In this episode, Jason Stein interviews Dr. Matthew Hicks, ND, a naturopathic doctor who has made it his life’s work to help people live healthier, happier, and better lives through the use of psychedelics.
Dr. Hicks has always wanted to use naturopathic medicine to help people to recover their mental health – but it wasn’t until a fateful presentation by Erica Zelfand, ND that Matthew discovered the potential (and power) of using psychedelics to aid in healing. An ND degree and many years of research and training later, Dr. Hicks now leads Ketamine and Psilocybin Retreats, facilitates Psychotherapy and Psychedelic Therapy Training, and is designing programs for Psilocybin Therapy.
Join Dr. Hicks and Jason as they talk about:
- Oregon’s progressive new laws concerning Psilocybin – and their risks
- how Ketamine and Psilocybin work
- the future of Psilocybin – will it share the fate of CBD?
- the good and the bad of hallucinogenic side effects
- why psychedelics are not yet a part of mainstream medicine
- and how to navigate the challenges that come with being a pioneer
About Dr. Hicks
Dr. Hicks is the founder of Synaptic Integrative Care and Training Institute in Portland, Oregon, offering ketamine assisted psychotherapy and psychedelic therapy training. He is the medical director of Silo Wellness offering psilocybin and ketamine retreats in Jamaica and Oregon. He also hosts the Integrative Psychiatry Review podcast.
Connect with Dr. Hicks
Silo Wellness Retreats: https://siloretreats.com/
Synaptic Integrative Care and Training Institute: https://www.synaptic.care/
Jason Stein 0:03
Hi, this is Jason Stein and welcome to the Wellness Renegade podcast. We explore the crossroads of wellness entrepreneurs like you and me who are committed to making money while living healthier lives – people who are going up against big pharma, insurance conglomerates, and the mainstream medical world. We’ll be journeying into the challenges and the breakthroughs it takes to own your own business, pave the path through mainstream medical care, and truly become a Wellness Renegade. Today, our guest is Dr. Hicks. He’s the founder of the Synaptic Integrative Care and Training Institute in Portland, Oregon, offering ketamine assisted Psychotherapy and Psychedelic Therapy Training. He’s the medical director of the Silo wellness, offering Psilocybin and Ketamine retreats in Jamaica and Oregon. He’s also the host of the Integrative Psychiatry Review podcast. Welcome, Dr. Hicks! Matthew, I asked you earlier what you want to be called. And so I am so excited about this conversation, specifically, the Psilocybin therapy because it’s one that is really coming fast and furious. We both live in the state of Oregon, where the laws just changed on Psilocybin coming in, is it 2022?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 1:30
Yes, that’s the plan. And thank you for for having me! I always appreciate being asked to speak and share the knowledge I’ve acquired on this, you know, fascinating subject. And, and yeah, we just passed in Oregon, these – we passed two bills. One to decriminalize all substances of any kind. And really, that that bill – Measure 110 – was focused largely on addiction treatment. And so it’s not just the decriminalization bill, it also funds and diverts people to addiction treatment centers and screening. And it doesn’t – you still would get a, I think it’s a Class C misdemeanor. If you’re caught possessing these substances, it’s like $100 ticket. You might have to go before a judge, and they’ll determine, okay, you’re in addiction, you need to go to this treatment facility – our treatment program – rather than just putting people through the criminal justice system. So that was pioneering in and of itself, and then we passed Measure 109, which creates Psilocybin Service Centers, where people have to get, they have to go through a certain treatment, where they’re supervised under someone who’s in a licensed facility, and with a licensed facilitator. There’s a two year development period for that program. So, currently, we’re in a little bit in limbo right now, because the governor has accepted applications for the board that will come up with all the administrative rules around how that program is gonna look and what the training requirements are going to be for facilitators, as well as the mushroom growers, and, and whatnot. So that’s what the two year development period is, is all about. So it’ll be actually 20- early 2023, will be the earliest we’ll possibly have the first licenses issued, and then participants will be able to actually engage in that therapy.
Jason Stein 3:40
So for the listeners, let’s break it down a little bit more, because there’s so many fast moving parts, and so many different people that are involved at the governmental level at the city level, at the at the physician level, and my curiosity is will it be like medical marijuana in different states in the beginning, where you have to get a license, and then you’ll be able to legally use Psilocybin? Is that what the direction is going? Or is anyone allowed to carry it and use it?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 4:17
Yes, that’s very different in many ways from the cannabis regulations. No, no one has to have any sort of diagnosis or get approved for the treatment, so it’s incumbent on the facilitators to screen people for the appropriateness of engaging in the treatment. There are some contraindications to doing this work. Namely, people have, you know, uncontrolled cardiovascular risks to it like hypertension, or a history of heart attacks and whatnot, because these substances do increase blood pressure and whatnot. So there’s some risk there as well as mental health risk if people have any experience of psychosis or are vulnerable to psychosis – perhaps they have a family history of schizophrenia – can also trigger manic and bipolar episodes. So it’s not without risk. And that’s kind of a concern for this measure, too, is how well trainees, facilitators are going to be. As specifically said in the bill, facilitators cannot be required to have more than a high school diploma, to become facilitators, which means it’s not going to be just doctors and therapists with graduate degrees in licenses. Really, anyone can can do the training and potentially offer this. And so like, what what’s their level of skill in recognizing these things?
