THIRD WAVE PODCAST
Heal Thyself: Revolutionizing the Standard Medical Model
Michael Verbora, M.D.
We’re in the early stages of a many-layered worldwide shift: The paternalistic medical model is slowly falling away as we recognize that we’re our own best healers. With church affiliation dwindling, more and more of us are turning to different forms of community and spirituality. And as psychedelics continue to grow in mainstream awareness, support of their use in healing and personal growth is gaining unstoppable momentum. In this episode, Michael and Paul discuss some of the exciting possibilities of our psychedelic medical future, and how these substances have the power to heal not just ourselves, but our entire communities.
Michael Verbora, M.D., earned an MBA from the Odette School of Business in 2009 and an M.D. from Schulich School of Medicine at Western University in 2013 before entering family practice residency at the University of Toronto. To date, he has completed over 5,000 cannabinoid therapy consultations and is a global medical expert in the field of cannabinoid therapy.
Michael is also the medical director of Field Trip Health, a psychedelic therapy company focused on providing space for drug assisted therapy and conducting research on emerging psychedelic practices.
- Why Michael was inspired to earn both an MBA and an M.D.
- Why cannabis interested Michael early on as a treatment for complex conditions.
- What medical schools currently teach about alternative medicine, and what might change in the next 5-10 years.
- The paradigm shift in clinical care towards psychedelic medicine.
- Is group therapy the future of healing?
- The role of the larger community in the healing process
- The changing meaning and purpose of “church” in our daily lives.
- What does it mean to say we are our own healers?
- Michael’s vision of the way Field Trip will transform the current medical model.
- The parallels between community and the mycelial network.
0:00:00.5 Paul Austin: Welcome to the Third Wave Podcast. I’m your host, Paul Austin, here to bring you cutting edge interviews with leading scientists, entrepreneurs and medical professionals, who are exploring how we can integrate Psychedelics in an intentional and responsible way for both healing and transformation. It is my honor and privilege, to bring you these episodes, as you get deeper and deeper into why these medicines are so critical to the future of humanity. So let’s go and let’s see what we can explore and learn together, in this incredibly important time.
0:00:40.4 PA: Hey, listeners, this podcast is brought to you by Maya, a measurement-based care platform that’s designed to support Psychedelic practitioners and patients. With Maya, you can provide a new level of clarity and care for your patients, by tracking therapeutic progression using psychometric scales, digital biomarkers and remote monitoring. For a limited time, practitioners get 20% off and exclusive access to Maya. Mention Third Wave in referrals, when you sign up at mayahealth.com, that’s mayahealth.com. If you are a Third Wave listener, you will get 20% off as either a practitioner or a patient, using this cutting edge platform. It’s so fascinating, the up and coming businesses in the Psychedelic space, and Maya is run by a team of incredible integrity, that are really building a next generation platform for practitioners and patients. So again, if you want to get 20% off and exclusive access to Maya, just go to mayahealth.com and mention Third Wave in referrals.
0:01:50.4 PA: Hey listeners, this episode is brought to you by the Integrative Psychiatry Institute, who recently launched a certification program for mental health professionals in Psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. Upon successfully completing this year-long online training, you’ll become a certified Psychedelic-assisted therapy provider. Now, this program is run by a good friend of mine, Will Van Derveer, who has also been in the podcast before. Will has been studying integrative medicine for almost 20 years now, and some incredible guest faculty are involved, including Rick Doblin and Gabor Maté. So, be sure to go over to psychiatryinstitute.com/thirdwave, and schedule a discovery call, to apply. Spaces are limited, so be sure to apply soon. This is a great opportunity for therapists, clinical psychologists, doctors and nurses, who are interested in accelerating their therapy practice with the power of Psychedelic medicine. You will also have the opportunity for a hands-on experience with Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. Again, go to psychiatryinstitute.com/thirdwave, and schedule your discovery call, to apply.
0:03:04.6 PA: Hey, listeners. And welcome back to Third Wave Podcast. Today’s guest is Dr. Michael Verbora. Dr. Verbora earned an MBA from the Odette School of Business, in 2009, and an MD from Schulich School of medicine at Western University, in 2013, before and trained family practice residency at the University of Toronto. To date, he has completed over 5000 cannabinoid therapy consultations, and is a global medical expert in the field of cannabinoid therapy. Dr. Verbora is also and more relevant to this conversation, the Medical Director of Field Trip Health, a Psychedelic therapy company focused on providing space for drug-assisted therapy and conducting research on emerging Psychedelic practices. Michael, welcome to the show.
0:03:49.5 Michael Verbora: Thanks so much for having me. Really excited to be here with you today, Paul.
