#32 Foghorn Leghorn | Matthew W. Johnson, Ph. D.

August 17, 2021
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Based on a thorough review of known risks of psychedelics, Dr. Johnson helped to resurrect psychedelic research by publishing psychedelic administration safety guidelines in 2008. He’s also an advisor to Field Trip on the development of the novel synthetic psychedelic molecule, FT-104. Dr. Johnson joins Ronan to discuss his experience of conducting blind studies of psychoactive substances (including salvinorin A), his favorite new and classic psychedelic books, what makes a good trip guide, and more! Dr. Johnson is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University.He is an internationally recognized expert on medicinal plants, alternative medicine, and the reform of medical education. Dr. Weil joins Ronan to discuss integrative mental health, the application of psychedelics in our future, the war on drugs, and more. Plus, he shares insightful lessons from the past that could benefit the success of the modern psychedelic movement.

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[00:00:00] Matthew: To laugh hysterically, to cry like a baby- and maybe none of that stuff happens. And that's fine too. It's not like you're supposed to have any of these things. But often, like, one might find themselves in those terrains, but to completely embrace it. Go deeply into it and explore that meaning. And so the ability of a good guide is one to create that environment.

[00:00:25] Ronan: Hello everyone, and welcome to Field Tripping. Today, our guest is a brilliant man with tremendous insight into the world of psychedelics, Dr. Matthew Johnson. We are super excited to be speaking with him, but before we hop into that conversation, let's hit up some news to trip over. 

A new bill, H.R. 4502, directs the [00:01:00] National Institute of Health to undertake and fund psychedelic research. Much of the research done so far has been funded by philanthropy, as federal agencies have largely avoided involvement in psychedelics despite spending nearly a billion dollars on PTSD research. If the bill passes, it's likely that a surge of funding from the NIH will vastly accelerate psychedelic research. This reflects a huge shift in the government's perception of these powerful molecules. 

The California bill, S.B. 519, that would decriminalize psychedelics in California and create a path towards legalization is continuing to advance. Now with added limits on the amount of psychedelic substances that can be possessed by any individual. The group Decriminalize Nature has expressed concerns with such limits, requesting that the bill be tabled until 2022 to allow time "to educate the elected officials instead of setting limits on amount of natural plants and fungi, which threatens people in marginalized communities of color." Which raises the question of whether great should be the [00:02:00] enemy of good as it pertains to psychedelics. In that battle, I'll pick good every day of the week because standards of morality are ever-changing and thus represent an unattainable target, whereas the benefits of legalizing or at least decriminalizing psychedelics can be realized immediately. 

Two organizations in Canada have, or have announced plans to submit to the Canadian Government proposed regulatory frameworks to facilitate the legalization of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes. The nonprofit TheraPsil submitted a proposal last week. And the Canadian Psychedelic Association, of which Field Trip is a founding member, plans to submit a memorandum of regulatory analysis or a "MORA" this week. Unfortunately in its effort to try and control the narrative, TheraPsil's MORA has been described as "if it was pulled together in a rush. Repetitions, lack of precision in terms or in references to regulations... really not a great public image of TheraPsil. It was not even proof-read properly." Which just goes to show [00:03:00] you despite the promise of psychedelics for ego dissolution, they aren't a magic cure-all. 

Finally a study was carried out by the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University and Erowid. The groups dug through reports of classic psychedelic use to see how people on mood stabilizers respond to these drugs. They found that almost half of the people who are taking the mood stabilizing drug lithium reported seizures during their psychedelic experiences. This research is still preliminary, but the frequency of these reports is alarming and suggest that classic psychedelic use may be particularly risky for people who are taking lithium. It should be noted that this negative drug interaction has not been observed with ketamine, which is what we currently use in our Field Trip health centers, and lithium. 

And now onto our conversation with Dr. Matt Johnson. Matt is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University. He is one of the world's most published scientists on the human effects of psychedelics and has conducted seminal [00:04:00] research into the behavioral economics of drug use, addiction, and risk behavior. Dr. Johnson has been interviewed widely by media about psychedelics and other drugs, acting as a reliable resource for informed insights on the matter. And we are thrilled to be adding to that list. Matt, thank you for joining us today, and welcome to Field Tripping. 

[00:04:20] Matthew: Ronan, pleasure to be with you, man. 

[00:04:23] Ronan: Thank you for being here. Now, before we hop into the conversation, a couple of points for full disclosure. First, Matt is an advisor to Field Trip and has provided guidance to our Chief Science Officer, Dr. Nathan Bryson, on the development of FT-104. For our listeners, FT-104 is a next-generation psychedelic molecule that is being developed by Field Trip for ultimately FDA approvals. We are currently in the preclinical stages with FT-104, but hope to start human trials early next year. I'm by no means objective here, but I think is one of the most exciting psychedelic molecules in development, because it basically mimics [00:05:00] psilocybin and both in terms of subjective experience and objective receptor binding in the brain, but with half the trip time, which makes it more clinically and medically useful and accessible. Second point of full disclosure, I had the pleasure of meeting Matt at a conference in Vancouver in late 2019. He had the misfortune of sitting next to me at dinner, and even though I probably peppered him with half of these questions there, my brain is like Swiss cheese, so these answers will probably be brand new to me. So, Matt, first question, and be honest, what was your impression of Field Trip when you first had the misfortune of sitting next to me at that dinner?

[00:05:37] Matthew: I re- oh, that's a great question. I think I- I'm trying to remember whether I had- I believe I had had come across it, but just barely before that point. And it was sort of like, Oh yeah, I think I've read about the company. But I think curiosity of [00:06:00] what, what exactly the, you know, the focus was. Because this was at a time where, you know, a year before that it was, you know, a psychedelic company was an unheard of, you know? Like, what do you mean? Like I just assumed this was always like, you know, gonna remain in the ivory tower and, you know, like it, the whole idea that there would be a any sort of a commercial model around it was, was not something that really was, you know, in the air, you know? And so this was, you know, so a lot of curious- curiosity, like, okay, what's the, you know, what's the what's this about? And the name itself is just like, you know, really intriguing. Like it, you know, like I'm imagining a field and, you know you know, maybe there's some cow patties in that field [laughter] growing some interesting fungi. But yeah, yeah, yeah. Just sort of like, I think you know, sort of an interest in and [00:07:00] delight in the fact that there was this kind of increasing interest broadly in, you know, developing, you know, psychedelics as medicine. 

[00:07:07] Ronan: Cool. Thank you. That's a, that's a good answer. I had actually written down say, all right, you might be a great scientist, but you're a terrible liar, but that was actually a very sincere answer so I don't actually have to use that line. You know, thinking back to that first meeting, you know, I, I don't know if I presented well, like I knew I had, like, I knew anything at all, but I can tell you with the benefit of almost two years of experience since then, I can tell you with [certainty], I didn't know jack shit then, and the fact that people stopped and listened to me and gave me time, like you gave me time, and Lars from Compass was there and he gave me time- I really appreciate that and respect that- and, you know, I'm glad I've been able to develop the foundation of a friendship with both you and Lars. Even though we don't get to connect too often, I do have an incredible amount of respect for you and the, and the work you've done. So, on that note- 

[00:07:56] Matthew: Thank you.

