OPEN Foundation

OPEN Foundation

Goodbye ICPR 2022. Hello… ICPR 2024!

From touching talks to insightful perspectives, and profound new ways of thinking about reality to practical tips about doing therapy or research: ICPR 2022 has been an inspiring, thought-provoking, educational, and uplifting experience. Thanks to you all so much from the bottom of our hearts, whether you were a visitor, volunteer, speaker, presenter, digital visitor, or fan from afar: you made this conference what it was.

A common theme at ICPR 2020 was figuring out what is next for psychedelics and psychedelic therapy, now that their efficacy has been proven, their acceptance is broadening, and a professional ecosystem is developing. The presentations at ICPR were able to satisfy some questions with answers but mostly helped us all to develop new and better questions about the challenges we are dealing with in our own fields. 

“We can set the standard for how this is done in the future,” as MAPS director Rick Doblin asserted at the closing panel of ICPR 2022. “And I think the most important thing right now is the training of therapists,” Doblin said, constantly pushing the envelope on where this field might go. “Let people watch videos for example. But also make sure there is a clear and defined way for therapists themselves to take MDMA legally as part of their training.”

At the same time, Paul Stamets stated, we should not forget to look for knowledge outside of the rigor of scientific research and prohibitionist laws – and appreciate more that some of these substances, experiences, and knowledge have been with humanity for a very long time: “We shouldn’t ignore that millions of people have been using these substances for thousands of years,” Paul Stamets stated. 

Participants Panel

There was special attention for the participants of psychedelic trials, who were featured on a panel to bring a much-needed perspective to ICPR that had been missing at earlier conferences. It was the first time -as far as we know- that a panel of trial participants was featured at a psychedelic conference. 

Participants Ian Roullier and Leonie Schneider stressed the need for extensive and thorough support before and after the psychedelic experience: “set and setting, for as participants, apply before, during and after treatment. It’s not just during the medical intervention itself.”

So psychedelics give us the opportunity to radically rethink human healing, was an often-heard sentiment at ICPR: “It’s time we treat people like plants”, Pedram Dara, ICPR Manager and panel member of the participants’ trial asserted. He alluded to the care we take to change the environment of a plant when it’s not doing well – with light, water and nutrients – instead of trying to ‘fix’ the plant itself. 

Leonie Schneider underlined the need for an infrastructure and ecosystem. “Tweak the environment so that it supports them. We are not dots on a graph, we are not lab rats, we are human beings. So how do we create peer circles and support groups – a community infrastructure – going forward?”

FUTURE OF PSYCHEDELIC Therapy

Mendel Kaelen, music researcher and the CEO of Wavepaths, underlined the importance of experience as a healing agent: “We learn to walk by walking, we learn to talk by talking and we need to learn to feel safe by feeling safe” – Mendel Kaelen, CEO of Wavepaths.

Janis Phelps shared her qualms about the psychedelic experience being boxed-in too much: “I’m afraid the experience will be overmedicalized,” she said, “that we lose that sense of awe and gratitude that Roland Griffiths talked about. I don’t want to have done all this work just to the benefit of wealthy people.”

Future research was also announced and highlighted. Beckley Foundation founder and director Amanda Feilding announced a first proof-of-concept study with Basel university to study microdosing LSD in mild Alzheimer’s disease. Rick Doblin posed difficult questions around PTSD in children and proposals to explore MDMA-assisted therapy for 11-year olds.    

Roland Griffiths reflected on his own mortality and shared how he is nurturing gratitude about the mystery of life and consciousness while he walks this earth with us.

Charles Raison examined the agent of change in a psychedelic experience: are psychedelics more like psychotherapy or more like standard antidepressants ‘on steroids’? To test this, an upcoming study by Raison will administer psilocybin to sleeping participants. Will they experience a meaningful change without having conscious thoughts?

Torsten Passie reflected on his experience in psychedelic therapy: “We are not treating people. We are moderating self-healing. This is why we should guide rather than interfere with the process”, explained Torsten Passie.

Some findings

There were bigger and smaller findings about how psychedelics compare to more traditional antidepressants. Emotional blunting is a common side effect reported with antidepressants, Matthew Wall explained. And his research found that psilocybin affects emotional responsiveness less than escitalopram – as measured by the emotional faces task. In simpler terms: it found psilocybin offered a greater antidepressant effect with less downsides.

Frederike Holze presented the results of a recent study at University Hospital Basel with Peter Gasser, that a single dose of LSD correlated with a rapid, long-lasting reduction in anxiety symptoms. And that mystical experiences are correlated with longer-lasting effects.

Jennifer Schmidt presented a study that found that Methylone showed the strongest possible antidepressant effect in the forced-swim-test in rats. The study also found that methylone does not have a negative drug interaction with SSRIs, like MDMA does.

David Erritzoe found that participants who were weaned off antidepressants before taking psilocybin experienced a smaller change in depression reduction than those who were fully naive to antidepressants. David Erritzoe explained that the expectancy effect of escitalopram predicts greater efficacy than the same expectancy effect with psilocybin.

ICPR 2024!

