The Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave
Healing the Heart of Humanity: Legalizing Psychedelic Medicine
Rick Doblin, Ph.D.
Rick Doblin, Ph.D., founder of MAPS, joins Paul F. Austin to discuss the healing of humanity through legalized psychedelic medicine.
This is another special interview from the 2022 Wonderland Conference in Miami, FL. Paul F. Austin is joined by MAPS founder Rick Doblin, Ph.D., to discuss the healing of humanity through legalized psychedelic medicine.
Rick Doblin, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). He received his doctorate in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he wrote his dissertation on the regulation of the medical uses of psychedelics and marijuana. His Master’s thesis was a survey of oncologists on smoked marijuana vs. the oral THC pill in nausea control for cancer patients. His undergraduate thesis at New College of Florida was a 25-year follow-up to the classic Good Friday Experiment, which evaluated the potential of psychedelic drugs to catalyze religious experiences. He also conducted a thirty-four year follow-up study to Timothy Leary’s Concord Prison Experiment. Rick studied with Dr. Stanislav Grof and was among the first to be certified as a Holotropic Breathwork practitioner. His professional goal is to help develop legal contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana, primarily as prescription medicines but also for personal growth for otherwise healthy people, and eventually to become a legally licensed psychedelic therapist. He founded MAPS in 1986, and currently resides in Boston with his wife and puppy, with three empty rooms from his children who have all graduated college and begun their life journeys. Learn more about Rick by listening to his Origin Story and watching his TED Talk.
- Rick Doblin’s life (in five minutes), the origin story of MAPS, and the latest progress of its FDA clinical trials.
- How MAPS has changed since Michael Pollan’s How To Change Your Mind Netflix documentary.
- What keeps Rick focused, grounded and motivated to continue his work.
- Why MAPS chose to work with MDMA for PTSD, and what its strategy will look like after FDA approval.
- The novel financing strategies MAPS is taking in response to the ‘failure of philanthropy’.
- Working towards mass mental health and a “global spiritualized humanity”.
- MAPS’ Fourth Psychedelic Science Conference — June 2023.
- How to “make a post-prohibition world work out” and empower people to deal with trauma, with and without substances.
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0:00:00.0 Paul Austin: Welcome back to the Psychedelic Podcast, brought to you by Third Wave. Today I’m speaking with Rick Doblin, the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies.
0:00:13.6 Rick Doblin: You know, so when Michael Mithoefer came to me, our lead psychiatrist in 2000, and I’d never met him before. Michael came out to me and he said that he was a member of MAPS. He’d studied with Stan Grof and the whole tropic breath work, and he wanted to work with me on an offshore clinic. And I basically said, there are no private utopias. I’m not interested in that at all. What I wanna do is go to the heart of the system and change from the inside out. And that means going through the FDA.
0:00:38.3 PA: Welcome to the Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave, Audio Mycelium, connecting you to the luminaries and thought leaders of the psychedelic renaissance. We bring you illuminating conversations with scientists, therapists, entrepreneurs, coaches, doctors, and shamanic practitioners, exploring how we can best use psychedelic medicine to accelerate personal healing, peak performance and collective transformation.
0:01:13.2 PA: Hey, listeners, I am absolutely thrilled to have Rick Doblin on the podcast today. Rick is a luminary in the psychedelic space. He’s been at this for a very, very long time, since the mid seventies. Rick started MAPS in 1986 and has been pioneering the path for legally available psychedelic medicine. So today we talk about Rick’s story and path coming into psychedelics, we discuss, some of the interesting financial models that MAPS has been experimented with including regenerative financing. And then we just talk about the vision of a spiritualized humanity and what that might look like. Rick really needs no introduction. If you are listening to this podcast or have listened to it for a period of time, you likely have heard of MAPS or know of Rick Doblin. He’s a mensch, an incredible human, and it really is an honor to present this podcast with Rick Doblin for today’s episode.
0:02:11.8 PA: But before we dive into today’s episode, a word from our sponsors.
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Alright, that’s it for now. Let’s dive into this episode. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Rick Doblin.
0:05:39.6 PA: Welcome back to this psychedelic podcast. Today we have a very, very special guest, Rick Doblin, who is the founder and executive director of MAPS. Rick, it’s really an honor to have you for the podcast today yeah.
0:05:51.7 RD: Yeah, I look forward to our conversation.
0:05:54.0 PA: As do I, so this is the third podcast, I just got done interviewing Hamilton Morris. So you’re following Hamilton, We had a really interesting conversation with him about patents, synthetics and some of the work that he’s up to. So we might touch on a few of those things today, especially because the approach that you’ve taken through MAPS is quite novel in terms of a nonprofit. Bringing a pharmaceutical drug through market. However, before we get into all of that, many of our listeners, they know of you or they’ve heard a little bit about your story. But just to start with like a five minute life story of Rick Doblin. What is the five minute?
0:06:29.8 RD: Okay. Well, I would say that 50 years ago, in 1972 when I was 18 years old, is when I decided to devote my life to psychedelics. Meaning that I needed psychedelic therapy myself, [laughter] I wanted to become a psychedelic therapist, and I wanted to bring back psychedelic research. And since I just came off a panel about, veterans and trauma and veterans, I’ll share that as I grew up, I was kind of trained to be politically active by my parents. They were very left wing, progressive kind of parents. And so I had a series of three traumatic incidents all secondary in the sense that I was born in ’53. And so I was educated on stories of the Holocaust that was made me realize the psychological factors, how people can dehumanize others and do things and cut themselves off from rationality and their emotions, then was the Cuban Missile Crisis. And this idea that we might blow up the whole world with the Russians. And I was in grade school and we’re taught to duck under your desk, duck and cover. And it wasn’t very reassuring. And then for me was the Vietnam, and what do I do about Vietnam? And I felt, I studied a lot of non-violent resistance and decided to be a draft resistor and go to jail. As a way to protest. So, and then…
0:07:51.4 PA: How long were you in jail for?
0:07:52.2 RD: Well, I never was in jail actually, because, what I’d never sent in the postcard to register which was astonishing to me ’cause first off, I had a passport. I had a driver’s license, I was paying taxes, I had a social security number. I was in high school. And you just assume they know you, but they make you voluntarily send in the postcard. And if you don’t do that, that’s the crime. And so I figured, of course, they’re gonna come get me. But this was before I started doing psychedelics. So then when I started doing psychedelics, I felt like that’s the potential antidote to all these things. If we can feel connected to everybody and everything, and to nature and feel that and know that, then we’re gonna be more tolerant of people that are different because mostly they’re the same.
0:08:34.7 RD: And same with animals and nature and all of that. So to sort of give the arc of my life in a very short way was I identified as being a counterculture drug using criminal. So, that’s who I was at age 18. I’m a counterculture drug using criminal, and I would say the last 50 years of my life have been to try to become a culture instead of counterculture, to become legal instead of criminal, but remain a drug user or a medicine user, a psychedelic user, or however you wanna…
0:09:03.9 PA: Whatever the term is. Right?
