In the week’s Psychedelic News Roundup, we detail a breaking story out of Spain, where authorities have arrested members of the Inner Mastery International ayahuasca retreat. Other news includes a potentially life-saving drug testing study and one woman’s impactful, post-divorce psilocybin experience.
Spanish Police Crackdown on Psychedelic Retreat Provider
An in-depth article from Double Blind Magazine details how and why Spanish police arrested 18 individuals associated with Inner Mastery International, a controversial psychedelic retreat provider, on various charges, including unspecified sex crimes and workers’ rights violations. The organization, previously known as Ayahuasca International, is under scrutiny for its practices in administering psychedelic substances. The founder, Alverto Varela, who died of brain cancer before facing trial, was alleged to have focused more on financial gain than genuine healing practices.
Former participants and insiders have criticized the organization for abusive power dynamics and coercive practices, particularly during ayahuasca sessions. Inner Mastery’s business model, resembling a pyramid scheme, involved rapid training and establishment of franchises across Europe, with profits funneled upwards. Despite Varela’s death, the organization continues to promote its retreats, using emotive advertising and questionable safety practices in administering various psychedelics.
This police action is part of a broader crackdown on entheogenic facilitators in Spain, with recent operations targeting similar groups. The arrests have raised questions about the ethical and legal aspects of psychedelic facilitation in the country, particularly regarding ayahuasca, which is not explicitly illegal in Spain. The Spanish police’s actions indicate a growing concern over the misuse of psychedelics and the exploitation of participants in the guise of spiritual healing.
Study Advocates for Pill Testing at Music Festivals to Prevent Drug-Related Deaths
A recent harm reduction focused study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy examines drug-related deaths at Australian music festivals. It suggests that many of these fatalities, totaling 64 from July 2000 to the end of 2019, could have been prevented with harm reduction interventions like drug testing. Following a mass overdose at Melbourne’s Hardmission Festival, there’s renewed advocacy for legalizing testing in Victoria and New South Wales. The study found that most deaths were linked to MDMA toxicity, highlighting the dangers of unregulated substance use at festivals.
The report emphasizes that drug use among festival-goers is high, often involving polysubstance use, which increases the risk of harmful incidents. Novel psychoactive substances (NPS), designed to mimic traditional illegal drugs, present additional risks due to their unpredictable effects. The study argues that drug-checking services, which analyze the contents and purity of drugs, can lead to reduced drug use and safer practices, as users often discard substances found to be dangerous.
Despite the compelling evidence for the benefits of pill testing, it faces resistance in regions like New South Wales. The report cites examples from other countries, such as the Netherlands, where drug checking has been successfully implemented for over three decades. In contrast, Australian states rely more on law enforcement approaches, which have limited effectiveness and could inadvertently increase drug-related death risks. The study concludes that drug checking can detect dangerous substances before consumption, offering a vital harm reduction strategy at music festivals.
Oregon Democrats Propose Amendment to Decriminalization Law Amid Drug Crisis
Fox News details a response to escalating public drug use and overdose deaths in Oregon, where state lawmakers are proposing a rollback of the state’s groundbreaking drug decriminalization law. Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber’s plan aims to reclassify drug possession as a Class C misdemeanor, the lowest form of misdemeanor, while enhancing treatment and addiction prevention measures. This proposal is a shift from Measure 110, passed in 2020, which made Oregon the first state to decriminalize small amounts of all drugs.
The Democratic proposal, which has attracted criticism from Republicans and pro-decriminalization groups, suggests higher penalties for drug dealing near sensitive areas and easier access to treatment and housing services. While Democrats view this as a balanced approach to drug issues, Republicans argue for harsher measures, proposing to classify possession of substances like fentanyl, heroin, and meth as Class A misdemeanors. They believe this would more effectively steer individuals towards treatment and address the drug crisis. The proposed changes will not impact the state’s legal psilocybin program, which allows supervised adult use at licensed Psilocybin Service Centers.
This legislative effort comes as Oregon grapples with a significant increase in addiction rates and overdose deaths, particularly from fentanyl. Public opinion in Oregon appears to favor stricter drug laws and mandatory treatment as an alternative to jail. The upcoming special legislative session, beginning February 5, is expected to address these proposals and potentially reshape Oregon’s approach to drug policy amidst growing concerns over public safety and health.
A Personal Journey Through Psychedelic Therapy Post-Divorce
Published by Scary Mommy, Sarah Aswell shares her transformative experience with psychedelic-assisted therapy using magic mushrooms to navigate her midlife crisis, marked by divorce, career challenges, and familial health issues. Inspired by Michael Pollan’s book on psychedelics and intrigued by their potential to rewire the brain and alter life perspectives, Aswell embarked on a guided mushroom trip to process her emotional turmoil.
