Hi reddit! We are the Zendo Project, a non-profit psychedelic harm reduction service for festivals, concerts, and community events where professionally trained volunteers provide a tranquil space, water, and compassionate care for attendees undergoing difficult psychedelic experiences.

Psychedelic harm reduction is an effective public health-based alternative to hospitalization and arrest. By assisting guests in changing their experiences into valuable opportunities for learning and growth, psychedelic harm reduction helps prevent and transform difficult experiences related to non-ordinary state of consciousness.

Psychedelics—such as MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, and many others—are illegal in the United States and most other countries, except in approved scientific studies. Using psychedelics can produce overwhelming and uncomfortable experiences, which becomes more likely with high doses, in first-time users, and when adequate preparation or setting are not available.

The Zendo Project's mission is to provide a supportive space for guests undergoing difficult psychedelic experiences or other psychological challenges, in order to:

  • Transform difficult experiences into opportunities for learning and personal growth
  • Reduce the number of psychiatric hospitalizations and arrests
  • Create an environment for volunteers to work together to improve their harm reduction skills through training and feedback
  • Demonstrate that safe, productive psychedelic experiences are possible without the need for law enforcement-based policies.

Since 2012, the Zendo Project has assisted over 700 guests, most of whom were having challenging psychedelic experiences when they arrived. We have trained approximately 500 volunteers to provide psychedelic harm reduction services at events, totaling over 10,000 hours of volunteer time.

The Zendo Project is sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization: maps.org

We have assembled a great group of volunteers to answer any questions that you have for us! To learn more and support the expansion of our work, please watch our new video and share our new outreach campaign: zendoproject.org

Proof: Facebook + Twitter

Comments: 91 • Responses: 31  • Date: 

MainStreetExile27 karma

Can you explain the risks you're trying to mitigate? Are there OD concerns? Do people hurt themselves during a bad trip?

Also, what makes you volunteer for this? Did many of your volunteers have bad experiences themselves?

ZendoProject34 karma

Good question!

We only volunteer at events where we can be in close communication and connection with medical staff. If there's any sign of a person being physically injured, we redirect the guest to medical support for assistance.

The Zendo is a space for psychological support during difficult psychedelic experiences and beyond, so we work with people who are in need of basic human support. This can range in anything from someone taking more of a substance than they intended, to someone needing a space to process relationship issues, to even someone just feeling completely exhausted and needing a space to crash.

Our volunteers get involved for many reasons. In fact, many are mental health professionals in some capacity, although we don't do therapy on-site. And yes, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that some of them have experienced difficult times themselves and want to give back.

-Irina Alexander, Zendo Project Volunteer

ZendoProject18 karma

There are many risks that can be mitigated by having support during a difficult experience. This can range from physical safety to psychological well-being. A personal who is in an altered state may be unable to take care of their body, in which case we offer things like a place to rest, blankets, extra clothes, tea, snacks or other supplies to help them to be comfortable and safe physically. Additionally, difficult experiences can be psychologically traumatic when no support is provided, and we offer our care to prevent people from going through such challenges without having compassionate loving care to help navigate the difficulty.

-Chelsea Rose, Zendo Project Coordinator

juloxx25 karma

Hey guys, you are the best. I really appreciate what you do.

I wish to get involved as much as possible with teh Zendo team. Do you have a list of events you will be taking part in through out festival season (and beyond). Something like an event schedule?

If there is some (tour) schedule you guys update, I would like to volunteer in the near future.

ZendoProject17 karma

Thanks so much, we really do appreciate you!

Unfortunately we don't have an event schedule to offer at this moment, since events sometimes pop up with short notice, but the best way to stay up-to-date with opportunities to volunteer is by signing up for our email list.

We'll definitely be at Burning Man this year, at two locations to double our capacity! Our volunteer training will take place on Tuesday, September 1, starting at 11:00 AM at Something Freaky This Way Foams, at 4:00 & G.

-Irina Alexander, Zendo Project Volunteer

realitone17 karma

With most volunteers not being medically trained, how do you safely decide when a user needs medical attention?

Also: shameless plug for TripSit, which does this job outside a festival environment, providing live online tripsitting, resources for learning how to safely use drugs, deal with bad trips among other things.

Also while I have Zendo's ear, might you be interested in utilising our combo chart at your festival tents? Several HR orgs in Europe are already doing this :)

edit: link formatting

ZendoProject10 karma

That's a great question! We strive to have a medical volunteer on every shift who can do an assessment and triage if necessary. We don't offer medical care, so we have to send guests with medical concerns to the medical station at an event, which is why we like to be located right next to or at least nearby. In the event that we don't have enough medical volunteers for one to be on every shift, we always make sure to share a radio with medical staff, who have a very quick response time to us. With that, we always urge our volunteers to (at the minimum) get CPR-certified and to know the warning signs for dehydration and overheating, which are two of the most common medical situations at festivals.

