OPEN Foundation


Meet ICPR 2020 Keynote Speaker, Wade Davis

We are pleased to announce that acclaimed anthropologist, ethnobotanist, best-selling author, and photographer, Wade Davis, will be presenting as a keynote speaker at the Interdisciplinary Conference on Psychedelic Research 2020.
Wade Davis is well-known for his work among indigenous communities around the world, more specifically those of North and South America, honing in on the traditional uses and practices surrounding psychoactive plants. 
Davis has degrees in both anthropology and biology, and received his PhD in the field of ethnobotany, completing all of his studies at Harvard University. Whilst working for the Harvard Botanical Museum, Davis spent over three years researching the plants of the Amazon and the Andes, living amongst several indigenous groups and cataloguing almost 6,000 botanical samples. 
Between 1999 and 2013, Davis served as Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society (NGS). Later he was named by the NGS as one of the ‘Explorers for the Millennium’, and subsequently has been described by David Suzuki as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.
Further, Davis has published over 200 academic and popular articles on a wide range of subjects, including the Haitian practise of Vodou, the traditional use of psychoactive plants, Amazonian cosmogony and ethnobotany, and the global crisis in biodiversity. 
One River by Wade DavisOne of Davis’ most celebrated books, One River: Explorations and discoveries in the Amazon Rainforest, recounts his ethnobotanical adventures in the Colombian Amazon as a student of the famed botanical explorer Richard Evans Schultes. Schultes is often referred to as ‘the father of ethnobotany,’ and spent his life investigating how indigenous peoples used plants in medicinal, ritual, and everyday contexts, being the first man to scientifically document the visionary Amazonian brew, ayahuasca or yagé as it is called in Colombia. 
In recent years, psychedelic substances and psychoactive plant medicines have made a resurgence into public awareness and are becoming increasingly accepted as tools for psychological and spiritual healing in mainstream culture. To an extent, the heightened demand for traditional healing plants such as ayahuasca has created a booming tourist industry, taking the plant out of its traditional context.
Davis has participated in ayahuasca ceremonies with indigenous groups since his student days in the 1970s. Having spent forty years developing an understanding of how indigenous communities relate to and conceptualise the sacred Ayahuasca vine, he advocates that we should approach it with reverence whilst remaining aware of the issues surrounding its cultural appropriation.
In a recent interview, he cautioned that:

“[…] the more we can, not necessarily in a scientific, but in a serious, reverent way acknowledge this movement, remain always cognizant of the challenges of appropriation, the better. Ayahuasca is a very powerful medicine. Despite all of my experience with psychedelics going back over 40 years, I would never presume to lead an ayahuasca session. It’s probably wise to cast a cautious eye on those who do take on the mantle of spiritual leadership. Mail order mystics abound, conmen of the night.”

Going forward, this begs the question: what does the future hold for the cultural integrity of psychedelic plant sacraments? ICPR 2020 concerns itself with critical perspectives, aiming to facilitate dialogue between the diverse academic disciplines that study psychedelics, constructively exploring the future approaches to psychedelic substances. 

More about the International Conference on Psychedelic Research 2020

ICPR 2020 LogoThis is the fourth edition of the Interdisciplinary Conference on Psychedelic Research. ICPR 2020 takes place from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 April 2020 in the beautiful city of Haarlem, The Netherlands.

ICPR 2020 is an academic conference focused on high quality scientific and scholarly research into psychedelics. Many academic disciplines have important contributions to make within the field of psychedelic studies. ICPR aims to bridge and connect these disciplines, and to facilitate a dialogue between the diverse academic fields and researchers involved in the study of psychedelics.

