June 12, 2023

Psychedelic Science 2023: Recommended Sessions to Attend

Written by

Alison McInnes, M.D.

Psychedelic Science 2023 is the event of the year for those at the forefront of the Psychedelic Renaissance.

From June 19-23, you'll have the opportunity to explore workshops and sessions taking place in scenic Denver, CO, including on-site at the Colorado Convention Center.

To assist you in maneuvering through this vast landscape, below you’ll find a curated selection of sessions, in chronological order, we highly recommend:

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Who Can Be a Psychedelic Practitioner? (10:30 AM - 11:15am MDT, location TBA)

A discussion about the qualifications for psychedelic practice and an introduction to a new project aimed to support the field. Speaker: TBA.

Reopening Critical Periods with Psychedelics: Basic Mechanisms and Therapeutic Opportunities (12 - 12:30pm MDT, speaker: Gül Dölen, M.D./Ph.D, location TBA)

Dr. Dölen is not to be missed!  She is a rockstar specializing in the basic science of psychedelics. Psychedelics are a broad class of drugs defined by their ability to induce an altered state of consciousness. These drugs have been used for millennia in both spiritual and medicinal contexts, and a number of recent clinical successes have spurred a renewed interest in developing psychedelic therapies. Nevertheless, a unifying mechanism that can account for these shared phenomenological and therapeutic properties remains unknown.

Dr. Dölen will present evidence that the ability to reopen the social reward learning critical period is a shared property across psychedelics. Interestingly, the time course of critical period reopening is proportional to the duration of acute subjective effects reported in humans. Furthermore, the ability to reinstate social reward learning in adulthood is paralleled by metaplastic restoration of oxytocin mediated long-term depression (OT-LTD) in the Nucleus Accumbens (NAc). Finally, identification of differentially expressed genes in the ‘open state’ versus ‘closed state’, provides evidence that reorganization of the extracellular matrix (ECM) is a common downstream mechanism underlying psychedelic-mediated critical period reopening. Together these results have significant implications for the implementation of psychedelics in clinical practice, as well as the design of novel compounds for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disease.

Assessing the Evidence for Microdosing (12:15 - 1pm MDT, location TBA)

A critical review of the data on microdosing psychedelics, addressing its benefits and misconceptions. Speaker: TBA.

Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy for Frontline Clinicians (5:45pm - 6pm MDT, location TBA)

Research session on psilocybin's impact on depression and burnout in healthcare clinicians due to COVID. Speaker: TBA.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Effects of Psilocybin in Alcohol Use Disorder: Beyond Reduction (10:15am - 10:45am MDT, location TBA) - Speakers: Dr. Gabrielle Agin-Liebes, Ph.D., Dr. Bogenschutz.

Dr. Bogenschutz will present quantitative psychological effects observed in a recently completed randomized controlled trial of psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol use disorder. Questionnaires administered at multiple timepoints throughout the study demonstrated decreased alcohol craving, improved affective tone, and improved executive control following psilocybin treatment. Separation from placebo persisted for the entire 32-week double-blind follow-up period. Dr. Agin-Liebes will also present results of a qualitative study that utilized semi-structured interviews with study participants to capture their perspectives on psychological mechanisms of change.

Naturalistic Psilocybin Use is Associated with Persisting Improvements in Mental Health and Well-being in a Large Prospective Sample (noon - 12:30 pm, location and speaker TBA)

This talk describes the results of the largest prospective survey of psilocybin use to date, which surveyed participants pre-psilocybin use (N = 1802), and after at 1-3 days (N = 1551), 2-4 weeks (N = 1182), and 2-3 months (N = 657).

At the 2-4 week mark, roughly 30% of participants endorsed the experience as being in the top 10 most personally meaningful, spiritually significant, and psychologically insightful experiences of their life. 22% met criteria for a complete mystical experience.

Wellness and Psychedelics: Exploring the Data from 3000+ Individuals (12:30pm - 1:00pm MDT, location and speaker TBA)

Wellness and Psychedelics: Exploring this 'Made in Heaven' Relationship A handful of small academic studies conducted in the last decade report that psychedelics, when administered in a clinical setting with psychotherapeutic support, produce remarkably rapid, robust, and sustained improvements in a variety of psychiatric and addictive conditions. In the care for those suffering from mental health challenges, clinicians are most interested in symptomatic improvement but let’s not forget about the importance of wellness – something we consider a basic human right. “Psychedelics for the betterment of well people” a sentiment from a psychedelic luminary, Bob Jesse, highlights our interest in exploring the relationship between psychedelics and wellness.

To better understand this relationship, a large cross-sectional online survey called Psychedelics and Wellness Survey (PAWS) has been completed by 3,000+ adults reporting at least one psychedelic experience. Participants retrospectively completed a battery of instruments assessing depression, anxiety, and emotional well-being prior to and following the psychedelic experience. Psychedelic use was associated with significant improvements in depressive and anxious symptoms and with increased emotional well-being. This panel discussion will offer a deep dive into the relationship between wellness and psychedelics.