Tripsit.me is great! This is the first I've seen of the combo chart so thanks for sharing it. Very comprehensive. I'll talk it over with the other coordinators and we'll see how we could implement it into our educational materials.

Keep up the great work :)

-Linnae Ponté, MAPS Director of Harm Reduction, Director of Zendo Project

DrugPolicyAlliance15 karma

We are huge fans of your work! What laws or policies do you see as the biggest roadblock to having Zendo Project services at a larger number of events?

ZendoProject21 karma

Thank you, this is an hugely important question! We're huge fans of your work as well. The Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act, or RAVE Act, renamed the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, but more common known as The Rave Act, is a law that was passed in 2003. In summary, this law makes venue owners and event producers liable for the acts of their customers, including the use of illicit substances. Due to this law, providing a safe space and public health measures can be interpreted by law enforcement as promoting the use of illicit substances by acknowledging that drugs are used at the event. Therefore, event producers sometimes fear that by hosting harm reduction services such as the Zendo Project, or by enacting safety precautions that protect their patrons from the potentials dangers of drug use (including simply providing free drinking water) venue owners and event producers may be seen as breaking the law.

There is currently a petition in place, called Amend the RAVE Act. Amend the RAVE Act hopes to ensure that education, harm reduction, and proper health services can be provided for people attending large events where drugs may be used, to prevent injury and death that can result from improper health measures and resources, and we encourage everyone reading this to sign the petition. Ideally, harm reduction will become an integral service that events can feel safe and lawful in providing for their patrons.

-Chelsea Rose, Zendo Project Coordinator

tarikofgotham14 karma

Has the Zendo ever partnered with law enforcement formally? As opposed to working across the line from security, have you ever been able to work with/integrate with the standing medical/LE resources at an event?

ZendoProject19 karma

We integrate with medical and security staff at all festivals that we attend, working together as a collaborative team. We provide a medical screening for our guests when they arrive to rule out any possible medical complications and triage with medical emergencies arise. We work alongside security to help de-escalate situations with altered attendees.

By collaborating with medical and security, we have helped to lower the number of hospitalizations and arrests at the events we attend. We have received very positive feedback from festival safety departments, who express relief that our presence helps to takes pressure off of their already busy teams.

-Sara Gael, Zendo Project Coordinator

JenniJam11 karma

This sounds like a wonderful service! I thank you all for your efforts as I personally have had some harrowing experiences at shows. My questions are: what is the process for training your volunteers? Where all do you perform your services?

ZendoProject7 karma

Comprehensive Zendo Project volunteer trainings take place on-site at the festival where we are offering our services. Festivals we have attended include Burning Man, AfrikaBurn, Lightning in a Bottle, and Envision Festival. Many of our volunteers are mental health professionals, psychedelic researchers, and medical service providers. Others have training in holistic healing modalities or other relevant experience. If you are interested in volunteering with the Zendo please sign up for the email newsletter at here. Our monthly newsletter contains information on festivals we are attending and volunteer applications.

-Sara Gael, Zendo Project Coordinator

throwinglemons11 karma

I just have to start by saying, I love you guys! :) thank you for all of your time, energy, and knowledge that you gift to the world!

My question is: I've heard about the integration process and how you encourage people to return to zendo once they are sober for this process. I have never witnessed nor experienced the integration process that you attempt to complete with the participant. Can you describe what it looks like? Does it vary for everyone? If yes, can you give a couple of examples?

Thanks again! See you on playa!

Edit: fixed a word

ZendoProject13 karma

Altered states of any kind expand our awareness, which inherently leads to new insights, knowledge, and personal development. After a psychedelic experience, integration is the process within which an individual assimilates and incorporates this new expanded awareness into their psyche, body, and life.

As with people who are actively on a substance, what we see with people who are seeking assistance integrating really runs the gamut. In some extreme cases, people are having difficulty integrating to the point where their lives have been disrupted, they have low functionality, have lost touch with consensus reality, or are experiencing debilitating anxiety or depression due to unprocessed material. Other people just need some help making sense of their experience and to share it with someone. The integration phase has no definitive time frame. We receive guests in the Zendo who are working to integrate an experience they had yesterday. We also sit with people who want help processing an experience they had 20 years ago.

We don't use one singular integration protocol. Rather, we help the individual process and understand their experience. This understanding does not need to be mental but can also be emotional, spiritual, or physical/ Processing can involve many therapeutic tools including sharing the story, making art, moving the body, receiving reflection, and experiencing emotional release, among other things. The intention is always to help the person embody the learning from their journey so that they can As every journey and every being is unique, integration is unique and looks different for everyone.

Community is an important part of integration. One of the most difficult aspects of integration is returning to a society that doesn’t understand or support psychedelic exploration. In fact, re-entering society can feel like a stark contrast between the interconnected, transpersonal state of the psychedelic experience. Therefore, one of most important tools for successful integration is a supportive, understanding community. We encourage our Guests to connect with and build supportive communities around themselves when they return home from the event. We support them in seeking professional help if necessary.

