Fireside Project

Fireside Project: Psychedelic Helpline

  • Fireside Project is set to launch a psychedelic peer support helpline in April 2021.
  • The helpline will assist those struggling with their psychedelic experiences and help to reduce the harmful consequences arising from them.
  • With the recent ballots in Oregon and Washington DC, an estimated six million additional Americans will have legal access to psychedelics.

While the fight to end the stigma of War on Drugs policies has received new impetus since the beginning of November, activists are also taking care of the potential issues that could arise from increased public access to psychedelic substances. A psychedelic trip can be magical and beautiful for many but sometimes, and for some people, it touches the darker side of the subconscious. To help reduce harmful consequences for those in altered states of mind, the San Francisco-based Fireside Project, a non-profit organization, is set to launch the world’s first psychedelic peer support line. The initiative aims at providing free confidential help via phone calls, text, and live chats for those in need during a psychedelic trip.

Fireside Project: Easing a Psychedelic Experience

Fireside Project is scheduled to be launched on April 14, 2021. It will be a pan-US helpline, but aims to serve at the local level in San Francisco in its initial stage.

“We started [the] Fireside Project because we wanted to help reduce the possible negative consequences of using psychedelics without support, and to help people get the most from their psychedelic experiences. These are powerful tools that can help people live fuller, deeper, more connected lives, if they have the right kind of support,” Fireside Project’s Founder and Director Joshua White says in a press release.

The COVID-19 pandemic is currently creating a secondary epidemic of mental health crises. While many suffer anxiety due to isolation and loss of employment, a recent study published in November 2020 suggests that 20 percent of patients infected with COVID are diagnosed with psychiatric disorders within 90 days. The Lancet Psychiatry reports that patients who were diagnosed with COVID 19 and had no psychiatric history were at risk of developing anxiety disorders, insomnia, and dementia.

Psychedelic therapies may pose a potential solution to those in need during a mental health crisis, but access to safe outlets and harm reduction sites are the next important steps in implementation following the decriminalization of these substances.

“As [the] access to psychedelic drugs expands, it’s critical that there be a free, confidential support line for people to call during and after their psychedelic experiences,” says California State Senator Scott Wiener. Weiner is set to introduce a bill that would relax the laws that outlaws psychedelics when the state legislation resumes for the next session.

Rising Need For Assistance

After the approval of Measures 109 and 110 in Oregon, as well as Initiative 81 in DC, it is estimated that over six million additional Americans will soon have legal access to psychedelics, joining others in US cities of Denver, Ann Arbor and Oakland. Advocates like Decriminalize Nature and MAPS continue bringing the discussion about psychedelics’ potential benefits to the fore, while emphasizing the safe use of substances and encouraging users to consider set and setting before and during their psychedelic trips.

Set and setting can directly influence mystical experiences brought on by entheogenic plants. Besides that, psychedelics are increasingly being used in therapeutic and ceremonial settings. However, there are some who end up experimenting with psychedelic substances without prior knowledge or anyone to support them. It’s here that the need for a psychedelic trip-specific helpline arises.

While many are expected to turn to Fireside helpline during their vulnerable moments, the organization is also hoping to build a dataset from the experiences of the clients that would help improve research into psychedelic medicines. 

It also plans on implementing advanced Artificial Intelligence technology to provide real-time suggestions and improve systems with experience. “Our plan is to develop our own artificial intelligence capability, which will eventually allow our volunteers to provide real-time suggestions to clients and draw lessons about how to provide the best support to people during and after their psychedelic experiences,” says Nicolai Lassen, Fireside Project’s Chief Technology Officer.

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