Do Psychedelic ‘Professionals’ Need Psychedelic Experience?
Plus news from Field Trip, Tryp Therapeutics, Group Therapy and Dangers of Psychedelic Enabled Cults
Whether psychedelic experience should be a prerequisite for psychedelic therapists was a theme on #psychedelictwitter last week.
I track the origin of the lively and spacious discourse back to this Tweet:
The reality is that there will be evergreen debates about such questions. In this case, the relative answer will depend on the context, setting, and patient preference.
Occasionally, I see a ‘Central Planning’ framing in these debates. The truth will reveal itself in future research, at which point the dispute will be settled, and we can then proceed. The flaw in this perspective, which usually comes from the more academically oriented, is that they perceive this as some eventuality to plan for rather than a phenomenon that is happening now.
On the other hand, there is the perspective that the truth is self-evident—of course, psychedelic therapists should have a psychedelic experience, which prompts the retort about the validity of a surgeon’s own experience under the knife, or the oncologist’s history of chemotherapy.
I would think that if you polled patients who plan on working with a psychedelic therapist, they would likely prefer the practitioner to have first-hand experience.
This is what the authors of How Important Is a Guide Who Has Taken Psilocybin in Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy for Depression? a 2021 paper from the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, found.
One of the authors, Mitch Earlywine, told Psypost:
“People who hear about psilocybin-assisted treatment for depression think it’s important to have a guide who has used psilocybin, too… In fact, they think it’s more important than having a therapist who has experienced depression, been in the same kind of therapy, or who shares their gender or ethnicity. So training programs for psychedelic guides would likely be better if they included a psilocybin session.”
Challenge of the War on Drugs
The challenge is the legal status of these substances makes it risky (and costly) for therapists to experience the effects of psychedelics. That they remain classified as Schedule I—and more broadly, that drug policy has remained unchanged since 1971—is an example of the ossification of legacy institutions and the inability to respond to a changing world.
Even more frustrating is that federal laws remain unchanged despite:
Decades of cannabis reforms at the state level
Mounting evidence that the War on Drugs is a massive public health crisis,
Successful models of evidence-based drug policy from Portugal, Switzerland, and Uruguay, AND
Drug reform is a rare bipartisan issue that has the capacity for building cross-aisle alliances in a time of increasing polarization.
As rescheduling and policy reform efforts continue to grow, therapists’ grievance that they cannot legally pursue the optimal training by experiencing psychedelics themselves could be a lever that assists in such efforts.
What about Psychedelic Researchers?
If the idea is that a therapist’s own psychedelic experience is a patient preference and might enhance the therapy, some would argue that psychedelic experience is a liability for scientists in pursuit of objective claims.
There’s a growing cacophony from scientists both outside of the psychedelic field as well in that overreaching claims based on modest research findings are a disservice to the field. The implication is that researchers’ psychedelic experiences create a desire for positive results that gets in the way of scientific humility and skepticism.
In a response to the recent fMRI paper in Nature Medicine we covered a few weeks ago, researchers from Johns Hopkins and Yale noted:
“A paper in Nature Medicine is an important milestone in the development of a field. We believe that with carefully designed trials, adequate sample sizes, and appropriate statistical inferences, that milestone will be reached for psychedelic therapies. We do not think that it has been yet. The hype and misinterpretation that is occasioned by the premature publication of this type of work – including claims that psilocybin rewires the brain and opens the mind of people with depression – offer false hope to those suffering from depression. If such over-reach, beyond the modest data, continues, there will be a cooling effect that will delay the progress of these compounds to the clinic, which does us all a huge disservice – scientists, clinicians, patients, and the broader public alike.”
This is one of the many features that make this such a fascinating field to be a part of.
The characteristics of the psychedelic experience, the diversity of viewpoints, the challenges of current regulation, the infancy of the scientific literature, and the vastness of the historical, shamanic, and anecdotal knowledge base make the psychedelic field unlike anything else.
As the Chinese proverb goes, “May you live in interesting times.”
Group MDMA & LSD Therapy in Switzerland
Last week Swiss Psychiatrists Peter Gasser and Peter Oehen published a case vignette that chronicles their experiences of delivering MDMA and LSD to patients with complex conditions in group settings:
“Since 2014, the authors have obtained 50 licenses on a case-by-case basis and developed a psychedelic-assisted group therapy model utilizing MDMA and LSD. The majority of the patients taking part in the psychedelic group therapy suffered from chronic complex post-traumatic stress disorder (c-PTSD), dissociative, and other post-traumatic disorders. Treatment modalities, typical developments and problems encountered during and after the psychedelic experiences are described.”
Field Trip Announces Split into Two Companies
From yesterday’s press release:
“Field Trip Health…announced today that it has received unanimous board approval to complete a reorganization that will result in the separation of its Field Trip Discovery and Field Trip Health divisions into two independent public companies... Field Trip Discovery will be renamed Reunion Neuroscience Inc. (“Reunion”) and Field Trip Health will be renamed Field Trip Health and Wellness Ltd. (“Field Trip H&W”).”
Phase II Study of PAT for Binge Eating Disorder
From the Press Release from Tryp Therapeutics:
“Tryo Therapeutics…announced today that the first patient has been dosed in the Company's Phase II clinical trial for its lead candidate, TRP-8802. In combination with psychotherapy, TRP-8802 is intended to serve as a potential treatment of Binge Eating Disorder ("BED").
Two New Psychedelic Academic Centers
Duke Center for Integrated Psychedelic Science
“Our team specifically investigates the mechanistic, phenomenological, therapeutic, and relational effects of psychedelic compounds, as well as their creative, self-enhancing, and sociocultural roles.”
Ohio State College of Social Work Center for Psychedelic Drug Research & Education
“The mission of the Center for Psychedelic Drug Research and Education (CPDRE) is to explore and advance the research about psychedelic drugs and their effects, and to disseminate the knowledge about psychedelics through education initiatives at the college, university, and local, national, and international locations.”
Colorado Senators Approve House-passed MDMA Legalization Bill In Committee
“A Colorado Senate committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a House-passed bill to align state statute to legalize MDMA prescriptions if and when the federal government ultimately permits such use.”
Can a Religious Exemption Boost Legal Psilocybin Access in Oregon?
“That’s why one advocate has been pushing for an alternative route within this therapy model, to allow spiritual or religious groups to hold psilocybin ceremonies. Jon Dennis, an attorney and host of the podcast Eyes on Oregon, has submitted a proposal to the advisory board, titled the “Entheogenic Practictioners Amendment.””
How One Man Tried to Build a DMT-Based Cult on Reddit and Lost Everything
“Cantelmo had been the leader of what is most easily described as a Reddit pseudo-cult known as Cantelmoism. He was famous for handing out free money and claiming DMT cured his cancer. After he first tried the drug in 2018, he’d later say, he wanted to turn the world on to it.”
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!