-Sara Gael, Zendo Project Coordinator

SittingBullChief11 karma

This is a great idea, and I truly hope you are able to assess and aid the many people who have bad experiences at such festivals, raves, etc.

my question is for the volunteers: What was one rewarding experience you have had while with this company?

ZendoProject19 karma

An especially rewarding experience for me and for MAPS comes from pre-Zendo days at Burning Man when MAPS volunteers were working directly with the Rangers in their Sanctuary space behind Ranger headquarters in center camp. One night when I was on duty, a group of about 8 people came in all on mushrooms. Only one of them was having a difficult experience but the entire group came to seek help for that person, wanting to stay together since they were all friends. We went to a separate tent and all squeezed into a relatively small space. In less than an hour, the person who was having a difficult experience was feeling much more relaxed and was even laughing now and then. It was wonderful to see the positive influence of group support and to be able to work with one person while her friends where there also helping her feel safe and appreciated. By helping one person, the entire group ended up having a deeper and more delightful experience which could just as easily have turned into a dark time for the entire group. I've had my own share of difficult psychedelic experiences so it's especially satisfying to help others work through these moments.

What made this experience especially rewarding both for me and for MAPS is that one of the friends was David Bronner. This was the first time that he and I had met in person, though we'd both been aware of and appreciated each other's work. David and I had each been involved in suing the DEA, David trying to pressure DEA into licensing the production of hemp and me trying to pressure DEA into licensing the production of medical marijuana for federally-regulated research. We initially bonded during the moments I was helping a friend of his work through her difficult psychedelic experience and we began building a personal and professional relationship. After a few years, David joined the MAPS Board of Directors and is now playing an essential role in developing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD into an FDA-approved prescription treatment. MAPS' work on psychedelic harm reduction has fundamentally contributed to our work on psychedelic benefit maximization!

-Rick Doblin, Ph.D., MAPS Executive Director, Zendo Project Volunteer

ZendoProject10 karma

One of the most rewarding experiences of being involved with this work is when a guest returns the day after, or even the year after, to express their gratitude for being helped through their overwhelm or difficulty, letting us know how transformative their time in the Zendo was. Many guests who come to the space to receive services become so enthusiastic about the project that they continue to promote or support the project in other ways. When people say things such as "wow, I'm so grateful you guys are here. I don't know what I would have done without you" it really reminds me of how much of a difference we are able to make in people's lives by doing this work.

-Sara Gael, Zendo Project Coordinator

CannabisandCandy10 karma

Which psychedelics do you find to be the hardest to control when someone is having a bad experience? And what would you consider the most commonly used psychedelic at the events you attend?

ZendoProject10 karma

The most difficult experiences for us to work with are when people don’t know what they’ve taken or when they thought they were taking one thing but turns out it was something else. It’s hard for us to know what’s going on with a person if we have no clue what they are on or the purity of the substance. But usually we have a pretty good guess after spending some time with them. We work with people where they are at.

Every region has it’s own culture of most commonly used substances. There are micro climates of drug use that, like any other market, reflect the culture of the place and the supply of the material. Some festivals have lots of alcohol and then we get many cases of mixing alcohol and psychedelics, which don’t usually work well together. Other festivals have a ban on alcohol.

Because of the illegality of psychedelics, people are purchasing and ingesting substances of unknown purity. This is a recipe for disaster. In areas where people can’t access LSD, they get 25I-NBOMe instead. In areas where pure MDMA is not available, people take “ecstasy," which can have cocaine, meth or PCP mixed in. There are groups looking into drug purity: https://www.ecstasydata.org/

-Shannon Clare Petitt, Zendo Project Volunteer

Maitathams8 karma

I just graduated with a bachelors in psychology and am taking a year off before pursuing my PsyD in Clinical psychology. I have been following the Zendo Project for some time and was wondering what can I (and others interested) do to work with your team? I have been interested in psychedelic science, but encounter lots of community backlash when discussed. How did you all at the Zendo project make it this far, and did you encounter backlash against the ideas you promote?

ZendoProject13 karma

Congratulations on your recent graduation!

The Zendo Project is always accepting new volunteers! Our application form is here.

Yes, we are working against a taboo here. What I find most compelling is that the Zendo Project is focused on harm reduction. We aren’t asking for a revolution (…yet!). We know that people are taking substances regardless and that most aren’t getting the support they need. The Zendo Project often works side-by-side with the festival medical team. No one would recommend that an event with thousands of people not have a medical staff onsite, that would be irresponsible! Similarly, we can’t deny the truth that people are having psychedelic emergencies and need trained people onsite to help.

Linnae Ponte, Director of Harm Reduction, has waded through years of push back, mostly from festivals afraid of bad PR. It’s sad that an event organizer is afraid that the public will retaliate if they provide psychedelic harm reduction. Actually, more than PR, the RAVE Act makes some organizers afraid of being imprisoned and fined for offering harm reduction at their event.