Find out more about ICPR 2020, and buy tickets here


Symposium: Opening Up – Shaping the future: therapeutic applications of MDMA

This symposium discusses research into the therapeutic use of MDMA, both historically and presently. In the period following its rediscovery in the 1970s, MDMA soon gained a reputation as a powerful adjunct for psychotherapy. In 1985 in the US (and 1988 in the Netherlands), MDMA was scheduled as a controlled substance, effectively stemming all research and most therapeutic use.
Since the mid 2000s, research and clinical interest into the therapeutic potential of MDMA has increased significantly and MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is on track to become a licensed treatment in several years. What do we know about the therapeutic use of this substance? Who may benefit from treatment, and what would such treatment look like? How can MDMA-assisted psychotherapy be integrated into mental health care? These questions, and others, will be addressed by several international experts in the field.
Date & time: Tuesday 7 May 2019, 16:00 – 21:00
Location: OBA Oosterdok, Theaterzaal, Oosterdokskade 143, 1011 DL Amsterdam
This event is hosted by the OPEN Foundation, the Amsterdam Psychedelic Research Association (APRA), MAPS Europe, the Leids Universitair Medisch Centrum (LUMC), and Arq Psychotrauma Expert Group.


  • Prof. Gemma Blok, PhD, professor of Modern History, Open Universiteit – Legal therapeutic use of MDMA in the 70s and 80s
  • Torsten Passie, MD, PhD, professor of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Hannover Medical School – Observations on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in clinical practice
  • Rick Doblin, PhD, founder and executive director of MAPS – Positioning MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in mainstream health care
  • Tijmen Bostoen, MD, psychiatrist specialised in trauma treatment – Therapeutic applications of MDMA for the treatment of PTSD
  • Prof. Eric Vermetten, MD, PhD, Professor of Medical-Biological and Psychiatric Aspects of Psychotrauma, Universiteit Leiden – Educating and training licensed MDMA therapists
  • Discussion with Rick Doblin and Torsten Passie on the past and future of MDMA

A buffet dinner with sandwiches, fruit, and soft drinks is included in the ticket price.

Symposium: Psychedelics and science – An interdisciplinary approach

At this symposium, experts from a variety of disciplines within medicine, the social sciences and the humanities, come together to discuss the scientific study of psychedelics. This symposium, intended for scientists and scholars, intends to lay the foundation for an interdisciplinary network of academics interested in this topic, and to connect more effectively with international research in this area. It is organized by the KNAW (the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences) and the OPEN Foundation.
Date & time: Monday 25 March 2019, 4pm-9pm
Location: OBA Oosterdok, Theaterzaal, Oosterdokskade 143, 1011 DL Amsterdam
For more information: Website KNAW


  • Gemma Blok, professor of Modern History, Open Universiteit – Legal use of MDMA in the 70s and 80s
  • Joost Breeksema, director of  OPEN Foundation – Psychedelics: an introduction
  • Wim van den Brink, Emeritus Professor of Addiction Care, Amsterdam UMC, AMC, Universiteit van Amsterdam – Psychedelics and psychiatry
  • Michiel van Elk, Assistant Professor in Social Psychology, Universiteit van Amsterdam – Recent (neuro)scientific research into psychedelics
  • Wouter Hanegraaff, Professor in History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, Universiteit van Amsterdam – Psychedelics in Western culture
  • Toine Pieters, professor in History of Pharmacy, Universiteit Utrecht – LSD and the pharmacological machine of promises
  • Eric Vermetten, Professor of Medical-Biological and Psychiatric Aspects of Psychotrauma, Universiteit Leiden – Psychedelics in Psychotraumatology

This meeting is convened by Patricia Pisters, Professor of Media Studies, Universiteit van Amsterdam.
This programme is co-organized by the OPEN Foundation, an independent non-profit organisation dedicated to stimulating and promoting scientific research into psychedelics since 2007.
Access is free, registration is required.

