Track 1 Presentations

Presenters in the CME track (in alphabetical order):

Matt Baggott, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California Berkeley
A graduate student at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at University of California Berkeley and research associate at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, Matt Baggott’s professional interests bridge neuroscience and psychopharmacology, and include mechanisms of hallucinations, toxicity of drugs of abuse, pharmacokinetics and dynamics of phenethylamines, and neural correlates of consciousness. His most recent studies are centered on Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD).

Anthony Bossis, Ph.D.
Dr Bossis is the co-principal investigator on the NYU / Psilocybin Cancer Project. He is Clinical Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Anesthesiology at the New York University School of Medicine. He is the founder and former co-director of the Palliative Care Service and former co-director of the Pain Treatment Center at NYU / Bellevue Hospital Center in NYC. Dr. Bossis’ clinical, teaching, and research activities are dedicated to the enhanced understanding and treatment of chronic pain and end-of-life patients. He will present on the existential and psychosocial suffering in advanced cancer and implications for entheogen facilitated psychotherapy and provide an overview of the NYU / Psilocybin Cancer Study. Dr. Bossis may be contacted at

Robin Carhart-Harris, Ph.D. PostDoc, Imperial College London, Neuropsychopharmacology Unit

Using pharmacological fMRI to investigate the effect of intravenous psilocybin on brain activation and blood flow in healthy hallucinogen-experienced volunteers

In 2005, after completing a Masters in Psychoanalysis, Dr. Carhart-Harris applied to the Psychopharmacology Unit, University of Bristol, UK, headed by Professor David Nutt, to study for a PhD on the topic of fMRI, psychedelic drugs and Freudian theory. Carhart-Harris was advised by David Nutt that this project was too ambitious at this stage but that he could instead study for a Ph.D. on the topic of MDMA, serotonin and sleep EEG. While completing his Ph.D. in 2008 he obtained the necessary approvals and some initial funding to carry out the fMRI work, and in 2009 his team completed a small scale pilot study in which they administered intravenous psilocybin to nine volunteers in a mock-fMRI setting. They are currently on course to begin the fMRI scanning in the coming weeks and this talk will report on our progress and the wider theoretical aims of this project. This work has the collaborative support of the Beckley Foundation, the Neuropsychoanalysis Foundation, Prof. Karl Friston of University College London, Prof. Richard Wise of Cardiff University and Prof. David Nutt of Imperial College London – for whom Carhart-Harris continue to work.

Jose Carlos Bouso, Ph.D. Candidate
Jose Carlos Bouso’s studies addressed the safety of different doses of MDMA administered in a psychotherapeutic setting to women with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) secondary to a sexual assault. He also obtained initial data on the efficacy of MDMA-assissted psychotherapy. He currently works on Dr. Riba’s team conducting neuropharmacological research on psychedelics.

Alicia Danforth, Ph.D. student
A graduate student of clinical psychology and a research associate and co-facilitator for the Harbor-UCLA cancer anxiety trial with psilocybin, Alicia Danforth will provide an overview of the research from the late 1950s through the early 1970s on the use of LSD and psilocybin in the treatment of severe autism in children. She will also discuss the potential use of MDMA-assisted therapy as a supplement to treatment for individuals with high-functioning autism and Asperger syndrome.

Peter Gasser M.D.
Dr. Gasser will present data on an on-going randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy in subjects with anxiety associated with end-of-life issues. This study will be completed in 2010 and will become the first study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy in human subjects in over 35 years.

Roland Griffiths Ph.D.
Dr. Griffiths, a professor in the departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, has had a principal research focus in both clinical and preclinical laboratories on the behavioral and subjective effects of mood-altering drugs. He will present research investigating psilocybin-induced mystical experiences in psychedelic naïve adults and psilocybin induced-mystical experiences in volunteers with cancer.

Charles Grob M.D.
Dr. Grob will discuss a completed, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in subjects with anxiety associated with cancer. A paper about this study was submitted for publication in August 2009. His talk will also cover the psychobiologic effects of MDMA in humans, the MDMA-neurotoxicity controversy, the effects of MDMA on cerebral blood flow, and the neuropsychological effects of MDMA in recreational users.

Stanislav Grof M.D.
A pioneer researcher of the use of altered states of consciousness for purposes of analyzing, healing, and obtaining growth and insight into the human psyche, and one of the founding fathers of the field of transpersonal psychology, Dr. Stanislav Grof will be discussing LSD-assisted psychotherapy in patients with terminal cancer, the experimental use of psychedelic psychotherapy, the conceptual challenges from researching consciousness, and DPT as an adjunct in psychotherapy of alcoholics.

John Halpern M.D. (presenting by live video link)
Dr. Halpern will report on an ongoing randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in 12 subjects with anxiety associated with advanced-stage cancer, taking place at McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Data will also be presented from Dr. Halpern’s National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded 5-year controlled, blinded study of the neurocognitive effects of Ecstasy use. Preliminary data from this study has also been published and includes the psychological and cognitive effects of long-term peyote use among Native Americans and evidence of health and safety in American members of a religion who use a hallucinogenic sacrament.

Ilsa Jerome, Ph.D.
Recognizing that most scientists are interested in the potential of MDMA to answer big questions in neurobiology, and that the breadth of scientific literature on MDMA can appear daunting, Jerome’s talk will discuss how to find those big answers from the existing literature. The talk will address the nature of the literature and scientific and extra-scientific factors shaping the literature. She will discuss where to look and how to look for exciting research findings. Finally, she will trace the trajectory of an engaging development in human MDMA literature, tracing its formation and development.

L. (Ilsa) Jerome earned a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Maryland, where she studied social psychology. She works as MAPS’ research and information specialist. She has written informational documents on psilocybin, LSD and MDMA and has co-authored publications examining the beliefs and experiences of ecstasy users. She is interested in using behavioral science and neuroscience methods to study emotion and social interaction, and sees MDMA as a valuable research tool. She encourages playfulness, persistence and building community in the pursuit of knowledge.

Julie Holland, M.D.
Dr. Holland will present lessons she learned in a psychiatric emergency room at Bellevue Hospital, NYC. Dr. Holland, editor of Ecstasy: A Complete Guide, will also speak about the potential therapeutic use of MDMA in the treatment of schizophrenia.

Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D.
Dr. Johnson is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is co-investigator of the Johns Hopkins studies on psilocybin and mystical experience, and psilocybin in the treatment of cancer anxiety/depression. He has investigated the human psychopharmacology of a wide range of drugs including psilocybin, Salvia Divinorum, dextromethorphan, GHB, cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. Dr. Johnson is principle investigator of a research program on the psychological underpinnings of addiction, and is currently conducting a pilot study investigating the therapeutic use of psilocybin in the treatment of nicotine dependence. He was lead author on a recent review paper describing the unique safety requirements of human hallucinogen research, and will present on this topic.

Michael Mithoefer M.D.
Dr. Mithoefer, will report on data from the completed, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in 21 subjects with treatment-resistant PTSD, and on the subsequent long-term follow up of these subjects > 1 year after study completion. He will also describe the design and progress of a dose-response MDMA-assisted psychotherapy study in US war veterans that he expects to complete in 2011.

David Nichols Ph.D.
The founding president of the Heffter Research Institute and Distinguished Chair in Pharmacology at Purdue University, Nichols is considered to be one of the world’s top experts on psychedelics. His recent studies investigate the phylogeny and structure of serotonin receptors, their signaling systems and receptor oligomerization. The general theme of his research is to understand how changes in brain neurochemistry affect behavior, through the use of molecular probes. His laboratory has published numerous studies elucidating details both of the mechanism of action of MDMA and of the biochemical events related to the neurotoxic effects seen in animals following administration. Dr. Nichols coined the name ‘entactogen’ to describe the unique psychopharmacological effects of MDMA and related compounds.