On the bright side, our culture is slowly changing. Even in the last few years of the Zendo Project, we’ve gained more and more support from the festivals that invite us to their event. We are working with organizers on addressing the public and political concern of being seen as endorsing an illegal activity. We are prioritizing the safety of people first. And slowly the drug war is shifting.

In short, it’s taken years of relationship building. This is something we can all do in our communities. It starts with the people.

-Shannon Clare Petitt, Zendo Project Volunteer

i_am_pajamas7 karma

Do you volunteer at Burning Man?

ZendoProject5 karma

The Zendo Project has been providing psychedelic harm reduction at Burning Man since 2012. During this time we have trained hundreds of volunteers and provided services to many guests in need of support. We will return to Burning Man in 2015 to host two spaces on both sides of the playa. This is the first year that the Zendo will have two locations on the playa.

Our volunteer training is open to the entire Burning Man Community and will be held at Something Freaky This Way Foams (4:00 & G) on Tuesday, September 1, starting at 11:00 AM. The video from our volunteer training at Burning Man 2014 is available online. If you are interested in volunteering with the Zendo at Burning Man or other festivals please sign up for the email newsletter here.

-Sara Gael, Zendo Project Coordinator

i_am_pajamas2 karma

How are you different than the green Rangers?

ZendoProject2 karma

Please see our response here. Thanks!

otso_kallio2 karma

/u/ZendoProject: Former Burning Man ESD and Rampart EMT with a question: is the Zendo Project the same as the Ranger Green Dot program, an outgrowth, or... ?

ZendoProject5 karma

We are not affiliated with Burning Man's Rangers, or Green Dot Rangers. We have collaborated with Rangers at other events including AfrikaBurn (South Africa) and Lightning in a Bottle. We hope our work supports the already established harm reduction departments at Burning Man and other events, and we have really enjoyed any opportunities we've had to work alongside Rangers.

-Linnae Ponté, MAPS Director of Harm Reduction, Director of Zendo Project

maedwe5 karma

Hi! I think that the work you guys do is so amazing. My question is, what advice would you give me for how to talk to a younger sibling about responsible and safe drug use? What age would you say is a good time to start? I have no reason to believe she is doing anything now, but I think in the next couple of years it's a possibility that she would have normal teenage-fueled curiosity. I'm very invested in making sure she make it through her young life without harming herself, and I'd like to mitigate the dangers of misinformation from her peers, society, and fear-based education.

ZendoProject5 karma

This is a very important topic. As a mom and older sister, I've thought quite a bit about it myself. In terms of the right age to approach the topic, it depends on the kid and the environment they are raised in. Kids and teens will encounter drugs and the culture that surrounds drug use at different ages. You probably know when you sister would be benefited by such a talk, by knowing her closely and following your intuition. I think it is important to ask them whether they'd like to talk about the topic and inform them that whenever they want to approach the conversation, you are there to discuss it with them, judgement free.

What we want is to empower youth to make their own informed decisions, and you can do this by not telling them what to do, but by offering honest information, personal experience, and even suggestions. Kids are much more likely to doubt information, and ignore risks, when one-sided propaganda is all they are presented with. Explaining why people use, what the benefits may be, as well as the dangers and risks involved, can be far more helpful for teens navigating peer pressure, drugs at school, and new experiences that begin to present themselves for the first time. It is immensely beneficial for a teen to have someone they can turn to for support and knowledge over time, whenever different curiosities or situations arise. If she knows you are there for her, that will be huge.

Share your resources, experience, information and give her a head start! She's lucky to have someone looking out for her in such a way.

-Chelsea Rose, Zendo Project Coordinator

DJ_Velveteen5 karma

Hi, happy to see your AMA today while getting online to check on the status of BM applications :) Hope I'll be seeing y'all at orientation!

Could you discuss the process by which you introduce the Zendo to festivals or other events? What would someone do in terms of space allocation, funding, and staff in order to get a Zendo set up at their own festival? What's your ideal ratio of Zendo staff to festival attendees? How could someone out there lay groundwork to get the Zendo (or functionally identical teams) brought to their own gatherings?

Secondly, do you foresee the Zendo facing a crackdown from state/federal authorities similar to how DanceSafe was banned from helping keep raves safe by the RAVE Act? Are there backup plans to transform/replace the Zendo if something like this were to happen?

ZendoProject5 karma

Thanks for asking! ​ The Zendo Project collaborates with festival producers who see the need for harm reduction services and are interested in offering these services at their event. ​ ​We ask for a centralized space that's located close to a medical station and any security or rangers. We also like to offer a training for volunteers (that is also open to the public) the first day of the event, as well as enough tickets for a team of volunteers to staff the space 24/7 from the start to end of the festival. For funding, we do ask that our travel, supplies, and time be compensated, and we negotiate this on a case-by-case basis. For an event under 5K attendees that is 4 days or shorter, usually a team of 20-25 is good. For bigger events or those that are longer in duration, we usually like a team of 30 or more. For Burning Man (our biggest event) this year, we're going to have two locations, and about 200 volunteers, just to give you a sense of the range.

