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Psychedelics Today

Psychedelics Today is the planetary leader in psychedelic education, media, and advocacy. Covering up-to-the-minute developments and diving deep into crucial topics bridging the scientific, academic, philosophical, societal, and cultural, Psychedelics Today is leading the discussion in this rapidly evolving ecosystem.
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Now displaying: Page 2
Dec 1, 2023

In this episode, David interviews Shauheen Etminan, Ph.D. and Jonathan Lu: Co-Founders of Magi Ancestral Supplements.

Through studying ancient Zoroastrian writings and 2,000 year-old Chinese texts in search of compounds and formulations forgotten by history, Etminan and Lu co-founded drug discovery company VCENNA in 2019 to use extraction technology to isolate these compounds. This led to an understanding of the health properties behind beta-carbolines, which led to their nootropic company, Magi Ancestral Supplements. They talk about the early days and experimenting on themselves, how beta-carbolines create dream-like states, and how their research sent each of them further into their own heritage, and asking themselves: How do we remember what our ancestors knew? 

They discuss espand, haoma, Syrian rue, and how common Syrian rue is in both Iranian culture and psychedelic history; what is a drug vs. what is a supplement; common threads they’ve seen across different cultures and how we may be repeating some of their mistakes; Etminan’s recent ayahuasca experience with the Santo Daime church; and of course, some of Magi Ancestral Supplements’ products and their expected effects – from deep meditation to lucid dreaming to even mild hallucinations. You can get 10% off any product using code PT10 here.

Click here to head to the show notes page.

Nov 28, 2023

In this episode, Kyle interviews Bessel van der Kolk, MD: pioneer clinician, researcher, and educator on traumatic stress; Founder of the Trauma Research Foundation; Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University Medical School; Principal Investigator of the Boston site of MAPS’ MDMA-assisted psychotherapy study; and author of the #1 New York Times Science best seller, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Treatment of Trauma.

As of this recording, van der Kolk was publishing his last paper and closing down his laboratory, so he looks back on his past: being part of the group who put together the first PTSD diagnosis in the 80s; the early days of psychedelic research and how he discouraged Rick Doblin and Michael Mithoefer from pursuing MDMA research; how the DSM has no scientific validity and was never meant for the diagnosing it’s being used for; how science wasn’t seeing the whole picture and pushing us mindlessly from medication to medication; and how trauma research has evolved over the years as society learned more about how the mind actually works. 

He discusses the struggle to validate “softer” sciences; the impracticality and price of the MAPS protocol and the need for more group and sitter/experiencer frameworks; the efficacy of psychodrama and how that plays out in group sessions; his interest in using the Rorschach test more; how rolfing helped him; the problem with diagnosis and people becoming their illnesses; bodywork, somatic literacy, and how disconnected most people are from their bodies; and how, in all the healing frameworks he’s explored, he has never seen anything work as profoundly as psychedelic-assisted therapy.

Click here to head to the show notes page

Nov 24, 2023

In this episode, Joe interviews Dana Lerman, MD: a decade-long infectious disease consultant who has since been trained in psychedelic-assisted therapy, ecotherapy, and Internal Family Systems, and is the Co-Founder of Skylight Psychedelics, where she prescribes IM ketamine and trains therapists who work with it.

Lerman tells her story: how working with kids with cancer made her want to learn medicine, what it was like working as an infectious disease expert during COVID, and how fascinating it has been to start with modern medicine and then fully embrace the traditional frameworks of ayahuasca ceremonies. She has realized that part of her role is to bring that intention, ceremony, and inner healing intelligence to modern medicine – that that will greatly benefit patients as well as clinicians who naturally want to be healers but are burnt out by the bureaucracy and distractions of the faulty container they find themselves in. Skylight Psychedelics is working on opening a clinical research division, researching psychedelics for Long COVID, and bringing in-person psychedelic peer support services to emergency rooms.