We’ve hardly had time to catch our breath after the afterparty (and the after-after-party…) but we didn’t want to leave you with the sincere wish we can do this all again soon! The great success of ICPR 2022 means that the OPEN Foundation has a runway to organise and expand the psychedelic scientific ecosystem for the upcoming years. And it is with that confidence and love that we want to invite you to the next ICPR – now planned for 2024. Because there is much suffering in the world, the questions that psychedelics force us to ask are urgent, and there is much need to separate fact from fiction, and hype from hope, in the prospering psychedelic ecosystem.

This overview was but a snippet of the hundreds of hours we could spend on its content. But rest assured that more videos from ICPR2022 will appear over the coming weeks. Watch your email and follow us on social media to stay up to date. The community platform is where these videos will be released.

Earliest Bird tickets for ICPR 2024 are now available. 

Thanks again to all the volunteers helping out, and especially the photography, video, livestream, content and social media teams! Special mention to @martin_spijker for his amazing portraits and photos.

(Now let’s all take a well-deserved nap.)

ICPR 2022 PREVIEW: SATURDAY HIGHLIGHTS

Wow, we’re already on the final day of ICPR 2022! We’ll hear from Roland Griffiths (virtually), trial participants, Rick Doblin, Gitte Moos Knudsen, Bernardo Kastrup and others on topics such as MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, indigenous medicine, business, microdosing, and critical perspectives on the quality of psychedelic research. 

Just before lunch, there will be a screening in the Wasson Room of the film Descending the Mountain at 11:50, followed by a Q&A with co-producer Annette Badenhorst. At that same time, Corine de Boer will give an update on MDMA-assisted therapy in Europe, followed by Rick Doblin who will give an overview of the work of MAPS on MDMA. 

This will be a hard block to choose from, because at the same time we’ll hear from participants of psychedelic trials in the Shulgin Room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After lunch, Bernardo Kastrup will give a keynote speech on how the effects of psychedelic  point towards a much bigger puzzle about the nature of reality – while the Wasson Room will feature talks on Indigenous medicine in and beyond the Amazon.

Roland Griffiths will speak to us via video, while some perspectives and digital tools for microdosing studies are shared in the Wasson Room. There will be three different panels, discussing the business of psychedelic sciencepatient perspectives from trials, and managing issues around blinding and expectancy in research. 

For reflecting on three days of psychedelic discourse, there will be a closing panel starting at 17:30, with time to relax and connect afterward. For those who have signed up for the afterparty in Amsterdam: see you there! (Afterparty has a waitlist – check your email for more info)!

As for recordings for all rooms, we’ll need time to process. Most talks will be available for later viewing, but there is no timeline available for this yet. We’ll keep you posted.

Check out the full day 3 programme here.

ICPR 2022 PREVIEW: FRIDAY HIGHLIGHTS

And we’re off! After an amazing, warm and inspiring first day where we hugged old friends and greeted new faces, we’re now on to our second day of ICPR! Hopefully everyone knows their way around the building (and to the different “toiletten” tucked in the building) a bit more.

Friday Highlights
Some highlights of Friday are LSD Research, the mainstreaming of psychedelics, the future of funding, and psychedelic neuroscience. 

David Nutt and Amanda Feilding will dive into the neuroscience of psychedelics in the morning. And Bill Richards will give an update about his work around palliative care and psychedelics – some of the longest-running research into the possibility of psychedelics to relieve suffering of terminal patients. While Torsten Passie will teach lessons from the first wave of psychedelic research in the mid-20th century.

Brian Pace will try to break some stereotypes about the political leanings of the psychedelic ecosystem with his presentation on Right-wing psychedelia: red pills for sale. Ethics will be discussed by Carolina Seybert and Robert Schoevers.

Two concurrent panels will round up the day.

One panel will be about the mainstreaming and commercialisation of the psychedelic field and will include Rick Doblin, VICE-journalist Shayla Love, North Star project leader Julia Mande and professor in clinical pharmacology and long-time psychedelics researcher Matthias Liechti. The conversation will be hosted by journalist Thijs Roes.

The other panel is moderated by David Nutt and will discuss the future of funding and regulation in Europe. Panel members are Lionel Thelen, Gitte Moos Knudsen, Tadeusz Hawrot, and Florence Butlen-Ducuing.

At that same time, Mendel Kaelen, founder and CEO of Wavepaths, will give a talk on the role of music in psychedelic therapy based on his 10 years of research.

Having such a wide range of topics on one day again shows the value of having an interdisciplinary conference. So again, on this Friday, there is again so much to choose from. 

Highlighted topic of the day: LSD
From its accidental discovery to its long-lasting effects, and now a renewed interest in the therapeutic potential of the substance in modern psychiatry: lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is unique in the world of psychedelics. On day 2 of ICPR, you will hear from Friederike Holze and Peter Gasser about the recently published results of one of the biggest trials with LSD in the treatment of anxiety with or without a life-threatening illness.

Amanda Feilding will present an important aspect of the LSD experience, talking about blood supply to the brain. Finally, there will be an intriguing talk by Mark Juhan regarding the “entities” encountered during LSD trips. Get ready to dive deep into the history, or mystery of the LSD experience!
Cognition and perception will be explored by Isabel Wiessner in her talk LSD and the stream of thought: increased discontinuity of mind, deep thoughts and abstract flow.

Full programme
Find 
Friday’s full programme here.

