As more states and cities continue to decriminalize or work towards reforming the laws around psychedelics, a group of prominent people from the entertainment and political fields spoke on the positive effects it can have as a treatment.
End Well, a nonprofit dedicated to the belief that all people should experience the end of their life in a way that matches their values and goals, held the largest mainstream virtual event that discussed the future of psychedelic medicines for people facing serious illness or end of life.
The End in Mind conference featured celebrities like musician and cannabis activist Melissa Etheridge and activist, political commentator and founder of Dream Corps, Van Jones. The conference explored a variety of topics including: psychedelic medicines and their uses, from age-old Indigenous practices to the latest clinical trials, the current and future role of psychedelics in care for serious illness, grief, and end of life, the science behind psychedelics and their potential to help treat mental, physical, and social conditions, stigmas surrounding the consumption of psychedelic substances, the policy landscape and emerging market for psychedelic medicines and the growing movement to broaden access to these treatments.
“Psychedelics could be a paradigm shift in modern medicine, creating new possibilities that go beyond current treatments for life-limiting illness and allow people to live well until the end,” Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, MD, founder of End Well, said. “Research indicates that when used in a carefully controlled and monitored environment, these medicines can offer a more person-centered, inclusive, and empathetic model for care for people facing the end of life—and that is something every one of us should be thinking about. The End in Mind will bring together many of the people and ideas shaping the future of this space and make the promises and perils of these therapies accessible to a broader audience so as to spark meaningful conversations about what it means to end well.”
Other speakers at the conference included Rick Doblin, Ph.D., American drug reformist, advocate and the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Stephen Ross, MD, psychiatrist, psychedelics researcher and associate director of NYU Langone’s Center for Psychedelic Medicine, Ira Byock, MD, a leading palliative care physician and advocate for improving care through the end of life, Patricia James, Cheyenne pipe carrier, and priest Claire Bidwell Smith, an American therapist and best-selling author who specializes in grief therapy, among many others. Speakers led sessions and answered questions
Etheridge, a GRAMMY award winner and noted cannabis activist, has been an advocate for cannabis after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s. At the conference, Etheridge said she feels very positive about the psychedelic reforms going on across the country.
Jones, who is known for his activism towards criminal justice reform, said although he doesn’t use any substances he sees the value in ending criminalization and believes reform is a part of the solution. Jones has also advocated for a broader drug policy reform beyond just psychedelics.
“When you’re trying to solve real problems, you very quickly realize you need big coalitions. Connection is key to that. I’m not someone with personal experience, but people who I trust and respect have reported to me that some of the most powerful, expansive experiences that they’ve had have been supported by some of these substances,” Jones said. “What I’m saying is that, for some of the intoxicants that have caused a lot of harm, we need a better approach than locking people up for those. And for those that are more medicinal and that have medicinal uses, we need better access to those.”