Online education

Breaking convention isn’t a meeting for suits

A kaleidoscopic horde of comrades in rainbow jackets and magic mushroom hats meandered toward me. The air is thick with an unmistakable scent of cannabis. This auspicious day, April 20th, marks the beginning of the 6th Rally of Destruction, an eclectic gathering of spirit aviators in Exeter.

During the opening ceremony, the conference directors will discuss the history and motivation behind the conference: psychedelic science and cultural reconciliation.

Alexander Beiner, who will later give a talk on the intersection of DMT and AI, offers a mild warning. It is of utmost importance to remain mindful of how the mainstreaming of these substances unfolds. Hattie Wells pleads with Western science to embrace centuries of accumulated indigenous wisdom. These nuanced and explicit demands stand in stark contrast to the hype and sensational conferences that have proliferated across the United States in recent years.

Mystical occultist, author, and ecstatic dancer Jules Vane takes us on a poetic tour through the idyllic lands that surround us, revealing to the audience the region’s hidden treasures, namely It reminds me of the Cap of Liberty growing miles away from the conference hall. After the opening ceremony, all the assembled people join hands in a grounding meditation ritual that connects everyone to the core of the Earth and the Outer Realms of the Universe. This is not a conference for suits.

Here are some highlights from the conference. Celia Morgan, professor of psychopharmacology at the University of Exeter, highlights the launch of a graduate program in psychedelics. This is a world first, she claims (some US institutions may take a different view).

Chris Timmermann delves into the effects of long-term DMT infusions and how psychedelic experiences can change an individual’s worldview.

And Deborah Mash, professor of neurology and molecular cell pharmacology and founder of DemeRx, explains that the mission behind her ibogaine research is to combat the death toll from fentanyl, explaining that she described it as a “chemical weapons attack on our country.” ”

Opening ceremony. Left to right: Nikki Wilde, Amy Tolan, Hattie Wells, Alexander Boehner, Jules Evans. (Photo credit: Floris Wollswijk)
Opening ceremony. Conference organizers, left to right: Nikki Wilde, Alexander Boehner, Hattie Wells, Amy Tolan. (Photo credit: Floris Wollswijk)

Big controversy about microdosing

During the event press conference on the second day, a lively discussion took place between renowned mycologist Paul Stamets and respected academic David Elizzo.

Stamets argues that microdosing has been unfairly vilified within academia. Instead of utilizing whole mushrooms whose so-called entourage effect is claimed to yield positive results, 70% of his research studies focused solely on psilocybin, the core and powerful molecule of these magical fungi. is guessing.

Stamets emphasized the stark contrast between the rapid onset and sudden return to the surface experienced with psilocybin tablets and injections, as opposed to the more gradual and harmonious effects of whole mushrooms. Makes a persuasive point. Nevertheless, he quickly changes direction, citing research and microdosing studies by Joseph Lutman and others that I have previously criticized for sensationalizing mere correlation, which is often confused with causation. do.

Lutman’s study found a correlation between people taking microdoses and some, but not all, mood outcomes. One of the strengths of this study is that it relies on a large dataset of 8,000 participants. However, there are many drawbacks. Without repeating my previous criticism, I will leave two observations. First, the article mentions multiple stacking, which refers to microdosing a combination of lion’s mane and niacin. Secondly, Stamets is a minority investor in a used tracking app (Quantified Citizen) and he is the founder of MycoMedica, who commercializes this very stack of compounds.

Press conference at Breaking Convention. Left to right: Sheila Morgan, Deborah Mash, Paul Stamets, Davis Elizzo, Amanda Fielding, Leor Roseman, Roberta Murphy. (Photo credit: Floris Wollswijk)

Elizzo actually conducted a study on microdosing using the Fadimann protocol outside the lab, in the manner suggested by Stamets. In 2021, colleagues including Laura Kaertner and Erritzoe conducted the first prospective study of 81 microdosers. Researchers began following microdosers before starting microdosing, asking questions about their moods and expectations before starting microdosing.

Most participants followed Fadiman’s protocol of microdosing once every three days for several weeks. After four weeks of microdosing, participants noted positive changes in well-being, depressive symptoms, state anxiety, and emotional stability. So far, this is what everyone agrees on.

What Stamets doesn’t fully explain is what happens next in Elitzor’s work.

“Consistent with our main hypothesis, positive expectations measured at baseline were found to significantly predict major improvements,” the researchers wrote. In other words, those who expected benefits were those who saw the greatest increases in happiness, social connections, and other metrics. Remarkably, the word expectation is conspicuously absent from Lutman’s work.

