Pubdate: Thu, 28 Sep 2017
Source: Varsity, The (CN ON Edu)
Copyright: 2017 The Varsity
Author: Govind Mohan


Conference showcases findings of the psychedelic research

Contrary to the prevailing Nixonian portrayal of drugs as the last
century's public enemy number one, this decade has seen a massive
increase in the public acceptance of drugs as therapeutic agents.

This can be largely attributed to groundbreaking research coming out
of neuroscience and psychiatry which seem to suggest an immense
therapeutic potential for these drugs beyond previous estimation. The
rise of national and international groups that aim to promote these
findings have also contributed to this increasingly widespread acceptance.

One such group is the U of T chapter of Canadian Students for Sensible
Drug Policy (CSSDP UofT), who organized this year's Mapping the Mind
with Mushrooms conference on September 23. This is an annual event
that allows general audiences to learn more about the latest findings
on the therapeutic usage of psychedelics.

The event organizer, Daniel Grieg, said that one of the main goals of
CSSDP is to present youth voices at the policy level so that they can
be more involved. According to Grieg, most politicians favouring
strict drug control claim that it is for the benefit of the youth, but
they rarely ever take into account what the youth actually have to
say. Last year, a delegation of the group attended the United Nations
General Assembly's special session on drug policy, where they had a
representative on a community roundtable.

Grieg stated that people are going to do drugs whether the law likes
it or not, therefore, the policy should be approached from a
perspective that is supportive and rehabilitative rather than
punitive. CSSDP UofT hosts several lectures and events throughout the
years supporting this view.

Dr. Jean-Marc Moncalvo, an Associate Professor in the Department of
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at U of T and the Senior Curator of
Mycology in the Department of Natural History at the Royal Ontario
Museum, spoke about the relationship that fungi have with humans and
other animals at the conference. His childhood involved regularly
picking mushrooms in the Swiss Alps, eventually leading him to pursue
a thesis in mycology at the University of Lausanne in

When asked about how drug policy should be approached by governments,
Moncalvo said, "Well, this is a social issue which has historical
roots. Not all societies are the same. This is a dominantly Western
society of modern war and various money making machines. Why alcohol
and not psilocybin? I think the drug policy of governments currently
is a bit absurd."

Speakers also included John Vervaeke and Anderson Todd, the Director
and Assistant Director of U of T's Wisdom and Consciousness Lab,
respectively. The lab studies the relationship between various altered
states of consciousness and the cultivation of wisdom that appends
upon past research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and
cognitive science.

The group ultimately wants to explore the connection between
transcendental or mystical experiences and the meaning given to life,
which may be taken for granted. According to Vervaeke, some of the
historical drivers behind the prohibition of drugs are deeply
questionable, and recent research is lending credence to support the
view that policy needs to be changed significantly.

Psychotechnologies have the potential to help people both
therapeutically and existentially. "No politician is talking about the
meaning crisis. They are not devoting time, effort or attention to it
and this is causing loneliness to become an epidemic; this is
resulting in a severe mental health crisis that we are witnessing today."

Todd stated that although the "war on drugs" in the U.S. was well over
the top, the libertarian counter-movement that people are gravitating
toward is equally impractical and dangerous. No researcher or expert
is explicitly advocating a wide recreational usage en masse; rather,
Todd believes science should strive to show that psychedelic drugs are
not dangerous and can be valuable when used in a therapeutic setting.

"They are not toys; they are tools. A buzzsaw is not something that
you let anybody play with, and so should you be with the usage of such
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt