This blog originally appeared on Drugs&Me as a guest post by Blossom
- Technology is changing the way we view and think about drugs. From facilitating policy reform to minimizing the risks associated with drug use, psychedelics and advances in technology are going hand-in-hand.
- Telemedicine is just one of the ways a number of comapnies in the industry are using technology in combination with psychedelics.
- Virtual reality may maximise the therapeutic benefit of psychedelic-assisted therapy while we are also edging ever closer to creating a virtual trip.
Fake news and sensationalism are not new when talking about drugs. One of the factors which led to the global blanket ban on psychedelic research in 1970 was the dissemination of what could be considered as ‘fake news.’ Sensationalist reporting in the media instilled a sense of fear in the public’s mind regarding the perceived dangers of drugs like LSD and psilocybin.
With a limited number of sources at the time, it was relatively easy to convince a naïve public that psychedelic drugs were harmful. Now, in the age of mass media, accessing information on psychedelics has become easier than ever. Members of the public can access results on the latest clinical trials exploring psychedelics with relative ease.
Moreover, many organizations such as Blossom and Psychedelic Science Review have been established with the mission of making psychedelic science accessible to people outside the realm of academia. These organisations are working hard to make the psychedelic jargon less alien to many readers. Their work is facilitated by social media, web content and mobile apps. This combination is helping advance psychedelics in many different ways. From drug policy reform to virtual reality, psychedelics are entering the 21st century.
Drug policy reform
Drug policy reform is critical to improving the accessibility to psychedelics for both research purposes and therapy. By increasing access to information, technology is facilitating a drug policy reform movement.
Despite the pandemic, the Measure 109 movement in Oregon was able to gather more than 160,000 signatures . The vote was essential in making Oregon the first state to legalize psilocybin-assisted therapy .
Many of the 160,000 signatures would have been collected virtually given the strict social distancing measures in place during this period . In this state, voters were given the opportunity to decriminalize psychedelic plants on November’s ballot. Thus, the power of the internet is helping to create the necessary momentum to change how we policy psychedelic drugs.
Telemedicine and psychedelic apps
Telemedicine has now become an integral part of primary care. Within the psychedelic space, several companies utilize technology to provide healthcare providers and patients with the tools necessary to facilitate psychedelic experiences.
For example, Journey Clinical has developed a platform that enables licensed psychotherapists to provide ketamine-assisted therapy to eligible patients. The platform covers the pharmacological aspects of the treatment allowing the therapist to focus on providing psychotherapy.
Field Trip Health has developed an app to guide therapy sessions for people experimenting with psychedelics at home.
Another initiative, Microdose.me, is enabling users to track their experiences while microdosing. Microdose.me is led by Quantified Citizen, in collaboration with MAPS, and is now the world’s most extensive study exploring the effects of microdosing with over 13,000 users.
Additionally, Wavepaths has adapted and designed music as psychedelic therapy. Their platform allows both individuals and therapists to enjoy adaptive music that can change with the journey of a trip.
Drugs and Me are developing Sojourn, an app to help people manage the benefits and harms of their drug use. The app tracks drug experiences and helps users understand the relationship between the drug, the set and the setting. Although this app focuses on recreational drug use, the data collected will contribute to clinical research and treatments
Several other apps already on the market focus more on integrating psychedelic experience and are (partially) replacing the pen and paper notebook to assist someone with their integration.
Many people in the psychedelic space have pondered the possibilities of combining psychedelic therapy with virtual reality (VR) to optimize therapeutic benefits. Now, thanks to advances in technology, this vision is becoming a reality.
Virtual Psychedelics is a company exploring the possibilities of using VR in tandem with psychedelic therapy to create the ‘perfect set and setting’ for the experience.
aNUma is trying something similar, except their work focuses on combining multi-user virtual reality with psychedelic science and group therapy.
Whether or not it is possible to create a psychedelic experience without ingesting a psychedelic drug remains to be seen. Nonetheless, the team at Lumenate Growth has developed an app that, the company claims, allows users to explore their subconscious without consuming any drugs.
Benefit and harm management
Psychedelics have found their way back into the laboratory after decades of having no accepted medical value. Now, this class of drugs has become entangled with the prospect of medicalization with many believing psychedelics should not be used outside of the medical context.
While concerns surrounding safety are legit, psychedelics and other drugs will continue to be used recreationally across the globe. Fortunately, modern technology is helping to mitigate any potential harms and risks recreational drug users may incur.
The aforementioned Sojourn, an app currently under development by the team at Drugs and Me, is one such technology that enables users to monitor their drug use and maximise the benefit while reducing any potential harms when using drugs.
Pill-iD is an app that allows users to identify what pills they are taking and understand the risks that may come with it. This app is particularly useful when we consider ecstasy tablets which often contain unknown quantities of MDMA. The app was developed by Drugs.com and uses machine learning to scan the European drugs database and search for matches .
TripApp has been designed to reduce the harms associated with psychoactive substances. The app provides users with information about potentially harmful substances, such as those that have been adulterated or are particularly potent. Additionally, the app helps users find and connect with local harm reduction services and provides information on the legal status of substances in their area.
Modern technology is facilitating a change in the way we as a society think about and interact with drugs. Not only is technology enabling us to gain a better understanding of psychedelics and their therapeutic potential, but it is also being used to better therapeutic outcomes and reduce the harms associated with drug use. From supporting decriminalization movements to assisting a psychedelic experience, technological development is contributing to changing how we policy, perceive, utilize and enjoy psychedelic drugs.
- Ballotpedia (2020). Oregon Measure 109, Psilocybin Mushroom Services Program Initiative (2020).
- Jaeger, Kyle (2020). Oregon Psilocybin Measure Has Enough Signatures For November Ballot, Activists Say.
- Moyer, Justin Wm (2020). D.C. residents to vote on decriminalization of ‘magic mushrooms’ on November ballot. The Washington Post.
- 4. Pill-iD (2022). Drugs. Drugs.com