Jason Stein 5:47
Yeah, that makes me nervous for them.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 5:49
It’s not appropriate, right?
Jason Stein 5:50
Yeah. It makes me nervous because there’s so many baristas in Oregon. Like, I’ve just decided to become a Psilocybin Psychotherapist at this point. Yeah.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 5:59
Yeah, Because I have this this training program that I’m developing too. I’ve had people come to me saying, “Hey, I want to be a facilitator.” And, you know, the first question I ask then, is like, “Hey, what’s your experience in working with people?” or like, “What’s your professional background?” And I’ve had people who are the have no experience whatsoever in mental health, you know. A software engineer was one of them. I was like, “Okay, are you like a yoga teacher or coach of any kind? Do you have any experience like sitting down and talking to another human being kind of heart-to-heart and, and sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. You know, everyone thinks they’re an expert in psychology, because, you know, they took one class in high school or college or something.
Jason Stein 6:48
Being an expert in psychology is totally different than dealing with hallucinogenics. And the general population and so, I’m really fascinated. My first experience with Psilocybin mushrooms – I went to Arizona State. I remember around 1991-1992, someone made a tea and was like, “This is magic mushrooms.” We drank it. I remember going to hear a woman – Allie Stewart was a part of the band called Wise Monkey Orchestra. And they were a big band. They sang songs like Mustang Sally. And I literally had an alternate experience. It was just like, a lot going on. And probably 20 years later, someone told me about microdosing. And they gave me some mushrooms. And I don’t recommend this, but I eyeballed what I thought 0.05 milligrams was. And so every day, I would take some lion’s mane. And what I thought was 0.05 milligrams, and I was having altered experiences again. And I was like, “This isn’t right.” So I got a micro scale from Amazon, and I probably had a double dose. I was like – I was way off on my eyeballing. So if you’re gonna get in, I like what you’re saying. Like, there are professionals that are going to be trained to walk you through this rather than just DIY it. Now, what’s your experience? Because you lead journeys, and you take people kind of on… Walk me through one of your retreats, what does it look like?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 8:33
Yeah, so I guess the first thing is to distinguish between microdosing – what that is – and full dose experiences. And certainly, especially when it comes to mushrooms, I’ll say a few things on that first, because mushrooms vary pretty widely in their potency to begin with. So, you know, four grams of mushrooms is not the same as another four grams of mushrooms, right? Some can be really strong. I say four grams – that’s sort of like the baseline for deep, full, full dose psychedelic experience for most people. Some are more sensitive and two grams will get them there. But yeah, and in when it comes to micro dosing, as you pointed out, you know, it’s really hard to measure and to get to a micro dose. Like, you can’t really unless you have a really expensive scale. Even with that trying to get a micro dose measurement is really difficult.
Jason Stein 9:35
Are you telling me that my $30 micro scale might be off? Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 9:41
Yes, exactly. You know, and there’s, there seemed and I’ve done this, like, I’ve gone and looked for a scale and the difference between getting like a scientifically accurate scale, there’s a huge gap, right? It’s $30, like the one you bought, and then to get to a higher quality, you’re talking to several hundred, if not $1,000 to get like a real legitimate piece of lab equipment, you know. And so there’s that and you know, it’s also like a matter of what you’re getting, who you’re getting it from. Are you growing yourself? Maybe you’re less experienced versus a more experienced grower. Or if you’re using LSD, which is common, commonly used for micro dosing, especially, you know, it’s usually this tiny, tiny bit of liquid dissolved on blotter paper. But you know, does it cover the whole blotter paper? If you’re cutting that up in smaller bits to micro dose, like, does that have as much LSD as that other tiny little piece of paper? It’s, it’s difficult to know exactly what you’re doing.
Jason Stein 10:43
I appreciate what
Dr. Matthew Hicks 10:44
You can’t really measure either. Even if someone gives into your liquid, it is really difficult because because LSD is so concentrated, you know, you’re talking microgram. Yeah, micrograms instead of milligrams.
Jason Stein 10:56
Right. So let’s stick with the Psilocybin for a second. Because I’m a little concerned now that I’m talking to you that everyone’s just going to try it out on their own, rather than go through a channel.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 11:08
They’re doing that anyway.
Jason Stein 11:10
Talk to me a little bit, what are what are some of the side effects that people should really be aware of?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 11:16
Yeah, so side effects, I’ll take that to mean sort of negative side effects, which are they can increase anxiety. It’s sort of the most common adverse event from micro dosing? Well, for macro dosing, for that matter, too, if you’re talking about sort of a bad trip. And certainly, there’s the dosing effect of “Whoops, I took more than a micro dose, and now I’m a little trippy, and I’m supposed to be like working or in talking to someone and I just can’t really be present because I’m a little bit overdoing it. So that’s certainly a risk. There is, you know, there’s still the blood pressure risk. There’s some concern around long term use as well, with with micro dosing – because that’s how people are doing it is repeated doses – that it might cause you know, heart problems, if you’re doing it long term, if you’re already at risk for it. It’s a pretty mild increase in blood pressure and whatnot. So, if you have a healthy heart, it’s not a big deal to worry about. But if you don’t, it could, it could potentially be. We don’t have the data to really say much about that. So it’s sort of a theoretical risk. But it’s one worth considering. But yeah, you know, anxiety, a little bit of confusion, inability to focus some of the things that it also helps with. I mean, if you if you’re doing it, while you’ve got your your protocol and your your dose figured out, it can actually increase your ability to to focus and concentrate and be creative and feel well and happy.
Jason Stein 12:57
I was blown away. I was blown away by my level of focus and my decreased anxiety because I can tend towards some anxiety just naturally. Yeah, both my parents have had some extreme anxiety. And so I was really surprised by how focused I was, and how just grounded I became. There was a sense of like, everything’s gonna be okay and everything’s interconnected. I am curious because I, you know, I did my own research and just enough to be dangerous. And like, so I mixed it with lion’s mane, quarter saps and niacin. I use Paul Stamets stack. And so I can’t tell the listeners why I did it other than someone that’s a mycologist said, “This is good.” So can you explain why you would do that?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 13:56
I mean, those other mushrooms, you mentioned: the lion’s mane, quadriceps. So those – the B vitamin is niacin, and it is something that not everyone totally agrees with in there and so you have some differing opinions on that. One of Paul Stamets reasons for doing it that way is to to discourage people taking too much because you will get a flush where your blood vessels particularly in your skin dilate, and you turn red and you feel hot. And so by putting that in there, you’re you’re not doing too much.
Jason Stein 14:42
Like a natural alarm system.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 14:44
Yeah, exactly. And so you’re disincentivized from doing it. And it’s a you know, it’s a vitamin, it’s not necessarily harmful unless you’re doing too much and you actually can get kind of a rash that will last for a couple days if you repeat it again too much. But aside from that, you know, B vitamins are good for you. But yeah, the other mushrooms are just good for general brain health. They both promote BDNF brain derived neurotrophic factor that causes you know better neurulation of your, of your brain cells, your neurons, so they’re better protected and just functioning at a higher capacity. So good stuff. They’re anti-inflammatory as well, which is strongly linked with all sorts of you know, pathologies even. You know, just a, you know, headaches and general confusion, bad mood, all those things. So we’re just sort of synergistically throwing in these these things together. That seems to work really well for a lot of people.
Jason Stein 15:50
Now, do you think I remember a time where I started seeing CBD everywhere. Like it started and then it didn’t stop and like, I went to the market and there was CBD koalas and I would go to a wine shop and they’re like, we can add CBD drops into your wine. And it just started blooming everywhere. And I don’t really think that’s the healthiest way to handle it. But I wonder is that what we’re gonna see with Psilocybin will agree like, Psilocybin chocolate and Psilocybin tincture and Psilocybin cola?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 16:25
Yeah, well, you know, it’s sort of is gonna, it’s gonna be different in some way. How it’s going to be different remains to be seen, but it largely has to do with the laws we’re passing like right now with this law in Oregon. You know, for the for the service center bill, 109, it there’s not really capacity for micro dosing in that bill, because you have to – it was built to do psilocybin therapy and immersive therapy, doing a full dose supervised, which when you’re micro dosing, you don’t really need supervision. It’d be a long boring day, probably to do it that way. So how you would do it in that sense? I don’t know. And then the other bill, the decriminalization bill, which there are there deep decriminalization bills popping up all over the country right now, which is really encouraging. California, Vermont, a number of others, many cities are you know, Oakland, Santa Cruz, Denver have already have the decriminalization bills in their city, but that you know, it’s a little bit different because decriminalization is not the same as legitimate –
Jason Stein 17:43
Dr. Matthew Hicks 17:45
Right. It’s, you know, there’s not a taxation process in some cases there. There’s still you know, misdemeanor things like distribution is not necessarily legal, and also cop companies popping up or advertising for it is is not legal. It could still be cracked down. And of course, as is still the case with you know, Cannabis, there’s still federal, you know, regulations. It’s still a schedule one substance and –
Jason Stein 18:10
And that still happens in certain states, people are still being arrested for cannabis. So this is really an interesting conversation, because it just sounds like there’s going to be a lot more visibility coming to the market. But is there any lobbying to decriminalize it, and in Denver didn’t get decriminalized? Or isn’t it recreational now in Denver? Psilocybin itself?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 18:39
Yeah, it’s decriminalized in the sense that the city police are not going to, you know, arrest anyone. And it’s, you know, it’s up to a certain amount, I believe, I’m not totally familiar with the particulars in Denver, up to a certain amount it’s legal to possess it for personal use. If you have a whole lot of it and you’re distributing. And in fact, someone did get arrested there. It was someone who got a little – I don’t know his name. I think he had a podcast and, and whatnot. He was distributing and advertising pretty openly and, and somebody did come, come and get him for that.
