A psychedelic therapist allegedly took millions from a Holocaust survivor, highlighting worries about elders taking hallucinogens

He made a new life for himself in California. After surviving the Holocaust and growing up under Hungarian fascism and Russia’s communist regime, George Sarlo arrived in the United States as an 18-year-old refugee. Over the decades, he became a wealthy venture capitalist and philanthropist, and from the outside, looked like someone who’d overcome the horrors of history to achieve success.

Inwardly, though, he suffered from depression and struggled to make sense of his childhood. About a decade ago, he discovered psychedelics, starting with ayahuasca and moving on to MDMA, psilocybin (the active compound in magic mushrooms), and ketamine. The hallucinogenic experiences gave him a deep sense of closure over some of his early emotional wounds and gratitude for his life since, which made him a prominent advocate for using these drugs to treat psychological trauma.

The relief didn’t last. On a trip to Hawaii last year, Sarlo was in deep despair. He was joined part of the time by his longtime companion and personal assistant Vicky Dulai, 46. A trained psychedelic therapist, she helped oversee his use of the drugs, according to court records, which also say their relationship was romantic. When Sarlo, now in his 80s, repeatedly expressed suicidal thoughts, Dulai allegedly offered to help him end his life.

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A friend overheard this conversation and warned Sarlo’s family that his life was in danger, according to a lawsuit filed in May 2021, which also alleges Dulai exploited her relationship with Sarlo to take more than $4 million from him.

Research on psychedelics has brought these drugs closer to legalization as treatments for depression, PTSD, and other psychiatric conditions. But a STAT investigation highlights the vulnerability of older people who take these mind-altering drugs to financial abuse, and the need for clear regulations around both how they’re used and the people supervising patients.

Clinical trials testing psychedelics involve therapists meeting with patients before, during, and after their psychedelic experience. People who take psychedelics report they create feelings of emotional intimacy, heightening the susceptibility that already exists between patients and health care providers. Moreover, the drugs are being explored as a way to ease patients’ anxiety at the end of life. And yet it’s unclear whether psychedelic therapists will be required to meet the same licensing standards as other therapists such as psychiatrists and psychologists.

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“It’s a whole new frightening possibility of elder abuse,” Donovan Maust, a geriatric psychiatrist and health services researcher at the Michigan Medicine Department of Psychiatry, said about the risks faced by older people treated with psychedelics.

Dulai maintains in court documents that she received the money from Sarlo as gifts and that she was always working to help and protect him. The filings do not address the claim in the lawsuit that she offered to help end his life, and Dulai’s lawyer did not respond to questions about it.

The allegations against Dulai are especially noteworthy because she is a board member of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a leading proponent of legalizing psychedelics as medicine. The nonprofit is at the forefront of clinical research into psychedelics, sponsoring and running several studies, including Phase 3 trials of MDMA combined with therapy as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder — the most advanced research on any Schedule I psychedelic drug. If MAPS research continues to produce strong results, the drug is expected to be legalized as a PTSD treatment in the coming years.

Dulai remains on the board, and MAPS has taken no public steps to distance itself from her alleged actions. In a statement, MAPS spokesperson Betty Aldworth said the organization did not investigate the accusations against Dulai because no credible claims had been made.

“These are unsubstantiated allegations of which we have received no official complaint with any credible facts, related to a civil lawsuit that had nothing to do with MAPS which was resolved with a confidential settlement that we were not privy to,” Aldworth wrote in an email to STAT. The settlement is not confidential, but the parties have kept the case quiet to avoid embarrassment, and neither the filing nor the resolution of the case has been previously reported.

Psychedelic drugs — with the exception of ketamine and a variant called esketamine — are still largely illegal for treating depression and post-traumatic stress disorder outside of clinical trials. The lawsuit alleges Dulai used drugs including ayahuasca and MDMA to heighten Sarlo’s dependence on her, and as Sarlo’s health deteriorated, she introduced him to ketamine and supervised an “intensive” dosing regimen. Meanwhile, Sarlo bought her a Porsche and loaned her $1.4 million to purchase a home now worth an estimated $2.3 million for her and her husband in Mill Valley, an affluent city in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. He later forgave the loan, turning it into an outright gift.

No criminal charges were brought, and the lawsuit was settled earlier this year, with Dulai agreeing to return the Porsche, and she and her husband agreeing to pay $150,000 immediately, plus a further $350,000 on the house over time; her husband will return $190,000 he received as a business investment within three years.

