In this episode, Joe speaks with Peter Hendricks, Ph.D. and Associate Professor at the University of Alabama, currently involved in researching the effects of psilocybin on people dealing with cocaine-related substance use disorder.
He discusses the details of the pilot trial (following the Johns Hopkins model, with music created by Bill Richards), some early findings and speculations, what music might work best for these sessions, how excited he is to bring these findings to the criminal justice system, and how religion and tribalism come into play when looking at what people get out of these psychedelic experiences.
Hendricks points out that while psilocybin is currently being researched as a treatment for tobacco use (by Matthew Johnson at Johns Hopkins) and alcohol use (by Michael Bogenschutz at NYU), this is the first large study with cocaine and could lead to the first medication for major stimulants. And while there have been many studies on psilocybin in general, they’ve rarely been focused on the people he’s working with, who are often poorer, less educated, often out of work, and usually struggling more than those typically involved in these studies. They also talk about what research of the past has given us data-wise, and how inspirational it has been to the work being done today.
“The participants in our trial- they haven’t read Michael Pollan’s book or others. They’re not in the know. I’ll have to explain to them what the drug is, and the common reaction is, ‘uhh, so you’re going to help me stop getting high by getting me high?’ and I’ll try to explain how the drug might differ from others, from more addictive drugs like cocaine. And as we know, it’s an ineffable experience- it’s a difficult experience to put to words…. I’m honored and I have admiration for our participants because they have the courage to dive into this study conducted at a University by people they’ve never met. It can be a very frightening experience and they say, ‘you know what, I’ve tried everything. At this point, I’m desperate, let’s give it a try.’ I probably couldn’t overstate how much courage it takes for them to do what they do. I don’t know that I could do it myself.”
“I think for most of the world’s fates, the tenants are that we’re all in this together, and we’re bound by love. And that really might be the message that most people get from psychedelics, but similar to religion, sometimes that message is perverted a bit and what you take from it is, ‘my in-group is what’s most important and I’m going to act to preserve my own tribe, even if it means treating others in an awful, inhumane way…’ Sometimes experiences that are really meant to foster a connection with everybody can go haywire and we have to be aware of that”
“One criticism of some of the studies conducted so far has been, how do we know that psilocybin might have these effects on a sample that isn’t all college-educated or doctorates or who are Professors at Universities who make more than 100,000 dollars per year and live comfortably? How do we know that this experience would have any meaning to somebody who’s making less than 10,000 per year, who has a fifth-grade education, who’s unemployed and homeless? I think in large part, this study might answer that question. If we find an effect, then we can say it appears to also have an effect among those who look different and whose life circumstances are much different than some of the earlier participants.”
Dr. Hendricks received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of South Florida and completed a post-doctoral Fellowship in Drug Abuse Treatment and Services Research at the University of California, San Francisco. His research centers on the development of novel and potentially more effective treatments for substance dependence, with specific areas of focus on tobacco, cocaine, and polysubstance dependence in vulnerable populations.
In today’s Solidarity Fridays episode, Joe and Kyle sit down to talk about topics in the news including Mindmed’s phase one research into DMT, the intricacies of intravenous or infusion-pump administration, the potential clinical application of DMT, and whether or not mainstream science is ready to handle some transpersonal phenomena like entity encounters that sometimes occur during DMT experiences. They also discuss the projections for the psychedelic drug market and the intentions of the companies entering this space, and a recent tweet from the Drug Policy Alliance discussing how the war on drugs is a tool of racial oppression.
They dive deep into the war on drugs and racial oppression by discussing how sentencing for crack-cocaine is much harsher than cocaine (while basically the same drug), how NYC’s “stop-and-frisk” program was essentially put in place to put people in jail for cannabis possession, and how Breonna Taylor never would have died if police weren’t looking for drugs. They discuss the tragedy of Elijah McClain and what purpose a lot of police activity really serves, while looking at the “protect ourselves first” fraternity mentality that a lot of these power organizations have and how difficult it can be for a good person to become a whistleblower in those situations.