[00:07:57] Ronan: -you have done incredible work across a number of [00:08:00] fields, particularly drugs, including psychedelics. What made you embark on this field into psychotropic drugs? You know, it looks like your research crosses a whole spectrum of drugs and their implications, but would love to know why you chose to embark on this path personally, because I can imagine at various times in your career, people probably told you that it was career suicide to study these particular molecules. Maybe not, maybe I'm just kind of projecting, but I can't imagine there hasn't been at least someone who told you to tread carefully, but you've continued down this path and have done incredible things as a result, so curious to know how you got on it in the first place. 

[00:08:38] Matthew: Yeah, there were definitely some dire warnings. You're not, you're not imagining that. And probably, yeah, more, definitely more strongly stated than what you had- the way you phrased it. Yeah. Like "what the hell are you thinking, dude? Like you've got these promising trajectory." So, I mean kind of backing up, I would say just sort of, I, I got- [00:09:00] I like to say I got hooked on drugs really early. [laughter] I mean a fascination with just all things drug, and I really, I want to emphasize, like, this really goes beyond psychedelics. I mean, that's the foundation, just the, the idea that all of these like compounds interact with the, the nervous system to have these interesting effects on the mind. So I mean, it, everything from caffeine, alcohol, you know, cocaine, you know, so legal, illegal. The idea that, that, you know, you can kind of, you know, throw some of these molecules into a person's bloodstream and then it affects the way they think in these very peculiar ways. I mean, that whole area, again, broadly defined across all of these drug classes, is just fascinating to me- and including the good, the bad, the ugly. And certainly there's a lot of bad and ugly for a [00:10:00] number of the drugs that I've mentioned, you know? There's also, you know, some good and, and you get into interesting territory when you get into some of the more, relatively speaking, more dangerous, you know, compounds in different respects. But, you know, there's you know, these things were all powerful tools. And so, you know, they, I became fascinated- a big part of this was fascinated by addiction and in my academic work, I became really fascinated by the commonalities across various addictions. I was always more interested in the things in common between different forms of addiction, whether it's tobacco or alcohol or cocaine or opioids, you know? What unites them? You know, why do we call it addiction? What is the psychology of that? And also the biology that underlies that psychology. So that's the backdrop. And then I, I like to say if you're, if you're interested in the effects of drugs [00:11:00] on the mind, which I am, and that's, you know, a name for the field that I'm in is psychopharmacology, this kind of broad, you know, study of psychoactive drugs. If you're in that field and you're not interested in the psychedelics, particularly, then I have to conclude you probably don't know much about the psychedelics because, I mean, my word, if you're interested in the effect of drugs on the mind, like psychedelics are the most interesting class of compounds I can think of, and just all of these vectors that lead to this conclusion, you know, that they're so fascinating. I mean, historical- I mean, more than historical- prehistorical, you know, evidence of sacramental use of these compounds. You have just the- and the things that I learned about when I was coming of age in my teen years, and then early adulthood- the, you know, the social [00:12:00] upheavals of the 1960s and the role that, and the association, that psychedelics played in that. You know, meeting people in, oftentimes from those older generations that, that came through the sixties and later, saying, you know, hey, that psychedelic- doing psychedelics changed their lives. And then you come across accounts of scientists, and gosh, we get into the arts, it just- anecdotes abound of folks that said there was, you know, they did this thing sometimes only one, one or two times, and it profoundly changed who they are as a person in important ways, and they're telling you this decades later, I mean- 

[00:12:41] Ronan: Yeah.

[00:12:42] Matthew: I mean, I think of the, you know, there was the Beatles before and after LSD. I mean, there is a difference there. So that- the biology of how in the world that these types of experiences, at the most profound kind of base levels of conceptions [00:13:00] of reality and who one is in that reality and orientation toward that reality, that that can be changed acutely. And that people can- whether or not we can validate the insights themselves scientifically- the idea that people fairly routinely enter into states, these, call it what you will, transcendental, mystical, spiritual states where people intuitively come upon these what are claimed to be truths that have been espoused in various traditions for sometimes thousands of years. The idea that people can orient towards those philosophical points by this, you know, sort of crash course in a few hours because of this sort of monkey wrench in the nervous system. I mean, everything about psychedelics is just absolutely fascinating. The dark side is fascinating- the history with Charles Manson, the CIA, I mean, yeah, it, you know, if you explained this to someone who's naive, they think you're just making it up. Like, this is conspiracy theory, like extreme, like non true [00:14:00] conspiracy theory stuff. And it's like, no, like some of the craziest stuff in our history has happened with these psychedelics compounds. So just, yeah, the vectors that pull you in just come from every, every angle from my perspective. 

[00:14:15] Ronan: Totally. I have the pleasure of being friends with Paul Saltzman, who produced a documentary, cause he had the experience of being in India when the Beatles were in India and he happened to stumble upon actually- he made it an, an attention to go to the place they were studying with the Maharaji. And got let in. He didn't know the Beatles were there. He just happened to be there at the same time and they spent a week Beatles. 

[00:14:39] Matthew: Wow.

[00:14:40] Ronan: So you can sort of see- I don't know how much LSD factored into their actual work at the time, but you can see LSD had factored into their presence there. And the stories around the Maharaji- you know, they gave the, I think the Maharaji LSD or, or maybe it was Ram Dass was talking about that, and like the Maharaj he had like no effect on it. Anyways, it's, it's super [00:15:00] fascinating. And for a couple of the other points that you touched on, if anyone wants to do some reading and I don't know what books you'd point to, but here are two that I think are relevant: for historic and prehistoric use of psychedelics, The Immortality Key is a fascinating book, and I don't know if you've had a chance to read that one, but I thought that was great. 

[00:15:17] Matthew: Absolutely.

[00:15:19] Ronan: And then Chaos which was about Richard Manson and the CIA. 

[00:15:22] Matthew: Read that too.

[00:15:23] Ronan: I had a feeling you might have, but they're fascinating books. So for anyone listening, who's interested in exploring those areas of exploration, those are two books to take a look at. Any other books that come to mind, actually that you'd recommend while we're on the topic?