She also discusses intergenerational trauma and how psychedelics have affected her parenting; the impossibility of informed consent in psychedelics and why there should be disclaimers as well as instructions; accessibility, the need for insurance to cover psychedelic-assisted therapy, and why the price of these expensive treatments actually makes sense; why we should be sharing stories of mistakes and things going wrong during ceremonies; and why one of the biggest things we can do to further the cause is to educate our children and parents about psychedelics.

Click here to head to the show notes page

Nov 21, 2023

In this episode, Joe interviews neuroscientist, board-certified psychiatrist, health tech entrepreneur, inventor, and Co-Founder & Chief Medical Officer at Apollo Neuro: Dr. David Rabin, MD, Ph.D.

He talks about his path to psychiatry; his realization that trauma and chronic stress were primary themes at the root of most mental illness; and the creation, research and implementation of the Apollo wearable: the first scientifically-validated wearable technology designed to improve energy, focus, and relaxation based on touch therapy. The idea was born from Rabin asking himself: If we're all starved for touch and constantly feeling unsafe, our bodies prefer a calm, soothed state, and MDMA seems to work by amplifying feelings of safety and essentially telling our brains, "you're safe enough to heal now," could a rhythmic vibration programmed to stimulate touch receptors and put our bodies into a meditative state fool our brains into the same perceived feeling of safety – especially if that stimulation is constant? Would our nervous systems be able to tell the difference? So far, the data seems to prove that this technology works. 

He discusses what they learned from initial research about how people were using their Apollo wearables; heart rate variability and what changes it; MAPS' Phase III MDMA-assisted psychotherapy results; the idea of the inner healer; using the Apollo in conjunction with ketamine and other psychedelics to ease pre-experience anxiety; and the concept of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as reverse trauma, the reality that it could stop epigenetic memory, and the question of whether or not the Apollo can do this on its own.

Apollo Neuro is continuing their research by running 14 different trials right now, and if you ever participated in a MAPS trial, you're eligible for a free wearable. If you're just curious about trying the Apollo, you can receive $50 off using this link

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Nov 17, 2023

In this episode of Vital Psychedelic Conversations, David speaks with two current Vital students: Certified Depth Hypnosis Practitioner and Founder and Executive Director of Zoo Labs, Vinitha Watson, CHT; and artist and outdoorsman with decades of experience in bodywork, structural integration, and Vipassana meditation: Judson Frost.

They talk about their personal paths: Watson’s work educating musicians about the music business and their value with Zoo Labs and Frost’s work as an artist; as well as how their experience as parents has grounded them, and how they found Vital. They discuss the importance of integration, having a process, and recognizing how long that can take; being adequately prepared and learning mindfulness skills ahead of a journey; and bringing courage to the space (and as the space-holder, encouragement). They talk about how they hold space, and how one needs to view integration from a spiritually-open perspective to enable people to find their own meanings behind what they experienced. 

They discuss how Watson uses a combination of hypnotherapy, transpersonal psychology, and buddhism to create a slowed down mystical experience; how hypnotherapy can benefit a psychedelic experience; bodywork and how we can’t view the mind and body separately; and more. And since they’re nearing the end of their Vital experience, they discuss what they’ve gotten out of it, and reflect on something they didn’t expect: a collective feeling of regenerative healing inside their Vital community.

Click here to head to the show notes page.

Nov 14, 2023

In this episode, Joe interviews internationally renowned musician, comedian, writer, and actor, Reggie Watts. Watts starred on “Comedy Bang! Bang!,” most recently was the bandleader on CBS’s “The Late Late Show with James Corden” for the last 8 seasons, and just released his memoir, "Great Falls, MT."

Watts discusses his early days of LSD use and how he felt psychedelics and cannabis were useful (in contrast to alcohol); how movies and TV rarely get the psychedelic experience right (and is that because writers haven’t experienced it?); and how the Situationist Movement inspired his concept of being a “disinformationist,” which he uses to bring an instability and psychedelic nature to his shows. And he discusses ketamine: why he loves it (especially with other people), a party he recently attended where everyone was open to trying it together, and why the group collectively agreeing to go deeper is so important to the experience. 