0:09:05.5 RD: Yeah. So in the midst of that, I ended up getting a PhD and a Master’s from Harvard, from the Kennedy School of Government. And I’ve studied psychotherapy with Stan Grof. So I’ve had two kind of trainings. One is to be a psychedelic therapist, and that’s really to help individuals that are struggling with different things. And then the other has been public policy for sick public policies, you could say. So it’s psychotherapy for sick public policies that require a lot more, energy and people to try to change those factors. But it’s not that different than thinking about individual psychotherapy on a cultural level. And so now we have the MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, which is our pharmaceutical arm, and it’s a way to innovate, trying to bring drugs to market where you don’t maximize profit, you maximize public benefit. And it’s currently a hundred percent owned by the nonprofit. So that’s our structure. We have 135 people working for the, or actually 150 people working for the Benefit Corp, and 35 people working for the nonprofit. So that’s our structure. And just two days ago, we got the last data point in our second phase three study. So…
0:10:19.6 PA: And what, can you share?
0:10:20.0 RD: Well, we, it’ll take us about a month or and a half or so to analyze the data, but we believe based on the, so we did an interim analysis. So the interim analysis was done when it was 60% of the way done. And it said we had a over 90% probability of statistical significance. So we think we’re likely to get statistical significance. The other key issue is safety, and there’s acute side effects from MDMA, but there’s not serious. They’re transitory. And so the main safety issue is suicidality, because that’s a background factor for PTSD. That’s why we hear about, you know, 22 veterans a day committing suicide and all, and others. So, we don’t have any, serious adverse events, as far as I know in either group, the placebo group meaning therapy without MDMA versus therapy with MDMA. So, I think we’re gonna have a good safety profile and I think we’ll have statistical significance, but that remains to be seen and we’ll know before the end of the year.
0:11:24.2 PA: And if that’s the case, what then happens with MDMA assisted Psychotherapy.
0:11:26.2 RD: Then what we need to do is start preparing all these documents for submission to the FDA. For now, our phase 3 studies, again, this is, I think, because our long-term goal is mass mental health, a spiritualized humanity, we really need to think in a globalized way. So our phase 3 studies are done in Israel, United States, and Canada. We are about two years behind going to Europe, but we are in Europe trying to train therapists for the European Medicines Agency approval…
0:11:55.7 PA: 2026 maybe in Europe.
0:12:00.3 RD: In Europe, yeah. Yeah. I would say they’ll be two years behind. And then if you have FDA approval, most countries of the world will give reciprocity. If you have FDA and EMA approval, pretty much you get the whole world. Except for Russia, China, and Japan. Japan says that they’re unique genetics, so they wanna study. You know, this, it’s…
0:12:14.6 PA: Very Japanese [laughter]
0:12:17.4 RD: But then, Russia is super repressive. So even though in the 1990s before psychedelic research in patients opened up and in the rest of the world and in America, the only place where there was research going on with, psychedelics in patients was in Russia. And it was ketamine for substance abuse, alcoholism, and opiate addiction. And it was ketamine assisted psychotherapy. And they were doing great. And then around the turn of the century, around 2000, ketamine became a little bit more of a recreational drug in Russia. And so they shut down the research. So Russia is way behind and China also is way behind, but Russia, China, and Japan, other than that, pretty much everywhere in the world. We got projects in Brazil, in Australia, seven countries in Europe, Israel, Canada, and United States. So we’re…
0:13:14.2 PA: It’s happening.
0:13:15.5 RD: Planning to globalize. Yeah.
0:13:16.6 PA: It’s happening. How, so I’m curious, how has MAPS changed since Michael Pollan’s publication of how to change your mind, the structure of the organization, how, just how has that impacted MAPS?
0:13:26.4 RD: Okay. Well, so I was coming home from Burning Man. This is one of the best stories. So I’m coming over from Burning Man and I’m changing planes in Denver. And this guy comes up to me and he says, I recognize you from this Netflix documentary. You’re Rick Doblin. I said, yeah. He said, well, I’m a psychiatrist at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. And can we bring MDMA there? I said, I’d love to work with you on that. I said, do you know that 10 years ago we tried at that same facility that you’re at? And I learned this incredible lesson about military hierarchy, because, the psychiatrist in charge of this facility wanted to do it, but he said he couldn’t do it unless he had the permission of the Admiral.
0:14:05.3 RD: All right. So then he gets the Admiral’s permission. The Admiral says, well, I can’t do it unless we get permission from my higher ups in the Pentagon. We were working with Richard Rockefeller, who was the chair of the board of Advisors of Doctors Without Borders. And he said, he happened to know the Secretary of the Navy. So he talked to the Secretary of Navy, secretary of Navy says, fine [laughter], but you gotta come to the Pentagon and meet the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the Navy Surgeon General and all that. So then we have this meeting the Pentagon, and that goes great. But then they say they’re not high enough in the hierarchy, [laughter], we gotta go up to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health affairs. Then we meet their team and they’re saying, well, you gotta get political support from the Senate.
0:14:43.2 RD: Now, Richard Rockefeller’s cousin was Senator Jay Rockefeller on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. So he started intervening with us, both at the VA and the Department of Defense. And in the end, this is now 2014, we were told to start with veterans. So the Michael Pollan’s book has made it. So I just have random people approach me and it turns out that they’re incredibly important for different projects and to try to move us from just working with veterans to inside the DOD facility. So now we do have a project, and in a few days, on the Veterans Day, I’ll be in San Diego and I’ll be meeting with these people to…
0:15:23.9 PA: November 11th for the Coronado. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll be there as well.
0:15:27.9 RD: Well. Oh, okay. Yeah. Yeah. So I’ve got 11 o’clock meeting with the people, the guy that randomly contacted me at the Denver Airport. So I think Michael Pollan’s book and the documentary have changed a lot of people’s minds and made it much more legitimate. But it’s been difficult for Michael. So, you know, he and I just went for a long walk a few days ago, because he’s in Boston teaching, science journalism at Harvard. For this semester, then he goes out back to Berkeley. But what he said was that being the food guy, he loved it, you know, because he’s talking about, recipes and food and gardening and all of this, and it was really delightful. But he says now that he’s the psychedelic guy, it’s very hard on him because he’s inundated with human suffering.
0:16:14.3 RD: The people are constantly approaching him and saying, you know, this is my spouse or me or relative, and they’re suffering and nothing’s worked out. How can, you know, what can you do to help them? And he can’t do anything. He’s educated people, but he’s not the therapist and there’s not a lot of above ground research as much as there needs to be. So, there was two media events that fundamentally changed cultural attitudes. One was Michael Pollan’s book and then the Netflix documentary, but before that was in 2003 and it was Peter Jennings. And he did a documentary called Ecstasy Rising. And it was the first documentary about ecstasy that ever had somebody saying something positive about it. And he challenged a lot of the claims about MDMA neurotoxicity. And he, his documentary came out right around the time that there was this project at Johns Hopkins that was terribly botched, where they gave primates MDMA and they overdosed.
0:17:10.7 RD: A bunch of these primates died. But then they said that MDMA hurt dopamine, it caused Parkinson’s and they published this in science, Premier Scientific Journal, and didn’t quite feel right. And, we kept challenging it. And eventually they said that they tried to replicate their results for a year and they couldn’t do it. And then they took one of the animals that they had overdosed and they analyzed brain tissue and found that they had given methamphetamine instead of MDMA.
