Category: Social Justice

Profit: The medicalization of psychedelics

Will psychedelics be reduced to an elite product that enhances status and feeds egos, as yoga and meditation have been found to do in some Western contexts?

Geoff Bathje

If you read this blog regularly, you’ve probably ascertained that we at TripOut believe the statement “capitalism is problematic” is objective truth. This article from attempts to synthesize the arguments against the profitization motives in the medicalization of MDMA and Psilocybin.

Image: Christ Driving the Money-changers from the Temple” by Theodoor Rombouts. Credit:

For the People: Mail order psilocybin microdoses

Medicinal marijuana was a stepping stone towards legalization. Next step — at least according to drug activist Dana Larsen — medicinal microdoses of psilocybin.

In 2008, Larsen opened a medical marijuana dispensary in Vancouver as an act of civil disobedience. While he was arrested (with charges eventually dropped), his dispensary proved a model for many others. He gave thousands of tours and encouraged people to start their own. Now that pot is legal, Larsen is on to his next project, the Medicinal Mushroom Dispensary. This is a mail order business and serves all of Canada (but only Canadians), with a Vancouver storefront in the works. You do need a doctor’s recommendation to become a member. The microdoses of encapsulated psilocybin are available in a few different strengths, with a suggestion of dosing twice per week.

The MMD website lists ailments that qualify for treatment (editor’s note: most people would qualify):
Anxiety Disorder
Substance Addiction/Withdrawal
Cluster Headaches
Sleep Disorders
Multiple Sclerosis
Pain – Chronic
Severe or terminal illness

Although MMD only serves Canadians, will Oakland and Denver — both of whom recently decriminalized medicinal mushrooms — offer something along this model in the future?

Overlap: Psychedelia and Queerness

There is obvious overlap between the ideas and definitions of queerness and the characteristics of mystical experiences engendered by psychedelics. Both queer theory and the mystical characteristics note the limitations of ordinary language to capture the actual experience one is having, whether that experience is one of timelessness that is over in 30 seconds, or one that lasts “a lifetime” (whatever that actually means). Notions of transiency in the mystical experience mirror ideas in queer theory about the fluidity and non-solidity of identity labels. The passivity in sexual activity that was pejoratively pointed to in the original meanings of the word queer is an actual prerequisite in the psychedelic realm, both to decrease the possibility of having a “bad” or even “horrific” trip, as well as to be open to the majestic spaces the medicines can take one to. And, notions of the “true self” are present in both, as something to encounter and, perhaps, eradicate. 

Jeanna Eichenbaum, LCSW

Jeanna Eichenbaum, social worker and self-identified trans woman explores the relationship between psychedelic and queer theories and relates a personal story exploring, learning and dissolving boundaries from her own identity. link

Privacy: Tristan Harris

The Atlantic Magazine called Tristan Harris “the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience.” Harris, formerly a “Design Ethicist” for Google and recently co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology delivered deeply provocative and crystal-clear testimony to the Senate Commerce Committee about how the business model of social networking companies are invested towards maintaining a subversive, imbalanced relationship with users and how these companies sell predictions about our future choices and identities before we we even know. As my friend wrote Jesse Stout summarizes: “It’s not the tech, it’s the business model. Extractive incentives inevitably create dystopia.”

Legalize: All drugs?

A couple thoughts: (1) video games from Pac Man and Mario on have had druglike bonus items, and you can’t really win the game without them; (2) privileged people can do all the drugs they want and it rarely comes back to bite them legally.

Playboy magazine explores some arguments for total legalization, spending drug war monies on on treatment (when necessary), as opposed to war.

Activists often turn to Portugal as a model for a more pragmatic and humane approach. Facing a breaking point with their heroin crisis, Portuguese lawmakers started looking into new strategies in 1999. They implemented a policy in 2001 that decriminalized drug use and funded a system of social workers, clinics, and treatment centers. Following decriminalization, Portugal saw a decrease in HIV infections, addiction, overdoses, and drug-related prison sentences. From 1999 to 2015, the amount spent per capita on “drug misuse” went down by 18 percent. Meanwhile, there was a 60 percent increase in addicts seeking treatment. In an article for The Guardian, Susana Ferreira attributes Portugal’s drug laws to a “major cultural shift” and argues that these policies were “merely a reflection of transformations that were already happening in clinics, in pharmacies and around kitchen tables across the country.” 

