As access to psychedelic drugs expands, it's critical that there be a free, confidential support line for people to call during and after their psychedelic experiences. - Senator Scott Wiener
SAN FRANCISCO (PRWEB) November 12, 2020
*California State Senator Scott Wiener, MAPS founder Rick Doblin, bestselling author Dr. Julie Holland, among others, to participate in free November 17 virtual launch panel
Facing an international mental health crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and with research advancing into psychedelics to treat mental health conditions, more people are using psychedelics, many for the first time. Over 6 million people in the U.S. now have access to decriminalized psychedelics, with voters in both Oregon and Washington, D.C. last week approving measures granting legal or decriminalized access to psychedelics, joining Oakland, Denver, Ann Arbor, and others. Psychedelics are increasingly being used in supervised therapeutic or ceremonial settings, but many people are experimenting with them while alone, and with no one to turn to if their “trip” becomes too intense.
That’s where Fireside Project comes in. The San Francisco-based non-profit announced today that in April 2021, it will launch the Psychedelic Peer Support Line, a free, confidential service by phone, text message, and live chat for people having difficult psychedelic trips. This will be the first support line in the world specifically for helping people navigate psychedelic experiences.
“We started Fireside Project because we wanted to help reduce the possible negative consequences of using psychedelics without support, and to help people get the most from their psychedelic experiences. These are powerful tools that can help people live fuller, deeper, more connected lives, if they have the right kind of support,” explains Fireside Project’s Founder and Director Joshua White. “It’s now more critical than ever that there be a trusted, free, and confidential resource for people whose experiences have become too overwhelming.”
"As access to psychedelic drugs expands, it's critical that there be a free, confidential support line for people to call during and after their psychedelic experiences," says California State Senator Scott Wiener, who has pledged to introduce legislation to regulate psychedelics in California in 2021.
There is growing evidence that psychedelics—such as psilocybin (sometimes known as magic mushrooms) and MDMA (sometimes known as “ecstasy” or “molly”)—can help treat conditions such as depression, end-of-life anxiety, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans, sexual assault survivors, and others. Taking psychedelics without proper preparation or support, however, can be risky, with some users calling 911 or unnecessarily visiting the emergency room.
Although Fireside Project’s services will be available to people across the United States, the organization will draw upon its local roots. “The San Francisco Bay Area is the birthplace of the psychedelic movement, and an epicenter of the modern psychedelic research renaissance. With calls to national mental health support lines up as much as one thousand percent and more people seeking out psychedelics than ever before, the time is now for the Psychedelic Peer Support Line,” says Brad Burge, a member of Fireside Project’s Advisory Board, and founder of Integration Communications, a public relations firm that advises businesses in the growing psychedelic industry.
In addition to supporting people who are having difficult trips, Fireside Project will also offer services for people who want to work through their past trips. According to published research, psychedelic experiences can have profound spiritual significance. In a landmark study at Johns Hopkins University, more than two-thirds of volunteers rated their psilocybin experience “either the single most meaningful experience of his or her life or among the top five most meaningful experiences of his or her life.”
“After any spiritually significant event, including a psychedelic journey, you can either spend time unpacking what you learned and apply those lessons to make positive life changes. Or you can go back to work the next day and forget about it,” says White. “Part of our goal is to create long-term relationships with our clients so they can really explore what they’ve learned.”
A key part of Fireside Project’s mission is to advance psychedelic research by studying the thousands of experiences clients are expected to share with Fireside Project every year. “There’s so much we still have to learn about psychedelic experiences, including the best tools for people to use after their experiences to integrate what they’ve learned into their lives. Fireside Project holds significant potential to help us shed light on some of these issues,” says Dr. Joseph Zamaria, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UCSF and a member of Fireside Project’s Advisory Board.
Fireside Project will employ the latest digital technologies to increase its impact. “Our plan is to develop our own artificial intelligence capability, which will eventually allow our volunteers to provide real-time suggestions to clients and draw lessons about how to provide the best support to people during and after their psychedelic experiences,” explains Nicolai Lassen, Fireside Project’s Chief Technology Officer, who is also developing a deep learning system for the government of Denmark to analyze anonymized mental health data provided by patients in the country’s mental health clinics.
In the coming months, Fireside Project will recruit and train dozens of volunteers to staff the Psychedelic Peer Support Line, which will begin serving clients on April 14, 2021. Fireside Project will emphasize hiring volunteers with diverse backgrounds.
“A core part of our mission is to support a more inclusive psychedelic movement,” says Hanifa Washington, Fireside Project’s Cultivator of Beloved Community. “We’ll do this by coalition building with organizations and interest groups that are dedicated to increasing liberatory practices within the movement. We will also listen to the needs, curiosities, and stories of those historically disconnected from the psychedelic movement to better understand how to consciously co-create an inclusive psychedelic community and meaningful psychedelic experiences. In addition, we seek to establish the Fireside Equity Fund, which will help our volunteers who are most impacted by oppression to cover the costs of psychedelic education, training, and access.”
In addition to operating the Psychedelic Peer Support Line, Fireside Project will host public panels about topics such as how to support friends who are in the midst of a psychedelic experience, and how psychedelic mental health services can be made more inclusive.
Fireside Project’s virtual launch panel, which will be broadcast live on November 17 at noon PT on Zoom, will explore the urgent need for remote psychedelic peer support. Moderated by Brad Burge, the panel will include Senator Scott Wiener; Rick Doblin, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a non-profit conducting clinical trials to make MDMA-assisted psychotherapy an approved treatment for PTSD; psychiatrist Dr. Julie Holland, author of the bestselling Weekends at Bellevue and Moody Bitches; Fireside Project’s Founder and Director Joshua White; and Fireside Project’s Cultivator of Beloved Community Hanifa Nayo Washington.
About Fireside Project
Founded in 2020 and based in San Francisco, California, Fireside Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to help people fulfill the potential of their psychedelic experiences by providing compassionate, accessible, and culturally responsive peer support, educating the public, and furthering psychedelic research, while embracing practices that increase equity, power sharing, and belonging within the psychedelic movement.
Learn more about Fireside Project on the web (firesideproject.org), Instagram (@firesideproject), Facebook (@thefiresideproject), or Twitter (@GlowFireside).