Peter Oehen M.D.
Dr. Oehen will report on data from an on-going randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in 12 subjects with treatment-resistant PTSD. The 12th subject has recently been enrolled into the study, which will conclude data-gathering around January 2010.

Ingrid Pacey, M.D.
Dr. Pacey is a psychiatrist from Vancouver, Canada. She has worked with patients with PTSD for over 30 years. She trained in Holotropic Breathwork™ with Dr. Stan and Christina Grof 1987-1990 and facilitated Holotopic Breathwork groups mainly with trauma survivors for 15 years. She is principal investigator, along with Andrew Feldmar, M.A., for the Canadian MDMA/PTSD study which has been approved by Health Canada. It awaits further permits and will start in 2010.

Torsten Passie, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Passie is assistant professor for clinical psychiatry and consciousness studies at Hannover Medical School, a major research institution in Germany. He studied philosophy, sociology (M.A.) at Hannover University and medicine at Hannover Medical School. His medical dissertation was on existential psychiatry. His clinical training included all areas of clinical psychiatry and a year in clinical neurology. His psychotherapeutic education was in psychoanalysis and psycholytic therapy. Actually he is chief physician of a German model project for the heroin-assisted treatment of opiate addicts.

For more than 20 years he has worked in the area of altered states of consciousness. He worked at the Psychiatric University Clinic in Zürich (Switzerland) with the leading European psychopathologist, professor Christian Scharfetter, on the conceptualization of states of consciousness. During the 1990s he worked with Professor Hanscarl Leuner (Göttingen), the leading European authority on clinical research and psychotherapeutic use of hallucinogenic drugs. Due to his specific interest in unconventional healing practices, he has travelled extensively in Mexico and Guatemala. He has done extensive research on the psychophysiology of altered states of consciousness, their conceptualization and their healing potential, including clinical research with different induction procedures including hallucinogenic drugs (cannabis, ketamine, nitrous oxide, psilocybin). He is one of the very few European experts on the pharmacology and clinical/therapeutic use of hallucinogenic drugs. He is also an experienced addiction therapist and researcher, actually at the frontier as the chief physician of the German model-project of the heroin-assisted treatment for opiate addicts.

Jordi Riba M.D.
Dr. Riba conducted the first controlled pharmacological study of ayahuasca in experienced psychedelic users. These studies have assessed the general pharmacology of ayahuasca in humans, including alkaloid disposition, and electroencephalography and neuroimaging measures of acute ayahuasca effects. The results of these studies have been published in various scientific journals like Psychopharmacology, Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. He is currently conducting a neuropsychological study assessing the effects of long-term ayahuasca use.

William Richards, Ph.D.
William A. Richards, Ph.D. is a psychologist in the Psychiatry Department of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Bayview Medical Center. His graduate degrees include a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, a Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) from Andover-Newton Theological School, and a Ph.D. from Catholic University. Richards also studied with Abraham Maslow at Brandeis University and with Hanscarl Leuner at Georg-August University in Goettingen, Germany, where his involvement with psilocybin research originated in 1963. From 1967 to 1977, Richards pursued psychotherapy research with LSD, DPT, MDA and psilocybin at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center. His research included protocols designed to investigate psychedelics as a treatment for alcoholism, severe neuroses, narcotic addiction, and the psychological distress associated with terminal cancer, and also their use in the training of religious and mental-health professionals. He helped design and served as the primary guide in the John Hopkins research that demonstrated the positive correlation between psilocybin and mystical experiences (see Griffiths, et al. 2006).

Stephen Ross, M.D.
Stephen Ross, M.D. is Principal Investigator of the new Psilocybin Cancer Project at NYU. He is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Oral Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and College of Dentistry. Dr. Ross completed general psychiatry training at Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute, and received addiction psychiatry fellowship training at Bellevue Hospital & the NYU School of Medicine. Currently, Dr. Ross is the Director of the Division of Alcoholism & Drug Abuse at Bellevue Hospital, the Clinical Director of the NYU Langone Center of Excellence on Addiction, and the Associate Director of Addiction Education, NYU Department of Psychiatry. He has received eight teaching awards relating to education of medical students, general psychiatry residents, and addiction psychiatry fellows. His research focuses on co-occurring disorders, personality disorders, music therapy, public health, and the therapeutic application of hallucinogens.

