Introducing Vital: Immersive, Inclusive, and Personal Psychedelic Training for Professionals

By the Psychedelics Today team

Education is not the filling of a pot, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats

The interest in psychedelics as a therapeutic tool is growing at a rapid pace, both by individuals looking for better solutions outside the current medical regime, and by practitioners looking for new and better ways to help their patients. 

Even though regulatory systems lag behind, a paradigm shift in healthcare is clearly under way. The demand for safe, ethical, and effective treatment and integration is growing exponentially. Now more than ever, it is vital that educated, informed practitioners are ready and equipped to provide care when called upon.  

After enrolling over 9,000 students in our eLearning platform and graduating over 500 in our eight-week, 47-hour program, Navigating Psychedelics, we’ve heard a lot about what people want and need from an in-depth training program – and also, what isn’t being offered out there. Our students have told us that training can be overly prescriptive, rigid, and clinical, with logistical hurdles and barriers to acceptance.

That’s where Vital comes in. Our new 12-month certificate program fills gaps in the current landscape of psychedelic training – both in course content and structure – and takes a holistic, experiential, and reflective approach to psychedelic practice and integration. 

Here’s how Vital is different: 

  • A truly inclusive training program. Vital welcomes students of all backgrounds – licensed or unlicensed clinicians, medically-trained healthcare professionals, legacy operators, and integrative wellness practitioners. All previous experience, informal learning, and formal training will be considered when reviewing applications.  
  • A drug agnostic approach that equips practitioners with the knowledge to work with clients who use or are interested in exploring a range of psychedelics. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to psychedelic therapy, and the potential benefits are not limited to a handful of substances.
  • A holistic curriculum balanced between clinical and scientific research and protocols, while also focusing on philosophical self-reflection, transpersonal psychology, Indigenous traditions, and somatic approaches to healing trauma.
  • An opportunity to learn from and interact with world-renowned researchers at an economical scale. 
  • A modular and malleable curriculum with finance and scheduling flexibility, designed to accommodate a global student population. 
  • An open forum on harm reduction that encourages honest discussion on personal experiences with substances in a safe space. 

Vital at-a-Glance:

Vital was created by Psychedelics Today Co-Founders Joe Moore and Kyle Buller, M.S., LAC, and a team of people dedicated to helping others master the elements of psychedelic practice and contribute to the healing of the world. The culmination of over 15 years of work in psychedelic practice, the first Vital cohort of 100 students kicks off on “Bicycle Day,” April 19th, 2022.

Course content is packaged into five core modules, covering: psychedelic history and research; clinical therapies; the art of holding space; medical frameworks; and integration theories and techniques. Each comprehensive module spans between seven to ten weeks of specialized lectures led by guest expert teachers as well as more intimate study groups facilitated by our instructors.

The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.

-Alexandra K. Trenfor

World-Class Teaching Team:

Over the years, Psychedelics Today has developed relationships with a humbling number of leading researchers, historians, clinicians, and bright minds working in research and application, advocacy, spiritual practice, and patient care. We’ve assembled some of the very best to work with Vital students, including:

View the full list of instructors here.

A Personalized Approach

We believe that no amount of learning from clinical studies, reading textbooks, or listening to an instructor can make up for first-hand experience with holotropic states. Furthermore, we believe openness and sharing of experience validates clinical evidence, helps inform research and the approach to patient care, and helps undo stigma and misguided perceptions caused by the war on drugs.  

Throughout the course, students will be challenged to deepen their personal understanding of psychedelics and reignite their transformation by attending one of six experiential retreats (in either the United States or abroad). Stay tuned for more details on dates, locations and pricing. 

While the deeply experiential nature of the course supports the growth of practitioners, the course is also designed to equip participants with the knowledge they need to establish a psychedelic-informed practice from the ground up. For coaches, facilitators, mental health and complementary health practitioners, Vital provides a thriving community of specialists to support their mission. 

