Drug Ethnography and Clinical Trials: Designing a Psilocybin Therapy Protocol
Brian T. Anderson
The University of California San Francisco is preparing to conduct a clinical trial of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for psychological distress in People Living with HIV. This trial will include group psychotherapy with individual oral psilocybin treatment sessions. The protocol design was in part inspired by the results of ethnographic research with ayahuasca religions and other new religious movements. The importance of social support in minimizing the risks and maximizing the benefits of intensive spiritual rituals is well known from anthropological research with religious communities. Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy was frequently administered in a group format during eras when this clinical practice was more widely permitted. However, current research in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy has so far not included trials of group psychotherapy. This talk will address the history of psychedelic-assisted group psychotherapy, barriers to conducting psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy trials in groups, potential benefits of conducting this research in groups, and how insights from ethnographic research with entheogenic communities and other religious movements may inform further clinical research with psychedelics.
Brian T. Anderson is a psychiatry resident at the University of California San Francisco. He is part of a research team that is preparing to conduct UCSF’s first clinical trial of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Brian has also been a member of the Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP) since 2006. Over the past decade he has conducted ethnographic research with ayahuasca religions, 12-Step recovery groups, and other communities of substance users in North America, South America and Europe.