Lecture: Michael Pollan on psychedelics

On Monday December 10th, OPEN is hosting an event with best-selling author Michael Pollan. On this evening, he will discuss his own research into psychedelics, and the implications of the latest scientific findings for therapy, consciousness and personal transformation.
In his newest book ‘How to change your mind‘, best-selling author and journalist Michael Pollan investigates the science of psychedelics, and their relation to consciousness, therapy and transformation. Pollan is best known for his award-winning writing on food, such as ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ and ‘Food Rules’. His style of ‘immersive journalism’ is ideally suited to explore the world of psychedelics, and he reluctantly experiments with LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and 5-MeO-DMT to find out what psychedelics are all about. In addition he interviews many neuroscientists and therapists.
The result is a fascinating journey through the history of psychedelics, moving from promising psychedelic treatment for alcoholism and death anxiety in the fifties to present-day neuroscience research, and the renewed interest in therapy for depression, addiction and trauma. Can psychedelics help us to improve our relationship towards ourselves and our surroundings? Come and find out on December 10th.
Doors open at 19:30, and the program starts at 20:00. Address: Tivoli/Vredenburg, Vredenburgkade 11, Utrecht.
Tickets are in limited supply and can be bought here.
After the lecture, you will be able to purchase the recent Dutch translation of ‘How to change your mind’. Michael Pollan will be available to sign your books.


First Network Meeting for European MDMA Researchers & Therapists

Endegeest CastleIn early December, the first network meeting for European MDMA researchers and therapists was held in scenic Castle Endegeest, near the city of Leiden in the Netherlands.

The meeting was organised by OPEN and the Dutch therapist team responsible for conducting the first Dutch open-label study for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for people suffering from severe PTSD. MAPS provided additional support for this event.
The group consisted of psychologists and psychiatrists from seven countries: Wales, England, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel and Canada besides the Dutch. This was a small and intimate meeting, with the primary aim to build a network of like-minded European MDMA-therapists. Saturday was a day full of lectures, sharing of research plans and objectives, and discussions on therapeutic modalities. Rick Doblin, executive director of MAPS called in from the American West Coast to share what the future holds in terms of clinical trials and regulatory processes, providing an inspirational message of support. The day ended with a screening of the Israeli documentary Trip of Compassion, on the Israeli phase 2 clinical trials for MDMA-assisted treatment for PTSD. One of the therapists involved in the study was present to provide context, to explain what was happening during the session from the therapist’s perspective, and to answer questions from the audience. This powerful document was the highlight of the day for most people.
On the last day, participants were able to undergo a one hour music therapy session, facilitated by a leading specialist, which turned out to be a meaningful and insightful experience for most people. The session provided not only personal insights but also gave the participants specific ideas on the role of music and specific sounds and songs. An impressive testament to the power of music in the right setting.
Finally, the first draft to establish a platform to help coordinate and facilitate MDMA-related research and therapy was well received by participants and will be expanded and presented in the near future.

European Psilocybin Seminar at Tyringham Hall

Tyringham Hall In June 2017, a two-day seminar on psilocybin for European therapists and researchers took place at Tyringham Hall, in the UK. The event was organised by OPEN in collaboration with UK mental health company Compass Pathways.
During a wonderful weekend at Tyringham Hall, near Oxford in the UK, attendees were invited to learn from leading experts in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, to discuss necessary competencies and other requirements for clinical applications of psilocybin, and to better understand pathways towards regulatory approval and patient access.
Facilitated by leading experts in the field of psilocybin research and therapy from the US, Switzerland and the UK, the participants discussed competencies for (new) therapists aiming to conduct research into psilocybin for various clinical indications. Attendees could learn from both patients and therapists on the importance of preparing, and supporting people in psilocybin-facilitated treatment at NYU, Imperial College and in Switzerland.
This small meeting consisted of a great mixture of academic researchers, clinicians and therapists from all over Europe: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Israel and the United Kingdom. With serious discussions, plenty of time for everyone to connect and share experiences, in a breath-taking setting, this was an inspiring first meeting of like-minded researchers and clinicians.

