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We are now in the middle of the first psychedelic resurgence since the last bout of research in the 60’s and 70’s led by legends of the psychedelic movement like Dr. Stan Grof at Harvard. This resurgence is taking place on two fronts: Firstly, following promising results from Imperial College’s Psidep 1 study into the use of Psilocybin, the active ingredient in Magic Mushrooms, to treat treatment-resistant depression; there has been a host of studies around the world at leading universities like Harvard investigating many other compounds as well as Psilocybin like famous rave drug MDMA and horse tranquilliser Ketamine. This is an odd turn of events for compounds that have been systematically demonised by governments and accused of worsening mental health conditions.

Secondly, we are seeing a a massive increase in the participation of Ahyuasca rituals, whose active ingredient is DMT, one of the most hallucinogenic compounds in the world, to the point that it has become a fashion among the funky philosophical Burning Man style community.

The world of medicine and personal transformation seem to be converging. But we need a specialist to clarify the details here before we get ahead of ourselves.

So who better to help us navigate this new territory than assistant psychologist on Imperial’s most recent psilocybin study, Ashleigh Murphy Beiner.


Ashleigh Murphy-Beiner is a Trainee Clinical Psychologist and Mindfulness Practitioner. She is a member of the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London. She is also a scientific researcher and has published research investigating the therapeutic use of ayahuasca. Her research has found changes in mindfulness and cognitive flexibility after ayahuasca use which both play a role in psychological wellbeing. 

What we discuss in this episode: 

00:00 Inequality and suffering and how to deal with that experience 

05:20 Victor Frankel and thriving from the fundamental quest for human meaning 

06:20 Psychedelics, sense of purpose and the journey inside

07:49 Treatment resistant depression, ruminating about the past and social disconnection  

11:00 Research in the 50’s and 60’s on psychedelics for addiction and depression

14:00 Psychedelics reduce rumination (DMN) and increase plasticity

16:00 Mazatec and North American Indian traditions of healing using hallucinogens 

17:30 Plants have their own agency in the indigenous worldview

18:30 Imperial Colleges 2nd Psilocybin Study for depression explained

21:00 The importance of double ‘blind’ features of a study to combat the experimenter effect

26:50 Measuring qualitative changes through questionnaires

28:00 The results and how they compared to Psidep1, the first study 

31:00 No magic answer to long-term effectiveness challenges against Depression

33:00 ‘Restoring a quality of life’ despite persistent depression symptoms

34:12 Dr. Rosalind Watts’ ACE (Accept, Connect, Embody) Model of treatment and post traumatic growth

36:30 Avoidance to acceptance, and disconnection from others, themselves and the world to connection to those things

39:00 Embody: allowing yourself to feel the pain

43:30 Yohann Hari and the wider systemic issues of inequality leading to depression

45:30 How it feels to publish your first scientific paper

46:00 Ashleigh’s study of Ahyuasca’s effects on cognition

49:00 The commercialisation of Ahyuasca and reciprocity 

53:00 Common threads of between Ahyuasca, NDE and psilocybin experiences

56:20 The value of studying altered states of consciousness 

1:00:00 Evidence that trauma is stored in the body  




Victor Frankel

Dr. Gabor Mate documentary ‘The wisdom of trauma’

Yohann Hari Lost Connections

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