While the Biden-Harris administration has made harm reduction a priority to address the opioid epidemic, psilocybin and other psychedelics are rarely considered in these campaigns at the local, state, or federal level.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) provide harm reduction education and develop model legislation for states to help expand access to syringe service programs and naloxone.
Information about potency, dosage and adulterants of psychedelics is missing from these conversations, however, likely due to the lower risk of overdose associated with these substances.
To help provide this critical information, Hyphae Labs and Oakland Hyphae launched the Psilocybin Cup to test the potency of different strains and cultivars of psilocybin mushrooms. The results of the 2022 Psilocybin Cup will be announced by Oakland Hyphae May 15, 2022. The two organizations are organizing the California Psychedelic Conference which will take place in Los Angeles April 23-24.
The Psilocybin Cup features the Hyphae Spectrum, an evolving scale that helps psychonauts, therapists, recreational users, and community ensure that their medicine is free of adulterants, optimize their experience, reduce risk, and support healing.
The Hyphae Spectrum recommends the application of specific types of psychedelic mushrooms for microdosing, recreational purposes, or therapeutic use based on the levels of psilocybin, psilocin, and other tryptamines produced by the mushroom. Hyphae Labs is also developing field testing kits for citizen scientists to use to measure some of these compounds at home.
Lucid News talked with Reggie Harris and Ian Bollinger, co-founders of Hyphae Labs, and Yarelix Estrada of New York City Psychedelic Society about the Psilocybin Cup, the California Psychedelic Conference, education, harm reduction, and the relationship that communities of color have with psychedelic medicines.
What was the catalyst for creating The Psilocybin Cup?
Harris: The reason we got into it was because we wanted to have smart conversations around mushrooms. We want to try to make sure that their experience is more measured and better. In the early days, some of the more responsible dispensaries took it upon themselves to test and share that information out, setting the industry standard. Similarly, we’re trying to do the same thing – we’re trying to set the standard and provide a model for regulators to look at and say, “Okay, the communities come together to self-regulate and find ways to reduce harm.”
Bollinger: We wanted to be able to make sure conversations we’re having with this new enthusiasm in the psychedelic space didn’t fall into the same pitfalls the cannabis industry had. It took cannabis ten years before people started talking about other cannabinoids or terpenes besides THC and we’re doing that within the first year and a half of bringing this to the conversation around with the Psilocybin Cup.
How does this work relate to harm reduction?
Estrada: I think for a lot of us that come from histories of being colonized and being separated from our medicines, we just kind of fall back into it by accident without clear guidance. Some people fall back into medicine by accident through recreational use. So I definitely think that in terms of harm reduction, or risk reduction, just knowing where to start out. Some people need to get their feet wet with a lower dose, so that they don’t panic, have a bad trip, and never return to the medicine.
Harris: You always hear people talking about macrodosing their microdose, which is a real thing.
Bollinger: When we’re talking about harm reduction, pleasure maximization, or calm reduction, we’re talking about a positive, neutral, negative outlook that you’re trying to either push towards or avoid. There are definite instances where trauma comes into play, and while it might not be a physical trauma, there’s definitely issues associated with bad trips, and that’s why the cup is so important.
It would be extremely beneficial for people to understand how to dose themselves appropriately. Reducing the amount of calm a person has, or maybe increasing the amount of stress a person has on a bad trip, like losing your ability to move, can be a very traumatic experience. But if you know that going into your journey, and you plan for that, it makes it a little less scary. We’re using the Hyphae Spectrum as a form of harm reduction through education, reducing the chance of a bad experience. The Hyphae Spectrum is understanding where you want to begin. It’s basically a roadmap.
Estrada: Education is really important. Creating access for education, and having spaces for questions for the person to figure out where to begin. Because sometimes people don’t even know where they’re at when they’re starting the journey.
Tell us about the upcoming California Psychedelic Conference, and how community organizing is creating better access and dialogue to wider audiences.:
Harris: We’re tapping into this mycelium web of community, with folks who I’ve always wanted to see who are making moves who aren’t traditionally centered. Maybe they’re not the poster child or the well-to-do and the well-connected. I’m really excited about the connection and opportunity to continue to grow dialogue around psychedelics for people who look like me.
Estrada: Being outspoken about my psychedelic use has triggered some people in my community to want to explore that in smaller ways, maybe with microdosing, and I feel that a lot of that is decolonizing work. It’s a lot of reprogramming work of the things that we’ve been told all our lives, and we have to figure out what’s right for us while reclaiming who we are as people and where we come from.
Harris: Even though communities exist, I feel like communities operate in their own silos. And I feel like when I pull up, it gives all these different communities and people an excuse to come together in one room and connect, and it leaves a mark that you can’t undo.
The California Psychedelic Conference will take place in Los Angeles, CA, April 23-24th. Tickets are still available. The results of the Psilocybin Cup will be announced May 15, 2022. For more updates, head to oaklandhyphae510.com.
Images: Oakland Hyphae