In this episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast, Matt Johnson, PhD returns to discuss previous survey research he conducted regarding DMT entities. Dr. Johnson is the associate director at the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University, where he also works as a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. He has published widely in the field of psychedelic science and has guided over one hundred psychedelic experiences. In 2019 Dr. Johnson was the president of the psychopharmacology division of the American Psychological Association, and he currently serves as the president of the International Society for the Research on Psychedelics.
In this conversation, Dr. Johnson shares findings from his 2020 publication of survey research which investigates peoples’ experiences with DMT entities. To preface these findings, however, Dr. Johnson first lays the groundwork by explaining the limitations of scientific investigation into these kinds of psychic phenomena. He explains that science is unable to answer questions of whether or not DMT entities are ultimately real, or what the fundamental nature of these experiences is. It can, however, employ rigorous methods for analyzing reports of entity encounters in order to document common features of these experiences and the types of effects they can have on individuals.
In the survey, around twenty five hundred respondents shared their experiences of encountering an entity during a DMT experience. From the data collected, Dr. Johnson shares some of the common features of these entities. The beings are typically perceived as benevolent though there was a wide variety of ways the entities were conceptualized, ranging from aliens and machine elves to spirits and angels. Often participants believed the entities revealed metaphysical realities and the presence of these beings was frequently accompanied by extrasensory phenomena such as telepathic communication. Due to the dramatic nature of these experiences, Dr. Johnson’s research found some lasting impacts as reported by respondents, and he concludes by briefly discussing the effects of entity encounters on religious belief.
In this episode:
- What questions science can and can’t answer, and the boundaries good scientific research has to take when investigating something such as DMT entities
- The findings of Dr. Johnson’s survey research—some general trends regarding the qualities of entities described
- Effects of entity encounters on religious belief
“My bet is that if people believe that there’s some sort of reality to these disincarnated entities—that it’s not just in their mind—there are certain people that can hold that experience in a positive way that might benefit them… and probably some of these over 2,000 folks, there’s probably some people that—again, aside from whether we know it’s true or not—believing in things that no one else can prove are there is probably a bad thing.” [12:38]
“The machine elf thing, I mean, that was Terrence McKenna’s trip. And he described it—and I think he was very honest that that was his experience—and I think people who’ve heard his experience, a good number of them have had machine elf experiences because they heard Terrence McKenna’s experience.” [16:17]
“Before the experience, 28% of these people identified as atheist, and then after the encounter that dropped to 10%.” [20:53]
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Psilocin vs. Psilocybin: Differences & Potential Clinical Uses with Josh Woolley, MD, PhD
46:06In this episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast, Dr. Josh Woolley joins to discuss the differences between psilocin and psilocybin, and to share upcoming clinical research which will further clarify the safety profiles, subjective effects, and clinical uses of these psychedelic substances. Dr. Woolley is an Associate Professor in Residence in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) as well as a staff psychiatrist in Mental Health at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center (SFVAMC). He is Board Certified in Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He is the Director of the Bonding and Attunement in Neuropsychiatric Disorders (BAND) lab at UCSF that focuses on understanding and treating social deficits in neuropsychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, substance use disorders, and mood disorders. He is also the Director of the Translational Psychedelic Research (TrPR) Program at UCSF, which brings together scientists and care providers across disciplines to understand how psilocybin, LSD, ketamine, MDMA, and related compounds impact the brain and other organ systems. In this conversation, Dr. Woolley begins by sharing a bit about TrPR and the upcoming research they will be conducting on psychedelics as a treatment for depression in individuals living with Parkinson's disease. Dr. Woolley then introduces the main topic of psilocin, psilocybin, and the differences between these two compounds. He explains that psilocybin is a prodrug for psilocin, meaning that the human body metabolizes psilocybin into psilocin, which is the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects produced by psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Dr. Woolley’s upcoming research will provide more concrete data on the differences between these two compounds, as TrPR will be testing both psilocybin and psilocin in healthy volunteers, giving each participant both substances on different occasions so that