The psychological experiences that have been most dismissed in Western Culture are the states we deem ‘mental illness’, especially anxiety and depression, as well as the ecstatic and mystical states of primary religious experience. In both cases, we have systematically pathologized the sensations from deep within our own bodies and those from beyond ourselves, which are resultantly experienced as aberrant, painful, and meaningless suffering. When we reject these callings, not only do they fester and aggravate, but we equally deprive ourselves of a possible source of great psychic fulfillment.
Since 2008, RSF has been funding research into the class of compounds known as ‘psychedelics’ as among the most promising tools for reinstilling access to vital and often repressed parts of our psychic lives. Psychedelics lower our perceptual filters and can provide meaningful expression to relinquished and unbidden material within ourselves and the world around us, allowing them to speak to us through the language of images, archetypes, and emotions, bypassing the defensive or socially conditioned mind.
The Heffter Research Institute promotes research of the highest scientific quality with the classic
hallucinogens and related compounds (sometimes called psychedelics) in order to contribute to a greater
understanding of the mind leading to the improvement of the human condition, and to alleviate suffering.
MAPS’ mission is to treat conditions for which conventional medicines provide limited relief—such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain, drug dependence, anxiety and depression associated with end-of-life issues—by developing MDMA into prescription medicines; to cure many thousands of people by building a network of clinics where treatments can be provided; and to educate the public honestly about the risks and benefits of psychedelics and marijuana.
Usona Institute is the primary sponsoring organization of the phase 3 multi-site research study focused on psilocybin as a treatment for depression and anxiety, including in cases of cancer-related psychological distress. Usona is collaborating with Heffter, MAPS, and the FDA to design the pivotal trial to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of psilocybin as a prescription medicine, developed in a non-profit context.
Erowid.org provides access to reliable, non-judgmental information about psychoactive plants, chemicals, and related issues.
WVC supports research and female leadership in the psychedelic community through education, grants, and scholarship.
BD is dedicated to the collection and propagation of medicinal and shamanic plants from the tropics and around the world.
Femtheogen is a Riverstyx initiated and supported project supporting women's voices in the psychedelic community through democratic philanthropy and organizing.
Riverstyx Funded Research: Psychedelics in Clinical Use
Clinically, when used in a supervised therapeutic setting, psilocybin and MDMA have been shown to be effective treatments for cancer-related anxieties, a host of addictions, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They may be effective therapeutically because they amplify and enliven the psychically agitating material which perpetuates their suffering- the notion of death and cancer, the difficult sensations addictive substances are used to avoid, and the traumatic memories that sustain PTSD. In doing so, the psychedelic amplification can offer an opportunity to expand one’s relationship to these difficulties and diffuse their charge.
Clinical Research Supported by RSF:
Psilocybin for Cancer Anxiety - Johns Hopkins (Phase 2)
Psilocybin for Major Depression and Cancer Related Depression Multi-Site (Phase 3: Beginning 2018)
Psilocybin for the Treatment of Alcoholism - NYU
Psilocybin for the Treatment of Smoking Cessation - Johns Hopkins
Psilocybin for the Treatment of Alzheimers - Johns Hopkins
Psilocybin for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder - Johns Hopkins
Psilocybin/LSD for the Treatment of Opiate Use Disorder - Johns Hopkins & UBC
Psilocybin for Home Hopsice Patients - Harvard University
MDMA for PTSD (Phase 2)
MDMA for PTSD (Phase 3: Beginning 2018)
MDMA for Anxiety Related to a Life-Threatening Illness
Ibogaine for Opiate Use Disorder (Spain/ICEERS)
RSF Funded Research: Psychedelics and Spirituality
Research has also shown that when used in a similarly therapeutic context, psychedelics can reliably occasion mystical type experiences. The psychedelic experience can offer transcendence from one’s normal perspective and concerns, and can reorient perspective towards the sacred and what is felt to be most important in life. Through the immersive exposure to beauty and that which is felt to be greater than oneself, the experience can lead to enduring increases in feelings of awe, wonder, and gratitude in life. Riverstyx funded research has shown that psychedelics can help foster persisting increases in feelings of well-being and spiritual openness both in normal volunteers, as well as religious clergy and long-term meditators. RSF has hired a "Psychedelics and Religion" director to help facilitate opportunities for clergy to expand their involvement in psychedelic research and clinical involvement, including networking, developing trainings, and documentary film.
Riverstyx Supported Research:
Psilocybin for Religious Clergy - Johns Hopkins / NYU
Psilocybin for Long-Term Meditators - Johns Hopkins
Psychedelics and Qualitative Research
In the west, our obsession with quantification and large data sets as the standard for attaining "truth" has so often reduced the complexity and vastness of human experience to sheer numbers. Since 2012, RSF has been working to promote and conduct qualitative research methods as a way of capturing the richness and depth of human meaning in the psychedelic experience, recognizing that the profundity of the mystical state cannot be adequately assessed by numeric surveys alone. Qualitative research aims to understand the lived-world and subjective nuance of individual experience, and with patience, observing the emergent themes and similarities across those participants. RSF has hired a Qualitative Research Director to help facilitate and promote high-quality research in the field of psychedelics.
Riverstyx Funded / Initiated Qualitative Research:
Subjective effects of psilocybin for cancer anxiety "Cancer at the Dinner Table"
Subjective effects of psilocybin for smoking cessation
Subjective effects of psilocybin for alcoholism
Subjective effects of MDMA for the treatment of PTSD
Subjective effects of psilocybin on Religious Clergy
Subjective effects of psilocybin on OCD
One of the really vivid images that I had was a sketch of a dinner table—it was almost this round circle that represented a dinner table—and at the table was cancer, but it was supposed to be at the table. And the feeling I had was cancer is a part of everything. It isn’t this bad separate thing; it’s something that’s part of everything, and that everything is part of everything. And that’s really beautiful. It was just a sort of acceptance of the human experience.
-- NYU study participant during her psilocybin session to address cancer-anxiety