Bird Key Yacht Club tries to serve up pickleball

But nearby residents worry the sport will make too much racket in the neighborhood.

SARASOTA — The Bird Key Yacht Club plans to serve up six new pickleball and badminton courts in its eastern parking lot.

But some nearby residents have volleyed back, arguing the courts could be a noisy, high-traffic addition to the quiet neighborhood there.

The club has been working on the idea throughout the year and formally filed plans for the project with the city of Sarasota earlier this month.

The proposal includes eliminating the eastern portion of the club’s employee parking lot, transforming 18 under-used parking spaces and several waste bins for six new regulation courts that could be used for badminton and the increasingly popular sport of pickleball, according to documents submitted to the city. The project would include fixes to the kayak rack and fencing there, damaged during Hurricane Irma, and add new landscaping along that edge of the club property.

Pickleball is similar to badminton and tennis, with a specific type of paddle, low net and a ball similar to a wiffle ball. The game attracts all ages but is particularly popular with seniors who are still active but look to avoid the stress and strain of traditional tennis.

Some nearby residents, though, have argued the usual paddles and hard plastic ball used in the game could cause a racket in the neighborhood.

Several complained at community workshops this summer and sent in letters to city staff to oppose the project over the past two weeks.

To try to allay those fears, the club has offered to use so-called quiet paddles and soft balls, as opposed to the hard plastic kind, to minimize any noise, planner Brian Lichterman has said. The club even hosted a demonstration in June to let skeptical neighbors hear the volume of both types of paddles and balls.

Lichterman and yacht club board member David Cohen addressed the concerns in relation to the noise generated by the club’s tennis courts on the opposite side of the property, also right next to homes, at an August community workshop.

Despite almost two dozen residents’ notes of support for the plan, the Bird Key Homeowners Association also has argued the plan violates the group’s restrictions on building on the key. The club contends that is not the longstanding interpretation of the restrictions in relation to the club property, Cohen wrote in a rebuttal letter.

The Association’s Architectural Committee also reviewed and denied the plans earlier this year, but the club is proceeding with the city permitting anyway, according to documents submitted to the city.

The proposal follows a growing trend around the area in which some clubs and parks have begun converting old tennis courts or creating new courts to satisfy the demand for more pickleball. The newly renovated Longboat Key Bayfront Park, unveiled this month, includes pickleball courts, and last year Sarasota County added even more pickleball-specific courts to By-Pass Park in Venice.

City staff must still review the proposed plans for Bird Key, and they ultimately will be reviewed and voted on by both the Planning Board and City Commission.

 

==============================================================

A THANKSGIVING GUIDE TO DRINKING

There are drinkers and then there are drinkers. We like to think that we fall in the latter category, and as such maintain a strict drink regime for our Thanksgiving celebrations. The key, as any professional will tell you, is not only in pacing but also in variety. To help you along we have mapped out each step of the process, from first thing in the morning through late night reveling, to keep you happy this holiday.

Morning Prep Work

Bloody Mary

We’re going to start things off pretty simply. It’s first thing in the morning and you’ve got to get that bird in the oven, but first, drink. Bloody Marys are not only boozy, but also nutritious (tomato juice and celery, guys!). Here’s what you need:

1 lemon, juiced
2 ounces vodka
4 ounces tomato juice
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3 drops tabasco sauce
1 pinch celery salt
Salt and pepper, to taste
Celery sticks, to garnish

SALT the rim of a tall glass by wetting it first with lemon juice and then dabbing it into a small pile of salt.

ADD ice to the glass.

MIX vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco and celery salt in the glass, stirring thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a celery stick.

Turkey Is in the Oven

Celebration Shooter

You did it! The turkey is in the oven and you’re on schedule to having the food on the table at a reasonable hour. You deserve to celebrate, but don’t over do it quite yet. Whip together this quick shooter, knock it back and continue with your preparations – that table isn’t going to set itself!

Dash of whiskey
Dash of amaretto
Dash of cranberry juice (substitute cranberry sauce to really make things festive)

CHILL a double-shot glass in the freezer for a few minutes.

