Changing the World, ONe Haircut at a Time, with Dr. Ben Sessa
Dr. Ben Sessa is a consultant psychiatrist in adult addictions, working part-time at Addiction in Weston-Super-Mare and is senior research fellow at Bristol, Cardiff and Imperial College London Universities, where he is currently taking time off from clinical medical practice to study towards a PhD in MDMA Psychotherapy. He has specialist training as a child and adolescent psychiatrist and is interested in the developmental trajectory from child maltreatment to adult mental health disorders. Dr Sessa’s joint interests in psychotherapy, pharmacology and trauma have lead him towards researching the subject of drug-assisted psychotherapy using psychedelic adjuncts. He is the author of two books exploring psychedelic medicine; The Psychedelic Renaissance (2012) and To Fathom Hell or Soar Angelic (2015) and is currently conducting research with Imperial College London and Cardiff universities studying the potential role for MDMA-assisted therapy for the treatment of PTSD and alcohol dependence syndrome. Dr Sessa is outspoken on lobbying for change in the current system by which drugs are classified in the UK, believing a more progressive policy of regulation would reduce the harms of recreational drug use. He is a co-founder and director of the UK’s Breaking Convention conference.
In this conversation, Jonathan and Ben discuss “How old is old enough,” the illogic of the new UK Psychoactive Substances Law, and how to take your kids to festivals safely. Ben also explains his belief in why the medical model of psychedelics has the best chance of changing the hearts and minds of mainstream culture and making them more widely available to all. As a pediatric psychiatrist, a father of 2, and an expert in the clinical application of psychedelic medicines, Dr. Sessa is uniquely qualified to provide insight into many of the questions we often ask here at Psychedelic Parenting, and we are excited to have him on the show.
Watch Ben’s recent TEDx talk, “Is MDMA Psychaiatry’s Antibiotic” below
On being told that studying psychedelic medicine would be “career suicide”:
BS: I would recommend any young clinician who is wondering what to do with their lives to get into psychedelic medicine. It’s far from “career suicide.” On the contrary, I’ve had books and dozens of papers published, traveled all over the world speaking at mainstream medical events. If, as a mainstream doctor, one aligns one’s self with this study, you kind of go right to the top, because there’s no one else doing it!
PP: How Important do you think it is for a clinician or a doctor to have had these experiences personally themselves?:
BS: I think if you’re going to be a therapist delivering MDMA or LSD or Psilocybin therapy, you absolutely must have had the experience. It’s a vital part of the training. Just as when you’re going to be a psychotherapist, you have to have six or seven years of analysis. The way in which MDMA or any psychedelic is delivered, it’s about being alongside the patient in that mental space. The most important part of that sort of work is making the patient feel at ease and safe in the hands of the person that’s guiding them. To have not had experience in that mental state, not only would you miss the material that’s important, but it’s potentially dangerous for the patient to not have someone who knows where they’re going.
PP: As someone who has experience with these medicines in a therapeutic setting and also as a trained psychotherapist of children, how would you answer the question “How Old is ‘Old Enough?'”:
BS: It’s such a difficult question, and I don’t think there’s a single answer. There are so many complex questions. The general message, I would say, to any young person under the age of 18 is “avoid using many, if any, substances until you are an adult,” but after that, it’s different for different substances. With Psychedelics, its hard, because do I answer based on law or based on toxicity? In terms of toxicity, LSD and Psilocybin are incredibly safe drugs. In an ideal world, I would rather imagine my child taking a low toxic drug than a high toxic drug like alcohol. But then there’s the legal question, and this makes the whole debate immensely difficult. So what I say to my children and to my patients is: “Do not touch any of these illegal drugs, because if you get caught, and you get busted and you get a sentence, you are screwed. You’ve closed doors. You can’t get visas, you can’t be a solicitor, you can’t be a teacher, you can’t be in the police force. All these doors are closed to you.” That is an outrageous situation in which we live, where by far the most dangerous thing about these drugs is their illegal status. But the truth is that one joint of cannabis can destroy your life.
Topics and Websites Discussed in this Podcast:
- This Week’s Sponsor!
- Laura C
- Books by Dr. Sessa
- As A Contributor:
- Acid Drops: Adventures in Psychedelia (2016)
- Breaking Convention: Essays on Psychedelic Consciousness (2013)
- Neurotransmissions: Essays on Psychedelics from Breaking Convention (2015)
- Out of the Shadows: A Cornucopia from the Psychedelic Press (2015)
- The Psychedelic Policy Quagmire: Health, Law, Freedom, and Society (2015)
- MDMA for PTSD (2013)
- Psychedelic Press UK V: “One Man’s Cognitive Impairment is Another Man’s Party” by Ben Sessa