Henrik Jungaberle, Ph.D. – Learning from the Best (and also from the Rest): The Development of a Professional Rule Culture in Psychedelic Therapy
In a research project at Heidelberg University we collected data (2003-2006) from those psychotherapist who were able to legally perform outpatient psycholytic therapy in Switzerland between 1988-1992 (Swiss Association of Psycholytic Therapy). We analysed this data with qualitative research methods (content analysis) and were able to formulate 39 “rules” that guided the practice of these medical doctors. These rules are considered a repertoire of collective knowledge that these professionals developed in a process of trial and error. This rule culture provides an up-to-date treasure of reflective practice that seems to be relevant for current studys and future regular psychotherapy with LSD, MDMA and Psilocybin. Beyond these professional guidelines (“rules”) it was also important to analyse the group process within this network of psychedelic experts over a period of 20 years (retrospectively). In our presentation we will discuss the reported developments with respect to standards in psychotherapy research.
James Kent – The Mechanics of Hallucination
Psychedelic hallucination is at the core of all psychedelic transformation and therapy. The geometric visuals and dreamlike archetypes of psychedelic hallucination are universal, indicating that there are fundamental properties of the human brain that allow for spontaneous creation of phantom matrices. By examining the connective structure of the perceptual system and the methods by which the brain processes sensory data, it is possible to model the pharmacological and neural origins of hallucination, and the unique physical conditions which describe a psychedelic experience. Topics discussed will include dreaming, psychosis, psychedelic pharmacology, phosphenes, geometric hallucinations, dreamlike hallucinations, the visual processing system, perceptual destabilization, ego dissolution, and memory. This presentation will be in the Ignite format of 20 slides in 5 minutes, with roughly 15 seconds per slide. There will also be a five-minute question and answer period.
Mark Kleiman – Regulating the Ineffable
The hallucinogens (including, for this purpose, MDMA and its relatives), have been or could be used to treat disease, to generate spiritual experience both individually and communally, and to enhance creativity, in addition to their recreational/social uses. Those four uses suggest different regulatory approaches. Neither the risks nor the benefits associated with hallucinogen use are sufficiently close to those of alcohol or of the other classes of controlled drugs to allow a simple appropriation of existing regulatory schemes.
Mark Kleiman is Professor of Public Policy in the UCLA School of Public Affairs. His latest book is When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment He is also the author of Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control and Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results. He edits the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis and founded a widely-read blog called The Reality-Based Community.
Previously, he taught at the Harvard Kennedy School (where Rick Doblin was among his students) and the University of Rochester and served as Director of Policy and Management Analysis for the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice and as Deputy Director for Management of the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget in Boston. Mr. Kleiman graduate from Haverford College with a B.A. in Political Science, Philosophy, and Economics and did his MPP and Ph.D. (public policy) at Harvard.
Beatriz Caiuby Labate – The treatment and handling of substance dependence with Ayahuasca: reflections on current and future research. With Rafael Guimarães dos Santos, Brian Anderson, Marcelo Mercante, and Paulo César Ribeiro Barbosa.
The treatment and handling of substance dependence with Ayahuasca: reflections on current and future research This discussion will present a series of reflections on the therapeutic potential of the ritual use of Ayahuasca in the treatment and handling of substance dependence problems. Anthropological and psychiatric data on the ritual use of Ayahuasca for “healing” dependence in psychotherapeutic centers (in Peru and Brazil), as well as in Ayahuasca religions (in Brazil), are reviewed and critiqued. Methodological, ethical and political considerations for current and future research in this area are then discussed, and an interdisciplinary agenda for studies on the use of Ayahuasca to treat or handle substance dependence is proposed.