COMBINE one part whiskey, amaretto and cranberry, as the glass will allow. Shoot it back.

Guests Arrive

Negroni

Alright, it’s game time: People are actually starting to show up. You’ll want to get the party going, but undoubtedly still have tons to do. The Negroni is a classic, a crowd pleaser, and a totally easy drink to make:

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth

PLACE ice in a short glass, or tumbler.

COMBINE all ingredients. Serve.

Turkey Time

Something Red

Once the food hits the table, it’ll be high time for wine time. A meal like this will traditionally call for a red, typically something like a Zinfandel or Pinot Noir. However, if you want to try something a little different, consider adding a dry rosé or Lambrusco to the mix.

Dessert

Fortified Wine

Now that we’ve got our wine game on, let’s keep the ball rolling. As Thanksgiving is not a time for holding back, a sweet wine to go with your pumpkin and pecan pies is definitely the move. We would recommend a port or sauternes. But remember, this stuff is super sweet, so short pours are a must.

After Dinner

Fernet and Coke

There will eventually come a time when you physically cannot eat anything else. But you will, of course, still have room to continue drinking. At this point, we recommend a little something to help settle your now gorged self – which is where Fernet comes in. Fernet is an Italian liqueur made from a mix of herbs and is traditionally served as a post-dinner digestif. The taste can be a bit different, but if you mix it up with a little bit of Coca-Cola classic or, if you can get your hands on it, some of that imported Coke made with real cane sugar, you’ll be well on your way to the perfect post-feast beverage.

1 ounce Fernet
½ ounce Tuaca
2 ounces Coca-Cola

MIX Fernet, Tuaca and Coca-Cola in a glass with ice, and stir well.

STRAIN mixture into a separate glass without ice. Serve.

Late Night

Sazerac

Finally, after the dishes are done, the leftovers put away and the overly-chatty great-Aunts departed, you can really get your drink on. At this point, all that should be left are your old college buddies and their respective significant others, so we’ve got two words for you: Party. Time. Finish strong by taking things up a notch with this New Orleans absinthe classic:

1 sugar cube
½ ounce absinthe
2 ounces rye whiskey
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Dash of simple syrup
Dash Angostura bitters

CRUSH the sugar cube at the bottom of short glass or tumbler.

POUR in the absinthe and swirl around the glass so that it coats all sides, then discard anything leftover.

MIX ice, rye whiskey, simple syrup, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters in a separate glass.

STRAIN into tumbler. Serve.

Manatees, Florida’s Gentle Giants, Deserve Your Protection

“Manateed off,” screamed the front page headline of the Tampa Bay Times.

“Feds kicking gentle giants off the endangered species list, angering fans and environmentalists.”

This is a town that’s passionate about these lovable, slow-moving “sea cows” with blunt whiskered snouts and paddle-shaped tails, and irate that their status may drop from endangered to merely threatened.

Here’s a sobering fact: You can tell Florida manatees apart by their boat propeller scars. Speed zones and no-entry zones have been set up to protect them. Cold water and “red tide intoxication” also hurt them.

Here’s a happier fact: Manatees are the state marine mammal and tourists adore them. Yes, you can swim or snorkel among them in Crystal River two hours north of Tampa, but you should always look, not touch.

You can’t see manatees in Toronto — our zoo doesn’t have a big enough aquarium — but here you can see them in the wild and in a rehab hospital at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.

The zoo’s Manatee and Aquatic Center, home to the non-profit David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Hospital, provides critical care for injured, sick and orphaned wild manatees. It has treated more than 380 manatees since 1991 and reintroduced more than 210 to Florida waters.

We watch manatees frolic through underwater viewing windows in two exhibit pools. From a boardwalk viewing platform, we see centre staff work with manatees in three treatment pools. The zoo offers manatee sleepovers and talks in the amphitheatre.

All this love doesn’t come cheap — about $1 million (U.S.) a year. It costs $300 a day to treat a manatee patient and $30,000 a year to feed an adult manatee.