0:03:54.0 PA: So something unique about your background, is the pairing of an MBA with a medical license. I would love if you could just bring our listeners a little bit into your story and background, in terms of what inspired that dual focus, from a professional perspective.
0:04:10.6 MV: So I kinda grew up always wanting to be a doctor, somebody probably close to me, planted that seed and it grew and manifested into a reality, and it’s a reality that I’m very excited about and very proud of as well, as the first doctor in my family. Yeah, along that path, an opportunity came up for a very condensed one year MBA program, and I did my undergrad at the University of Windsor, where I was raised and grew up, right across the border from Detroit. So this opportunity came up, and I was in the midst of writing my examinations for medical school, and I thought, “Well, you know, a lot of doctors go to medical school, and the message I heard from some mentors, were not very good at business, not very good at managing their own money.” And I figured, this opportunity came on my door step, to do a nine to 12-month MBA, and I figured, “Well, why don’t I do this since it’s here, and then I’ll do med school afterwards.” So I jumped at the opportunity and… Yeah, I think it was a very helpful learning experience and very unique, because I would have never imagined that I’d get to spend a year working with Crayola, doing some innovative business initiatives and projects, and it’s a lot of skill set that you learn that I think, you carry with you, day-to-day now, at least for me.
0:05:25.7 PA: You earned the MBA in 2009, and then immediately after, you jumped into medical school?
0:05:30.3 MV: My MBA actually had to condense it further, in the condensed program, and I got done in about 10 months and then went straight to medical school, with the Schulich School of Medicine in London, Ontario.
0:05:45.4 PA: And so, what’s unique about many of us who now work in this emerging Psychedelic field is, it’s obviously a very nascent field, and you were also in the Cannabis field before this. So you graduate from the School of Medicine in 2013, and what do you do after that? When does Cannabis start to come into the picture, as a professional focus for you?
0:06:07.6 MV: So from medical school, I go to the University of Toronto, for my residency in family medicine, and I was always drawn to family medicine as a career and specialty, because I like the idea of what we call a cradle to grave type of care. While medicine is very interesting, I didn’t have the passion for one specific narrow field or to wanna be a scientist in the left kidney or something like that, it just didn’t appeal to me. What I really wanted to do was just help people navigate life’s experiences and how it affected their physical and mental health and irrespective of their age. And I feel like family medicine is really a great opportunity to build those relationships, and you understand the patient more than the disease typically, you understand how the patient responds to the disease, and you don’t have to get caught up in the weeds of the disease itself as much.
0:06:56.1 MV: But along that path in residency, it was at the Toronto Western Hospital, it’s an academic center in downtown Toronto, and we deal with a lot of complex mental health patients, a lot of immigrants there, as well as chronic physical illnesses, and along that path, near the end of my two-year residency, I started to just kind of feel frustrated for a lot of my complex patients, and I just struggled with the notion that my job was, at this point, just to titrate medications and keep adding on new ones and go up and down, and I’d see these people every two to three weeks, and no one believed they were getting better, I didn’t believe it, they didn’t believe it. And I just thought to myself, “If I’m gonna really try to help these really sick patients with chronic mental, physical illnesses, there’s gotta be a better way, there’s gotta be a root cause that ties all of these things together, and I can’t just keep prescribing all these drugs until the point that they just forget that they have any problems or we just sedate them.” And I just felt like that wasn’t the right approach.
0:08:00.9 MV: And so, out of an interest in learning in alternative methods, and this is… At the same time, the opioid crisis was getting out of control, our first Cannabis clinic, I believe, in Canada, popped up in Toronto, and I sent an email to their Medical Director, who’s a mentor of mine, Dr. Danial Schecter, and just said, “Hey, I’m a resident, I’m graduating in a couple of months. I’d love to come learn a little bit more about Cannabis.” He welcomed me to the clinic and… Yeah, day one, first patient, young boy, less than five years old, severe form of epilepsy, I thought the doctor was crazy, giving him Cannabis, because everything I learned up to that point was that Cannabis was a bad drug. And when the family told me that it was the only thing that helped their child live a normal life and that the child went from over 100 to 200 seizures a month, to two or three, and was walking and talking for the first time as a four or five-year-old boy, it was nothing short of a miracle.
0:08:54.9 MV: And at that moment, it wasn’t a journal article I read, it wasn’t some scientific persuasion that moved me, what it was, was really a deep connection with the person in front of me and a true belief in the story that they were telling me, and it was from that very moment, I felt extremely inspired to pursue this field of Cannabis and now, Psychedelics, to really shine a light on these alternative therapies, which will soon be not alternative, and really try to get to the root of helping people heal.