David Lukoff, Ph.D. – Implications of Jungian Psychology for Psychedelic Psychotherapy
David Lukoff will present on psychotherapeutic methods, based on Jungian theory, for integrating psychedelic experiences that have been problematic for the individual, at times even leading to psychiatric hospitalization. This approach is based on the concept of spiritual emergencies which are crises that include non-ordinary states that in the west would be seen and treated as psychosis and treated with suppressive medication. But using Stanislav Grof’s observations from his study of non-ordinary states and also of diverse spiritual traditions, such episodes can be treated as crises of transformation or crises of spiritual opening. If properly understood and properly supported by the therapist, they are actually conducive to healing and transformation.
Marcelo Mercante, Ph.D. – Ayahuasca, Spontaneous Mental Imagery, Homeless People, and the Treatment of Drug Addiction and Alcoholism
The objective of this presentation is to contribute to the investigation of the subjective experiences of participants in drug and alcohol addiction programs which ritualistically use the psychoactive drink Ayahuasca as part of their treatment model. This application of Ayahuasca seems to promote novel subjective experience, perception, and perspective in substance abusers, thus creating a foundation for changing their life habits. The spontaneous mental imagery associated with the experience seems to be at the core of that process. They are “revelatory moments” that put into evidence internal and external dimensions of being. The physical, social, and spiritual transformation of the participant appears in the form of spontaneous mental imagery that draws on what is already present in the participant’s own consciousness – memories from the past, interpretations of present experience, and dreams about the future. The presentation will be about two different sets of research data. The first research was conducted during 2007 in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, where a group called Ablusa – led by a psychiatrist, was using Ayahuasca as a tool to help homeless people have a “normal life” again. The second research was conducted in three diferent places: the Takiwasi Center, in Peru; the Ceu Sagrado, in Sorocaba, Brazil, and the Centro de Recuperação Caminho de Luz, in Rio Branco, Brazil. The Brazilian centers are linked to the Santo Daime (Ceu Sagrado) and União do Vegetal (Caminho de Luz), both Brazilian Ayahuasca religions. They have different treatment systems, and during my presentation I will be exploring the points they have in common and their differences. I will present data concerning the effectiveness of their treatments, and about the links between the spontaneous mental imagery of people undergoing that kind of treatment and its relationship with their recovery.
Ralph Metzner, Ph.D.– Psychedelic, Psychoactive and Addictive Drugs and States of Consciousness
In this talk, I propose to examine the states of consciousness induced by psychedelic drugs in the framework of a heuristic model of altered states of consciousness (ASCs). I suggest that William James’ philosophy of radical empiricism provides the appropriate epistemological underpinning for the empirical study of states of consciousness, as well as their correlations with brain functions. According to this heuristic model of ASCs, the content of a state of consciousness is a function of the internal set and external setting – regardless of the catalyst or trigger, which might be a drug, or hypnosis, or rhythmic drum beat, or music, or the naturally occurring variations of the sleep/dream cycle. ASCs, whether induced or naturally occurring, differ energetically on the dimensions of (1) arousal vs. sedation, (2) pleasure vs. pain, (3) expansion vs. contraction. The psychoactive, or mood regulating drugs, such as the stimulants and sedatives, affect primarily the dimensions of arousal and pleasure-pain. I argue that the classical psychedelic drugs are consciousness expanding, and therefore opposite in effect to drugs such as the opiates, alcohol, cocaine and amphetamines, that produce contracted and potentially addictive states of consciousness. This is the basis for the therapeutic applications of consciousness-expanding psychedelics in the treatment of addictions and behavioral compulsions. In general, expansive states of consciousness, whether induced by drugs or by meditative, shamanic and yogic methods, play a significant role in the world’s spiritual growth traditions and in indigenous vision practices.