Working with Adam Boomer, a therapist specializing in psychedelic-assisted therapy, Aswell prepared for her journey, setting intentions focused on her divorce and midlife changes. However, her experience diverged from these intentions, leading her to profound realizations about the interconnectedness of life and the universal nature of emotions, especially the concept of “wonder.”
During her trip, Aswell experienced ego death, a visitation from a deceased loved one, and a deep sense of unity with the universe. These revelations shifted her focus from her initial intentions to broader insights about life, love, and her place in the world. She understood the significance of a mother’s love passed down through generations and its impact on her and her daughters.
The psychedelic experience led Aswell to newfound appreciation and perspectives. Post-trip, she felt a sense of euphoria, a deeper connection with her family, and an anxiety reduction. Her sessions with Adam after the trip helped her integrate these insights into her daily life, leading to lasting positive changes.
Aswell emphasizes the importance of undergoing such experiences with professional guidance, cautioning against attempting high-dose psychedelic trips without proper support. Her story highlights the potential of psychedelic-assisted therapy in providing profound emotional healing and a renewed outlook on life.
Incannex Completes Phase II Clinical Trial for Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy in Anxiety Treatment
Incannex Healthcare Inc. has announced the completion of its Phase II clinical trial, PsiGAD-1 (a psilocybin-based drug), which evaluated a psilocybin treatment program for patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The trial treated 72 patients at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, with the primary goal of determining the efficacy of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in reducing GAD symptoms, as measured by the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale.
The PsiGAD-1 trial was a randomized, triple-blind (meaning neither participants, researchers, or drug makers knew whether a patient was given a placebo or active drug), active-placebo-controlled study, marking it as one of the largest of its kind. The interim analysis in March 2023 indicated a high probability of significant benefits from the psilocybin treatment compared to the placebo. An independent Data Safety Monitoring Board reviewed data from the first 37 participants and reported no safety concerns, allowing the trial to proceed without modifications.
As Incannex prepares an FDA IND (Investigational New Drug) application, a documentary titled Psychedelics: Stepping into the Unknown, covering the Monash Clinical Psychedelic Lab and the PsiGAD research program, is scheduled for release on the SBS streaming service in late February 2024. This documentary aims to enhance public understanding of mental health issues and psychedelic therapies.
Spanish crackdowns on some psychedelic retreats and healing centers, as well as the potential and partial reversal of Oregon’s nation-leading decriminalization initiative, serve to highlight the ongoing challenges faced by the psychedelic movement. However, other stories, such as Sarah Aswell’s psilocybin experience and new study results from Incannex Healthcare, shine a light on the continued rapid advances being made in the front of public opinion and scientific research. The coming year is sure to be an exciting and possibly tumultuous time for psychedelic medicine.
This material is not intended as a replacement or substitute for any legal or medical advice. Always consult a medical professional about your health needs. Psychedelics are widely illegal in the United States, and readers should always be informed about local, state, and federal regulations regarding psychedelics or other drugs.
- Busby, M. (2024, January 23). Spanish Police Bust Ayahuasca Syndicate for Unspecified Sex Crimes and Workers’ Rights Violations. DoubleBlind Mag. https://doubleblindmag.com/fake-shaman-arrested-europe/
- Santamarina, R., Caldicott, D., Fitzgerald, J., & Schumann, J. L. (2024). Drug-related deaths at Australian music festivals. International Journal of Drug Policy, 123, 104274. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2023.104274
- Lambert, H. R. (2024, January 24). Open-air drug use, overdoses push Democrats to introduce overhaul of first-in-the-nation decriminalization law. Fox News. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/open-air-drug-use-overdoses-push-democrats-introduce-overhaul-first-nation-decriminalization-law
- I Went On A Guided Mushroom Trip To Process My Divorce. (2024, January 25). Scary Mommy. https://www.scarymommy.com/lifestyle/guided-mushroom-trip-process-divorce
- Healthcare, I. (2024, January 18). Incannex Completes Dosing and Therapy in Phase 2 “PsiGAD” Clinical Trial Assessing Psilocybin-assisted Psychotherapy for Generalized Anxiety Disorder; Data Analysis Commences. GlobeNewswire News Room. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2024/01/18/2811524/0/en/Incannex-Completes-Dosing-and-Therapy-in-Phase-2-PsiGAD-Clinical-Trial-Assessing-Psilocybin-assisted-Psychotherapy-for-Generalized-Anxiety-Disorder-Data-Analysis-Commences.html