They also talk about revisiting philosophy through Lenny Gibson and how beneficial it has been to explore that world as more mature people and see connections to psychology, as well as learning the limitations of scientific explanations when dealing with deep, transpersonal experiences.
Lastly, they mention their excitement in participating in the re-scheduled Philosophy of Psychedelics conference coming up next year in England.
“I stopped doing research on near-death experiences at some point, where I was just like, ‘I’m sick of reading about [how] these are just physiological reflexes and responses within the brain, maybe the lack of oxygen, or all the different neurochemistry that’s going on within the brain at the time of dying…’ There’s something so interesting about that experience, that no matter how much mechanistic information I have, there’s still something there that eats at me… kind of like this lore… the lore of beauty and life kind of unfolding. It’s oriented towards growth and beauty, and I guess that’s what some of these experiences have really taught me- and it is that lore to grow, evolve, and move towards something. And I think when I try to put some sort of biological explanation to it, it almost halts that and says ‘that experience doesn’t really mean that much.’” -Kyle
“Science has limited capacity to help people with meaning-making.” -Joe
“Do we have enough spiritual literacy? Do we have an inclusive enough cosmology to handle all of these cases? ...Are psychologists willing to call in an exorcist of some kind? Or some sort of priest [who] can handle this kind of thing? …I tend to think shareholders might be a little creeped out if publicly traded companies are talking about spirits and entities. Are we ready for that?” -Joe
“What does it mean that you have to put somebody in prison for 10 years for a non-violent offense, as a cop? Like, you pulled someone over, you found some drugs in their car, and now they go to prison. And their life is essentially ruined. And you made the decision to become a police officer and uphold laws. Like, can you sit with that and be ok with that, as an individual? Why do you think drugs are so bad that locking another person up in a cage for years and years and years is ok? …[They say], ’because they have meth or fentanyl, they are the most dangerous people out there!’ What about the rapists and murderers? What about drunk drivers that could kill 20 kids in one night? Why are you spending time on drug offenses when there are rapists out there? There are tons of untested rape kids at all these police departments across the country.”- Joe
In this episode, Joe speaks with award-winning musician, producer, transpersonal guide, shamanic practitioner, and certified graduate of Grof Transpersonal Training, Byron Metcalf.
They discuss Metcalf’s path from being a Nashville-based studio musician (who played on Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler”) to a “midlife correction” of taking a class with Stan Grof and Jacquelyn Small leading to him discovering holotropic breathwork: a whole new world he had never seen before that perfectly suited his musical mind.
They discuss how Metcalf works with music- from recording and producing to making mixes for sessions, how different types of music work better for different types of sessions, and how important it is to think about the flow of a mix and the transitions and mixing between songs in how it relates to the journey of the people listening- when does up-tempo music work best in comparison to more heart-centered, emotional music? When is more shamanic, percussion-based music more appropriate?
He also talks about the effect of people’s projections in these sessions and a funny story of when he thought he heard Christmas music during a session, using Spotify for session music, streaming vs. downloading, 320kbps vs. 24-bit recordings, creating music sober vs. under the influence, the effectiveness of binaural beats, and co-creating retreats with clients to fit their custom personal and musical needs.
“It just… changed my life. I mean, literally, just like, ‘what is this? How is this even possible to just do some deep breathing and listen to this incredible music?’ ...What it reminded me of was a psychedelic experience. And so I immediately saw the potential in it… And of course… how that model uses music was kind of just a perfect fit for me.”
“You’re doing your own work. The best healers or the best facilitators, therapists, whatever- are the ones who really have done their own work, and in fact, I don’t trust anyone [who] hasn’t.”
“I was really fortunate that Stan would enlist me to do music sometimes at these bigger events- the Insight and Opening where Stan and Jack Kornfield would combine the holotropic breathwork with Vipassana meditation for a week. And it was groups of 200, and so you got 100 people breathing at one time and it’s [a] pretty fantastic energy field as you could imagine. And just seeing- observing what happens for people and to people and through people, still- when I think about it and start describing some of the things that I’ve witnessed and observed and experienced, it almost sounds like [I’m] making this stuff up… It’s like trying to explain a psychedelic experience to someone that’s never had it before… There’s no way you can really convey that. So it has to be experienced.”