He shares his thoughts on treating certain drugs as bases and others as modifiers, and how the wrong drugs are being treated as bases; the negative feedback loops some drugs (cocaine, nitrous oxide) send us into; psychedelic exceptionalism and the low quality, synthesized drugs created solely out of capitalistic greed; microdosing and the question of whether or not it’s become popular out of a fear of going deeper; what he wants to bring to to the psychedelic conversation; and why sometimes (in the right context), “going off the rails” can be a great thing.

Click here to head to the show notes page.

Nov 10, 2023

In this episode, Kyle interviews Ted Riskin, LCSW: psychotherapist running group KAP sessions and certified in Core Energetics, Internal Family Systems, and Holotropic Breathwork, which he has taught in various forms for 26 years.

He discusses group ketamine-assisted psychotherapy: how he runs sessions, why being welcomed and loved in a group seems to be a bigger factor than the psychedelic, how he came to combine IFS with ketamine or breathwork, and why exploring the parts work of IFS seems to work so well with non-ordinary states of consciousness. And he talks about two complications we often don’t think about with Group KAP: the challenge of getting our different parts to all truly consent to an experience (and how do you get them to?), and how very safe spaces can inspire oversharing, and sadly, subsequent shame.

He discusses knowing when to use a non-directive approach vs. intervening; how people often learn more about themselves as a sitter; using core energetics before experiences to move energy we’re often afraid to work with; the importance of embracing anger (when necessary); memory reconsolidation and bringing exiles from the past into the present; the concept of double bookkeeping; and finding the magic in realizing that sometimes, just being there (“being a useless person” as he says) is all that’s needed.

Click here to head to the show notes page

Nov 7, 2023

In this episode, Joe interviews Imran Khan: Executive Director of the UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics.

Khan shares his journey into the world of science and policymaking, beginning with science journalism and inspired by David Nutt’s famous ‘Equicy’ paper and subsequent firing for telling the truth. Realizing how strong the disconnect was between political and science worlds, his goal became to represent science when it comes under attack; using campaigning, lobbying, advocacy work, etc., and essentially becoming a translator between science and society – bringing these overly complicated concepts down to a level every day culture can understand. At UC Berkeley, he’s focusing on research, training scientists to be better communicators, educating the public on the benefits of psychedelics, and trying to make research more trustworthy.

He discusses the word “science” and how it’s used to describe lots of things; the hard problem of consciousness; color constancy, perception, and the influence of priors; the risk of abuse in all therapies; trust and why people don’t always “trust the science”; the risks of putting too much faith in experience insights; the word “sacred”; and more. He concludes by discussing the findings of the first UC Berkeley psychedelic survey, which revealed public sentiments and attitudes towards psychedelics, and, while mostly positive, truly proved the need for people like Khan to be out there educating the public.

Click here to head to the show notes page

Nov 3, 2023

In this episode of Vital Psychedelic Conversations, David interviews Erika Dyck: Vital instructor, historian, professor, author, and editor of the new book, Expanding Mindscapes: A Global History of Psychedelics; and Jono Remington-Hobbs: graduate of the first cohort of Vital, coach, facilitator, and now, Co-Founder of Kaizn, an experiential wellness company with a strong focus on community, creating a feeling of safety, and modern rites of passage. 

They talk a lot about rites of passage and how they create liminal spaces to reflect on the deeper questions we need to ponder but our culture doesn’t allow time for. They talk about how categorization took us away from tradition; how so much of what we get out of these experiences isn’t related to psychedelics at all; why we struggle with connection in the digital age; the power of community as medicine and recognizing a kinship in others; and why we need to integrate our heads and hearts and live more heart-led lives.

They also dive into why cultures have always sought out non-ordinary states of consciousness; how our current state of needing to make sense of a chaotic world is similar to the mindstate of the 60s; psychedelics’ success in palliative care; coaching and why it should be attached to therapy; the creation of the word “psychedelic”; flow states and discovering the intrinsic calling we all have; and the Vital question that starts the podcast out: Are psychedelics the future, or will psychedelics just bring about a different way to think about the future?

Reminder that we’re accepting applications for Vital 2024 now until December 21!

