In this episode, Michelle and Kyle interview Ph.D. candidate and return guest, Benjamin Mudge.
You may remember Benjamin Mudge from Solidarity Fridays episode 59, where he talked about the controversial topic of bipolar people taking psychedelics: something he knows a lot about as someone who has been managing his own bipolar disorder with ayahuasca for 12 years (to the point where he now considers himself “post-bipolar”).
In this “Part 2” episode, he discusses what his options are as a Ph.D. candidate who is certain he’s figured out a way to help save countless lives but doesn’t have a ton of expendable money, a massive team behind him, or a clearly defined path: What are the requirements necessary for creating a protocol for bipolar people? How can you prove efficacy and appease ethics departments the fastest? How do you actually begin a research study?
And he talks about a lot more surrounding bipolar disorder and ayahuasca: why people with bipolar shouldn’t have other reactionary substances with ayahuasca, why THC can amplify brain destabilization, the work of Dr. Leanna Standish and Dr. Victoria Hale, how clinical methods too often strip away spirituality in favor of reductionism and results, how “micro ceremonies” have helped save his life, the idea of “pharmahuasca” and maintenance medications, the importance of sacred reciprocity, and why the best path toward affordable access may be a combination of the efforts of nonprofits and for-profits.
“All I can say in truth is it’s a theory, but I honestly believe that I’ve worked out something that the community as a whole does not get yet, and that’s about how the other ingredients (harmaline and tetrahydroharmine) play a crucial role in the brew. And I’m aware that that’s a very arrogant thing for a guy without a PhD …to talk about, but this is what I believe I’ve figured out.”
“Every psychiatrist says to every bipolar person: ‘You need to take pills for the rest of your life.’ And actually, I agree with them. But I’m saying these could be freeze-dried ayahuasca or it could be pharmahuasca pills. It doesn’t have to be Seroquel. It doesn’t have to be something that numbs your creativity and your spirituality and your libido.”
“In a lot of ways, I would prefer to work with someone who’s going to make millions of dollars out of this if it’s going to get the medicine to my people quicker than working with [a] University or working with a not-for-profit like MAPS, who are going to take 20 years to do it.”
“This whole concept of pharmahuasca is really, really controversial. And quite frankly, it is, effectively, biopiracy in the sense of: it is taking an Indigenous, traditional medicine, turning it into a pill, and selling it in the Western market. There is a lot inherently wrong with that unless a huge amount of the profits from that goes back to the Amazon.”
About Benjamin Mudge
Benjamin Mudge has a background in music, art and political activism, and is now a PhD candidate in the Psychiatry Department at Flinders University, as well as Director of Bipolar Disorder CIC. He taught himself the science of bipolar disorder, while working at Neuroscience laboratories and GlaxoSmithKline, to be able to manage his own personal experience of manic depression. After psychiatrists prescribed him 17 different pharmaceuticals (all of which were problematic), he gave up on pharmaceutical psychiatry and decided to find his own solution to living with manic depression. He has been managing his bipolar disorder with ayahuasca for 14 years – without any need of pharmaceuticals – and was awarded a PhD scholarship to research whether his personal protocol could assist other bipolar people. His future vision is to make ayahuasca ceremonies available to bipolar people as an alternative treatment to pharmaceutical drugs.
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