The California Institute of Integral Studies is offering a training program for medical professionals with an interest in psychedelic research and therapy. The program, which begins in the Spring of 2016, involves 180 hours of academic training with prominent faculty, many of whom are affiliated with the Heffter Research Institute. Graduates of the program receive the Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapies and Research.
“The Certificate was created to serve a growing need for trained licensed therapist guides to facilitate in future FDA-approved psychedelic- and entactogen-assisted psychotherapy research. Research and medical experts have estimated that need at perhaps several hundred therapist guides in the next three to six years.”
The New Yorker magazine offers a detailed and insightful examination of Erowid, the online clearing house for information about psychoactive substances. Writer Emily Witt visits the rural California home of Earth and Fire Erowid, the couple behind the hugely successful web site that attracts a broad following of “drug geeks” and medical professionals.
“The average age of Erowid’s thirty thousand Twitter followers is twenty-six. The most frequently looked-at profiles are those of LSD, MDMA, and mushrooms. For years, Erowid’s traffic has declined during school breaks—a gauge of its popularity among eighteen-to-twenty-five-year-olds, the demographic most given to experimenting with drugs. Earth and Fire have spoken before the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and in 2011 the reform-minded Drug Policy Alliance gave them the Dr. Andrew Weil Award for Achievement in the Field of Drug Education. They have also co-authored several papers in peer-reviewed journals (for example, ‘Use Patterns and Self-Reported Effects of Salvia Divinorum,’ in Drug and Alcohol Dependence) and have collaborated on projects related to such drugs as hallucinogens and opiates with researchers at various institutions, including N.Y.U. and Johns Hopkins.”
In “The Psychedelic Dante,” an article in the February 6, 2015 issue of The American Conservative, writer Rod Dreher discovers parallels between the psychedelic experience and Dante’s Divine Comedy. Dreher begins by noting significant results in current psychedelic science with references to Heffter-supported research by Roland Griffiths, Tony Bossis, and Stephen Ross. Dreher emphasizes the similarity between psychedelic experience and the mystical visions described by Dante.
An article on the front page of today’s Wisconsin State Journal covers a a new research study on psilocybin at the University of Wisconsin. In UW Madison tunes in to “magic mushroom” medicine, writer David Wahlberg describes the work of researcher Paul Hutson and his team at the UW School of Pharmacy. Hutson enlisted 12 volunteers for three sessions with psilocybin at doses of 20, 30, and 40 mg per 70 kg of body weight. During each session, the research team collected blood and urine samples to analyze how the body absorbs and eliminates psilocybin. This fundamental research will pave the way for future clinical studies.
An article by Heffter researcher Matthew Johnson and his colleagues is bringing international media attention to the promise of psychedelic therapy. “Psychedelic Medicine: A Reemerging Therapeutic Paradigm,” published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, reviews the use of psychedelics for treating serious disorders including anxiety, addiction, and PTSD. The authors conclude that psychedelic substances “may offer new ways to treat mental illness and addiction in patients who do not benefit from currently available treatments.” They also warn of potential hazards and encourage mental health professionals to learn more about this important subject.
The article is getting a lot of attention in popular media outlets including the LA Times, The Daily Beast,Newsweek, and others. The broad coverage is another sign of increasing public interest in psychedelic science.
Blogger Andrew Penn continues his series on psychedelics with an entry about the challenges that face mental health professionals who study and work with these substances. In “Psychedelics: What to Tell Patients Today,” Penn discusses the problem of explaining psychedelic therapy to patients who may be enthusiastic about the subject but unaware of potential negative consequences. Penn also presents a list of challenges for future research as well as questions for clinicians and researchers.
“As studies of psychedelic drugs garner more attention in the popular press, our patients are more likely to show interest in them. Thus, it is important that, as clinicians, we underscore for our patients the difference between therapeutic and recreational use of these drugs. In the former, participants are carefully screened and treated in controlled settings with pharmacologically pure compounds, while in recreational use drugs of unknown composition are ingested with the intention of intoxication in settings that can be overstimulating or even dangerous.
“Furthermore, we must communicate that even within a clinical setting these compounds carry attendant risks that can be safely managed in such a setting and should not be used recklessly. Thirty to forty-five percent of subjects in the psilocybin trials reported significant anxiety at some time during the drug administration, but this did not prevent many of those subjects from reporting that the experience was one of the most spiritually important of their lives. This all said, it needs to be underscored that our patients should not be trying to treat themselves with these drugs. If they are interested being subjects in this research, refer them to clinicaltrials.gov to see if there are trials that are enrolling subjects.”
The PsychCongress Network, a website devoted to news for mental health professionals, is featuring a series of articles on the use of psychedelics in psychotherapy. The most recent entry, “How Psychedelics May Be Used to Accelerate Psychotherapy,” covers research using psilocybin and MDMA for treating PTSD, cancer anxiety, and substance abuse. The author cites Heffter-sponsored research at Johns Hopkins University and the University of New Mexico.
“These findings are as fascinating as they are bewildering. Why should these fairly limited-time treatments bring about such enduring changes? Might the effect of the psilocybin be to disrupt overly rigid brain networks that support the behavior of tobacco or alcohol dependence? Is anxiety at the end of life a form of mental rigidity that results in existential distress? Or does the psilocybin bring about a spiritual experience that allows patients to be more at peace with their fate?
“There is much more research that needs to be done, but these findings should compel us to take these drugs seriously and see them as potentially important tools for making enduring change, a far more important use than their reputation as mere intoxicants would imply.”