effects can be studied both across the sample pool and within individuals. Dr. Woolley hypothesizes that psilocin could have certain clinical advantages over psilocybin: it could produce more consistent effects person-to-person at a given dose as individual differences in metabolism would be less relevant; it may more quickly induce a psychedelic experience, particularly when administering psilocin sublingually; and it is possible there may be fewer side effects related to the gastrointestinal tract. Dr. Woolley closes out the discussion by sharing other upcoming research to be conducted by TrPR. In addition to the study investigating psilocin and the research into psychedelics for Parkinson's disease, TrPR is also investigating the use of psychedelics to improve quality of life for individuals suffering from chronic pain and they will also be further investigating the interaction between psychedelics and bipolar disorder. In this episode: The approach of the Translational Psychedelic Research (TrPR) Program and its upcoming research The pharmacological differences between psilocybin and psilocin and how the experience induced by the substances may differ In-subject study design and how it is used in Dr. Woolley’s psilocin trials The mechanisms for tolerance with using psychedelic drugs Data on the contraindication of psychedelic use for individuals with bipolar disorder Quotes: “For a long time, when you make [psilocin] synthetically—[...]—psilocin wasn’t stable. So, even if you made psilocin synthetically you would then turn it into psilocybin so it would be stable and then people would take it and it would get turned back into psilocin.” [8:39] “You can’t do sublingual psilocybin because it won’t get broken down easily. But, sublingual psilocin doesn’t need to be metabolized and it can go across your buccal membrane, skipping the gut. That theoretically could be useful because then you might skip the first pass metabolism, it doesn’t have to go to the liver, and it might be faster that way and maybe again more consistent. And fewer side effects—maybe you won’t get any GI side effects if it doesn’t go to the GI tract.” [19:58] “We think that psychedelics—psilocybin in particular—might be able to change people’s relationship to their [chronic] pain. It might be an analgesic too—it might make the pain go away, that would be great. But even if it doesn’t do that, we think that it should allow people to basically find the pain less impairing.” [41:22] Links: The Translational Psychedelic Research (TrPR) Program at UCSF Psychedelic Medicine Association Porangui
Encore episode: Microdosing Q&A with James Fadiman
1:31:57James Fadiman, PhD, was a part of the first wave of pioneering psychedelic researchers in the 1960s in the US. He’s the co-founder of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, now known as Sofia University, and he’s the author of several well-known psychedelics books, including The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide. From his initial rediscovery of microdosing and developing a protocol based on early reports, Dr. Fadiman teamed up with Dr. Sophia Korb to record and pattern-map the microdosing experiences of several thousand individuals from 51 countries. In this episode, Dr. Fadiman answers listener-submitted questions regarding microdosing psilocybin and LSD. He discussed dosing recommendations, tolerance, microdosing's general effects on healthy normals, and its specific effects on a number of conditions, ranging from depression to PMS. He also covered a variety of additional areas where people benefit from microdosing, including academic performance and athletics. In the last part of the episode, Dr. Fadiman discusses his new book, Your Symphony of Selves. He points out that we have not one, but a multitude of selves, and that we can learn to shift between them consciously. Further following this idea, he illustrates how we can save a lot of mental distress by not over-identifying with any particular one of our selves, and how we can extend that concept to those around us. This helps us not only forgive others when one of their selves may have acted in a displeasing way but also helps us forgive and go easy on ourselves when we act in a way that we later find distressing or shameful. In this episode: The reported benefits and risks of microdosing psilocybin mushrooms and LSD. Whether someone’s height and weight makes a difference on their dosage. The overwhelming number of those suffering from depression who reported significant improvements in their survey. Why microdosing may not be advisable for those with anxiety. Dr. Fadminan reports on study findings regarding conditions including depression, PMS, migraine headaches, and bipolar Quotes: “A lot of people have found that when they’re tapering off of an SSRI, which means taking it down very, very slowly over a period of maybe a couple of months from full dose to zero, that microdosing helps. That makes it easier. Makes it maybe even a little faster.” [14:13] “I’m an enthusiast for the effect of microdosing, but I never recommend that anyone microdose. That’s a personal decision based on information, but the nice thing is the risk/reward ratio, which is how dangerous versus how beneficial. It’s very good for microdosing. Meaning, if you take it, it’s very low risk, and yeah, from the reports, we have a lot of possibility of benefits.” [35:00] “What we’ve found is that about 80% of the people who come in with heavy depression, and again, most of them having failed medications or