Click here to head to the show notes page

Oct 31, 2023

In this episode, David interviews Alexander Beiner: an Executive Director of Breaking Convention; writer of The Bigger Picture substack; and author of The Bigger Picture: How Psychedelics Can Help Us Make Sense of the World.

He tells his personal story and how his first psychedelic experience felt like a homecoming; discusses his Rebel Wisdom media platform, where, through interviews, he tried to make sense of social upheavals and conflicts through a more flexible, psychedelic way of thinking; and digs deep into the Greek concepts of Moloch and Kairos: how Moloch represents the winner-take-all, race to the bottom, sacrifice-your-values-to-appease-the-system game playing we all get stuck in, and Kairos represents the openness that comes from psychedelics – the transitional, seize-the-moment opportunities we need to take advantage of. And he discusses much more: the power of dialectic inquiry; the corporatization of psychedelics and how we’re really in a psychedelic enlightenment; how the medicalization of psychedelics is like a Trojan horse; and the concept of technology (and specifically the internet) mirroring the switching between realms that we think is so rare in psychedelics – aren’t we doing that every time we look at our phones? 

Beiner was recently part of Imperial College London’s initial trials on intravenous, extended-state DMT, testing correct dosages and speeds for the pump. He describes the details of the study, how he thought they were messing with him at first, and what he saw in his experiences: an outer space-like world of gigantic planet-like entities, and how a massive Spider Queen entity taught him about intimacy and how our metaphysical and personal worlds aren’t separate at all.

Click here to head to the show notes page.

Oct 27, 2023

In this episode, Alexa interviews Dom Farnan: Founder of DotConnect; author of the best seller, “Now Here: A Journey from Toxic Boss to Conscious Connector”; and Founder and Chief Consciousness Connector of DoseConnect™, a first-of-its-kind company blending organizational strategy, systems thinking, and talent acquisition in the psychedelic space.

Farnan shares her personal journey with psychedelics, discussing her experiences with psilocybin, ayahuasca, and 5-MeO-DMT, and how the last few years of her life have been focused on slowing down and integrating those experiences. She discusses the current state of the psychedelic industry, including downsizing and company closures, but also opportunities from networking, community engagement, and volunteering. She believes that while options may not be clear now, they will be there in the future, and may be jobs we never anticipated. So get to know companies now, and pay close attention with good discernment – not everything is as it appears.

She discusses her experiences with mentors and coaches; how psychedelic journeys and integration build onto each other; the importance of journaling; the need for patience as the industry grows; her book and the concept of conscious leadership over toxic leadership; and the beauty of embracing the openness we experience after a psychedelic experience: Can we use what we’ve learned to reprogram what we’re taught about life, invest in ourselves, let go of dissenting and limiting voices, and truly redefine what success (and happiness) means to us?

Click here to head to the show notes page

Oct 24, 2023

In this episode, Kyle interviews author of Recapture the Rapture: Rethinking God, Sex and Death In a World That’s Lost Its Mind; speaker; and Founder of the Flow Genome Project, which researches and trains on improved human performance.

This episode – the last of the many recorded at Psychedelic Science 2023 – may ruffle some feathers, as Wheal is very outspoken and opinionated, focusing on what he spoke about at the conference: the pitfalls of the psychedelic movement. While his outlook is negative, he speaks with humor, and these shadow aspects are issues we need to be talking about: how the nature of capitalism and returning profits to shareholders affects the concept of set and setting; how easy it is to prescribe ketamine and the puppy mill clinics popping up everywhere; how innovators are racing to the bottom to get ahead; the designer drug epidemic likely leading us to a Prozac Nation 2.0; digital narcissism, Instagram “Shamans,” and the dangers of cults; chemists trying to take the experience out of the drug; the overuse of psychedelics creating super egos; and much more.

While he believes the hype and excitement of the psychedelic renaissance is leading us towards a trough of dissolution and that people aren’t turning their amazing experiences into net positives anywhere near enough, he believes that fewer people using psychedelics less often and more intensely – with initiatory practices, intentions, integration, and honest self-reflection – will help us all climb out of our egos and move towards a healthier society. There is hope, but we need to honestly look at all the shadow aspects in order to move towards it.