0:17:37.2 PA: Pure methamphetamine…
0:17:39.2 RD: Pure methamphetamine instead of MDMA, they switched the bottles somehow. So right around the time Peter Jennings documentary came out was this was being exploded as well. So that was a massive cultural transformation. And that’s right when we began the work with MDMA for PTSD.
0:17:54.6 PA: The phase 1 clinical trials.
0:17:55.5 RD: No, the starting to be phase 2.
0:17:57.3 PA: Starting to be phase 2.
0:17:58.6 RD: Yeah. So phase 1 is Healthy volunteers. And we did that through the ’90s. But, I think Michael Pollan’s book and Netflix documentary had a similar massive cultural shift.
0:18:08.0 PA: So, you know, you mentioned how difficult it’s been for Michael. It’s also, I imagine been very difficult for you. You know, you’ve been doing this for 37 years. You know, initially you were against the culture, you know, everyone probably saw you as a druggie and someone who was crazy. Yeah. Now that MAPS has reached a certain level of prominence. You’re not only getting it from the non psychedelic people, but you’ve also gotten a lot from certain psychedelic people. How, what keeps you grounded? What keeps you focused? What keeps you dedicated to this? Irrespective of all the.
0:18:38.6 RD: Well, just hearing the stories of healing and knowing that it works.
0:18:43.0 RD: So for example, I was just at a conference in the Netherlands.
0:18:47.0 PA: ICPR?
0:18:49.4 RD: ICPR conference. It was terrific on psychedelics. And this woman comes up to me and she’s crying, and she’s like, “I just want to thank you because I was a subject in your study, and I had terrible PTSD.” And then she held up her hand and she had a ring and she said, “And now I’m engaged and I’m starting my life again.” And so just hearing from her, because the way the research is going, because of privacy, I don’t know who the subjects are. And so there’s so many stories of healings that I never hear. So the fact that this woman would come to me and introduce herself, willing to be known and then for me to hear that. So that’s one of the things that keeps me going. The other is just a couple of weeks ago, I got this email that was really tragic. And it was a picture of a tombstone and the tombstone had the MAPS logo on it. And it had some sort of like stardust kind of on one side and the MAPS logo. And the story was that this was a Danish military person who had PTSD from Afghanistan.
0:20:00.8 RD: Some of the Danish army went to Afghanistan, and he had come back with terrible PTSD. And while he was trying to search for solutions, he heard about MDMA therapy. And so he had two sessions of MDMA therapy in underground illegal contexts and they helped him tremendously, and he started getting his life back. He started losing weight. He started living again. But his therapist who he was seeing said that she would not be comfortable, she would not see him anymore if he did illegal things. That he had to give it up. And in order to get disability payments from the Danish government, he also had to have her support and he couldn’t be doing anything illegal. So he gave it up. And then he spent a couple of years trying to do other therapies, because the two MDMA sessions had helped him a lot, but it hadn’t solved all of his problems. We have a three-session model with a lot of effort on integration afterwards. Yeah, and lot of that. And so what eventually happened is he lost hope and he couldn’t go back to the MDMA because he was told not to, and so he committed suicide.
0:21:02.8 RD: And his mother put this MAPS logo on his tombstone because the MDMA had helped him when he was able to do it. So that’s what keeps me going. So it’s just these stories. And then every once in a while I’ll do MDMA or I’ll do a psychedelic, and I’m like, “Yeah, this stuff really works.”
0:21:22.2 PA: The magic is here.
0:21:23.4 RD: It still works [laughter]
0:21:25.5 PA: It’s still great.
0:21:26.6 RD: So that keeps me going. And I think the other big thing is that I’ve been able to separate out how do I get satisfaction? And I don’t get it from success so much, even though that’s good, but I get it from effort. So as long as I’m trying hard, I can feel happy at the end of the day. And if it works or not, I mean, it matters if it works, but I’m not dependent on it.
0:21:49.2 PA: On outcome, necessarily.
0:21:50.4 RD: Yeah. Because for so many years there was no successful outcomes.
0:21:51.7 PA: It was just the process of the journey and the creation and probably even the challenge. It’s very enticing to continue.
0:21:57.8 RD: Yeah, and it was also very frustrating because I had known how therapeutic MDMA was before it was criminalized. And then to see it taken away.
0:22:06.5 PA: That’s heartbreaking.
0:22:07.9 RD: And then it was just like, but also the propaganda about MDMA was so different than the reality. The propaganda from the Nationalists on drug abuse was you take one dose, you’re gonna have permanent brain damage, it’s gonna have major functional consequences, and therefore it should not even be researched ever. It’s too dangerous. And so the reality of it just was so different from the propaganda that I felt eventually the reality would seep through the propaganda and people would see the benefit. So that was also a big factor to keep me going.
0:22:43.1 PA: And that’s why you chose the FDA. That’s why you chose even MDMA, right? From a bipartisan perspective to balance.
0:22:48.6 RD: Well, the bipartisan comes from the choice of the patients, not so much from the choice of the drug. So there had to be kind of a strategic analysis. Now this was after MDMA was criminalized in the 85s. And so I’m thinking, what is the psychedelic that’s most likely to make it through the system? And then what patient population do we marry it to? So, a drug for a particular thing. And so the first part of the thought was that MDMA is the most gentle of the psychedelics, it’s the easiest to integrate, it’s the least departure from your normal consciousness. And also we believe that the therapists who are gonna administer this to patients will be more effective if they’ve done the drug themselves. And there’s a lot more resistance among psychiatrists and therapists to taking psilocybin or ayahuasca. They’re more challenging in ways than MDMA. So I thought, okay, MDMA is the one that’s most likely to make it through the system. And it’s incredibly therapeutic and very profoundly experienced. So then I asked, so what’s the patient population? So then we needed, first off, a population with patients who are sympathetic to the American public.
0:24:02.1 RD: Women who’ve been raped and sexually abused are somewhat sympathetic, but veterans even more so. And so veterans have, two thirds of our patients are women, but the veterans get most of the media attention. So we also needed a disease that if it wasn’t properly treated, it could lead to suicide or severe consequences. Also a disease that cost the medical system a lot of money. Because again, the therapy is gonna be intensive and labor intensive. So we needed to offset if the healings took place, then it would save a bunch of money for insurance companies and for the medical system. So when you have a stress related illness like PTSD, there are so many different consequences on your body from living in this high stressed way that people need a lot of medical care. And if you have a panic reaction, you go to emergency room, emergency rooms are really expensive. And we also needed a clinical condition for which the currently available treatments may have helped a bunch of people, but left a lot of people still needing help. So right now, for example, there’s over a million veterans getting disability payments from the VA at a cost of $17 billion a year.
0:25:16.9 RD: Every year, the VA puts out $17 billion just for disability payments for PTSD, not counting their medical treatment or their therapy. And you would think that the VA noticing that would have been willing to support MDMA research, but no, not yet. But they are finally willing to let us do the MDMA research inside some VA facilities. And they’re starting to let some VA therapists use their work time to work on it where we don’t necessarily have to reimburse it. So MDMA for PTSD became the combination. And that’s where I felt that that would be first. And as it turns out, all these years later, we’re the only ones in phase three, we’re done with our two phase three studies.
0:26:00.5 PA: You are the closest, I mean, and you’re leading in finance.