Jason Stein 19:21
So they shut – they shut him down. And let’s talk about that a little bit. Because this podcast is really about the Renegade. And so how are you taking people on journeys? Like, is that legit? Is that part of your business structure? Are you doing it outside the US? What’s happening?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 19:41
Yeah, no, I wanted to get back to your earlier question as well about the retreats. So there’s sort of two ways that I’m doing that is I have my clinic in Portland, Oregon, where I am doing ketamine, because ketamine is legal. It’s been around since the 60s, and is an anesthetic, but it also has a certain dose range that is psychedelic. And so we’re doing that it’s different than Psilocybin and other psychedelics. It has a different mechanism of action and how it works and generates the psychedelic experience. But nonetheless, it is very psychedelic. And it fits many of the the models that are being used for for therapy, for psychedelic therapy. So I’m doing I’m doing that I have a business partner who’s also my, my partner partner. She’s a psychotherapist. And so we work together and basically, I kind of medically supervise but I also do the integration training. I have studied many counseling and therapy techniques and do that myself as well. But she, she takes some of the clients in some cases we work together. But that’s what we’re doing. They’re both in-person, on a limited basis, due to COVID, and then we do it through telehealth as well with people in the state of Oregon. And then we’ve also kind of got recruited more or less by Silo Wellness through to do these retreats. And so we’re doing Ketamine retreats, here in Oregon, that are five day retreats. There is a need to diagnose people for you know, indications to do the therapy here because it isn’t medical treatment. You know, it’s off-label one, technically, but there’s, you know, there’s literature evidence – published peer reviewed literature – demonstrating its, you know, safety and efficacy, so it’s justifiable to do even though the FDA hasn’t technically said yes, Ketamine for depression or trauma or whatever. But so we’re able to do that. And those retreats a little bit different than the Psilocybin retreats in Jamaica, and I’ll get to that in a second. But the, the Ketamine retreats here in Oregon are, like I said, five days, we do them out in really beautiful natural settings. So that people are – they’re having time to connect with nature, go on hikes, rafting trips, hot springs, as well as just like be outside sitting with the trees, that sort of thing. And we even start most days with meditations. We do group integration sessions, and we offer them individually one on ones they either work with me or Tol. That’s my partner. And, and we do kind of one-on-one integration.
Jason Stein 22:35
So let’s – let’s talk about this a little bit because I I’m fascinated, but I’m also I’m curious. And like, if you drive down like a poor neighborhood, they’re gonna have a Quickiemart with a sign outside that says “We have Ketamine.” And like, what, what is what are they selling?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 22:56
Well, I’ve never seen that. Because, I mean, there is street Ketamine, you know, illicitly, you know, acquired or produced.
Jason Stein 23:06
And for the listeners, does it go by other names, so we can kind of educate? Yeah,
Dr. Matthew Hicks 23:10
Yeah, the the street version is often called Special K.
Jason Stein 23:13
Dr. Matthew Hicks 23:14
Sometimes, which is a misnomer, because there actually is a Vitamin K. But yeah, well, I’m using you know, prescription pharmaceutical grade Ketamine, which is a controlled substance substance scheduled three, which means you have to have a medical license,
Jason Stein 23:32
You have to have a DEA license, you pay a lot for that every year. Yeah.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 23:37
Yeah. Right. And there’s requirements for storage and documenting and stuff like that. So nothing illegitimate about the way we’re doing it. But yeah, it’s, it can be used illicitly too and unlike some other psychedelics, there isn’t an abuse potential with ketamine and that being that you can, you can continue to take it and continue to get high from it kind of on end.
Jason Stein 24:04
– right back –
Dr. Matthew Hicks 24:06
The way we the way it’s used as an anesthetic is way higher dose than what we’re doing it. At a high enough dose, it just knocks you out, right, which is how it’s useful and to do surgery, or whatnot, but a lower dose, you know, you’re not totally gone. You’re just having a psychedelic experience, but you can keep doing it – versus the serotonergic psychedelics like LSD and Psilocybin. At a certain point your serotonin receptor is saying we’re done for the day. You can’t keep taking it until, until you give it a few days to kind of recover and then you can do it again. Theoretically, which I don’t necessarily recommend, but it’s possible.