ICPR 2022 PREVIEW: THURSDAY HIGHLIGHTS

After many months of planning, ICPR 2022 is finally here! In this post, we’d like to look ahead to the first day of ICPR: Thursday. Here are some highlights, to help you with your planning for the three days of psychedelic science. You can find the full programme here for all the specifics about who is where and when. The full list of speakers and presenters is on the ICPR website. If you have an in-person or livestream ticket already, be sure to check your e-mail for all the latest news and updated – like getting access to our new OPEN Community Platform.

ICPR 2022 will be hosted at the Philharmonie building in Haarlem from approximately 9:00 to 18:00 each day across three stages, which include the Huxley Hall, the Shulgin Stage, and the Wasson Room. Lunch will be served in the main hall and poster presenters will have their own room. 

On Wednesday, we’re first holding The Psychedelic Science, Ethics & Business event, featuring in-depth discussions about the way forward in the business side of psychedelics. Supplemental live stream tickets are still available for those who need them and more information is here.

Let’s now dive into the programme so you can get planning and make sure you don’t miss any of the action!

THURSDAY HIGHLIGHTS

The main hall of the conference, called Huxley Hall.

On the first morning of ICPR 2022, Joost Breeksema, director of the OPEN Foundation, will kick things off with an official opening at Huxley Hall at 9:15. This will be followed by chemist David Nichols, who will set the scene with an overview of psychedelics from prehistory to the present. After that, the presentations will generally run parallel.

Later highlights of this first day are neuroscientist Kim Kuypers about microdosing, mycologist Paul Stamets about synthetic psilocybin vs. psilocybin mushrooms and the three interesting panel discussions in the afternoon. Topics will be psychedelic research in the Netherlands, therapist self-experience, and the relative novelty of psychedelic compounds

Be sure to take a good look at the programme so you can plan accordingly. Because other topics for this first day will range from the commercialisation of psychedelics to mysticism, 5-MeO-DMT for depression, diversity and inclusion in the field, and psychedelic aesthetics

To round off the day, there will be a musical performance by Vincent Moon at the Shulgin Stage (de Kleine Zaal).

Check out the Full Programme here on the ICPR website or if you have a ticket, go to the programme on the OPEN community platform.

The Shulgin Stage in the Kleine Zaal

SUSTAINABILITY & RECIPROCITY

Art by Aine Design 

We are extremely happy to be able to socialise with all of you soon at ICPR 2022. Yet we are fully aware of multiple ongoing crises right now. Out of care and concern for our living environment and other species, we decided to reduce ICPR’s ecological footprint per person compared to earlier conferences.

We have opted for vegetarian, mostly organic meals, have created a digital conference booklet instead of a printed one, and have dispatched with the tradition of physical swag bags.

We also reduced our oversees marketing, introduced livestream-tickets (including scholarship tickets) and have now started a fundraiser to compensate for the conference’s carbon footprint and to give back to the cultures whose knowledge informs psychedelic science today.


Green fundraiser
To compensate for the travel emissions involved in getting speakers and attendees to Haarlem, we have launched a fundraiser through One Tree Planted. OPEN will ‘plant’ the first few thousand trees, and we hope to triple or quadruple that number with your help. Go to our fundraiser on One Tree Planted to contribute.

One Tree Planted is a non-profit organization focused on global reforestation. Your donation is tax-deductible.

Reciprocity fundraiser
We acknowledge and honor the responsible relationships that indigenous peoples have forged with psychedelic plants over the past centuries. We recognize that the Global North benefits from their knowledge, and we believe that it is critical to support the organizations working to conserve the biocultural communities that have taught – and continue to teach – the rest of the world about how entheogenic plants can benefit individuals and societies. 

Our partners at the Chacruna Institute recently launched the Indigenous Reciprocity Initiative, which we applaud and want to support with a second ICPR fundraiser. Please consider donating if you feel that you have benefited from psychedelics in any way.

The Indigenous Reciprocity Initiative (IRI) is a community-directed biocultural conservation program connecting directly with grassroots Indigenous organizations with the aim of ‘giving back’ to the cultural regions that support indigenous plant use and knowledge. IRI created a pool of funds that supports Indigenous initiatives with a proven track record, addressing a broad range of efforts from food security and environmental health, to economic and educational support.

IRI strives to foster a relationship of reciprocity between the rapidly growing industry generated by the mainstreaming of psychedelics in the Global North, and the Indigenous peoples who have historically received little benefit from the commercialization of their cultural and biological heritage. 

No swag bags, but…
We’re not handing out notepads and swag bags anymore, so we kindly request that all attendees bring their own writing gear. But, of course, we will not let our guests go home entirely empty-handed either! There will be some surprises that do not cause unnecessary garbage.

Previewing ICPR 2022: A Full Week of Psychedelic Science

The Interdisciplinary Conference on Psychedelic Research 2022 is now only a few weeks away, and we are happy to announce the full program to ICPR 2022.

Full Programme

In its preliminary form, the  ICPR 2022 Conference Programme has been posted on the ICPR website. In the coming weeks, we will highlight its parts separately.

With the Conference Programme now live on the ICPR website, we would like to showcase all that is happening in Amsterdam and Haarlem around our conference between the 17th and 24th of September. Because outside the conference, there will be tons to do in Haarlem and Amsterdam in the week before and after ICPR, organized or co-hosted by the OPEN Foundation. Like workshops, parties and events.

ICPR 2022 GENERAL INFO

ICPR 2022 will be held from Thursday, September 21st until Saturday, September 23rd. Around 80 speakers and poster presenters will hold live presentations at the stunning Philharmonie building, a 19th-century concert hall in Haarlem. 