If you or someone you know is interested in helping bring Zendo to a particular event, please contact a Zendo Coordinator at [email protected].

If you are interested in organizing harm reduction services outside of the Zendo project, a good resource is our manual, available here, as well as the Manual for Psychedelic Support.

-Linnae Ponté, MAPS Director of Harm Reduction, Director of Zendo Project

CrotchRaptor5 karma

Hi there,

Thank you for all that you do. I am an avid research follower and have had my eye on you guys for the past month since I heard about you. Extremely interested in volunteering, as I am in the tail end of my Masters program in Clinical Psychology.
Do you provide harm reduction training in only one location, or do these locations migrate? Are there fees for said training, or is that funded through your campaign or a grant of some sort?

Thanks for doing this and for putting your project within reach to the public eye.

ZendoProject5 karma

We provide a training onsite at each event where a Zendo will be hosted. The training is mandatory for Zendo Project volunteers working the event but is open to all event attendees for educational purposes. There is no charge for attending a training at the beginning of an event, other than the entry fees for the event itself. We also offer remote online trainings for a donation. This training can be offered to an individual or a group, and can be scheduled according to your needs. If you are interested in a remote online training, please email [email protected] and we would be happy to provide more details.

-Chelsea Rose, Zendo Project Coordinator

CrotchRaptor1 karma

Thanks so much for the response! I may be emailing for remote training if there are no future events near me. I saw that you already stated that we can follow your email newsletter to know where you will be at in the future, so I have followed this accordingly!

ZendoProject2 karma

You can also find a link to our Burning Man 2014 training here: http://www.maps.org/resources/responding_to_difficult_psychedelic_experiences/5245-zendo-project-psychedelic-harm-reduction-volunteer-training-2014

Best of luck!

-Irina Alexander, Zendo Project Volunteer

ionlyknowalittle5 karma

Hello! Thank you for your work, and also for this opportunity to talk to you about it.

I heard recently that DanceSafe has been removed from events they were allowed to set up at, has the Zendo Project encountered such obstacles? Do you collaborate with DanceSafe at events where you are both present?

ZendoProject4 karma

It’s a shame to hear that DanceSafe and Bunk Police have been removed from festivals lately. We haven’t had this type of experience before.

There are, indeed, liability concerns that all festival producers face when they move to establish harm reduction at their event. But from my knowledge, harm reduction services haven’t contributed to any RAVE Act prosecution, though it’s been enough to keep many festivals from adopting a more progressive policy. This is changing, and a coalition of harm reduction groups are working to Amend the RAVE Act.

We recently collaborated with DanceSafe at Lightning in a Bottle in Bradley, CA, over Memorial Day weekend. They had a great team that were impressively knowledgeable about drugs and potential adulterants, and though they weren't offering on-site drug checking, they helped hundreds of folks who needed on the spot information.

-Linnae Ponté, MAPS Director of Harm Reduction, Director of Zendo Project

ZendoProject3 karma

A recent obstacle that the Zendo Project encountered was when I contacted the promoter of the Grateful Dead Fare Thee Well 50th Anniversary shows and offered to organize volunteers to provide psychedelic harm reduction services at no cost to the promoter. Our offer was rejected and we were told that they had it covered. It seemed to me that this response was due to concerns about the RAVE Act. We decided we'd do whatever psychedelic harm reduction we could and obtained a $10,000 grant from the Mental Insight Foundation to hand out about 30,000 brochures during the five Fare Thee Well shows that included information about the Zendo Project and about how to help somebody having a difficult psychedelic experience. We heard from quite a few people at the shows that our information was useful to them.

At the Chicago shows, I contacted the event medical staff and asked how they had it covered when dealing with people who had difficult psychedelic experiences. I was told that they had no special training at all for handling psychedelic emergencies and that their approach was to tranquilize and hospitalize, about the worst things you can do as a general approach. If not for the RAVE Act, we could have helped quite a few more people and demonstrated a model for a psychedelic harm reduction in a post-prohibition world.

Also, MAPS cooperates with DanceSafe whenever we can. MAPS was DanceSafe's fiscal sponsor when Emanuel Sferios first started DanceSafe. MAPS and DanceSafe work closely together now that they are independent. Mitchell Gomez, DanceSafe's National Outreach Director, went to New College of Florida, as did, Jag Davies, the Drug Policy Alliances's Director of Communications Strategy, Linnae and I. I was at New College decades before them, at a time when Earth and Fire Erowid and Allen Hopper (a lawyer working to end marijuana prohibition, who sued the DEA with me in the Craker/medical marijuana production case when he was at ACLU) were also there. We're all proud of New College's contribution to the psychedelic and drug policy reform community.