Promoting Equal Access and Career Development:

Fair access to psychedelic medicine begins with fair access to essential education. In addition to flexible payment plans for all students, we’ve committed to provide scholarships for 20% of students from each cohort, sponsoring up to 100% of tuition to support their mission. 

Scholarships are awarded on a case-by-case basis, and are reserved for people who: 

  • Are in demonstrated financial need
  • Identify as BIPOC
  • Identify as LGBTQIA+
  • Are military service members/veterans
  • Serve marginalized or geographically underserved communities

At the end of the program, graduating students receive a certificate in Psychedelic Therapies and Integration. CE credits will be offered, but stay tuned for more details.

Full details on scholarships and credits are in the extended course brochure, available on the Vital website

Program registrations are open now, and close at midnight EST on March 27th. Acceptance will be offered based on eligibility and order of submission (with priority to students receiving scholarships). Once all seats in the initial cohort are filled, subsequent approved students will be placed on a waitlist and invited to join the course when a spot becomes available. Interested students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Apply here.

For more information on Vital and how to register, visit the program website or connect with our team at

Link to Press Release

Horizons: Grounds for Collective Effervescence

By Jessica (Jaz) Cadoch, MA

Gathering as professionals in psychedelics has taken on new meaning. It’s more – a lot more – than just networking now.

In early December, Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics (an annual conference often referred to just as ‘Horizons’) re-emerged from the proverbial ashes of COVID-19; a pandemic that led to the dismantling of social connectivity and a general feeling like we were moving with momentum. With the pandemic came distance: social distance, emotional distance, and psychological distance. We stopped going to work together, we stopped learning together, we stopped moving and growing together. Reconvening at Horizons was therefore much more significant than just attending a regular conference.

Pandemic or not, the Horizons conference already played the role of a psychedelic sandbox where the psychedelic community convenes each year – a place where we get to see how widespread the community really is, and where each conversation is an opportunity to learn from our peers. It is a place where we can learn together, cry together, break bread together, and dance together. It is a place where we can be our most authentic selves, see others, and be seen. And it is a place where difficult conversations are encouraged to be had.

I heard a colleague explain that at other conferences, we are often introducing psychedelics to a new audience that sometimes lacks the capacity to grasp the shadow of psychedelic therapy. Contrarily, Horizons seeks to shed light on our shadow. It seeks to broaden our collective dreams of what is possible in the psychedelic space while learning from our past. By having those difficult conversations in front of 2,000 people, we get to grow collectively – as a community, and as a movement. And this year’s Horizons, more than ever, was an opportunity to rebuild a sense of collective effervescence. 

Collective Effervescence

Sociologist Emile Durkheim coined the term “collective effervescence as a “shared state of high emotional arousal related to intensification of emotions by social sharing, felt in religious and secular collective rituals, irrespective of their content (joyful feasts or sad funerary rituals), which empowers the individual.” Essentially, collective effervescence occurs when there is a shared sense of engagement with something bigger than the self, warranting a personal sense of empowerment. In developing the Perceived Emotional Synchrony Scale, psychologists Anna Wlodarczyk, Larraitz Zumeta, and their fellow researchers determined that some of the key conditions for collective effervescence to emerge are a “shared attention on one or more symbolic stimuli” and a sense of “intentional coordination or behavioral synchrony among the participants in a given gathering.” Ultimately, they argued that “the relevance of emotional synchronization in collective gatherings [is] conducive to strong forms of social identification, particularly the overlapping of the individual with the collective self.” 

Our new 12-month certificate program, Vital, begins April 19th. Registration is closed, but sign up for the waitlist for next year’s edition now at!

By blurring the lines between the individual and the collective self, Wlodarczyk and her colleagues suggested that a sense of collective effervescence ultimately “pulls humans fully but temporarily into the higher realm of the sacred, where the self disappears and collective interests predominate.” It is no surprise that a conference discussing the ethics and future of the psychedelic movement would incite a collective effervescence so strong that a perceived sense of emotional synchrony may occur, where there is indeed a “co-present other” that becomes closer and closer to a perceived sense of self. 

