With TheraPsil’s recent success in campaigning for access to psilocybin-assisted therapy for 4 palliative Canadians, it’s clear that non-profits and charities can play a central role in the push to prove the efficacy of psychedelic medicines and therapies.
With that in mind, we were excited to learn of a new charity that aims to support psychedelic and research. We were even more intrigued when we learned that the charity, Entheos Foundation, is not based in the conventional locales of North America or Western Europe; but rather in New Zealand.
We spoke to Amadeus Diamond, chairperson of the new Foundation, to understand more about their founding and goals…
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Could you begin by giving us a broad overview of the Entheos Foundation?
The Entheos Foundation is Aotearoa – New Zealand’s first charity supporting psychedelic research and education. Our mission is two-pronged: Raise funds for clinical research to explore safety and efficacy of psychedelics as an adjunct to psychotherapy; and to design, execute, and distribute educational content to both professionals and the public regarding Psychedelics in both medicine and history. This will be reading material, A/V content, live speaking events and interviews with workers in the field.
We will also be designing a psychedelic integration certificate for certain types of social work or counselling professionals.
Some of our readers believe that founders of psychedelic medicine organisations and companies should have taken psychedelic substances themselves. What’s your personal experience with psychedelics?
My personal experience has been long and bumpy. I first found psychedelics in my early teens while going through a two-year heroin addiction. I had little interest at the time and mainly thought ‘Yay, another drug!’. I also suffered severe depression and suicidality. As time went on, I kicked the smack habit and picked up drinking as a result. In my late teens – around the age of 19 or 20 I had a life-changing Mescaline experience which allowed me to process much of the trauma causing my drug-seeking behaviour. Since then, I’ve experienced psychedelics you can name and they have had profound positive effects on my quality of life, my ability to empathise, analyse and execute and my ability to control my own impulses.
I can’t overstate how important Mescaline, Psilocybin and DMT have been in my dealing with trauma and addiction. That said, I haven’t taken one in more than five years. Maybe I’m due for a reset.
Besides personal experiences with these substances, what professional experience does your team have in this field?
Our team draws from a very wide pool of experience – our chief science advisor started his psychedelic career with Dr Carhart-Harris at the University of Cardiff a decade ago. He subsequently produced the ubiquitous scans of brains on LSD and Psilocybin for Imperial College London. He has also carried out work with Ketamine out of Auckland University.
Dr Geoff Noller carried out a MAPS-sponsored observational study of Ibogaine therapy among intractable opiate addicts. Dr Paul Glue has done multiple trials using Ketamine as a treatment for depression. Some of these have been very successful with Ibogaine and Ketamine both technically ‘available’ treatments in Aotearoa.
You have some high-profile names listed as associates, such as Dr Dennis McKenna. What level of involvement do such associates have?
By and large, our international associates will be available for consultation on research protocols and educational material. This will ensure we are producing top-shelf, up-to-date content to serve the New Zealand public best. We may call on them to write informal articles to be published in our newsletter or to be posted alone. We will also be very excited, when the global situation allows, to invite members of that board to Aotearoa to present their research or mission to our, very fertile, social landscape. We’re also kicking around the idea of an annual conference. This would involve much of our international board.
Most of the organisations in this space are based in North America and West Europe. What are the unique challenges and opportunities of being based in New Zealand?
There are certainly some uniquenesses about this space in NZ. For one, our population is minuscule; little over half that of New York City. This means that sample sizes need not be quite so large to glean usable data from clinical work. Another advantage is that as such a small country, the government (and relevant ministries) are fairly accessible. Bureaucracy isn’t nearly as much of an obstacle compared with the U.S or the U.K. We also have socialised healthcare – this means, moving forward, psychedelic psychotherapy may become a subsidised medical treatment among other mental health tools such as CBT and talk therapy.
However, one distinct disadvantage is that because NZ is so removed from the vast majority of what’s going on in the psychedelic world traction takes that much more effort to generate. The biggest issue here is obviously funding. Clinical work takes a lot of money; as does education. Just playing the numbers, crowd-funding, high net-worth individuals etc… efforts are ipso facto slowed by NZ being an island nation of less than 5 million.
Where will your funding come from – donations?
Donations will be the vast majority of our funding. There will be minimal branding – t-shirts, perhaps stickers or mugs and some revenue from events we hold – but any significant funding will be the result of philanthropy or successful crowd-funding. We do hope, eventually, that grants from our Ministry Of Health will become a viable option but for now we’re in the same boat as other organisations.
When our readers visit your website they’ll notice that there are many Māori terms and references. What role does this play in your organisation, and why do you believe it’s important?
Māori culture is arguably the most important element of Aotearoa. It is the indigenous culture. The Māori were stewards of our land for nearly a millennium before settlers arrived. Their art, plant medicine and myth are rich and colourful. While there is no indigenous psychedelic culture in NZ we must ensure we respect and indeed pay homage to those who came before us and took care of our garden, Aotearoa.
What are you most excited about for the future of Entheos Foundation?
The buzz mainly stems from the genuine possibility that we can have a tangible positive effect on the mental health sector in Aotearoa. If, in the meantime, we can help remove the stigma around psychedelics and really lift the quality of conversation about their use as both sacrament and medicine then that’s equally exciting. We’re very motivated by positive change and contributing to Aotearoa’s reputation as frontrunner for novel thinking and policy.
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