Psilocybin Administration for Therapist Training: Outcomes from a World-First Trial (12:00pm - 12:30pm MDT, location and speaker TBA)

This talk will present findings from a trial in which psilocybin was given to therapist volunteers as part of a training program.

Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy for Major Depressive Disorder: Clinical Results and Cases from a Placebo-Controlled, Fixed-Order Trial (2:30pm - 3pm MDT, location TBA) - Speakers: Jordan Sloshower, M.D., M.S.; Stephanie Kilpatrick, Psy.D.

Several early phase studies have demonstrated that psilocybin-assisted therapy has rapid-acting and persisting antidepressant effects from just one or two doses. However, methodological limitations (e.g., placebo-control, blinding) limit interpretability of the existing literature and mechanisms of action remain unclear. In this talk, Dr Sloshower will present the methods and clinical results of an exploratory placebo-controlled, fixed order study of psilocybin-assisted therapy among individuals with moderate to severe major depression (n=19).

Dosing sessions were embedded within an 8-session manualized course of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and enhanced blinding procedures were used. Depression, anxiety, quality of life, and psychological flexibility were measured over a 16-week study period. The results of this study highlight the complex interplay between expectancy, therapy effects, and drug/placebo effects in studies of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Nonetheless, the acute and persisting clinical improvements observed following psilocybin support further study of its potential in the treatment of major depression.

Improving Study Design in Trials Using Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies (2:30pm - 3:30pm MDT, location TBA) - Speaker: TBA.

Psychedelic research has gained the attention of the scientific community, popular media, and the public at large. With the expansion of the field, people seeking to participate in such studies may bring a set of expectations that can undermine the validity of trial outcomes. Increased methodological rigor is needed to address this, as well as some of the inherent challenges to psychedelic research, such as difficulty with blinding. In the effort to control bias, there is the risk of losing the impact of subjectivity in psychedelic clinical trials. Some studies seek to isolate the "drug effect" from the phenomenological experience of participants. How do we navigate this tension?

Latest Developments in Clinical Studies for Depression (3:00pm - 3:30pm MDT, location TBA) - Speaker: Charles L. Raison, M.D.

Dr. Raison has extensive experience with clinical trials for novel treatments and is a very engaging speaker. Treatment-resistant depression is a major problem with only a third of patients with major depression receiving a full response to a first antidepressant and a third who fail to adequately respond to multiple medications given either concurrently or sequentially.

Psychedelic therapies have the potential to change our current approach to mental health care. Current research suggests that new treatments, such as psilocybin, could have a significant and positive impact on major depressive disorder. And follow-up studies after therapy have also shown lasting benefits. In this session, we will draw on the latest developments in clinical research to prompt the audience to consider key questions, challenges, and opportunities as we move into a new era of mental health treatment with psychedelic therapies in the treatment of depression.

Efficacy of Psilocybin in OCD: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study (3:45 -4pm MDT, location TBA) - Speakers: Benjamin Kelmendi, M.D., Terence Ching, Ph.D.

This study aims to investigate the effects of oral psilocybin on OCD symptomatology and provide the first evidence of the neural mechanism that may mediate psilocybin's purported therapeutic effects on OCD.

Group Administration and Integration in Psychedelic Therapy (4:00pm - 4:45pm MDT, location TBA) - Speaker: TBA.

While indigenous cultures have commonly used psychedelics in group settings in their traditional practices, most recent psychedelic-assisted therapy research has focused on individualized, single-subject protocols.

However, a handful of new studies and practitioners are utilizing group administration and/or integration, which may both decrease cost of care and provide other benefits of conventional group therapy. Join us to hear more about the potential benefits, risks, and complexities of group-oriented psychedelic-assisted therapy.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Benefits of Assessing Biomarkers in Psychedelic Trials (10:15am - 11:15am MDT)

While most clinical trials of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy focus on outcomes such as symptom severity of a particular disorder, or even secondary clinical outcomes like self-compassion, there is a lot of information that can be obtained from additionally measuring biological variables before and after psychedelic therapy. In this session we will discuss several examples of how such information can inform our knowledge about mechanism of action of psychedelic therapy, and the effects these treatments may have on overall physical well-being.

Biomarkers obtained prior to therapy can be useful in the prediction of clinical outcomes. Biomarkers can be used to validate or verify treatment response in situations where the measure is a known correlate of recovery or symptoms improvement. In this panel, Rachel Yehuda, a leader in PTSD research, will present a brief overview of the rationale for assessing molecular and hormonal markers in blood. C

andace Lewis will present data from a recently published pilot study examining epigenetic marks on stress-related genes in the context of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. Eric Vermetten will discuss other peripheral biomarkers, such as blood pressure and heart rate, that might inform our understanding of more transdiagnostic effects of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy on stress reduction and allostatic load.

