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Psychedelics on Campus - How Colleges Are Molding The Future of Psychedelics as Medicine

It is no secret that college students (ages 18-25) make up the majority of psychedelic substance users, so it only makes sense that psychedelic education and activism has a strong presence on college campuses. Pair this with our modern ‘psychedelic renaissance’ and it is clear to see that changing the perception of these substances in the eyes of the public and medical professionals alike begins in the college environment.

It all started with the psilocybin and LSD experiments that took place at Harvard in the 1960s. These experiments involved dispensing psychedelic substances to graduate student volunteers and recording their various experiences. At the time, very little was known about these substances nor had they been criminalized by the US Food and Drug Administration, so acquiring them and dispensing them was fairly simple. These trials that took place decades ago are now considered to have been the launching pad for psychedelic education within the college environment.

Unlike the ‘psychedelic clubs’ of the 60s, today’s campus groups focus more on safety, harm reduction and education rather than actual use. Activities of these congregations include weekly meetings, guest lectures, trip sitter volunteering and even substance testing services. As a result of these gatherings, more individuals than ever before are coming out of the ‘psychedelic closet,’ describing how their experiences involving these ‘illicit’ substances have improved their quality of life in ways they would have never thought possible.

The first of the modern psychedelic campus clubs began in 2015 in the city of Boulder at the University of Colorado. Having garnered over 150 members, as well as over 15 other chapters at various colleges throughout the US, this movement captures the attention of not only those already familiar with these substances, but even those who know nothing about them at all. The purpose of these clubs is to create a more informed public and to hopefully bring an end to the stigmatization that continues to plague even the safest, most legitimate applications for psychedelic substances.

In addition to the student body organizations, another way in which college campuses are progressing the psychedelic movement in medicine is by offering a wealth of lectures and academic resources regarding these substances, even campuses without designated psychedelic clubs. The academic atmosphere of a college campus provides an intellectual setting in which it is safe to legitimately discuss these substances and their capabilities without fear of criticism or accusation of promoting unsafe use.

Lecturers primarily consist of professionals from a broad array of disciplines such as neuropharmacologists, ethnobotanists, psychologists, psychiatrists, researchers, authors and more. Rather than stigmatizing the use of such substances, these multidisciplinary lectures explore all of the possible therapeutic and psychiatric benefits of psychedelics, as well as their historical, cultural and social impacts. These discussions provide these passionate speakers with an opportunity to interact with young and curious intellectuals in an attempt to create a more informed public, and perhaps even pave the way for future generations of psychedelic researchers and experts.

Unfortunately, for now at least, most universities do not offer any majors or minors with a specific focus in psychedelic substances; however, more of them are beginning offer elective courses that provide an investigative look at these substances and the potential roles they may have in the different fields of medicine and therapy. Such courses include the psychology of psychedelics, the sociology of drug use and more. In certain cases, some universities even recognize psychedelic self-study with college credit and are beginning to offer undergraduate degrees in transpersonal psychology and ethnobotany, both of which can be applied to a research career with a focus in psychedelic science.

For those seeking a more focused and traditional form of education, there is a growing handful of institutions that do offer formal, full-fledged options for psychedelic study. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a non-profit research and educational organization with a focus in developing legal, medical and cultural contexts for the people who could benefit from psychedelic substances in clinical scenarios. There is also a harm reduction psychotherapy certificate program being offered by the New School of Social Research, as well as a psychedelic-assisted therapies and research certificate program offered by the California Institute of Integral Studies.

These improvements being made to psychedelic education and activism are a direct result of the modern psychedelic research renaissance, as well as the respect that these substances have begun to receive from researchers who specialize in psychiatric medicines and therapies. What’s more is that this type of information is beginning to spread exponentially as these students go on to share what they are learning with their friends, family, colleagues and other members of society. As awareness continues to spread, more programs and resources are going to be made which will provide society with more well-informed individuals who will go on to become the researchers finding the best ways to use these substances, the therapists and clinicians utilizing them in their practice and the activists that will one day change the legislation.


CIIS_SF. "The Altering State of Psychedelics Research." CIIS. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

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