Friday was a psychedelic day for me as all three panels I attended covered current research into the use of psychedelics for cognitive, behavioral, and psychological treatment for systems ranging from end-of-life anxiety, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anorexia, cancer, depression, and addictive disorders.
One highlight for me was to hear Dennis McKenna speak twiceâ€”first on the ancient uses for psilocybin in ancient and Aztec cultures; second on the healing potential of ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic tea originating from South America. He discussed the findings of the Hoasca study, which showed that ayahuasca has no acute toxicity, no neurological, cognitive, or personality dysfunctions in both short and long-term users. The study did find that long-term users had elevated densities of serotonin transporters; whereas, people who suffer from alcoholism, suicidal thoughts, and binge eating have deficits in these transporters.
Another highlight for me was hearing Franz Voillenweider, student of Albert Hoffman, discuss his current research into the chemical activity of the brain in users of psychedelics. He is perplexed by the question as to why and how psychedelics change, blur, and otherwise disrupt the boundary between ego and other in users. One question his research explores is whether or not there is a common denominator in the change of brain activity in various types of consciousness-altering behavior, such as meditation, drumming, and use of psychedelics since most people express a common â€œfeeling of oneness with allâ€ when participating in these activities.
The first panel, â€œPsychedelic Research: Neuroscience and Ethnobotanical Roots,â€ explored potential uses of psilocybin for medicine and psychiatry. The second, â€œThe Re-emergence of Psychedelics: Implications for Novel Treatment Paradigms,â€ reviewed various treatment models and explored a common theme among reports from test subjects, which is that they had a mystical experience during treatment. The last panel, â€œAyahuasca: Traditional Uses and Modern Adaptations,â€ explored the social and cultural contexts in which ayahuasca is used and projected ways in which it will be used in the future.