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Students discuss psychedelic therapy as alternative treatment

Photo courtesy of Kyle Jiganti, president of WWU Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Alternative medical solutions, such as using MDMA to treat anxiety, will be the focus of the Psychedelic Therapy presentation led by the WWU Students for Sensible Drug Policy on Feb. 4 at 5 p.m. in Communications Facility 105. Psychedelic therapy helps patients to re-evaluate their experiences, allowing them to find meaning in their lives and be their own psychiatrist, said Kyle Jiganti, president of WWU Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Jiganti will inform students and staff on the medical use of substances such as MDMA, LSD, psilocybin and marijuana at the presentation. Psychedelics are being used by cultures around the world and there has been a recent movement in the medical community to re-examine the role of psychedelic drugs in treating illnesses, Jiganti said. “They have been a cultural way of opening the mind, understanding interpersonal relationships and creating a connection with oneself and the life around them,” Jiganti said. WWU Students for Sensible Drug Policy pushes students to become involved in drug policies firsthand by encouraging them to take part in the political process. In 2015, the club attempted to get two initiatives on Western’s ballot, but was unable to gather enough signatures due to time constraints, Jiganti said. The first initiative was to have Western publicly state their agreement with the marijuana reform movement, and the second was the have a Good Samaritan law enacted the dorms, Jiganti said. A Good Samaritan law protects those who experience a drug-related overdose from being charged with substance possession , according to the Revised Code of Washington. For students in the dorms, a Good Samaritan policy would mean students can call for medical help for themselves or others without getting in trouble for drug possession. Students expressed a lot of interest in the issues, Jiganti said, but the group ran out of time when spring break cut into their two-week campaign. With more research, Jiganti said he hopes psychedelic therapy will be become more common and allow people to move away from taking daily medications, like benzodiazepines such as Xanax. In a study by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a patient would take 100 milligrams of MDMA and two psychologists would sit with them for eight hours while the patients listened to music and talked through events that affected their PTSD. There would be three sessions with the drug and rest without any drugs. After four years of combing both psychedelic therapy and drug-free therapy, 84 percent of participants no longer had PTSD, Jiganti said. Psychedelic therapy wasn’t always seen as an effective alternative to prescribed medications; MDMA was labeled as a Schedule I substance with high abuse potential in 1985. It was also said to have  unrecognizable medical use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Jiganti and club members meet every other Thursday to give presentations regarding drug policies and the different types of drugs. “We focus a lot on the educational aspect because a lot of people don’t know about the drugs, the users, [and] the policies,” said Katrina Haffner, vice president of WWU Students for Sensible Drug Policy. MDMA’s tendency to be addictive cannot be completely disregarded, said Ryan Kidd, president of the Neuroscience Research Driven Students. Research being done in the medical field is interesting and it should be easier for researchers to run experiments with MDMA, Kidd said. At the Psychedelic Therapy presentation, Jiganti will discuss current studies with MDMA. MAPS, an organization based in Vancouver, British Columbia, has been conducting research on the role of MDMA as a prescription medicine, Jiganti said. To learn more about the organization, visit or check out “WWU Students for Sensible Drug Policy” on Facebook.  


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