The herbivores, you see, usually dine on aquatic plants, eating 10 to 15 per cent of their body weight each day. Here that translates to romaine, endive and escarole.

I go behind-the-scenes, meet animal keeper Molly Lippincott and the manatees, and feed them some fancy romaine.

She’s tending to 15 manatees in different stages of rehabilitation.

They’re treated in three medical pools with remote-controlled floors. When they first arrive, blood is drawn and they’re observed and isolated until they’re well enough to join the others.

Today, even though the manatees can swim among three pools, they stick together.

“They love to be in the smallest place possible, and they love to sit on top of each other,” says Lippincott. “They love comfort.”

“People always say ‘What’s their purpose?’ and I always say ‘I think their purpose is just to be a beautiful animal.’”

Some manatee patients stay just two months, others up to 2 1/2 years before being reintroduced to warm Florida waters. The goal is to get them in and out as quickly as possible so they don’t develop “a captive mind.”

These oddly gorgeous creatures with mermaid tails have no natural predators. People and Mother Nature harm them with boat strikes, cold stress and red tide.

I get close enough to marvel at their thick, leathery skin, forelimb flippers and wisps of stiff, short hair.

Each manatee gets a name, like Little Red Tiding Hood, Cayo, Camless and Risotta. My favourite is Marmalade, an orphan from the Crystal River.

“When Marmalade’s ready to go, at 600 pounds, in about two years,” says Lippincott, “she will go out in the winter to a warm-water site like TECO.”

Drive about half an hour south of Tampa to Apollo Beach and you’ll find Tampa Electric’s (TECO) Manatee Viewing Center. It doesn’t advertise. People hear about it through word-of-mouth.

Hundreds of manatees swim in the clean, warm-water reservoir of the Big Bend Power Station, usually when the Tampa Bay water temperature drops below 20 C (68 F) and they risk cold stress.

“A winter spa for them is what we are,” says Jamie Woodlee, a senior environmental technician with the centre. “They’re pretty docile and will get giddy and roll around.”

Alas, the water temperature is a tad warm today so there’s only a handful of manatees. They’re on the power plant side of the canal, not our side.

“I wish I could call them over for you,” says Woodlee. “We do have a webcam and the spinner sharks are showing off today.”

The power plant has built observation platforms, boardwalks and a self-guided nature trail on the tidal walkway through the mangroves. There’s a small education building, picnic shelter, snack bar and gift shop.

Come between November and mid-April. It’s free to marvel at the manatees.

“Manatees have no natural enemy, they’re not aggressive, they sleep and eat and hang out — and yet they’ve survived all these years,” Woodlee marvels.

“I think it’s really cool that an animal this docile has survived.”

Anu Tali Announces She Will Step Down as Music Director in 2019

Anu Tali Announces She Will Step Down as Music Director in 2019
October 25, 2017 – Anu Tali today announced that at the end of the 2018 / 2019 season,
following the completion of her current contract, she will step down as music director of the
Sarasota Orchestra to focus on her international career and guest conducting. She will have
served as Music Director for six seasons.
Tali’s accomplishments with the Sarasota Orchestra are noteworthy. Since joining the
organization in 2013, she has raised the artistic quality of the orchestra and conducted thrilling
performances that have earned rave reviews. She has attracted an extraordinary group of guest
artists from around the world, including the multi-Grammy Award-winning Estonian
Philharmonic Chamber Choir. She conducted the American premiere of Erkki-Sven
Tüür’s Strata and performed the debut performances in Florida of Heiner Goebbels’ Songs of
Wars I Have Seen.
“I am very grateful to have been provided the privilege and opportunity to work with my
incredible colleagues in the Sarasota Orchestra and to perform for the passionate audiences of
this very special community,” said Tali. “What an exceptional experience this has been. To see
full houses and the orchestra and community embracing a new artistic vision has been
gratifying. Our accomplishments have led me to think that 2019 is the right time for me to
begin the next chapter in my musical journey.”
“I look forward to sharing the magical moments on stage with everyone in the Sarasota and
Manatee community for two more seasons, and I remain an advocate of the Sarasota Orchestra
building a new concert hall,” said Tali.
Board Chair David Steves said, “Anu’s contributions to our orchestra and region have been
impressive. She energized audiences, advanced our orchestra artistically and provided the
foundation for the artistic case for a new concert hall. We respect her decision and are
appreciative for all she has done for the Sarasota Orchestra. We will cherish every moment of
the upcoming two seasons with Anu.”

