Start September: I fly to San Francisco with the film maker Dirk Liesenfeld, who is currently working on a documentary about psychedelic-therapy – or psycholysis as we call it in Germany. After a number of interviews with some of the workers at MAPS, a scientific institute dedicated to research into psychedelic medicine located in the southern district of Santa Cruz, we travel to the north of San Francisco. On Fisherman’s Wharf we interview at random some mostly young people. Three out of ten have had experience with psychedelic substances, some take them regularly in order to gain, for example, a different perspective on their problems. Their openness surprises me. From time to time there’s a smell of cannabis in the park. Completely legal here in California. The next day a Vietnam veteran tells us how he treated himself and healed his post-traumatic stress disorder using his own regime of MDMA. Afterwards we drive to visit a pair of therapists, who are, as part of a MAPS study, able to conduct MDMA supported psychotherapy with severely ill patients.
That they both speak so openly about their work is inspiring and liberating. But can the research work in the USA integrate psycholysis into society? We are present during one of the MDMA sessions conducted as part of the study. Every word, every therapeutic intervention is laid down exactly beforehand and everything is meticulously documented. One must ultimately fulfil the demands of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), which apparently wants to use strict conditions to protect itself from too great an influx of applications for the approval of different sorts of remedies. I bring the conversation round to talk about cultural revolution, such as that which could be triggered by psycholysis. Josh, a doctor and psychotherapist since 1968, is glad to jump on-board. Josh is one of the old-timers. He belongs to that group of therapists who gave their patients MDMA when it was legal. Over 1,300 sessions were conducted in this way without there being any problems. The patients would appear in the practice at 9 o’clock in the morning and receive their dosage of MDMA, mostly between 135mg and 145mg. At 10 o’clock, the therapist would arrive and make two hours of therapy during the highpoint of the substance’s effect. At one o’clock in the afternoon, the patient could once again sit in his car and drive home.
The people here take hardly any notice of the movement in Europe. Whilst one works in the USA in full confidence with the drug authorities towards a legalisation of psycholysis, the situation in Germany is becoming ever more difficult. Only yesterday, I read in the news that a group of 29 alternative therapists and doctors in Lower Saxony were admitted into hospital with symptoms of poisoning – allegedly caused by 2C-E. The public opinion reaction is correspondingly catastrophic!
One is optimistic here in sunny California. MDMA assisted psychotherapy should be legalised before 2021. Here one thinks that the prospects are good. And what about LSD? “That will come with time”, says Josh. First of all, one wants to try working with the somewhat simpler substances.