Kratom: Research Findings and Methods of Use with Dr. Oliver Grundmann
This episode of the Plant Medicine Podcast features a conversation about kratom with Dr. Oliver Grundmann. Dr. Grundmann earned his bachelors in pharmacy and European pharmacy license from University of Münster in 2004, after which he pursued graduate studies at the University of Florida, where he is now a clinical professor in the College of Pharmacy. His research interests focus on investigating the use of natural products as novel treatments for a variety of physical and mental conditions. Dr. Grundmann is a leading kratom researcher and has published numerous articles on the substance, examining the plant medicine and its use using a variety of methodologies.
In this episode, Dr. Grundmann introduces kratom (scientific name mitragyna speciosa) and discusses its pharmacology and potential as both a medicine and a drug of abuse. The kratom tree is native to southeast Asia and belongs to the same botanical family as the coffee plant. The leaves of the kratom tree contain a wide variety of active alkaloids and they are consumed orally to produce a psychoactive effect.
Dr. Grundmann explains that kratom is unique because the primary alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine are opioid agonists, yet the substance does not fit neatly into the opiate category as it lacks certain properties of the classic opioids such as morphine or heroin. For example, respiratory depression is not observed with the use of kratom, while this is a hallmark effect of opioids at high doses—and one of the major dangers associated with the use of these drugs.
Another way in which kratom is unique is that its effects are highly dose dependent. At lower doses, Dr. Grundmann explains, the plant tends to have a more energizing effect, while higher doses lead to a more sedating experience.
In this conversation, Dr. Grundmann also shares insights into kratom use in America based on survey research he has conducted. While scientific research into kratom remains a small field, this type of survey research helps to give insight into the potential kratom has as a plant medicine through data which shows the variety of conditions people are attempting to treat through kratom use.
As kratom consumption increased in the United States and the plant gained notoriety, its use became associated with the treatment of chronic pain and opioid withdrawal. Dr. Grundmann’s research has been showing, however, that users are also turning to kratom for dealing with conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. These initial findings provide fertile soil for further research into kratom’s potential medicinal applications.
In this episode:
- The pharmacology of mitragyna speciosa
- The legality of kratom in the United States
- The current state of scientific research into the effects of kratom consumption
- Contraindications for kratom use
- Potential uses for kratom to treat both mental and physical ailments
- Various methods for kratom consumption
“Just because a substance binds to an opioid receptor doesn’t mean that it shows all of the same properties as, for example, morphine, or oxycodone, or fentanyl, or heroin.” [14:20]
“When we talk here one to five grams per dose, three times a day—the potential to develop a use disorder, kratom use disorder, basically, is relatively low. When we talk about really taking high amounts of an extract or also of the powder for example, let’s say above eight grams, ten grams per dose, more frequently—four, five, eight times a day—then there is the potential to develop a dependence on it.” [18:52]
“Between 70%–85%… [of] folks were in the range of one to five grams and didn’t have to go above five grams to maintain alleviation of their symptoms for which they are using kratom… That indicates to me that there’s no risk of tolerance up to five grams per dose.” [22:53]
“Surprisingly, we had a large group now in the second survey who were using it to treat—self-treat—symptoms of ADHD or PTSD and nothing else aside from that. So it’s really a very diverse population of users that we’re seeing with kratom.” [25:09]
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Psychedelic Therapies for Pain with Joel Castellanos, MD
29:50In this episode of the Psychedelic Medicine Podcast, Joel Castellanos joins to discuss the emerging topic of psychedelic therapies for pain-related conditions. Dr. Castellanos is a Board certified physical medicine and rehabilitation and pain management physician and an associate professor in the department of anesthesiology at UC San Diego school of medicine. He earned his medical degree from University of Toledo college of medicine and has since completed a two year program in healthcare administration during his residency at University of Michigan, as well as a fellowship in pain medicine at UC San Diego school of medicine. Most recently he completed the integrative medicine fellowship from the University of Arizona. In this conversation, Dr. Castellanos introduces the topic of psychedelics as a therapeutic modality for various pain conditions. Dr. Castellanos explains that much of the pain management field focuses on neuromodulation as the basis for particular therapeutic techniques, so psychedelics—which have profound modulating effects within the brain—naturally seem promising. However, research into this topic is still developing, with studies from the seventies providing some initial data which is now being corroborated and expanded by contemporary research. Dr. Castellanos shares the details of this work, explaining how combined psychedelic treatment and mirror box therapy could prove to be particularly efficacious for individuals suffering from phantom limb pain. In light of the upcoming trials led by Dr. Castellanos and his colleagues at the Psychedelic Health Research Initiative at UC San Diego, he also discusses certain special considerations for working with amputees as guides or facilitators of psychedelic therapy. The double blind randomized controlled trial investigating the efficacy of psilocybin therapy for phantom limb pain will be conducted first and is currently enrolling. This study seeks to test the efficacy of psilocybin therapy for this condition as well as elucidate its potential mechanism of action through brain imaging. Click here to enroll. In this episode: An overview of the literature on psychedelics and pain Albert Lin’s experience treating his phantom limb pain with combined psychedelic and mirror box therapy Why psychedelics may be a great alternative to many current treatment options for chronic pain Stories of healing resulting from psychedelic therapy in patients who have suffered with chronic pain How to enroll in Dr. Castellanos’ upcoming trial for patients with phantom limb pain Quotes: “It’s really interesting to me that neuromodulation - modulating the nervous system - is such a big part of pain medicine—and no one had really looked at psychedelics as an option when they are something that really modulates the nervous system in a profound way.” [4:24] “I don’t want people to think that this is going to be a panacea, that this is going to be the cure for everything and everyone’s pain because we need to do the research, we need to do the work and really answer the clinical question on who this is going to be most efficacious for.” [7:50] “Where there has been the most evidence so far and the most work done is in the headache patient population, which is definitely needed. There are so many people who suffer from migraines, from cluster headaches, and it can be really debilitating.” [17:45] “In the same way that patients who have had PTSD or have severe anxiety or depression it helps to do some talk therapy with those [psychedelic therapy] sessions, maybe some movement therapy during the psychedelic sessions may be beneficial [for treating pain].” [23:26] Links: Enroll in Dr. Castellanos’ upcoming study through PHRI at UCSD Dr. Castellanos on Twitter Psychedelic Health Research Initiative at UC San Diego Psychedelic Medicine Association Porangui
MDMA-Assisted Therapy for PTSD with Rick Doblin, PhD
1:18:54In this episode of the Psychedelic Medicine Podcast (formerly the Plant Medicine Podcast), Rick Doblin joins to discuss the past, present, and future of MDMA-assisted therapy. Rick Doblin is the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. He received his doctorate in public policy from Harvard and has also studied under the father of transpersonal psychology Stanislav Grof. Through MAPS, Rick aspires to develop legal contexts for beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana as prescription medicines, but also for self-development and personal growth in otherwise healthy individuals. Rick begins this wide-ranging conversation discussing the early days of MDMA. The compound was originally synthesized by famed chemist Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin and, unlike the classic serotonergic psychedelics, it was not scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act in the early 70s. It was during this period of legality that therapeutic uses of MDMA were first developed and it was only later that the drug became repurposed as a recreational substance to be used in social settings, which consequently led to its emergency scheduling by the DEA. Rick recalls his own initial experiences with the empathogenic compound, stating that he was initially skeptical of its value, prior to gaining first-hand experience. Following this experience, however, he became convinced of its therapeutic potential and he shares some of his own early experiences of using MDMA to help people heal, including a very touching tale of his own grandmother’s struggle with depression. From here, Rick discusses the founding of MAPS and his decision to pursue education in policy in order to better understand strategies for furthering MDMA-therapy even while living under prohibition. Since that time, MAPS has gone on to do incredibly impactful work in developing studies researching the safety and efficacy of MDMA-assisted therapy, specifically for post-traumatic stress disorder. Rick shares the progression of these studies, highlighting the results from the most recent phase three investigations which are the last step prior to FDA approval for the therapeutic protocol. These studies show high statistical significance and an amazing effect size resulting from MDMA-assisted therapy, with results being mirrored at all research locations and showing durability over time. Because of this amazing progress, Rick believes we are at the final stretch prior to full FDA approval for MDMA use in a therapeutic context for PTSD, and subsequent rescheduling of the substance by the DEA, which he believes will take place in mid to late 2023. This development will have broad global impacts, spurring other countries to promptly follow suit. Rick closes out this discussion by emphasizing the need for mass mental health in our day and age, and sharing MAPS’ lofty goals of training thousands of therapists to hopefully bring psychedelic therapy to millions of patients in the coming decades. In this episode: Rick Doblin’s personal journey The history of the MDMA’s synthesis and legality Rick’s first experiences with MDMA and early experiments with MDMA therapy MAPS’ “two-pronged” strategy for mass mental health Early efforts to get an MDMA therapy protocol approved by the FDA following prohibition The politics of concerns about MDMA neurotoxicity and how this impacted MAPS’ early approach The results of the first phase three studies of MDMA for PTSD How FDA approval of MDMA will lead to an international cascade of approval and rescheduling Rick’s predictions for psychedelic medicine in the years to come Quotes: “What a lot of people don’t know is that MDMA was a therapy drug before it was a party drug. And it was the party drug nature of it that really got it criminalized.” [7:38] “Seeing what it was like when it was legal and experiencing that, and experiencing situations where people would take it, the kind of experiences and healings, and learnings that people would have, was amazing.” [19:12] “What we need is, I believe, legal access to medicinal MDMA, covered by insurance, by trained professionals, and psychedelic clinics. And we also need a whole different kind of drug policy for non-medical use that involves honest drug education, access to pure substances, harm reduction, peer support, and also treatment on demand.” [21:08] “The irony here is that the first legal move against MDMA was illegal. The DEA did not have the authority to emergency schedule drugs.” [23:43] “FDA is legally bound to approve MDMA for PTSD if these [phase 3] studies generate statistically significant evidence of efficacy, and there are no new safety problems.” [40:27] “We think by the third quarter of 2023 we will have FDA approval assuming the second phase 3 study goes well. And then by the fourth quarter, the DEA has to reschedule [MDMA].” [51:18] “What’s even greater is the 12-month follow-up data was 67% no longer had PTSD. So people kept getting better—not only was it durable, but they kept getting better.” [55:00] “The thing to emphasize here is that MDMA is not the treatment. The treatment is therapy. The MDMA makes the therapy more effective and there can be different kinds of therapy that are used with it.” [1:01:38] Links: MAPS website Rick Doblin on Twitter Trip of Compassion Documentary The Way of the Psychonaut Books by Stanislav Grof Upcoming MAPS Psychedelic Science Conference 2023 Becoming an MDMA-Assisted Therapist with Shannon Carlin, MA, LMFT Psychedelic Medicine Association Porangui
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