other therapies, we’ve about an 80% turnaround rate where they’re not depressed. That’s really striking.” [42:00] “They (students) say: “Microdosing is very much like Adderall, except with none of the very disturbing side effects.” Adderall includes crashing, by the way. And addiction.” [49:18] “Individual neurons in the laboratory, exposed to microdoses, grow into more healthy, more complex neurons with more dendrites, meaning more communication capacity.” [52:17] In discussing his new book, Your Symphony of Selves: “The inconsistencies you see in yourself and particularly in the people you love are not inconsistencies. It is that they have several selves, and you do too. And if you begin to think in that way, curiously, the world becomes easier. You understand things differently and you are kinder to yourself and more compassionate to others.” [1:10:43] Links: Psychedelic Medicine AssociationMicrodosing Psychedelics James Fadiman’s website and email: [email protected] Cluster Busters - treatment for cluster headaches Get 20% off everything at Octagon Biolabs with coupon code 'plantmedicine' Porangui Studies mentioned:Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity Books Mentioned: A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide by James Fadiman PhD Your Symphony of Selves by James Fadiman PhD, Jordan Gruber JD
Delta-8 THC: Your Questions Answered with Dr. Carey Clark
32:09This episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast features a conversation with Dr. Carey Clark, discussing delta-8 THC. Dr. Clark is a registered nurse and an expert in cannabis care nursing. She holds a PhD from the California Institute of Integral Studies and is the immediate past president of the American Cannabis Nurses Association. She is also the editor and author of the first nursing textbook on medical cannabis Cannabis: A Handbook for Nurses and has over thirty publications in academic journals. Currently Dr. Clark serves as a professor at Pacific College of Health and Science where she also developed the first college-level, academic certificate in medical cannabis. In this conversation Dr. Clark introduces delta-8 THC, discussing its chemistry, pharmacology, and legal status. She begins by sharing that delta-8 is a minor cannabinoid which exists naturally in small quantities within cannabis and hemp. Delta-8 THC is chemically very similar to delta-9 THC—the primary cannabinoid within cannabis which is known for its mind-altering and medicinal properties—and in fact, delta-9 naturally degrades into delta-8 under certain conditions. Due to the structural similarities, delta-8 produces similar effects to delta-9, and may have similar medical applications. Dr. Clark mentions that delta-8 may be synthesized from CBD, allowing for this compound to be readily produced from legal components. However, the delta-8 which results from these synthesis methods contains traces of unknown compounds, perhaps as a result of the particular solvents used in the reaction, so Dr. Clark cautions that consuming these products could have certain risks, though the delta-8 cannabinoid itself is thought to have a similar safety profile to delta-9 THC. Instead. Dr. Clark emphasizes that whole plant medicines are likely the ideal for patients seeking to treat medical conditions with cannabis, but since delta-8 may be more readily available in certain areas due to its murky legal status it may be the best option for some individuals. While scientific research into delta-8 is currently lacking, Dr. Clark shares the results from a few studies which use animal models and one study looking at the effects of delta-8 in the context of pediatric oncology. In addition to these published studies, Dr. Clark also shares anecdotal reports from patients, saying that these experiences are crucial, preferring to think of these reports as qualitative data which has yet to be systematically studied. In this episode: What delta-8 THC is and how it is made Potential safety concerns with delta-8 products The current research on delta-8 The legal grey-area of delta-8 THC and states which have banned the cannabinoid Differences in the doses and effects of delta-8 and delta-9 THC Quotes: “My hope as well is that people who are able to access whole-plant medicine can really use whole-plant medicine safely and effectively and they have access to safe, effective medicines. That would be my recommendation—if somebody had a choice—over choosing a really synthesized medicine at this point because of the safety issues.” [15:30] “[T]there’s still very little research and most of the patient experience we’re hearing is really anecdotal.” [24:52] Links: Dr. Clark’s faculty page at Pacific College of Health and Science Psychedelic Medicine Association Porangui
Psychedelics and Breathwork with Kyle Buller