Haarlem is a small city close to Amsterdam, about 20 minutes from Amsterdam Central Station and a 10-minute walk from Haarlem’s. We encourage people to arrive by public transport and foot.

ICPR is attended by some of the biggest names in psychedelic research and therapy, including Rick Doblin, Erika Dyck, Paul Stamets, Amanda Feilding, Bernardo Kastrup, and many other people who have played active roles in the development of the psychedelic field in the past five decades. Alongside these established researchers, upcoming talents in the field will give presentations and present posters that provide a brief overview of their most recent work. Free organic and vegetarian lunch, coffee, tea, snacks, and more are included with an in-person ticket.

As expected of the OPEN Foundation and from previous conferences, this edition will again contain high-quality science and critical perspectives from various academic disciplines, varying from neuroscience to policymaking, philosophy and the humanities.

interesting topics

For anyone interested in the ideas and challenges surrounding psychedelics, as they again become a part of contemporary society, ICPR 2022 is an embarrassment of riches! 

  • novel treatment advances with 5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine), a substance that is considered to be the most potent psychedelic. 
  • Its relative, DMT, is also being explored and discussed for individuals who are suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD) . 
  • Other compounds known as entactogens, which include MDMA and its analog ‘methylone’, are presented for both MDD and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Beyond psychiatry, ICPR will examine the potential use of LSD and psilocybin in navigating end-of-life anxiety for the terminally ill, as well as the use of psilocybin for migraines and cluster headaches.

Additionally, ICPR 2022 will explore the potential of novel compounds (e.g. psychoplastogens) versus existing compounds like psilocybin and LSD, how to overcome challenges around trial design like issues around placebos, expectation, hype, the ‘Michael Pollan effect’, and the potential obstacles to psychedelic therapy becoming a reality in the near future.

We’ll discuss some of the most important questions IN to psychedelic therapy today: 

  • What dominant discourses, such as the ‘psychedelic renaissance’, should we challenge?
  • What is the role and function of a therapist’s self-experience with psychedelics?
  • How can we mitigate transgressions and abuse?
  • How can we include patient perspectives in setting up clinical trials?
  • How can we consider inclusion, diversity, and anti-racism within the field of psychedelics? 
  • What’s the roles and risks of businesses and patenting in the future psychedelic commercial field?
  • What should psychedelic education look like?
  • How will psychedelic therapy legally be implemented in existing health care stuctures?
ICPR 2022 is almost here. Get your tickets before we sell out.

ICPR Side Events

Saturday, September 17th

Join us in starting ICPR 2022 by tuning into the right mindset! This event consists of an immersive 4-hour musical and meditative journey performed by a group of highly talented musicians and pioneering sound engineers. It is entirely free and donation-based, and will be broadcast live from the legendary Wisseloord Studio in Hilversum, where artists such as Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, The Police, Foo Fighters, Electric Light Orchestra and many others have recorded albums. Everyone attending ICPR (either in-person or online) can experience this amazing journey from their own homes. Do not miss it!

Wednesday, September 21st

Psychedelic Science, Ethics & Business

ICPR starts off this year with the Psychedelic Science Ethics & Business event. The day will be dedicated to an in-depth and critical discussion about the intersection of psychedelic research, treatments, and investment. We will discuss how the growing economy around psychedelics impacts science and therapy. The event consists of various leading experts from different fields, including psychedelic businesses, academia, non-profit organisations, and investment companies.

We’ll address questions such as: What is needed to bridge the gap between doing scientific research in a lab environment and eventually practising psychedelic therapy with patients? How can investment and the proliferation of startups be made compatible with core values and public benefit, including optimal patient care, and accessible and equitable treatments? What are potential business models for psychedelics? What does that mean for access and quality? And much more!

If you’re an entrepreneur, investor, executive, researcher, clinician, or someone who cares about these developments, you will walk away from this conference with unique insights into how psychedelic science can be translated into practice.

Psychedelic Workshops

Are you more interested in the practice of psychedelic therapy or learning about the most recent developments that surround it? We’ve got you covered! On Wednesday, September 21st, we have three amazing workshops to choose from facilitated by the leading experts in their respective fields.

The Psychotherapy with Psychedelics Workshop is dedicated to current and future therapists who are interested in the practice of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Important learning objectives include the core competencies and skills for therapists working with psychedelics, key elements for preparing patients and helping them with integration after psychedelic sessions or getting a better understanding of different psychological and neurobiological explanatory models for the therapeutic effects of psychedelics.

During this workshop, people will learn from the world’s most experienced clinicians in the field, including clinical psychologists Janis Phelps, PhD and William (Bill) Richards, PhD, and psychiatrist Torsten Passie, MD. Please note that this workshop is already sold out!

The Music as/for Psychedelic Therapy Workshop is hosted by Mendel Kaelen, who is the founder and CEO of Wavepaths. During this workshop, you will learn about how you can effectively guide patients and optimise therapeutic outcomes through the combined use of psychedelics and music.

The Breathwork as Psychedelic Therapy Workshop will be hosted by Katrien Franken and OpenUp. During this workshop, you will learn about and engage inbreathing exercises. This practice has been used for centuries by ancient and native cultures for cultivating expanded states of consciousness in order to facilitate transformative experiences that deepen the connection between body and mind.

OPEN Foundation director Joost Breeksema was on the Psychedelics Today podcast to talk about ICPR.

SPECIAL EVENTS AT ICPR 2022

With approximately 100 presenters, more than 60 poster presentations, various plenary lectures, panel discussions, Q&A sessions, and lots of interaction with other attendees, you become a part of the pioneering and leading scientific conference in Europe since 2007. On top of that, there will be a musical soundscape hosted by Wavepaths and live music sessions performed by Spinoza. Each day will have special events that you may attend and that are listed below.

Thursday, September 22nd

Merge
Come join us on the evening of ICPR’s first day with MERGE. This immersive, experiential gathering of the psychedelic research community will be hosted by Tactogen and ICPR, and is open to everyone.

Whether you are deeply involved in psychedelic research or are interested in getting more involved, all present will unite and come together for an evening dedicated towards creating connection, relaxation and inspiration. Dr. Tehseen Noorani and Scarlet Masius will be leading groups through interactive games to build collaborative opportunities for interdisciplinary research. Note that the attendance for this special event is free, but registration is required (maximum of 150 people).

Vincent Moon
The second event of the night is an art performance by Vincent Moon, known for his “live-cinéma.” Vincent’s performance improvises live-edited images, music and film  on-stage – to explore the boundaries between cinema, music, and expanded forms of modern rituals. Each performance contains a unique combination of films and music based on the recordings of his own Collection Petites Planètes, and created partly in collaboration with writer and explorer Priscilla Telmon. All the performances are site-specific and sometimes involve local musicians and participants, leading to a new film being created on the spot every time.

Friday, September 23rd

Networking dinner
On the second day of ICPR, there will be a professional networking dinner for clinicians and therapists currently involved or planning to become involved in clinical research or treatment with psychedelics. This event will only be accessible to professional ticket holders. Be sure to get your ticket soon, as only a few tickets are remaining!

Saturday 24th September

Descending the Mountain
All good things unfortunately must come to an end,but we will close things out with a bang. We’ll celebrate ICPR’s final day with a screening of the phenomenal documentary Descending the Mountain, followed by a Q & A with the movie’s producer, Annette Badenhorst.

ICPR Afterparty
To top it all off, we have organised an official ICPR Afterparty. This is free for all attendees, but registration is required. Be sure to do this on time so you do not miss it! The afterparty will contain amazing music, with an immersive, 360 surround sound system and artists such as Tripping Jaguar, ICPR presenters MK Ultra and Baham Collective, and many others yet to be announced. The maximum number of attendees is 500.

OPEN Co-Founder Joost Breeksema on psychedelics today to talk about icpr

OPEN’s Executive Director, Joost Breeksema, joined David Drapkin on episode 340 of the podcast of Psychedelics Today – one of ICPR’s platinum partners. Joost and David discussed a wide variety of topics, from drug policies to ethics, the nature of reality and the latest details about ICPR

Joost Breeksema is a psychiatry researcher as well as the executive director of OPEN since 2007. He’s a psychedelic enthusiast with a background in philosophy. He remarked on the importance of psychedelics in mental health treatments, which, as he describes “confront people with their own existence, with their place in the universe, with how they relate to themselves and to others.”

Joost believes in the importance of bringing together all the actors involved in order to be ready when these substances become legal, from researchers to health care insurance and policymakers.

Here’s a snippet from the podcast. You can listen to the entire episode from Psychedelics Today here

Caution

As advances in psychedelic research keep on growing, Joost asks for caution. There needs to be a balance between hype and hope, he says. There is still a long road ahead in order to get a “safe and sustainable psychedelic treatment”, as he put it. Joost points out that luckily, the Netherlands is one of the leading countries in relation to drug policies. Its decriminalization model has been working for decades and there are lots of efforts being put into harm reduction approaches. Nevertheless, there are important changes that need to be made in order to help the improvement of psychedelic research. 

Joost comes from a background in philosophy, and although he has spent recent years closer to research and therapy about psychedelics, the metaphysical angle on the psychedelic world still interests him mostly. The “I” in ICPR stands for ‘interdisciplinary’, so Joost was glad to shine a light on his fondness for Bernardo Kastrup – who is a computer scientist and philosopher who will be one of the keynote speakers at the upcoming conference.

ICPR 2022 is almost here. Get your tickets before we sell out.

Bernardo Kastrup is one of the main proponents of metaphysical idealism and has a PhD in philosophy and computer science. He has explained reality as “best imagined as mathematical equitations floating in empty space” in one of the interviews he has given. 

Joost is looking forward to his talks and the questions Kastrup poses: “How can we understand consciousness? How can we use psychedelics as tools to study consciousness? Can this tell us anything about ontology, the nature of reality or the nature of knowledge? I think this is one of the speakers that I’m looking most forward to seeing”.

Bernardo Kastrup is one of the speakers at ICPR Joost is most looking forward to

ICPR will be one of the places to discuss all these topics. This year’s conference will also have one extra day at the very beginning, September 21, dedicated to ethics and businesses. Professionals from different backgrounds will come together to share their different opinions. As more people find the psychedelic world appealing, David asked Joost about the importance of diversity and inclusion, sometimes easy to forget when money is involved.