Breaking Convention 2015: Looking back (and forward)

BC_report_2Psychedelic researchers gathered from all over the world to present their findings at the third biannual Breaking Convention conference (BC). The conference took place at Greenwich College in London between 10 and 12 July and hosted 140 presenters from about 40 countries as well as performers, artists and musicians. Over 800 people attended the event, which included renowned presenters such as professors David E. Nichols, David J. Nutt and Roland Griffiths, along with a great variety of academics from different disciplines.

According to Dr. Ben Sessa, one of the conference’s organisers, the conference was a success: “We have had a lot of great feedback. BC is a very ‘home grown’ affair, with almost a third of delegates participating in one way or another. People feel a great deal of personal ownership over the conference, which means the atmosphere is great and a lot of important networking gets done.” Sessa was one of the co-founders of BC in 2011, and explains how the conference has built momentum since then: “We set up BC as a platform to showcase psychedelic research and culture. The conference has grown tremendously and we hope it will continue to expand and inspire young people and seasoned enthusiasts to propagate this important subject.”

One of the participants was Michael Kugel, an undergraduate medical science student from Sydney, Australia. He travelled 17.000 kilometres to meet world leading researchers in current medical cannabis and psychedelic research. He thinks his trip was worthwhile and shows that Sessa´s hopes are not in vain. “I’ve met a lot of great people here”, says Kugel. “I met Allan Badiner, author of Zig Zag Zen, who introduced me to MAPS founder Rick Doblin, who in turn told me about a psychiatrist who is trying to get approval in Australia to study MDMA for PTSD in war veterans. At lunch I bumped into Lumír Hanuš, who was part of the team that discovered anandamide [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][an endogenous cannabinoid, ed.], and who currently works with Raphael Mechoulam. I offered him my (limited) lab skills – we’ll see where that leads. I´m feeling really good about it all so far.”

For Tehseen Noorani, a researcher who has participated in a psilocybin studie at Johns Hopkins along with Roland Griffiths and Matthew Johnson, coming to BC was a no-brainer: “I do research on psychedelics and these conferences are rare. They are also big, so it totally makes sense to come and present work and find out what else is going on. When you´re in this space, you realise how much is going on – there are so many small pockets of activity all over the world.

Noorani thinks it’s important to undertake efforts to further convince funders that psychedelics are a topic worthy of research. “For me there are a lot of sciences,” he said. “I work with pharmacologists and the steps forward for clinical trials seem to be pretty straightforward. As there´s a growing acceptance of the impressive outcomes of strictly scientific research, what we really need now is money.” He also underlined the importance of taking social scientific research around psychedelics more seriously: “My background is in anthropology, and I would say anthropological work needs to be taken more seriously. Firstly, research needs to connect the important anthropological and political questions of today. Secondly, ethnographic research needs to be recognised as serious research by so-called harder sciences, and by the public, because to be interested in psychedelics is to be interested in pretty profound stuff.”

Levente Móró, a consciousness researcher from Finland currently based in Hungary, also found what he came looking for: “Along with the interlaced biennial conference by the OPEN Foundation, BC is the most important European meeting of the international psychedelic science field. I wanted to get updated about the status of current research, to meet old and new fellow researchers, and to put forward my own ideas and receive feedback. The conference provided abundant amounts of knowledge, from all the various fields related to psychedelics. It is nice to receive fresh input and viewpoints, also from outside my own fields of study. Moreover, it has been extremely nice to meet more people from Finland, as a result of the recently organised psychedelic science activism.” A group of academics in Finland, who aim to promote practical research and evidence-based information on psychedelics, organized their first small psychedelic seminar last April, with presentations from Teri Krebs, Murtaza Majeed and Helle Kaasik, among others.

