The Multiplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies has been doing frontier research into the therapeutic uses of psychedelics for the past 33 years, and they’re currently in Phase 3 FDA trials for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of severe Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). MAPS played a huge role in recent books like Michael Pollen’s “How to Change Your Mind“, and has been providing the scientific legitimacy for the therapeutic uses of psychedelics. It’s also helped to bring the psychedelic culture out from the underground to the point where the Consciousness Hacking community decided to name psychedelics as a main part of the Awakened Futures Summit, which explored the intersection between psychedelics, technology, and meditation.
I had a chance to talk with MAPS Development Officer Liana Sananda Gillooly at the Awakened Futures Summit where we talked about the history of MAPS, the current FDA trial process to get MDMA FDA approved for the treatment of PTSD, the broader experiential design protocols that MAPS is developing in order to cultivate a proper set and setting for the therapeutic use of psychedelics, the leveraging of eastern and indigenous philosophies in the development of a broader cultural context for the therapeutic use of psychedelics, harm reduction suggestions of technologies and communities to provide peer-to-peer therapeutic assistance for the recreational use of psychedelics, the historical evolution of the psychedelic underground, the decriminalization of psychedelics in Denver, the broader war on drugs and her personal opinions of drug policy reform, and her personal passion of eventually using psychedelics to work as a “death doula” helping reduce the anxiety, grief, and trauma around the process of death and dying — but that she needs to help legalize the therapeutic use of psychedelics before she can do that.
Gillooly says that our culture is facing a crisis of consciousness, and that we need as many people as we can to explore alternative ways of knowing in order to help solve some of the deepest ecological, economic, political, and social justice crises that are facing our world today. She also talks about the MAPS Public Benefit Corporation that was created in order to manufacture and distribute MDMA once it receives final FDA approval. All of the profits from the sale of psychedelics will be funneled from the MAPS Public Benefit Corporation back into the MAPS non-profit in order to continue evangelizing the legalization of psychedelics, training psychedelic therapy practitioners, and funding continued research into the health benefits of psychedelic therapies. Gillooly says that they’re doing psychedelic therapy on the economic system itself, and that they’re poised to disrupt the existing economic business models of the pharmaceutical industry. They’re going to have a hard limit for the number of psychedelic treatments that are made available, and the sessions will be focused on cultivating the innate healing capacities of each individual in a holistic approach that isn’t designed to get them dependent upon drugs forever.
This conversation and my experiences at the Awakened Futures Summit convinced me that we really are on the cusp of a pretty revolutionary psychedelic renaissance that is pretty closely mirroring what’s happening with the renaissance of VR, AR, AI, immersive theater, and with embodied, experiential entertainment in general. There are many opportunities for how immersive technologies will be serving as a psychedelic primer, assessment tool, and psychedelic integration tool.
Adam Gazalley also talked at the summit about how Akili Interactive is also in the process of getting a video game FDA-approved for the use as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and how this is a new and emerging form of “experiential medicine.” It’s an open question for what design frameworks and philosophical foundations will be used to fully understand the principles of experiential medicine, but there is lots to learn from non-Western traditions of Eastern Philosophy and Indigenous Philosophies, especially in the culture that’s been cultivated around transformative psychedelic experiences.
So it’s an exciting time in the world of how the worlds of experiential design and psychedelic therapies will continue to intersect, and Gillooly does a great job of setting the broader context for why psychedelics are such a hot topic in our culture today.
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