After two years of the pandemic, and with the previous ICPR edition being online, Joost is thrilled for the upcoming conference and believes it is a great opportunity to learn, share and connect with different professionals and enthusiasts. He emphasized the different perspectives that will be covered, also outside of the medical world, like the arts, culture, and media and the separate workshops that are given around the conference.

psychedelic clinical trial participants share their stories

Story by Vardit Kohn
Illustration by Anna Temczuk

Until recently, there was no advocacy or central voice for the participants in clinical trials involving psychedelics. Now, there is PsyPAN, a non-profit organisation set up to connect and empower psychedelic participants. Founders Ian Roullier and Leonie Schneider both participated in such trials. Ian took part in the psilocybin for depression trials at Imperial College (2015) and Compass Pathways (2019). Leonie took part in the second phase of the psilocybin for depression study at Imperial College (2019) and the DMT for depression trial at Small Pharma (2022). They were later invited to take part in Dr. Rosalind Watts’ one-year integration programme, where they met.

Towards the end of the programme, Leonie and Ian discovered they had a shared interest – both in advocating for the spread of psychedelic treatment for mental health as well as having the patients’ perspective duly represented. No organisation representing the patient’s viewpoints existed, while the number of participants in psychedelic trials is increasing by the day. And as the standards for these novel treatments are now being developed, both felt that the voice of the patient needed to be heard louder.

So, in 2021, Leonie and Ian founded the Psychedelic Participant Advocacy Network: PsyPAN. It’s a non-profit organisation set up to connect and empower all psychedelic participants. PsyPAN aims to give a collective voice to all participants and help improve participant safety and wellbeing, by working on developing best practices across all levels of the global psychedelic sector – clinical and non-clinical alike. 

As the psychedelic sector is expanding at a breathtaking pace, companies, clinicians and modern-day curanderos alike have a lot to learn from the persons seeking their help. We talked to Leonie and Ian for this interview.

Leonie and Ian will also be speaking at ICPR 2022, the psychedelic conference organised by the OPEN Foundation, which has been promoting psychedelic research and therapy since 2007.

What motivated you to set up PsyPAN?
Ian: We both participated in clinical trials designed to test the effects of psilocybin and DMT on depression.  Our wildly varied, but generally positive personal experiences triggered a wish to bring these treatments to more people and at the same time ensure the treatments are delivered safely and responsibly. 

Leonie: We want to ensure the ‘participant’s voice’ is taken into account when clinical trials are designed, so that the trials can be tailored to meet the wide range of experiences. Despite some unifying themes across the psychedelic experience,, it is such a personal process, and deep trauma and psychological issues can present in so many different ways.  We want to provide a feedback loop: taking what participants say, giving that to industry, and having industry respond to what participants require in this process. So that we can ensure these treatments are tailored and take nuances and details into account.

Ian: Next to the ‘participants’ voice’ we keenly engage in advocacy work, destigmatizing the image of psychedelics, dispelling misunderstandings and fear. We are keen to ensure that more people can benefit from these treatments in a safe and appropriate way. 

Ian Roullier and Leonie Schneider recently launched the Psychedelic Participant Advocacy Network – PsyPAN. With their new organisation, they want to represent the voice of the participants of psychedelic trials. In this video, we go over some of the highlights of our conversation.

Is psychedelic therapy especially prone to safety risks?
Ian: Yes, psychedelic therapy is more risky than, for example, giving someone an SSRI. Psychedelic substances lay you bare and much more vulnerable, you can’t just get up and go back to work as if nothing happened. It is also their strength; but therein also lies the potential for healing. 

Leonie: Safety is therefore key, so developing psychedelic safeguarding guidelines is where we can help organisations.

Where do you see your contribution to the rapidly developing market of psychedelic therapy?
Ian: We work with organisations to ensure that they have the finer details in place, and we hope to develop a model of best practice that organisations could follow. 

Leonie: Sometimes there are issues organisations simply haven’t thought of because those involved haven’t suffered from the issues that people with a clinical diagnosis have gone through, nor have they taken part in clinical trials, so our feedback is valuable. We aim to help ensure that trials or treatments are delivered safely and appropriately, because the more corners cut, the less effective the treatment will be. 

What have you learned so far in the process that you were not expecting?
Ian: We found out that simply connecting people who have been through similar experiences is in itself of vital importance.

Leonie: Yeah. There is no community, or a place where you can go, to land after your experience. So it can be incredibly isolating. If you’ve been through a profound experience but can’t speak to anyone about it, you may still feel as isolated as you did pre-treatment, only in a different way. The circle of family and friends you go back to can’t necessarily understand what you have been through. We learned that there is a lot of value in simply creating a peer community for support.

Ian Rouillier and Leonie Schneider, featured in this article, will share their full stories at ICPR 2022, organised by the OPEN Foundation and held in Haarlem from 22-24 September 2022. Get €100 off on all tickets by using the code OPENBLOG100

If there was one thing you as participants in clinical trials would like to draw attention to, what would it be?
Ian : Open-label trials, in other words making sure that all participants who go through the process have access to a treatment dose. Contributing to science is wonderful, but if you’re so desperate as to be willing to participate in a clinical trial of a new substance, you really are in need of relief. To go through the process and only have a placebo is quite heartbreaking and potentially re-traumatising. To have access to the full treatment dose could therefore be life-saving for some. 

