UCL To Lead First-Ever Brain Imaging Study Among Psychedelic Retreat Participants

University College London has planned to collaborate with Tandava Retreats and F.I.V.E. to study psychedelic medicine and the brain.

Despite naysayers and prevailing attitudes echoing into the present day, it’s clear today that psychedelic medicine at the very least carries potential in treating mental health conditions and symptoms that have otherwise been difficult to treat or entirely resistant to treatment.

The model for legal psychedelic therapy, and most research looking at the efficacy of psychedelics for mental health treatments, is generally understood through psychedelic therapy centers. For states that have legalized psychedelic substances like psilocybin, or any number of ketamine clinics already operating in the U.S., this typically involves a combination of talk therapy, a controlled psychedelic dose, and supervision/guidance from a licensed professional.

But what about psychedelic retreats? These tailor-made psychedelic getaways typically take place in countries where psychedelic substances are allowed, similarly helping patients seeking symptom relief, or often a general mental reset, in a luxurious setting. 

Now, the public psychedelics practitioner training program F.I.V.E. has announced plans to collaborate with Tandava Retreats and University College London (UCL) on the first-ever EEG brain imaging study of 5-MeO-DMT among retreat center participants, Benzinga reports

Study collaborators are generally looking to uncover more information on 5-MeO-DMT’s mechanism of action and specifically within naturalistic settings over medical/clinical settings, along with how retreat participants could be better served as they use the substance in this setting.

The study’s principal investigator Jeremy Skipper said it’s important to look at the actual contexts these psychedelics are used in order to best understand the effects of such substances. 

“We hope to contribute not only to a better scientific understanding of how 5-MeO-DMT works in the brain, but also to enabling individualized approaches that maximize the efficacy of 5-MeO-DMT therapies and retreats,” Skipper told Benzinga.

Tandava CEO Joel Brierre, who is also the CEO of F.I.V.E., will coordinate the study along with F.I.V.E. President Victoria Wueschner. It will gather both qualitative and quantitative data from Tandava participants, assessing changes in well-being, beliefs, and personality. The study will use spontaneous neural imagery electroencephalography (EEG) on participants both before and during the psychoactive experience.

“These retreats allow you to explore the deepest realms of your innermost being, address behavioral habits that no longer serve you, and give you the freedom of life that you seek,” the Tandava website states. “We believe that no one should be a victim of their own mental patterning.”

Tandava is located in Tepoztlan, Mexico, and has the amenities anyone might expect on a tropical vacation: a hot jacuzzi, sauna, communal spaces, plenty of food and drink and private rooms for all visitors. With practitioners and integration specialists with varying backgrounds, Tandava offers a number of options, including a “transcultural” framework, an Indigenous/Shamanic approach, even a journey grounded by yoga. 

The site also mentions that each Tandava guide has been on their own psychedelic journey. 

Research has already affirmed that 5-MeO-DMT used in a naturalistic group setting can improve depression and anxiety, though of course there’s still a lot of catching up to do to fully understand its impacts, and the impacts of other psychedelic substances. The compound generally comes from the Sonoran Desert toad, Bufo alvarius, though Tandava Retreats uses synthetic 5-MeO-DMT to support species conservation and sourcing sustainability.

“We have found the experience of synthetic 5-MeO-DMT to be identical in nature to the toad secretion, which is important to note during the rise in popularity of this medicine,” Brierre told Benzinga. “Not only is synthetic safer and more effective to use with participants, but it has the repeatable consistency and precision dosage needed for proper research to be done.”

The study will cost about $108,437, though a U.K.-based charity has already donated $40,898 to the cause. Tandava will also match any funds raised and will donate retreat and integration costs for 15 of the 30 participants. There is also a crowdfund available for those interested in supporting the study.

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