[00:15:36] Matthew: Yeah, sure. And I just want to highlight that those are, those are, you know, top recent recommendations. I mean, I've recommended those to numerous individuals recently, personally. And the way I characterize it, as you know, there's a lot of a lot of psychedelic books and other material where there's understandably a regurgitation of the same old stuff and maybe you haven't come across it in five other books. So [00:16:00] hey, no problem with regurgitating it. People tell things in their own way, but there's a dearth of like truly new information, and oh my word, so both of those books- you know, Brian Murkowski's or Maresca, he's got a hard name to say, Brian Muraresku. Yeah. That's I think I did a better job with it. It just- it's mind blowing. For folks that may not know the history, there was the hypothesis going back to the 19, to the late seventies, that the kykeon- the sacrament at the heart of the mysteries of Ulysses, span for thousands of years in ancient Greece- the hypothesis that Carl Ruck, a humanities scholar came up with, that this was an LSD, an ergot-derived LSD-like compound that was responsible for these kind of extraordinary ecstatic states that all of these Greek philosophers and others would describe as being the pinnacle of one's life. That this was actually a [00:17:00] psychedelic compound. And it was early derided in, in and you know, in, in scholarly circles and, and you know, Brian really, he, he unearths other investigators who have unearthed evidence that strongly suggests there, there that I would say it's, there's likely truth to this, you know? It's still not conclusive, but there's another site in Spain that what looks very convincingly like a recreation link. There was a dissemination and they found these ergot compounds in the chalices and, you know, preparation materials for this sort of like mock ceremony that had probably been set up by, you know, initiates that kind of, you know, it took the sacrament to their own culture and migrated with it, strongly suggesting that there was some truth there. And then the Chaos book, my word. What a story there with- I mean, tying together pieces that- there's a bit of a dissatisfaction of not knowing [00:18:00] exactly, exactly what happened. So for example, the question of whether the CIA was behind Charles Manson, like that maybe Manson was a part of their experimentation, and they were kind of sitting back and watching what would unfold with his- I think the author though, does a good job in framing it accurately, like that he never came upon conclusive proof of this. And he actually, he wrestled over this in terms of when to release the book, cause it started out a mag as a magazine article, like what, 25 years or 30 years ago. And he just became obsessed and it became his life. And he never- he finally had to publish something and, and resist the kind of- his instincts were to hold onto it until until he had conclusive proof of everything and so, you know, he didn't have that, but he released what he had. And I think it's- it suggests that something was there, that all of these [00:19:00] fascinating connections that are just- and I think he did a really good job laying out for the public that the author of the supposedly definitive account of the Manson murders was just, you know, basically full of shit, in his book about the, about the whole affair. So yeah, other books. Gosh, I really like Don Lattin's "Distilled Spirits," I think also in that category of, that's not regurgitated history, he really, you know, he focuses on characters like Gerald Heard, who really was, you know, was buddies with Aldous Huxley, which of course more people know about, but this whole constellation of them and Bill Wilson really behind this, this so much of what we call the modern spiritual, but not religious movement. They had strong ties and sort of like the, the prehistory of the Esalen Institute. Just absolutely fascinating history that as far as I know, you don't really get anywhere else. And then some [00:20:00] sort of classics "Storming Heaven" by Jay Stevens. "Acid Dreams" by Lee and Shlain. And those sort of were some of the originals that had been regurgitated many times, but it's well worth going to those and reading that history in those.

[00:20:16] Ronan: Cool. I have now expanded my reading list. Don Lattin actually had the misfortune of being the first ever guest on this podcast. When I did- if I didn't know what I was doing two years ago when I met you in Vancouver, I certainly didn't know anything last April when we had Don Lattin on this podcast, but he was a very good sport, so I will happily take a look at "Distilled Spirits" because I did read "The Harvard Psychedelic Club" as a way to have a good foundation [going] into it. Cool. Well, I will add those to my reading list. You touched on this already, I think, but I'm going to just repose it to you cause I think it's an interesting question. What is the most interesting drug you've come across in your career? You've certainly touched on psychedelics and that may be the answer. And if you want to narrow in, on a [00:21:00] specific psychedelic, that's cool. If there's other drugs that you think are really fascinating that we're not talking about, I'd love to hear your thoughts on that too.

[00:21:06] Matthew: So three come to mind. Think, you know, go big or go home. So I think of DMT, I think of 5-Methoxy DMT, and I think of salvinorin A. Just, you know, extremely powerful. These are all compounds that can be smoked or vaporized, and people just report the most otherworldly experiences with all of these compounds, in different ways. And we conducted at Hopkins, the first blinded controlled rigorous research that showed, you know, psychoactive effects of salvinorin A. So that was fascinating to have people vaporize, you know, this pure compound and at the higher doses, interact with entities- subjectively of course- we can't verify, can neither confirm nor deny the existence of those entities, but it's quite fascinating that people have those types of experiences. [00:22:00] And then gosh, what people say about the DMT experiences and 5-Methoxy DMT experiences. In the smoked or vaporized form is just, it's typically at another order of magnitude beyond what people say about the other psychedelics, as fascinating as, you know, the typical psychedelics are. 

[00:22:21] Ronan: They are. How do you successfully blind a study with psychedelics? That's one of the questions that I seem to encounter often and, you know, I guess if you're not as concerned about the placebo effect, it's not as problematic, but yeah. Just curious how you blind a study with salvinorin. 

