10 Things I Learned From Psychedelic Science 2023

The week of July 19, 2023, brought more than 12,000 people to Denver, Colorado, for the biggest -- ever -- psychedelic conference. Besides the many conference attendees, there were about 500 speakers and 300 exhibitors... and all we took over the Colorado Convention Center.

The message expressed on every floor and in every corner of the conference screamed: The psychedelics space is booming and here's how to get involved.

The event was presented by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)... this nonprofit, founded in 1986, specializes in research and education related to psychedelics and cannabis. According to its website: "Our work develops medical, legal, and cultural shifts so people can benefit from the careful use of psychedelics and marijuana for mental health, well-being, and connection."

This piece is partly my integration from the experience -- but the benefit to you in sharing my insights from the conference is so you can incorporate and integrate them into your life.

To paraphrase the opening remarks of Rick Doblin, the founder and former executive director of MAPS... We're not tripping -- culture is tripping.

Psychedelic medicines will soon be a major healing modality for many; they may include non-hallucinogenic versions as well as traditional plant medicines. The delivery is still debated -- but three models remain: the therapy model, where psychedelics are administered by a trained therapist; the free market or decriminalized model, where people can find their own medicine safely; and the church method, where the psychedelics are used as part of a sacrament.

The entire Psychedelic Science 2023 (PS2023) experience was surreal -- from living with the sheer volume of humanity roaming the convention center to the number of people wanting to connect/hug/share.

Here Are My 10 Takeaways from PS2023

1. Net-Zero Trauma by 2070. While MAPS is still focused on its immediate goal of securing MDMA approval by the FDA for therapeutic use, I absolutely jumped for joy when Rick Doblin announced the long-term goal of MAPS is to help the world be close to net-zero trauma by 2070. There will always be new trauma, but if we can tackle eliminating all the childhood and intergenerational trauma during the next several decades, the world will be a MUCH healthier place... and as Ran "HealingSeed.World" Hansen, this is in perfect alignment with my mission.

2. So Many Voices, So Many Stories. The coolest part of this conference was the number of voices sharing their research, their experiences, their wares, their stories. We had people sharing from EVERY community -- whether it was a detailed scientific study of psilocybin's effects on the brain to veterans and first responders sharing their stories, to Indigenous peoples imparting their sacred experiences to artists showcasing their wares.

3. The Wildest Part of the Conference was... the Weather. While this conference was different from the many professional conferences I have attended -- mainly because of the number of hugs and sharing of healing stories -- there was no one encouraging participants to turn on, tune in, drop out; instead, the wildest part of the conference was the crazy thunder, hail, and rainstorms we encountered that week.

4. There Were True Rock Stars at the Conference. Among the throngs of people in attendance, there were numerous celebrity sightings -- and I am not talking about Aaron Rogers or Melissa Etheridge or even Michael Pollan or Hamilton Morris, all of whom were in attendance. I am talking about the real people changing lives... we had Rick Doblin, Paul Staments, Dennis McKenna, Jesse Gould, Justin LaPree, Juliana Mercer, E. Matthew ("Whiz") Buckley, and Dr. Roland Griffiths.

5. Psychedelics Can/Should Cross Party Lines... Transcend Politics. While so much in our lives seems to have a political component to it, it is wonderful to think (and hope) that this amazing healing modality can be embraced by everyone, regardless of political party. That message was reinforced by opening messages from current Colorado governor, Democrat Jared Polis, as well as former Texas governor, Republican Rick Perry. (Of course, it took the story of an injured Navy SEAL to change Perry's mind, but the key here is we should ALL be able to rally around healing.)

6. I Never Knew So Many Mushroom Companies Existed. Not going to exaggerate here in stating that it seemed about a third of ALL the exhibitors were mushroom-related. Going down one LONG aisle in the exhibit hall brought companies offering functional mushrooms, botanical mushrooms, microdosing mushrooms, and mushroom grow kits. Just as real mushrooms grow through the mycelium (the root-like structure of mushrooms), the acceptance and use of all mushrooms -- psychedelic and functional -- is growing exponentially.

7. Psychedelics Are Increasingly Attracting Business Interests. I was bemused, but not surprised, to see a number of marketing and business analytics companies in attendance. The psychedelic industry is still in its infancy, but the sharks are already in the water and just about everyone in the industry expects major money and big companies to make moves over the next few years. And for those many, many psychedelic start-ups, business consulting experience may be handy.