Móró’s own presentation at BC was based on a bioethical analysis of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs he produced with his colleague Imre Bárd, who wasn’t present. He focused on representations of ‘evil’ and demonstrated how the UN drug laws used a language of religious immorality to justify drug prohibition. His presentation, although based on a convention that was signed over half a century ago, found resonance in current legislative practices. One of the hot topics mentioned during many of the BC presentations was the new Psychoactive Substances Bill (2015), proposed by the British government just weeks before the conference. The new bill would increase the regulation of most psychoactive substances (not including alcohol and tobacco) and further complicate psychedelic research. An open letter was published on the conference website, addressed to the British Prime Minister, in which the undersigned urge for the content of the Bill to be reconsidered. It was signed by over 40 professionals, including academics, former and current members of Parliament and police officials.

This more politically active role of psychedelic researchers was welcomed by Levente Móró: “It was nice to see that psychedelic researchers have been getting involved more and more with drug policy reform issues.” Despite the possible tightening of regulatory practices in the UK, Ben Sessa seemed optimistic about the future of psychedelic research. “Psychedelic research requires a major Public Relations drive. Most researchers believe that psychedelic drugs are useful, safe and efficacious tools for medicine, growth and development. But sadly, for the majority of the general public, high levels of stigma and misinformation remain attached to these fascinating substances. This means we need to detach ourselves, to some extent, from the “hippie” genre and demonstrate that ‘normal’, everyday people can use psychedelics safely and with personal and communal benefits. One way of doing this is to increase the exposure of psychedelic medicine to people everywhere through the media. This is partly why I wrote my novel ‘To Fathom Hell Or Soar Angelic’, which was launched at BC15. In the meantime, my clinical colleagues and I continue to carry out robust scientific studies to determine the safety and efficacy of psychedelic therapy.”

One way to relieve the stigma could be for researchers to openly discuss their own experiences. But could this harm their credibility as scientists? Noorani: “As a researcher I would say there´s a real dilemma around admitting to having (not) taken psychedelics in terms of how it legitimises or delegitimises the research you do.” Móró believes that scientific credibility should not rest on the researcher´s person: “Researchers might get insights from their own experiences, or become more motivated to investigate phenomena they find personally fascinating and meaningful. Besides, scientific credibility should not depend on a researcher’s personal background. It should be objectively assessable and independent of the researcher’s non-scientific traits or parameters.”

While Sessa openly discussed his own experiences, he also recognises how legal restrictions might affect the extent to which professionals publicly speak about their use of psychedelics: “I am fortunate to have participated in a number of legal psychedelic research studies in the last 6 years, so I can say, on the record, that I have taken ketamine, LSD and psilocybin in those studies.” Sessa supports the idea that ‘coming out’ about safe and beneficial experiences could be a good way to forward the emancipation of these substances: “This method worked well for driving the normalisation of homosexuality in recent decades. However, I also understand professionals – especially doctors – who feel reluctant to do this. The possession of illegal drugs is still penalised in most countries.”

Next year, the special session of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) will, among other things, give directions for the future of psychedelic research, and the outcomes will probably be extensively presented, discussed and debated at the next BC in 2017.

This report is based on on-site recorded interviews and post-conference email interviews.


Symposium October 30th: Comeback of psychedelic drugs in science and medicine

11227635_1628720620748797_8237747453050699295_nAfter 50 years of prohibition, psychedelic drugs are making a comeback in science and medicine. On the 30th of October, four scientists from the pioneering labs of David Nutt and Tomas Palenicek will present their cutting edge work from the forefront of psychedelic research. Cognito, in collaboration with Czech Psychedelic Society and the OPEN Foundation, is pleased to invite you to this extraordinary event.

Date: October 30th, 16:00-20:00
Location: Oudemanhuispoort, University of Amsterdam


Four speakers will present their experiments on the influence that certain psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms), and Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) have on ordinary consciousness. The use of neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), has recently shed light on the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying these altered states of consciousness. A total of four speakers from Prague and London will present and discuss these exciting new findings in the symposium.