[00:22:39] Matthew: So in that study, we gave 17 active doses of salvinorin A and intermixed- and it was in a strict ascending run-up, cause this was one of the earliest human trials. And so we, as a safety feature, we only, within each person, ran up in dose, across sections- across sessions, even though the, [00:23:00] the participants didn't know that, they, as far as they knew it could have been in any order, but in reality, it went in a strict ascending order and we interspersed four placebos, which was, in that case, just hot air. There was nothing and it's- in terms of the taste of the compound, it's more credible to actually blind the, the mouth feel and taste of the compound with salvinorin A, cause you're talking about such small amounts. It's- it would be more difficult of course, with DMT where you need a good anywhere from 30 to 50 milligrams. Salvinorin A, I mean, we're talking to the doses, we administered range from about 25 micrograms to about two milligrams. So- or 2000 micrograms. And so this is just like a, a tiny amount of powder kind of stuck to the side of this bottom of this vial that we vaporized it in. You know, not very visible. Now in terms of the subjective effects, you know, that sort of fell into the category where, you know, you can do research there with psychedelics and use a true [00:24:00] placebo like a sugar pill, or like, you know, saline if it's IV, or like hot air if it's inhaled, you can use a true placebo. And there is still some value in that, even though at the higher doses, yes, there's certainly functional cutting through of the blind. Nonetheless, if it's the person cutting through themselves without the verification of, of the people that are administering it. If the people who are administering it and who are interacting with them during the experience are blinded to the conditions, then there is still value, you know in, in going through those double blind or, or even single blind procedures, you know? Because you're, you know, anything that the person says about the compound is still coming from their best guess, even if they're correct about the compound, it's not coming as a reflection from the environment, from the investigators. And the other things you can do as an active use, an active comparitor compound, like some of the older work at Hopkins used a high dose of [00:25:00] methylphenidate, known as Ritalin as a comparitor, a compound that at least seemed like it did a decent job in fooling some people who had never taken psychedelics before. So you can do various things. And I do think that, you know, some of the most interesting- that double-blind is a necessary evil. I mean, that might be overstating it. There's no such thing as the perfect experiment. There's always limitations to one method versus another. Double-blind is really important because you don't want- particularly with the development of medications- I mean, you don't want, you know, snake oil, you don't want something with no pharmacological activity to, you know, be sold, you know, with people being duped into doing something that has no basis, and where it's actually, you know doing something, for example, in this case, in the brain. Now with psychedelics, we know that they absolutely do things in the brain that kind of th th the real, and that's fair- we have a lot to [00:26:00] figure out more, but in terms of initial pathways and what's going on, like, we know a lot about that now. You know, there's more questions about like, well, to what degree the long- the real questions are- to what degree the long-term outcomes are based on expectancy effects, you know, or a placebo effect. Broadly speaking, I think there's a lot of value in having comparative efficacy studies, you know, not just blinded studies. Those are a very strong compliment. And ultimately your answers as a scientist are gonna come from, I think, triangulating across different types of designs. No one design is the perfect design. So people should keep in mind when you do a double blind study with psychedelics- and I've done, you know, I've, I've been in, you know, over a hundred sessions with psychedelic compounds as a guide, you know, under double blind conditions- and people should realize you are modeling something really weird. That's not modeling what will go on in a clinical context. Like here you've prepared the person, this could be one of the most intense experiences of your life. It could be, you know, an indescribably [00:27:00] beautiful, but it could also be one of the most terrifying experiences of your life. You might feel that your entire being is being ripped to shreds and that you're dead, and that you're going permanently insane. You tell them all this stuff and they still go ahead and do it, and they're trusting you. And, and they're in this session and nothing- and under double-blind conditions- and, oh yeah, you might also just get bored stiff. I mean, this isn't the way I tell them that, but I mean, obviously someone's paying attention. Like this is the reality. Yeah. You could be bored stiff. And even though there's the encouragement, even if it turns out, if you think it might be a placebo, just- it's about the experience, try to get the most out of the experience, we're going to support you through it. Nonetheless, you know, you're modeling something really weird where people, you know, after an hour, so it goes by, and then people realize yeah, nothing's going on. This is just going to be a day of laying on the couch with some professionals checking on me, which can, which can be introspective and helpful for sure. But they realize, no, this isn't the real thing. So it's just weird. You're not going to have that in [00:28:00] a true therapeutic setting where this could be the most intense, one of the most intense experiences, or it could be absolutely nothing and you're just going to sit here, you know, laying on a couch for six hours. So you're modeling something really bizarre. And so I think, yeah there is value in doing what I call comparative efficacy studies, which are, which is the typical way you, where you compare new psychotherapies, which can't be blinded, you know? So a new type of CBT cognitive behavioral therapy, or some other psychological intervention. You know, what you typically do is you randomize people to undergo the novel treatment or a known standard,- some other treatment for the same disorder- and you simply randomize people and see what, see what works better. And I think that's a very powerful lens with psychedelics that actually models what's going to happen- what you're going to see in the therapeutic realm outside of research, much, much better. Of course you need double blind studies to, to get something approved by the FDA as a medicine. And I'm not critiquing the need for that, but [00:29:00] again, we need all of the above. 

[00:29:02] Ronan: For sure. One of my favorite conversations that I've had since getting into the psychedelics industry was actually with you in Vancouver. We were talking about how sometimes people have these incredibly profound breakthroughs and, you know, and in a single session. And then sometimes they don't have any really meaningful experiences. And I think you described one participants in an experiment having seen Foghorn Leghorn in his trip or her trip. And I'm like, that's what we're going to call sessions that don't lead to breakthroughs. They're going to be called Foghorn Leghorns or a Foghorn, still one of my favorite conversations. 

[00:29:36] Matthew: [laughter] One of my favorite volunteers, like, yeah, yeah. I remember it so well. And I remember telling you, and yeah, it's, it was Foghorn Leghorn in a dust bowl environment, like in the Midwest and sort of like, yeah. Dust storms. And there was that little, the female chicken that was in love with Foghorn Leghorn. She was there. [laughter]You know, [00:30:00] just wierd 

[00:30:01] Ronan: A reminder. Yeah. Just to reminder that psychedelics don't always lead to life-affirming, or life-changing revelations. Sometimes they just take you back to old school cartoons, which couldn't be played anymore because you know, the, the, the racial undertones of so many of those cartoons are not socially acceptable anymore, but you know, as a kid in the early eighties, they were fantastic to watch for me. 

[00:30:24] Matthew: Absolutely. 

[00:30:26] Ronan: I'm going to ask you to speculate on this. Just curious to know your thoughts, even though speculation, I guess it's part of the scientific role but, when I'm asked- when I'm speaking to someone unfamiliar with what's going on in psychedelics- I typically say that it seems that psychedelics have three factors that lead to the therapeutic outcomes that we see. You know, especially with the tryptamines' big release of serotonin, which lifts mood. And then there's the emotional processing because very often people are able to, or do visit past traumas, past experiences, see them through a new light. And in that way, it seems like just a [00:31:00] hyper accelerated cognitive behavioral therapy or other forms of therapy where people hit those breakthroughs on an emotional level much faster than they would in traditional therapy. And then there's the 5-HT2A neuroplasticity, you know, brain actually having either healing itself on a, on a neurochemical or neuro biological level that leads to these therapeutic outcomes. And it's probably an interplay of all of these factors that lead to the therapeutic outcomes, but what's your sense? What do you think is really driving this? Cause I know ,Nathan, our Chief Science Officer, sometimes says, Listen, psychedelics may be entirely placebo. Right? Like we know they're doing something in the brain, but we don't actually know that that's something in the brain is leading to the mental health improvements that we're seeing. It may just be all the emotional placebo effects, but it's really hard to suss that out right now. So I'm curious to know what your, your instinct says right now based on everything that you've seen in your career. 