0:09:28.9 PA: And that’s a beautiful story, because we’ve seen that again and again, I think this is also the case in the UK, where the UK hasn’t legalized Cannabis yet, but it is available from a medical perspective, for epilepsy, and that was sort of the Trojan Horse, for the way that a lot of mainstream media covered Cannabis initially, let’s say, in the early 2000s, and before it became recreational available, was this is a really important medicine. And yet, what I heard you say and in that sort of story was that you didn’t really learn about this in medical school. What was the education like, around these sort of alternative treatments around Cannabis and Psychedelics in medical school, and how do you anticipate that evolving in the next three to five to 10 years?
0:10:11.0 MV: Yeah, it’s a great question. It’s almost non-existent. We talk about substance abuse disorders in some of our toxicology pharmacology courses, we talk about dependence, addiction and psychiatric care, and we kind of lump all the drugs together. It’s really interesting because it’s essentially all the non-pharmaceutical drugs that we talk about it, and now we talk about opioids as well, but even opiate use disorder from prescription pills, wasn’t even that big of a deal, and between the years of 2009 and 2013 when I was in medical school. So they’re all kind of lumped in the same bag, we don’t talk about Psychedelics at all, at least in my training, at no point did we talk about Psilocybin, MDMA, DMT, any of these very interesting molecules. We did talk a lot about Cannabis, and the position of Cannabis was that it was harmful, that people who used it, became amotivated, it led to or caused anxiety or depression and substance abuse, and there was no flip side to that, there was no evidence whatsoever presented, on the benefits of medical Cannabis, and that’s odd, because even at that time, there were drugs with drug identification numbers approved for certain conditions, that had Cannabis ingredients in it. So that’s where my education took place and what I was taught in that formal structure. I’ve had to kind of find my own resources to learn.
0:11:37.0 MV: But nonetheless, we were definitely on a paradigm shift, and if I’ve learned anything from my experienced years in the Cannabis industry, it all starts with proper education. And when you’re working on these drugs that have been stigmatized, you have to hit people over the head with the hammer a couple of times, for it to click because we have this confirmation bias. If the TV or the news has told us a thousand times, that these drugs are bad, if your medical education told you that these drugs are bad, you really struggle to confront the fact that maybe there’s a lot of biases in the knowledge that you’ve been told to believe, is true. And so, nonetheless, when you have academic institutions across Canada, the US and other places in the world, in Europe, starting to open up their Cannabis research centers, Psychedelic research centers, that’s the pathway. Eventually, as that evidence comes out, those people who do that research, eventually become professors, they eventually start to teach in these academic institutions, and it would probably follow the same model. So I think, in the next three to five years, we’ll see some of this included in the curriculum, and I think, depending on how the field goes and evolves, the entire mainstream of psychiatric care is going to be extremely disrupted by these molecules.
0:12:51.2 PA: And how do you think mainstream, not only psychiatric care, but just medical care, will shift as a result of the increase in use of plant medicines like Cannabis and Psychedelics? Obviously, Ketamine and MDMA aren’t necessarily plant medicines, but they are sort of, you could say, holistic medicines that get to the core rather than addressing the symptom, if you will. So how do you see that shift occurring, especially from a perspective of someone who’s been involved in this space now, for six, seven years at this point?
0:13:23.7 MV: Well, it’s gonna happen one way or another, and I always tell my colleagues, “You either get on board and learn yourself, educate yourself and be part of the transition, or you stay in the dinosaur age and you keep doing what you’re doing, but you get left behind.” And the reality is, if the science starts to demonstrate that these molecules are effective, which science is demonstrating and remarkably doing so, there’s gonna be a paradigm shift in the approach that we do with healthcare, and we need it. Because if you look across all the healthcare systems in the world, we’re spending a ton of money per capita, per person, our outcomes are substantially good, our chronic disease management just follows the pharmaceutical model for acute management, and I think pharmaceutical drugs are amazing, they’ve saved people in my life, they’ve saved their lives, on occasion. But the problem is, we took that model of acute injury or acute illness, that requires a dramatic intervention, and pharmaceutical companies said is, “What if we just took these chronic illnesses and apply the same model and just gave people a pill every single day, and pretend that your body doesn’t get used or acclimated to these drugs and physiology doesn’t change, and that drug can stay with you and it’ll make you better forever?” And that’s just not what’s happening with chronic illness, and so, we need a paradigm shift in our approach.
0:14:41.4 MV: And this isn’t new, this is Eastern medicine philosophy. They’ve been doing this for thousands and thousands of years, that’s the mainstream a long time ago, Western medicine is the new one. And I think society goes through these transitions, our culture goes through these transitions, where we transition from religious spiritual experiences, to plant medicines in nature, to more synthetic molecules, and maybe it’s just part of a broad cycle that humanity has to go through, to continually evolve. So nonetheless, I think we’re on the precipice of a dramatic change in this, and it’s really exciting to be at the forefront with patients doing this type of work today.