“There’s something higher, bigger- that’s at work here that we want to make contact with and surrender to. So that’s the goal. And sometimes if people are projecting on the music, not liking the music- sometimes changing it would be good. Other times, not. Because maybe it is bringing up a great piece for them. And [they say] “I don’t like this! I don’t like this!” Of course that’s projecting onto the music. What’s going on underneath that?”
In today's Solidarity Fridays episode, Joe and Kyle sit down and talk about topics in the news including what psychedelic companies owe to the community (both indigenous people and the underground psychedelic world), psilocybin-like drug alternatives for treating depression and the many reasons newer companies are trying to remove the psychedelic part of the medicine, and Dennis McKenna’s recent appointing to New Wave Holdings’ psychedelic research advisory board and what that says about the current climate of corporations moving into this space.
They discuss the dangers of “sponsored content”-like corporate messages, the malleability of laws and power of lobbyists and interest groups, and how manipulation is faster and quieter than ever before, while many big decisions are being made by people crippled from decades of unseen cultural baggage. And why are companies trying to remove the psychedelic side of medicine? Is it solely for profit, or could it be because there are so many in need that streamlining the process or using these medicines differently than we’re used to in this space would be beneficial to the most people?
Lastly, they talk about the importance of making the right connections and having the right arguments and really asking yourself what you’re trying to do when engaging with those who disagree with you- are you just trying to be right, or are you trying to make a change?
Additionally, Joe shares an important harm reduction story and tip, and gives the news that Psychedelics Today recently surpassed 1 million downloads. Thank you for the support!
“Is the only box you can fit in, like ‘I want a career, a home and a family’? And everything else doesn’t matter? Is that it? I think it’s more complicated than that. We’re not just atomic units, like nuclear families. We’re far more interconnected than that, and it’s kind of irresponsible to ignore that.” -Joe
“Big businesses end up creating these systems that we all seem to rely on over time and to some extent, I think we appreciate the convenience. If that crumbled, what would our life look like? Could we tolerate living more locally, doing things on a much smaller scale? ...What would that look like in a world where the government didn’t give huge bailouts to these big companies? Our world would drastically change, and could we shift?” -Kyle
“Maybe a thing to just keep in the back of our minds when we’re hearing all this stuff about new pharma companies is that pharma is not guaranteed money for these people. Pharma is still a gamble. Unless they really nail it, they could go bankrupt in a couple years, or just have earnings way lower than they hoped for. So it’s big money, it’s big bets, and they’re betting on big returns, so they kind of have to go out on a limb and stay stuff like this. But the fact that Forbes put that out- that psilocybin could be toxic- seems irresponsible to me… To me, this kind of looks like sponsored content. Or it’s just like, ‘how do we get these corporations to talk to us and be comfortable, so we have to promise fluff.’ Or, is this organized propaganda?” -Joe
“Some of the people in this space are just getting so nasty that a lot of people are just saying, ‘nah, I’m out, later. I’ll go watch Seinfeld reruns for the next couple years while this shit plays out.’ Are you moving allies away, or are you bringing allies closer to you? Think about that. You want more allies. What’s the best tool? Sweetness. Anger, bitterness, spite- those are things that make people want to go away from you. How effective do you want to be, why do you want to be effective, and what tools are you willing to employ to be effective?” -Joe
In this episode, Joe Interviews Dosed filmmakers Tyler Chandler and Nick Meyers, as well as the subject of their documentary, Adrianne.
Nick and Tyler tell the story of how they went from really knowing very little about the psychedelic healing movement to becoming advocates solely from a panicked call from Adrianne.
Adrianne speaks of her journey from opiate addiction and severe depression to trying mushrooms and eventually learning she needed Iboga and a community around her to really fight her way out of a life she no longer wanted to live.