[00:31:54] Matthew: Yeah, my take is very similar to yours. I think there's gotta be multiple things going on. And [00:32:00] my best guess is that it's two big things. You have this intense psychological experience, which has- which can have many facets that are helpful, psychotherapeutically, so the ability to take a different perspective on things. Even if it, it kind of, you know, some of the scrambles perspective and sometimes, and to be honest sometimes, and I think this is dependent on the set and setting in person, but sometimes that can be a delusional way of seeing the world. And it can be a dark- I mean, Charles Manson, I mentioned earlier use this LSD to brainwash people into like, this narrative of a coming race war and convinced them to somehow part of this, they had to go kill these people. So that's obviously a very extreme example on the dark side, but I have no doubt that LSD was part of that brainwashing formula. So it kind of scrambles this, you know, it allows someone to get unstuck from their, their set [00:33:00] perspective on any particular thing and to kind of try on, you know, sort of like going to a, I dunno, a thrift store and just trying on anything, just going crazy for a day. Like maybe you're a guy that doesn't normally wear dresses. Trying on a dress. see what it feels like, you know? Try on a top hat. Try on a like, whatever, just, you know, take on these- and some may fit and some may not, but you know, this kind of like casting the nets wide side of, you know, psychologically, in terms of the experience, including seeing oneself different. And there seems to be a break down of models like these, these heuristics of viewing reality and seeing things kind of outside of those kind of very rigid ways. And we need models and models are good because that's how we operate in the world, but there can be an over-reliance on models. And I, I think the biggest model of them all is the self, the idea that you are a, a separate isolated thing. This is probably something that, you know, our dogs and cats don't- and other [00:34:00] animals- don't have. They're sort of the burden of this kind of very refined sense of self. You know, all of these things, like you know that you're going to die,.You know that you have this- and I think the, so many of the disorders that, that we deal with, for example, depression kind of are very much related to this, this sense of self, this idea that, you know, one can be, you know, one could go to these very dark places and viewing the self as a failure and all of this. And one can step outside of that. And with trauma, you know, to see themselves as, you know, being responsible or seeing themselves as just fundamentally damaged or an evil person. And one could like, again, like trying on different clothes at the thrift store and be like, no, dude, that doesn't make sense. I mean, they can, they can look at themselves the way they could look at another person. Like, my God, no, you're not worthless. Like, it's okay. You're a person. Like, you didn't ask for that to happen to you- with trauma. And you not a fundamental failure. Yeah, you've missed some things up. You've done a lot of great things, like every [00:35:00] other person. It's like, this kind of realistic perspective someone can get into where they can view themselves from fresh eyes. So you have that whole psychological, the psychological, the insights. And then part of that is the, the mystical experience, which includes like having a sense of unity, which I think is one particular way of, of seeing outside of those models of, you know, that sense of interconnectedness with, with the rest of humanity and with, with the universe at large can be very powerful, and in stepping outside of some of those models, like, how can you be imperfect if you are perceiving this like great kind of miracle that is unfolding reality, and you're a part of that, like that goes a long way to, I think, kind of combat the model of, that you're fundamentally inherently, whatever- you know, damaged, flawed you know, evil, et cetera. So you have those insights, but then I think the emerging evidence is really intriguing on the neuroplastic angle that you mentioned. We know [00:36:00] that in the days, following that in rats, that you see these various forms of neuroplasticity unfolding in the days after. My best guess, even though we haven't as a field connected this to the therapeutic effects, my best guess is that the "afterglow" that has been reported- going back, it's just kind of loosey goosey term- I think it's means something real. For folks who have experienced it really feel that it's real. But even though the drug is gone, the person is not tripping the next day, they feel reset, like something is different about them and in this very profound way. And I think part of that are- is this kind of neuroplasticity that's unfolding, there's this kind of greater ability to latch onto new- to form new models, to- and I very much see it as like, sort of, okay, you're acutely escaping the clutches of these kinds of some of these treacherous models. And again, we need models, but some of them, there's a dark [00:37:00] side to particular ones, when they're overdone, you're kind of, you're able to like escape from their grip, but then you have the ability to form new models and the will be new models. And we need to operate on heuristics and, you know, one isn't, you know, tripping on a constant basis throughout life. They wouldn't be able to, you wouldn't be able to cross the street unless you- if you were viewing all of reality with fresh eyes, you'd be staring into your hand as an unfolding miracle in the middle of the street, and you'd get run over by a Mack truck. And it's like, okay, we can't do that. But you form new models and you correct these things. And I think that's unfolding with the help of this neuroplasticity. I, I use the highly scientific term- I think it's a "double whammy" where you get this insightful experience and then you have just jacked up neuroplasticity, which allows you to learn from that potentially insightful experience in the days and weeks following the experience, and then you reestablish a new normal, and that after effect, [00:38:00] after the experience is really key. And that's what you get in and in therapy with the intention and with the support, because sometimes, sometimes it's amazing enough, you have an acute experience that's so profound outside of a therapeutic setting where the person has changed for life. And that does happen. I've done survey research on that. I've talked to plenty of folks where I'm convinced that does happen. There's people that are harmed from those types of experiences as well, but in a therapeutic model, you're really leveraging that ability for that unfolding plasticity to help to remold something new and to, to leverage that experience.

[00:38:38] Ronan: Cool. Thank you for, for the breakdown of that. I think that's very helpful. And I love your, your freewill to use terms like "double whammy" and Foghorn Leghorn. I mean, I say that part in jest, but also in part sincerity, which is too often, the conversations get so rigid around that, and they become impersonable- impersonal and [00:39:00] inaccessible to the average person. And so to speak in a way that people can be like, okay, I get that, even if it means referencing, Press Your Luck, which is the greatest game show that I ever watched. It was a show where they, they had to push a button and like this thing would go all over the screen. And then if you landed on a whammy, you lost all the money so that people would stand there and be like "big bucks, big bucks, no whammies, big bucks." And they'd hit the button. And then if they got a whammy they'd dance across the screen and you'd lose all your money either way. Two more serious questions. You talked about the notion of the self. And I'm always curious about this, and again, I know it's speculation, but because of your experience in the work you've done and your scientific lens, but also just like your human lens, you know, there's, there's one of the key questions that I wrestle with personally is the notion of the materialistic versus the dualistic, which is like, are we the notion of the self, deeply intertwined with our biology or does the notion of the self- the soul, if you want to use that term- exists [00:40:00] outside of the body and the body is just a medium of expression, so to speak. And I'm curious to know your perspectives on that. I know there's no given answer because I think that's the ultimate question to some degree, but based on everything you've seen, where do you land on that conversation? 

[00:40:17] Matthew: Yeah. So we're definitely getting into territory that goes beyond- this is on my person, my human side- as opposed to my scientific side, because scientists aren't human, but all jesting aside, yeah, so taking off my scientific hat, cause I can't- my opinion is in a lot of ways, just as valid as anyone else's cause I can't point to any evidence, but my gut tells me that, you know, I don't like the idea of dualism in that these are separate realms. If there's something and I am skeptical of the idea that- I think many times what people mean by materialism, I think that that there's some real limitations to [00:41:00] kind of viewing experience as sort of generated by material as, as an epi-phenomenon of material processes. We don't really know, like we don't know whether, you know, experience is purely derivative of- like it's caused by- that's what I mean, an epi-phenomenon, it's sort of secondary, you know- the material, the material. I think that there, there is far more meaning in the material than we think there is. I wish I had, you know, better- yeah, there's others that can like really explain this better with the, with the more nuanced philosophical terminology. But I think that there is- that these are like two sides of the same coin. Sort of experience and you know, subjectivity and objectivity rather than separate things. 

[00:41:58] Ronan: Right. 