Click here to head to the show notes page

Oct 20, 2023

In this episode, David interviews psychiatrist, main researcher behind the first US Phase II trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, and Senior Medical Director at MAPS Public Benefit Corporation: Dr. Michael Mithoefer; and Research Group Lead at the University of Zurich, and Principal Clinical Biomarker Lead at Boehringer Ingelheim, Katrin Preller, Ph.D.

Mithoefer, Preller (and David) are speakers at the upcoming Psychedelic Medicine – Israel, which will now take place July 28 - 31, 2024, in Tel Aviv. They discuss the conference and their current research: Preller's neuroimaging and work with psilocybin for alcohol use disorder, and Mithoefer (likely) being extremely close to seeing the FDA approve MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. He talks about how the therapeutic protocols for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy were created, what it's like to be so close to legalization, and how the next challenges will be accessibility and not minimizing therapy in favor of faster turnover. 

They discuss neuroplasticity and whether or not it actually translates into something in humans; the concept of performing brain scans before a psychedelic experience to look for trauma biomarkers (and how this could actually result in savings over time); the excitement of seeing clinical work and neuroscience progressing in parallel; why integration frameworks need to be individualized; and the importance of embracing different therapeutic approaches.

Click here to head to the show notes page.

Oct 17, 2023

In this episode, Melanie Pincus, Ph.D. and Manesh Girn, Ph.D. once again take over hosting duties, this time interviewing Gül Dölen, MD, Ph.D.: Associate professor of Neuroscience and Neurology at the Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine, and head of the Dölen lab.

Dölen largely researches the neuroscience behind social behaviors and is most known for her work in establishing how psychedelics reopen critical periods of learning, and that the true benefit of psychedelics could be in learning how best to reopen those critical periods, how long they’re open for, and which therapeutic frameworks and integration practices could best take advantage of them. Her most recent research was giving MDMA to otherwise very asocial (and violent) octopuses to prove that a drastically different species would exhibit typical MDMA-inspired prosocial behavior. And, after discovering that all the classic psychedelics worked to reopen critical periods – that psychedelics are apparently the master key to opening these periods – she’s now researching why, through the PHATHOM project (Psychedelic Healing: Adjunct Therapy Harnessing Opened Malleability).

You will likely learn a ton in this episode: why critical periods close as we get older and what may impede them from opening more often; how plasticity and metaplasticity relate to each other and why increased neuroplasticity isn’t always a good thing; how the length of different psychedelic experiences relates to efficacy; why the different results of MAPS’ and Compass Pathways’ studies show the importance of therapy; how autism could be related to critical periods; why repeated psychedelic use may make it harder for one’s brain to reset; and how important context is in the ability to reopen critical periods – especially around social learning.

Click here to head to the show notes page

Oct 13, 2023

In this episode, Joe interviews Federico Seragnoli: coordinator of the ALPS Foundation, psychologist who works with patients undergoing compassionate use treatments with psychedelics, and Founder of the ALPS Conference.

This year, the ALPS Conference (which stands for Awareness Lectures on Psychedelic Science) takes place Oct. 27 – 29 at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva – a prime location for a conference due to Switzerland’s legality around psychedelics, where any citizen can apply for psilocybin or LSD therapy if they fall into the category of ‘treatment-resistant.’ Seragnoli discusses how the conference was originally inspired by an article on the MAPS blog about how to be a psychedelic researcher; and talks about its humble beginnings, its new location, and why it’s moved across the country each year. The conference features names like Rick Doblin and Michael Mithoefer, but he’s most excited about the smaller size of the event and the panel discussions, which gives attendees a chance to ask questions and hear some real conversations. 

He discusses the vibrant field of psychedelic therapy and research in Switzerland; the importance of compassionate use and the criteria physicians need to be able to use it; the impact of students creating psychedelic associations at their universities; and Seragnoli’s new research: seeing if there is a link between cognitive science and a conceptualization of science – if you can model consciousness off neuroscience, can you model it off how you feel?