0:26:03.6 RD: Yeah, and I didn’t fully answer your question before about what happens next. So what we need to do is submit all this data, to gather all this data to the FDA. They have a six month review process. But if they ask you a question, the clock stops. And then however long it takes you. So because this is a breakthrough therapy designated by the FDA, they have a shorter review time.
0:26:29.5 RD: But again, we’ll see how many questions they have and how quickly we can respond to it. We’ve got a lot of work to do to get all of the data necessary to submit to them. Plus, we have to do other studies than just the phase three. So one of the, for example, we ask people to fast from midnight to the morning so that when they take MDMA, it’s more or less on empty stomach. They can have a very light breakfast, but basically think about fasting. So what the FDA wants us to do is what we call the hamburger study. So it’s like, what does the bioavailability look like if you take it on a full stomach rather than on an empty stomach?
0:27:05.8 PA: Gotcha.
0:27:06.5 RD: It’s not that important to know because we’re asking people to more or less fast. So why do we need to know? But the FDA wants to know that. So we have to do that. So I think that we will end up, once FDA looks at, they also want an FDA advisory committee. So you have a sort of a public hearing and outside experts and patients and drug lawyers, whoever wants to come can come and give advice to the FDA what they think they should do.
0:27:33.5 RD: So we’re gonna have an FDA advisory committee meeting. Once the FDA says yes, if they do say yes, it’s still a scheduled drug. And so the DEA has to reschedule. And in the past, the DEA doesn’t like to reschedule controlled substances. So they kept delaying and delaying. And so Congress passed a law, the DEA must reschedule within 90 days.
0:27:56.3 PA: Gotcha.
0:27:57.1 RD: What schedule it goes in is up to the DEA and the FDA controlled substances staff. And they kind of negotiate together. We hope it’ll be schedule three or schedule four. So all of that means by, I’d say early to middle 2024, we should have, if the second phase three study looks good, as we think it probably does, we should have FDA approval.
0:28:17.1 PA: Clinically available MDMA to treat PTSD.
0:28:20.3 RD: Yes, but again, unlike Spravato, Ketamine, which you can take at home, this will only be under direct supervision of a therapist, never a take home medicine. And the therapist will require special training.
0:28:33.1 PA: Through the MAPS.
0:28:33.5 RD: Through the MAPS. Or I mean, the longterm vision of this is that when we talk about public benefit, what is really the public benefit? It’s treating people with PTSD. So training therapists is just a means to an end.
0:28:46.6 RD: So we don’t need to be the only one that does the training of therapists. In fact, we want schools of psychology and psychotherapy to have psychedelic psychotherapy training programs for psychiatrists and therapists. And we also, even though, in large part, because we’ve been mostly philanthropically funded, we’re about the healing. So we’re not trying to say that MDMA is the solution for all the problems. What we are trying to say is that it’s psychedelic medicine that we really want to make legal. And so if the therapists get cross-trained to MDMA, to ketamine, to psilocybin, to 5-MeO-DMT, or Ibogaine, whatever comes along the road, they will then be able to customize a treatment for each individual patient. And it could involve a sequence of different drugs. So for PTSD, you could imagine the first couple of sessions, MDMA, then somebody could do a psilocybin. I will add though that what we’ve learned in phase two is that the mystical experience is not correlated with therapeutic outcomes.
0:29:46.9 PA: For MDMA specifically.
0:29:51.5 PA: For alcoholism and depression.
0:29:53.6 RD: For alcoholism, for OCD, for depression, for end-of-life related anxiety, all these things. And the research with LSD also in the 60s with substance, with heroin addiction, alcoholism, that the LSD, it is correlated with the mystical experience.
0:30:06.9 RD: But MDMA is not. There’s other benefits from the mystical experience, but not reduction of PTSD symptoms. So that influences our therapeutic method. We’re not trying to steer people towards that.
0:30:20.2 PA: For sure.
0:30:21.7 RD: Yeah. So I think that we will then imagine though that you could have a couple of sessions for MDMA, then you might want to try a classic psychedelic like psilocybin or whatever. And then just to sort of add another complexity here, we do require people to take a taper off of their psychiatric medicines, to volunteer to receive MDMA. The traditional psychiatric medicines for PTSD, SSRIs, they blunt the effects of MDMA. However, there have been reports from underground therapists and others that when you double the dose of MDMA to somebody that’s on SSRIs, they have a pretty full experience, but they don’t seem to get serotonin syndrome. So that was the worry why nobody’s talking about that is you think, oh my God, you double MDMA and they’re already taking an SSRI, you’re gonna give them serotonin syndrome, they’ll overheat, they’ll die or whatever. So what we need to do is a dose response safety study of people on SSRIs with PTSD and give them increasing amounts of MDMA.
0:31:24.7 RD: So this will be one of the what’s called phase four studies.
0:31:29.0 PA: Oh, there’s a phase four.
0:31:30.2 RD: Yes, there is a phase four.
0:31:32.7 PA: Is there a phase five?
0:31:33.6 RD: No, there’s no phase five. So, but what phase, well, let’s start it. There’s preclinical, you have to do some animal toxicity studies to get into humans. Then phase one is basically healthy volunteers and you’re trying to figure out what the drug does. So again, most of these drugs are drugs that are invented by pharma. They’re not recreational drugs, they’re not used by tens of millions of people. So they don’t really know what they got. So phase one is understanding what it does in humans that are not patients. Phase two is you’re working with patients and you’re trying to figure out what’s your treatment, who is this work for, who doesn’t it work for, who do you exclude, who do you include, what are your doses, all this kind of stuff. Phase three is the large scale, double blind placebo controlled studies that you need two of, to prove safety and efficacy to get FDA to say yes.
0:32:25.7 RD: Once you do that, let’s assume that you, let’s assume our phase three studies work and FDA says yes. Then phase four is where there’s studies that they want you to do, but you already have permission to market the drug.
0:32:39.7 PA: Gotcha.
0:32:40.5 RD: So the first phase for a study that we’re required to do if we get approval is with adolescents with PTSD. So we are being required to work with 12 to 17 year olds with PTSD.
0:32:52.7 PA: Wow. With MDMA?
0:32:54.1 RD: With MDMA therapy, yes. So if, right now we’re being prohibited from working with adolescents. Our phase three studies currently are in Israel, Canada and the US, and we have an 18 year age limit. So they have to be 18. There’s no upper age limit because it’s about your health, it’s not about your age. But we do have this, and we had a terrible tragic situation of this mother called about a daughter who was mute from having been sexually abused and was 16 years old and we wanted to get her in the treatment and the FDA said no. They said only until you finish the work with adults. But then we are being required to do these adolescent studies. And if it works then, then we’ve got to go down to seven to 11 year olds. So because you’ve got kids that are traumatized, and just think about all these refugees that are like millions and millions of Ukrainian refugees and Syrian refugees.
0:33:46.0 PA: And yet you probably hear the voice in the back saying, drugs, kids.
0:33:50.8 RD: Well, I think that’s why I’m very interested.
0:33:52.6 RD: That’s why I make a point of saying the FDA is requiring us. Because I think that, yeah, we don’t think of keeping kids away from medicines, vaccines, things that’ll help them.
0:34:06.7 PA: Sure.