Michael Montagne, Ph.D. – Metaphors and Meanings: How We Interpret and Understand Psychedelic Drug Experiences
Psychedelic drug experiences are unique, malleable, highly variable, often tacit and profound in nature. The neuropharmacological changes produced by psychedelic drugs require perception, interpretation, description, and comprehension, in order for the experience to have significance for the user. Social context and reason for use can direct the types of effects that are experienced and described, whether medical-therapeutic, creative, spiritual, or destructive. How do users come to understand the meaning of their experiences? It is constructed individually and socially, primarily through the use of metaphors, language that describes something new in terms of other experiences that are more familiar. In this presentation, metaphors for the psychedelic drug experience are presented and described. The process of applying meaning to these experiences and attributing effects to the drug that is taken are delineated. Guidance on employing metaphors in therapeutic and other contexts is provided with the goal of improving beneficial outcomes from psychedelic drug use.
Levente Moro, Ph.D. (cand.) – Autognosis, Life Quality, and Spirituality in Psychedelic Drug Users
A growing number of cultural studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that purposes of psychoactive drug use – both legal and illegal – may also include the pursuit of increased personal well-being. Psychoactive substances, especially psychedelics (e.g., LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, DMT, LSA, and salvinorin-A), have been used in relation to religious and spiritual practices, creative processes, social cohesion, and autognostic purposes (i.e., for increasing self-knowledge). The salutogenesis model of Antonovsky assumes that the meaningful interpretation of exceptional life events – which could include psychedelic experiences as well – may lead to a better psychological functioning and an improved quality of life. In our recent on-line survey study, we assessed 667 drug users and non-users with three psychological instruments regarding their life quality, coping, and spirituality. Our target “psychonaut” group – consisting of participants who previously used or currently use mostly psychedelic drugs with primarily autognostic purposes – was matched against drug user and non-user control groups. Results from a cross-table of 23 psychoactive drugs and 14 drug use purposes show a strong connection between psychedelic drugs and autognostic purposes. Moreover, we found support for the initial hypothesis about a positive relationship between psychedelics and self-evaluated life quality. Contradictory to suggestions of previous studies about spirituality as a protective factor against drug use, we also found a positive correlation between spirituality and autognostic purposes of psychedelic drug use. In light of our results, the autognostic use of psychedelics may play a kind of role in mental well-being that cannot be interpreted within psychopathological or social-deviance models of drug abuse. These questions are to be explored in our further qualitative interview studies about psychonaut culture, patterns of autognostic drug use, health behavior, and quality of life.
Tom Pinkson, Ph.D. – Psychedelics and Death: Exercising the ‘Letting Go’ Muscle
Author of “Do They Celebrate Christmas in Heaven? Spiritual Rite of Passage Teachings from Children with Life-Threatening Illness” and “The Shamanic Wisdom of the Huichol: Ancient Medicine for Modern Times”, consultant, retreat & ceremonial Leader, has played a key role in three social movements of the 20th Century: the establishment and growth of the second Hospice Program in the United States, the introduction of the Native American based Vision Quest to mainstream America and the spread of Attitudinal Healing, a forerunner to today’s popularity of “positive psychology”, through helping Dr. Jerry Jampolsky start the internationally renown Center for Attitudinal Healing where he worked for thirty-two years counseling life-threatened children and adults.
Tom is the founder and director of WAKAN, a shamanically-based community committed to restoring the sacred in daily life, and of “Recognition Rites For A New Vision of Aging”, a program that shifts attitudes and behaviors towards what is called by some, “The Third Age”.
Tom has spent over forty years studying with indigenous elders around the world learning about their healing ways, always with an eye to practical application of their wisdom teachings to the crisis of modernity. He completed an eleven year apprenticeship with Huichol shamans in Mexico with a Bull Ceremony in the shaman’s rancho.
Silvia Polivoy, Ph.D. – Ayahuasca: Handle with Utmost Care
Many people aren’t aware of the intricacies of working with sacred plant teachers like Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is sometimes mistakenly categorized with recreational psychedelic drugs. When used in a proper set and setting, Ayahuasca may help to heal the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—not just alleviating or suppressing symptoms. Although Ayahuasca is not a quick fix; a person working with it must have honest intention and commitment to change their patterns of behavior. Sometimes people relive traumatic experiences and then release repressed memories that are tucked in the corridors of the unconscious. Deep emotional issues that do not respond to conventional psychotherapy are often resolved. Ayahuasca should never be used without first knowing and understanding both the benefits and potential adverse effects.