This is how I want to see the psychedelic movement evolving and growing, with the collective interest dominating a sense of self. The uniqueness and radicalness of this movement will only come from our ability to enter into this shared sense of togetherness, and into a “higher realm of the sacred” and not to bypass it. How can we do this?

“Shadow work” is a term those in the psychedelic movement have heard countless times. In psychedelic healing, shadow work is not about eradicating the shadow. Rather, it is about shedding light on it and getting to know it deeply, so that when it shows up, it is not unfamiliar. By working with the shadow, we become better equipped to handle what may come up as a result of trauma. If we do not have a safe space to have these conversations, to be held in our confusion, and to be educated on our blind spots, then how can we move forward? How can we call ourselves a revolution if we are not rethinking the way we engage with our work each and every year?

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Horizons is a place where we learn about cutting edge research in science and in the clinic, new models for approaching business, and cultural matters. But more importantly, it’s an opportunity to converge as a community and reflect on the previous year together, shedding light on our blind spots and engaging in shadow work to build a sense of collective effervescence and a unified goal. While there were many great presentations this year, three in particular really encapsulated all of this.

Doing the Work with Laura Mae Northrup

Without a doubt, the most impactful talk of the weekend for me was from marriage and family therapist, Laura Mae Northrup, who, in light of recent events, spoke about sexual misconduct in the psychedelic space. Shivers ran down my spine as she powerfully proclaimed these words into the microphone: “Mental health clinicians self-report engaging in sexual violations with their clients at rates of 7-12%. We don’t have data on corresponding rates of psychedelic therapies, but we have no reason to believe it would be any less than our non-psychedelic counterparts.” She spoke with conviction, with grace, and emotion. She had us all in tears, reflecting on the very real fact that the clinicians who are at a higher rate of sexually abusing their clients are male clinicians who were sexually abused as kids.

Northrup highlighted that we are in a cycle of abuse; that healing trauma is painful, and without doing so effectively, we will continue to cause harm to others. She did not name names, and she did not stand on that stage building a pedestal for herself (regardless of how compelling it seemed, as she noted). Instead, she served her community and said what needed to be said. If there was one takeaway from her powerful talk, it was that “we need to heal ourselves.” She took what was frantically scrambling around everyone’s minds and hearts, and put it into powerful and sensical words. She made it make sense.

Tears continued to flow down my face as Horizons founder Kevin Balktick approached the podium, applauding Northrup for the outstanding courage it took for her to get on that stage and speak from her heart. He then declared that sexual abuse and misconduct should not be a “women’s issue”; that it always has, and certainly should be, a men’s issue as well.

Check out our episode with Laura Mae Northrup from 2019: “Healing Sexual Trauma With Psychedelics and Entheogens.”

Eradicating the Promise of a “Miracle Cure” with Juliana Mulligan

The second presentation that captivated my attention was from ibogaine treatment specialist, Juliana Mulligan, who spoke of her experience of being sent to jail for using heroin, being thrown on the streets in the middle of Bogota, Colombia, and finally seeking refuge in what she was told was a miracle “cure” for opioid dependence. She then shared her own horrifying journey of getting off of opioids by going to an ibogaine center that did not have the proper protocols in place. 

She brought about gasps in the crowd when she told us that the clinic did not have a heart monitor and that they gave her twice the safe dose of ibogaine – certainly enough to kill anyone, she clarified. When the clinic noticed her abnormal EKG readings and decided to seek professional and medical help, she was refused by three hospitals largely due to a lack of understanding on how to handle her situation, being overwhelmed with patients, and not believing that someone her age could be having a heart problem. Finally, when the fourth hospital almost turned her away, she had her first of six cardiac arrests due to her high dose of ibogaine. She explained that she remembers very little about her experience on ibogaine, but that she woke up with a tiny fraction of the usual opioid withdrawal symptoms, the feeling of a huge weight lifted from the guilt and shame of years of substance use, and a newfound clarity around her life’s mission.

