Rotem Petranker: “Psychedelics should be prescribed by mental health practitioners”

Rotem Petranker is a Master’s student at York University, working with Dr. John Eastwood. He is interested in cognition as a space to traverse in which scaffolding and shortcuts are available. Examples of scaffolding include language in general and metaphor in particular; shortcuts include creativity in general and insight in particular. Movement in cognitive space requires the expenditure of attention, which is another one of Rotem’s main theoretical areas of interest. Rotem is interested in the effects that certain practices, such as psychedelics and meditation, have on cognitive space.

Rotem’s presentation at BP 2018 is titled : A first study of microdosing

What do you think about Beyond Psychedelics 2018?

I think that the idea of running a serious, interdisciplinary conference is extremely important. I look forward to having serious, well-informed, intelligent discussions about the role psychedelics play in research and public life.

How do you feel about the current situation around psychedelics?

I am hopeful about the future of these medicines being used to treat many of our current cultural and individual ailments. At the same time, I am worried that this kind of research – fueled by true believers – will go down the path of mindfulness research, where a potentially useful intervention was embraced lock, stock, and barrel, with virtually no critical examination. That has led to an inflation of publications involving bad research practices and stifled the scientific community’s ability to examine the particular mechanisms of mindfulness. In other words, this approach has exaggerated mindfulness’s positive effects, failed to report its non-sigificant effects, and refrained from studying its potential negative effects. While exciting, the way forward should be about careful steps into investigating the underlying processes that make psychedelics useful, rather than prescribing them to everyone wholesale.

Dr Petranker at Beyond Psychedelics 2018

What do you consider to be the biggest challenges of the current psychedelic movement?

In my opinion, our biggest challenge currently is adopting a more scientific approach to the study of psychedelics. I am worried about people experiencing certain facets of reality very intensely while on psychedelics, and thinking that what they experienced is the ultimate reality because it felt so significant under the influence. While still true and real, these experiences are not the ultimate reality, but rather what reality looks like through the lens of psychedelics. We should use that to inform our scientific practices, but we should also be willing to accept some uncomfortable truths that come with the scientific method.

Do you think psychedelic experience (and/or altered state of consciousness induced by other means) should be compulsory part of training for mental health professionals?

Is taking anesthetics an integral part of becoming an anesthesiologist? Do all sports coaches have to have played the sport they coach? Must all voice instructors have been singers? Being able to help someone along a path does not necessitate having gone on that very path before. I think that mental health professionals who are interested in this kind of population are likely to partake in psychedelic experiences voluntarily, but should not be required to do so.

How do you envision the ideal society in terms of psychoactive substances and altered states of consciousness?

The ideal society does not prohibit drugs because everyone has enough impulse control and no one has deep-rooted mental health issues.  

What do you consider to be the greatest benefit of psychedelics?

Choosing again. Psychedelics open one’s mind and relax some of their mental constraints, allowing them to reshape who they are.

What roles should psychedelics have in our society? (which areas of life, what purpose of use, who should use them)

Psychedelics should be prescribed by mental health practitioners, and should be used ideally with a therapist with whom the client has a solid relationship. They should be available recreationally to individuals who pass certain thresholds for mental wellness.

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