16:00 – 16:20 doors open
16:20 – 16:30 short intro

Speaker: Filip Tyls, MD
Title: Psychedelic research in the Czech Republic – comeback after 50 years
Abstract: Filip Tyls is a psychiatrist and PhD Researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health in Prague. His main research interest is the neurobiology of psychedelics, addiction and serious mental disorders. Filip will kick off the symposium with an introductory talk entitled: “Psychedelic research in the Czech Republic – comeback after 50 years”. He will provide a short historical overview of psychedelic research and discoveries in the Czech Republic. In addition, he will present current ongoing projects and prospects for the future.

Speaker: Tomas Palenicek, MD, PhD
Title: Psychedelics as unique tools for understanding psychosis.
Abstract: Tomas Palenicek is a researcher and psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health in Prague. Since 2001, he has been researching the neurobiology of various psychopathologies in a clinical neurobiology setting, using psychedelic drugs. Tomas’s research team was the first to be granted approval to conduct research on psychedelics with human subjects in the Czech Republic after 50 years. His talk, entitled “Psychedelics as unique tools for understanding psychosis”, will argue for the relevance of modern research with psychedelics, and provide examples of how these substances can be used in clinical settings.

17:50-18:10 Coffee/tea break

Speaker: Mendel Kaelen, MSc
Title: t.b.a
Abstract: Mendel Kaelen is a PhD candidate at Imperial College London. His research focusses on the effects of psychedelics on music-evoked emotion, and on the role of music in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. He recently published a paper on this topic in the scientific journal “Psychopharmacology”, and in his talk he will continue this discussion by sharing insights from his research at Imperial College London. This will include neuroimaging studies with LSD and music, as well as a recent study to the role of music in psychedelic-assisted therapy for severe depression.

Speaker: Robin Carhart-Harris, PhD
Title: t.b.a.
Abstract: Robin Carhart-Harris is a post-doctoral researcher at the centre for Neuropsychopharmacology at the Imperial College London. Robin is one of the leading investigators of the field of psychedelic science. By using neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI and MEG, Robin hopes to reveal the brain mechanisms underlying altered states of consciousness caused by the use of psychedelic substances. Moreover, he is an author of the Entropic Brain theory, which provides a connection between modern neurobiology, psychoanalysis and theoretical physics.

19:30 Room for questions and discussion

Symposium Utrecht University: Psychedelics – Novel Applications for Depression


Psychedelics – Novel Applications for Depression

An evening symposium dedicated to recent research into the potential anti-depressant effects and mechanisms of action of psychedelic drugs. Organized in collaboration with U.P.S.V. “Unitas Pharmaceuticorum”.

There’s a recognized need among therapists for more effective interventions for depression. The currently available psychopharmaceutical medications don’t work for everyone. What do we know about the effectiveness of psychedelics? To discuss these topics, we invited three young researchers, from three countries and three related disciplines. All presentations will be in English.

  • Tobias Buchborn is a German neuropsychologist, doing research at the Otto van Guericke University in Magdeburg. He studied the antidepressant potential of LSD in animals and will present his findings and implications for the clinical practice.
  • Mendel Kaelen is a Dutch neuroscientist working at Imperial College London. His talk will cover neuroimaging studies concerning the brain mechanisms of psychedelics and music, and their role in psychedelic-assisted therapy for treatment-resistant depression. You can read about his most recent publication here.
  • Tharcila Chaves is a Brazilian pharmacist, who is currently studying the effects of orally administered ketamine for therapy resistant severely depressed patients at the Medical Centre of the University of Groningen (UMCG).

There will be time for a plenary discussion and Q&A with the researchers afterwards. Please be on time!

Date: September 15th, 2015
Time: 19:00 – 22:00
Location: Marinus Ruppertgebouw (blue lecture hall), Leuvenlaan 21, Utrecht.
Tickets: €2,- for members Unitas Pharmaceuticorum / €7,50 for non-members. Sold on location.
Reserve your ticket(s) by sending an email to (Unitas Pharmaceuticorum)

Also see the Facebook event page for updates and more information.

30 April - Q&A with Rick Strassman