The Dr. Jose “Mia” Fábregas has spent the last decades of his life leading an addiction clinic and a detox center tucked into the wooded hills north of Barcelona. Before that, in the rainforests of Brazil, this charismatic Spanish psychiatrist was dedicated to another mission: collaborating with shamans and the Santo Daime church to study the mental health benefits of the regular and ritualized use of the ayahuasca among young people.
This month, as president of a new Spanish non-profit organization called BMed , Fabregas embarks on a venture that aims to bring together the shamanic and scientific aspects of his life’s work. He is accompanied on this trip by an impressive team of Spanish and South American therapists, alternative medicine entrepreneurs, journalists and a group of spirited psychonauts.
Fabregas has been around long enough to know that psychedelics are not going to save the world , or even radically modify the practice of psychiatry.
“For me, this is a mixture of the shamanic and the scientific,” Fabregas said. “I have worked in the jungle with different shamans in communities that have used ayahuasca for centuries. But my vision is also a scientific one. I try to be a bit skeptical. These (psychedelic) experiences are very subjective.”
” Psychedelics are not the solution to all mental health problems. They are not for everyone. But in some cases, when other tools of psychiatry do not work, they can be very helpful.”
BMed is the latest organization to emerge in the worldwide psychedelic renaissance . His vision is to educate the public about the beneficial uses of psychedelics through publications, education, research, therapist training, and community building . BMed also offers ketamine-assisted therapy sessions to treat depression at the Fabregas clinic, the Center for Addiction Research and Treatment, or CITA .
According to Fabregas and other members of his team, BMed’s programs are inspired, in part, by the work of two world-renowned transpersonal psychologists, Stanislav Grof and the late Claudio Naranjo , with the help of Amanda Feilding , British psychedelic pioneer and founder. from the Beckley Foundation , based in Oxford.
Another key player at BMed is Christian Af Jochnick, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker and investor with a keen interest in psychedelic medicine companies.
Jochnick is also involved in another for-profit company, Beckley Psytech , which recently raised $ 80 million through a public offering of shares to develop psychedelic-based pharmaceuticals and medical treatments. At its founding, BMed was initially called Beckley Med.
Lina Williamson, the newly hired CEO of BMed, says that Beckley Psytech and BMed are separate organizations, although they are backed by some of the same investors and donors.
“Beckley Psytech is a for-profit special-purpose vehicle,” said Williamson, who notes that many companies in the psychedelic space follow established economic models. “It’s about intellectual property and commercialization. But I see more of us generating scientific evidence for some applications that companies like Psytech and the like can develop.”
Born in Colombia, Williamson received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Bern, Switzerland, before changing careers and working at large pharmaceutical company Novartis . In recent years, she has worked at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, helping scientists turn research breakthroughs into biomedical start-ups.
Williamson explained that Catalonia’s relatively liberal drug laws – especially regarding plant-based medicines like ayahuasca and psilocybin mushrooms – create unique opportunities for education, research, and training for psychedelic therapists.
“With synthetic drugs in Spain it is more complicated,” said Williamson. “But with plant-based medicines, the same taboo does not exist in Catalonia, where consumer clubs offer you a legal umbrella to study”.
“We can work with religious groups that are licensed to give ayahuasca. They can give the medicine and we can observe the patient and remotely track and monitor the patient with technology. Our vision for the foundation is to really understand what is going on in the transformation, what happens in the brain. “
Fabregas said he plans to sell the CITA clinic, which does not use psychedelics in its addiction treatment.
Those responsible for BMed are now working with non-profit donors to acquire new facilities to serve as headquarters in the Barcelona area . The organization also intends to be present in Ibiza , where there is an active psychedelic community and a potential source of important donors.
One of the BMed’s first research projects will use ayahuasca-assisted therapy to help some 200 patients who are grieving for a long time after the loss of a loved one. Some patients will receive therapy with an ayahuasca infusion, while others will receive therapy without psychedelic assistance.
