaking at a dinner in his honor on taking up the Chair of Latin at Trinity College, Cambridge, commented “This great College, of this ancient University, has seen many strange sights. It has seen Wordsworth drunk and Porson sober. And here am I, a greater scholar than Wordsworth and a greater poet than Porson, neither drunk nor sober, but betwixt and between.”

(Richard Porson (1759-1808) was a classical scholar who was so addicted to drink that it was said that if alcohol were not available, he would drink from inkwells. Despite that, he did accomplish a body of work and enunciated Porson’s Law regarding iambic trimeter in Greek tragedy. (It does not apply to iambic trimeter in Greek comedy.))

Two categories we often see are “None of the above” and “Other,” the latter sometimes in an enhanced form (“Other — specify:”).

In The Whippet #134: Those that tremble as if they were mad, McKinley has a nice little piece that categorizes various categories. It begins:

Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge

In a Jorge Luis Borges essay, he cites a (made-up-by-Borges) Chinese encyclopedia that divides all animals into the following 14 categories:

 1. Those that belong to the Emperor
 2. Embalmed ones
 3. Those that are trained
 4. Suckling pigs
 5. Mermaids
 6. Fantastical ones
 7. Stray dogs
 8. Those included in the present classification
 9. Those that tremble as if they were mad
10. Innumerable ones
11. Those drawn with a very fine camel-hair brush
12. Others
13. Those that have just broken a flower vase
14. Those that from a long way off look like flies

This is just a completely delightful list, and we could leave it there.

But we will not! In the essay [PDF here], he’s talking about how attempts at universal categorisation invariably become ridiculous. Heaps of the categories above would be quite useful in a given situation, but when you try and fit all animals into them and put all the categories together in a single list, it becomes useless and deranged.

It’s like the adage, “all models are false, but some models are useful.”

I’m a huge fan of categorising people and things (cf. the two kinds of conversationalists, or Rounds vs Pointys ← that one is by Rosa Lyster and is excellent, read it if you haven’t) but you gotta know when to apply them. Like ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ are useful categories for navigating friendships, but very bad ones for deciding who to give chemotherapy to.

If you own a coffee shop, the categories you want for deciding who to give keys to are probably ‘employee vs customer’ not ‘confident people vs timid people’.

Sidenote, it is actually pretty fun to think of categories (metals and non-metals) and then situations they would be a poor decision-making tool for (should I feed it to a baby). So there’s a free lil mental game for you if you’re bored.

This is why the “actually, tomato is a fruit,” people are so irritating. They’re applying “botanical name for the part of the plant” categories to the decision of “what meals would this taste good in?” It’s a different category set. It would be exactly as accurate and meaningful to say “actually, tomatoes aren’t a vegetable, tomatoes are red. I like to categorise foods by true but irrelevant features, and then insist that anyone who doesn’t use my unhelpful category system is factually wrong.”

Whether or not someone would say “actually, tomato is a fruit” is the categorisation system we should use for deciding who goes to jail. (I realise given the number of readers, statistically some of you probably say the tomato thing, and are feeling quite offended now. If it helps, the jail would have a good rehabilitation program.)

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Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2021 at 9:21 am

Posted in Daily life, Philosophy

Would not have known what I was missing

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Today’s shave is a comparison to yesterday’s: same soap formula (different fragrance: Lavanille instead of Cologne Russe) but a badger brush (Simpson Emperor 3 Best) instead of a synthetic (Phoenix Artisan Aerolite). The comparison is to lather consistency and fineness.

The Simpson did a fine job, and the lather was excellent — but it was definitely outclassed by the lather the Aerolite synthetic produced. I don’t think it was the Aerolite in particular — the PA Star Craft has the same sort of synthetic know, and I imagine other synthetics — particular those of the Plissoft persuasion, like the RazoRock Keyhole or Bruce, or the Maggard Razors synthetics, or the Fine Classic — would produce the same result. 

If I had used only a badger brush with this soap, I would have been quite satisfied, but I would not have known what I was missing. That sort of thing is why I am novelty-seeking, interested in trying new things. My attitude is pretty much the polar opposite of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Mine is “It’s working fine. Can we make it even better? perhaps by rethinking the whole approach?”

Once well-lather, I went to work with my Goodfellas’ Smile Legione Slant razor — or, more accurately, with the Goodfellas’ Smile Legione Slant handle that holds a Parker Semi-Slant head. So far as I can tell, the two heads are identical. FWIW, the Goodfellas’ handle is much nicer IMO, but the price difference ($45 Goodfellas’ v. $33 Parker) may not be worth it for you, particularly if you have a spare handle on hand.

Blissful shave — it’s an excellent slant — ending with a good splash of Lavanille aftershave (with a squirt of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel added), and I’m ready for a new day.

Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2021 at 8:18 am

Posted in Shaving

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