Dustin Garner, a third-year biochemistry and molecular biology major, is a member of the UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) Psychedelics Club which meets every week. At every meeting, members share their experiences with psychedelics while advocating for safe usage, all while keeping its members up to date on new research in the field of psychedelics. UCSB’s chapter of the Psychedelics Club is the first one in California, where acceptance and research of psychedelics are constantly growing.
The Bottom Line sat down with Dustin to find out more about the club and the face of current psychedelic research.
Can you start off by telling me who you are and what position you hold in the Psychedelics Club?
“I’m Dustin Garner and I’m the treasurer. I also plan on pursuing a career in psychedelic research after graduating.”
So for those who don’t know, what exactly is a psychedelic?
“Psychedelic means ‘mind manifested’ in Greek, so it basically allows the mind to just be open to a completely new experience. People often describe it as a ‘trip’ and it basically takes their minds to a completely new location. The popular ones are LSD [lysergic acid diethylamide] and psilocybin mushrooms.”
I understand that a lot of the psychedelic clubs around the country are really into research, which was really difficult to do until recently.
“Psychedelic research [was conducted] heavily in the ’50s and ’60s back when the drugs were legal until 1970 when they were outlawed. Since then it’s been really difficult to get government permission to do research, but in the past 10 to 20 years people are starting to look back into these drugs and research them again; the leader in the field right now is Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore. In the past 20 years, research has begun seriously occurring again. The FDA [Food and Drug Administration] even recently said that it’s worth looking into these drugs for their mental health applications, so I’m sure that there will be a surge of new research occurring.”
What are some of the newer developments in the research? Are there any surprising or interesting findings?
“One interesting finding is that there’s this part of the brain called the default mode network that was just discovered in 2001 and it was discovered that it’s a part of the brain that’s most active when you’re not actively doing anything, which is why your mind will often wander to thoughts about yourself, others, the past, and the future. It’s been shown that psychedelics actually decrease activity in this part of the brain, and this might actually be why it helps with depression so much.”
Are there any big, unsolved mysteries remaining in the field?
“There are so many unsolved mysteries! People have tried a psilocybin trip after smoking for 30 years but after the treatment, they no longer have any inclination to ever pick up a cigarette again, and the same has happened for alcoholics. In fact, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous originally formed it with the intent that LSD would be included in treatment. Even in the ’50s and ’60s, these applications in addiction were known, but we still don’t know why it helps.”
So what kind of people would you recommend psychedelic use to?
“Anybody who wants to try the experience really, except for those who have a family history of psychosis or schizophrenia, because it can really exacerbate those symptoms, especially if they’re predisposed to it anyway.”
Could you walk me through a typical Psychedelics Club meeting?
“Yeah, so we usually open up the meeting with a question, and we’ll go around and say our names and share something like what kind of music we like to listen to while tripping. After that, we’ll do a slideshow on a specific topic, for example, last week’s was on integration, which is the process of integrating psychedelic experiences in sober life. We’ll go through the slideshow and share quotes and how they pertain to our experiences. We usually have people discuss their experiences but people who have never tried psychedelics are also welcome.”
When does the Psychedelics Club meet?
“We are meeting weekly 7-8 p.m. Wednesdays on Zoom. If anybody is interested in getting more information or joining the email list, please email email@example.com.”
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.