CANNABIS CULTURE – A Medicine Hunter and a non-profit organization promoting psychedelic healing will be providing free education on psychoactive plants to the global community.
According to a press release by the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies Canada (MAPS Canada), the “The Ethnobotany of Psychoactive Plants with Chris Kilham” is a four-episode mini-series, focusing on the relationship of humans with Ayahuasca, Kava, Coca, and Cannabis.
Kilham has spent decades doing medicinal plant research in over 45 countries, exploring different medicines used by different cultures. MAPS Canada Executive Director Mark Haden said of Kilham, “He is one of the most charismatic speakers that I have ever seen on the stage.”
This is part of a larger ongoing web series hosted by MAPS where over 50 scientists, doctors, luminaries, researchers, shamans, and experts have given their insights on the current “psychedelic renaissance,” which is occurring right now.
“Psychedelics offer a completely different model of healing,” Haden said, who started his career running addiction treatment programs. After being unable to get his employer to take psychedelic healing seriously, he decided to go on his own and start MAPS Canada in 2011.
A role of MAPS Canada is to train psychotherapists to make sure the work is done skillfully. “We want to have a high standard as this is brought into the public eye,” Haden said.
Psychedelic healing is slowly gaining traction in modern medicine. Haden is increasingly invited to go into medical schools to lecture. “At the end of the day they say they are evidence-based, and we are generating the evidence that they need to change their practice.”
In 2017, MAPS was granted approval to run clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Haden said MDMA was chosen out of all the psychoactive substances because it offers the most gentle and supportive environment for people to look at their unconscious issues.
Out of the 103 study participants receiving two to three sessions, 54% no longer qualified for PTSD after a one to two months follow-up. At the 12-month follow-up, 68% no longer had PTSD.
Haden said that MAPS is advocating for a completely transformative model of healing, “…where patients are healed in a series of sessions and do not have to go back on their medications.”
In an interview with The Sun magazine, Dr. Charles Raison, a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, said, “What psychedelics do, when they work, is to induce a massive sudden gain.”
Raison is working at the Usona Institute on a phase 2 psilocybin study and is hoping to get it approved for treating major depression. He said one of the fascinating things about psychedelics is that the experiences often change people’s narrative about themselves, and the world, for the better. “Studies suggest that a psychedelic experience, if done in a proper, clinical context, radically changes people’s personal stories.”
Haden thinks that healing has been defined by Big Pharma, who profit the most when someone takes a drug every day for the rest of their lives. “That financial agenda has produced this discussion around healing that isn’t about healing at all. It is essentially about symptom management.”
According to Haden, support is the most important part of healing for people with mental health disorders, “…and support has gone down due to COVID because people can’t meet, and support is about connection to others.”
Dr. Mary Bartram, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the Mental Health Commission of Canada said, “Before the pandemic we had a pretty good understanding that social connection, and a sense of belonging were important contributors to strong mental health.”
A poll released in December 2020 by Mental Health Research Canada revealed one in four Canadians has been diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Bartram is not surprised.
“We knew from previous disasters and pandemics that mental health impacts have tended to be delayed, and pretty complex, and tend to last for a while.” The poll also showed 65% of Canadians are remaining “highly resilient” to COVID-19.
Bartram said, despite people being incredibly strong, she thinks it is too soon to know all there is to know about how the pandemic is going to shape mental health.
With regards to psychedelic-assisted therapy, Bartram says she sees an increased role going forward. “…The emerging evidence points to effectiveness for people who aren’t getting relief from other approaches in the domain of trauma.”
Haden said the silver-lining for MAPS Canada is they have become a national organization. “Originally we were Vancouver-based, but then people started joining on zoom from all over the country.”
The four-episode web series will launch February 23, 2021 with the aim to raise awareness and funds through optional donations for research and education.
Feature image: Mark Haden, Executive Director of MAPS Canada