7 Offbeat Attractions You Have to Visit in Sarasota

Sarasota Florida is a cultural center full of upscale boutiques, fine dining & million dollar homes. It is also a place that thrives on a unique vibe all its own.You might not think of south Florida when you think of “happening” places in the United States, but there’s more happening here than meets the eye.Here are seven offbeat attractions you have to visit in Sarasota Florida if you are visiting Siesta Key!

Mote Marine Aquarium & Laboratory

Learning and sharks should be a bigger part of your Florida Vacation than you think! Mote Marine is a World-Class Aquarium and Research Center right here in Sarasota.

Visit Mote to learn about The Gulf of Mexico and see lots of marine life including sharks, manatees, otters & sea turtles!

Selby Botanical Gardens

Ok, TripAdvisor’s #2 Attraction may not be so “offbeat.” To be fair, many people visiting Siesta Key don’t think to visit a Botanical Garden on their beach vacation.

This is an amazing one to visit for people of all ages and interests. Bring headphones to take the audio tours on your cell phone (families or adults) or take the guided tours starting at 10:30 AM. See lots of beautiful plants and flowers along Sarasota Bay!

Siesta Key Rum

Troy makes the best rums in the world. All the rum magazines have given him every award they have. Need any more reason to go? They have free samplings, but you will be leaving with a bottle. Guaranteed.

Siesta Beach Access #5

This is where I chose to be married so yes it is the best part of Siesta Beach. It’s over a mile away from the Sunset Deck and public facilities, but it’s right on the edge of Siesta Key Village so you are still close to facilities and food. It tends to be less crowded and has the best spot for sunset photos with water on both sides of your view west over The Gulf of Mexico.

CROP Juice

They hand craft coldpressed juice daily at CROP by using the highest quality organic vegetables. CROP also packages the juice in glass to ensure the freshness. Stop by for coldpressed raw organic produce & smoothies! They have now begun to deliver locally as well!

JDubs Brewing

JDubs features award winning beer, tasty food trucks and a laid back atmosphere. You can play games in the backyard and admire local Star Wars art in the taproom. Come try some amazing local Florida beer!

Siesta Key Oyster Bar

Some of the best food on Siesta Key and a fun atmosphere await you at SKOB. There’s something for everyone and the drinks are reasonably priced.

There is usually live music and it is always busy. The locals know you can just walk to the bars to get a drink even if you’re waiting for a table. Don’t tell anyone we told you that…

Come stay right in the heart of Siesta Key Village with us at Minorga on the Key Village Condos!

Trump Administration Drops Protections For Whales, Turtles

Seemingly overshadowed by a new lawsuit against the president, a dismal approving rating, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions denying Russian collusion in the 2016 election, the Trump administration ditched a rule on Monday aimed at protecting endangered whales and sea turtles on the West Coast from mile-long gill nets meant to catch swordfish.

The National Marine Fisheries Service’s ruling is one of the administration’s first moves in targeting protections of threatened species, the Associated Press reported. Gill net fishing is banned in most of the world’s high seas. That includes the U.S., with the exception of the West Coast swordfish drift gill net fishery.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council proposed the rule in 2015 with the support of conservationists, regulators, and fishermen. Meant to protect whales, dolphins, and turtles that live in the waters off the West Coast, the rule would have closed gill net fisheries for up to two years if a combination of whales, turtles or dolphins were killed or injured by the nets.

But the NMFS decided that the rule was unnecessary given the apparent success of alternative measures used by the fishing industry in recent years, such as underwater sound systems designed to warn off whales and larger escape openings near the tops of the nets to give the animals a better chance at escaping.