43:58This episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast features a conversation with Kyle Buller on psychedelics and breathwork. Kyle is co-founder and host of the Psychedelics Today podcast and he has studied breathwork since October 2010 with Lenny and Elizabeth Gibson of Dreamshadow Transpersonal Breathwork. Kyle earned his BA in transpersonal psychology from Burlington College where he focused on the healthing potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness, exploring topics such as shamanism, reiki, plant medicine, and holotropic breathwork. He has also earned an MS in clinical mental health counseling with emphasis in somatic psychology and has since worked with at-risk teens in crisis and individuals experiencing an early episode of psychosis. Kyle opens this discussion by providing a basic definition of breathwork and sharing his own journey with this modality. He discusses how breathwork can refer to a wide variety of practices, but what unites these disparate techniques is utilizing the breath to induce specific physiological states and experiences. The holotropic style of breathwork has roots in transpersonal psychology and the work of Stanislav Grof and it is this modality which is often compared to psychedelic experiences. Kyle discusses how holotropic breathwork can be an incredibly powerful practice for trauma-healing and inducing visceral experiences—similar to the classical psychedelics. He recounts his own experiences with this practice, describing how he was able to relive the experience of being born in the state conditioned by the method of breathing. Due to the synergy with the psychedelic experience, Kyle mentions that there is a lot of potential for breathwork to help individuals integrate or prepare for psychedelic experiences, as well as being a powerful tool for clinicians involved in psychedelic-psychotherapy to better understand the non-ordinary states of consciousness their patients will be experiencing. Because of the wide variety of breathwork techniques, Kyle discusses the possibilities of tailoring practices to the specific experiences of a client. Everyone has a unique “window of tolerance” depending on their background and constitution, and some people will benefit more from techniques which downregulate the nervous system and allow for peace and relaxation, while others may find more value in techniques which are highly stimulating and provide deeper, emotionally complex experiences that allow for self-exploration. In this episode: What breathwork is an how it relates to psychedelics The origins of holotropic breathwork and Stanislav Grof’s transpersonal framework Breathwork vs meditation How to use breathwork to integrate and prepare for psychedelic experiences The effects of different types of breathing on the nervous system Quotes: “[Breathwork] offered a really great tool for training, for understanding how to sit with people in non-ordinary states of consciousness.” [8:49] “Some breathing techniques, like these more deeply cathartic techniques, they’re bringing up a lot of emotional memory and people are starting to work through a lot of somatic sensations, they are working through trauma.” [13:38] “We really need to look at somebody’s whole picture, where they’re at, how they could potentially benefit, look at their nervous system, attune to that, and really think about what they could tolerate, what’s going on in somebody’s psyche.” [30:29] “The breath is this flexible tool, it’s a vehicle—we can help to regulate our nervous system with it and explore it.” [39:38] Links: Psychedelics Today Psychedelics Today Education Center SettingSun Wellness Dreamshadow Transpersonal Breathwork Psychedelic Medicine Association Porangui
Avoiding the Pitfalls of Psychedelic Medicine with Matthew Johnson, PhD
23:17In this episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast, Matt Johnson, PhD returns for the final installment to discuss his recent paper “Consciousness, Religion, and Gurus: Pitfalls of Psychedelic Medicine.” Dr. Johnson is the associate director at the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University, where he also works as a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. He has published widely in the field of psychedelic science and has guided over one hundred psychedelic experiences. In 2019 Dr. Johnson was the president of the psychopharmacology division of the American Psychological Association, and he currently serves as the president of the International Society for the Research on Psychedelics. In his paper, Dr. Johnson explores some concerns around certain norms which have developed in psychedelic therapy, and how these could have potential negative effects. Dr. Johnson raises two main concerns in this conversation. The first is how therapists, guides, and scientific researchers could advance various spiritual or religious beliefs within the therapeutic context or offer metaphysical interpretations of psychedelic experiences beyond what the client suggests. The second concern involves how psychedelic medicine is presented, both on a cultural level and even materially within therapeutic settings. For example, Dr. Johnson suggests that it is inappropriate to have statues of the Buddha displayed in clinical settings, unless this is something requested by the client. He suggests that if psychedelic therapy embraces a certain “New Age” aesthetic wholesale, it could dissuade people who don’t identify with the subculture from taking advantage of these therapies, especially as these medicines become more widely accessible. Additionally, Dr. Johnson points out that not all patients would have the same associations with the Buddha statue in the example, and that the inclusion of any particular religious iconography should be something chosen proactively by the client, rather than assumed by the therapist. Dr. Johnson concludes this conversation by again stressing a client-centered approach to psychedelic therapy, suggesting that this approach is best suited to circumvent these concerning pitfalls. In this episode: The issue with psychedelic therapists or guides bringing their own metaphysical beliefs into the psychedelic experience or its interpretation How the current culture around psychedelic