[00:41:58] Matthew: And I am, I [00:42:00] am interested in and attracted to the idea again, I can't prove it's true, but something in the realm of panpsychism: the idea that phenomenal consciousness, which is sort of the big consciousness, like why is, why is it, why do you feel like anything? Why is there any subjectivity, you know? That, to me, it does strike me as very non parsimonious, like it doesn't pass Occam's razor to assume that you just sort of get to a certain level of complexity if you build a material. Like, the world is completely objective until you build a machine that reaches a certain magical level of complexity, and now all of a sudden there's an inside looking out. Like, I think that can be used to explain the processing of that experience, like clearly our experience and our perception of the world and our conception of ourselves, you know, we can see how that's processed by [00:43:00] the, by the brain in a very particular way. But none of it explains the fact why there is an experience of any type to begin with. So I, I am attracted to that. I I'm attracted the idea of Russellian monism, which refers to the idea that there is a- most of science- that science really explains the objectivity between object- you know, objects in the world, whether it's subatomic particles, whether it's large [inaudible], whether it's like, you know, the way people interact with each other, all of this, like you you're explaining things from an objective viewpoint, but then there's also- those are just the interactions between the things and everything really is depending on interaction. There really is no knowledge in that realm, outside of the interaction of, of anything. It's about, you know, two things have to do something with each other, but then the idea that there is [00:44:00] some level of existence to the thing itself, whether we're talking about a single particle, and maybe that is the heart of the primordial thing that we call consciousness but it's really hard to think about because clearly if that's true, it doesn't seem likely that it's going to be any sort of refined level; anything like what we think of as human consciousness. But just the idea that there is- I think of in terms of what Huxley wrote in "The Doors of Perception" like that there's this quality that sort of exudes from a- from the thing itself like that, like the drapes and the chair, he's like the chairy-ness of the chair. I think he said something like this, like, you know, that there may or may be a, something like an experience in is-ness to the thing itself. And it's probably, if that's true, there's probably not [00:45:00] sort of this defined, like the material and a chair probably isn't coherent in itself so that the chair thinks it's a chair. It's like, you know, probably until you get to like the level of an organism where this sort of the self-contained this conception, that it is a thing. So it's not like, you know, a rock has the consciousness of a rock, but maybe the material within a rock or a chair has some level of existence and presence that has some meaning. I don't know. Yeah, you could probably see why I'm a empirical scientist rather than a philosopher, because I struggled to describe, but those just like personal intuitions. Ultimately, if I'm attracted to that idea, it's because it's- I suspect it may play out to be the most parsimonious and in a way the most naturalistic. I do like the idea of naturalism and would consider myself a naturalist. The idea that if there- some of the stuff that we might call, consider, woo woo [00:46:00] or supernatural, that it really is- if, if it is true, It's just an extension of what the natural world is. And we don't understand what the natural world is. And so if that is the more parsimonious explanation, because I do think there's some voodoo in this idea that consciousness emerges at some sort of arbitrary level of complexity. Like that, to me, just doesn't make sense. That sounds- there's a magical thinking there too. And so, you know, I suspect that something along the, the idea of panpsychism may involve less magical thinking, but, but we'll wait and see. 

[00:46:41] Ronan: Yeah. If it could ever be studied. I mean, it it's- 

[00:46:44] Matthew: I don't know. Yeah. 

[00:46:46] Ronan: Yeah, no, I hear you. You know, as I start to wade into this conversation and think about- and I just appreciate your insights based on your experience as a human, but you have the lens of doing it through science. So your, your lens is probably informed a lot [00:47:00] by objective evidence and data, even though it's ultimately your subjective perspective, I still find them super fascinating, and I appreciate you sharing that, but you know, where I kind of, my head starts to explode is when you start to think about at least the current explanation of quantum physics, which everything and I'm going to very, very terribly summarize this, but basically everything, existence itself, exists in a state of probability until there's some level of consciousness to observe it. You know, it ties deeply into this question and, and so it takes the conversation from the purely philosophical to the, you know, physical, quite literally. And, and I find it incredibly fascinating. So thank you for sharing your perspective. The second question I had as well, which is not nearly as philosophical, but definitely I think engages some degree of subjectivity is, you've been a guide for many people having a psychedelic experience. What makes for a good psychedelic guide? Being present, sitting beside someone doing it, because that's one of the other challenges with the science of psychedelics, which is how much of [00:48:00] the therapeutic outcome is the effect of the therapist? How much of it is the drug? You know, if it's, if it's the subjective experience of the therapist or the interaction with the therapist, and that becomes really hard to standardize, right? And I recently had a psychedelic experience where the people who sat for me weren't doing therapy at all. They were literally just sitting there, but for lack of a better term, because I, it's not very scientific, they just held an energy of something really meaningful to me, just to have them sit with me and kind of smile when I looked over at them or, you know, just touch my back when like things started to get hairy. It was really powerful. And so it really shifted my perspective on the role, the role of a therapist, but it doesn't have to be a therapist. It could just be a guide, someone who's like, I, you know, have such a conversation within the space of what is the role of therapist, what makes for a good therapist? Do they need a degree in psychology or psychotherapy? [00:49:00] It's, it's a big question. So curious to know, in your experience, what has made for being a good guide for a psychedelic experience? 