Click here to head to the show notes page

Oct 12, 2023

In this episode, Johanna interviews Jungian analyst-in-training, writer, researcher, 5Rhythms® teacher, and Vital graduate: Mackenzie Amara; and Vital instructor, clinical psychologist, and creator of our new course, “Illuminating the Hidden Self: Navigating the Jungian Shadow with Psychedelics“: Dr. Ido Cohen.

This sequel to their fascinating discussion about shadow work earlier this year focuses on dreams, as Amara, while dreaming that she was having an acid trip and coming to the realization that dreams and LSD may be sending her to the same place, is researching the similarities between the odd worlds of dreams and psychedelic experiences: Is it the same place? Do the dreams we have after psychedelic experiences continue those visions and ‘Aha!’ moments? Can they answer questions for us (the concept of “sleep on it”)? Does dream analysis result in a greater feeling of integration? Can we use the dreams we have before experiences to help guide the experience itself?

The conversation goes a lot of places: the many aspects of Jungian psychology; the fluidity of Indigenous perspectives around visible and invisible worlds; how Jung wrote “The Red Book”; the concept of eros and reclaiming our relationship with aliveness; how nature is in constant equilibrium (as are we); how to build a relationship with your dreams; how to work with symbols in dreams; and much more. Ultimately, this episode is about the clash between the conscious and unconscious, the willed and the incidental, and waking life and other realities, and dream analysis and integration work is really tracking vitality in the human psyche: what is alive in us and how does it want to live out in our beings? What makes us come alive? Can our dreams tell us?

Click here to head to the show notes page.

Oct 10, 2023

In this episode, Joe interviews Louie Schwartzberg: renowned filmmaker known for the award-winning documentary, “Fantastic Fungi”; and now, director of the new film, “Gratitude Revealed.”

He talks about his path to photography and filmmaking and how psychedelics were a huge inspiration – how his techniques of slowing down, speeding up, and zooming in were ways to capture the invisible aspects of reality – that which is “too slow, too fast, too small, and too vast for the human eye,” but is always there. He discusses the premiere of “Fantastic Fungi” and the waves it spread through the psychedelic space; The Louie Channel, his new streaming channel that will feature all his work in 4k and the work of other curated artists and friends; and the clinical trial he’s involved in to see if participants have better results in the treatment of their alcohol use disorder by watching his imagery set to music on an 80-inch screen while on psilocybin – research that hopefully leads to the concept of being able to prescribe images and music to people based on specific criteria. 

He discusses his new film, “Gratitude Revealed,” which explores the power of gratitude: making it a daily practice (and especially a post-psychedelic integration practice), how resilience is one of the best benefits from practicing gratitude, and how easy it is to stop a rumination spiral by simply finding something to be grateful for. He also talks about the blessing of being a photographer and always thinking of beauty; how psychedelics make people more environmentally conscious; tripping with parents; how a shared love of nature could be the bridge between opposing sides; and how the best way to deal with the climate crisis is to start in your own yard.  

You can watch “Gratitude Revealed” now, and then, on October 25th, we’re hosting a Q+A with Louie Schwartzberg on our Navigators platform. head to psychedelicstoday.com/events for details.

Click here to head to the show notes page.

Oct 6, 2023

In this episode, Joe interviews Deborah C. Mash, Ph.D.: neuroscientist; Professor Emerita of Neurology and Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; and leading researcher in addiction and brain disorders for over 30 years.

She is also the CEO and Founder of DemeRx Inc., a clinical stage drug development company working to advance ibogaine and its active metabolite, noribogaine, for the treatment of opioid use disorder. She talks about the Federal and state complications behind ibogaine research, the need for partnerships between clinics and researchers, what needs to be done to collect much needed Phase II and III ibogaine data, and why this all has to be in partnership with the FDA. 