“The bottom line is this is a fishery that’s worked hard to reduce its impact,” Michael Milstein, a spokesman with the federal fisheries service, told the AP.

Others, however, remain skeptical of the supposed strides made by the alternative measures. Dr. Geoff Shester, the California campaign director for Oceana, told Vocativ that the government should be incentivizing more efficient, and sustainable technology, such as deep-set buoy gear. This echoed a similar sentiment expressed in a September 2015 letter from three senators when the rule was first proposed.

National Geographic is Sharing Photos of Endangered Species This Summer to Help Save Their Lives

Photo Ark—one of National Geographic‘s many prized projects—has teamed up with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America to present a cute, cuddly, and critical campaign. Aptly titled #SaveTogether, the movement calls attention to species whose futures are uncertain.

The #SaveTogether campaign relies on a combination of social media and good, old-fashioned signage to educate and engage the public. Today, it kicks off with a “digital billboard takeover” in Times Square. Now through summer, a special photo station will remain in the iconic tourist attraction. Inside the booth, visitors can take a selfie with an image shot by Joel Sartore, the founder of Photo Ark. Once snapped, these photos will appear on one of Times Square’s famous billboards.

If you can’t make it to bustling New York City, however, you can still participate. In zoos, museums, and other public spaces across the country, portraits of animals in need—including a Sumatran tiger, an African white-backed vulture, and a pair of Citron-crested cockatoos—have begun to pop up. If you spot one of these National Geographic photos, you’re invited to snap a selfie with it and share it on social media with the hashtag #SaveTogether. Once tagged, you can see your selfie on the National Geographic website.

On a mission to bring awareness to endangered animals, Joel Sartore has photographed over 6,500 vulnerable species for Photo Ark. In addition to acting as an important record of each species’ existence, the photos aim to “inspire action through education and help save wildlife by supporting on-the-ground conservation efforts.” If you’d like to find out more about how you can get involved with the project (in addition to snapping a selfie, of course), you can check out the project’s page.

Sneak a peek at some of the endangered species featured in #SaveTogether, a campaign by National Geographic’s Photo Ark.

Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii)
Critically endangered, fewer than 15,000 left in the wild Photographed at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas Support the Photo Ark and projects working to help save species at PhotoArk.org and join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether.

African white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus)
Critically endangered, fewer than 270,000 left in the wild Photographed at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in Cleveland, Ohio
Support the Photo Ark and projects working to help save species at PhotoArk.org and join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether.

Ploughshare tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora)
Critically endangered, fewer than 800 left in the wild Photographed at the Turtle Conservancy in Ojai, California Support the Photo Ark and projects working to help save species at PhotoArk.org and join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether.

Red wolf (Canis rufus)
Critically endangered, fewer than 150 left in the wild Photographed at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Support the Photo Ark and projects working to help save species at PhotoArk.org and join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether.

Burmese star tortoise (Geochelone platynota)
Critically endangered, fewer than 5,000 left in the wild Photographed at the Los Angeles Zoo in Los Angeles, California Support the Photo Ark and projects working to help save species at PhotoArk.org and join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether.

Fiji banded iguana (Brachylophus fasciatus)
Endangered, fewer than 8,000 left in the wild
Photographed at the Houston Zoo in Houston, Texas
Support the Photo Ark and projects working to help save species at PhotoArk.org and join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether.

African wild dog (Lycaon pictus)
Endangered, fewer than 2,000 left in the wild
Photographed at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska
Support the Photo Ark and projects working to help save species at PhotoArk.org and join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether.

Black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes)
Endangered, fewer than 500 left in the wild
Photographed at the Toronto Zoo in Toronto Canada
Support the Photo Ark and projects working to help save species at PhotoArk.org and join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether.

These National Geographic photos can be found on billboards across the country.

What to Do If You’re Attacked By a Shark, According to a Navy SEAL

While the chances of something happening is much less likely than a dog attack, you just never know, especially if you’re out surfing, swimming, or diving in open waters. We hope you never have to use these tips, but here’s what you should know.