Alexandre Quaranta, Ph.D. – Psychedelics Use and Lucid Dreaming: The Providential Synergy
Lucid dreaming is the amazing possibility of being fully awake and aware in the dream state while having at the same time access to faculties such as will, reason, memory (notably of waking state based intention), imagination, intuition, empathy. It is today proven to be a learnable skill which wide opens the door of the pure and free ecstatic imagination and of the transpersonal realm. The practice of lucid dreaming (and not reasoning or discussing on it) is today known to be as efficient as psychoactive substances to deconstruct the way we create and coagulate our perceptions at several levels and can be considered a providential “hack” for that purpose. For that reason genuine lucid dreaming exploration necessarily leads to freeing philosophical considerations and metaphysical insights. This presentation is designed to offer a panoramic view on lucid dreaming possibilities, describe more precisely some of them, and to offer also some practical understanding on how the lucid dream state can be achieved. Then, the link with the subject of hallucinations become obvious and possibly a new light can be casted on the understanding of the variety of such phenomenon.
Deborah Quevedo, R.N., Ph.D. – Psychospiritual Integration of an Ayahuasca Retreat Experience
The results of my dissertation research study will be presented. Ayahuasca is an entheogen that has been used for several thousand years by the indigenous people of the Amazon jungle for healing, learning, and divination. This research was conducted at neo-shamanic Ayahuasca retreats in Brazil that were led by a transpersonal psychotherapist. The retreats were conducted without the overlay of a religious doctrine or a particular cosmology. Twenty-two international (English-speaking) retreat participants completed quantitative and qualitative assessments on a confidential website using a repeated measures design.
Maggi Quinlan, Ph.D. – Healing from the Gods: Ayahuasca and the Curing of Disease States
This presentation describes the medical healing reported, as experienced through the use of Ayahuasca, in a case study with five co-researchers and myself. In each of the accounts the co-researcher was suffering from either a terminal or chronic illness. In four instances, the people came to Ayahuasca because they had exhausted all other options within the allopathic system. Two of those were facing imminent death. One person chose not to engage with allopathy beyond diagnosis. One person was both shown the presence of the illness, and the healing was facilitated with Ayahuasca alone. Another instance revealed ADHD/ADD and other “leaning disabilities” as an evolutionary process rather than a pathology. This presentation explores concepts of healing: what healing means and how it is achieved with psychedelics/entheogens. It is a record of the inner and outer journey through illness that each person experienced using Ayahuasca as the catalyzing agent for the curing that was reported. It investigates the potential for healing that does not currently exist in an allopathic system of medicine. Ayahuasca, and other entheogens, offer a potential to change that paradigm, and to expand current medical options in treating terminal and chronic illness. By providing access to a larger image of the psyche, Ayahuasca shows us the transpersonal and perinatal roots of symptoms and the energetic concept of healing that offers a new model of medicine.
Bruce Sewick, LCPC, RDDP, CADC and Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. – Public Education: A University Course in Psychedelics
Bruce Sewick teaches a 1-credit weekend class called “Psychedelic Mindview” at the College of DuPage that is open to anyone with no prerequisites, and Tom Roberts teaches a 3-credit course, currently under the title of Foundations of Psychedelic Studies, that is open to undergraduate juniors and seniors of all majors who are enrolled in the Honors Program at Northern Illinois University. They will discuss the experiences, possibilities, and pitfalls of offering these courses and hints for people who would like to offer similar courses at their colleges or universities.