0:34:07.2 RD: Nor do we keep them away from drugs for attention deficit disorder when they’re even really young. So I think this idea of kids’ brains are developing and therefore we have to keep them free from drugs is just an excuse to justify the drug war. And it’s to develop fears. Parents are worried about their kids. But if you’ve got PTSD, it has changed your brain. And so if you’re an adolescent with PTSD, you should be able to have access to therapy. So that’s phase one. And then there’s the study that will be with people on SSRIs, that’ll be a phase four study as well.
0:34:43.5 PA: Can you tell us a little bit about the regenerative financing that you did about a year ago? And just as context for the listeners, you’ve been a nonprofit since ’85 or ’86. You started the public benefit corporation that’s fully owned by the nonprofit. And yet what has become clear is it’s gonna require a significant amount of capital to ensure that this, not only can get through phase three clinical trials, but that this can actually really be going to market. And so I’d love if you could just talk a little bit about, I mean, what it is, but also why you chose to do that. ‘Cause I imagine having established yourself as a nonprofit and then not necessarily totally shifting, but bringing in a financing option.
0:35:22.9 RD: Well, it was only out of frustration at the failure of philanthropy. So here we are at Wonderland, which is a conference for investors in for-profit psychedelic companies. So once this whole for-profit ecosystem started developing, a bunch of donors were saying, well, why should we donate? We could just invest. It became suddenly much more difficult. Also, once we started succeeding in our first phase three study, then we had other donors say, and this I disagree with, but what they said is philanthropy is only for things that you cannot fund another way.
0:36:00.5 RD: So now, since it looks like you might actually succeed and there’s, even though MDMA is in the public domain, it’s, invented by Merck in 1912. And in the late 1980s, early 90s, I hired a patent attorney for an anti-patent strategy against the uses of MDMA. So not us, nobody can patent MDMA for PTSD or other things. There’s a program called Data Exclusivity signed into law by Reagan in ’84, that permits people who develop drugs that are off patent to have the exclusive use of their data for five years. And so what that means is that we can be a monopoly supplier. The difference from that in a patent is another company, if they wanted to generate their own data, they could do that. So I don’t feel like we’re stopping anybody if they wanna do that. The other part of it is just by the way, that if you do these pediatric studies, you get an additional six months of data exclusivity. All right, so a bunch of our people who had been donating said, well, now it looks to us like you might actually succeed. And therefore there’s a revenue stream that may come in and there’s 12 million PTSD patients in the United States alone.
0:37:12.0 RD: And the value of treating them is substantial. We’ve hired the Boston Consulting Group to do analysis for us. It’s kind of…
0:37:20.7 PA: It’s not cheap.
0:37:22.1 RD: Well, it’s not cheap, but it’s cheaper than normal. And it’s because there’s a fellow named Dan Grossman who does pharma for Boston Consulting Group. And he’s friends with David Broner. He happened to be the one that gave David Broner LSD for David’s first trip.
0:37:38.1 PA: Really?
0:37:38.5 RD: They were classmates at Harvard together.
0:37:41.2 PA: Oh, amazing, okay.
0:37:42.1 RD: And so now Dan has grown up to be BCG pharma. So they took the case for us. But what they said is that there’s a large value from treating PTSD, particularly severe PTSD for the insurance companies, for society. So the move to the royalty finance was, I basically feel it was my failure at philanthropy. So even though we raised $135 million in grants and donations in our history, we needed a bunch more. And it was getting really difficult. And we did not really understand what it means to go from an approved drug to a drug that actually reaches its patients for patients. So there’s a whole commercial apparatus that’s necessary. So BCG sort of charted that out for us. They said we need to hire 70 more people and we need to do it two years ahead of time. And they have to do all different aspects to sort of prepare for the marketing. And so what we found, Ryan Zurrer, who’s…
0:38:42.6 PA: Vine Ventures, right?
0:38:42.9 RD: Yeah, Vine Ventures, it has been terrific, actually. So this was sort of a novel financing where we are sharing a 6.1% of the North American revenues from the sale of MDMA for $70 million based on all these projections and stuff.
0:39:03.2 RD: And there’s no ownership of the benefit corp. So they can’t tell us what to do or how to do, but we will share revenue. And the reason that it’s revenue rather than income is that we’re not gonna make that much income because we’re gonna reinvest it. We’re gonna put a patient assistant program. We’re gonna do other research. So if it were based on income, it wouldn’t be fair to the investors. So it’s based on revenue. And we’ve raised about $50 million…
0:39:30.8 PA: Wow.
0:39:32.0 RD: In that. Now we’re trying to raise the final 20 million in sort of a bridge loan that would be convertible if we’d go…
0:39:41.8 RD: If we have to end up going to sell equity or something like that. But what our hope is, is to go the rest of the way with philanthropy, because we wanna innovate in two different ways. One is psychedelic assisted therapy. The other is marketing a pharmaceutical drug where you maximize public benefit, not profit. But the more investors we have to take in, the more that can shift. And I’m very worried about that. I’m already seeing changes like that happening when MAPS is still the 100% owner of the benefit corp.
0:40:12.9 RD: You said you talked to Hamilton about patents. There’s a tendency in Pharma to patent everything they can think of.
0:40:18.1 PA: Right.
0:40:20.5 RD: Just to slow generics onto the market. We’ve had an open science policy, and that’s what our donors have wanted us to do. And that’s why I think we’ve seeded the ecosystem. And now there are hundreds of for-profit companies. And there’s Usona is another nonprofit and Hefter. And so I hope that the nonprofits and the public benefits keep the for-profits in check. But since we are here at Wonderland, I should also say that we’re in favor of for-profits. And I’m even in favor of certain kinds of patents. If somebody has a truly novel innovation that adds value, sure, go ahead and patent it. If you come… Let’s say Hamilton comes up with some new molecule that he says is better than MDMA, in whatever way. He should patent it, and that’d be totally fine. What I’m concerned about is overbroad patents, patents as a strategy.
0:41:12.7 PA: Scorched earth patents almost.
0:41:15.7 RD: Exactly, because you can get patents, but it can take people millions of dollars to fight your patents. Even if you didn’t deserve to get the patents, the patent examiners are too busy sometimes.
0:41:24.3 RD: So yeah, there’s a lot of this collaboration that stops happening once you start getting all these blizzard of patents about things. And so that’s what we’d like to avoid. So if we can go the rest of the way, right now, what we’re told is that it’s about $200 million to get to what we’re calling sustainability. So more or less $100 million to get to NDA approval, FDA approval and DEA approval. And then another 100 million or so to get to where the income from the sale of MDMA covers all of our expenses and starts to bring in more money for more research and patient assistance and things like that. So can we reduce that 200 to 100? Maybe, but we might not be as prepared for the launch. And then there’s a public benefit in getting this out to as many patients as possible. So we’re trying to balance things, but I’m very worried about the influence of private interests over public benefit. And so if we were able to get all the rest that we need from philanthropy, one of the things that we’re talking about, you hear all the time about net zero carbon.
0:42:40.2 RD: So we wanna have a world of net zero trauma. And how are we gonna do that? So Bhutan has this national measure of happiness and other countries are using that to compare their happiness. So we want a national measure of trauma and all different kinds of trauma and then apply it all over the world. This would be probably done in conjunction with the UN or other things. And then I’d say over the next 50 years, as psychedelics come online and as we think there’ll be six or 7,000 psychedelic clinics in America, another 6,000 in Europe, and who knows another 10,000 or more in the rest of the world, can we over time reduce the burden of trauma, the burden of depression and promote these kinds of spiritual senses of connection that the world will tip from causing way more trauma than anybody can cure every year, we’re gonna have hundreds of millions of climate refugees. I mean, it’s only gonna get worse for a long time. So our goal is this net zero trauma by 2070.