Dulai denied taking advantage of Sarlo, in her own court filing, and said the lawsuit falsely accused her of financial elder abuse and was improperly filed. A judge later stated that the petition was filed in the wrong county, according to Dulai’s lawyer. Dulai, together with Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of MAPS, and the medical team she enlisted to treat Sarlo, filed a confidential elder abuse complaint against Sarlo’s daughters in May 2021 with San Francisco Adult Protective Services, after Sarlo’s daughters locked Dulai out of his house following the Hawaii trip. The daughters also fired his medical team and wouldn’t let his psychiatrist see Sarlo to assess his mental state, and they later obtained a temporary restraining order against Dulai.

Dulai’s lawyer provided STAT a copy of the Protective Services complaint, which Dulai didn’t pursue following the settlement. It details how Dulai cared for Sarlo, staying with him while he was in the hospital, arranging around-the-clock care, and staying at his house twice a week to help with his anxiety attacks. Sarlo also told friends he trusted Dulai to be his health agent and made her his conservator — a person appointed by a judge to make decisions on behalf of someone incapable of doing so — according to statements in Dulai’s lawsuit filing and the Protective Services complaint.

Dulai’s lawyer wrote in the complaint that the money she received from Sarlo was given with the knowledge of Sarlo’s financial adviser, and that Sarlo regularly reviewed bank and credit card statements and approved all her spending of his money before July 2020, when his health began to decline. Dulai also asked that a $500,000 bequest from Sarlo be removed in the fall of 2020, so that her actions would not be perceived as an improper effort to receive an inheritance, the complaint says.

Sarlo’s public statements around psychedelics “all make clear that Mr. Sarlo, of his own volition, used psychedelics to assist his mental health,” the lawyer, Terry Gross, wrote in an email to STAT. “The undisputed record is clear that Mr. Sarlo, in full control of his faculties, spoke publicly that psychedelics had helped dramatically with the PTSD he suffered from due to the Holocaust, and became an ardent philanthropic supporter of psychedelic science, and had his Foundation focus on philanthropic grants that supported emerging scientific studies on the benefits of psychedelics for treating mental issues.”

Court documents filed by Dulai claim that Sarlo’s daughters, one of whom had little contact with him for years while the other visited him occasionally during his health difficulties, accused Dulai as a way to get closer to their father so as to inherit more of his wealth.

Despite the conflicting accounts, it’s clear there’s a critical need for strong regulations to protect users of psychedelic medicines against potential abuse, experts told STAT. Elderly people, especially those who experience cognitive decline, are at risk of being taken advantage of financially, they said. “These are frail, at-risk older adults who are not as able to advocate for themselves,” said Maust. “They’re absolutely at a power disadvantage.”

About a decade ago, George Sarlo discovered psychedelics, starting with ayahuasca. He’s since become a prominent advocate for using these drugs to treat psychological trauma. Manuel Medir/Getty Images

Sarlo was an unlikely champion of psychedelics. His life story, as chronicled by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, makes him an emblem of the American dream. After he arrived in the United States in the 1950s, he made $1 an hour working at a small engineering firm. A full scholarship to the University of Arizona, combined with charitable support, set him on his path to Harvard Business School and Wall Street, where he made millions at investment firms and as a venture capitalist. His net worth is now more than $100 million, according to court documents, and he lives in a seven-bedroom San Francisco home overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

He has repaid the philanthropy he experienced in his youth, donating to charities including the International Rescue Committee and San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and creating two endowed chairs at the University of California, San Francisco, and a foundation focused on funding mental health initiatives. In recognition of his civic endeavors, the University of San Francisco awarded Sarlo an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

Underneath his material success, though, he continued to live with the effects of his childhood trauma: When he was 4 years old, Sarlo’s father disappeared, hauled off to a forced labor camp like untold other Jews, where he died. The loss haunted him.

After decades in the United States, Sarlo, who is divorced, still has a Hungarian accent. In a video taken for a visual history archive while Sarlo was in his late 70s, he has a natural smile even while discussing intensely personal and difficult topics. He recounts how he led a student rebellion during the 1956 Hungarian uprising against the Soviets, clutching a machine gun that was of little use against Russia’s tanks as though it’s an amusing dinner party anecdote. He is soft-spoken, with a calm demeanor, and seems mildly yet happily surprised to have lived so long, and wound up so successful.