And she discusses much more: her story of how studying Cocaethylene led to her finding out about ibogaine; ibogaine and QTc-prolongation; deaths related to iboga and the amount of variables that aren’t considered; how the French were essentially using noribogaine in the 1930s; and, as this was recorded at Psychedelic Science 2023, her thoughts on the event and Rick Doblin’s opening statement.

Click here to head to the show notes page.

Oct 3, 2023

In this episode, David interviews Madison Margolin: NY-based, psychedelics and Judaism-focused journalist; host of the Set & Setting podcast; co-founder of DoubleBlind Magazine and the Jewish Psychedelic Summit; and author of the soon-to-be released, Exile & Ecstasy: Growing Up With Ram Dass and Coming of Age in the Jewish Psychedelic Underground.

They explore the relationship between Judaism and psychedelics, with Margolin sharing her experiences growing up in a Hindu-Jewish family; her personal journey with her Jewish identity; and how her use of psychedelics has deepened her life. She talks about the significance of Jewish holidays, and how holiday traditions connect them to nature and themselves in a very psychedelic way; the importance of intentionality; the beauty in dancing through an uncomfortable ayahuasca experience; the Jewish Psychedelic Summit; whether or not ancestors were using substances (and does that matter?), and why being in Israel feels so different – and psychedelic. 

Margolin is an instructor in our new course, “Navigating Psychedelics: Jewish Informed Perspectives,” where she will be leading discussions on setting sacred time and space, particularly focusing on the significance of Shabbat and the energetic frequencies that are at play during certain holidays. The 9-week course begins next week – October 10 – so sign up now

Click here to head to the show notes page

Sep 29, 2023

In this episode – with the ​2024 edition of Vital​ announced and applications officially open – we’re launching another series of Vital Psychedelic Conversations, with David hosting Jasmine Virdi: Vital instructor, writer, educator, and activist who works at Synergetic Press and volunteers for Fireside Project; and Tabata Gerk: Vital student, psychotherapist, and facilitator.

As always, they discuss what they think the most vital conversation should be right now, largely expressing concerns over the medicalization of psychedelics and the idea of a ‘traumadelic culture,’ where psychedelics are often only seen as healers of trauma and not doorways to mysticism and new ideas. And they point out another concern: the romanization of Indigenous culture and not recognizing that these are contemporary cultures that are affected by the same Western, capitalist paradigms that affect us all.

They also discuss the concept of epistemic injustice and needing to respect other ways of knowing; hyper-individualism and why we became so reductionist as a society; the role of money (who defines the problem and the solution?); concerns over who decides who is allowed to use these substances; the power of small steps of change; and, through talking about Gerk’s recent Amazonian ayahuasca experience, they dig into what it is about these experiences and surrounding communities that make them so special. Could we take some of that and effectively incorporate it into our Western models?

Click here to head to the show notes page

Sep 26, 2023

In this episode, Joe interviews Ethan Nadelmann: author, speaker, Founder and former Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance, host of the PSYCHOACTIVE podcast, and one of the leading voices in drug policy reform and harm reduction. 

Nadelmann shares his journey from Princeton University to founding Drug Policy Alliance, to working with George Soros, encouraging Gary Johnson to push cannabis legalization, and interacting with prominent figures like Milton Friedman and Grover Norquist. He explores the motivations behind the drug war, the massive growth of incarcerations it led to, why the US spread its war on drugs abroad even when it went against our best interests, and, thankfully, the progress made in fighting the drug war – particularly with cannabis and psychedelics.

And he discusses much more: the banning of drug testing kits; the damages of our slow learning curve against the idea of a safe supply; the risks of under-prescribing opioids for people who actually need them; how libertarians, the right, and left are all starting to become against the drug war for the same reasons; why cigarette smokers should all switch to vaping; the concept of needing to pass a test at the pharmacy to prove you understand (and won't abuse) medication; and some strong arguments for decriminalization as an incremental step. And he asks some pretty important questions that we can all simmer on for a bit: how do we find a balance between helping people and not opening the rest of society up to harm? How do we challenge abuse in a way that doesn't hurt future harm reduction efforts? And how do we incentivize people into acting in their own best interests? 

