Naropa University Offering Minor in Psychedelics Studies

High Times
Wed, Apr 3
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Officials at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado announced last week that the college will offer a minor in psychedelics studies to prepare students for careers related to the class of drugs, which show great therapeutic potential. The new program, which is slated to launch in the fall, is designed to give students a humanities and social science approach to studying psychedelics.

The new minor was created for students who wish to study the historical and current applications of psychedelics and other natural medicines. The program will also explore the growing field of psychedelic therapy, which has the potential to treat a number of serious mental health issues including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and substance misuse disorders. 

The Bachelor of Arts minor in Psychedelics Studies entails a total of 12 course credits earned from classes such as Herbal Medicine and Theories of Psychedelic Assisted Therapies. In addition to exploring the clinical applications of psychedelic medicines, the curriculum “emphasizes religious and ceremonial contexts, cultural practices, policy implications and healing justice frameworks,” the university explained last week.

“Psychedelic minor graduates will be well prepared for a career in psychedelic-assisted therapy, with both Naropa University’s rigorous academic education and our singularly unique contemplative pedagogy woven throughout the curriculum,” Naropa University president Charles G. Lief, J.D. said in a statement about the new program. “Naropa is a higher education leader when it comes to incorporating justice, equity, anti-oppression, and understanding lineage and indigenous community relationships with plant medicines.” 

Naropa University was founded in 1974 by Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The institution’s name and inspiration are derived from the teachings of the 11th-century Indian Buddhist sage Naropa. The university is internationally known for its unique educational program, which integrates Eastern knowledge and traditions with traditional Western scholarly pursuits.

“This minor will integrate well with the range of undergraduate majors offered at Naropa including Psychology, Interdisciplinary Studies, Art Therapy, Religious Studies, Creative Writing and Literature, Yoga Studies or Visual Arts,” Lief added. “Several of these majors have an online option, making the new minor very accessible to students in North America and beyond.”

The new minor in Psychedelics Studies will serve as a foundational curriculum for undergraduate students to learn and apply the mindfulness and compassion skills that are key to successful psychedelic therapy. Scholarships are available to support equitable access for students with fewer economic resources to increase opportunities for those who may be from marginalized communities or underserved geographic locations in order to create a more diverse field of practitioners.

“The emerging field of legal psychedelic-assisted therapy will require trained facilitators to meet the demand for these services,” said Joseph Harrison, M.S., executive director of the Naropa Center for Psychedelic Studies (NCPS). “Naropa’s psychedelic studies minor will provide primary education for students interested in working in this emerging field. We are creating a pathway for students that begins with the BA Psychedelic Studies Minor. Serious students can further their learning through Naropa’s Graduate School of Counseling Psychology and then our postgraduate training programs to become licensed practitioners in states such as Colorado and Oregon.”

Clinical research and other studies into psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin and MDMA have shown that the drugs have potential therapeutic benefits, particularly for serious mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, substance misuse disorders and anxiety. Early last year, a California biopharmaceutical company announced positive results from a clinical trial testing MDMA as a treatment for PTSD. Research published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry in 2020 found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was an effective and quick-acting treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder. A separate study published in 2016 determined that psilocybin treatment produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects that the Food and Drug Administration will eventually approve MDMA and psilocybin mental health treatments, according to a letter from the department in May 2022. In 2017, the FDA granted MDMA-assisted therapy Breakthrough Therapy designation, indicating that the therapy is a significant improvement over existing treatments. Last month, the agency took similar action with an LSD drug that is being studied as a treatment for anxiety.

“The minor in psychedelic studies integrates existing contemplative coursework across diverse disciplines with the latest scholarship on psychedelic studies,” said Betsy Gonzalez Blohm, dean of Naropa College and the Graduate Collective. “Contemplative pedagogy centering diverse perspectives to support inner and outer transformation is core to Naropa’s mission, and offering academic study about the history, policy and current research on psychedelics supported by our unique approach to education is an extension of that mission.”

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