0:15:16.0 PA: And it’s also interesting to imagine how clinical care, how even clinical spaces will transform and evolve, as a result of Psychedelic medicine. I think of Synthesis, what we had started in the Netherlands and how that continues to grow and evolve, and with the recent legalization of Psilocybin in Oregon for therapeutic use, one of the things that we’ve pioneered through Synthesis, is this sense of group healing. So instead of a one-on-one practice or two therapists for one person, like a lot of the early Maps trials and the early Psilocybin trials have done, we set and explored, “What happens when you get 10 to 15 people together in ceremony, in a group? What does that do for a certain outcomes?” So from where you’re sitting, especially now, as Medical Director of Field Trip, and the work and the clinic spaces that you’re setting up there, how do you see the future of clinical care, as it relates to working with Psychedelic medicine?
0:16:16.2 MV: I don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all approach. I think the number of molecules we’re gonna use, is going to be quite a menu, I think the number of conditions we’re gonna treat will be equally as long, and I think the types of settings and environments that we use these different drugs in, will also be very broad. And so, if you look at the purely medical model, I anticipate you’ll have a structured psychotherapy program, with a structured dosing protocol, with structured number of sessions, even down to even an engineered process with the type of music you listen to, and maybe it’s one-on-one or two-on-one therapist to patient, and for certain conditions, and maybe that’s in the first step that a lot of people need to take. You talked about the power of healing in large groups, and I think you can’t understate the potential, when it comes to healing in large groups, and…
0:17:11.9 MV: First of all, historically, this is how it’s been done, healers and shaman around the world who have great experience with these botanicals, have been doing this type of group healing for many, many, many years, and so, that sacred knowledge shouldn’t be ignored, there’s obviously something there to it, and I think what many of us are trying to do is, understand the science behind the power of the group. And this is all interesting stuff, because medicine is predominantly biochemical and now what we’re learning is, as you’re setting your intentions, all of these really weigh into your clinical outcome. And so, that’s really interesting, that just your mindset and the environment that you do certain substances in, will affect your biochemistry and probably the physics of your body, which we know nothing about.
0:18:00.0 MV: And what’s so beautiful about group therapy and why we actually just started… We actually just launched our first group therapy with Ketamine not too long ago, at Field Trip, what’s really great is the accessibility part. So having two therapists, or a single therapist, over six sessions for one individual patient or client, is expensive, it’s very resource-intensive. But if you do that with four, six or eight clients, it brings the cost down by a factor of that many, essentially. So it makes it far, far more accessible for a far wider range of patients, and so, that really presents an opportunity to really help people experience these Psychedelic drugs in a very beautiful safe setting and hopefully, help them achieve the clinical outcome that they desire.
0:18:44.5 PA: One other point that I’d love to hear your thoughts on is, what is the role also of community in the healing process and connection through community in the healing process?
0:18:53.8 MV: Well, that’s a bit of a loaded question, because it feels like at this time, even though we’re so connected through our devices and media and technology, it’s quite apparent that the disconnection with the self and others around us, direct, let’s say family or partner or children or even broader community, it’s actually probably never been lower, and maybe that’s just a consequence of technology, our thrive for efficiency and globalization. But we’re at an interesting moment too, where we’re having this pause and we’re really shifting gears and focusing on building in redundancy, rather than efficiency, which I think disconnects us from so many pieces and it makes us unconscious about so many of the things that we consume or what we do. And so, having the community being involved is just so important, because no one can speak better to the needs of those in their community, than those who’ve been there the longest, those who have the historical perspective, those who understand the specific challenges that they face, and a lot of these problems are generational. So there’s tons of remarkable studies in animals and on epigenetics, on how you scare a rat about a certain substance or something, and then they have a child and that child rat is scared of the same thing. It’s quite remarkable.
0:20:23.0 MV: So we also need to do a broader engagement of specific communities, to understand that historical perhaps trauma that resides in various specific communities, and that has to come to the forefront, and I think that’s part of a much broader healing process, that starts with communities and then that just expands outwards, and the sky is really the limit.
