Episode 59: Psychedelic Extinction—How Poaching Endangers Some Psychoactive Plants with Dr. Anya Ermakova

Psychedelic drugs are well beyond the quote ‘renaissance’ stage and relatively recently entered a ‘gold rush’ as dozens of companies maneuver themselves to make this nascent industry as profitable as possible for themselves. At least that’s part of their motivation. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword for folks that want to see an end to the drug war, but also don’t want access to these substances available only through doctors and therapists.

While Big Pharma slowly ambles onward to transform psychedelics into the next blockbuster pharmaceutical, the plant medicine decriminalization movement is steadily growing in the United States and more and more people are taking plant-based psychedelics for spiritual, medicinal and yes, even recreational purposes. No judgment here.

The thriving popularity of naturally-occuring entheogens has sparked a lot of concern from some in the psychedelics community, who warn that overuse of these plants for any purpose could drive them to virtual extinction. Imagine if ayahuasca became like Silphium, the ancient contraceptive used by the Greeks and Romans that was consumed to such excess that it is now believed to have vanished from the earth. Could the same happen to psychedelic plants?

Narcotica co-host Troy Farah speaks with Dr. Anya Ermakova, a researcher based in London with a very extensive background in conservation, ethnobotany, neuroscience, psychiatry and more, almost all of which relates back to psychedelics in some way. She has a master’s in Conservation Science from Imperial College London, a PhD in Psychiatry from the University of Cambridge and a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Edinburgh. She’s worked as a science officer at the Beckley Foundation, and has provided psychedelic welfare and harm reduction services with PsycareUK and Zendo and so much more.

You can read Dr. Anya Ermakova’s research on ResearchGate.

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Some psychedelic plant organizations you can support include The Cactus Conservation Institute and Blessings of the Forest.

That paper on the jaguar trade and ayahuasca is here:

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 49: Salvia: Psychedelic Oddity with Ivan Casselman (Plus, Canada’s Emerging Psilocybin Scene)
Episode 35: Holding Space — The Values of Trip Sitting with Michelle Janikian
Episode 57: Autism, Acid and the Altered Brain with Aaron Orsini and Justine Lee

Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson / Troy Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Kesta “Rekindle”
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Flickr edit: Troy Farah
(**Note: At one point Troy says that Indigenous people are afraid of losing the ‘privilege’ of having access to peyote, when it is more accurately described as a ‘right.’ A non-trivial distinction! We considered rerecording this question, but decided to leave it as is.)