Sarlo’s exploration of psychedelics began in 2012, when he traveled to Mexico for an ayahuasca ceremony. It gave him a sense of closure and a new perspective on the terror he experienced, he told the New York Times in a 2019 article about retirees taking psychedelics. He found the psychedelic experience transformative. “Slowly, the low-grade depression I had experienced for most of my life lifted and never came back,” he told The Jewish News of California in 2020.

He was respected and well-known in the psychedelic community for being an early and vocal proponent of the drugs’ mental health benefits long before it became fashionable. In a field hungry for investment, he was unavoidably popular as a philanthropist. “The psychedelic revolution is being led by a 79-year-old Holocaust survivor,” announced a 2017 Vice profile on Sarlo.

The lawsuit paints a more complicated picture.

Legal documents, filed by asset manager Paul Violich, who was appointed a temporary conservator for Sarlo’s estate in response to a petition filed by one of his daughters, say Dulai and Sarlo first met in 2002. They spent a decade as friends and allegedly started their romantic relationship before Sarlo had his first psychedelic experience.

Dulai often looks TED-talk-ready, in blazers and bright block colors. She is firmly embedded in the world of psychedelic researchers and activists. She co-founded a nonprofit in 2014 to combat stigma around addiction and support psychedelics as treatment, and Doblin, who is the epicenter of the psychedelic community, backed Dulai throughout the lawsuit. She and Sarlo were often seen together at psychedelic fundraising and networking events.

Dulai gradually gained more influence over Sarlo’s life, becoming his personal assistant, health care proxy, and caregiver, with access to his bank accounts, email, mail, and medical documents, according to the lawsuit. During this time, Sarlo experienced several health setbacks, including seizures, cranial surgery, and emergency gallbladder surgery, and constantly grappled with mental health issues. Dulai arranged for caregivers and doctors, and Sarlo continued to take psychedelics as a way of coping.

“Given her training, Dulai knew or should have known that the psychedelic treatment that she was managing for Conservatee [Sarlo] was experimental, illegal, and carried serious risks,” the lawsuit states. It went on to allege that because of Sarlo’s health issues and drug consumption, “supervised and encouraged by Dulai,” he “increasingly relied on Dulai to manage his affairs.”

Although Dulai was trained as a psychedelic therapist, Gross, her lawyer, said Dulai did not act as a therapist for Sarlo but as his health care proxy, managing his affairs and coordinating medical care when he experienced health setbacks.

Late in 2019, the lawsuit says, Dulai introduced Sarlo to ketamine, a sedating anesthetic that doctors can prescribe “off label” as a treatment for depression. He received intramuscular injections and ketamine pills to use at home. Emails included in the lawsuit show they took the drug together.

In a January 2020 email to Sarlo included in a court filing, Dulai discussed how to address his sleep issues. “Happy to do K or any psychedelic with you anytime!” she added, using an apparent shorthand for ketamine. A month later, she said she had moved a 10 a.m. meeting so they could take ketamine first thing in the morning.

The suit alleges that Dulai began to use ketamine with Sarlo “as a control mechanism” and that, while under the effects of ketamine, Sarlo “often experienced dissociation, short-term memory impairment, confusion, and anxiety, among other serious side effects.” Sarlo’s mental and physical health rapidly declined following his regular use of ketamine, states the court filing.

Ketamine lozenges to take at home are a fairly unusual prescription, said Craig Heacock, a psychiatrist who oversees ketamine therapy and has worked as a therapist in a MAPS MDMA trial. “That’s not something all patients can safely do, depending on their cognitive capacities … and mental health diagnosis,” he said.

Ketamine can cause vomiting, a panicked reaction, or disorientation, leading to a fall. Anyone prescribed ketamine at home should do so under the supervision of a therapist or a sitter to ensure their safety, and that person should not also take ketamine at the same time, said Heacock.

Gross wrote in an email to STAT that Sarlo was under continual care of health care professionals, with “a nurse or other professional” with him at all times from 2020 until April 2021. He didn’t specify when in 2020, but court documents show Sarlo’s round-the-clock care started in July 2020, after his emergency gallbladder surgery, and after the two emails from Dulai suggesting they take ketamine together.