Daniel Spielberger

Beyond: Community-supported sight

The arc of technology has positive and problematic impacts on society at large. But specifically in regards to accessibility it can be revolutionary. I love a good story about people getting to experience the world in fresh, improved ways and here are two innovations, both supporting folks that experience vision impairment.

(1)Be My Eyes is an app that connects a blind/low vision person’s rear-facing phone and voice with a sighted volunteer . From the Be My Eyes website: “As a sighted volunteer you can help just by installing the Be My Eyes app. A blind or a low-vision user may need help with anything from checking expiry dates, distinguishing colors, reading instructions or navigating new surroundings.” I haven’t volunteered yet, so I can’t vouch for the service, and one review claims there might be issues with privacy and the vouching of volunteers (can nothing in the world be purely good?). But I’m interested in volunteering and I’ll let you know how it goes.

(2) For blind/low vision people, visiting fine art galleries and museums with no-touch policies can be oppressive and dull. The Unseen Art Project intends to challenge this premise by allowing users to upload various angles of two-dimensional fine art which can then be 3D printed for display in both public and private settings. Vision impaired people and the rest of us will be able to feel the slight smile of Mona Lisa or Picasso’s cubism style. We’ll get to experience art in a new, sensual way. They are in Indigogo funding mode, if you are interested in supporting or learning more.

Revolution: Trigger Warning with Killer Mike S1E4

“Because I was raised in a Christian culture, I never considered myself to be a totally free human being.”

James Baldwin

Trigger Warning is a Netflix show featuring rapper Killer Mike. Although many of the episodes could be described as controversial, Episode 4 jumps all in challenging religion and creating a new one in an effort to explore this oppressive subversion that is deeply ingrained in our culture.

Killer Mike’s episode-ending narration: “When black people can see God in themselves we are reminded we are special, we are connected and we are hope. 500 years of oppression and conditioning tried to convince Black people that we need a master in the sky.”

Magic: Michael Pollan on Denver psilocybin mushrooms initiative

Magic mushrooms are now the lowest priority of law enforcement in Denver, and soon Oregon might vote to legalize psilocybin therapy.

In this New York Times article, How to Change Your Mind author and UCal communications professor Michael Pollan hypothesizes that ballot initiatives might not be the smartest avenue to harness the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics:

I look forward to the day when psychedelic medicines like psilocybin, having proven their safety and efficacy in F.D.A.-approved trials, will take their legal place in society, not only in mental health care but in the lives of people dealing with garden-variety unhappiness or interested in spiritual exploration and personal growth.

My worry is that ballot initiatives may not be the smartest way to get there. We still have a lot to learn about the immense power and potential risk of these molecules, not to mention the consequences of unrestricted use. It would be a shame if the public is pushed to make premature decisions about psychedelics before the researchers have completed their work. There is, too, the risk of inciting the sort of political backlash that, in the late 1960s, set back research into psychedelics for decades. Think of what we might know now, and the suffering that might have been alleviated, had that research been allowed to continue.

Michael pollan

Justice: Black Masks, Rainbow Bodies — Psychedelics and Race

This article by Nicholas Powers is featured on the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) website:

“I open with that story because it’s where two freedom movements, briefly meet in my life. The Black Freedom Movement, a living force of millions of people, whose ancestors were kidnapped from Africa. Chained together on slave ships, they fought for freedom from the plantation to the White House. The Psychedelic Movement began with Albert Hofmann on his bicycle tripping on LSD. Decades later, he was followed by hippies, musicians, and mystics exploring visions. Next were LSD soaked 90’s underground raves. Now, 21st century doctors and activists inch psychedelics closer to legalization for medical use.

Here are two freedom movements, two separate worlds, and both go toward the same goal of a common humanity but never meet in mass, never share stories or organize together. It was as if a wall stood between them.”

Link for the entire article.