Probably the most important thing you can do, obviously, is to avoid putting yourself in this dire position in the first place. River mouths and waters with fishing boats nearby are likely places for shark attacks to occur. And rethink being in the water during the early morning and late at night, when visibility is low.

If you do find yourself in a Jaws scenario, trained survival expert and a former member of SEAL Team Six, Clint Emerson, explains in this Business Insider video that sharks tend to attack from the bottom up, meaning that it’ll swim beneath you before launching itself upward. In the water, however, you have little chance of moving quickly enough to damage the shark with punches or kicks. In fact, you thrashing about in a wild panic could actually further draw the shark’s interest.

Richard Peirce, a shark expert and former chairman of Shark Trust, says in an interview with CNN that you should always remain eye contact, which discourages the shark’s natural tendency to want to ambush you. If possible, try to keep your back against something (a coral reef or boat) to prevent the shark from getting behind you.

When it comes to defending yourself, Emerson says to shove your thumbs into the shark’s eyes or jam your fingers in the vents of the gills and attempt to rip them apart. If you have anything with you, perhaps a waterproof selfie stick, use it as a weapon. Most of us aren’t trained badasses, however, so in such a stressful situation it’s probably all you can do to remain calm and try to slowly swim back to shore.

[youtube id=”90mA4FNm1KU” width=”600″ height=”350″]

Can Drugs Actually Be Good for Your Health?

Many consider drugs to be one of the primary catalysts for some of the world’s best art, music and cultural development. Typically it’s because they stimulate our minds to work in ways we never thought possible, and enhance the positive feelings at a party, making it seem more fun. And their role in America’s peace and love movement of the ’60s is simply undeniable. In short: Drugs, man—a lot of people love ‘em.

Drugs, and their impact on our lives, are a lot more nuanced than a casual bong rip and a ride to the 7-Eleven for some chimichangas (glorious as they are). If you have a headache, you take a laboratory-engineered pill that helps it go away. You’re depressed? Take some Zoloft, bud! You’re anxious? Xanax! Can’t sleep? No problem! Take a couple Lunestas and call me in the morning. Oh, your dick ain’t working right? One word: Viagra!

But what about the party stuff? The illicit substances that you have to get from a street pharmacist instead of a regular one. Weed may be getting more legal by the minute thanks to its medically-proven benefits (and well, the sheer amount of money that can be made from a legalized marijuana industry), but mushrooms, LSD, MDMA, and are far from being available in a legit way. Do they have any medicinal merit?

Believe it or not, according to science—some of them do! Teams of scientists and researchers from all over the world have spent extensive amounts of time thoroughly testing and experimenting with all sorts of drugs, and as it turns out, some of them are more useful than their ability to make us crave tacos at 3 in the morning.

Cannabis

Whether or not you’re a big smoker is pretty inconsequential to some of the incredible breakthroughs we’ve seen in medical marijuana over the last couple decades. We’ve known about its power to help ease the side effects of chemotherapy for a few decades now, but studies on the drug have come an incredibly long way in just the last few years.

Studies have demonstrated that marijuana and its extracts can drastically reduce the effects of epileptic seizures. One study tested 162 patients over 12 weeks with an extract that was 99% cannabinoids (aka: the stuff that doesn’t get you stoned). The study found that 36.5% of patients noted a reduction in seizures that either rivaled or beat the current medication they were taking, and 2% became completely seizure-free. If you want to see something less technically scientific, and more anecdotal, this video is both baffling and extremely powerful.

Studies also show marijuana can significantly reduce or even prevent completely the psychological symptoms of PTSD and depression. While the claims have only been tested in mice, the results are extremely positive. In the PTSD trial, researchers found that administering cannabinoids after a traumatic event stimulated changes in the brain centers that are in charge of storing traumatic memories. In the depression study, scientists found that mice that were chronically stressed or suffering from anxiety also suffered a shortage of endocannabinoids (which affect cognition, emotion and behavior). After receiving cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid levels in the mice were restored, thereby alleviating at least some of the symptoms of depression.