Click here to head to the show notes page

Sep 22, 2023

In this special episode, Melanie Pincus, Ph.D. and Manesh Girn, Ph.D., who joined David in episode 403 to discuss the launch of their new course, essentially interview each other.

As the 2nd edition of their popular course, Psychedelic Neuroscience Demystified, begins on November 1, we wanted to give them a chance to highlight some of the aspects of neuroscience students can expect to learn in the course, and what so many people who are interested in psychedelics don’t fully understand: What does neuroplasticity actually entail? Can one predict if a patient is more apt to have an experience with ego dissolution? How does the amygdala relate to mood disorders? When are critical periods of greater plasticity and socialization at their most beneficial? How does neuroplasticity relate to chronic stress?

They also discuss lessons they’ve received from their own journeys; why they created the course; serotonin; psychological flexibility; body-based versions of self vs. memory-based versions; psychedelics and re-encoding memories (and the potential for false memories); how psychedelic therapy is different from standard drug treatments; psychedelics and the default mode network (is the story oversimplified?), and much more. 

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Sep 19, 2023

In this episode, Kyle interviews Rachel Harris, Ph.D.: Psychologist in private practice for over 40 years, researcher who has published more than 40 peer-reviewed studies, and author of the new book, Swimming in the Sacred: Wisdom from the Psychedelic Underground.

She talks about graduating college and going straight to Esalen, where she had little concern over therapy or integration, and how, after 20 years of ayahuasca experiences, she learned to see psychedelic-assisted therapy and ceremonial, transformational experiences as very different things. She discusses her ayahuasca journeys; a surprising MDMA experience; what having an ongoing relationship with the spirit of ayahuasca means; Ann Shulgin’s concerns over going through death’s door while in a journey; what true integration is; how psychedelics can help prepare for death, and more.

And she talks about her new book, Swimming in the Sacred, which collects the stories, unique perspectives, and wisdom of 15 female elders who have been working in the underground for at least 15 years each, and how their experience has led to a somatic-based intuition and ‘know it in their bones’ feeling that so many new practitioners and facilitators need – and can only come with time. 

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Sep 15, 2023

Last year, Joe attended his first Burning Man, and sadly, we didn’t hear much about it. In this episode, recorded just a few days after Joe returned from his second outing of nearly 12 days on the playa, Victoria changes that, asking Joe all the burning questions we all want to know.

He talks about preparing for Burning Man and the numerous obstacles he and his partner, Ali, encountered on their very slow journey there; the media’s interpretation of the rain and mud vs. the reality of being there in the middle of it all; the bogus reports of an ebola outbreak and disaster zone surrounded by FEMA officials (and was that all a prank by Burners?); the debate over the environmental impact of such a massive event, and more.

And he talks about the many joys of Burning Man: how, despite the weather and needing to remain at camp more, the community, abundance, embracing of all that is weird, and passion to share and make the best of it all made this a better year for him in many ways. He learned the importance of patience, avoiding a frantic state, and fighting panic with positive vibes, which was made infinitely more easy with the Big Krab Car: the art car Ali built and they drove around, DJing on all week.

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Sep 12, 2023

In this episode, Kyle interviews General Stephen Xenakis, MD: an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist who retired from the U.S. Army in 1998 at the rank of Brigadier General and began a career starting up medical technology companies and clinical practice to support human rights and new methodologies of healthcare. 

In June, he became the new Executive Director of the American Psychedelic Practitioners Association (APPA), whose mission is to bring practitioners together as a community; develop the best training programs and practices; shift to a more patient-centered, integrated model of care; eventually accredit practitioners to practice with legal substances; and overall, help to make these new modalities more mainstream. 

He discusses their path to success, which began with their publishing of the first professional practice guidelines for psychedelic-assisted therapy practitioners, and will continue on with ethical guidelines and clinical practice guidelines in the future. And he talks about the idea of a safety net for people who have adverse effects from psychedelic journeys; what clinicians need to know about psychedelics; concerns over accessibility; and the importance of identifying the correct treatments for the correct patients, as each person’s path to healing will likely be drastically different.

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