Jason Stein 24:46
So Matthew, why is it that like Zoloft and all these pharmaceutical companies for depression, Wellbutrin? They’re just hand over fist Making money and getting a lot of people on these that have a lot of side effects. But when it comes to psychedelic medicine, why do you think it’s been so hard to move it forward?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 25:12
Because they’re not patentable. The most of them come from, from nature, or were discovered so long ago that the patents expired, and they can’t patent them. And that’s the entire business model, the industry is creating novel molecules and patenting them. And then, then there’s the control issue where they’re able to, you know, profit from from the patents, and that’s why they’re there. That’s how the pharmaceutical industry does, they pour tons of money into development and research, and they get paid back by charging, you know, ridiculous prices for for those medications until the patent runs out. And then in – the case in point is what they’re doing with Spravato, right? Ketamine was developed in 1962. It was patented for a while, and the patent ran out. And that’s why it wasn’t really developed much as a, you know, psychedelic or psychiatric, it wasn’t profitable. It was it was no longer profitable. And so there was no reason to, to fund the research to convince the FDA that they should approve it for this, this indication,
Jason Stein 26:23
Even if it has lower side effects, and it’s completely a better choice medically. It doesn’t move forward because the profit margins aren’t there.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 26:33
Yeah, yeah. And so that’s how the medical industry, you know, works is it has to be profitable. It’s not necessarily what’s best for people. The way psychedelics have moved forward, is through organizations like MAPS, Beckley Foundation, USona, which have private donors who just are believers in the medicine and they gather the funds, they do the studies, but they, you know, they have limited resources. So they, they’re only funding certain studies for certain indications, and they’re really doing it strategically in a way I can stand behind. And that’s to do kind of the least controversial drugs are the ones we know most about, at least, for sort of the biggest afflictions that are most common to people that are gathering the most attention, you know, like PTSD, for veterans with MDMA, and whatnot in depression, Psilocybin and so that makes sense to me. And hopefully, we’ll get to a point where the federal government will not only approve those treatments, but they’ll start funding more research. We spend, you know, millions and millions of dollars every year, the federal government spends millions of dollars on developing treatments that, you know, private industry won’t, for that exact reason, you know, because they don’t necessarily have an incentive. Companies don’t have an incentive to develop them. And so the government funds it, but they know –
Jason Stein 27:56
Matthew, let’s go back to MAPS. So the listener knows what you just said, what is MAPS?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 28:03
Yeah, MAPS is the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies.
Jason Stein 28:09
And they have a website, do you know what that is just off the top of your head?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 28:14
I’m sorry, what? What is –
Jason Stein 28:16
The MAPS website for people that want to check? Yeah,
Dr. Matthew Hicks 28:19
Jason Stein 28:20
Dr. Matthew Hicks 28:23
Yeah, started by Rick Doblin in the in the 80s. And he had sort of a group of people to help his he was really big into MDMA. So it was started right after MDMA became illegal, which was in the was in the 80s. And they sort of just started, (inaudible) right where things left off, like, hey, let’s let’s do this in a legitimate way. That’s the sort of the chaos of the 60s and early 70s, when everything became illegal, and we saw the war on drugs, right? MDMA kind of came a little bit later than that, that first wave. And so it sort of enjoyed this kind of gray area for a while where a lot of therapists were using it. Bt then it became a party drug, and that’s where it got regulators attention, and they made it illegal despite lack of evidence for, you know, significant harm, and –
Jason Stein 29:22
That’s what it’s like: here’s benefits, but it’s not profitable for us, so we’re gonna shut it down. And so, before we get to Jamaica, I have a question. Do you believe that the active ingredient in Psilocybin will try to become like Cannabis? They tried to do it with Marinol. The pill that has THC like synthesized in it but I don’t think the Marinol drug is being prescribed, like all the dispensaries are opening up. Right. And so do you believe they’ll be a patented form of psilocybin?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 30:00
Well, some some variation of of the molecule is very possible. And there are – there are lots of companies who are working on novel molecules on this or you know, derivative products and whatnot that will be patentable. And so there, there is a rush of investors, and companies and pharmaceutical companies that are working on that, in the traditional industry – industry traditional way of getting a patent to come up with something that’s slightly better, or I guess, more controllable than nature made it for us. So that that’s happening. And, you know, there’s speculation on both sides of the table. Personally, I think it’ll probably lead to a bust. And in many ways, you know, right now Psychedelics are this big sexy thing. Just like cannabis was, right? And anything can be that, right? And so you have people flooding money into it, and, and the vultures will kind of like, you know, sell quickly after they make a short profit, and then the market will find somebody on the ground at some point. And it’ll, it’ll, it’ll all even out in the long run, that, you know, and that’s part of the reason why I am in working with Silo, you know, because they, they recognize that that’s probably the case. And so their business model is really to offer retreats, you know, which is not a novel idea. There’s, I mean, I’ve talked to a million people who, like want to have a psychedelic retreat. And I hope they do and, and they find different ways to do it. And I have all sorts of offerings. I mean, maybe we’ll come up with something better, something with fewer side effects, whatever, you know, I’m all for for research and finding, you know, new and better ways to do things. But we have these molecules that work already. They’re amazing. And yeah, not use what we have to use what nature has provided?
