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#511: Hamilton Morris on Iboga, 5-MeO-DMT, The Power of Ritual, New Frontiers in Psychedelics, Excellent Problems to Solve, and More | Tim Ferriss Show

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Key Takeaways

  • Stigma around psychedelics hindered its therapeutic use for decades
  • Sustainability is a strong consideration in psychedelics and all drugs with a black market because people want to harvest at any cost
  • The ritual can be as powerful as the substance itself – the ritual can amplify the therapeutic property of the drug
  • Psychedelics are in a hype phase: journalism and news around it is positive, people are curious – but the concern is what will happen when that ends
  • Future of psychedelics: lots of big players, more money behind it, IP lawsuits, research centers, for-profit sector, university involvement, viable field as career path


Hamilton Morris (@HamiltonMorris) is a journalist, documentary producer, chemist, and creator of TV show Hamilton’s Phamacopeia.  

In this episode of the Tim Ferriss Show, Tim Ferriss and Hamilton Morris discuss the background and context behind psychedelics for therapeutic use, the latest research in psychedelics, future directions of psychedelic use, and much more.

Host: Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)

Nuances Of Psychedelic Culture

  • Scientists have recognized the potential for therapeutic uses of psychedelics for decades but because society didn’t accept it, most people were silent or hid it
  • Short-term strategy of sub-culture groups: hide and lie about who you are and what you care about because dominant culture says it’s wrong
  • The shame and embarrassment associated with psychedelics hindered progress
  • It’s important to acknowledge that psychedelic researchers in the field now are experts – they’ve weathered resistance and persisted – it’s a unique time in the field
  • Recommended book: Neuropsychedelia by Nicolas Langlitz
  • Every new drug (pharmaceutical or otherwise) has a hype phase before you enter a more sobering phase of side effects
  • There are a lot of people interested in making money on psychedelics which can lead to some bad science and practices
  • We’re in a stage right now where psychedelics are in a state of grace: journalism around it is positive, people are curious, etc – but what happens when the hype phase ends?
  • Only time can tell the long term effects of all drugs when the tide turns away from the excitement towards scrutiny

Iboga, 5-MeO-DMT & Sustainability Of Psychedelics  

  • Iboga has a lot of promise for opiate addiction and global demand is likely to accelerate
  • Sustainability concerns: iboga tree has to be about five years old before it can be harvested
  • Tremendous burden on natural reserves of iboga, ayahuasca, and other plant-based therapies
  • The prohibition of drugs creates black market commodities which seek to extract substance at any cost
    • Example: deforestation occurring in Cambodia to harvest safrole used to make MDMA
  • There is a difference between synthetic and natural compounds but we shouldn’t villainize synthetics – it’s a societal mindset we can shift
  • Synthesis is an alternative to harvesting in the natural world that is safe and sustainable
  • Safe ways to rid waste when synthesizing: don’t introduce them into an environment where they can hurt someone or enter groundwater
    • Again, if regulations of drugs were different – we wouldn’t have to worry so much about the waste because the stigma would be removed and you could call someone to rid the waste
  • The field of “green chemistry” is dedicated to finding the most environmentally friendly way of ridding waste
  • There’s no compelling evidence to suggest indigenous or historical use of toad as a source of 5-MeO-DMT – but – there is evidence of indigenous use of 5-MeO-DMT containing plants
  • Toad has become popular in psychedelic circles but has a concerning ecological impact
  • 5-MeO-DMT is pharmacologically, chemically, and psychologically distant from psychedelics – you become largely unresponsive at high doses, mimicking more of a near-death experience

Ritualization Of Psychedelics

  • In places outside the U.S., psychedelic use is highly ritualized and is an important part of the experience
  • In the U.S. guided trips are generally sensory deprivation experiences – in a dark room, with a therapist, wearing an eye mask
  • In other places psychedelic use is the opposite – you dive far into experiences that push you to the brink of experiencing your own mortality
  • Psychedelics ceremonies in other places include entire families, children and babies included
  • The ritual can be as powerful as the substance itself – the ritual can amplify the therapeutic property of the drug
  • Traditions and rituals are not static: ceremonies have been mixed and matched across geography and culture
  • Rituals evolve to reflect the environment and best practices

Xenon Gas

  • Xenon is an element on the periodic table of elements
  • Xenon is a perfect anesthetic: it cannot be metabolized, it can be recycled indefinitely, it’s potent, patients recover rapidly, no known toxicity
  • In the U.S., xenon has been used experimentally but not FDA approved
  • Xenon is highly addictive
  • Company Pikhal and Tihkal by Alexander Shulgin
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Notes By Maryann

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