Dulai was so closely involved in Sarlo’s treatment that in December 2020, his therapist emailed Dulai detailing Sarlo’s thoughts while under the influence of psychedelics. A copy of the email is included in the court documents and contains references to both mushrooms and MDMA. Several other ketamine therapists said that such information would only be shared with another therapist with the patient’s permission, such as their “integration therapist,” who helps a patient make sense of thoughts they experienced under psychedelics. A health care proxy coordinating medical care might be told that therapy is taking place, but typically wouldn’t be provided with a therapists’ notes, they said.

“It’s hard to think of why, what possible reason would she need to have to see them,” said Maust, the Michigan geriatric psychiatrist.

Elizabeth Wolfson, a licensed psychotherapist based in Santa Barbara, Calif., and vice president of clinical services at Field Trip psychedelic clinics, said she wouldn’t share a patient’s medical notes with anyone other than the person’s therapist or another medical team member, even if the patient requested otherwise. “I would be very hesitant,” she said. “I would release it to the patient and then they could send it wherever they want.”

Sarlo’s ketamine therapist did not respond to questions about why Dulai was sent such intimate therapy notes, but Gross said Dulai never acted as an integration therapist. Sarlo’s psychedelic therapist “never breached any therapeutic confidences and shared specific information only at the direction of her client,” he said, adding that Sarlo requested that the therapist share the notes with Dulai.

“It’s a whole new frightening possibility of elder abuse.”

Donovan Maust, geriatric psychiatrist and health services researcher at Michigan Medicine

Payments from Sarlo to Dulai began in earnest in 2014, when she moved from East Hampton, N.Y., to Mill Valley, near where he lived in San Francisco. He fell seriously ill that year with a stomach ailment and suffered from insomnia and depression, according to the lawsuit, and Dulai had oversight of much of his life, working as his assistant. The Protective Services complaint states that Sarlo asked her to move there and agreed to pay for her household expenses, including her children’s schooling; the lawsuit filed by Violich frames it differently, saying Dulai asked Sarlo to support her move there.

At the time, Sarlo loaned Dulai and her husband $1.4 million to buy their home. Five years later, he forgave the loan and, by 2020, the property was in their name, rather than his.

The lawsuit details how Dulai allegedly took vast sums of money from Sarlo, including by spending transfers from his bank account and using $30,000 of Sarlo’s donor-advised funds on her children’s private school. In 2016, Dulai created a joint bank account with Sarlo and, according to the filing, would use money from this account for personal spending without his consent. Dulai disputed this, saying this spending was approved by Sarlo.

By 2018, the suit claims Dulai was also using Sarlo’s credit card to pay for her personal expenses, spending $335,000 of Sarlo’s money on herself and her family that year.

Court documents state Dulai joined Sarlo’s charitable foundation as a board member and began to receive a monthly $2,000 salary, though other board members were unpaid. By 2020, she was executive director with a monthly salary of $5,150. In 2019, when Sarlo was 81, she persuaded him to buy her the Porsche for $64,855, according to the lawsuit, with a license plate that reads “4EYOUNG.” Dulai withdrew more than $300,000 from Sarlo’s checking account and donor-advised fund in the first quarter of 2021 alone, flying to Hawaii with her family and Sarlo on a private jet at his expense, at a cost of $75,000.

Meanwhile, Sarlo pledged $1 million to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies at Dulai’s urging, the petition says, and Dulai joined the board of MAPS shortly after in the summer of 2018. In a statement to STAT, Aldworth, the MAPS spokesperson, said Sarlo was a supporter of MAPS and psychedelic therapies from 2013 to 2020, and she linked to the New York Times article featuring Sarlo’s views in 2019; the organization was unaware of Dulai playing an advisory role in the donation, she added.

In Dulai’s court filings and statements from her lawyer, she says the spending was all done with the knowledge of Sarlo and his financial manager, and her salary at Sarlo’s charitable foundation was reasonable.

Sarlo agreed to pay for Dulai’s household expenses, including private school fees and groceries, when she relocated to San Francisco, and he set up a joint bank account for her to use for personal expenses, according to the Protective Services complaint. Although Sarlo stopped reviewing Dulai’s transactions after he experienced cognitive issues in July 2020, the complaint states there was no change in spending since then, adding: “Ms. Dulai has heard that the daughters have falsely told Mr. Sarlo, in order to turn him against her, that Ms. Dulai had stolen substantial sums of money from him.”

