• Heartful Academy

DMT, Psilocybin, Ayahuasca: Leadership Tools or Dangerous Distractions?

A journey into this controversial topic with psychiatrist, neuroscientist, inventor and entrepreneur, Dr. David Rabin MD, PhD.

Together we explored the pros, cons, opportunities and myths in the world of psychedelics.

Many of us remember Steve Jobs saying that taking LSD had been one of the most important things he did in his life. How he claimed that he could never have built Apple the way he did without the insights and experiences he got from experimenting with altered states of consciousness, which included not only meditation, but also psychedelics.

Those of us old enough might also remember Ronald Reagan appearing on television with a grave look on his face and this steep warning to the American people: “There is nothing smart, there is nothing grown up or sophisticated in taking an LSD trip at all. They are just being complete fools. Anyone that would engage in this, or indulge in this, they are just a plain fool”.

The sentiment Reagan expressed has more or less been the official position of governments all over the world for the past 50+ years, and this includes all forms of psychedelics, whether they are derived from mushroom, cactus or any other plant. I don’t know about you, but I grew up with my parents telling me to stay away from ALL kinds of drugs, no matter what. That was rule number one. The most important of all. Even more important than getting an education. There was no distinction made between heroin, cocaine and LSD or DMT. Drugs were drugs, and you would become a drug addict if you tried any one of them. No wonder it took me this long to look into the matter with an open mind!

When I was in my early twenties I went on a trip to Amsterdam with my friends. We drank ourselves into oblivion, and smoked packs of cigarettes, but we were surely not stupid enough to try those “magic mushrooms” that are so widely available in coffee shops all over the city.

In recent years I have met many people who have told of experiences with psychedelics. Most often they talk about mushrooms, DMT, Psilocybin and Ayahuasca. They speak highly of their experiences, and they don’t seem like stupid people at all. Or on a slippery slope into addiction. In fact, among these people are some of my dearest friends, and people that inspire me with their presence, insights, compassion and creativity. Also, I noticed headlines about research coming out, and looked into it a bit. Today, it seems to have been scientifically validated that psychedelics can reduce depression and anxiety, as well as help overcome alcoholism and possibly even smoking.

In Silicon Valley the world’s best inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs use the plant substances to become more creative, more successful and impactful with their ventures. An INC Magazine headline reads “Silicon Valley’s Best-Kept Productivity Secret: Psychedelic Drugs”. Iconic productivity expert and multiple bestselling author, Tim Ferriss, is quoted saying: "The billionaires I know, almost without exception, use hallucinogens on a regular basis. [They're] trying to be very disruptive and look at the problems in the world ... and ask completely new questions." This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you google “psychedelics” in combination with any of the words “entrepreneurs”, “creativity”, or “Silicon Valley”, you will find a long list of advocates for this ancient practice. And ancient it is. The Mayans have held Ayahuasca ceremonies for thousands of years, the Hindu religion is full of references to psychedelics, and the ancient Greeks had their transformative rituals, for purposes of healing and spiritual awareness.

It would seem that the time has come for all of us in the world of business, innovation and entrepreneurship to start learning more about this domain. Are psychedelics potent leadership tools as Steve Jobs and Silicon Valley would have us believe? Or are they dangerous distractions as our political leaders have told us for half a century?

No one is better equipped to assist us on this quest for knowledge than Dr. David Rabin. After taking a bachelor degree in biology, Dr. Rabin went on to become a Doctor of Medicine, as well as earning a PhD in Neuroscience. As a Physician, Psychiatrist and Research Scientist he has specialized in stress, trauma, mental illness, and healing for nearly 15 years. Dr. Rabin is on a mission to help us overcome stress, especially chronic stress, and all the detrimental effects of it. Dr. Rabin’s approach is highly scientific, and he is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Board of Medicine, a nonprofit organization of physicians and scientists establishing the first peer-reviewed, evidence-based clinical guidelines for the production and safe use of currently unregulated alternative medicines, including plant medicines.

It is definitely fair to say that Dr. David Rabin has done his homework, and that he has intimate knowledge of both worlds: traditional Western medicine as well as alternative (including Eastern and Tribal) medicine. He is also an entrepreneur, inventor and businessman himself. Together with his wife he runs Apollo Neuroscience Inc., where they provide a wearable device that uses gentle vibrations to help the body recover from stress. Dr. Rabin is a regular guest on podcasts on the topic of mental health, psychedelics, and plant medicine, and after listening to a couple of these, we felt passionate to bring his wisdom to the Heartful Academy community.

Some of the questions we asked Dr. Rabin to address during this Heartful Academy session:

  • Based on your research, what are the positive effects of having psychedelic experiences?

  • In what circumstances, and for what purposes would you recommend a substance induced psychedelic experience?

  • In what circumstances would you definitely NOT recommend it?

  • How do you compare meditation to psychedelic substances, in order to produce altered consciousness experiences? When is one better than the other? Should they be combined?

  • Why is it useful to alter one’s consciousness? Will it not be better to trust that the consciousness we have is the right one, and not start playing God or taking unnecessary risks?

  • Alcohol, sedatives and stimulants also alters our state of consciousness. How is that different from a psychedelic experience?

  • If we were to imagine for a while: how do you think the business world would be different from the way it is today if all business leaders experimented more with psychedelics?

  • For the individual entrepreneur, innovator, leader, what benefits can come from psychedelic experiences?