This week, Denver will hold a conference hosted by a psychedelic advocacy group that will include an odd cohort of speakers, including an NFL star, a former Republican governor, and a rapper. This comes months after Colorado voters voted to follow Oregon in decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms.
Proponents of psychedelic chemicals claim they may give advantages for things like post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism, and the thousands who are anticipated to attend the conference is evidence of the creep, or maybe jump, of mainstream acceptability for these substances. Still, professionals in the medical field stress the importance of doing more studies into the medications’ effectiveness and potential side effects.
Aaron Rodgers, a former Green Bay Packers quarterback who will shortly make his debut with the New York Jets, has been forthcoming about his prior usage of ayahuasca and is scheduled to speak on Wednesday. Former Texas governor Rick Perry, who is an advocate for studying psychedelics’ potential benefits for veterans experiencing PTSD, will also be speaking in Denver. Jaden Smith, the son of Will Smith and a rapper, has publicly shared the “ego dissolution” he felt when using psychedelics.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is the leading organization in the United States promoting this cause. A historian of science who specializes in the rise and fall of psychedelic movements has indicated that it has planned to appeal to people from all walks of life politically.
He concluded that the method had been quite effective. “At a time when any topic gets politically polarized, ironically these super polarizing substances now get bipartisan support.”
Promote the buzz
Langlitz said that despite the potential advantages being exaggerated, the conference was “purely designed to promote the hype,” which may lead to further financing.
Overselling is bad for science since researchers in the field should be striving for accuracy, not hype, his words. It’s a compromise. There will be more studies done as a result of (the meeting), and it will likely be more optimistic than necessary.
Despite widespread acceptance and enthusiasm for exploring their potential advantages, federal law prohibits the use of psychedelics. Psilocybin, found in magic mushrooms, is thought by some to alter brain organization in a way that aids in the treatment of mental health issues including depression and alcoholism.
Both the drugs and the fascination with them have been around for some time. In the middle of the twentieth century, psychedelics were popularized by authors like Aldous Huxley and Ken Kesey during the counterculture movement, and some psychologists even saw them as a way to improve people’s minds.
However, psychedelics were forced underground once the Nixon government made them illegal.
“In both cases, you have this upwelling of exuberance that may or may not be irrational,” said Michael Pollan, who will be presenting at the conference and penned a book on psychedelics. But now, as I see it, the enthusiasm for the possibilities of psychedelics spans a much larger representative slice of the public; it’s no longer just about a subculture.
Partially motivated by the moving accounts of former service members, Republican strongholds like Utah and Missouri have commissioned or are contemplating commissioning research into the medications. That’s why in 2021, Perry helped get a measure passed in the Texas senate to fund a study of psilocybin for treating PTSD, despite the fact that he doesn’t advocate for its recreational usage.
Veterans, PTSD, and the Congress
New York’s progressive Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Florida’s far-right Republican Representative Matt Gaetz found themselves in an unusual coalition after their respective proposals to finance psychedelic research for PTSD in soldiers were approved by the House of Representatives.
The general public also seems to be getting more interested. About three thousand people showed up to a conference hosted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Oakland, California, just six years ago. The conference featured a mix of well-known and lesser-known speakers and advocates.
This time, organizers anticipate tens of thousands of participants. Besides Carl Hart, chair of the psychology department at Columbia University, other notable speakers include Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen, comedians Reggie Watts and Eric Andre, top-10 podcaster Andrew Huberman, and former NHL player Daniel Carcillo, whose company specializes in psychedelic therapies.
Until the Federal Drug Administration makes a definitive decision on the safety and efficacy of psychedelics for medical usage, the American Psychiatric Association has not recommended their use. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did categorize psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” in 2018, a designation meant to expedite the development and evaluation of medications to treat critical conditions. MDMA, also known by its street name ecstasy, is a certified PTSD therapy.
Pollan and Langlitz agree that further study is necessary, especially given the severity of the current mental health crisis in the United States and the difficulty many have in accessing effective treatment for it. But, as Langlitz emphasized, the story should be molded by the research.
The proponents of psychedelic therapy “are currently predicting,” but “I would just try to keep my mind open to the possibility that in retrospect we will tell a very different story,” he added.
Aaron Rodgers, Jaden Smith, and former Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry will speak at the “Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies” conference in Denver, Colorado. The conference’s projected thousands of attendees show psychedelics’ expanding mainstream acceptability. Medical experts warn that additional study is required before these medications effectively treat PTSD and alcoholism. Republican strongholds like Utah and Missouri are funding psychedelics research.