Ben Sessa, M.D., B.Sc., M.R.C.Psych. – History of Psychedelic Research in the United Kingdom
Recent history of psychedelics in the United Kingdom – A child and adolescent psychiatrist working in the South West of England, Dr. Sessa developed a lifelong interest in psychedelics as a youth and has spent the last several years working to present his skeptical peers in psychiatry with a straight-laced, objective and unbiased point of view on the history and potential of these contentious and fascinating substances. Since publishing an article in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2005, he has had ten peer-reviewed articles in medical journals, and presented at medical conferences throughout the UK and Europe, chairing two symposiums at the Royal College of Psychiatry, offering consultation to the British Government on MDMA and contributing to numerous media articles in the British press on psychedelics. He will be giving a brief presentation on the History of Psychedelic Research in the UK, with particular reference to the work of Ronald Sandison, M.D. and LSD treatment explored by the maverick psychiatrist RD Laing, and will describe a pilot study that has recently been completed at Bristol University using intravenous psilocybin in healthy human volunteers in a mock-MRI scanner environment.
Zeno Sanchez-Ramos, M.D. – Effects of Psilocybin and other Selective Serotonin Agonists on Hippocampal-Dependent Learning and Neurogenesis
A. Does Psilocybin Impact Neurogenesis in Adult Hippocampus? Selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are known to stimulate the production of new neurons in the hippocampus by increasing synaptic concentration of serotonin (5-HT). The delay in the appearance of anti-depressant effects corresponds to the time required to generate new neurons. However, it is not clear which of the many serotonergic receptors in the hippocampus are responsible for the enhanced neurogenesis. The current study evaluated the effects of the acute and chronic administration of 5HT2A agonists psilocybin and 251-NBMeO and the 5HT2A/C antagonist ketanserin on hippocampal neurogenesis. To investigate the effects of acute drug administration mice received a single injection of varying doses of psilocybin, 251-NBMeO, ketanserin or saline followed by i.p. injections of 75 mg/kg bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) for 4 consecutive days followed by euthanasia two weeks later. For chronic administration 4 injections of psilocybin, ketanserin or saline were administered weekly over the course of one month. On days following drug injections mice received an injection of 75 mg/kg BrdU and were euthanized two weeks after the last drug injection. Unbiased estimates of BrdU+ and BrdU/NeuN+ cells in the dentate gyrus revealed a significant dose dependent reduction in the level of neurogenesis after acute 5HT2A receptor agonist or antagonist administration. Interestingly, chronic administration of psilocybin increased the number of new born neurons in the dentate gyrus while the antagonist suppressed hippocampal neurogenesis, suggesting that the 5HT2A receptor appears to be involved in the regulation of hippocampal neurogenesis.
B. Does Psilocybin Affect Hippocampal-Dependent Learning? Aberrations in brain serotonin (5-HT) neurotransmission have been implicated in psychiatric disorders including anxiety, depression and deficits in learning and memory. Many of these disorders are treated with drugs which promote the availability of 5-HT in the synapse. However, it is not clear which of the 5-HT receptors are involved in behavioral improvements. The current study aimed to investigate the effects of psilocybin, a 5HT2A receptor agonist on hippocampal-dependent learning. Mice received a single injection of psilocybin (0.1, 0.5, 1.0 or 1.5 mg/kg), ketanserin (a 5HT2A/C antagonist) or saline 24 hours before habituation to the environment and subsequent training and testing on the fear conditioning task. Trace fear conditioning is a hippocampal-dependent task in which the presentation of the conditioned stimulus (CS, tone) is separated in time by a trace interval to the unconditioned stimulus (US, shock). All mice developed contextual and cued fear conditioning; however, mice treated with psilocybin extinguished the cued fear conditioning more rapidly than saline treated mice. Interestingly, mice given the 5HT2A/C receptor antagonist ketanserin showed less of cued fear response than saline and psilocybin treated mice. Future studies should examine the temporal effects of acute and chronic psilocybin administration on hippocampal-dependent learning tasks.
