One week ago, Alan Aldous was deep into a two-day virtual psychedelic conference that momentarily connected scientists, advocates, caregivers, psychonauts, and people that build and invest in businesses on the topic we all want to talk about—psychedelic substances and how they will play a bigger part of our post-pandemic reality.
One attendee’s account of the conference captured a lot of the scope of the event in just one sentence, writing that the “growth of the emerging psychedelics sector will play out in the context of clinical trials, decriminalization and taxation, professional oversight, funding, public perception, and it necessitates paying attention and credit to the indigenous cultures that developed and refined the use of healing plant medicines.”
What’s better, legalization or decriminalization? And which model provides the widest access to patients? Our panellists João Taborda da Gama, Sam Chapman, Aaron Genuth, Jack Lloyd, Ryan Munevar (with the moderator, Henri Sant Cassia) discussed the deep limitations of going legal and focusing singularly on the medical model, which favours white males as subjects and doesn’t do enough to establish differences in effects for female and ethnic populations.
Phase 3 trial requirements create an enormous barrier in the medical model already, and these considerations are important ones before operators start pouring millions of dollars into clinical trials. There was one thing that seemed to be agreed upon unanimously, which was an answer to the question about who should determine who has access to psychedelics? Not those who don’t take psychedelics!
The Science Day 1 panel, featured Natalia Vorobyeva, Jan Ramaekers, Matthew Cook MD, Dana Beal, and Jeremy Weate PhD, with Henri Sant-Cassia as moderator.
After the Science panel, we had a special guest, Sophia the Robot, open the Technology panel of the virtual psychedelic conference featuring Nikolai Vassev, Sarah Hashkes, Anil Seth, Tyler Bryden, Robin Arnott, and Stacey Wallin. Sophia is the property of Hudson Robotics but is in quarantine with the very dynamic and entertaining Sarah Rose Siskind, who moderated the Ethics panel, featuring Jerry Brown, Shelby Hartman, Daan Keiman, Marta Kaczmarczyk.
In the Patient Experience panel of the virtual psychedelic conference, Luc van Poelje, Irie Selkirk, Psil Silva and Dr. Erica Zelfand talked about psychedelic experiences and the role of the guide, whether done in a clinical or non-clinical setting, such as a retreat. Irie, who says she’s been a cognitive libertarian her entire life, spoke about the work Rise Wellness is doing with veterans in Jamaica. “The reality of a harm reduction approach is that we say no to more people than we say yes to.”
Psil talked about psychedelic experiences, ego loss, connecting with nature, spiritual experiences, as well as using psychedelics to empower us in our everyday lives without doing them all the time.
Luc van Poelje talked about his involvement in setting up screening services for medical mental health applications. “How can you prepare someone for this without scaring them? That is the balancing act that we do.” There is a fragile legal framework around usage, and we have to protect these experiences and clients. “We have to guard it, very professionally.”
Dr. Zelfand talked about how feelings of existential loss drove her to explore psychedelics for her patients. She also talked about how a patient’s shame over their body manifested physically in fibromyalgia, and mentally with depression. She thinks that one’s clients can only go as deep as the provider has gone, and clients can do their work without necessarily needing to use psychedelics.
The panel answered an audience question about which psychedelic Donald Trump should take. There was one vote for MDMA because of his traumatic childhood experiences. Later on, during another panel, it was said that POTUS is one of the people for whom psychedelics wouldn’t work well because he lacks self-awareness.
The Venture Capital and Funding panel of the virtual psychedelic conference featured Bek Muslimov, Matthew Nordgren, Marik Hazan, Florian Brand, Robert Laurie, with Richard Skaife as moderator.
Rob Laurie called Ayahuasca the “SR-71 blackbird or F-22 raptor” as far as the experience goes, and said that we need skilled people to successfully navigate others through these experiences. Richard told us that his favourite psychedelic is MDMA, and his explanation of the investment relationships in psychedelics had an empathic glow to it. “As the first money in, you’re generally going to go on the journey the longest so how parties treat each other is really really important.”
Robert Laurie cautioned about seeing psychedelics as another cannabis-like play. “A lot of people show interest in psychedelics based on the perceived success of the cannabis industry, psychedelics is much more complicated. Unlike cannabis where we had 25 years of medical jurisprudence, we do not have the same with psychedelics, we now have people in the car going 100 miles per hour in different directions. We have companies asking for money to help them design the legal and regulatory environments, you need to invest not only in the people but there has to actually be a product. Watch for who you are dealing with, what is their track record, what do they need from you other than money.”
One reason the panel gave for investing in psychedelics is the shortcomings of SSRI drugs and the phenomenon of treatment-resistant depression. The panellists talked about the Johns Hopkins study on psychedelics and mental health disorders, which not only showed safety but tremendous efficacy. The thing to remember, they agreed, is that these drugs necessitate a complete process—set, setting, preparation, and reintegration—that isn’t like drug store pharmaceuticals.
The Crossing Over from Cannabis panel of the virtual psychedelic conference featured Henri Sant-Cassia as the moderator to Patrick Moher, Deepak Anand, Will Kleidon and William Hilson.
Besides indulging us with the lesser-travelled pathways to possessing, researching and trialling cannabis, Deepak talked about Jane Philpott ‘s appearance at the UN as the first G7 health minister to be talking about legalization. “It’s not one person that’s led to this change, it’s been a collaborative effort between patients, capital market guys and licensed producers.” The truth, says Deepak, is that patients have been left behind in Canada’s legalization model.
Our own Patrick Moher spoke about his personal and professional experiences with legal cannabis brands, saying that companies are building brands based on who they think their target market is, not on pre-existing world views; they aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity to tell a good story. Henri Sant-Cassia talks about how we wouldn’t see the current momentum of psychedelics without #cannabis legalization.
The PTSD panel of the virtual psychedelic conference featured veterans Wyly Gray, Sarah Stenuf, and Jesse Gould, with former NHL players Daniel Carcillo, and Riley Cote. Daniel opened the discussion by talking about finding psilocybin on a years-long search for something that would help. He says that there’s a lot of psilocybin microdosing is going on in the NHL now.
After getting out of the military, Sarah was on 16 medications at one time for epilepsy, PTSD and other conditions; she became numb and attempted suicide. “After I took psilocybin, I saw colours I never saw before, I was able to connect with my son and laugh with him rather than getting upset.”
Jesse’s initiative, Heroic Hearts Project, sends veterans through ayahuasca experiences and answers an important question about preparing those with past trauma for a psychedelic experience without scaring them? “We don’t want to push people too far, but we do want to give them unbiased information, and when the veterans are ready we set them up with calls, coaches.”
Why are veterans and athletes so important to our understanding of psychedelics and trauma? We’ve seen it in the cannabis space, how much of an impact the sports and veteran’s communities have had on public perception. Trauma doesn’t know age, creed, religion, trauma is an aspect of the human condition. The real travesty is that it is 2020 and we are pretending these are new discoveries, indigenous cultures have known about them for a long time.
Mugglehead wrote about this panel and others in their coverage of the virtual psychedelic conference.
The CEOs panel for day one of the virtual psychedelic conference featured Simeon Schnapper Ronan Levy, Shlomi Raz, Judy Blumstock, Payton Nyquvest, and Srinivas Rao MD, PhD.
Finishing the virtual psychedelic conference day one was the Holistic Wellness panel with Kat Courtney, Paul Austin, Alexej Pikovsky, Brandi Garden, Ariel Jarvis and Mia Cosco.
Thank you for reading!
Now, read about Day 2 of the Microdose Virtual Psychedelic Conference.