8. So Many Therapists Are Psychedelically-Curious. The biggest surprise of the conference for me was the sheer volume of psychedelically-curious therapists wondering if these amazing medicines might benefit their practice -- and just how that might happen. Of course, right now ketamine is legal, and so that was one topic of interest... but many more were interested in either MDMA or psilocybin -- both hopefully to be rescheduled and approved for therapy by the FDA over the next few years.

9. More Donors Are Stepping Into Psychedelics. While hundreds of millions of dollars have poured into the psychedelics space -- through donations to the many nonprofits like MAPS and from venture capitalists and other investors supporting start-ups -- two new donations were announced during the week of the conference. First, the founder of Toms Shoes, Blake Mycoskie, pledged $100 million to psychedelic research, partly based on his own psychedelic experience (with Ayahuasca) that he says: "Cracked me open, and it connected me more to my faith in God, made me feel that we were all connected and everything was fine and perfect." It was also announced that the owner of the NY Mets baseball team, Steve Cohen, is donating $5 million for MDMA research specifically.

10. We Still Have Major Hurdles With Psychedelics. While many of us were hugging and trying to stay grounded, sharing healing stories and the sheer joy of meeting in person, we realize that the psychedelic industry still has some major hurdles, including:

  • Rescheduling of psychedelic medicines. Currently, almost all psychedelics are listed as the most dangerous, with no medical applications -- which we know is patently false; the move to make psychedelics illegal was purely political. Rescheduling will be required for the therapeutic use of psychedelics.

  • Legalization/Decriminalization. About half the population supports the legalization of psychedelics, and for true healing to happen, psychedelics HAVE to be available safely -- and that will not happen in a black or underground market. Somewhat related is the question of whether these activities will take place at the regional, state, or national levels.

  • Therapists and Licensing Boards. While many therapists are at least interested -- if not ready to start -- adding psychedelics to their practices, they cannot do so until the licensing bodies add psychedelics as approved therapies.

  • Insurance Coverage. As the psychedelic therapy model moves forward, the issue of coverage by insurance companies becomes a central topic of concern; many health insurance policies barely cover mental health now, so covering psychedelics will take a major paradigm shift.

  • Costs and Access. While so-called magic mushrooms grow all over the world, most people do not have access to any psychedelics -- unless they have a "connection" or are harvesting their own. And regardless of whether the product is legal or illegal, costs will play a major role. Providing access to all is critical.

  • Facilitators and Guides. As psychedelics expand into the public sphere, so do the number of people claiming to be safe guides and healers. There's much debate about the amount of training and experience needed to become facilitators and guides for others.

Final Thoughts About Psychedelic Science 2023

The greatest part of the convention was sharing it with my partner, Jenny Hansen, who is the voice of reason and ethical standards within the industry -- and whom many adore. The second greatest part of the convention was the giving and receiving of hugs. Never before in my life, have I experienced the number and degree of hugs... true expressions of joy and love. (Best hug award goes to Diego Ugalde.)

There is so much potential for psychedelics, for helping people find healing, for true personal and spiritual transformation... and this conference embraced it all. We can find true healing -- and perhaps find our true selves for the first time since we were innocent children -- through the intentional and careful use of psychedelics AND a lengthy (lifelong) integration period.

One final note. I cannot discuss the conference without trying to explain the "trippy" Deep Space section of the conference, sponsored by Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, a major supporter of healing through psychedelics. This space was filled with "psychedelic" and "Burning Man" type experiences and artwork. There's no way to explain it, other than to say it was unique and fun.

If you're curious about how psychedelics may help you or a loved one, please check out one or more of the following articles in the next section.

Learn More About Psychedelics

Dr. Randall Hansen is an advocate, educator, mentor, ethicist, and thought-leader... helping the world heal from past trauma. He is founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com.

He is the author of the groundbreaking Triumph Over Trauma: Psychedelic Medicines are Helping People Heal Their Trauma, Change Their Lives, and Grow Their Spirituality and the well-received HEAL! Wholeistic Practices to Help Clear Your Trauma, Heal Yourself, and Live Your Best Life.

Dr. Hansen's focus and advocacy center around true healing ... healing that results in being able to live an authentic life filled with peace, joy, love. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.