And, of course, recent studies have indicated that marijuana can not only alleviate the side effects of cancer treatment, but that cannabinoids can actually kill cancer cells. They were so conclusive, the National Cancer Institute actually changed the information on its website to reflect the results of the studies.

DMT

DMT is a naturally-occurring psychedelic compound that people generally smoke. Recreationally speaking, the high is short, super potent, and is generally described as a kind of out-of-body experience with intense hallucinogenic visions. People who’ve taken it say it’s like being momentarily transported to another dimension.

However, DMT and Ayahuasca (a brew containing DMT used in ancient Amazonian healing and enlightenment rituals for centuries), are more than just party drugs. South American shamans would administer the drug to people because not only was it rumored to have tremendous potential to heal, but also because it was believed to be a gateway to the spiritual world. In fact, it is known to South America’s indigenous peoples as “the teacher plant.”

Medicinally, DMT helps people conquer their addiction problems. In one study, a small group of 12 people struggling with a variety of different types of substance abuse issues took Ayahuasca over the span of six months. At the end of the six months, respondents reported using less tobacco, booze and cocaine, but their cannabis and opiate use stayed the same.

DMT and Ayahuasca have also recently raised a lot of eyebrows for their effect on depression. Though legitimate clinical research studies are still in their infancy, there are a couple of very convincing reports that note the drug’s ability to drastically reduce the effects of depression, even weeks after it is consumed.

Mushrooms

If you talk to people about their recreational drug preferences, ‘shrooms are probably the first or second one on everyone’s list. Known for its psychedelic, mood-altering effects, studies on mushrooms have found that the psychoactive drug in them, psilocybin, actually prompts psychological growth.

John Hopkins School of Medicine researchers gave the drug to 18 volunteers who participated in five eight-hour sessions where they were given the drug in varying doses in order to determine what its effects would be. Each of the 18 volunteers was college-educated, and all believed in spiritual experiences (although only 78% participated in “religious activities”).

Though the sample size was admittedly small, 94% of the people who participated in a follow up survey conducted 14 months after the first study said it was one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives. More so, their friends, colleagues and family members (awkward) reported that the experience had made their ‘shroom-tripping friends kinder and happier.

Other studies have concluded that psilocybin succeeds where conventional depression medication falls short. Their study included 12 volunteers diagnosed with chronic depression (an average of 17.8 years), none of whom had responded well to standard medications. Within just one week of receiving an oral dose of psilocybin, the patience reported a strong improvement in their symptoms. Within three months, five of the volunteers—nearly half—were in complete remission.

MDMA

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, known more colloquially as Molly, Mandy or Ecstasy, was first synthesized in 1912 by the German pharmaceutical company Merck. Since its first “discovery,” people have been absolutely fascinated with and blown away by MDMA’s effect on the human psyche.

Of the MDMA studies conducted over the years, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the idea that the drug works wonders to alleviate the effects of both PTSD and severe, untreatable depression. While there is an array of PTSD studies from which to select, the information is pretty similar: Give people MDMA and they don’t just feel better, they get better.

One study noted that after just three MDMA sessions, 85% of participants no longer had any PTSD symptoms whatsoever. And after a 3.5-year follow up, many of those participants dramatically reduced and even stopped taking their PTSD medications completely.

Ketamine

While ketamine is used primarily for anaesthetic purposes, it is also a massive party drug that people take because not only is it a muscle relaxer and painkiller, but it provides a euphoric, sometimes even mild hallucinatory experience, even in lower dosages. People report feeling fuzzy, tingly and a dissociative-but-aware, near-out-of-body experience while on the drug.

Over the years, Ketamine has found a massive following in the psychiatric community for its medicinal uses. Ketamine has been used to treat otherwise untreatable bouts of clinical chronic depression in some patients, and has even been used successfully to inhibit suicidal thoughts in others.

At this point—probably because of the drug’s availability to clinical doctors—there is a massive library of studies that question whether or not ketamine is a viable option for people suffering depression, and the answer is typically a resounding yes.