Despite her experience at this ibogaine clinic, Mulligan has not turned her back on the promise of ibogaine in treating opioid dependence. In fact, she has dedicated part of her career to ensuring that people are equipped with the tools and knowledge on how to choose an ethical and effective ibogaine clinic – something she realized was necessary due to the many vulnerable people who don’t know what to look for when choosing an ibogaine clinic. Often, people do not take the time to learn about the proper protocols needed to provide this treatment, with many acting out of desperation in an attempt to “fix” their issues as quickly as possible. Her main point was to remind us of the dangers of selling ibogaine as a “miracle cure,” and how damaging it can be for people to have the idea that Ibogaine will fix their issues overnight. 

Join us for our FREE course on religious exemption for legal psychedelic use in the US, Psychedelics and Religious Liberty in the United States.

Speaking Softly in Recollection with William Leonard Pickard

Finally, ex-convict William Leonard Pickard held us all in a state of awe as he eloquently and captivatingly shared his story of spending 21 years in prison for allegedly producing 90% of the United States’ supply of LSD. He spoke softly, and took long pauses between his sentences, his descriptive tone allowing me to truly visualize the scene where a CIA agent pointed a rifle at his forehead while uttering, “I’m going to blow your brains out.” He told us about the violence that occurred in prison, and how he became desensitized to fights and killings while he would quietly sit and eat his lunch. He showed us photos of a prison cell, and told us about how he fell in love with American Literature, and that without that – coupled with deep meditation, he may have not survived. 

Pickard reminded us all why we were sitting in that room and why we need to change the way psychedelics have been viewed since the 1970s. The majority of the people in that room are privileged enough to never experience going to jail for psychedelics, and getting a glimpse into that reality reminded us why rewriting the psychedelic script in America is critical.

Composting Emotions into Inspiration

In exploring rituals where collective effervescence is powerful, Wlodarczyk and her team discuss the way in which both positive and negatively valenced rituals ultimately lead to a shared sense of emotion and heightened well-being. Indeed, what truly comes through in these rituals is “the creation of a positive emotional atmosphere in which grief, sadness, anger, and fear are transformed into hope, solidarity, and trust.” 

Contextualizing these experiences –sexual misconduct in psychedelic healing, the wrongful advertisement of ibogaine as a miracle cure, and the harsh realities of the drug war and the American justice system – provides our collective community with the opportunity to transform these emotions of grief, sadness, anger, and fear into a shared sense of solidarity. We were provided with the opportunity to compost these moments of disappointment and turn them into something productive, where the unified goal of ethically bringing psychedelics to modern American lives empowers each and every one of us, both on a collective and individual level. This is how we can heal and move forward as a collective movement. 

These three presentations are simply a glimpse into the moving stories that were told on that stage. The breadth of content shared allowed us the opportunity to reflect on what the world could look like once we systematically dismantle the war on drugs, and what is effectively involved in doing so: the clinical trials for which researchers have put their careers on the line, the endless volunteer hours that policy makers and lawyers have been putting toward changing legislation, the repairing of relationships with Indigenous communities through the work of the Native American Church and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the importance of doing our own work in order to help others heal from their trauma, and the dangers of presenting psychedelics as a magic bullet. 

There are many pathways to attain psychedelic healing. Horizons provides a space for the entire range of themes that ought to be considered in bringing psychedelics to the modern world. In order to achieve this goal, we must do so collectively. We must reimagine what it means to be successful, and we can only do this by building a collective sense of self. To do this, we must continue to have these conversations, processing fear and anger into hope and solidarity. If we want to see the psychedelic movement radically change the world we are living in, we must face the music by continuing to have these difficult conversations and seek to elevate collective effervescence.  

