TEDxSalem: “Through the Looking Glass” with Brad Burge (Salem, Oregon)

January 6, 2018

From the event website:

TEDxSalem is proud to announce another surprise speaker for our January 6, 2018, event “Through the Looking Glass.”

A few months ago, Brad Burge returned from Burning Man, the temporary city of artists and creators in the Nevada desert. He was there volunteering for the Zendo project, a group that supports people who are having difficult episodes with psychedelics or other drugs.

Brad is Director of Strategic Communications for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an association that rethinks the role of psychedelic drugs in our society. The Zendo Project falls in line with the first part of MAPS’ mission: educate and reduce harm.

“We don’t call it a bad trip,” Brad said, “because every psychedelic event brings up information that needs to be dealt with. The Zendo Project has found that they can provide support in a way that offers the best outcome possible.”

Traditional responses of police or medical personnel, while well meaning, he said, can make a bad trip worse. Those responses don’t allow a person to finish processing the thoughts and memories that have come up. At Zendo Project, in concert with law enforcement and medical staff, they sit with the person, offer support and listen until they are safe to return to their friends. Brad reports that the service is so successful that Burning Man is planning for a second Zendo Project facility next year.

The second part of MAPS’ mission is to provide research into new ways of treating psychiatric disorders with psychedelic drugs. Rather than being counter-culture, MAPS works within the system to explore the legitimate benefits psychedelic drugs may have in treating mental health.

Brad describes the results they are seeing in their work with PTSD as “really promising.” So promising that the FDA granted them breakthrough therapy designation, which means preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies. They are now moving into phase III of clinical trials.

Brad’s personal story brought him to MAPS while he was working on his doctorate at UC San Diego. After studying both psychology and communications at Stanford, Brad’s master’s research on psychedelics intersected with his own journey of mental illness.

He had been on lithium for nearly 11 years when he had his first experience on a psychedelic drug. Brad’s training and education on the evils of psychedelics stood in sharp contrast to his experience.

“For my whole life I had been raised to believe that mental health pharmaceuticals work like keys in a lock… that I was somehow broken and needed to be fixed… For the first time in my life I felt like I could be a whole person… I felt like I had been missing out on opportunities to grow.”

Brad’s personal experience of the impact that therapeutically guided psychedelics could have has motivated him to educate people about the politics of drugs in our society and to promote the legal research of the benefits that these drugs can have.

Come to TEDxSalem and hear the rest of Brad’s story as he offers us a glimpse into an unexpected future for psychiatry in America.

Speaker: Brad Burge

Pets: “My partner has a pet, a beautiful little cat, Maho, that is very talkative, and I have effectively adopted her.”

Favorite Movie: “Sci-fi always works. I am super into imagining what the future holds.”

Favorite Book: “Dune”

Favorite Music: Grateful Dead or glitchy techno. Brad also confirms listening to Alabama 3 “for sure.”

Favorite Food: Salami. “Because it keeps for a long time out of the fridge.”

Favorite Drink: Guayaki Yerba Mate

Hobbies: Big time backpacker: “I just got back from a 45-mile hike through Sequoia and King’s Canyon in California Sierra. I hope to find some backpacking or hiking while I am in Portland.”

For more information, visit the event website.