Psychedelics and Education: A conversation with Kenneth Tupper

published on June 7, 2018 by Lindsay Jordan in 3:AM Magazine

Ken Tupper is Director of Implementation & Partnerships with the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, and Adjunct Professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. His research is focused on the non-medical potential benefits of psychedelics, and accounting for the metaphor of ‘plant teachers’. I met him in 2017 at Breaking Convention, a large, multidisciplinary conference on psychedelic consciousness where I’d won the student prize for my paper on psychedelics as educational tools. I’d been researching the subject for barely a year, so it was a buzz to meet Ken, who published his first journal article on psychedelics and education fifteen years ago, and has been getting them out there pretty regularly ever since.

Ken and I are of similar mind. We both believe that psychedelics are agents of learning as much as of healing, indeed that healing is a particular flavour of learning, but we’re coming from quite different places. Ken’s work is focused on the emergent policy landscape and the globalization of ceremonial uses of ayahuasca. Mine bridges modern (Western) psilocybin therapy protocol and the tradition of the solo philosopher-psychonaut, from William James to Christopher Bache. While I’ve been pontificating whether the use of psychotropic substances assumes the reduction of education to a technical problem, and constructing bibliographic wormholes between psychedelia and philosophy of education, Ken has been doing the heavy lifting in public health and policy.

Psychedelic enquiry is rapidly becoming socially acceptable as a form of self-development, and it’s plausible that the widely-predicted approval of psychedelic medicines will be followed by a change in the law around their general use. Assuming that this will indeed happen, and drawing on extensive research and his previous career as a government official working on drug policy, Ken recently teamed up with two other researchers to thrash out a detailed proposal for the management and regulation of psychedelics, published in 2016 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

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