Franz Vollenweider M.D.
During the past ten years, Dr. Vollenweider has established a research program aiming to understand the neural basis of altered states of consciousness in health, schizophrenia, and affective disorders. Dr. Vollenweider’s research interests have increasingly focused on the understanding of the neural basis of drug (e.g. psychedelic) and non-drug (e.g. pathological) – induced altered states of consciousness. In search of the neuronal correlates of altered states, the subjective and neurobiological effects of classic hallucinogens, dissociative anesthetics and psychostimulants have been assessed in more than 500 healthy human volunteers using neuropsychological and brain imaging methods such as positron emission tomography and high density electroencephalography, and measures of information processing. Dr. Vollenweider’s research has been continuously funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, Swiss Federal Health Office, and the Heffter Research Institute (USA). He has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers, including many addressing the mechanisms sub-serving the effects of psychostimulants, hallucinogens, and entactogens.

Andrew Weil M.D. (presenting by live video link)
Andrew Weil, M.D., is a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, a healing oriented approach to healthcare, which encompasses body, mind, and spirit. Dr. Weil is the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (AzCIM) at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, where he is also a Clinical Professor of Medicine and Professor of Public Health and the Lovell-Jones Professor of Integrative Rheumatology.

Michele Weitz, BA
Michelle Weitz has 15 years experience in a clinical research setting and is an expert on good clinical practice for pharmaceutical research. She designs and evaluates quality assurance infrastructure and clinical operation processes to prepare researchers for inspections by regulatory agencies. She will provide training for investigators who are interested in conducting clinical trials of psychedelic therapy in line with international standards for pharmaceutical research.

Christopher Wiegand, M.D.
Background/Purpose: Anecdotal reports suggest that psychedelic agents may relieve symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This modified double-blind study investigated the safety, tolerability, and clinical effects of psilocybin, a potent 5-HT-1A, and 2A/2C agonist, in patients with OCD. Methods: Nine subjects with OCD and no other current major psychiatric disorder participated in up to 4 single-dose exposures to psilocybin in doses ranging from sub-hallucinogenic to frankly hallucinogenic. The Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) and a Visual Analog Scale (VAS) were administered at 0, 4, 8, and 24 hours post-ingestion. The Hallucinogen Rating Scale (HRS) was administered at 8 hours, and vital signs were recorded at 0, 1, 4, 8, and 24 hours after ingestion. Results: Nine subjects were administered a total of 29 psilocybin doses. One subject experienced transient hypertension without relation to anxiety or somatic symptoms, but no other significant adverse effects were observed. Marked decreases in OCD symptoms of variable degrees were observed in all subjects during one or more of the testing sessions (23 to 100% decrease in Y-BOCS score). Repeated measures ANOVA for all Y-BOCS values revealed a significant main effect of time on Wilks’ Lambda (F= 9.86, df= (3,3) p= .046), but no significant effect of dose (F= 2.25, df= (3,3) p= .261), or interaction of time and dose (F= .923, df= (9,45) p= .515). Improvement generally lasted past 24 hours. Conclusions: Psilocybin appeared to be safe and well tolerated in this group of subjects with OCD and was associated with robust acute reductions in core OCD symptoms.

Christopher Wiegand, M.D., is a psychiatrist currently in private practice in Tucson, Arizona. His clinical practice includes outpatient psychopharmacology and psychotherapy, hospital and nursing home consultation, and electroconvulsive therapy. In addition, Dr. Wiegand is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona; he participates in research, resident supervision, and medical student education. He received his B.A. in Archaeology at the University of Virginia in 1995, his M.D. at the University of Virginia in 1999, and completed Psychiatry residency training at the University of Arizona in June, 2003. Dr Wiegand will be discussing, among other things, the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of psilocybin in patients with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).