The expansion of psychedelic research
BMed is just the latest example of how millions of dollars are being poured into both non-profit organizations and for-profit psychedelic research companies around the world. Williamson said the nonprofit plans to keep its focus on serving patients.
“I’m new to this, but to me it looks like what happened with cannabis,” she said. “A lot of money was invested, but many of those companies are failing because they had no idea what to do.”
“Doctors are going to demand proof to believe that these drugs are going to be really useful for their patients. That’s what we are going to do: build that proof and that trust.”
According to Williamson, BMed will work with organizations such as the Northern California-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to train psychedelic guides and therapists in Spain. The program, in association with Grof Legacy Training , will be led by Karina Bertolotto , a Uruguayan-born transpersonal therapist who now lives in Ibiza.
Fabregas notes that BMed will not only focus on training licensed therapists, but will work to educate the general public on the safe and beneficial use of psychedelics.
“People can take magic mushrooms many times in their life and never change,” Fabregas says. “But the same substance with the right intention and environment can be transformative in one trip. The substance and the dose can be the same. But the important thing is the intention .”
BMed will have four levels to educate the public and train psychedelic facilitators, including programs for certified assistants, guides and therapists. Catalonia’s relatively liberal drug laws will allow for the experiential training of guides and therapists who cannot legally take ayahuasca or magic mushrooms in their countries of origin.
Williamson said that the laws and regulations in Spain give them an advantage compared to other European nations such as France or Germany.
“We can generate medical evidence on the scientific efficacy of different treatments , especially with ayahuasca and plant-derived psychedelics, so professionals can do it more safely and effectively,” said Williamson.
” We don’t need to create pills . We have a whole protocol that can be developed to give psychology another tool that can help lower the cost of healthcare by reducing relapses into depression or psychotic breakdowns.”
Compared to other for-profit psychedelic ventures, BMed emphasizes the need to create community in the burgeoning psychedelic renaissance, noting that “the most direct and effective way to restore psychological and social health is to cultivate meaningful and conscious connections in natural environments. “
Barcelona editor David Barba directs the community building portion of the BMed program. Those plans include cultural events, group therapy sessions, scientific conferences, ceremonies and “all kinds of experiences that promote a better understanding of psychotherapy, psychedelics, spiritual traditions and indigenous cultures.”
La editorial de Barba, Ediciones La Llave, saca (entre otros títulos) ediciones en español de libros de Claudio Naranjo, fallecido en 2019. Su libro pionero, ‘El viaje sanador – Tratamientos pioneros de la terapia psicodélica’, salió hace casi medio siglo. Naranjo -que nació en Chile pero pasó la mayor parte de su vida en California- veía las vertientes mística y terapéutica de la experiencia psiquedélica como “diferentes etapas en un único viaje del alma, diferentes niveles en un proceso continuo de expansión de la conciencia, integración y autorrealización.”
Barba ve a Naranjo como el “padrino” de BMed, con Amanda Feilding como “nuestra madrina”.
“No somos una filial de Beckley Foundation. El nombre de Amanda nos abre muchas puertas, pero somos una organización completamente independiente con nuestros propios principios”, dijo Barba.
“Nuestra sociedad tiene muchos problemas, pero sobre todo tiene problemas relacionados con la mala salud mental”, añadió Barba. “Encontramos consuelo en el apoyo mutuo y el restablecimiento de los lazos comunitarios. Nuestras actividades comunitarias tendrán precios adecuados al nivel económico de cada participante. Queremos fomentar el uso responsable de los psiquedélicos en comunidades en riesgo de exclusión.”
Think Tank founded in Great Britain in 1998 by Amanda Feilding, a pioneer in psychedelic research in the field of mental health and on Drug Policy reform.
The world’s leading psychedelic research organisation. Rick Doblin’s MAPS is a global leader in training programmes for psychedelic therapists.
The figure of Stan Grof in the history of psychedelics has reached legendary status. His legacy takes the form of a comprehensive psychedelic psychotherapy training programme.