They touch on the costs of Iboga compared to other rehabilitation methods, the often glazed-over dangers of Iboga, the effectiveness of psilocybin against opioid withdrawal, anxiety in the western world, holotropic breathwork as a safer method towards healing, the power of the Pixar movie, Inside Out, and why it would be beneficial for young viewers to watch Dosed.
“I have gotten sober and detoxed many, many, many times and not stayed sober, so obviously while the physical withdrawals are completely excruciating and definitely a big barrier to getting sober, there’s really something more to recovery than that, and that’s that kind of spiritual experience or awakening. And the psychedelic component is really important to that and I feel like that’s what’s contributed to me... not only getting sober but staying sober.” -Adrianne
“The real problem is that… people are forced to make these decisions and take these risks because something that has been known for 40 years to have this wonderful effect on opioid addicts is somehow something that nobody knows about and isn’t legalized.” -Nick Meyers
“No matter how you choose to recover or what you do to get sober and stay sober, having a community around you and staying connected with people is so, so important.” -Adrianne
“I definitely had a lot of discomfort just learning to… be still or be with myself and not have an escape. That’s part of recovery and it’s very uncomfortable. It takes time to get used to that. I was always used to having some kind of coping mechanism that took me out of myself, that just helped me not feel uncomfortable or whatever negative feeling I was feeling. So that’s always a challenge and there’s no shortcuts to that- you do have to just learn to be in your body and feel feelings, which I did not like very much. But, you know, it gets easier over time.” -Adrianne
“Everybody is so scared of just saying... ‘this is something that teens should do’ because nobody wants to have anything bad happen and then have it get traced back to them. But look at the realities of what teens are going through with... the rampant alcohol and other drugs, and… vaping and smoking and all the other vices- prescription medications, everything that’s available. And there’s like, no guidance, no supervision a lot of the time… What we’re doing right now isn’t working. Can I dare say it? It would be better if there were rites of passage with psychedelics in controlled settings with proper set, setting and dose with young people, because it really helps you recontextualize and reframe things in your mind.” -Nick Meyers
After many years of prescription medications failed her, a suicidal woman turns to underground healers to try and overcome her depression, anxiety, and opioid addiction with illegal psychedelic medicine such as magic mushrooms and iboga. Adrianne’s first dose of psilocybin mushrooms catapulted her into an unexpected world of healing where plant medicines are redefining our understanding of mental health and addiction.
In today's Solidarity Fridays episode, Joe and Kyle sit down and discuss topics in the media including the usefulness of brain activity scans and the idea that “brain does not equal mind,” how language can shift the social narrative to or away from stigma when describing substance use, and psilocybin testing in mice and when we might see psilocybin start being prescribed.
They spend a lot of time on the questions everyone is asking right now- what changes can we make that will help the most people and give the oppressed what they need? What tangible changes do the oppressed actually want? What should the role of police look like, either compared to or in conjunction with social work or therapy?
They look at these questions with hope, but through a realistic lens- disasters, illness and even global warming always affects the poor and oppressed more than those in power. And historically, people have always shown a natural tendency to want to hold others down. What is the real purpose behind what those in power do (for example, outlawing encrypted texting or arresting someone for doing drugs)? Are they trying to encourage only specific conversations they’re comfortable with?
So what really can we do, and what specifically can those with white privilege do? The answer there is to find where your voice is most effective, and to have those tough conversations. “Find those inarguable points. Don’t let the media steer your narrative. Major media outlets want you to talk about certain things. Don’t do that. Find out what you think is most important and most helpful to discuss with the people you’re around. Where do you have the most influence?” -Joe
“How can we... shift the narrative there to help people heal instead of… putting them in this lifelong box of ‘you’ll never heal from this because you have this disorder and this disease’? I’m always on the side of healing [rather] than trying to completely pathologize experiences.” -Kyle
“It sounds nice to say that we want to eliminate violence, we want to eliminate racism, we want to eliminate rape- all these really bad things. But how long have those things been with us? At least 14,000 years, I think. What’s it going to really take to totally reprogram the human genome- the human mind- to transition to this ideal? Is it possible? I don’t know... I want to see these police held accountable, I want to see… criminals in the government go to jail. But it’s kind of the nature of these institutions. They have this monopoly on violence that was granted to them a long time ago, and there’s no real recourse. They’ve got way bigger budgets than any of us as individuals or gangs have, much more training, much better gear… I don’t totally see a great path out.” -Joe
In this episode, Joe speaks with Mark Plotkin, Ph.D., author of The Amazon: What Everyone Needs to Know, and President and co-founder of the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT).