0:20:44.5 PA: Yeah, one thing I often consider and think about, as it relates to that is, religion, so to say, going to church has always been a central part of community for hundreds of years, and it feels like with that now falling away for many folks, we’re really looking for what are these new communal spaces, where we can connect with one another. This is even… Was sort of the blustery overture of we work, we’re gonna bring together people and we’re gonna be family, and of course, we work felt incredibly short of that, and there have been other sort of co-working and communal spaces that have popped up so people can feel like, “Hey, we’re part of this community.” One that I participated in here and there while living in New York, was the assemblage, where you would come in and they would have meditations and they would have Ayurvedic food, and they would have workshops and lectures on Psychedelic substances and various other things, and that sort of feels like the direction that we’re headed, just like we were talking about, and you were talking about earlier, the shift from maybe a biomedical or materialist model in medicine, to a much more integrative holistic model, it feels that is happening with life itself, where more and more…
0:22:00.6 PA: And I’m sure you can resonate with this being part of a Psychedelic company, this bifurcation between, “Okay, this is my personal life and this is my professional life,” that is becoming less and less the case, where we’re now looking for, “No, I want my personal values to be infused into my professional pursuits.” So that sort of holistic integrative perspective, it feels like that’s where a lot of the healing, that’s where we’re going as a culture and society. I often think about the work of Ken Wilber and what he’s laid out, in terms of an architecture for integral theory and how that relates to Psychedelic medicine and healing, some of these systemic challenges that we’re dealing with as a society.
0:22:42.7 MV: It’s so important, to have spaces to connect with others with similar values, it just allows you to shoulder a burden on a much broader group and feel connected to each other, so that more than one person can shoulder the burdens that may arise or share experiences on how to get through more difficult and challenging times, and now more than ever, despite our hyper-connectedness, we’re not really connected in that way. We have all these filters we put on our lives, to convey a certain thing, but reality tends to be quite different. And so, I think we need to just be honest with our experiences, the challenges, the suffering that comes with the human experience, and we need to find connection through that and just to be open and to de-stigmatize that entire process and whatever model unfolds, as long as the core values allow for open, safe and sharing space and collective community, I think it’ll be a very successful way to help others heal.
0:23:49.4 PA: So one conversation that we had on Twitter, maybe a few months back, was around sort of, “What is a Psychedelic?” I had mentioned something like, Ketamine is not a classic Psychedelic, it’s more of a dissociative, it can obviously be used within a Psychedelic framework. Some people would go so far as to say MDMA is not necessarily a Psychedelic, that the classic Psychedelics inspire the trip to means, or lysergamides, a different view, a different perspective. What are your thoughts on how we define even what a Psychedelic is, especially as it relates to, let’s say Cannabis, now Field Trip working with Ketamine and then the classic Psychedelics that we’re familiar with, like Ayahuasca, or LSD, or Psilocybin mushrooms? What is that definition? How do we define what a Psychedelic really is?
0:24:46.9 MV: Yeah. That’s a great question. I don’t know that I have a strong opinion, one way or another. I think it’s a definition that we can mould and change, and there’s very unique ways to classifying or producing a nomenclature around all of these drugs. But to me, the word Psychedelic, if you just take its root meaning, it’s just soul revealing, and so, if you’re consuming something or doing an activity that shows you a part of your soul, or part of your mind, that to me, is a Psychedelic and whether it’s Cannabis, or Ketamine, or MDMA, or Ayahuasca, or meditation, or runners high, at any point in time, if you’re temporally disconnected from everything, but at the same time, connected to everything in a different sense, and you feel that reveal, then I think that’s a Psychedelic experience, and I think afterwards, we can argue, “How do you want to break that down and categorize different types of drugs?” And there’s biochemical approaches, but my overall view is, Psychedelic is a very broad term and a lot of things can encompass it.
0:26:05.4 PA: Do you think there’s a better terminology then, as we start to… For example, Field Trip is working on its own molecule FT 104, I believe is the name of it. How do we just sort of navigate the growth of all these molecules? Do you think that word Psychedelic, will fit? Do you think will come up with new nomenclature? What’s sort of your sense of that, having been involved in Field Trip, and involved in the Cannabis space, particularly around the stigma of the word itself?
0:26:36.7 MV: My kind of broad sense of it is, the definition is broad, and then I think what we’ll do is we’ll just categorize them based on molecular actions. So it can be a Serotonergic Psychedelic, it could be a Dissociative Psychedelic, it could be an MDMA receptor antagonist type Psychedelic approach, or call it a Natural Psychedelic, where you’re not actually using any drugs, so like meditation or exercise. We just have to really tease out the word and de-stigmatize everything. Even when you hear the word recreational, there’s this negative connotation with recreational drug. Recreational, if you just break it down, is to recreate, and that’s an artistic process and I don’t know how life can stay the same without opportunities to constantly recreate where you are in your life and your experiences and your connections. And so, whether you do that naturally or with the use of substances, I don’t think recreational or Psychedelics should really be stigmatized terms, and I think, as we collect the evidence and the literature and we demonstrate signs that these are actually relatively safe drugs, it’s gonna take a lot of time because the consciousness has been otherwise for a long time around the stigma, but these will be de-stigmatized, and I wonder if there’ll be a time when we look back and think, “How crazy were we, to ban these drugs and make them illegal yet they’re so important to our necessary evolution and connection to everything.”