Jason Stein 32:07
I’m in agreement. And this is what I’m curious about. So Jamaica doesn’t have any laws where you can just go over and you can take people on journeys? Is that what you’re doing?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 32:16
Yeah, so the basic story in Jamaica is that they sent a delegation to the UN Conference wasn’t necessarily the UN, but they were – there were these international conferences led by the US and our, our efforts on the war on drugs, saying, “Hey, we want to we want to get the rest of the world to agree with us on policy.” So they, they had this international conference. Now, you know, a lot of these countries sent delegates to it. And they signed on to this treaty that said they were going to make, you know, these substances illegal, Jamaica sent delegates, but they ran out of money before the conference. So they they had to go home, and they never signed the agreement. So, basically, in Jamaica, these substances are not illegal. They have their own specific assets, specifically protected or or approved. But they’re not illegal there. Although Cannabis is, as a as a religious sacrament for the Rastafarians. But other other substances are just enjoying the the gray area.
Jason Stein 33:21
And are there other countries like that?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 33:24
Ah, probably probably I’m sure there is, you know, in particularly in developing countries that just don’t have the resources to crack down on people around these things. I mean, of course, there’s a lot of places in, you know, Central and South America that have long traditions and
Jason Stein 33:44
Ohioaashka. There’s lots of sacred cultures.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 33:47
And so they’re they’re certainly legal there, which is not to say they don’t have some laws and some countries regulating who can do what, when and where.
Jason Stein 33:56
And so walk me through like you – for lack of finesse, it’s like you’re taking Psilocybin journeys to Jamaica, like, really? How many days do people go for?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 34:12
Yeah, well, there are, there’s a handful of companies and retreat centers that are offering these in Jamaica. I’m not really familiar with all the competition. I just, I just know what we’re doing with Silo and we’re only just getting started. So we’ll have other ways of doing it and other retreats that we’re developing and whatnot. But the way this this one went, that I just got back from a few days ago, was a five day retreat, I guess it was it was four days for the participants, but we we did five, or excuse me, we did three Psilocybin sessions, which I was a little skeptical of going into it, because I think that that’s too much to fit in too short of a window. I didn’t think people that –
Jason Stein 35:01
Three out of the four days – yeah, that’s a lot.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 35:05
Yeah. And, you know, my suspicions were accurate, that by the the second and third journeys people were having very light or almost no psychedelic experience, you know, even when – even when you’re not like tripping, you’re not getting visual, you’re not like leaving your body. My experience is that, you know, even if I microdose several days in a row, I can still notice like a heart opening and clarity of thought – that still happens, and there’s, there’s still benefits, you know, to that potentially. But anyway, we we worked with a Rastafarian ceremony leader – a shaman, if you want to call him that. They’re who they had arranged to lead the retreat before I was invited – me and Paul, were invited. And so we kind of stuck with his programming. And he hadn’t done a retreat like this, you know, a long retreat with, you know, multiple sessions before, so we were all kind of –
Jason Stein 36:11
A lot of experimentation was happening.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 36:13
Yeah, yeah, I think that’s, that’s fair to say. We’re not saying we’re not bringing a lot of experience to the work, but doing it in a retreat, sort of format, we’re still sort of figuring things out. You know, it’s it’s early stages in so many ways, this whole industry. But yeah, it was really wonderful. This, this retreat, compared to like the ketamine retreats in Oregon,
Jason Stein 36:39
– this one was a little more –
Dr. Matthew Hicks 36:43
we’ll say, loose, loose in a way that we’re not necessarily – really it’s about the people who are coming. The way I’m working is we need a clinical indication. So we’re actually treating depression, we’re treating anxiety we’re treating, you know,
Jason Stein 36:58
Every, every participant in Oregon has a lot of shared things going on. And in Jamaica, it sounds like it was a little bit like the wild, wild west. Did you bring people from around the world or were they all from the US?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 37:12
They mostly from the US, but we had some some people from other places as well. To finish my other point, too, it’s like, you know, I’m a licensed physician in Oregon. So I’m treating people and, you know. Tol is a licensed therapist, so we’re doing therapy with people. And we need to, you know – we screen people out if they don’t meet indications, but in Jamaica, you know, it’s a non-regulated environment there. And I’m not, you know, a licensed doctor in Jamaica, you know, I can’t diagnose or treat anything there. So I’m really, in that sense, just a facilitator and I, obviously, I can’t divorce my, my, my clinical insights from what I’m doing there. So I, you know, I took some blood pressures, and they made sure people were safe and answered their questions about medications and, and that sort of thing, which is part of being responsible. And part of the reason I was there was to increase the the safety and the comfort of the participants. And so there’s, there’s usefulness in that. But it was a little bit more laid back in the people who showed up there, there were a few people who were just sort of they’re on vacation. Yeah, like, “A mushroom? Sounds interesting.” And there were people there who are more on a personal growth journey. We probably didn’t have people who were there to, you know, fix their trauma or get over their depression, although there were certainly issues that came up for people and we helped them navigate those. And
Jason Stein 38:46
It’s not for me. For me, I would be a little – I think, if I had trauma, or I was going for a specific intention, and I showed up and people were like, “I just want to experience Disneyland. What’s this?” Like, it would have been a little like off putting I think, for me, personally. I am curious, though, because I understand because it’s a foreign country, and you weren’t leading it. Is your plan to start introducing other substances into your clinical model here in the state of Oregon?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 39:19
Well, you know, I plan to follow the law in Oregon. Here. Well, I’m following the law in Jamaica, too. But, yeah, it’s, there are other opportunities to do other substances in Jamaica. Uh huh. So there’s consideration of that happening there. But yeah, I will be offering Psilocybin when that becomes legal in Oregon as well.