Sarlo in his San Francisco home in 2019. Talia Herman for The New York Times

It can be difficult to disentangle a close loving relationship that involves gifts from one involving financial elder abuse. Dulai received more money from Sarlo as his health became more frail; the lawsuit alleges she took advantage of his weakening mental state, while her lawyer claims she was receiving legitimate compensation for her care and work.

Two lawyers who reviewed the court filings at STAT’s request — ​​Jennifer VanderVeen, an elder law attorney at THK Law in Indiana, and Neil Carbone, a partner at the Farrell Fritz law firm in New York — said a change in legal representation for Sarlo raises serious concerns about potential coercion. In 2019, court documents state, he stopped working with the estate planning attorney he’d used since 2005. A few months later, in June 2019, Sarlo’s new lawyer oversaw the forgiveness of the $1.4 million loan to Dulai.

“Typically, particularly with someone of his financial status and background, changing attorneys for estate planning is not something you do lightly,” said VanderVeen. “It does look, frankly, very, very fishy.”

Although Dulai’s lawyer stated that Sarlo’s “mild cognitive issues” began only after he had emergency gallbladder surgery in July 2020, an email included in the lawsuit shows Sarlo raising concerns about his health to Dulai in January 2019: “Memory worse, reading and writing more difficult,” he wrote.

He was 80 at the time, had suffered a seizure in 2018, and had cranial surgery to reduce fluid in his skull following a seizure the year before. According to the lawsuit, in 2019, Sarlo was taking various medications, including the sleeping pills Ambien and Sonata, the sedative Temazepam, the antidepressant Wellbutrin, the pain medication oxycodone, and the anti-anxiety drug clonazepam. It also states that Dulai encouraged him to experiment “more and more with the use of hallucinogenic drugs, purportedly to treat Conservatee’s anxiety,” a claim Dulai’s lawyer, Gross, disputed in an email to STAT. He said Sarlo was not taking psychedelic drugs in 2019 and had no cognitive issues at the time.

Patients in their 80s are considered a high-risk population for conditions such as delirium, said Boris Heifets, an anesthesiologist and neuroscience researcher at Stanford who studies psychedelics. And the combination of prescription medications alone would likely interfere with a patient’s mental state. “This is a very unusual cocktail of things to be taking at the same time, especially in someone who’s older, with diminished cognitive status, who’s frail,” he said.

Evaluating someone’s ability to make a decision is nuanced, and depends on the situation, said Gill Livingston, professor of psychiatry of older people at University College London. They might be able to choose between menu items but not how to invest, for example. And so it’s important that someone can talk through their decision-making process and show they can remember their reasoning. You want to know they’re able to understand and remember what’s happening, she added: “Is he able to weigh up the risks and benefits?”

Sarlo chose lawyers based on a recommendation from his money management counsel, not Dulai, said Gross in an email to STAT. “Mr. Sarlo himself decided to change his trust and estates lawyer because he believed he had received bad advice,” he wrote. “In fact, the independent trust and estates lawyer he chose is highly respected and there can be no claim that she acted inappropriately in any way.”

Dulai took Sarlo to at least one other attorney before meeting with the one who arranged the documents for loan forgiveness, according to the lawsuit. This also raised concerns for the two lawyers who reviewed the case for STAT, who said it raises the possibility that the first one didn’t agree to sign off on the loan forgiveness. “That’s a red flag,” Carbone said.

Sarlo’s loan forgiveness was signed off on by his new lawyer, with a legal document stating there was no abuse or coercion. “Given this certificate by Mr. Sarlo’s lawyer, you have no basis to state or imply that there was any coercion by Ms. Dulai, nor that Mr. Sarlo’s action was anything other than knowing and willing,” wrote Gross in an email.

Any medical or caregiving relationship has the potential to be taken advantage of, and psychedelics elevate that risk, highlighting the need for strong regulations to protect patients, psychedelic experts told STAT. “The openness to intimacy, the MDMA-type empathogenic bonding experience may heighten the risk in some cases,” said Jerry Rosenbaum, director of the Center for the Neuroscience of Psychedelics at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Psychedelics can enhance suggestibility, making people vulnerable to manipulation and coercion, added Lily Kay Ross, editor at Psymposia, a psychedelic think tank and industry watchdog, and co-creator of “Cover Story: Power Trip,” a podcast exposing misconduct around psychedelics. The drugs also dissolve boundaries, which can create added confusion when dealing with blurred boundaries in relationships.