-Rick Doblin, Ph.D., MAPS Executive Director, Zendo Project Volunteer

the_str5 karma

I sometimes find that mentioning a psychedelic experience to a friend or loved one leaves them deeply concerned for my well-being. I'm always happy when people I love are concerned for my well-being, but is there a good resource you'd recommend to help them understand, that doesn't feel too preachy?

ZendoProject5 karma

When I first started working for MAPS (which, essentially, meant I came out of the psychedelic closet), I really struggled with the tension between wanting to be open and authentic with my family, and not want them to worry about my well-being, since they definitely weren’t not up to speed on clinical research or potential beneficial applications. I’ll never forget the first time I went back home to visit my family in Florida, and my sister (3 years older than me, drug naïve) started asking about MAPS. She kindly said, “Just promise me you won’t ever try those things, though, because I’m pretty sure they make people go crazy.” I held in a chuckle, put my arm around her, and said “Oh Jess, I’ve tried them, they helped me immensely, and I may be less crazy because of how much they’ve helped me to heal some old stuff.” I went on to assure Jess that I was responsible, and had only worked with psychedelics in safe contexts, and in moderation. Today, she and my family members send me articles they see in the news about psychedelics, and while none of them have ever wanted to personally explore, they’re all supportive of the work and can acknowledge the deep healing that others find.

I think it’s important to consider that virtually everyone knows someone who deals with addiction or has had life setbacks because of drug use, and many people don’t parse out “good drugs” and “bad drugs.” Accepting their concerns as valid (and coming from a place of love), while debunking the myths by offering information about controlled clinical trials being conducted by MAPS, Heffter, and other institutions is the route that I take. My family still thinks I’m weird, but that’s fine by me as long as they’re not up at night worrying J

Here’s a great quote from a dear friend who passed away last year, Daniel Jabbour, taken from the MAPS Bulletin, "Psychedelic Society Goes Global; "If you decide to come out of the psychedelic closet: Be yourself, be educated, and talk about your own experience as much as you can. It doesn’t hurt to point out that FDA-approved clinical research is taking place with multiple psychedelics."

-Linnae Ponté, MAPS Director of Harm Reduction, Director of Zendo Project

RedErin5 karma

What's the worst thing you've seen someone do why on psychedelics?

ZendoProject5 karma

Psychedelics have been demonized for decades now, so I am a little hesitant to add to the hysteria. People often take the worst case scenario and use extremes to claim how bad something can be. But we also don’t want to deny the risks of psychedelic use either. I think it is important to look at both the benefits and the risks.

Sadly, people sometimes take psychoactive substances and hurt themselves or others. It’s rare that a Zendo guest is violent but it does happen. That’s why we work closely with the festival organizers to keep people safe. Usually violence is a reaction to panic, and panic is a normal response to things feeling out of control. This happens when someone takes too much of a substance or wasn’t prepared for the experience. It also happens when the environment around them doesn’t feel safe, the music is too loud or their friends are lost. Most often, when the person is back in a supportive environment, the panic reduces and some of the extreme situations are prevented. Hopefully that’s the Zendo!

Psychedelics bring feelings and thoughts out of the subconscious. They often magnify the mood a person is in when they take the substance. It’s very important for people to be aware of what they intend out of the experience. We say “set and setting,” the inner environment and the outer environment, support the experience.

I’ve seen several guests come in to the Zendo on the verge of committing suicide and luckily I can say I’ve seen them leave after hours (sometimes days) of support back on solid ground, with friends and no desire of hurting themselves. But we also need to pay attention to the support people need days and weeks after an experience, once they are back home, in their community.

-Shannon Clare Petitt, Zendo Project Volunteer

joker-lol3 karma

Have you faced any backlash against what you do?

I think it's awesome and I support all kinds of harm reduction, but then again, I also don't think many of these drugs should be illegal. I know some people take a negative attitude, though, and see harm reduction as acceptance/encouragement of drug use.

ZendoProject5 karma

The question about whether MAPS has faced any backlash involves a two part answer. The first part is to say that MAPS’ entire existence is in response to a backlash. I needed to create MAPS in order to respond to a backlash against the psychedelic sixties that included Nixon's expansion of the War on Drugs and the passage of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, ending all psychedelic research for decades. The long tail of that backlash resulted in the DEA criminalization of MDMA in 1985, in response to which I created MAPS in 1986.

The second part of my answer is about whether I personally or any MAPS staff have personally suffered consequences from a backlash against us doing our legal work seeking to conduct FDA-regulated research psychedelics and marijuana and to provide psychedelic harm reduction services. That answer to that is mostly but not entirely no, and is due to what is great about America, the constitutional freedoms of speech, assembly, the press, and religion. In many other countries, MAPS’ work would be illegal and we’d be harassed, arrested or worse. Here in America, I was able to work within the system to start a non-profit organization that can give people tax-deductions to try to research drugs that are demonized and stigmatized and criminalized.