0:28:08.1 PA: As they have been for many thousands of years. One of the books that has really stood out over the last year, has been, The Immortality Key, by Brian Muraresku. We had him on the podcast a couple months ago, and one of the main quotes that always sticks with me in that book is, “Life would not be worth living without Kykeon,” so that’s what the Greeks would say about the substances, and I think it’s no coincidence that as we’re facing this major existential crisis, existential threat, about, “Who are we? What are we doing in the world? Where are we going from here? How do we navigate all these turbulent waters that are coming up, whether around covid or climate change?” and it feels like these medicines allow us to turn inwards to look for those answers, and I think that’s something as I was doing a little research about your work and your perspectives, one thing that came up is how your perspective on, “We are our own healers.” I would love for you to just sort of dissect that a little bit, flesh that out. Especially from a medical perspective, why is that philosophy central to the healing that comes from Psychedelic medicine?
0:29:19.7 MV: Yeah, so I agree with all those points and thanks for sharing that. That’s a book that’s on my list to get to. I have this collection of books that I’ve been trying to get too slowly, but also taking some classes and then there’s no shortage of textbooks there as well. So yeah, that is really… You’re spot on, it is really fundamental to my belief and core system, and I believe in a patient-centered model, and I don’t believe in a paternalistic model, where you come to somebody and they make you better. I think if you immediately surrender your power in that context, it’s a very slippery slope and one where you’re programming yourself that you don’t have influence and power over your own ability to heal yourself, and I think it’s dangerous. And I think a lot of people find themselves with that belief system, we get sick or we have an injury, and our first instinct is to better get an opinion right away from an expert. No matter what thoughts come up around an injury or an illness, no one’s better suited to understand the actual issue, than the individual who’s experiencing it. And what’s so interesting is, and I noticed this when I reflect back to my years as a child, when I got sick or I had injuries, the story I told my doctor was never really the truth. I always tended to kind of malinger a little bit, and exaggerate a little bit.
0:30:44.8 MV: And I don’t know if that’s what a lot of people do, or if that’s just me, but almost like I wanted to feel that my issue was bigger and that it deserved more attention, because if I downplayed it, I wasn’t gonna get the attention I needed for it. And I don’t know if people subconsciously do that as well, but when you look back on it and you actually ask yourself, “Well, what are the events that led up to this experience, and what am I doing and not doing in my every day life?” The answer always lies in that, and as a physician, I’m there to try to help tease that out and help people come to that intuitive process on their own. But I’m not with them 24/7, nor do I see the world through their lens. And so for me, it’s just to kind of hold that space for them to kind of work through that process, and what I do believe is that with time, the healing process unfolds, if you just hold space for people to try to figure out their own life experiences and the various variables and pieces that go into it, and that makes them their own healer, when they can tease that out themselves.
0:31:48.9 PA: How does that relate to what we’ve been going through for the last 14 to 15 months, with covid 19 and sort of the major health pandemic that we’ve been facing and likely, we’ll continue to face, even if it’s not specifically covid 19, a lot of people are worried about future pandemics arising. How do we navigate that space, coming from that you are your own dealer philosophy?
0:32:16.6 MV: It’s challenging and almost seems a bit incongruent, when you face a global epidemic, because what happens is, you get a concentration of knowledge, that knowledge has to be disseminated to the masses, and then we have to kind of make decisions more collectively, assuming that the data we collect is accurate, to try to protect not just ourselves, but the greater good. And so sometimes, it can feel a little bit incongruent with your own ideology and values, and you see this with a lot of different belief systems around this pandemic and what’s right for individuals, what’s right for the collective good, what the right approach is, short term and long-term. But I think, irrespective of what’s right or wrong, I think the most important thing is that we just hold space to have these conversations, and freedom is a bit messy, and freedom of speech and freedom of thought and freedom of expression is so necessary to determine what that consciousness is, amongst us all, and to shift it into whatever direction is necessary. But I just think we need to protect that, as messy as that can be, I think it’s just so fundamental to the long-term longevity of humanity in general.
0:33:46.1 PA: When I’ve been inspired by the nuance that you, even on Twitter, have been communicating around the covid 19 crisis, in terms of, “Were lock downs really the right choice.” It’s late May that we’re recording this. You’re still in lockdown down. Is that correct? In Toronto.