Jason Stein 39:45
And for your own training and education. I’m guessing a lot of the original founders – like I think Paul Stamets – he just started studying fungi and mushrooms and kind of drilled his own pathway. Now in a new generation, are there Psilocybin conferences? Are their medical educators learning from other medical educators? What’s happening in that world?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 40:11
Yeah, yeah, there are. There’s a lot of conferences. That was sort of my, my starting point. Well, where I got into it, you know, I was in naturopathic medical school, wanting to really focus my career on mental health. That’s what I always was interested in. And, you know, I was interested in meditation and using herbal medicine and as well as you know, medications, when, when indicated and all the things but with an integrative approach, and really wanting to still find my niche in terms of like counseling techniques, all that, when Eric (inaudible) who’s another naturopathic physician came and spoke at school Grand Rounds lecture on the science of psychedelics, and he pointed to all these studies, and this, this was back in like, 2016 or so. And it was news to me back then. I was blown away by it, because this was fascinating. And I was, you know, “I would just say no.” kid growing up, I never had experienced any of these substances. I was a good Christian boy growing up. So I, you know, started reading books, reading articles, signed up for the first conference I could go to, which was a MAPS Conference back in 2017. And started going to many other conference. So there’s lots of – COVID has slowed down and they’ve moved online and whatnot, eventually did the California Institute of Integral Studies Certificate in Psychedelic Therapy and Research, which is sort of the Gold Standard right now and it has been for a while and I was wanting to develop a training program myself. And so, I have been working on that for, for quite a while, but I’ve been kind of slowed down by a number of factors. But it’s funny because I’m finishing up that program now, the CTR program. And since I started developing my program, like a ton of them have popped up all over the place. There’s
Jason Stein 42:17
Yeah, they’re good ones.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 42:19
Yeah, Polaris, Psychedelics support now offers. I’m not even the only one in Oregon anymore.
Jason Stein 42:25
Dr. Matthew Hicks 42:26
That’s sort of my, my, my fallback was like, well, we have this unique program, and Oregon will need Oregon training. And, and so I was just fine. You know, I think it’s, it’s really important to get educated. And, in fact, I was listening to Erica’s Zelfand. Again, the other day, she was speaking at a conference. And she pointed to this, there’s, there was a study that takes about 17 years for new information to reach mainstream consciousness in the medical field. So a new study comes out that says, “Hey, we should do this, instead of that,” or “This medication is better than that one,” it takes like 17 years for that to become common knowledge among medical professionals. That’s just because we’re so busy, and there’s so much information, it’s impossible for us to stay up to date on everything. And, you know, when it comes to mental health, there has not been any significant breakthroughs in a long time. You know, pharmaceutical companies have really stopped developing new psychiatric medications and treatments a long time ago, because they just weren’t finding profitable ways to do it.
Jason Stein 43:33
Dr. Matthew Hicks 43:33
And they just run out of ideas. And so with psychedelics coming up now, it’s really important, but there, there needs to be a lot of education, both for clinicians as well as the general public. Because this isn’t – I don’t think this is something that only needs to be medicalized. In a sense, it’s very powerful in that way, and that we should have well-trained therapists and physicians and everyone in between who should be very knowledgeable in it. But there’s also I think, a cultural maturity with these substances for, for spiritual communities, for seekers, for people just kind of coming of age should have, I think, some relationship with these substances.
Jason Stein 44:18
I agree with you. I actually think that there’s a gap though, in between those two things that you’re talking about, like, I think about how many people in the US have medical marijuana cards, and they go and a bud tender, who may not have much knowledge is recommending a strain and where was the strain grown? And is it CTR, is it Indika and, and ultimately, I think there needs to be higher quality go-to people. So I’m really grateful that you’re studying and you’re doing what you’re doing because it sounds like the hallucinogens or – I don’t even know the kind of name that you give Ketamine, Psilocybin – like, what category is that, but it sounds like that’s your position and in your own business, and where your interest in furthering mental health and wellbeing is. And so I’m excited that you’re out there. I really hope that the people who are listening to this, if you’re in Oregon, and you know, someone really struggling with depression that they look you up. And if, if they want to find you, what’s the best website to go to?
Dr. Matthew Hicks 45:34
Yeah, I just do my clinic website, which is Synaptic.care. And I’m also, you know, my podcast is DrMatthewHicks.com, and I have links between the two as well.