Toward “Next Generation” Ketamine Treatment: From New Insights into the Neurobiology of Depression to Strategies to Optimize Ketamine Efficacy (12:00pm - 12:30pm MDT)

Over 25 years ago, we observed rapid antidepressant effects of ketamine in depressed patients. This study emerged from a conceptual “crisis” as studies conducted by my colleagues questioned the simple-minded view that depression could be explained by deficits in monoamine signaling.  Over the ensuing years, we identified two core aspects of glutamate signaling associated with depression, reduced glutamate synaptic efficacy and reduced synaptic density.

Subsequent studies in patients by our group and others have provided support for a model of ketamine effects in which ketamine stimulates glutamate release associated with the restoration of synaptic efficacy, and MTORC1 activation associated with the restoration of synaptic density. Subsequent studies with psychedelic drugs yielded convergent effects with ketamine (glutamate release, MTORC1 activation, synaptic regrowth).

The next generation of studies from our group continued to probe the application of ketamine as a treatment and the biology of its efficacy. This work yielded the striking finding that the efficacy of ketamine could be enhanced or extended by combining it with psychotherapy (CBT) or co-administering ketamine with low doses of an MTORC1 inhibitor. The presenters will discuss more about the therapeutic implications of this finding.

Psilocybin Administration for Therapist Training: Outcomes from a World-First Trial (12:00pm - 12:30pm MDT, speakers and location TBA)

After decades in the wilderness, psychedelic therapies are making a comeback into clinical research, and are poised to re-enter medical care. While many basic clinical questions are under investigation, the near-term prospect of a new class of treatments is the impetus to explore key questions surrounding their implementation. Among these are questions about therapist training methods and the associated competencies – arguably central to safe and effective clinical outcomes.

As part of an extensive psychedelic therapist training program, we provided psilocybin with support to therapist volunteers (n=14) working within a clinical psychedelic trial. Each participant received one preparation session, one dosing session (25 mg psilocybin), and one integration session. Findings from this world-first proof-of-concept trial will be described, including reported changes to professional competencies, detrimental effects, and the rated importance of supported psilocybin within therapist training. The attitudes of clinical participants regarding their therapists receiving psilocybin will also be described. The results from this trial make an important contribution to the broader conversation surrounding methods of training therapists and the implementation of psychedelic therapies into healthcare.

A Trial of Ketamine Masked by Surgical Anesthesia in Depressed Patients (12:30pm - 12:45pm MDT)

Boris Heifets is a member of Osmind's Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). He says that ketamine and other psychedelic  therapies have promise for psychiatric disorders, however their acute psychoactive effects complicate successful masking in placebo-controlled trials. Inadequate masking may bias study outcomes if a research subject has a prior expectation about the treatment.

He conducted a triple-masked, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 40 patients with major depressive disorder presenting for elective surgery. Treatment allocation was successfully masked by surgical anesthesia. He was surprised to find that both ketamine and placebo groups reported marked improvement, comparable to many prior ketamine studies. He presents several future directions for improving interpretability of psychedelic trials.

Does Microdosing Psychedelics Boost Mood and Creativity? A Meta-Analysis (11:00am - 11:30am MDT, location and speakers TBA)

This session will present the findings of a meta-analysis on the reported benefits of psychedelic microdosing. It will examine the evidence for claims that microdosing improves mood, cognition, and creativity, and discuss possible future directions for research in this area.

Psychedelics and the Default Mode Network: What Do We Really Know? (2:00pm - 2:45pm MDT, location and speakers TBA)

This session will discuss the role of the default mode network (DMN) in psychedelic experiences. It will review existing research on the topic, challenge some of the prevailing theories, and suggest potential new areas of investigation.

Can Psychedelics Promote Environmental Sustainability? An Empirical Investigation (3:30pm - 4:00pm MDT, location and speakers TBA)

This session will discuss the potential for psychedelics to foster a greater sense of connection with nature and promote environmentally sustainable behavior. It will present empirical research on the topic and discuss implications for the intersection of environmental and mental health interventions.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Psilocybin and End-of-Life Anxiety: A Review of Recent Clinical Trials (11:30am - 12:00pm MDT, location and speakers TBA)

This session will review recent clinical trials investigating the use of psilocybin for reducing anxiety and depression in patients with terminal illnesses. It will summarize the findings, discuss the potential mechanisms of action, and suggest directions for future research.

Evolving Guidelines for Safe and Ethical Psychedelic Use (1:00pm - 1:45pm MDT, location and speakers TBA)

This session will discuss the ongoing development of guidelines for the safe and ethical use of psychedelics. It will explore topics like informed consent, set and setting, integration, and risk management, and discuss how these guidelines can support both clinical and non-clinical use.


This guide highlights a small sample of the illuminating sessions featured in Psychedelic Science 2023. Each selected session promises to shed light on the current state of the field, as well as the future directions of psychedelic research.

Make sure to stop by and say hi at booth 706! The Osmind team would love to see you there and show you how you can bring psychedelic treatments to those who need them most with our specialized EHR. We're thrilled to be part of this journey with you, navigating the next frontier of psychiatry.

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