medicine subtly presents these therapies as being for specific kinds of people How a client-centered approach from humanistic psychology can present an effective framework for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy Quotes: “I think it’s critical that therapists—and scientists at this research phase we’re at now—be client-centered in terms of the therapeutic approach. In other words, not making any assumptions for the participants, for the patients, about what the interpretation of these experiences should be.” [4:36] “You’re there to support them, you’re there to let them lead. If there’s any metaphysical meaning to be made, they are in the driver’s seat. You’re there to create a safe container, to care for their wellbeing, and to allow them to have their experience.” [11:08] “It’s not that you’re denying any of this stuff—it very well may be that any of these people’s framework is ground truth—it’s just not your role to say and we don’t need to.” [15:06] Links: Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins (contribute to survey research here) Dr. Johnson’s Paper: Consciousness, Religion, and Gurus: Pitfalls of Psychedelic Medicine Psychedelic Medicine Association Porangui
Exploring DMT Entities with Matthew Johnson, PhD
26:13In this episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast, Matt Johnson, PhD returns to discuss previous survey research he conducted regarding DMT entities. Dr. Johnson is the associate director at the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University, where he also works as a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. He has published widely in the field of psychedelic science and has guided over one hundred psychedelic experiences. In 2019 Dr. Johnson was the president of the psychopharmacology division of the American Psychological Association, and he currently serves as the president of the International Society for the Research on Psychedelics. In this conversation, Dr. Johnson shares findings from his 2020 publication of survey research which investigates peoples’ experiences with DMT entities. To preface these findings, however, Dr. Johnson first lays the groundwork by explaining the limitations of scientific investigation into these kinds of psychic phenomena. He explains that science is unable to answer questions of whether or not DMT entities are ultimately real, or what the fundamental nature of these experiences is. It can, however, employ rigorous methods for analyzing reports of entity encounters in order to document common features of these experiences and the types of effects they can have on individuals. In the survey, around twenty five hundred respondents shared their experiences of encountering an entity during a DMT experience. From the data collected, Dr. Johnson shares some of the common features of these entities. The beings are typically perceived as benevolent though there was a wide variety of ways the entities were conceptualized, ranging from aliens and machine elves to spirits and angels. Often participants believed the entities revealed metaphysical realities and the presence of these beings was frequently accompanied by extrasensory phenomena such as telepathic communication. Due to the dramatic nature of these experiences, Dr. Johnson’s research found some lasting impacts as reported by respondents, and he concludes by briefly discussing the effects of entity encounters on religious belief. In this episode: What questions science can and can’t answer, and the boundaries good scientific research has to take when investigating something such as DMT entities The findings of Dr. Johnson’s survey research—some general trends regarding the qualities of entities described Effects of entity encounters on religious belief Quotes: “My bet is that if people believe that there’s some sort of reality to these disincarnated entities—that it’s not just in their mind—there are certain people that can hold that experience in a positive way that might benefit them… and probably some of these over 2,000 folks, there’s probably some people that—again, aside from whether we know it’s true or not—believing in things that no one else can prove are there is probably a bad thing.” [12:38] “The machine elf thing, I mean, that was Terrence McKenna’s trip. And he described it—and I think he was very honest that that was his experience—and I think people who’ve heard his experience, a good number of them have had machine elf experiences because they heard Terrence McKenna’s experience.” [16:17] “Before the experience, 28% of these people identified as atheist, and then after the encounter that dropped to 10%.” [20:53] Links: Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins (contribute to survey research here) Dr. Johnson’s DMT Entity Study: Survey of Entity Encounter Experiences Occasioned by Inhaled N,N-Dimethyltryptamine: Phenomenology, Interpretation, and Enduring Effects Psychedelic Medicine Association Porangui
The Latest Research on Psilocybin for Depression with Matthew Johnson, PhD