Attendees at Breaking Convention 2023 viewing visionary art. (Photo credit: Floris Wolsijk)
Participants of the Breaking Convetion 2023. (Photo credit: Floris Wollswijk)

Minimize the risk of psychedelic drugs

As enchanting as this psychedelic renaissance is, it’s not all about glitter and iridescence. Nearly all speakers recognize the difficult road ahead. Daan Kayman, a former program and product development director and facilitator at the now-defunct Synthesis, said the number of online courses that have sprouted like mushrooms in recent years has led to a proliferation of unqualified guides and coaches. I am sounding the alarm.

More broadly, Kayman warns of emerging markets’ attempts to help those seeking healing. But with the right guidance, he says, you can avoid being disorientated like Alice in Wonderland. Cayman likens us to wisdom tooth extraction, we know what to expect, his colleagues know how to express empathy when returning to work, and we are well protected against malpractice. It is According to him, these key elements in particular are lacking in the burgeoning psychedelic world.

“To effectively reduce suffering and provide adequate psychedelic care, we need to consider what it takes to achieve this end,” Kayman tells me. “It is important to recognize that psychedelic use, even when done correctly, can be harmful, as demonstrated by David Luke’s research and Jules Evans’ Challenging Experiential Project. It is important. [both also presenters at BC]. Moreover, much of the harm that results from psychedelic use is due to poor practice and incompetent guidance. ”

Kayman went on to emphasize the importance of building a framework that provides comprehensive training for psychedelic professionals and developing an “ecosystem that supports safe and effective care.” He makes an important distinction between online education and physical training, stressing the importance of “a regulatory structure that prioritizes patient safety and ethical considerations.”

Legal and institutional barriers to accessing medicines and funding research, including research into nonclinical forms of psychedelic care, also need to be addressed, Kayman said. “The ultimate goal is to create a healthy ecosystem that can provide individuals with access to safer, more effective, and more culturally appropriate psychedelic care.”

This requires a collaborative effort among various stakeholders in the field, including policy makers, researchers, health professionals, community representatives and advocates. “By working together towards this common goal, we can increase the potential benefits of psychedelic medicine while minimizing the risks,” says Kayman.

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Daniel Ingram, a devoted meditator and former paramedic, approaches the issue from a medical point of view. In his flurry of lectures, he describes the many steps doctors and psychiatrists need to take before they can become effective allies for those going through psychedelic experiences, what he broadly calls “emergency phenomena.” outline about.

Ingram envisions raising more than $1.5 billion to fill those gaps. The Emergent Phenomenology Research Consortium (EPRC) is a little-known name in the broader psychedelic field, but so obscure that even I, who has created a catalog of over 3,000 stakeholders, was unaware of its existence. However, if it is realized, it has ambitions that will exceed the efforts of MAPS. 10x more than Rick Doblin.

MAPS optimistic despite funding challenges

MAPS Founder and President Doblin closed the conference with a speech outlining the developments MAPS has experienced since the MDMA ban. No new information was presented to the experienced psychiatrist. Yet he exceeded the time allotted for discussing the MAPS plan by half an hour.

Doblin envisions a world of “net zero trauma” by 2070, but faces daunting challenges as funding for nonprofits in the field dwindles. An economic analysis of the potential costs of MDMA-assisted therapy, presented by Elliott Marseille earlier in the day, surprised some attendees, including many researchers. When these far from conclusive figures apply, MDMA accounts for more than half of treatment costs, exceeding $6,000. The infrastructure Ingram wants (including insurance reimbursement) is far from a guarantee as the drug, which is available on the street for $10, has been significantly overpriced.

But that didn’t deter Doblin from being optimistic. Some may have given up hope 5, 10, or even 20 years ago. Confidently claiming that his next 10 slides will take “one more minute for him,” Doblin continues to fight for a future where psychedelic-assisted therapy is a reality.

Rick Doblin talks about his vision for the future. (Photo credit: Floris Wollswijk)

breaking dawn

The remaining tasks are the closing ceremony and the second party. The robed playwright and poet John Constable held the feather in his hand, evoking the four elements in a communal ritual “celebrating the spirit of the flesh, the sanctity of the world, and the eternity of time.”

Afterwards, attendees are transported to a college bar decorated with inflatable mushrooms, disco balls and LCD screens displaying psychedelic patterns. On the dance floor, respected researchers transform into swirling bodies. Psychedelic and curious visitors escalate from micro-doses to mega-doses and continue dancing into the night. Bosses become co-workers, co-workers become friends, friends become humans, and finally the whole assembly raises its hands and shakes in unison. Just hours earlier, Constable had called on everyone to raise their hands and “spread the hyphal spores.” Everyone here seems to have heeded the call.

Breaking convention after party. (Photo credit: Floris Wollswijk)

The next day, at dawn, we return to the reality that the climb to the university grounds is steeper than it was. It is impossible to say where we stand while we are living through history, but we seem to be slowly waking up from the dark night of our souls.

Main image: Breaking Convention 2023 panelists (Photo by Peter Sjo, far right)

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