0:43:45.9 PA: And I’ve seen you quoted as like a global, spiritualized humanity.
0:43:49.8 RD: Yeah, I mean, because, well, when you see the astronauts, some of them talk about looking back at the earth from space and they see it’s one thing and that really impacts them a lot.
0:44:00.7 RD: So my daughter, my youngest daughter, Ellie, one of her close friends in grammar school and in high school, had a grandfather who was Michael Collins. And he was the pilot on the Apollo that went to the moon. So he orbited the moon, but didn’t land when Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed there. But afterwards they came back and they had ticker tape parades all over the world. And what Michael said was that the most striking thing to him is he said that we did this, but we didn’t mean America, even though it was America. He said, we was the human race. The human race made it to the moon. So it’s that kind of who’s the we to make the we, all of us, including nature, including animals. And that if we can think of ourselves that way, then the human mind is so brilliant that we can have enough food for everybody, enough shelter. We can have paradise on earth if we just stop killing each other and certain people amassing way more resources than others not having enough. And so…
0:45:05.2 PA: These basic physiological sort of hierarchy of needs can be handled and taken care of and we can focus on greater creation.
0:45:12.1 RD: Yeah, no, it’s great that you mentioned this hierarchy of needs. So let me ask you a question. So this is from Abraham Maslow. What do you understand is the hierarchy of needs? What is at the top?
0:45:23.2 PA: Well, at the top, a lot of people think it’s self-actualization. What in fact is above that, I believe is self-transcendence.
0:45:31.3 RD: Yes, exactly. Great, great, great, great, great, great. Yeah, so in the last few years of his life, he passed. In the last few years of his life, Abraham Maslow changed it after he learned about the LSD research and the psychedelic research to self-transcendence. And so that’s where you realize, whatever we accomplish is because of all the other people that have helped us to be where we are. We’re not doing it by ourselves. So that’s the transformation that individuals need to make and societies and humanity needs to make. And we are so far away from that right now, where we see a rise of people motivated by fear, by anxiety, and all these…
0:46:07.2 PA: Divisiveness.
0:46:09.6 RD: Divisiveness. So I think the destruction of the weaponry that we have, Putin talking about nuclear weapons possibly, going after Ukraine, the climate change situations, I think only a spiritualized humanity will help us get out of these problems that we’re in. But I think it’s within range. And I think it’s possible. I think it’ll take multiple decades.
0:46:33.5 PA: Generations.
0:46:33.6 RD: Generations, a couple of generations. Yeah, actually, that’s the last thing. The… So I’m Jewish. So there’s this whole question about the story about Moses and Passover, where the Jews leave from slavery and they spend 40 years in the desert. Now, I’ve been to the Sinai Desert.
0:46:51.2 RD: It’s not that big. I mean, it’s big. But you can cross it in less than 40 years. So why did it take them 40 years? So the sort of religious, spiritual answer is that they wanted a whole generation to die out. The generation that had been born into slavery, they wanted them to die. And so it would be a generation that was born into freedom that will then start the promised land. And that’s why it took so long. So I think we will need multiple generations to get over this kind of divisiveness, and then the healed generation, and then we’ll have more spiritualized humanity. So that’s why 50 years from now, I say roughly 2070.
0:47:32.7 PA: Ken Wilber, he wrote this book called The Religion of Tomorrow. And he talked about how when the printing press was invented, it wasn’t that every single person had to learn how to read. It was that 10% of the population could reach literacy, and they would create the academic university system that would then enable literacy for everyone. And I think it’s similar with, let’s say, the frame that I’ve always taken with psychedelics accelerating, let’s say, the evolution of consciousness, or the sort of prospect to see new perspectives. It’s not that every single person has to do psychedelics. It’s that if it’s 5% to 10% of people who have this awareness of interconnectedness, then what new systems will they then be? Regenerative systems, will they want to create? And how could those regenerative systems create generations of, let’s say, harmonious interbeing with everything around us, if you will? And it sounds very utopian, but it also, there’s… In human culture and human civilization, there’s always new utopias. And I feel like that is the next one.
0:48:36.0 RD: Yeah And I’ll say that I’ve been very influenced by Aldous Huxley and the book Island, if you know. So that was about the creation of a psychedelic utopia on this island. And that was where they actually had the initiation of the young with psychedelics at Rites of Passage. But as he was writing this book, Aldous Huxley changed his mind about it. And the book ends with the oil companies come to this island and destroy it in order for the oil. So it’s similar to the movie Avatar that a lot of people have seen. So what the meaning for that, for me, is that in an era of global warming, of nuclear weapons, there’s no private utopia. So when Michael Mithoefer came to me, our lead psychiatrist in 2000, and I’d never met him before. And he said, I want to work with you on creating an offshore clinic. Because he had just come back from St. Kitts, where this woman Deborah Mash had had an Ibogaine clinic.
0:49:33.9 PA: I love Deborah. Yeah, we had her on a podcast as well.
0:49:36.0 RD: Yeah. And so Michael had a patient that was addicted to opiates and wanted to try Ibogaine. And Michael said he would be OK with that, but only if he could go and watch and see what happened.
0:49:45.0 RD: So Michael saw this healing at St. Kitts. And then he came back. And then we were at the world’s first ayahuasca conference, organized by Ralph Metzner in 2000.
0:49:55.3 PA: Where was this?
0:49:55.4 RD: In San Francisco. And Michael came up to me, and he said that he was a member of MAPS. He’d studied with Stan Grof and the whole atopic breath work, and he wanted to work with me on an offshore clinic. And I basically said, there are no private utopias. I’m not interested in that at all. What I want to do is go to the heart of the system and change from the inside out. And that means going through the FDA. And when I explained that to Michael, within 10 minutes, he’s like, OK, I’m an expert in PTSD. I’m great. We want MDMA from PTSD. And so…
0:50:23.3 PA: You sold him. You got him on board.
0:50:25.0 RD: And we… Yes, and I’ve just talked to him today and yesterday and all these years. So I think that there are no private utopias. And we have never been capable of destroying the planet in the ways that we are now. And the species extinction, we’ve never been capable of destroying each other.
0:50:41.8 RD: So all this, like Elon Musk and others, let’s go to Mars or Jeff Bezos. It’s like you’re bringing the same consciousness there. What are you really accomplishing? Nothing, other than all this money that should be going to mental health for the people on Earth right now.
0:50:58.5 PA: And restoring the Earth and taking care of communities and reinvesting in.
0:51:00.4 RD: Yeah, there’s something idealistic about, yeah, we are cosmic and to help us think about in more cosmic terms. So there’s a lot good to that. But I think the utopia we have to build, and we also have to build it for everybody. And I’ll say that I had this two days of one was a DMT experience. The next day was ketamine. This is… But this is where my political philosophy began. Alright, not begin. It was sort of strengthened. This was 1985. So this was with Terrence McKenna and Andy Weil and Ralph Metzner and others, a bunch of us sitting around in a circle doing DMT.
