Thursday, 25 July 2019

Work update

 Ellagic Acid for Chemistry World, the Royal Society of Chemistry's Podcast
 Ellagic Acid for Chemistry World, the Royal Society of Chemistry's Podcast

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

all my words

usually this blog is for personal, not professional, writing. but i've been earning a living as a writer for over two years now, and i'm really proud of what i've achieved. so here are some clips of the articles i've worked on, from the worlds of whisky, booze, science and nature.

Barley, Ferment November 2016

Sled dogs, BBC Earth October 2016

Absinthe, Ferment October 2016

Butyric acid, Chemistry World November 2016

10 things whisky bucket list, Unfiltered January 2016

Gabapentin, Chemistry World October 2016

Ian Burrell interview, Unfiltered October 2015

The Truth About Swans, BBC Earth December 2014

Tuesday, 26 January 2016


photographer unknown. 

happy birthday big brother.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Monday, 26 January 2015

Bloody Jutes

one of the many things my brother taught me was that there is no such thing as an 'English' person; England is a rich tapestry of ancestral heritage that comes from all over Europe and beyond. he wrote this ten years ago and it still resonates today. perhaps even more so than it did back then.


Saxon walled town,
Celtic field system,
Old Norman church,
Roman road,

Angevin Bailey,
Tudor construction,
Mock Gothic arch,
Bloody Jutes.

Paul Maddocks (26 January 1969 - 19 April 2007)

Monday, 22 December 2014

LSD: A dying wish to cure fear

This is my entry for the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize 2014 (in association with the Guardian and the Observer). It made the 20-strong shortlist from over 600 entries. The entire shortlist and the winning entries can be found here.

“Try LSD 100 intramuscular,” read the note passed to Laura Huxley by her dying husband. And so the wife of author Aldous Huxley injected him with the powerful psychedelic lysergic acid diethylamide. He died five hours later on 22 November 1963, his face an expression of “complete bliss and love”.

Before it was banned in 1968, a thousand clinical studies were conducted on LSD, demonstrating its use in treatment for conditions including alcoholism, depression and neurosis. For the next four decades, no further LSD psychotherapy research was published. Until now.

The California-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) published a study in March 2014 investigating the effects of LSD on anxiety related to advanced-stage illness. In a small trial, 12 patients were given LSD before two psychotherapy sessions. The results of this pilot study show a reduction in anxiety levels, and, according to MAPS founder Rick Doblin, justify further investigation. Speaking to the Independent, Swiss-based lead researcher Peter Gasser confirmed that the beneficial effects of the treatment were stable over time and that no patients experienced “noteworthy adverse effects”.

 UK-based psychiatrist Dr Ben Sessa hopes the research will lead to LSD treatment not just for patients with terminal illness but “across the board for people of all ages with anxiety disorders. Existing treatments mask symptoms and can be lifelong. Psychedelic therapy would be a single treatment – it could treat anxiety disorder so it doesn’t return.”
Peter, a 50-year-old Austrian social worker, described his treatment in the MAPS press release: “My LSD experience brought back… a timeless moment when the universe didn’t seem like a trap, but like a revelation of utter beauty.” Sessa explains: “The psychedelic experience is particularly wellattuned to the existential issues of death and dying – there is something about psychedelics that connects people with the other-worldliness of death.”

 Doblin said research by MAPS has not focused on the mechanism, since they only need to demonstrate it works safely, not how it works, to get LSD approved as a medicine. This study builds on a foundation of research that began in the 1960s at Spring Grove State Hospital, Baltimore, where psychiatrist Stanislav Grof pioneered the use of LSD to treat fear of dying. This was cut short when LSD was criminalised in 1968, a move that Doblin suggests was due to the drug’s use by anti-establishment hippies and anti-Vietnam War groups. 

Naturally, there are concerns over the danger of using a class A illegal drug as a medicine. “There's an enormous amount of research that demonstrates LSD is physiologically safe,” says Doblin. MAPS Director of Development Virginia Wright says that due to LSD’s bad reputation, US researchers were unwilling to carry out the current study despite its approval by the US Food and Drug Administration. The trial took place in Switzerland, where there is more openness and interest in LSD research, not least because it was discovered there in 1938 by chemist Albert Hofmann. Nevertheless, when the trial was approved in 2008, the Swiss People’s Party (the largest in the country) told Bloomberg that if international experts come to the conclusion that LSD could be seen as a medication, “we would have another look at the situation. But for the moment our position is still a conservative one.”

To gain approval, there needs to be a much bigger study with a range of different patients to demonstrate wider efficacy. But this requires money – potentially tens of thousands of pounds. Drug development is often funded by pharmaceutical companies, and according to Sessa, these companies are unwilling to sponsor the process of bringing LSD to market. Since LSD might only be used once or twice in therapy, profit from drug sales would be limited. LSD’s reputation means public funding is scarce – MAPS relies on donations from individuals and charities. But, says Doblin, “So far no major foundation that supports medical research has funded psychedelic research.”

At the time of writing, MAPS does not have funding for further LSD research. But other psychiatric research is making this type of work more commonplace – a study on ketamine and a Medical Research Council-funded investigation into magic mushrooms are both exploring effects on depression. As the stigma around illegal drug research lessens and red tape is removed, more studies may yet convince regulators to put LSD on the NHS.

Written by Louise Crane
Edited by Mun-Keat Looi

Monday, 1 December 2014

Please donate £5 to stop suicide

I am making one last plea for donations to the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). I've been trying to raise awareness of this suicide prevention charity since I stopped drinking for a month in October.

I know how often you are all asked to donate to charity. I know you are fed up of people seeking attention for so-called hardships in return for money for a charity to which they might not even have a connection.

My brother hanged himself on the 19th April 2007. I will never, ever forget my mum's words on the phone: "The inevitable's happened. Paul's gone. He's gone."

No suicide should be inevitable. Suicide kills more men aged 20-49 in England & Wales than anything else: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, road traffic accidents. And for every 1 person who kills themselves there are 20 more attempted suicides.

Please, please, take a packed lunch into work tomorrow, forego a drink at the bar on Friday, and donate £5 to the Campaign Against Living Miserably, who work long into the night every night as a solace for people who have decided they don't want to live any more.

CALM could have helped Paul if he'd called, and can help the other tens of thousands of men who contemplate suicide every year.

I don't want any more sisters, mothers, fathers and brothers to go through what I did. The grief drove me to the deepest depth of despair and it nearly killed my mum. No parent should have to bury their child.

Please help CALM provide a lifeline to people struggling with suicidal thoughts.

From their website:

We seek to prevent male suicide by:-
  • Offering support to men in the UK, of any age, who are down or in crisis via our helpline and website. 
  • Challenging a culture that prevents men seeking help when they need it, see
  • Pushing for changes in policy and practice so that suicide is better prevented via partnerships such as The Alliance of Suicide Prevention Charities (TASC), the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA). 
  • CALM also hosts the Suicide Bereavement Support Partnership, (which includes Cruse, If U Care Share, Papyrus, SoBS and the Samaritans amongst others). This partnership aims to ensure that everyone bereaved or affected by suicide is offered and receives timely and appropriate support. Its members are working collaboratively to ensure this vision becomes a reality.