Plotkin talks about studying under Richard Evans Schultes (“the father of ethnobotany”), biocultural conservation (the main point of the ACT), Covid-19 and the possibilities for cures in the Amazon, how ayahuasca news can always be viewed as both good and bad, how indigenous people often know much more about their environment and plant medicines than we realize, and how not all ayahuasca is created equal.
They mostly talk about the purpose of the ACT- using ethnographic mapping to help indigenous people take control of and protect their own land from their government and mining or logging interests, all while trying to bring a focus on respecting and protecting the environment, culture, and traditions encompassing the Amazon and its many people.
“The race is on. Protect the forests, protect the shamans, protect the frogs, protect the plants, protect the fungi, and let’s learn what these people know before that knowledge disappears because the knowledge is disappearing much faster than the forest itself.”
On the ACT: “When we set up the Amazon Conservation team about 25 years ago, the idea was that you had groups like the World Wildlife Fund (where I had been working) that was focused on protecting rainforests, and you had groups like Cultural Survival that was focused on protecting indigenous culture, but they really didn’t talk to each other. And so we wanted to help create a discipline now known as Biocultural Conservation because those of us who work with indigenous cultures (whether it’s in the far north of Canada or it’s in the Amazon) know that there is an inextricable link between traditional shamanic cultures and their environment. And nobody was addressing that.”
“There’s a great saying… that the rainforest holds answers to questions we haven’t even asked. So who knows if the answer to Covid-19 or SARs or the next virus which is coming at some point is in the Amazon, and the answer is- nobody knows, and nobody’s really looking for it. So why not protect this treasure, steward it better, look for these answers, and keep the earth a rich and wonderful place?”
“The medical office of the future, if we get it right, is going to have a physician... a nutritionist... a pet therapist... a music therapist... a dietitian... a shaman... a massage therapist. Because there’s no one person and one way that’s going to embody all aspects of healing at the same time.”
“We all go to the grocery [store and ask]: ‘I want to buy organic stuff.’ How come nobody ever asks where the ayahuasca comes from? Is it harvested sustainably? Was it grown organically? You know how many times I’ve been asked that question? Never. If we’re having raised consciousness, why the hell aren’t we asking these questions?
So my challenge to all of our like-minded colleagues is: Let’s make sure we’re getting this from a sustainable source. Let’s make sure it’s being replanted when it’s harvested. Let’s make sure it’s benefiting tribal communities or peasant communities that are respectful of nature and shamanic processes and things like that because I don’t understand why anybody would go to the grocery store and want to get organic grapes but will buy ayahuasca off the internet without knowing where it came from.”
“The shamans often say everything is connected, which sounds sort of trite- this “butterfly effect.” But here’s proof of that. This whole terrible pandemic is due to our lack of respect for nature.”
“It’s not nice to screw mother nature either, because, you know, mother nature always wins. And thinking that we can get away with this and make a few bucks or eat a few weird dishes and not pay the ultimate price is foolish… It’s us [who are] following our nests... abusing indigenous cultures... abusing forests… and mother nature is ultimately going to have her revenge.”