Benny Shanon, Ph.D. –The Antipodes of the Mind
Benny Shanon. Professor and of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel). Holds B.A. degrees in philosophy and linguistics from Tel Aviv University, an M.A. in linguistics and a Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University. In addition to his permanent post in Jerusalem, taught at MIT, Cornell University and Swarthmore College. Was a visiting fellow at Harvard University, Princeton, the Ecole Polytechnique (Paris) and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and a visiting scholar at the Centre for the Study of Autonomy and Epistemology in Paris, The French National Institute for Mental Health, the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Bielefeld (Germany), The Center for Study and Research of the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio (Italy) and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the humanities and the social sciences. His fields of expertise are the semantics and pragmatics of natural language, the phenomenology of human consciousness, the conceptual foundations of cognitive science and the philosophy of psychology. Amongst his publications are two books: The Representational and the Presentational (1993), which is devoted to a critique of the representational-computational view of mind in cognitive science, and Antipodes of the Mind (Oxford University Press, 2002), which is a pioneering cognitive psychological study of special state of mind induced by the psychotropic brew Ayahuasca. At present he is writing a book presenting a new psychological-phenomenological theory of human consciousness. “In this lecture I present an overview of my book “The Antipodes of the Mind” (Oxford University Press, 2002/3). This book presents a comprehensive scientific analysis of the special state of mind induced by Ayahuasca. My study of Ayahuasca is grounded in the belief that the real puzzles associated with this brew pertain neither to the brain nor to culture but rather to the human psyche. So far, practically all the scientific research on Ayahuasca were in the framework of either the natural sciences (botany and ethnobotany, pharmacology, biochemistry and brain physiology) or anthropology. This is the first scientific attempt to study Ayahuasca from a cognitive psychological point of view. Empirically, my research is based on the systematic recording of my own quite extensive experiences with the brew and on the interviewing of a large number of informants – indigenous persons, shamans, members of different religious sects using Ayahuasca, as well as foreign travelers. My corpus is the largest and most systematic ever collected of people’s experiences with Ayahuasca. Naturally, each ayahuasca experience–both for the same individual on different occasions and across individuals–is different. However, when a large corpus of such experiences is examined repeated patterns are encountered and a unified global structure may be appreciated. Theoretically, I propose, the overall study of the ayahuasca state of mind may be likened to that of language. Specifically, like language, which can be investigated on several levels and dimensions (e.g., syntax, lexicon, semantics, pragmatics), ayahuasca visions can be investigated with respect to their formal structure, specific content elements presented in them, their themes, their narrative structure, as well as with respect to the interaction that the individual has with his/her visions. These various levels of analysis serve not only for the psychological study of the Ayahuasca experience but as the conceptual foundations for the cognitive study of non-ordinary states of consciousness in general. In this lecture I argue the case for the special orientation of my research, define the major dimensions of the ayahuasca state of mind and some of the conceptual distinctions, associated with them, highlight several empirical findings of prime interest, and note broader implications of these to the study of human consciousness at large. General philosophical ramifications will be indicated as well.”
Diana Slattery, Ph.D. (cand) – Ecstatic Significations: Psychedelics and Language
Examining psychedelic experiences of language, a new perspective on the relations of language, consciousness, and reality emerges. Embedded in cocoons of culture woven between ourselves and nature, our realities are symbol-laden and symbol-driven. Psychedelics can propel one outside the veil of language, to a place exterior to culture and cultural conditioning. From this vantage, “natural” languages can be perceived as more technological than natural, the software of social intercourse and civilization. With the decoding of DNA, and the molecular designs of nanotechnology, the biosphere and the material world have become “linguistically pliable,” in Mark Pesce’s words. This presentation surveys these phenomena and relates them to the neurobiological models of Charles Laughlin, Michael Winkelman, and Steve Farmer. The phenomenological data, the reports from lived experience of individuals, stand in reciprocal, mutually informing relation to these scientific models. The question becomes not only, “How can these (or other) neurobiological models explain these linguistic phenomena in all their diversity?” but “What can these linguistic phenomena, however anomalous, tell us about our models of brain and cognition?”