On the other hand, Dr. Michael Mithoefer was told that he would need to give up his position as a lecturer at the Medical University of South Carolina if he wanted to work on MDMA/PTSD research. Michael chose to give up his position but now, about 10 years later, he’s been welcomed back. Dr. Sue Sisley was fired by the University of Arizona because she was exercising her right as a citizen to lobby the Arizona legislature to get it to allocate some of the roughly $10 million it raised from medical marijuana licenses on medical marijuana research, which they still haven’t done. Back in 1990-1991, I’d been selected into the Presidential Management Fellowship operated by the White House Office of Personnel Management for people seeking a career in the federal government. I decided to seek a job at the FDA in the Division that reviewed research with psychedelics and marijuana and other controlled substances. Unfortunately, the DEA told FDA that they would refuse to work with me which ended my chance to work in the Division at FDA that interacted with DEA.

One amusing and ineffectual backlash occurred when the Scientologists leafletted hundreds of cars near Harvard's McLean Hospital, where MAPS was conducting our MDMA/cancer anxiety study, objecting to our research. People laughed at the simplistic arguments and nothing came of it.

Fortunately, there has been no organized backlash against MAPS and our work is increasingly valued in our society. It’s not been easy but many times I’ve thought about how much worse my life would have been, and perhaps how much shorter, if I was doing this sort of work in Russia, China or many other countries, and how lucky I am to live in America. Of course, I’ll truly be fortunate if I see in my own lifetime a psychedelic America that has fully integrated psychedelics and marijuana into mainstream culture. That day is coming…

-Rick Doblin, Ph.D., MAPS Executive Director, Zendo Project Volunteer

ZendoProject2 karma

Amazingly, the psychedelic reduction work hasn't had much vocal backlash at all. Maybe this is evidence of the tide-turning in our favor.

I imagine one critique might be that we are "condoning drug use", which we certainly don't, or that people will be more likely to over do it because we are there to catch them. I think it is important to remind potential critics that many festival goers are going to take drugs, regardless of our presence, and services like the Zendo Project are economically and psychologically preferable alternatives to jail and the hospital.

Cody Swift, Zendo Project Volunteer

lionofjudah1233 karma

Thank you for everything you do. Has it sometimes been hard to watch someone having a bad experience with only so much you can actually do for them? I know my friend was kinda wigged watching me have a bad paranoid intense trip on LSD a few weeks ago.

ZendoProject4 karma

It’s one of the toughest parts of this work: knowing when to intervene and offer support, and trusting when it’s right to stay put and let the person have the experience, as much as it may seem like they’re suffering. One important point is that we don’t actually know how much or whether they’re suffering at all, regardless of how they might look when they come into the Zendo. If they’re struggling, that might be what they need to be experiencing. We so often go about our lives ignoring the deep grief we might be holding about a previous event in our life, and psychedelics offer the opportunity to release trauma, tension, and grief. Stan Grof says, “Whatever has a strong emotional charge and is close enough to the surface may come up to be reprocessed.” Trusting in the person’s process is key, and knowing that a calm supportive presence is likely the most helpful offering.

It also reminds me of a funny term my friend and Zendo volunteer Katherine MacLean and I talked about at last year’s AfrikaBurn: that we’re spiritual midwives. Our role is to be patient, to “catch” whatever comes up, and to intervene with the natural wisdom of the individual’s psyche as little as possible.

Compassion literally means “suffering together,” allowing our self to be with another’s person’s suffering, and allowing it to touch that place within our self. This hard, often deeply emotional, work that requires a whole lot of self-care.

So it’s important, as sitters, to stay aware of our breath, to focus on staying grounded in our body; I sometimes imagine myself rooted into the earth. We bring awareness into the way the guest’s experience is affecting us, and work with any feelings this brings up. It’s double duty: being with the guest, and being with our own sometimes profound experience. We also debrief together, volunteers and shift leads, after sitting with a guest, and process whatever feelings are left over.

I really enjoyed answering your question, and am feeling compelled to include even more information about this topic in our upcoming training at Burning Man.

-Linnae Ponté, MAPS Director of Harm Reduction, Director of Zendo Project

DoomLexus3 karma

How widespread are psychedelics at public events in general?

ZendoProject3 karma

There are no exact statistics on how many people are taking psychedelics. I’ve read that about 32 million people in the US attend music festivals. One can only imagine what the global number is! Some festivals bring in 2-3 million attendees in one weekend! And then the data about psychedelic use is all just a guess. That is the sad reality, that people are often too scared to talk about psychedelics, even when they need help. Because of the RAVE Act it is illegal for festival organizers to do anything that conveys supporting drug use so the dialogue has been inhibited by fear.