[00:49:08] Matthew: Yeah, I think it's very much related to- and we recently wrote a paper about this- the what's called the common factors in psychotherapy. So these factors that seem to explain- outside of psychedelics just more broadly- what factors can, are predictive based on empirical research- predictive of better outcomes across different schools of therapy, whether one is as a psychoanalyst or a behavioral psychologist using this, that therapy. And it's things like establishing a rapport, like the therapist or person caring for the, for the client, for the participant. Some sort of shared framework for thinking about [00:50:00] their issues. That can be one of them, but a safe environment for allowing the person to, to explore and, and to open up. I see these as very much at play and certainly at play outside of the professional context is simply having a trusted friend who is gonna- for example if someone, I often think about this as one of the big factors that distinguishes more recreational, and I just don't mean elicit, I mean recreational use from therapeutic use- is that sometimes, you know, there's this understandable inclination to kind of hold your shit you know? If a bunch of friends take psy-, you know, acid together, mushrooms together, you know, one doesn't necessarily want to be the person at the party that sort of like in the middle of the room, kind of like [00:51:00] sitting on the floor, crying about, you know, their childhood you know,? They're being a drama king or queen, their other friends are having their experience. They're dragging everyone down, making it all about them. And so it sort of- and then there's a kind of a razzing about, it's like the next, oh man, like, dude, "you had too much, you know, like we got to watch it with you. Maybe you should have had a couple more beers to kind of take that down a notch." And even if it's, you know, well meaning, it's really the exact- and even if it's not stated, it can be unintentionally conveyed, like that's the, it's sort of like, don't be too freaky. Don't get too weird. But the psychotherapeutic context with psychedelics is much different. And again, whether you're talking about intentional use that, outside of professional context, that looks more like, you know, what a professional context will do or, or not, you know, the, the whole idea of like, if, if you feel about crying about your relationship with your mother or your childhood, that's exactly what you're supposed to be doing. And you should not [00:52:00] feel embarrassed. You should not like, ideally, hesitate for one moment to absolutely sob like a baby. Like that's what it's about. Like to completely embrace and to laugh hysterically, to cry like a baby. And maybe none of that stuff happens. And that's fine too. It's not like you're supposed to have any of these things, but often like one might find themselves in those terrains, but to completely embrace it, go deeply into it and explore that meaning. And so the ability of a good guide is one to create that environment. And I've done this outside of, you know, a professional context. I helped with the, the bad trip tent sort of, they called it sanctuary back in the day at Burning Man. It's now called the, the Zendo Project. They do some of that work now, but it was sanctuary back in the early two thousands when I did some of this. And in, so even if it's a perfect stranger that you've never met and they just [00:53:00] wandered in out of the desert, someone brings them in. Even without that background and the background does help when you have that rapport with them, but even if it's a total stranger, just to look them in the eye and to let them know, just be honest with them and say like, Yeah, we're not the police. In fact, at least back in the day, the police were fine with handing off folks to the bad trip tent people. It's like, yeah, They're just tripping. You deal with them, goes to the medical tent. They're not OD-ing on something physically dangerous. Like yet you take these folks, that's fine. They'll go bust some more people smoking joints. Like that's how they're making the money out there. But like like, you know, you handle the people on psychedelics. But just, you know, like, look, we're just here to make you know, to help you through any sort of difficult experience and to look them in the eye. And I found that like really getting like physically low, like getting on the ground, like sitting on the ground, put your butt on the, on the ground. And so that you're not kind of- like you would interact with a dog that might be hesitant that you're new to, it's just like, [00:54:00] get down, be less threatening, just look them in the eye and be as honest as possible about like, you know, you're here to help people. You know, if you want to let me know what's going on, it's totally cool. That kind of honesty- try to really connect with people. It's more about exuding this sort of like this, this this calm presence of an acceptance of what's going on. And the gentleness and, and also what makes a good guide- I think all the great ones that I've known- like they all have a good sense of humor. Like when you find some humor, like go with it. And if the person's having, even in the middle of the, oh, some of the greatest laughs in the world come in the middle of a psychedelic experience, and to kind of like, and you're not forcing this direction, you know, in a, necessarily as a guide, but like when it comes up, to roll with it and like not, not [00:55:00] take it too seriously, it's all because the person gets into these spaces where it's like, it's all just a big joke. And that's fine. And it's actually beautiful. And just like to kind of share that with them and to just, you know, smile and, and, and connect with them and this just like, and to share a little bit of that. Sometimes people find themselves in this mystery of like, just, it's weird, like you get habituated to life, but in a way this is weird, like I'm a person and you're a person and we're all like going around, like being separate people and interacting. It's like type of thing that sounds like weird to say, but when someone is having these experiences, it's like profound. It's like, this is a weird thing we're doing in this reality. And just to kind of like, appreciate that level of like, even those very basic assumptions of life that we're separate people and that we're doing- we had these little routines where we interact and we have these different roles, we play [00:56:00] these different games. Kind of appreciate that with people and, and to just share, if they find themselves in that space, you know, just sort of like having an appreciation of that and roll with that and, and recognize that you're just you-yeah, you're playing different roles. And I told the participants all the time, it's like, yeah, like we're ground control. You're the astronaut in this setting. But like, you know, we're just, we're just people helping each other out. And it's, I dunno, a genuineness, a sense of humor, a gentleness. I think some confidence too, and like letting people like really, like, if someone thinks that our hearts gonna like- no one's ever like you've, this is a very safe compound. You know, you're not having a heart attack. I mean, it's easier to say, you know, when you're actually monitoring their blood pressure, cause it is super rare, but someone can have a cardiovascular event on something like psilocybin if they're at a high degree of heart- cardiovascular risk, risk for heart disease. [00:57:00] It's super rare, but it has happened. So I don't, don't want to dismiss that. Like one of the only people in the medical literature to have died from mushrooms as someone who was a heart transplant patient. So good idea not to take mushrooms or do anything that even mildly raises your blood pressure if you're, if you're a heart transplant you know, patient. But you know, if there's someone tha that has gone through your cardiovascular screening, it's like, no, you're perfectly safe. Your heart's fine, you know? Just have some confidence. And if things start to go crazy, like they just think like, the last thing you want to do is look to your kind of co guide with a sort of scared look like we don't know what we're doing. Like, what the hell do we do now? Like you got to like, have this mindset of like, look, we've got it. Like you're okay. It doesn't ma- anything that comes up, I'm here to help you and you're perfectly [00:58:00] safe. And you're not, I'm not scared of what's what's happening with. 

[00:58:04] Ronan: Cool. That's a great answer. In one of our last conversations, we talked about how incremental some of the scientific investigation around psychedelics is using psilocybin for different, but similar mental health conditions, using different psychedelics for a given mental health condition. I mean, all of this scientific inquiry is valuable, but if it were me and I got the sense in our conversation that you kind of lean this way a little bit too, is that this incrementalist approach can be a bit tedious in terms of it's not significant breakthroughs, it's just kind of moving the needle a little bit. So my question is, if there is one thing you could be free to study in respect of psychedelics, regardless of IRB approval or academic scrutiny, or what Johns Hopkins or professional reputation matters may come up, what would it be? What would be the ultimate experiment for Matt Johnson to conduct vis-a-vis psychedelics?

[00:58:53] Matthew: Yeah, there's a number of things. One whole category is just, gosh, a lot of, and I'll say like a lot of [00:59:00] this stuff would be exploratory, so, you know, not holding your breath that'll necessarily work out, but that's the nature of what you're asking about, you know? Like, you know, taking a leap, you know, it's a chance. But any sort of psychosomatic disorder. So I know you had Andrew Weil as a, as a guest. I don't know if you talked about this, but some of his, like anecdotes about overcoming susceptibility to sunburn and allergies. His was allergy to cats. I mean, gosh, if you could leverage this stuff, like, you know, towards you know, treating, you know, some of the many auto-immune disorders, if you could enhance biofeedback, like in some way, like, under an acute psychedelic state to kind of train someone at a very deep level in terms of the interface between their nervous system and the rest of their body. Like, you know, to, to no longer recognize this thing as a, as a pathogen. Like that would be, that would be far out there. I mean, I'm also very interested [01:00:00] in the, in the, you know, beyond psychiatry, you know, and just the, the treatment of neurological disorders of people, if, perhaps based on that, that evidence of neuroplasticity, like the, the healing of brain injuries, like from like a stroke or from, you know, various, you know, diseases that have a more, you know, not psychiatric, but just straight up, you know, neurological, you know, basis. So athletes who've suffered repetitive head impact that have some cognitive issues from that is one example. And I think, you know, another thing that we discussed was just it's kind of a pet interest is just some of these so-called psy phenomenon so, you know, reports of telepathy and things of this nature. And again, I kind of hold these things if there's something there- and I think there's some intriguing evidence- if there's something there, then it's, this is just another form of the natural world- it's not supernatural- that we just don't understand fully yet. [01:01:00] But hey, why not test? I mean, there are certainly the, it doesn't mean it's necessarily true, but there's certainly plenty of accounts of psychedelics and enhancing these types of experiences, these weird experiences that, that people have. And to kind of, yeah, bring that into the laboratory and, and explore that. That would be fascinating.

[01:01:26] Ronan: Cool. Yeah, I appreciate that. And totally agree. Our medical director in Los Angeles, Dr. Randy Sherlock, he's super excited to hopefully get to the point where you know, we can use psychedelics and provide them to physicists and quantum physicists because he hopes- maybe he believes- but he hopes that, you know, through psychedelic experiences, we could start to at least create the awareness to understand and unlock the mysteries of the universe. Not that it'll present itself as you know in a shining cup [01:02:00] to be absorbed by a scientist, but in terms of creating the free thinking nature that could lead to breakthroughs like Einstein's theory of relativity and then the universe, that's what area that he's super fascinated about. And I think that's super cool as well.

