Psychedelic Convergence in Oakland

Originally appearing here. The Psychedelic Science 2013 conference will be one of the largest gatherings of scientists, researchers, reformers, and other members of the psychedelic research community. From April 18-23, attendees will learn about and share current research on all aspects of psychedelic compounds, with topics ranging from psychotherapy and neuroscience to art and spirituality. Reality Sandwich contributor Neşe Devenot spoke with Brad Burge, Communications Director for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), about what we can expect from this historic gathering. Neşe Devenot: I’m looking forward to Psychedelic Science 2013! Can you give a brief description of the conference? How many presenters are there and how many people are you expecting will attend? Brad Burge: In a couple of weeks downtown Oakland will witness the arrival of nearly 1,500 attendees for Psychedelic Science 2013–scientists, doctors, students, activists, artists–all of them passionate about psychedelics. Over 100 speakers from 13 countries will share all aspects of current research into psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, ayahuasca, DMT, and many more compounds, old as well as new. Many of the full-day workshops are already sold out, as is the sunset cruise. MAPS is working with The Beckley Foundation, the Council on Spiritual Practices, and Heffter Research Institute to bring together the fast-growing international psychedelic research community for five days of lectures, workshops, entertainment, community, and film screenings – all of it centered on psychedelic science, medicine, culture, art, and spirituality. The last Psychedelic Science took place in 2010. Have you noticed any major changes in the field and in the public perception of psychedelics since then? Burge: On one hand, a whole lot of research has happened just in the last few years, particularly with regards to MDMA, psilocybin, and ayahuasca, so there’s a lot more research being presented from all over the world. Also, the culture itself has matured a lot in the last few years. The mainstream public, and increasingly those in positions of political authority, are starting to understand that psychedelic research is serious and important work. There’s less and less interest in maintaining the failed war on drugs. And most importantly, there’s more need for it than ever before: as individuals and as a culture, we are all struggling to heal from our traumas and improve our relationships with the world. What will be different this time around? Burge: I think it’s become clearer to the public at large that this is not a rehash of the 1960s research atmosphere – it’s cutting-edge research with growing public support. The media interest and huge excitement surrounding the event is already showing how much public interest and acceptance of legitimate research into the scientific, medical, and spiritual uses of psychedelics has grown in the last several years. How does Psychedelic Science compare to the other conferences that MAPS has hosted over the past few years? Burge: Our past conferences have really been building up to this one. We’ll see all aspects of our previous conferences – the scientific lectures, the community and networking spaces, the art, the surprising connections – but all of it at a much larger scale and with a much stronger sense of legitimacy. Have there been any surprises during the planning process? Burge: Yes – I was on the interdisciplinary committee tasked with deciding which presenters to invite to present their work at Psychedelic Science 2013. The response that we received when we released the call for papers was astounding, and exciting – I had not expected so many people from so many different parts of the world to be so excited to share their work. I knew that the field was large and growing, since almost every day I talk to someone asking how to start a career in psychedelic research or therapy. It really feels like psychedelic research is sprouting up everywhere – like mycelia maybe, or vines. What are you most excited about? Burge: I’m most excited for the incredible diversity of people coming to Psychedelic Science 2013. More than anything it will be a meeting place, of people from all parts of the globe who are interested in psychedelics for all sorts of reasons – whether for healing, or for spiritual exploration, or for discovering how the brain works. This is the new psychedelic culture – not countercultural, not resistant, not escapist – but rather passionate about careful science and the responsible use of psychedelics in research, medicine, and spirituality. And it will be right in the middle of downtown Oakland. If you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited. Me too. See you in Oakland! Reality Sandwich contributor Nese Devenot interviews MAPS Director of Communications Brad Burge about Psychedelic Science 2013, touching upon the diversity of the event, attendance milestones, and how the public perception of psychedelics is continuing to become more accepting.