From personal experience working with the Zendo Project at U.S. and international music festivals, I would guess that at any given music festival about two-thirds of festival attendees will have a psychedelic experience, or two, or three, over the course of the event. Some festivals have more psychedelic use than others, depending on the music, attendees, and festival organization. I didn’t see much psychedelic use at the punk shows I used to frequent but the prevalence of other substances was much greater than the festivals the Zendo Project has worked with.

Of course millions of people are taking psychedelics at home and in other venues. Communities can adopt their own harm reduction practices to address the needs of psychedelic users in other contexts. I hope to see families, colleagues, and friend groups learning the four principles and adopting/adapting them at home.

-Shannon Clare Petitt, Zendo Project Volunteer

EaJ15223 karma

Have you ever worked with individuals undergoing Ayahuasca treatment before? Specifically a shaman curated ceremony?

ZendoProject4 karma

We are not aware of anyone who has entered the Zendo while experiencing ayahuasca. It's not really a party drug, so I'm not very surprised!

-Linnae Ponté, MAPS Director of Harm Reduction, Director of Zendo Project

Quinaldine3 karma

How did you go about setting up a big project like this, and how did you deal with the criticisms you have received while trying to help and educate people about drug use with psychedelics?

By the way I have huge respect for everyone involved for setting out this great task of providing safe environments for people who are having a bad time at events, you should all be very proud of what you have accomplished so far, hopefully this idea can spread to the UK!

ZendoProject6 karma

Psychedelic harm reduction really started back in the 70’s, with RockMed offering support in “trip tents” at Grateful Dead shows. We’ve seen a resurgence in the number of psychedelic-inspired transformational gatherings in the past decade.

In 2002, just following Portugal’s move to decriminalize personal drug possession, MAPS began working in collaboration with BOOM festival and other events to establish harm reduction services. Today, BOOM festival has what I would consider the world’s leading model for psychedelic harm reduction, called KosmiCare. It’s in a centralized space, it’s promoted and included on the map and survival guide. Harm reduction volunteers collaborate with medical staff and security, and the work is funded by both the event and the local government. They offer on-site thin-layer chromatography drug screening for free, so attendees can find out not only whether their sample is adulterated, but which adulterants it contains. Talk about quality control! I had the opportunity to volunteer with KosmiCare a few years ago, and was astounded at the level of care and degree to which these services are integrated into the culture at the event: It’s not an abnormal choice for someone having a hard time to go to KosmiCare and receive support. There’s no fear that going to KosmiCare will result in punitive measures, and there’s no paranoia about drug-related arrests. It’s incredible, and it changes the culture from a fear-based approach to bad trips, to one that provides opportunity for healing and growth. This, in my mind, constitutes the structure for a transformational gathering.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. João Goulão, who was part of the expert panel who developed the initial recommendations for the decriminalization of drugs presented in 1998, about the role of decriminalization in harm reduction in Portugal.

In 2012, a group of individuals from a large Burning Man village, Fractal Nation, requested psychedelic harm reduction, which led to the official formation of the Zendo Project (which is when I got involved leading the project). I had the opportunity to go to BOOM festival in 2012, so I had seen and volunteered with KosmiCare, which helped me develop the on-site services that we now offer at Burning Man, Envision, AfrikaBurn, and Lightning in a Bottle, along with other smaller events.

I would say the criticism are so outweighed by the curiosity and excitement for this work, that it hasn’t been an issue. Mostly, we encounter individuals who express fears around liability and potential RAVE Act prosecutions (and there are efforts to amend the RAVE Act – check out https://www.amendtheraveact.org), For me, I see it as an opportunity to educate and provide updated information pertaining to those policies, of which no festival organizers that I know of have ever been prosecuted for.

-Linnae Ponté, MAPS Director of Harm Reduction, Director of Zendo Project

Thatguyzack3 karma

Is there any new drugs out there that we may or may not know about?

ZendoProject2 karma

While t​here are many new "designer" drugs released every year, that don't have a tested safety profile or a known LD-50​, it's equally important to be aware that "classic" and established drugs may not actually be what they are advertised to be. ​This is why organizations that provide honest drug education, such as Erowid and DanceSafe are crucial. At events, DanceSafe can check drug samples to test for the presence of other known adulterants. You can also have a sample​s​ tested at http://www.ecstasydata.org.

-Linnae Ponté, MAPS Director of Harm Reduction, Director of Zendo Project

InfiniteFinale2 karma

Are you a presence in Canada at all?

ZendoProject1 karma

Although MAPS Canada does exist (www.mapscanada.org), it's still a relatively small organization and doesn't have a Zendo Project attached to it.

We'd love to expand, so if you do hear of any festivals in need of harm reduction workers with the capacity to host us, feel free to email [email protected]

Shambhala Music Festival (http://www.shambhalamusicfestival.com/) is a community in BC that has a great harm reduction support team, though we're not affiliated.

Thanks for the question!

-Irina Alexander, Zendo Project Volunteer