Leonie: Integration. Both of us participated in Rosalind Watts’ “Connectedness” program at Synthesis Institute which was the precursor to Dr Watts’ ACER Integration Programme, which was hugely beneficial. It connected us in monthly group meetings and group work (two groups of 10 participants each) for one full year. The psychedelics are catalysts, they likely allow more progress to be made during the integration. But this kind of deep, long-term integration and connection work has been hugely beneficial. 

Tell me more about Integration
Leonie: Having a space in which to integrate these experiences brought about by psychedelics is incredibly important, whether one-on-one or in a group, especially if the person has had long-term mental health issues. There is a need for longer-term and deeper level integration, not just a courtesy call of ‘how are you’. It’s about witnessing and supporting people every step of the journey.

As mentioned, we both participated in Rosalind Watts’ 1-year long “Connectedness” program. Due to Covid-19, the whole program was delivered online, which wasn’t the plan at all! And still it was so valuable. It kept many of us afloat, especially considering the pandemic. As long as there is a safe container, an online program can genuinely work.

The sweet spot could be to have online content enhanced with in-person meetings, hopefully in smaller, local groups (as treatments become more common) and outdoors, which allows for engagement with Nature. 

What part did the connection with Nature play in your healing process?
Leonie: Reconnecting with Nature and with every living thing is very powerful. For example, watching the same tree go through its year-long cycle, especially during the dark, deathly-looking winter months, realising this period is part of a longer cycle, realizing there is still a lot happening under the surface even if above ground the tree looks barren – this was all very meaningful. 

Most of mental illness is exacerbated by trying to avoid feelings as opposed to accepting them. When you learn to see low moods as “this is my Wintering, and Spring will come”, it creates a meaningful marker, a reference point. 

What should organisations emphasise as the most important factors for a patient to consider before deciding to join a clinical psychedelic study?
Leonie: Organisations running clinical trials must make potential participants aware that the ‘trip day’ is just a catalyst. You’re in the process for the long run and there will be plenty of long-term, steady work that only starts after the day at the clinic. The importance of long-term integration and connection after the ‘trip day’ cannot and should not be underestimated.

Ian: Expectations should also be carefully managed regarding the chances of getting into the trial. Many people aren’t accepted. Furthermore, organisations would do well to question the kind of support networks potential candidates have in place, because a lot of support is needed right from the recruitment and screening stages. What further support is available during and after the treatment? Is there a community and family in place that can hold your experience, so you do not end up in crushing isolation, which might negate any benefit you could get from the treatment?

Organisations engaging in double-blind trials should also make it very clear that participants have a 50-50 chance of getting a placebo, which may result in disappointment. In the case of depression, you need to come off the anti-depressant medication, which makes you more vulnerable. You hope for an improvement but may end up with a placebo, with all the disappointment and anxiety this may cause. You may potentially end up in a worse position than you were before entering the trial. 

To what extent if any does treatment with different psychedelic substances require different guidelines?
Leonie: It is certainly important to bear in mind what medicine you’re working with and then tailor the guidelines appropriately since the experiences vary in intensity, the type of in-session interaction and the kind of post-treatment support required depending on the medicine used. Furthermore, the theme of the session matters, too. As an example, if sexual issues are likely to arise, two therapists present and a recording of the sessions may provide more accountability.

How could the current positive hype around psychedelics impact patients and therapists?
Ian: There’s a risk in the current media hype for psychedelic therapy to be seen as a ‘one dose and you’re fixed forever’ treatment. It sets expectations too high, and, in the absence of legal treatments, people may opt to try the psychedelics themselves without appropriate support. 

Psychedelics are catalysts, not cures. In reality, when it comes to mental health a lot of the healing work happens afterwards.  It’s a long process that involves a lot of integration and support going forward. The focus should be more on the psychotherapy, not completely on the psychedelic aspect of the process. If this point isn’t made clear, the risk is that the treatments will be seen as ineffective, which would be a shame as there is huge potential in psychedelics.

How do participants’ opinions get heard through you?
Leonie: Participants who have been through the clinical trial setting are the ones most interested in our work, We raise awareness within organisations who run such trials and invite participants informally to join our efforts. Going forward, we want references to PsyPAN to be built into the treatment protocol so that participants can be seamly signposted to us and welcomes to participate if they choose to. 

Speaking at ICPR and other events where participants are present is another way of creating awareness of our work. We also help organisations put together a working or focus group, so participants can share their experiences and have a say in the way trial protocols are designed. 

Ian: As far as we know, there’s nobody doing exactly what we’re doing. If there are other such groups or networks, we will be delighted to connect with them and support each other. We’re all doing it for the greater good of people who are struggling with mental health conditions.

How do you view depression, as you were both treated for it.
Leonie: Depression is a disease of disconnection. In society we are disconnected in so many ways. Depression alerts us to a deep need to slow down, take deep rest and to reconnect: to Nature, to ourselves, to our feelings – all of them, including the painful ones. 

Ian: We live in a world where we’re atomized and isolated, and the pandemic only exacerbated that. We are raised to dismiss a large part of our emotional range as human beings. We try to deny the more challenging parts of ourselves and our histories. 

Leonie: Antidepressants are a powerful intervention when you are in an acute, overwhelming crisis. But they should be seen as a short-term, symptom management intervention. They should not be viewed as something that is taken indefinitely, as if depression was a terminal disease that you had to learn to live with, as they don’t just numb you to the negative emotions; they limit and numb you in many other ways, too. If you don’t deal with the underlying causes of your depression, the issues come up in a different way at a different time. 