About the Author

Jessica (Jaz) Cadoch, MA is a Medical Anthropologist working at Maya PBC as a Research & Operations Manager. As the former Executive Director of the Montreal Psychedelic Society, Jessica is passionate about bridging the non-for-profit and for profit world of psychedelic initiatives. With a particular interest in the intermingling of 12-step methods of managing addiction and psychedelic-assisted therapy, Jessica is concerned with ensuring that psychedelic practices are carefully and ethically integrated into modern Western society and culture. Email her at:

Hear her thoughts on drug exceptionalism and 12-step recovery on episode PT265 of the podcast:

The Wild World of 19th Century Psychedelics

By Zeus Tipado

Our understanding of the brain in the 1800s was quite different from what we know today – and pretty weird, too.

You can’t throw a tab of LSD without hitting a story about psychedelics these days. While psychedelics are going through a scientific renaissance, 150 years ago, the field was a circus of misinformation and racism. Occasionally though, through that potpourri of misguided madness, it nailed some concepts that still hold up today. Granted, future scientists will most likely write an article clowning the state of psychedelics in the early 2000s to today, but let me be the first to start that vicious cycle by highlighting some of the more ridiculous concepts people believed in the 19th Century.

While there may have been many ethnographic studies of psychedelics dating back to the Bronze Age, the concept of modern neuroscience is a fairly new field. In the 1880s, the interest in neuroscience formed from humanity’s attempt to explain mental illness and addiction through scientific terms as opposed to supernatural spirits possessing bodies. Some neuroscientists in the 19th century believed a person’s cognition, along with predisposition of behavioral traits was rooted in neuroanatomy, which some believed was reflected in the physical structure of the skull. The idea that chemistry played a role in brain functionality was a novel concept that didn’t have much support in the scientific community in the early 1880s. In fact, the closest thing science got to neurochemistry was in 1809, when Johann Christian Reil soaked a brain in pure alcohol for a week just to see what would happen (if you’re wondering, it got really hard and took on the texture of shoe leather).

To first understand the state of neuroscience in the 1800s, we must first comprehend the state of science at the time, and it was bonkers.

Cell Theory, Darwin, and Phrenology

The idea that all living organisms consisted of cells and that all cells originated from pre-existing cells (cell theory) proposed by German physiologist Theodor Schwann in 1839 was revolutionary. It shifted the deeply-held religious belief that life originated supernaturally, and instead, emerged from biological means. It sounds trivial now, but society took a collective seat and came to the realization that each person was a community of cells working in unison to create a ‘Bob,’ Connie,’ or ‘Karen’ (and of course, all those Karen cells wanted to see the manager shortly after being created).

Twenty years after the world recovered from Schwann’s cell theory, Darwin dropped The Origin of a Species, giving birth to the concept of evolution, a radical idea that once again shifted humanity’s focus away from divine creation and more closely towards the modern worldview we hold today.

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Science in the 1800s was also notoriously racist. Many people used Darwin’s evolutionary theory to justify hateful pseudoscience that revealed the most vile aspects of humanity. While he was able to consciously remove himself from the 19th century racism that prevailed in science at the time, most could not. Franz Joseph Gall constructed the basic ideologies of phrenology in 1808, which was a belief that a person’s mental aptitude could be determined by bumps and ridges in a person’s skull — evidence Gall believed was the pressure of the neuroanatomy of the brain on the skull. More specifically, he believed a person’s behavior was localized in different compartments in the brain — a total of 28 areas to be exact. Things like ‘the firmness of purpose,’ ‘love of poetry,’ and even a place in the brain that’s responsible for a person’s tendency to murder, Gall insisted, could be determined through cranial anatomy. 

When phrenology emerged in Europe in the 1800s, most scientists discarded the idea since its foundations were based on faulty neuroanatomical information. Gall was tossed out of Austria for proposing such an obviously absurd idea and eventually ended up in France, where even Napoleon Bonaparte ridiculed his concept of phrenology. When the rest of the world seemed to collectively reject phrenology as the pseudoscience it truly was, it found a home in America — because at that conflicted time, obviously it would. 