[01:02:14] Matthew: That's definitely fascinating. Cause that's another one on- I totally agree. And that's another one I should have mentioned, you know, key, there is like, yeah, you can bring back things that are verifiable and, and maybe some things one brings back that are just non-verifiable insights, which might some might consider delusions. Others might consider an unverified insight, but maybe some of it- you bring back the idea and it can be verified. I mean, just the, just based on the idea that it broadens perspective and create some plasticity would suggest that like, yeah, you might have some wacky ideas that are, you know, just BS and you might have some really great ideas that actually are getting at ground truth and you can have both. [01:03:00] And so even just based on that, there's value in making this exploration, because then you can let empirical science pick out the stuff that's true versus the stuff that's not. You know, like in the realm of physics, like yeah, then do the experiments to test whatever the insight was.

[01:03:19] Ronan: Yeah. 100%. I remember when I was an undergrad, there was a student there. He was, I guess, a year older than me, but he was next level genius, mathematical genius, so to speak. And he- one night on new year's Eve in a dream, which is not actually altogether that surprising came up with a new math theory in his head. He ultimately went to Caltech and last I checked, you know, there's a lot of interest and, and, and rigor around this theory [that] he came up with in a dream. And so I think in many ways, psychedelics can unlock the thinking in a way that opens up scientific rigor that, lack of psychedelics or, or just direct thinking may naturally shut out. So-

[01:03:57] Matthew: Right.

[01:03:58] Ronan: On that note, [01:04:00] I want to thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it. I want to be conscious cause I know you had a hard stop, but I've loved this conversation. I've enjoyed all of our conversations to date. So thank you. Thank you for doing what you do. Thank you for joining us on the podcast. And if you're open to coming back sometime, 

[01:04:14] Matthew: Oh, I'd love to. It's been a great conversation, Ronan and I'd love to do it again. 

[01:04:18] Ronan: Sounds good. Thanks so much, Matt. 

[01:04:20] Matthew: You're welcome.

[01:04:25] Ronan: Well, normally it's my style to open the reflections on the conversation with a guest with a witty quote, usually attributable to Tom Robbins. Today, I thought I'd mix it up and share a personal story. This was inspired by Matt's comments about what makes for a good psychedelic guide. And if I could sum up what he said in a single word, it's this: compassion. For many, it's easy to have compassion for others. It's easy to look at someone, understand their personal circumstances and say, of course you did what you did. Look at what you've been through, but most of us [01:05:00] are right shit at offering that to ourselves, me included. In a recent session I did with Erwin Pearlman, psychedelics not included, we delved deep into my tendency to go hypochondriac if anything health-wise comes up in my life. Erwin reflected to me, the thing to recognize was that my tendency to be a hypochondriac was not the real issue, but rather the fact that I held myself in such negative judgment when I had such a reaction, that the real growth opportunity was learning to have compassion for myself, to which I asked, how do I do that? And he offered the same kind of advice that Matt offered, that if I could imagine what my soul or higher self had watched through my life or through my many lifetimes, if you're into that, could you see him having compassion for you? Kind of like a stranger, having compassion for a passer-by. If so, you can have compassion for yourself. I found [01:06:00] this exercise to be incredibly powerful, because it's easy to for someone to say, oh, you have to love yourself. But turning that into action is hard, but this exercise gave me a lens through which to start to do so. And when I went through my recent psychedelic session, it was above all else the acceptance and compassion I felt from my guides that made them the trip worthwhile, like it filled something in my heart or soul that had never been felt, or at least hadn't been felt for a long time. Maybe that then is the power of psychedelics that they have the ability to break down our defenses against feeling some of the most powerful sublime, beautiful, and elevating experiences of human existence. But this would not be a true Field Tripping experience without at least one Tom Robbins quote, so here it goes: Imprecise speech is one of the major causes of mental illness in human beings." Quite so. The [01:07:00] inability to correctly perceive reality is often responsible for humans' insane behavior. And every time they substitute an all-purpose, sloppy slang word, for the words that would accurately describe an emotion or a situation, it lowers their reality orientations, pushes them farther from shore, out onto the foggy waters of alienation and confusion. Slang possesses an economy, an immediacy that's attractive, all right. But it devalues experience by standardizing and fuzzing. It hangs between humanity and the real world like a veil. Slang just makes people more stupid. That's all. And stupidity eventually makes them crazy. I'd hate to ever see that kind of craziness rub off on objects. In some respects, exactly what we're talking about. Compassion, love for oneself. These are all words that we try to use to describe parts of the human experience, but because they're often so inadequate without having real, tangible, [01:08:00] understanding, deep down in our bodies and our minds and our souls, we tend to lose the thread. Keep that in mind next time you're going through a challenging experience and try to have compassion for yourself. Thanks for listening.

[01:08:13] Caller: Hey Ronan, sending you a question from Toronto Canada, and my question is, What psychedelic is next on your to-do list? 

[01:08:24] Ronan: Thank you for that question. And fortunately, that's also an easy question for me. Although I do a lot of work in psychedelics these days with Field Trip, my experience with psychedelics is actually relatively limited. So the next psychedelic on my list is going to be 5-MeO-DMT, which I have not experienced yet. But I'm sure it's going to be a rocket ship into new insights. As a quick reminder, you can now record a question for us and we will play it on the show. It's a great way for us to feel connected to you, our amazing listeners. To record your questions, go to [01:09:00] speakpipe.com/fieldtripping or you can send us your questions, comments, or any episode ideas via email to fieldtripping@kastmedia.com. That's Kast with a K. Thank you for listening to Field Tripping, a podcast that's dedicated to exploring psychedelic experiences and their ability to affect our lives. I'm your host Ronan Levy. Until next time, stay curious, breath properly, and remember, every day is a field trip if you let it be one. Field Tripping is created by Ronan Levy. Our producers are Conrad Page and Harley Roman, and associate producers are Sharon Bhella, Alec Sherman, and Macy Baker. Special thanks to Kast Media and of course, many thanks to Matt Johnson for joining me today. To learn more about Matt's work, check out hopkinspsychedelic.org. Finally, please rate, review and subscribe to our podcast and sign up for our newsletter at fieldtripping.fm or wherever you get your podcasts.[01:10:00]

About Ronan

An entrepreneur and a visionary, Ronan is one the founders of Field Trip – with a mission to bring the world to life through psychedelics and psychedelic-enhanced psychotherapy. Concurrent with his work at Field Trip, he is a partner at Grassfed Ventures, a venture capital and advisory firm focused on the cannabis and biotech industries and is Chief Strategy Officer and Member of the Board of Directors for Trait Biosciences Inc., a leading biotech company in the hemp and cannabis industries. Prior to his current roles, Ronan co-founded Canadian Cannabis Clinics and CanvasRx Inc., the latter of which was acquired by Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NYSE: ACB) in 2016, after which he served as Senior Vice President, Business and Corporate Affairs for Aurora. A lawyer by training, Ronan started his career as a corporate lawyer at Blake, Cassels Graydon LLP and Legal Counsel at CTVglobemedia Inc. (now Bell Media Inc.) He holds a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Commerce degree, both from the University of Toronto.