In trial after trial, doctors report that in low dosages, ketamine is extremely effective in treating severe depression, and that its side effects are few, but its results are great. There’s even an entire “Ketamine Advocacy Network.” Go figure.

LSD

For literal decades, people have claimed lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a miracle substance that’s healthy for the body and mind. Of course, everybody knows that’s not always true.

Nevertheless, everyone from the CIA to clinical psychologists have spent a tremendous amount of time and effort trying to study the sometimes mystifying effects of LSD, particularly on the human brain.

Most recently, a study by Swiss scientists tested 12 terminally ill patients who were, for all intents and purposes, about to kick the bucket. The participants in the study universally found that higher dosages of LSD helped them cope with their circumstances and had profound positive effects on their anxiety.

In a story from The New York Times about LSD’s resurgence as a therapeutic medical treatment, the leading doctor on the study, Peter Gasser, put the results into perspective quite plainly: “Their anxiety went down and stayed down.”

Peyote

Ahhhh, peyote. Native Americans have prescribed it for everything from tooth pain to spiritual enlightenment, and while that may sound more than a little ridiculous, there’s research to back it up. Harvard researcher Dr. John Halpern is a popular source to discuss the effects of peyote on the human psyche for medicinal effects because he has spent quite a large amount of time studying and researching it.

In a 2005 study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Halpern found that not only did his team find zero evidence that the Native Americans whom he studied had any neurocognitive issues from their life-long use of the drug, but that they even outperformed the average on several sections of the Rand Mental Health Inventory tests (typically used to diagnose psychological problems and determine mental health).

Halpern has also studied peyote’s power to fight against more serious addictions to things like alcohol and even heroin, and saw positive results. Of course, it’s just one of many studies that have concluded that peyote (and its naturally occurring alkaloid, mescaline) do help in the treatment of addiction.

Peyote is one of those drugs that hasn’t been studied too in-depth by American medical organizations, so there aren’t a lot of widely available studies or clinical trials. However, there are plenty of outside sources that talk scientifically about the physical health benefits of peyote as a pain reliever. Applied directly to the afflicted area in a solve (usually made from bees wax), or ingested orally in lower doses, people find it to be a powerful inhibitor of things like joint pain, toothaches and muscle aches.

Manatees Officially Swim Away From ‘Endangered’ Status

Dire environmental reports are seemingly everywhere, but today, there’s a bit of good news: The roly-poly West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) is doing so well that the species is no longer considered endangered.

Significant increases in manatee population numbers and noted improvements to the animals’ habitats convinced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to downgrade manatees’ status from endangered to threatened, as defined by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), FWS representatives announced online today (March 31) in a statement.

Both subspecies of the West Indian manatee — the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) and the Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) — will retain federal protections, as will the animals’ vulnerable Florida habitats, according to the FWS ruling.

Florida manatees were listed as endangered in 1967 under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, and officials added the Antillean manatee to the listing in 1970, the ruling reported.

While the manatees’ revised status represents improvement in their prospects, a threatened species is still considered to be at risk, as it is “likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range,” according to the Endangered Species Act.

Conservation efforts by local governments, industries, businesses and private citizens contributed to the manatees’ recovery, though challenges remain, FWS representatives warned.

Minimizing manatee interactions with boats, which are frequently lethal to the animals, will be a priority for FWS in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard and with coastal communities in Florida, the representatives added. Additional initiatives will regulate water pollution and the use of fishing gear in manatee habitats, and monitor the manatees’ access to warm natural springs, which could help the animals survive winter cold snaps, FWS representatives said.

The FWS estimated that about 6,300 Antillean manatees live in the wild, in an area ranging from the Mexican Gulf Coast to northern Brazil and the Caribbean, while an estimated 6,620 T. manatus latirostris individuals call Florida home.

“Today, we both recognize the significant progress we have made in conserving manatee populations while reaffirming our commitment to continuing this species’ recovery and success throughout its range,” Jim Kurth, acting director of the FWS, said in the statement.