The Conscious Fund Talks to… Lynn Marie Morski
Co-founder & President of the Psychedelic Medicine Association
We sat down with Lynn Marie Morski, president of the Psychedelic Medicine Association. Founded earlier this year, the Psychedelic Medicine Association seeks to educate medical professionals on the psychedelic medicine alternatives that may be available for their patients.
How and why did you get involved in the psychedelics industry?
I was working at the VA for nine years as a physician and I was seeing that the patients were suffering from PTSD, depression, traumatic brain injury — things that I was seeing that psychedelic medicine could help with. But, as a Department of Defense employee, I wasn’t allowed to discuss this. I wasn’t even allowed to discuss something as small as CBD and cannabis, much less suggest ayahuasca. So in 2019 I quit the VA and made it my mission to spread knowledge about these medicines. I decided the way I could be most useful was to educate my colleagues. Most of them didn’t even know that ketamine could be used for mental health purposes, much less these other things that would be coming down the pipe soon. I decided you could either reach out and educate the populace or you could reach one doctor. If that doctor sees 100 patients in a week, that doctor is making a huge impact.
Because of my medical background, that’s the route I decided to go with. I have a background in communications and this is where I feel I can be the most useful — in communicating the importance of these medicines, the efficacy of these medicines to my colleagues. Initially I tried to do that through the plant medicine podcast. Then I realized this is not where doctors get their information. The podcast was set up well to answer basic questions, but it wasn’t where doctors were getting their information. So I put my doctor hat on and asked how I would be getting information — through my inbox, through articles sent to me by friends that I could read between patients, little digestible pieces of information. That’s when the idea for the Psychedelic Medicine Association was born — as a way for doctors to come join us. I will admit that the name is a little bit of a misnomer, because associations usually are people doing the thing the association is named for, whereas there aren’t a lot of psychedelic medicine practitioners at this point because it is a very rare field. This is actually an association that is aimed at educating practitioners on psychedelic medicine, because right now your primary care doctors are writing about 80% of antidepressant prescriptions. So that’s our mission, to spread the word about what’s out there and what is coming in the world of psychedelic medicines.
What are you currently working on and what do you hope to achieve?
Currently, we’re working on reaching out to doctors and getting them to join the association, because our biggest challenge is reaching a population of people who don’t know that they need to know this information. They may not even be aware that psychedelic medicine is a field or that there are current psychedelics, like ketamine, are in use. We need to educate people just on the fact that they need to get educated by us. Now that there’s just been an election and the whole state of Oregon is going to have a drastic redesign with what their mental health looks like with the medical model of psilocybin becoming legalized, the doctors there are going to wonder what is this new therapy and how do we use it. Hopefully this will start trickling through the entire country and other doctors will realize that they need to know this information.
So, one of our big pushes is outreach. The other push is to provide this information. We sent out our first monthly newsletter, kind of a catch up to the psychedelic industry. We’re going to send out the latest in psychedelics every month, but for those that are new to psychedelic medicine we need to get them on the same page. We’re about to send out our guide to psychedelic medicines, it’s a quick reference guide for clinicians, it’s got the main psychedelic medicines, what they do, some studies showing their efficacy, and their major contraindications, because if someone comes to your primary care physician and goes “I want to try ibogaine to treat my addiction, is it safe?” the doctor needs to know what is contraindicated for the use of that drug. We want to get physicians at least up to speed with the basic indications and contraindications of these medicines so they feel comfortable having these conversations with their patients.
And the third thing we want to do right now is to increase our community by getting more psychedelic organizations on board as members. On the PMA website we have two forums for members — one is clinicians only and the other is clinicians plus the community. We realized telling doctors about these medicines is a great first step, but if the patient can’t afford them, or if they are afraid of retribution by their employer, or it isn’t legal in the state, or there isn’t research done into their condition, there are going to be barriers to getting patients the care they need. So we wanted to invite in community partners; from the researchers, to the insurance companies, to the people developing the drugs, to the people running the clinics.
How do you think the psychedelic industry can address the concern that the current pharmaceutical model will perpetuate racial and class related healthcare gaps? What are your thoughts on how these therapies can reach communities that are historical underserved and may not have access to new groundbreaking technologies and therapies?
A big focus of the PMA is equitable access to these medicines for all. An important component to keep in mind is the community aspect. We know communities of color have typically been leerie, rightfully so, of the medical establishment sometimes, therefore a lot of these medicines may be easier to reach those communities through community organizations like the work that’s being done in Oakland through the Oakland Community Health Initiative (OCHI). Part of what the PMA aims to do is help those in the healthcare community realize that the pharmaceutical option is just one option of many, as well as work with leaders of communities that are typically underserved to ask how we can best serve their population and then reach out on behalf of these communities to work with those developing the medicines to find ways to make them more affordable and more accessible for all.
What’s lacking in the public discourse surrounding psychedelics?
The general public still sees psychedelics as something done solely recreationally and they may not have become aware that these can be used in a completely therapeutic setting. You have a therapist there, they know exactly the safe source of the medicine, so that isn’t an issue, they have done preparation beforehand, they’re going to do integration afterwards, and you’re not out fending for yourself at a concert hoping you’ll get an insight. This is a controlled setting with the intention set to use this medicine therapeutically. This is a completely separate use of these medicines and hopefully they’ll realize the safety concerns are significantly lower and the therapeutic benefit is significantly higher than that old paradigm.
What measures are you or your organization taking to increase public awareness and education?
Our aim isn’t necessarily to increase public awareness, we have a very focused niche. We want to increase awareness amongst those on the frontlines of patient care. The primary care providers are the ones writing out the most prescriptions for depression, but they are the ones getting the least amount of information from their primary care associations. So to increase this awareness we’re trying to get the message out as we’re getting our name out. Our message being that these medicines are here, more are coming, they are more effective than what we’ve been trying, we know that therapy and antidepressants really have abysmal results, so many side effects, and they are often just trying to put a bandaid on symptoms and never address the core issues, and these psychedelics address these core issues for a lot of these problems we’ve found really treatment resistant.
What research is being done right now that excites you the most?
Recently, an article came out through the Yale neurology department about psilocybin and migraines. I think migraines are common and there is a lot of disability from them and there haven’t been great solutions beforehand so I think it’s really exciting if we find out psilocybin can be helpful in that realm. I also think that a lot of the work coming out about ayahuasca and DMT being able to help with neurogenesis will be really impactful to help those with traumatic brain injury and other neural deficits.
What over the past year have you accomplished that you are most proud of/shows the most promise regarding the future of the psychedelic industry?
Founding this Association — we’re talking about it! I brought this up to Henri at The Conscious Fund over the summer, we launched in the fall, and we were in High Times yesterday! Who saw that coming? So, to go from zero to an association that has 30+ organizational members and 150+ doctors and clinicians signed up in less than two months is very exciting for us.