30:58In this episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast, Matt Johnson, PhD joins to discuss the latest research of psilocybin as a treatment for depression. Dr. Johnson is the associate director at the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University, where he also works as a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. He has published widely in the field of psychedelic science and has guided over one hundred psychedelic experiences. In 2019 Dr. Johnson was the president of the psychopharmacology division of the American Psychological Association, and he currently serves as the president of the International Society for the Research on Psychedelics. In this conversation, Dr. Johnson shares findings from his recent study in psilocybin treatment for depression and summarizes other major studies investigating this psychedelic’s clinical applications. First, however, he discusses ongoing survey research he is conducting at the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Studies. The Psychedelic Change Survey for Anxiety, Depression, or PTSD is seeking volunteers who have intentionally used psychedelics (ayahuasca, mushrooms, LSD) or MDMA to treat these mental health conditions to collect data on the efficacy of these interventions. Dr. Johnson and his team are interested in collecting a variety of responses, so you are encouraged to participate to share your experiences with these substances and whether they provided beneficial results, led to negative outcomes, or anything in between. Dr. Johnson also spends some time discussing study design, as psilocybin research has begun to move into more sophisticated forms of clinical research. He describes the function of a randomized clinical trial such as his own study, and details the double-blind double-dummy setup of the recent psilocybin study at NYU. In his study, Dr. Johnson’s participants were randomly selected for the immediate treatment group or the delayed treatment group, which served as a control. All participants were provided with two sessions of psilocybin assisted psychotherapy, and the data showed that there were large reductions in depression following treatment and these results remained statistically significant at follow ups. In the NYU study, Dr. Johnson describes that participants were given either a genuine psilocybin treatment followed by a placebo antidepressant to take regularly, or they were given a placebo in place of psilocybin followed by an approved antidepressant. This large study is particularly interesting as it directly compares psilocybin treatment for depression with traditional pharmaceuticals used to treat this condition. Here again, Dr. Johnson reports that the psilocybin treatment showed extremely promising results. In this episode: Conditions for participating in Dr. Johnson’s current survey research How Dr. Johnson designs his studies and chooses how he analyzes the data collected The results of the first randomized study examining the use of psilocybin for depression How the preparation process for psilocybin-assisted therapy may be clinically useful as a standalone treatment Quotes: “We and the group at NYU published larger studies with a high dose of psilocybin and found these very large reductions in both depression and anxiety in cancer patients, so that sorta paved the way for, hey if this works in cancer patients let’s look more broadly.” [19:42] “I kind of view psychedelic therapy as sort of having everything we know about general psychotherapeutic processes under a magnifying glass.” [23:12] “I think it’s fallen out of fashion, but if we just had people laying on couches all day with therapists they’ve developed a relationship with—if that was more of a thing, even without psychedelics or placebo psychedelics, that has real benefit.” [28:30] Links: Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins (contribute to survey research here) Dr. Johnson’s Recent Study: Effects of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy on Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial NYU Psilocybin Study: Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial Psychedelic Medicine Association Porangui
People of Color and Psychedelics with Ifetayo Harvey & Mary Sanders, LCSW
48:52In this episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast, Ifetayo Harvey & Mary Sanders, LCSW join to discuss people of color and psychedelics. Ifetayo is a writer, advocate and speaker who founded the People of Color Psychedelic Collective. She has also previously worked with both MAPS and the Drug Policy Alliance. Mary Sanders is a licensed clinical social worker whose work focuses on addressing trauma in communities of color and marginalized populations. She is a founding board member at the People of Color Psychedelic Collective and is a trained psychedelic-assisted psychotherapist from both CIIS and MAPS. Mary is also certified in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and is currently enrolled at the somatic experiencing trauma institute. This conversation with Ifetayo and Mary touches on many of the important topics in the intersection of the unique experiences of people of color and the use of psychedelic medicines. One immediate concern which has begun to be discussed more openly is that of POC representation in psychedelic spaces. Ifetayo and Mary both discuss this issue, mentioning how representation is especially crucial for something as vulnerable as psychedelic experiences, where facilitators are responsible for navigating a wide range of emotions which naturally arise in a ceremony or therapeutic setting. Having someone from one's own community in these spaces can facilitate healing, as there is less anxiety around needing to explain specific experiences or trauma. Despite these shortcomings of representation, psychedelic medicines have a lot of potential to provide healing for people of color in particular. Ifetayo and Mary discuss the experience of intergenerational trauma in communities of color and how