This special issue of the MAPS Bulletin, on the occasion of Psychedelic Science 2017, highlights the tremendous progress that the field of psychedelic research has made since our previous Psychedelic Science conferences in 2010 and 2013. There is now more psychedelic research taking place than at any time in the last 50 years. Advances in psychedelic research over the last several decades have reached the point that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is formally reviewing protocols for Phase 3 drug development clinical trials that will evaluate psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for a variety of conditions. These upcoming studies will lead to prescription access, should they demonstrate both safety and efficacy.
We’ve now seen a decade of thoughtful, well-researched news reports about psychedelics in the full range of international media outlets, from The New York Times and BBC to Fox News and Redstate.com. These reports have widely disseminated balanced, much-needed information about the risks and benefits of psychedelics in a variety of medical, religious, scientific, and cultural contexts, building bipartisan support for expanded research into their beneficial uses.
We’re also seeing a growing acceptance of—and need for—MAPS’ Zendo Project and other psychedelic harm reduction services at festivals around the world. Psychedelic harm reduction reduces the number of “bad trips” by providing compassionate care for people going through challenging psychedelic experiences, in the process reducing public fears about psychedelics and creating a model for a post-prohibition world.
An astonishing number of people from all aspects of our society have been profoundly impacted by their experiences of ayahuasca, the psychedelic tea from the Amazon. Ayahuasca use has been growing in acceptance for decades, especially since 2006, when the U.S. Supreme Court approved the religious use of ayahuasca by the União de Vegetal (UDV) Church, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ subsequent approval of its use by the Santo Daime Church. Growing public acceptance of medical marijuana and majority support for marijuana legalization further reinforce public openness to psychedelics, due to their shared status as Schedule 1 drugs.
All of these factors have contributed to Psychedelic Science 2017 (as far as we can tell) being the largest psychedelic conference in history, with over 2,500 attendees from at least 39 countries. It will be even larger than the historic 2006 International Symposium on the 100th Birthday of Albert Hofmann and the 2008 World Psychedelic Forum, both sponsored by Gaia Media in Basel, Switzerland, and each with about 2,000 attendees.
Now is a time of great potential for integrating psychedelics into Western culture, at a time of great need. We need more tools that can enable people to process fear and challenging thoughts and emotions more directly, in order to respond effectively to the challenges of violence, inequality, and environmental damage; to help overcome multigenerational trauma; to face death with equanimity and life with joy; to build empathy and compassion; and so much more. One way forward can be through experimental mysticism research with psychedelics, with which we can develop inclusive spiritualities—the antidote to fundamentalism.
It’s now incumbent on advocates, skeptics, researchers, regulators, journalists, and all people worldwide to all look as deeply, critically, and fairly as they can at the emerging information about the risks and benefits of psychedelics. This issue of the MAPS Bulletin, and all of Psychedelic Science 2017, is an invitation to engage in dialogue with all the rigor and open-mindedness we can muster. Psychedelics are tools that humanity needs to be legally available—to heal our deepest wounds, to develop emotionally and spiritually, and to survive and thrive in the 21st century and beyond.
Rick Doblin, Ph.D.
MAPS Founder and Executive Director