0:34:05.1 MV: Yes, I think we’re the longest lockdown in the world, at this point.
0:34:09.0 PA: And so, there’s also this balancing then, of mental health crisis from the lockdown itself, versus the actual health implications of something like the covid 19 virus. And one thing that I’ve continued to come back to is, the role of both taking responsibility for one’s health and one’s well-being, and understanding that there is a broader implication for public health, and it’s not one or the other, it’s not sacrificing individual well-being for the collective, and we clearly can’t sacrifice collective well-being for specific individuals. There always seems to be a dance between those two, and it’s that nuance and complexity that, for example, mainstream media or major governments don’t really do a great job of, for the reasons that you mentioned. And so, it feels like having more voices that emphasize critical thinking, nuance about how we approach this, will allow us to navigate future situations like this, with ideally less fall out, a little more grace, just being able to not be overwhelmed or overtaken by fear, because it feels like that has been a predominant emotion throughout this entire crisis.
0:35:27.7 MV: I couldn’t agree further, and you’re absolutely right. It is a dance. I don’t have all the answers myself, all I know is that one person’s suffering is not greater than any other’s, and what causes immense pain for one person, could be relief for another. So we just have to have these conversations and we have to adapt our thinking. We live in this reductionist model where, “Okay, we live in a pandemic, we have one problem, it’s covid 19.” We haven’t talked about any other illnesses for the last, it feels like almost two years now. Everything is to the lens of covid 19, and it’s like that narrow perspective that makes me anxious that we’re going to miss the forest for the trees. Again, we need to hold space, we need to respect and understand what the consequences are, of implementing certain policies on the pandemic and how it spreads, versus how implementing certain policies affects mental health and particularly in youth. And my perspective and my lens could be very different than somebody else, what I see in busy academic clinics and student health clinics and mental health clinics, is gonna be different than what the ICU doctor sees at a busy hospital in a city. But I think nonetheless, both those voices need to be heard, and what we need to do is think in the complex systems and understand, if you pull a lever here, it affects something downstream.
0:36:50.6 PA: And so, what we need to do is, try to balance all these interests and protect… We can argue who to protect and how to protect, but a great majority of provide the right resources for everybody to try to thrive. And for me, my lens and what I see through my clinics, I don’t see the covid pandemic the same way some of the hospital doctors do. What I see in my office, are worsening mental health, worsening anxiety, substance abuse on the rise and young people, particularly teenagers and young teenage females, who… Thriving, doing excellent academically, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere after, let’s say eight to 12 months of lockdown, started developing eating disorders, depression, suicidal ideation, being admitted to hospital, and this isn’t just one or two cases, this is like a half dozen, and I’m just one physician in one city who sees 60 to 70 people a week. So multiply that by thousands, and I think you get a perspective on what could be happening, and the biggest fear I have now is, “What’s the pandemic that follows covid 19?” ‘Cause once the world re-opens, there’s a lot of catch up that we need to do in healthcare, and, “What are of the consequences gonna be long term, of that.” And we’ll have to learn, I think, this time around.
0:38:14.0 PA: Well, and I think that speaks to something that we haven’t talked about so much yet, which is your role as Medical Director at Field Trip, and Field Trip has been one of the leaders in the public company Psychedelic space, recently closed a financing round of, I believe, north of 90 million dollars for a bot deal and north of 100 million in terms of total financing, I believe, after MindMed and Compass Pathways, it’s the third most valuable traded public company on the current market, and it’s being traded in the Canadian stock exchange, and that’s more of the financial side of things. You’ve also now opened several clinics, you’re opening several more clinics. As your role as Medical Director of Field Trip, I’d just love if you could bring us a little bit into the vision of how you see Field Trip growing and developing, and what is the mission of Field Trip, from a medical perspective.
0:39:06.0 MV: Yeah, I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity that I have, that we have, collectively. Not just Field Trip, but the greater broader community of Psychedelics in general. We’re really at this renaissance opportunity, and I think, with the right people, the right intentions, the right goals, I really think we can first heal medicine and secondly, teach people to become their own healers again and access that blueprint. And so, our mission really, is to de-stigmatize mental health, understand that just because you don’t have a diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t feel well, and so you don’t have to be sick to not feel well. So also expanding the idea that consciousness is something that can’t really be regulated, and is a fundamental freedom, and individuals should have the right to alter their consciousness, I think, is really important long-term as well.