psychedelics are able to shed light on this phenomenon. Ifetayo shares powerful experiences from the first People of Color Psychedelic Collective retreat before the pandemic and explains her own coming to consciousness of the brutality of slavery and Jim Crow and how dysfunctional behaviors which perpetrate intergenerational trauma originally developed as survival mechanisms for the black Americans who lived under these racist systems. Mary also emphasizes that psychedelic healing for people of color needs to emphasize building community and creating strong interpersonal bonds. While the individual experiences provided by plant medicines are incredibly beneficial, the healing will be even more profound if it can be processed and integrated collectively, as people of color aren’t only healing individual ailments, but collective traumas rooted in shared histories of oppression. In this episode: The unique needs of POC not typically addressed in psychedelic ceremonies or integration circles The disconnect between the Western therapeutic paradigm of healing individuals vs the more communal approaches to healing in traditional black cultures and how to bridge this gap How People of Color Psychedelic Collective creates community and fosters opportunities for people of color involved with psychedelics The intersection of intergenerational trauma and psychedelic healing for people of color Quotes: “Taking a medicine is a vulnerable state, where we have to be cautious: am I going to be minimized, are my visions going to be acknowledged and held with support and love and care?” [8:27] “Healing is relational and it’s so important that we not only do the work in the therapy space but that we’re out and about with our friends and our family and our community members, especially our community members that have similar life experiences and histories.” [19:24] “There’s a very very strong stigma around addiction [and] overdose because our communities have been harmed in so many ways by policing and bad drug policies.” [25:22] “I think it’s really about uplifting the people who are already doing the work and then also supporting the folks who want to do the work, like providing them with resources, education, mentorship. Things like that will help usher in a new generation of [POC] healers, practitioners, leaders.” [39:35] Links: People of Color Psychedelic Collective Mary Sanders’ EmPATH Center Drug Policy Alliance Dr. Carl Hart’s Webpage National Harm Reduction Coalition Darren Springer’s Webpage Fruiting Bodies Collective Psychedelic Medicine Association Porangui
Can Ayahuasca Help Promote Palestinian-Israeli Reconciliation? With Dr. Leor Roseman & Antwan Saca
36:15In this episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast, Leor Roseman and Antwan Saca join to discuss their recently published paper: Relational Processes in Ayahuasca Groups of Palestinians and Israelis. Leor is a postdoc at the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, where he also received his PhD and masters under the supervision of Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris. Leor has diverse research interests related to psychedelics, ranging from the neuroscientific and therapeutic, to the phenomenological and psychosocial. Antwan is a graduate of the Arab American University of Jenin with a BA in public law and has extensive experience working for justice in Palestine. He has served as the director of programs at Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem and as a program coordinator for Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation. Antwan has also worked as a research assistant for urbanization and geopolitical monitoring at the Applied Research Institute—Jerusalem. In this episode, Leor and Antwan discuss the details of the recent paper they co-authored which deals with impacts of ayahuasca on interpersonal peace building in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The study consists of 31 in-depth interviews with Israelis and Palestinians who’ve participated in joint ayahuasca ceremonies and looks to investigate the impact of this psychedelic experience along three relational themes: unity-based connection, recognition and difference-based connection, and conflict-related revelations. Through open-ended interviews, Leor and Antwan were able to collect qualitative data from participants which allowed research conclusions to arise organically. In the interviews, participants disclosed experiences of profound political revelations, connection with the land, and empathy for the other. Leor and Antwan stress that the initial motivations of the participants typically had little to do with notions of political peace-building and instead they were most often participating in these psychedelic ceremonies for reasons related to personal growth, so these outcomes arose naturally as a result of the intense interpersonal connections spurred by the psychedelic experience. Though these ayahuasca ceremonies had significant positive impacts for both the Israelis and the Palestinian participants, Antwan notes the disparity of access to psychedelic healing for Palestinians and emphasizes that the “love for the other” the Palestinian participants experienced through the ayahuasca ceremonies is complicated due to the pervasive political supression and percarity experienced by Palestinians in their day-to-day lives. The study, however, demonstrates that profound experiences of connection through the use of psychedelic medicines are possible even in the context of a