With abolitionist movements spreading across the country along with the social underpinnings of what would be known as the Civil War, phrenology was used as a “scientific” reason to justify slavery in America and the overall disgusting treatment of Indigenous people as land continued to be removed from tribal territories. However, phrenology did have its fierce opponents, like John P. Harrison, editor of the Western Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal that caught the attention of Southern political leaders when it was introduced to America (and is still in print today). With the assistance of books like Phrenology Vindicated by Charles Caldwell and Crania Americana by Samuel Morton, political leaders had the “scientific” backing to make absurd claims like Africans were neurologically designed to be enslaved and Indigenous Americans were biologically a different species than white people — which made stealing their land a natural process ordained by God.

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Louis Lewin’s Phantastica

Amongst the incendiary nature of science during the 19th century, the unlikely emergence of psychedelic neuroscience occurred — and like all things in the 1800s, it was undoubtedly a product of its time. That’s a nice way to say it was sometimes wrong and mostly racist, but interestingly enough, it got some things right. 

Neuroscience can be defined as the objective study of the brain and the central nervous system. The first neuroscientist to analyze the effects of psychedelics was Germany’s Louis Lewin in his book, Phantastica. Although it was officially released in 1924 when Lewin was 74, it contained his collected psychedelic research that took place in the late 1800s. Among the many drugs he categorized, he decided not to call psychedelics “hallucinogens” since not all substances elicit a hallucinatory response. “Phantastica” was the word he decided on, along with other equally interesting names like “Inebriantia” for drugs like alcohol, and my personal favorite, “Excitantia” for substances like caffeine and nicotine. 

Lewin was never really a scientific rock star in his time though, mostly because he refused to renounce his Jewish heritage in 19th-century Germany – racism and anti-Semitism in the scientific community at this time went hand-in-hand. However, Lewin did get the props he deserved in psychedelics when Paul Henning of the Berlin Botanical Museum named peyote Anhalonium Lewinii in Lewin’s honor. 

Around the time Lewin came on the scene, most people were describing psychedelics in a subjective manner, wrapped up in pseudo-science and religious mysticism. People weren’t tripping because of psychedelic-induced neurological activity — evil spirits possessed the taker of the psychedelic, which meant evil behavior was soon to follow. Metaphysics, with its focus on the nature of human consciousness and existence, was rapidly growing in the 1800s. Lewin believed that describing psychedelics in metaphysical terms would ruin what we could potentially learn from them. His research was wholly focused on dispelling the pseudoscience that surrounded psychedelics, yet Lewin fell into the trap of anointing psychedelics with otherworldliness with his idea that an invisible force called ‘vital energy’ surrounded all living things. Lewin believed this vital energy governed all chemical, mechanical, and physical properties of each person and that psychedelics had the ability to interrupt this energy. He also believed a person’s resistance to psychedelics was dependent on the strength of their vital energy. 

This wasn’t the first time Lewin would take an L in his neuroscientific research of psychedelics. When assessing the capability of certain psychedelics on the brain, he assumed (1924, p. 8) that black people naturally had a higher recovery rate than whites: 

“We may take it as a fact that Negroes have greater recuperation powers than white people. This is due not to climatic conditions but to certain innate qualities possessed by them.”

In his writings, he didn’t seek to prove this theory — it was just taken as matter-of-fact; another symptom of the 19th century. Lewin also insisted Indigenous people knew of their own racial inferiority, which is why they self-medicated with psychedelics: 

“The Indians of South America are said to have an intuitive appreciation of their own defectiveness, and to be ever ready to rid themselves of such melancholy feelings by intense excitement, i.e. through kola and similar drugs” (p. 2).

