Another ground-breaking Horizons conference!
“A great possibility of modern science involves going to ancient knowledge and asking for help.” These are the words of Brazilian neuroscience professor Dráulio Barros de Araújo, Ph.D., during his presentation at the 12th annual Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics forum, held October 5–7 this year in New York City. Barros was presenting his findings on ayahuasca’s great potential for treating PTSD, and his words highlighted a major theme from the first day of the conference, which focused on the medical potential of psychedelics.
In addition to Barros, Peter Hendricks, Ph.D., and Sara Lappan, Ph.D., from the University of Birmingham, Alabama, presented the promising findings from their research study on psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for cocaine dependence, the first of its kind. While the study has yet to be completed, initial results suggest that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy may be more effective than any other established method for treating cocaine addiction.
Inner Traditions friend and author Julie Holland, M.D., editor of The Pot Book and Ecstasy: The Complete Guide, was the conference moderator for Day One. In addition to Julie’s presence, James Fadiman, Ph.D., author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, and Rick Strassman, M.D., author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule, were highlighted as being particularly influential to many speakers. Sophia Korb, Ph.D., who was mentored by Fadiman, presented her findings from a preliminary study of over 400 people who tried microdosing with various psychedelics. Korb reported that participants “felt more energetic, had increased focus and clarity, and had some positive changes in their interpersonal and social relationships.” She also challenged the Silicon Valley stereotype of microdosing, stating that “sometimes there’s increased productivity but what we’re finding is that sometimes people are realizing ‘hey, maybe being a banker is not for me’.”
Christopher Timmerman, Ph.D. candidate at Imperial College, London, was another presenter influenced by our authors. His presentation, which frequently cited Strassman, revealed an overlap between near-death experiences and smoking DMT. Timmerman went on to chronicle his groundbreaking efforts to study DMT’s effects on our brains through MRIs and EEG scans.
As striking as the research presented on Day One may be, the healing potential of psychedelics is already well known among the psychedelic community and has been utilized by shamans and indigenous cultures for millennia, well before the advent of “modern science.” Further, the demand for psychedelic therapy is overwhelming and will only continue to increase. As MDMA researcher Ingmar Gorman, Ph.D., described, the demand for treatment is like trying to fit a tsunami through a pinhole. As a result, the challenge for the psychedelic science community lies not just in proving the efficacy of psychedelic substances but in overcoming the numerous regulatory and sociocultural hurdles put in their place, while also meeting the ever-growing demand for treatment.
With his popular new book How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, Michael Pollan has been central to helping knowledge of the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics reach new eyes and ears. At the conclusion of Day One of the conference, Pollan and moderator Julie Holland discussed Pollan’s cautious journey into psychedelics and plant consciousness and debated whether cannabis is a psychedelic. (Julie thinks it is—and we agree.) During the discussion and Q&A, a theme rapidly emerged about how Pollan’s book was not just read by the attendees, but was a title they would send home to their parents. How to Change Your Mind may refer to psychedelics but Pollan’s diligence, skepticism, and credibility as an established author is helping change minds around the world.
Videos from this year’s Horizons will soon be available through their website. In the meantime, check out the books below to learn more or visit our dedicated Psychedelics and Entheogens page to view our entire range of books on these topics.