deep and traumatic geopolitical conflict. This opens the door for further study of the potential of psychedelics to facilitate conflict resolution and peace-building. In this episode: How Leor and Antwan developed the idea for this study based on their personal backgrounds Different themes which came up in interviews with the Israelis and Palestinians in the study The moving story of a former Israeli military officer and how he experienced the pain of the Palestinian people during an ayahuasca ceremony How music and prayer in the ceremonies helped to encourage empathy and cultural connection among participants Quotes: “It’s not questionnaires, it’s not about measuring things, it’s about listening to stories and making meaning out of them.” [13:24] “Because the rituals were participatory and music and prayers were shared, a lot of times these opened up for people the strong connection to the other culture or the other people and that was very meaningful for many people.” [21:34] “A lot of us Palestinians end up in the interviews telling you ‘this is all amazing’ and yet there is the reality, yet we live under this kind of suppression.” [29:11] “Not all people that came to the ceremonies came from the peace camp or from left-leaning camps. They come for psycho-spiritual growth, or even for physical illnesses… And they go there regardless of their politics.” [31:37] Links: Full Article: Relational Processes in Ayahuasca Groups of Palestinians and Israelis Psychedelic Medicine Association Porangui
Psychedelics and Nature: The Symbiotic Relationship with Dr. Sam Gandy
41:56This episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast welcomes Dr. Sam Gandy to discuss the symbiotic relationship between psychedelic experiences and connection with nature. Dr. Gandy holds a PhD in ecological science from the University of Aberdeen and has conducted field research across the globe. He currently works as a research assistant at the Synthesis Institute and as a senior science writer at Wavepaths. He is also a collaborator with the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London and was previously a scientific assistant to the director of the Beckley Foundation. In this conversation, Dr. Gandy shares insights from his research into psychedelics and nature relatedness with special emphasis on his 2020 publication “The Potential Synergistic Effects between Psychedelic Administration and Nature Contact for the Improvement of Mental Health” (linked below). Dr. Gandy discusses the numerous overlaps between the experience of nature relatedness—the personal sense of being connected with the natural world—and the experiences induced by psychedelic substances. These overlaps cover a range of domains and all work to promote wellbeing. For example, Dr. Gandy reports that neuroticism decreases both as a result of positive psychedelic experiences and from spending quality time in nature. As high neuroticism can correlate with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, interventions that can impact this trait have significant therapeutic potential. In addition to specific overlaps between the psychedelic experience and nature relatedness, Dr. Gandy also discusses how psychedelics and psilocybin in particular seem to increase a sense of nature relatedness. Considering these overlapping benefits and the symbiotic relationship between psychedelics and nature relatedness, Dr. Gandy provides some speculations for how nature can be more intentionally integrated into psychedelic therapies and ceremonies to maximize the therapeutic benefits of both. He mentions that even something as small as decorating a clinical setting with artwork depicting nature can have positive impacts for patients undergoing psychedelic psychotherapy in the space. In this episode: Eudaimonic vs hedonic well being The neurobiological and psychological overlaps between nature relatedness and the psychedelic experience How both psychedelics and nature relatedness promote mindfulness and experiences of awe Ideas for combining psychedelic therapy and experiences of nature to enhance health benefits Quotes: “Nature connectedness is a mediator for some of the benefits to cognition and mood obtained from actually spending time in nature, having contact with nature.” [6:57] “There was a study published last year by a Finnish research group and one of the most common after effects of psychedelic mystical experiences they found was this sustained, positive shift in peoples’ relationship to nature.” [17:35] “Psilocybin has this capacity to facilitate this fairly robust, rapid, but most importantly sustained increase in nature relatedness. And the really mysterious and interesting thing is that it can do this even when it's administered in a clinical setting.” [22:47] “The restorative effect of nature obviously benefits both the person having the therapy and the therapist, and it potentially allows for the outdoor nature-based setting to become part of the therapy itself.” [31:00] “If you’re going to do any kind of psychedelic nature connection, nature immersion therapy, it’s very important to have a cozy, secure structure that people have got as a safe place.” [35:31] Links: Dr. Gandy on Twitter Dr. Gandy’s 2020 article The Potential Synergistic Effects between Psychedelic Administration and Nature Contact for the Improvement of Mental Health Dr. Gandy’s 2019 article From Egoism to Ecoism: Psychedelics Increase Nature Relatedness in a State-Mediated and Context-Dependent Manner Psychedelic Medicine Association Porangui