0:51:38.9 PA: Amazing.
0:51:39.5 RD: I had never done DMT before. So during this DMT experience, I was like blasted. And I was just thinking, great, this is wonderful. I’m part of everything. Everything’s part of me. And then I thought in my innermost spot, which is sort of my mind where I’m talking to myself, well, I’m talking to myself in English.
0:52:01.6 RD: I didn’t invent English. I mean, millions of people thought, you know, long time. So all of this, even in my innermost private spot, it’s not really me. It’s this whole communal production, this bigger self. And so then I thought, wow, this is wonderful, beautiful. And then I had this honest idea, which is if everything’s part of you and you’re part of everything, then Hitler is part of you too. So he’s like the big demon. And so to realize that I have my own inner Hitler, that he’s actually part of me, it’s not just out there. That was like a shattering thing. The very next day, it took me a day to really, you know, I mean, I was very affected. And so this was a group of us at Esalen trying to figure out how to keep MDMA legal and stuff. So we’re also experimenting. So the next day, we were doing ketamine. So in the ketamine trip, I’m hovering above and behind Hitler giving a speech. And I’m sort of thinking, I’ve got to get into his head. I’ve got to get into his head. How do I?
0:53:01.6 RD: Make him not want to kill all these people?
0:53:03.8 RD: Or how do you do it? And then I saw this Heil Hitler salute thing in his speeches. And it felt to me like he would do the salute, and then everybody would do it back to him. So it felt like the many giving the power to the one, and then the one pushing it back, and the many giving it back. And it was like this vibration. And I kept realizing that if I couldn’t watch this, if I panicked, I would not ever be able to do any good. And I realized that one of the beautiful things about ketamine is that you can breathe, and you can… It doesn’t affect your respiration. So I breathed, and I was able to quiet my fear. But then I realized that there was no way I could get into his head. That… This idea that people have to want to change. You can’t just make them change. But I realized, look at all these, the mass of people that are giving their power to him. They’re not getting as much out of it. They’re surrendering. They’re not really gaining. So the ultimate solution has to be not giving MDMA to Hitler or Trump or like this.
0:54:02.7 RD: It has to be grounded in mass mental health. And so that’s where the twofold strategy has come. One is drug development. The other, drug policy reform. So that it’s available to people who don’t necessarily have a diagnosis and who don’t feel like they want to go in a religious context or a medical context. But all of that is to say, I do think that we need to lodge a new kind of consciousness in humanity. And I think it’s coming. You could say even one of the amazing upsides of COVID was it just helped us realize how interconnected we are. I mean, the whole world was impacted by this. And…
0:54:42.9 PA: There was no escaping it.
0:54:46.4 RD: There was no escaping it. So you can have mega billionaires like, I’ll go to Mars. But it’s got to be here.
0:54:51.5 PA: We’re still all one. And I think to speak to that, one word that comes up, willful participation. There has to be a desire to want and then agency. And a feeling like, oh, I am responsible for. And then wanting to make those changes. And it’s not just the drug, necessarily. It is the combination of that empowerment with…
0:55:12.3 RD: Well, I’d say the drug is the catalyst. But it’s the human relationship that… Or the therapy that makes it worthwhile. But also, when I talk about drug legalization, people can do a lot of their own healing without therapists. I mean, when you get stuck, there’s a lot of people that need support. But I think once we move into a post-prohibition world, there can be a lot of preventative psychedelic medical use. As you maybe have a crisis, but you’re not down into depression. And you work through it. Or an early trauma that you work through until it doesn’t become post-traumatic stress disorder.
0:55:53.7 PA: Doesn’t have a chance to stick.
0:55:54.6 RD: Yeah, necessarily.
0:55:55.1 PA: And rewire. Well I wanna thank you for coming on the podcast, for joining us. You are a very…
0:56:04.6 RD: Well, I didn’t realize you were about to wrap up, so there’s something else I wanted to say.
0:56:09.7 PA: Go for it, go for it. You are welcome to speak as much as you want.
0:56:12.9 RD: Okay. Well, I just wanted to say that we are going to be having the world’s largest psychedelic conference ever. And it’s in June, in 2023, in Denver. So I’d like to… People can do psychedelicscience.org and can find out about it. But what’s also going to be very interesting, it’s in Denver. And next week, I don’t know if that screws things up in terms of time, but I’m saying that the November election…
0:56:36.9 PA: Yeah. For Colorado.
0:56:38.4 RD: For America. But in Colorado, there’s a natural plant medicine.
0:56:41.8 PA: Prop 122?
0:56:43.3 RD: Yeah. And if that passes, it sort of demonstrates that the citizens of Colorado are comfortable with plant medicines. So for the conference, what we want to do is have the first couple of days to be experiential…
0:56:54.1 PA: Nice.
0:56:54.6 RD: And then the rest are listening to lectures and doing things. So we want to have… So Stan Grof is coming…
0:57:03.8 PA: Amazing.
0:57:03.7 RD: With Brigitte to do holotropic breath work. The people from Naropa are going to do a meditation retreat. We’re going to have people come to do a Rapé, which is kind of a nicotine…
0:57:11.9 PA: Tobacco snuff.
0:57:13.6 RD: Tobacco snuff. We’ll have that. We’ll have all different kinds of experiential opportunities for people. We can do Santo Daime, which is federally legal. So we will have a lot of federally legal researchers. And there’ll be a…
0:57:28.0 PA: Ayahuasca with Rick Doblin, is that one of the…
0:57:32.7 RD: Well, I’m kind of allergic to religious contexts, I would say. So I probably wouldn’t go to the Santo Daime.
0:57:34.6 PA: The Santo Daime.
0:57:38.9 RD: I’ve been to a bunch of Santo Daime. I have nothing against Santo Daime. [laughter]
0:57:46.1 PA: It’s not your style so much.
0:57:50.2 RD: I don’t enjoy it as much. I’ve been to the UDV as well, the ceremonies. But my favorite ayahuasca ceremony was actually in Brazil. But it was at a retreat where Jonathan Ott and I were speakers. And it was done in a therapeutic context. I felt that that was the most open for me to go wherever I wanted to do. So that’s my preferred. Yeah. So, I won’t be probably in those ayahuasca ceremonies. But I wanted to invite people to come and think about the conference. There’s a lot of networking. And the mayor of Denver is going to open it up for us.
0:58:24.3 PA: Phenomenal.
0:58:24.9 RD: We got support from the governor.
0:58:25.2 PA: That’s great.
0:58:26.6 RD: Denver was the first city to make mushrooms the lowest enforcement priority.
0:58:32.5 PA: Decriminalize…
0:58:33.7 RD: And the police are interested, and we’re trying to work on an educational program for the Denver police, of how to de-escalate if they find somebody having a difficult psychedelic trip. So, I think the conference will be a good blend of experiential with academic, you could say, and a lot of networking and parties and socialization and all of that. And so the theme of it is The Doorway to a New World. So we think by then, we will have gotten the application to the FDA right around that time, or almost around that time, or it’ll be almost ready or fully ready. And the phase three studies will have started with psilocybin. And so it’ll be on the theme of this Doorway to the New World.