Still somehow, Lewin believed psychedelics ‘form bonds in people of all walks of life’ (p. 7). He realized the diversity of people was so great that a one-size-fits-all explanation of human physiology and psychology in regards to psychedelics wouldn’t suffice. Likely influenced by Darwin’s The Origin of Species, Lewin made a strong case for the adaptations of organisms to a variety of external influences like psychedelics. He believed a skilled anthropologist could trace the development of culture directly to the availability of psychedelics, an idea shared 100 years later in Terence McKenna’s Food of the Gods. Lewin was also one of the first scientists to see the health benefits of psychedelics, mostly based on accounts of Indigenous people taking them for mental health. 

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In the 1800s, a small but prevailing idea amongst scientists was that psychedelics created a “trip” by activating ductless glands in the body to secrete hormones into the endocrine system. Lewin thought the theory was BS and instead theorized that psychedelics excite certain “brain centers” to “transmit agreeable sensations” (p. 3) through the chemistry of the substance. He basically described what we now know as psychedelics acting as serotonergic agonists that bind to mostly 5-HT2A receptors in the brain — an original theory Lewin established nearly 50 years before the discovery of serotonin.

Lewin’s assumption that psychedelics hit specific cortical regions through something like the serotonin system was remarkable, but only because he made other successful guesses like recognizing that every chemical study on the brain up to that point was conducted ex vivo, or on a dead brain, and that in vivo neuro research conducted on a living brain may have chemicals that were not present or didn’t transform into something else upon death. He also knew about the brain’s need for oxygenated blood and suggested that psychedelics may affect this process. Neuroscience had to wait 100 years for Lewin’s idea to be tested with BOLD (Blood Oxygen Level Dependent) brain imaging through MRI. 

When it came to theoreticals, Lewin had a few. One of his notable ones was the idea of a toxic equation, which is a loose formula that dictates everyone has a certain resistance to the effects of psychedelics based on their neurophysiology and overall physiology. On the surface, it sounds like a reasonable idea, but digging deeper, it gets a bit irrational. His general belief was that people built up a resistance to psychedelics due to parts of the brain weakening and not being able to process these substances. There’s still no proof of this over a century later though, and in 2021, Dr. Ling-Xiao Shao conducted research that pointed to the opposite. Psilocybin actually strengthens dendritic density in the brain and repairs neurons that have atrophied due to stress and depression. Lewin also believed cells had ‘will-power’ and when a person takes a psychedelic after not taking it for a long time, the memory of the ‘agreeable sensation’ is just too strong to resist and that’s how people become addicted again (p. 18). 

Learning From the History of Psychedelics

Unfortunately, psychedelic neuroscience research didn’t really catch on in the 19th century, mostly because civilization almost collapsed due to a global opioid addiction that crippled nearly every economy and led to prohibition in the early 1900s. The bigotry and racism of the 19th century confined Louis Lewin’s research of psychedelics into a box that takes a lot of ethical unpacking to fully absorb.

The origin of neuroscience is shrouded in poorly constructed science and whacky ideas which were specifically designed to marginalize groups of people from the discussion of who could be considered human. It has a dark past, but with a more defined scientific method and newer ideas, the future of psychedelic neuroscience is whatever we make it. In every natural system, diversity is the key defining factor for the progression of that system. These ideas aren’t mine or even new — Darwin wrote several books on this. This same need for diversity also applies to psychedelic neuroscientific research. History shouldn’t serve as an obstacle for the exponential amount of discovery that can be revealed if we all work together. We will get there.

About the Author

Zeus Tipado is a neuroscientist based out of Los Angeles, California. He’s the founder of Stonedgamer and Middleeasy, and co-producer/host of DoubleBlind Mag’s ‘How To Use Psychedelics’ course. His published work has appeared in High Times Magazine, MERRY JANE, and DoubleBlind Magazine. He received his Mphil from the University of South Wales and will start his PhD in Neuroscience with a focus in psychedelics in 2022. You can reach him on TwitterInstagram, and Twitch.