Summary: Forbes interviews Bitcoin philanthropist and Pineapple Fund Founder about their dedication to help fund MAPS’ ongoing MDMA research and personal experience receiving ketamine to treat Borderline Personality Disorder. “When I saw MAPS’ work on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy after creating the fund, I was immediately convinced. I’ve personally experienced an incredible benefit and know it works. While ketamine is not MDMA, ketamine has allowed me to explore the depths of my emotions in a way that’s impossible otherwise,” explains Pine.
Originally appearing here.
Late last year, an anonymous organization, the Pineapple Fund, came out of nowhere and started writing large checks to nonprofits. The fund had a simple website and stated that the founder (or founders) were pledging a whopping $85 million of their Bitcoin fortune to charity, including to a relatively obscure, but rising star in Silicon Valley dedicated to advancing psychedelic-assisted medical therapy, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
Needless to say, this caused a swirl of interest in the media, not just because of the fascination with the new-money guard of early Bitcoin enthusiasts, but because the only way to get ahold of the mysterious fund was an email address, which I’m sure is being overwhelmed with solicitations.
I managed to get an interview with the founder of the Pineapple Fund, who goes by “Pine”, and asked about the decision to give $4 million in matching grants to MAPS. Below is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
I should note that I decided to post this as a transcript, rather than paraphrase the interview because talking about psychedelics is such a deeply personal experience and the nuance is important, even if there are some grammar issues with the un-edited response. I got a feeling for Pine’s personality in his/her emails and wanted to preserve that for readers.
Me: Briefly, why did you start the Pineapple Fund? What makes it unique?
Pine: I had got into the world of cryptocurrency since when it was an obscure phenomenon, and ended up accumulating a large amount of Bitcoins. As years went on and my life went on, my holdings slowly became a ludicrous amount of money.
So many people in this world who’s put in far more effort and have far less. Spending that money on myself is wasting it. The marginal value of money for me is minimal. From a value perspective, I create value by re-distributing most of the money to people who’ll enjoy it more than me. Crypto almost became a weight on me.
I think the most unique thing about the Pineapple Fund is lack of overhead and rapid decision making. There are many charities that I’ve offered a donation to, after one email, and I’m open to funding less conventional charities. I’d like to think PF’s “value-add to society” is beyond the average for a donation of this size.
Did you have a personal experience with psychedelics that led you to donate to MAPS?
It wasn’t psychedelics, but it was similar. I have Borderline Personality Disorder, which makes my mental health and emotions a rollercoaster. It’s even more volatile than cryptocurrency!
Last year, I heard that ketamine is being investigated as a treatment for BPD [Borderline Personality Disorder]. One symptom of BPD is dissociation when emotions get intense, and ketamine causes dissociation, so it was thought to affect the same pathways.
I decided to try it and went a clinic that prescribed ketamine off-label for my BPD. That is an experience I’d love to elaborate another time, but during the IV, I came up with the idea of the Pineapple Fund. It felt like a worthwhile and important thing to do.
When I saw MAPS’ work on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy after creating the fund, I was immediately convinced. I’ve personally experienced an incredible benefit and know it works. While ketamine is not MDMA, ketamine has allowed me to explore the depths of my emotions in a way that’s impossible otherwise.
I also recognize the important key is therapy because, during one IV, I realized how much I wished my therapist was next to me; and MAPS’ trials isn’t about MDMA. It’s about MDMA with therapy.
Tell me about your experience with Ketamine and why it inspired you to start the fund:
Imagine that you’ve never been happy with yourself. Imagine having episodes, kind of like migraine headaches, but where you feel intense emptiness and worthlessness that it consumes your entire mind and makes you feel suicidal. Those are two symptoms of BPD, and one trigger for them is emotional wounds, like past relationships or your childhood.
I was skeptical of ketamine at first. The scene: I had an IV in my arm and a heartbeat monitor on my fingertip. I was getting about 1/5th the dosage you need to enter anesthesia. It made me dissociate, which meant that different parts of my brain started talking to each other less. My vision didn’t visually change, but it felt more spaced out. My emotions, which often consume me, started to quiet down. My thoughts weren’t slower, but they somehow felt more clear.
I started thinking, “wow, I’m so fucked up that I’m trying experimental ketamine IV to fix me.” That was both the best and worst thought in my life. It opened the floodgates for all of my intense emotions, but it allowed me to think through them, rationally, while on ketamine. I almost felt like I could physically feel all the emotional wounds and weights on me, and I explored them with my mind.
I experienced worst emotions I had ever experienced in my life, which usually makes me dissociate, but I’m already dissociated, so that’s okay. I could process those past experiences and start closing those wounds and think about it from a logical perspective.
One emotional weight is cryptocurrency. There exists a certain point where more money doesn’t make your life better in any real way. I’m past that point. It was actually hurting me, because, with all the money in the world, I had no motivation to do anything. So I want to do something with it, but I normally wouldn’t do anything significant for the fear of regretting my choices. For example, what if I start a company with it, and I fail?
With ketamine, I realized that having all those Bitcoins isn’t helping me, so I should really do something with it. It took a little bit more thinking before deciding on anonymously donating most of it to charity. My identity, to my friends and social circles, wouldn’t change. I won’t be hounded down for money. And I could actually do something good in this world, with minimal effort. That is how the Pineapple Fund was born.
In your most optimistic vision for the future, what kinds of problems do psychedelics solve?
I’m convinced that further responsible study in psychedelics will effective and long-lasting/permanent treatment for many mental health issues, that are becoming more and more prevalent in modern day society. There are promising studies on using psychedelics to treat depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
I do also think it is an inherent human right to explore substances like psychedelics. They are not addictive, and comparatively are less harmful than substances like alcohol. But I’m not going to glorify psychedelics either because they can be positive and negative.