Jason Stein 45:48
Great. Well, I just appreciate you coming on today. And I feel a little bit more educated on where things are headed. And I’m just grateful that there are rogue people out there, because there’s a lot of naturopathic physicians that aren’t touching this, they’re like, “Nope, I’m going a different direction.” And so I’m grateful that you and and your partner are saying, “How can we do this legally? How can we create a sustainable business?” And “How can we help people?” and really, a Wellness Renegade is all about.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 46:19
Yeah, and it’s, you know, it’s not easy. You know, like, stepping up I mean – especially a lot of people in private practice, especially alternative integrative medical providers, you know, there’s not a lot of jobs out there. I just can’t go on Indeed.com, right, and say, oh, here’s here’s a salaried position. You know, we often have to go create our own, you know, build our own clinics or, or, you know, contract with people in a way that’s beneficial. We have to recruit our own patients and, and find a way to make a living and set up prices in a way that’s sustainable, and do insurance or don’t do insurance. And it’s really, really hard. And, you know, we go to school to be healers, not to be business people, but we end up having to be both. Absolutely. And sometimes those lessons are learned the hard way, you know. Even right, right before we started recording, I was talking to Tol about even negotiating our price, you know, our compensation with Silo and like, right, you know, how do we even compare it? Like there’s not – we can’t just go online and look, “Oh, this is a salaried position for that,” because it doesn’t exist, right? Or if it does, it’s just not widely known enough to compare directly. So we’re sort of, you know, setting, making it up as we go.
Jason Stein 47:41
You just made a commercial of why I do what I do. Like, there really needs to be more wellness business coaches. People that come from the background of integrative care, and can help those that are coming up in through the ranks to do what they want to do. Because you’re right, the inspiration, the passion is only half of it. The other half has to be solid business knowledge, to know how to build your contract, and definitely don’t do things on a handshake. And what are you getting paid for? And are they paying for your flights, meals? Like what else is included? And it’s a lot because sometimes, you just want to read another study, or you want to work more with patients, and you’re like, I don’t want to do this business side. But there aren’t jobs. No one’s saying, hey, “We’d like you to start a Psychedelic Center for Mental Health. Here’s a lot of money.” Yeah.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 48:35
Yeah, yeah. It’s so it’s, it’s tough. You know, and particularly, you know, when it comes to Psychedelics, there’s the relationship with what do you call the plant itself, the inner healing intelligence, self energy, it’s called, it goes by a lot of names, but there’s, there’s this call to integrity, into purpose. And, you know, trying to put a price tag on on that, and finding, finding ways to do what’s true for you is, is, can be challenging at times. You know, the company I’m partnered with, like, what’s their motivation? Do they have a relationship with the plants themselves? You know, these are, there’s a lot of questions to be asked and a lot of opportunity to check in, and remain true to your, your virtues and your values. And, and it’s tough, because we got to earn a living, too. It’s like, I would give this all away just for the for the satisfaction of helping other people if I could, but you know, I still have to pay my rent every month.
Jason Stein 49:43
Right? The beautiful thing is that you’re on the front end of the wave. And I think that it’s really hard to be a pioneer, because when you’re a pioneer, you’re the first one that gets knocked down. Yeah, but I also feel like you’re gonna be lightyears ahead in five years in psychedelic medicine, and mental health, when other people are just getting started, so I really hear you. And that’s why I do what I do, because I believe, as you said, there’s venture capitalists that are funding left and right to try to monetize this and get ahead of it. And so there are ways to structure it, where you and Tao, ultimately are sustainable, and you get paid every month, and you get to continue to do the work, the work that you love. Yeah.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 50:34
And, you know, we’ll see if it if it works out. Yeah, like, I don’t know, I think, you know, down the road, it might just be such a main, you know, 20, 30 years down the road, it might be so mainstream that, you know, just be a part of just normal mental health care, or such an ingrained part of society where there’s Psilocybin in churches, right, in spiritual communities where people don’t need a, you know, a medical professional in every case that we may not need specialists in. I mean, I think we will.
Jason Stein 51:07
We always will. There always be a shaman, there will always be a doctor in the village. So there’s always going to be that need. And what you’re saying is, where’s it going? I don’t know. But you’re creating institutional knowledge for your entire business, that will always be valuable. And so we can have an offline conversation if you want to chat more about the business side, but I just, I really appreciate there’s people out there like you that are going up against the, you know, corporate conglomerates, because you’re it’s David versus Goliath right now, and I’m betting on you. Well, thank you.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 51:44
I appreciate that. And yeah, it’s a you know, it’s a calling and I’ve made sacrifices to position myself the way I am because I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing. And, and yeah, it’s it’s been hard, but I think it’ll pay off and I’m certainly enjoying the during the ride. Great. Well,
Jason Stein 52:01
Great. Well, I’m Jason Stein, with the Wellness Renegade podcast, and we’re here today with Dr. Matthew Hicks. And one more time, just throw out one of the sites so people can learn more if they’d like to.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 52:13
Jason Stein 52:15
Great. You guys have a great day.
Dr. Matthew Hicks 52:18
Transcribed by https://otter.ai