Dr. Mark Plotkin is a renowned ethnobotanist who has studied traditional indigenous plant use with elder shamans (traditional healers) of Central and South America for much of the past 30 years. As an ethnobotanist—a scientist who studies how, and why, societies have come to use plants for different purposes—Dr. Plotkin carried out the majority of his research with the Trio Indians of southern Suriname, a small rainforest country in northeastern South America, but has also worked with elder shamans from Mexico to Brazil. Dr. Plotkin has a long history of work with other organizations to promote conservation and awareness of our natural world, having served as Research Associate in Ethnobotanical Conservation at the Botanical Museum of Harvard University; Director of Plant Conservation at the World Wildlife Fund; Vice President of Conservation International; and Research Associate at the Department of Botany of the Smithsonian Institution. Dr. Plotkin is now President and Board member of the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), a nonprofit organization he co-founded with his fellow conservationist and wife, Liliana Madrigal in 1996, now enjoying over 20 years of successes dedicated to protecting the biological and cultural diversity of the Amazon. ACT has been a member of the United Nations Environment Programme Global 500 Roll of Honour since 2002, and was recognized as using “Best Practices Using Indigenous Knowledge” by UNESCO, the United Nation’s cultural organization.
In today’s Solidarity Fridays Episode, Kyle and Joe interview Kwasi Adusei, Nurse Practitioner, and board member of Psychedelics Today. In the show, they talk about the root of protesting, privilege, the country’s leadership, the importance of this conversation and ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Ways to take action; Donate to victim funds
Ways to take action; Donate to organizations
Kwasi dedicates his work in the psychedelic movement to altering the stigma in mainstream channels by promoting the science, the healing potential of psychedelics, and civic engagement. Kwasi is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and graduated from the University at Buffalo. He is the founder of the Psychedelic Society of Western New York and project manager for Psychonauts of the World, an initiative to share meaningful psychedelic stories, with the ultimate goal of publishing them in a book as an avenue to raise money for psychedelic research. He is also one of the administrators for the Global Psychedelic Network, a conglomerate of psychedelic groups and individuals from around the world. Born in Ghana and raised in the Bronx, New York, Kwasi hopes to bring psychedelic therapy to communities of color.
In this episode, Joe speaks with Jacob Curtis a photojournalist at Denver7, a Denver-based ABC affiliate.
Curtis covered Alaska’s marijuana legalization in 2014, and as a photojournalist living in Denver, has been at the forefront of the Decriminalize Denver movement, even providing some of the first broadcasted footage of a local mushroom grow.
Curtis speaks about attending Psychedelic Club meetings and meeting James Casey, wanting to be the person to bring this story to the mainstream, and how these meetings and growing interest from the community were ultimately the incubators for the Decriminalize Denver, and later, Decriminalize Nature and #thankyouplantmedicine movements.
They also discuss the National Psychedelic Club (of which Joe reveals he is now on the Board of Directors), Edward Snowden and the dangers of speaking with the media, and advice for how to protect one’s identity, the Telluride Mushroom Festival and documentaries like “Dosed,” the Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel, new startups in the field like MindMed, the Denver Mushroom Cooperative, MkUltra experiments in Denver, the importance of the #thankyouplantmedicine hashtag, and ultimately, how much Covid-19 has impacted the speed of progress in bringing legalization to the mainstream.
On James Casey: “He was an awesome subject to sort of wrap the story around, and he was the perfect poster child because he had all the right ingredients- he was a veteran, really well-spoken, and just pretty straight-laced.” (9:41)
“It is interesting to watch, how the media sort of responds and works with stories that are on the fringes and then move slowly towards the mainstream. It’s one of those things about our culture- it bends and shifts. The times change and what was radical 10 years ago is normal now.” (13:51)
“We’ve had so many huge events that have taken place in our lifetimes that this kind of seems trivial… it’s not the highest priority anymore after we had the 2000 election, September 11th, the Iraq war. Those things [psychedelics] aren’t as high on the list of things that we are supposed to be worried about anymore.” (14:45)
“I don’t think that we’re going to shy away from talking about psychedelics after a catastrophic virus collapses the world economy. It’ll be an easy topic.” (15:57)
On #thankyouplantmedicine: “I don’t think there was necessarily a hashtag for drug policy reform that has been a conscious effort like that before, so it definitely gained some attention... If anything, it brought people together. If it didn’t get this big media splash, it definitely helped grow the network.” (53:09)
Jacob is a photojournalist at Denver7, a Denver-based ABC affiliate. He has been at the forefront of the Decriminalize Denver movement, even providing some of the first broadcasted footage of a local mushroom grow.