0:59:13.2 PA: I love that. And we will be there. Third Wave, I’ll be there. We’re going to do an activation. We’re sponsoring. So, it’s great to do mini activations. And you’re expecting almost 10,000 people, I think, at the convention center, so…
0:59:27.5 RD: Yeah, we have the… It’s a bargain actually ’cause when we took the gamble, we have got a bunch of hotel rooms that we had to guarantee. But now, because of inflation and stuff, they’re a good deal. [chuckle] And there’s one thing, it hasn’t been confirmed yet, but there’s a bunch of dorms that are near the convention center. And the school will be out, and it’s a state school. And so we’re trying to get access to all these dorms…
0:59:48.4 PA: Oh wow.
0:59:49.4 RD: So students can have low-cost housing. That’s what we’re trying to do as well, ’cause it’s pretty expensive to go to these hotels.
0:59:55.4 PA: Any final thing before…
0:59:58.4 RD: Well, I guess I’d be curious if you could tell me a little bit about what your longer term plans are.
1:00:02.8 PA: Oh, I love this, Rick. So my approach has always been non-clinical, non-medical, in terms of looking at how psychedelics cannot only help heal, but the betterment of the world. And so really looking at what I call the skill of psychedelics. How can we combine microdosing with higher dosing, with non-psychedelic modalities to facilitate growth, transformation, the evolution of consciousness? And so the frame that I’ve often taken is… I love history, so, what have we learned from the first wave and the second wave, indigenous use and the counterculture, that can be applicable to this third wave of psychedelics? So, both cutting-edge science, methodology, but also ancient ritual. And then, how do we find… Like, I love Taoism, the middle way between those two to facilitate cultural integration of psychedelics? My sense is that decentralization is really the future, and that the work that you’ve done through MAPS and the FDA is incredibly necessary and has been a huge block or huge… It’s cleared a lot of way. And what that’s created space for is Oregon, Colorado, decriminalization across the board. And so my sense is we’ll see this beautiful symphony of those three that pretty soon will allow for full access.
1:01:19.2 PA: And so what I feel like is necessary within that, is it does have to be both end, clinical and non-clinical, medical and non-medical. And that one of the biggest problems, so to say, is as this grows, how do we find qualified and trustworthy guides, facilitators and shamans? And so I really think there’s an opportunity with technology to help bridge that gap, to help people find a qualified guide or therapist or clinic or retreat center. And then my personal love, like the tech stuff is nice, but my personal love is teaching and education.
1:01:56.9 RD: Oh, oh nice, nice…
1:01:58.7 PA: And so I’m really interested in how business can be a force for good. And so we’re doing trainings now for executive coaches and wellness coaches and peak performance coaches. And really looking at, okay, if you’re going to work with the leaders of tomorrow, how can you transform their consciousness through psychedelics so they recognize their sense of interconnectedness and they then build business and healthcare and politic around that concept?
1:02:21.7 RD: Oh, that’s great. And you’ve reminded me that there’s one big part of what we do which I haven’t talked about, which is our Zendo Project. So it’s psychedelic harm reduction. So in order to build this post-prohibition world that you’re talking about, that I’m talking about, there will be a lot of people that try psychedelics without therapists, and some fraction of them will get into trouble, meaning it’ll be difficult material, they won’t know what to do. If they get really panicked, they could end up in an emergency room, they could get tranquilized, they could get diagnosed. It could be a downhill slope. So in order to really make a post-prohibition world work out well, what we need is honest drug education, pure drugs, treatment on demand for people who have problems, but also peer support. So what we need to do is really train large numbers of people to help others that are having a difficult trip and to understand that these drugs which they may think of just as party drugs, and then when something difficult comes up, if you think about it as a party drug, then that means, “Oh, you’re going downhill.”
1:03:25.3 RD: It’s going to be, “a bad trip.” And we like to say that difficult is not the same as bad. What makes it bad is resistance. So I think the peer support is going to be critical. And eventually, it should be taught in schools instead of there.
1:03:37.7 RD: Anything?
1:03:37.7 PA: It’s like a listening society. How do we teach the skill of listening, of holding space, of being present, of being with?
1:03:45.2 RD: Yeah, and it applies beyond just psychedelics. I mean, it’s just about, how do you help people… The stresses of the world with climate change, with… They’re just going to increase. And so we need to help people deal with stress. And even our goal with therapy is to help people deal with their traumas without the use of drugs. We only give them a few times to get to the core of the problem, but to teach them the skills that then they can work as they get exposed to further traumas on their own. So I think…
1:04:12.9 PA: It can be self-resourced in that way, right?
1:04:15.6 RD: Very much so, yes.
1:04:16.6 PA: This has been great. This is a fun conversation. We could go for hours.
1:04:19.2 RD: We could. We definitely could.
1:04:21.1 PA: Just go, go, go, go.
1:04:22.5 RD: Yeah, that is the beautiful of podcasts, if you have time to go off on these tangents, and there’s…
1:04:27.1 PA: Have you been on Joe Rogan yet?
1:04:29.8 RD: Yeah. Three times.
1:04:30.9 PA: Oh, really?
1:04:31.0 RD: Yeah, yeah.
1:04:30.9 PA: Yeah, that’s just…
1:04:31.4 RD: What I’m particularly proud of is that on Joe Rogan, the first couple times I did it, he was in California. And the third time I did it, he was in Texas. But the first two times, he passed around a joint, and so I smoke more pot than Joe… I held it down…
1:04:45.0 PA: Yeah, you held it down.
1:04:49.0 RD: I was particularly proud.
1:04:51.0 PA: That’s so great. [chuckle] Well, Rick, I want to thank you for 40 years of incredible work, for pioneering this entire space around psychedelics, for listening, for your humility, for your capacity. It’s an honor to sit here with you. It’s an honor to interview you. And I’m just appreciative of all of the energy and time.
1:05:12.5 RD: And I’d like to thank you, because I think the public education piece of what we need to do is absolutely essential. Because we can make progress with the research, but we also need to really make progress with the public education to get people ready for this.
1:05:25.4 PA: Absolutely. It takes a global citizenry, right? And it’s a global community.
1:05:31.2 RD: Yeah. And this is like, again, as I started talking about the difference between individual change and cultural change. It takes a lot of information seeding, big parts of the culture. But I think you’re also right about the earlier part, where you were saying that you don’t need everybody. If you can get a leading edge, they can then set the tone…
1:05:48.4 PA: And I got this from Terrence McKenna as well. He was… Ralph Metzner asked him this question at Esalen, “Does everyone need to do psychedelics?” And Terrence was like, “I think only probably 5% to 10% of people can handle the ego death and the deep things that happen with that.”
1:06:02.6 RD: I don’t know about that. I mean, I think with the proper support, I think more people could. And actually, Stan Grof talked about it. When they were doing the work with LSD with alcohol use, he said that there was some people that thought that this is only for the highly educated people. But he had this Skid Row bum that was totally overdoing alcohol. But in LSD, he had a spiritual experience. He didn’t have the vocabulary for it, but he was able to have that experience. And that helped him get better from the alcohol. So, I think a lot of… More than 10%, I think, can handle it. But you need to build up to it. You need proper support, proper integration afterwards.
1:06:46.9 PA: Well, thank you, Rick. Thank you again. This is so fun.
1:06:47.5 RD: Wow, wow. Great. My pleasure. Yeah.
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