Kaleb Smith – Hyper-Sensitive States and Indirect Semantic Priming: Inferring The Mechanics of Psilocybin’s Novel Association Effect
The semantic network model provides a powerful analogy with which to understand the nature of the attentional processes which act and interact in the composition of a thought. While the metaphoric nature of the semantic network, itself, has been argued, (Anderson (2000) claiming his ACT-R model as something closer to a neurological actuality), several studies (A. Pecchinenda, C. Ganteaume, & R. Bansestudies, 2008) have suggested that a subjective networking structure underlies the biological networking structure of neuronal interconnection in the brain, supporting the notion of spreading activation and semantic priming. Throughout the presentation, I intend to explore what may be implied from the developed instrumentation and data of these and other studies and form an argument which seeks to describe the effects of psilocybin using the semantic network by expanding upon the cognitive mechanism of latent inhbition (LI) described by Carson (2003) and its correlatable research data. Key to relating the LI model to the activity of psilocybin on the semantic network is the indirect priming and schizophrenia research of Spitzer (1996, 1994). By interpreting semantic priming as a function of attention, the length of activational spread within the network can be seen as dependent on, not only the capacity of memory, but also the capacity of one’s attention span.
Leanna Standish, N.D., Ph.D., L.Acup, FABNO – Ayahuasca, Science and Medicine
Ayahuasca has much to teach us about consciousness and holds the potential as a medicine in the treatment of psychiatric disorders and immunological disorders including cancer. A human research agenda using modern technologies to explore the brain and psychological effects of ayahuasca will be described. This lecture will discuss the ontological, psychological, and medical questions that the ayahuasca experience begs and methodologies to answer these questions.
Luis Fernando Tofoli, MD – Mental health safety of Ayahuasca religious use: results from an epidemiological surveillance system by the União do Vegetal in Brazil
The risk of psychotic outbreaks and major psychiatric incidents is an important but yet unresolved issue regarding the safety of the Amazonian entheogenic beverage Ayahuasca. The União do Vegetal (UDV, one of the Brazilian syncretic Ayahuasca religions) has a set of customs and beliefs that reinforces the attention to one’s mental health status before approving one’s experience with Ayahuasca.
Steven Toth, R.M.T. – Incorporating Bodywork into the Psychedelic Journey
The potentials for psychedelic sessions to catalyze substantive gains in individual self-awareness and well-being have been definitively established. However, within the pertinent literature this presenter has found a generic lack of reportage in respect to sessions which included intervals of therapeutic bodywork.
Some of the constructive potentials of incorporating a specific ethos of bodywork will be presented in the context of the psychedelic process. We will discuss the value and import of working without an agenda; of the critical need for empathy; and cultivating the ability to maintain a non-judgmental presence.
A brief overview of this realm of psychedelic work will be put forth in the context of select case studies. It is the presenter’s position that there are invaluable linkages between the use of psychoactive substances, a deepening understanding of optimal personal development and the potential resolution of a host of corresponding deficits by including bodywork in journeywork.
Steven Toth is a Registered Movement Therapist in private practice in the Bay Area, New York City, and Madison Wisconsin. As a survivor of two near death experiences he is grateful to be alive and dedicated to working with individuals and groups committed to unfolding their truth. He has been extremely fortunate to have studied and trained with several master teachers, including Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen (Bodymind Centering); Eliot Cowan (Plant Spirit Medicine); Fritz Smith (Zero Balancing); Stan Grof (Holotropic Breathwork); James Sun (Eight Step Preying Mantis) and Azom Choktul Rinpoche (Dzogchen Buddhism).
