Modern societies developed fast-paced lifestyles where we interact with large amounts of information, both digitally and socially. Many humans, particularly in the industrialized countries, have an increasingly rapid connection to the internet and databases of all sorts, which brings faster access to whatever information is around the globe. This, however, is also true for inaccurate information, prejudice, and speculations around delicate and sometimes controversial topics. It seems justified to point out the huge amount of information pollution and conclude that increases in societal well-being can surely be had when public discourse and education is reformed. A particular field of concern (and controversy) is the knowledge and research about psychoactive substances. These fields were and are an object of strong influence by international treaties, sensationalist journalism and generally a public discourse that is often misinformed. Moreover, prejudice and misconceptions of psychoactive substances are common in the academic world and drug-related services, too (in counselling, emergency care, among paramedics and medical doctors, psychotherapists and lawyers).
Progress can sometimes come from linguistic changes. For example, it makes a difference to use the term psychoactive substances instead of “drugs”. These are substances that, when taken in or administered into the human body, influence mental processes such as cognition and affect. This term and its equivalent, ‘psychotropic drug’, are currently the most neutral and descriptive terms for a whole class of substances, licit and illicit. Education and keeping up with new knowledge, particularly in the field of mental health, is crucial for high-quality care and practices. Within current health services a number of indications e.g. PTSD, depression, or addiction cannot be treated adequately, at least not for all in need or they are too time consuming and expensive. The number of individuals suffering from depression is increasing whilst innovation in the pharmacological industry2 seems to be lacking. It is therefore the responsibility of scientists and practitioners to keep an open mind for alternative treatment options to reduce the personal and societal burden of mental health conditions3.
Drug Science is Part of a Bewusstseinskultur that Addresses Public Health Concerns
The MIND Foundation addresses the aforementionedchallenges in the mental health field by conducting and supporting high-quality psychedelic research and education. The educational sector of the organization is the MIND Academy. It hosts various educational programs for medical doctors, psychotherapists, researchers, and the public – including workshops, public talks, and professional trainings. With INSIGHT the MIND Academy organizes a transdisciplinary conference every second year. Speakers, facilitators, and audiences come from all over the world are engaged in the MIND Academy’s programs for providing and participating in an evidence-based, scientific discourse about the mind and brain, the psychedelic experience, and associated topics.
The MIND Academy’s Drug Science Program kicked-off in February 2020. It integrates multiple disciplines and the latest research on psychoactives. Its aim is to bring together professionals, researchers, and the public to encourage better psychotherapy, emergency care, medical treatment, counselling and legal work in this field. With the expertise of medical doctors, neuroscientists, psychologists, psychotherapists, health professionals, drug researchers, PiAs (I.e. nurses, paramedics), the Drug Science Program follows a transdisciplinary approach.
An important element of a Drug Science approach is to integrate the third person perspective of objective data with the first person perspective of subjective experience – call it the phenomenology of altered states of consciousness. This means to explore and evaluate the character of different altered states of consciousness that people search for. Generally the MIND Academy discusses phenomenology and norms associated with altered states of consciousness in the framework of Bewusstseinskultur.
Bewusstseinskultur, or culture of consciousness, entails a scientific and public discourse on which states of consciousness are valuable. Such discourse should build on scientific knowledge. Having the opportunity and perspectives to evaluate altered states of consciousness and their value for individual and collective life has the potential to improve the life of individuals and society.
Thomas Metzinger4, professor of philosophy at the University of Mainz, coined and developed the concept of Bewusstseinskultur since the 1990s. Furthermore, he is a member of the MIND Scientific Advisory Board. The original 2002 publication giving a comprehensive definition of what he means by Bewusstseinskultur was published in German, however, an introductory explanation in English is available here5. The concept is open for further development and specification.
What is the Drug Science Program and for whom is it?
The Drug Science Program (DSP) currently consists of five different modules. Each module consists of a full-day workshop, in which distinct aspects of drug science are covered. Other than in the psychedelic integration workshop BEYOND EXPERIENCE or the Exploratorium these modules are based on information, critical discourse or learning to apply life-saving procedures (see module 2).
The first module is mandatory for all attendees after which the modules 2-4 can be visited freely by choice. Module 5 can be visited without having attended the first.
The modules are: (1) Psychoactive Substances: Basic Knowledge, in which the foundation to approach the topic ‘Drug Science’ from is laid. Coming from an informational perspective as well as an attitude-building and reflexive perspective, participants will learn to engage in the topic with a rational stance. After the introductory module, the advanced modules are (2) Psychoactive Substances: Drug Emergencies, (3) Psychoactive Substances: Neurobiology and Neuropharmacology, (4) Psychoactive Substances: Psychedelics, and (5) Psychoactive Substances: Drug Law, History, And Culture
Through completion of the program, participants acquire theoretical and practical knowledge from different disciplines and professions. The Drug Science program is a certifiable program, meaning it is possible to apply for certification after completion of all modules through a final test. It will also be possible to obtain CME/CE credits. Furthermore, MIND members benefit from a special discount.
What are the goals of the Drug Science Program?
The goal of the Drug Science Program is to equip medical doctors, neuroscientists, psychologists and psychotherapists, PiAs, journalists, and many others who work in the field with grounded knowledge and inform them of current research. This should facilitate a knowledge-oriented and evidence-based approach to the topic. Of course the Drug Science Program is not an ideology, but a platform for critical discourse. The main classes of psychoactives that will be explored are stimulants, depressants and sedatives, alcohol and cannabinoids, and psychedelics.
Furthermore, participants should develop the ability to recognize and consequently act adequately in risky situations. By having a solid informational base, participants are able to explore their social bias and misinformation. Thereby, medical doctors or psychotherapists can avoid potential harm for their patients, or decision makers may minimize the danger of damaging public campaigns.
The Drug Science Program: Five Modules Explained