The potential regulations around psychedelic therapists, should the drugs be approved as medical treatment, are uncertain. One indication, though, of what the standards might look like are the rules put in place by the Food and Drug Administration for MAPS-sponsored clinical trials of psychedelics. MAPS petitioned the FDA to let psychedelic therapists practice in pairs and require only one of each pair to be licensed. A study run by the organization was put on hold for almost two years after the FDA said that the lead facilitator in each pair should have an M.D. or Ph.D.; MAPS objected and appealed, and its plan for lead facilitators to have master’s degrees was ultimately approved.

The decision to let patients see unlicensed psychedelic therapists, even those who are acting in pairs, means there’s less accountability than for patients treated with standard, non-psychedelic mental health therapy.

State licensing boards draft rules governing mental health professionals’ activities and have the power to revoke their license for misconduct. It’s not clear what repercussions unlicensed MAPS therapists would face if they break its code of conduct. “An appropriate disciplinary action will be determined based on the severity of the violation,” and the process would be overseen by an independent ethics review board, Shannon Carlin, chief of training and supervision at MAPS, told STAT.

It takes significantly less training to become a MAPS-approved psychedelic therapist than a licensed mental health professional. MAPS’ MDMA therapy training program involves 100 hours of learning (40 hours of in-person or virtual instruction, and 60 hours of coursework, reading, and activities), plus an experiential elective that can be completed with a 10-hour breath workshop, which teaches a meditative technique. Applicants who aren’t already licensed psychotherapists must either be enrolled in a mental health post-doctorate program or internship or have completed 1,000 hours of behavioral health experience. Other organizations have developed their own training programs for clinical trials, and there are already companies devoted to training psychedelic therapists.

To become a licensed psychologist in California, where MAPS is based, requires a Ph.D. in psychology, two years (3,000 hours) of experience supervised by a licensed psychologist, various pre-licensure classes, and passing two exams. A licensed social worker in California would need a master’s degree, 3,000 hours of supervised experience, and to pass several exams.

“It’s intuitive you introduce more risk” if there’s less training involved, said Rosenbaum. “Somebody who’s made it through the training and rigor and standards for a doctoral-level clinical position is probably going to be more responsible and familiar with the risks,” he said. That said, there’s a shortage of clinical therapists and relaxing licensing requirements for therapists would make treatment potentially cheaper for patients.

The vulnerability of psychedelic patients seen by unlicensed therapists was previously highlighted in a MAPS clinical trial. A patient who enrolled in a Phase 2 study of MDMA as treatment for PTSD in 2014 was sexually assaulted by her therapist, according to a civil court claim. The accused therapist was unlicensed, though the MAPS Canada website presented him as a psychologist. In a response he filed in court, the therapist said the sexual relationship was consensual and he did not owe the patient a “duty of care” that would be expected of a licensed mental health professional.

Several codes of ethics for psychedelic practitioners, including MAPS’ code, say practitioners should not have sexual relationships with participants, and MAPS has barred the accused therapist from participating in its studies. MAPS’ code also says fees must be discussed up front and must be clear. “You don’t take gifts of significant value,” Carlin told STAT.

If psychedelics are approved for medical use more broadly, there will be a sudden and huge demand for therapists who can work with these drugs. Already, various organizations are competing to train and certify these future therapists.

“The commodification of psychedelic ‘mental health care’ is currently driving a massive wave of ‘coaches,’ grifters, and other self-professed ‘authorities’ to seek out ‘psychedelic therapy’ certificates, which they use to project a false sense of expertise,” David Nickels, managing editor of Psymposia and co-creator of the “Cover Story: Power Trip” podcast, wrote in an email to STAT.

The psychedelic medicine industry should draw on existing regulations around health care providers and elder abuse rather than creating less stringent licensing requirements for psychedelic therapists, said Marti DeLiema, a gerontologist and an assistant research professor at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. “If you’re going to be giving anyone any type of drug, you need to have really comprehensive and extensive training,” she said.

If psychedelics are approved for widespread medical use, potentially millions of people who have experienced trauma will be able to take these drugs as treatment. There will need to be government agencies to regulate practitioners, said DeLiema. “There shouldn’t be all these programs that pop up at these for-profit colleges to teach people how to do this when really they’re lining their own pockets,” she said. “Training and licensure is not just a way for these trade organizations to just make money.”

Isabella Cueto contributed reporting.

This story has been updated with application requirements for the MAPS training program for psychedelic therapists.

Source: STAT