Stephen Trichter, Ph.D. – Out of the Jungle and onto the Couch: Applying Ayahuasca’s Lessons to the Therapy Room
Ayahuasca is one of many substances in a group of compounds that have shown promise in harnessing the power to increase an individual’s spirituality and strengthen their sense of well-being. These substances, known as entheogens, a term etymologically rooted in Latin that means “generating the divine within,” are commonly referred to as psychedelics or hallucinogens. Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic plant brew from the Amazon basin that has been used as part of healing ceremonies by the region’s indigenous people for centuries, has found more recent use in a wide variety of modern spiritual contexts and communities, and is now consumed by growing numbers of people throughout the world. Anecdotal evidence and previous research suggest that participants who take part in Ayahuasca ceremonies experience significant spiritual effects. A study conducted by the presenter (Trichter, Klimo, and Krippner, 2006) found statistically significant changes in novice participants’ subjective spiritual experiences as a result of participation in their first Ayahuasca ceremony. “Out of the Jungle” will present the research findings from this study, examine the psychospiritual risks and challenges that come with the adoption of these practices in Western culture, and propose a preliminary psychoanalytic model of how Ayahuasca ceremony can be integrated into treatment to maximize potential benefits and minimize potential harm to patients.
Kenneth Tupper, Ph.D. (cand.) – Psychedelics, Entheogens, and Public Policy
This presentation considers how policy makers should respond to re-emerging evidence of the therapeutic and other benefits of psychedelics or entheogens. After a period of quiescence for several decades, academic research on psychedelics has begun to pick up momentum and is already beginning to corroborate many of the positive findings initially generated in the 1950s and 1960s. These include not only specific medical indications for clinical disorders, but also broader psychological and/or spiritual benefits for healthy individuals. At the same time, novel information and communications technologies allow for a much more rapid dissemination of ideas and social trends involving such substances than ever before. Along with these new research findings and cultural shifts come new challenges for how to translate academic knowledge not only into effective clinical interventions, but also into healthy public policy. One such challenge is how to balance the biomedical perspective of psychedelic therapy with the spiritual perspective of entheogenic practices. The techniques, methods and explanatory frames of psychedelic therapy have been grounded in the Western biomedical paradigm, whereas those of entheogenic healing or spiritual practices have a much longer history stemming from traditional indigenous forms of cultural knowledge. The globalization of the traditional Amazonian brew Ayahuasca presents a useful case example of the potential divergence between these two approaches: Ayahuasca drinkers frequently attest to its health and/or spiritual benefits with “evidence” apprehended directly from experience with the brew, whereas physicians working from a biomedical perspective have very different requirements of evidence. From a public policy perspective, such differences demand a difficult balancing of competing interests of the state, including public health, human rights, criminal justice and free-market economics.
Bryan West – Education and Training
Rudimentary research done by Eric Kast in the late 1950s and early 1960s indicated that psilocybin and LSD could mediate pain, not only during the dosing session but for weeks after a single dose. I am interested in “reopening” this old branch of research using the technology and scientific rigor of the twenty-first century. Beyond exploring the role of psychedelic pain control and management, I would simultaneously use modern imaging techniques, such as quantitative-EEG (QEEG), to examine the “brain-state” of subjects both under the influence of psychedelics and in follow-up.
Multitudes of imaging modalities are available to modern researchers that were unavailable, even unimaginable, fifty years ago. In my own separate research technically outside of the field of psychedelics, I have become fascinated by the power of fMRI, quantitative EEG, and somatosensory evoked potentials. Via their work with these imaging devices, researchers such as Dr. Rodolfo Llinas, Dr. E. Roys Johns, and Dr. Leslie Prichep have implicated the role of thalamic oscillations and rhythmicity to consciousness, to what, as I like to say, “makes us us”.
Furthermore, these discoveries suggest altered rhythms lead to disease states such as OCD, anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. I am very excited by what I see as the endless possibilities presented in these avenues of research. All of these techniques can show alterations in brain chemistry, firing, blood flow, etc. These new technologies could be employed to discover more about psychedelics in relation to every aspect of the brain, including pain, because most of these imaging techniques are already being used to examine pain patients not under the influence of psychedelics.