Ian: Psychedelics work in the completely opposite way: they enable you to connect with your full range of emotions and learn to be comfortable with your fuller self. Psychedelics help you dig down to the roots of your depression and work out new ways to deal with difficult feelings within a natural container that is larger than just yourself. 

You mentioned several spiritual themes: connection to Nature, connection to something that is larger than us, the Cycle of Life. How does that sit with the current clinical, medical training?
Leonie: No participant or clinician starts the trial thinking clinically-diagnosed patients need more trees in their life… We must be careful not to be too reductionist – depression is not solely a function of neurochemistry. There needs to be some space for mystery, too. 

Ian: Psychedelics can engender deeply profound spiritual experiences, which can manifest in different ways; we must not be prescriptive as to the nature of the spiritual experience to be expected. Yet organisations who run the studies must be aware that these experiences do happen. 

Leonie: The concept of connectedness is a good place to start. Everyone can understand how being better connected to ourselves, each other and Nature is beneficial to all. It is definitely a point to bring to the discussion, otherwise we will be selling the psychedelic treatment short.

In loving memory of ann shulgin

Ann Shulgin, the wife of renowned chemist genius Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, passed away at age 91 on July 9. Both were extraordinary human beings and pioneers in the field of psychedelic research, particularly due to their significant contribution in the development and therapeutic use of (novel) psychedelic compounds. To honor both, we gladly share some of her history and both their legacy.

Laura Ann Gotlieb was born in Wellington, New Zealand on March 22, 1931, and shortly thereafter lived an extraordinary life, spending her time in various places around the world, including Italy, Cuba, Canada, and finally the Bay Area in the US when the Beatnik generation was in full swing. She got married, and divorced, three times and then met her fourth husband, Sasha Shulgin, in the Fall of 1978. After three years of spending time together, they got married in Sasha’s backyard during a surprise ceremony by an official of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Yes, the DEA. 

Ann used to work as a medical transcriber in San Francisco and probably became familiar with Jungian psychology through her third husband who was a Jungian psychiatrist. It was only later after marrying Sasha that she got involved in the development of novel psychedelic compounds. During this period, she started practicing psychedelic-assisted therapy in conjunction with MDMA or 2C-B at a time when these substances were still legal. She became a strong adherent of Jungian psychoanalysis and believed that psychedelics have huge potential for self-actualization when used within such a framework. 

The development and various discoveries of other psychedelics together led to the authoring of two books: PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story and TIHKAL: The Continuation. Respectively, these titles are  acronyms for “Phenethylamines/Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved.” Partly fictional autobiography and partly considered “pretty much cookbooks on how to make illegal drugs” by the DEA, both Ann and Sasha were filled with passion and courage to describe no more than over 179 different psychedelic compounds – all with the main goal of releasing information about psychedelic compounds and its therapeutic properties to the public. Psychedelics, they both believed, were there as valuable tools for human beings to explore and self-actualize. Ann briefly appears on a recent episode of Hamilton’s pharmacopeia, where we see that she continued to live in the house that contains the original lab of Sasha.

We are forever grateful for their contribution to the development and therapeutic use of (novel) psychedelic compounds and aim to continue their legacy. 

Hope or hype? Head of OPEN Foundation calls for caution in psychedelic renaissancE

Joost Breeksema is the director of the OPEN Foundation and one of the main initiators of the Interdisciplinary Conference on Psychedelic Research. ICPR 2022 will be held in Haarlem from 23-27 Sept

As the director of the OPEN Foundation – founded in 2006 to advance the scientific research of psychedelics – Joost Breeksema has usually found himself being one of the main promotors of psychiatric research into psychedelics and therapies. That has changed, he says:  “I find myself in a position of being somebody promoting more caution”.

“I think I still think that psychedelics have huge potential,” Breeksema says, “but I think it’s good to counterbalance this message a little bit and to have a proper balance between hype and hope.”

The OPEN director made his statement during the launch of PAREA, the Psychedelic Access And Research European Alliance, an association of European foundations and institutions advancing holistic and professional psychedelic research and therapy.

Breeksema commented in light of the recent psychedelic renaissance, which has brought renewed attention to the psychedelic field. Strong research results have shown the real efficacy of psychedelic therapy, but this has also spawned a world in which investment is luring, and potential risks of psychedelic therapy might be obscured. 

What the right balance is between hope and hype around psychedelic therapy, needs to be discussed, Breeksema says, because the need is dire: “There are many desperate patients out there. Between a quarter and a third of patients with mental disorders do not respond to conventional treatments. So there is a huge need for better and more effective treatments. But it’s also, I think, very important to remember that these are not magic bullets and there are interests.”

Professional field

The mix of patients with severe traumas and big expectations, the potential intenseness of the psychedelic experience, and the history of a black market involvement in the supply of many substances, make the need for safe, professional treatment a necessity: “When you ask patients… it’s hard work. People have challenging experiences, and these are vulnerable patients for the most part. These experiences can be powerful but also potentially destabilizing.” 

“These are not typical pharmaceutical drugs: It’s the experience that’s central, and that means people guiding patients through those experiences need to be properly trained. You need to be a mental health professional, but you do also need additional training.”

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