0:40:07.7 MV: But nonetheless, we’re at this medicalization phase, and I think this is the beginning, and it kind of echoes a little bit of what we saw in the Cannabis space, mind you that space is still really messy and especially here in Canada. But these programs or models tend to start with medicalization. What’s nice about Psychedelics, and part of the work that we’re doing through our research, is that we’re doing these phase two phase three studies, to bring these drugs to market in the most traditional sense that we know of, which is through the Health Canada or FDA, to bring these drugs to market with psychotherapy. And what that’s gonna allow clinicians and doctors, physicians, psychiatrists to do, is to prescribe these drugs, get access to them and then do it in a very medical model. But while we do this, what’s gonna happen, I anticipate, is we’re gonna transform the model, and what’s really gonna happen is, is you’re gonna really have a whole host of… Call them healing centers, if you want, or modern clinics, that are gonna be very holistic in nature and really tie in that mind and body, and it may start off as a very strong medical model, but I anticipate, if you look at what’s happening in Oregon and other places in the world, you’re gonna start to see this in-between medical recreational model also manifest simultaneously.
0:41:30.9 MV: It’ll be interesting to see how that evolves, and if people will be able to just purchase their own drugs and go to a clinic, or if they’ll be able to use it at home, that’ll be interesting to see what happens there and what that timeline looks like, and with what drugs. But ultimately, at the core of all of this, if you fundamentally believe in your massive transformational purpose, that you can heal medicine or help medicine heal itself and help individuals become their own healers, you really are looking at a massive transformational purpose and it just compounds exponentially, it’s… The potential for Psychedelics globally, to do all sorts of healing beyond individuals and communities and has traumas, goes into just the entire connectedness of everything, into healing nature, into our capital markets and systems, how we divide equity and resources. It just goes to a massive potential evolutionary transition point for humanity, and I don’t know when we’ll get there and how we’ll get there and what it looks like, but all I know is, I wanna be a part of that, and I want to have Field Trip also provide that space to do this type of work.
0:42:53.0 PA: Let’s say, 10 years from now, the Psychedelic space really becomes the more what’s a predominant form of mental health medicine, we’ve reached a tipping point, where there’s federal legalization of Psilocybin and MDMA, for therapeutic use, that these substances, the plant medicines are decriminalized on a widespread basis. What’s that larger vision for Field Trip in 10 to 15 years down the road, where do you see Field Trip landing, at that point in time?
0:43:30.3 MV: Yeah, hard to predict how it’s gonna go, but if I just look at the experiences I’ve had in the clinic with patients, what’s abundantly clear is that when people go through these experiences and they come out the other side, different, transformed, if you wanna call it that, one of the most apparent things that comes to light, is that they all wanna help and they wanna contribute and share their story, so that others can have access to this. And so, that’s really that sense of community that we were talking about earlier. So it’s building out that community long term, that allows for more people to feel comfortable doing this work, for more people to have shoulders to lean on, for wider group settings. So what I’m hoping for and what I’m anticipating long-term is, is that we can really build a community of individuals who have gone through these experiences, have helped themselves transform themselves, with just leveraging our clinics and our staff and expertise, and then contribute to other’s healing, by just participating in the process wherever they can. And so, I’d love to see that manifest.
0:44:46.4 PA: And it’s sort of this mycelial network then, that continues to grow and develop. ‘Cause this is how I thought about Third Wave as well. It’s like, “Once people heal from this,” or even if they don’t wanna become therapists, they might wanna become a sitter or a coach, or they would just recommend a book. There’s an element of, because of what’s been received, there’s a desire to give back and contribute back.
0:45:10.6 MV: Most people, when they go through the core of these experiences, and I can speak from my personal experiences, you learn to recognize that giving is the gift, it’s not receiving. And so, it’s… Maybe it’s even a selfish act, by giving more and more, and you end up typically feeling a lot better. And so, people recognizing that, is a very beautiful process, because a lot of the systems we have in place, are reward selfishness, not empathy and giving.
0:45:38.5 PA: Well, Dr. Michael Verbora, thank you for joining us on Third Wave’s podcast. This has really been an honor to finally sit down, get a chance to connect, chat with you a little bit, about Field Trip and Integrative Medicine and your background with Cannabis, and I’d love if just for our listeners who are listening to this, if they wanna learn more about your work, if they wanna learn more about Field Trip, what are… Where should they go? The socials and the websites and that sort of…
0:46:05.1 MV: Yeah, if you wanna learn more about Field Trip, I would check out fieldtriphealth.com, and then you can follow @fieldtrip, on Instagram and Twitter. If you’re interested in my work and the stories I share, I tend to have a loud voice and bark a little bit, about patient stories and I’m quite the advocate for my patients, I think I’d like to think. Follow me on Twitter, @MVerbora. And thank you so much for having me here today, and I look forward to building out this mycelial network with individuals like yourself.
0:46:36.1 PA: Thank you, Michael.