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The two physicians will present a break-out session titled Taking Psychedelics Seriously: Responding to Persistent Suffering the afternoon of Wednesday, April 11th.

Severe psychological and existential suffering robs people of meaningful quality of life and brings some to desire to end their lives. Currently available treatments for depression, anxiety, and spiritual distress often fail to alleviate suffering among people who are seriously ill. Renewed research involving psilocybin, MDMA and similar psychedelic compounds suggests that this class of drugs has important therapeutic potential in treatments for persistent, non-physical suffering.

Psychedelic properties of specific plants (mushrooms and cactuses) have been used for centuries by indigenous cultures to induce expanded states of consciousness and spiritual experiences. In this session, we will review the pharmacology, clinical trials, and neurobiology of psychedelics, including evidence from functional imaging and discuss the clinical indications, contraindications, and side-effects of these medications as well as the socio-political, legal and regulatory challenges of prescribing and using psychedelics in carefully monitored ways.

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About Ira Byock, MD, FAAHPM

Dr. Byock is Founder and Chief Medical Officer for the Institute for Human Caring of Providence St. Joseph Health, a 50 hospital health system serving communities across 7 states. Dr. Byock advances efforts to measure, monitor and improve whole-person health care systemwide. He is a practicing physician and is based in Torrance, CA.

He is Active Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Community & Family Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. He served as Director of Palliative Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire from 2003 through July 2013.

Byock’s first book, Dying Well, (1997) has become a standard in the field of hospice and palliative care. The Four Things That Matter Most, (2004) is used as a counseling tool widely by palliative care and hospice programs, as well as within pastoral care. His most recent book, The Best Care Possible(March 2012) tackles the crisis that surrounds serious illness and dying in America and his quest to transform care through the end of life. It has been praised by the Wall Street Journalthe Economist and other major publications, and won the Annual Books for a Better Life Award in the category of Wellness.

About Charles Grob, MD

Dr. Grob has been the Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center since 1993. His clinical interests include mood and anxiety disorders, as well as the self-medication hypothesis of substance abuse as it applies to substance abuse. He has published in the professional literature on a variety of topics, including adolescent development and psychopathology, cross-cultural models of substance use and misuse and the history of hallucinogens in psychiatry.  His research has included the first FDA approved Phase 1 study of the physiological and psychological effects of MDMA (3,4-methlyenedioxymethamphetamine), a multi-national, collaborative study of the Amazonian plant hallucinogen decoction, ayahuasca, in Brazil and a pilot investigation of the safety and efficacy of psilocybin in the treatment of anxiety in adult patients with advanced-stage cancer.


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