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Vancouver researcher talks psychedelics on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Lab


Gwyneth Paltrow attends the goop lab Special Screening in Los Angeles, California on January 21, 2020.


Rachel Murray / Getty Images

Considering the allegations of junk science so often lobbied at Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s influential lifestyle and wellness company, researchers may be loath to appear in an episode of The Goop Lab.

Not so for Vancouver researcher and UBC adjunct professor Mark Haden, the executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS Canada. Haden, who also works with the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, is the first expert to appear on the controversial new Netflix docuseries at all. Just minutes into the first episode, he appears to discuss the therapeutic use of psychedelics with Paltrow and her staff.

“The principle is, I’m willing to talk about psychedelic healing in any medium that works,” said Haden, explaining the decision to fly to Los Angeles for a two-and-a-half hour interview with the company that’s selling an aromatic mist designed to banish psychic vampires. “I’m agnostic. I don’t care whether it’s conservative or liberal, Goop or CBC, I don’t care.”


Mark Haden with an opium pipe at his home in Vancouver, BC.

Arlen Redekop /

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Haden’s work fits comfortably within The Goop Lab’s mission: to investigate the “unregulated” side of the health industry. But the field of psychedelic research, stunted by a half-century of drug prohibition, won’t be relegated to the Goop crowd for much longer.

“In the ’60s, we had a battle between the young folks, the hippies, the baby boomers, and we had the drug warriors. Psychedelics were then criminalized,” Haden explains in the interview. “Well, psychedelics are back, and they’re being used in the context of treatment.”

Just last week, MAPS announced they had received “expanded access” approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for continued research into MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a major step toward making the drug legal for medical purposes in North America, a development Haden expects within the next two years.

“This is the FDA, not High Times,” said Haden, who marvelled at the agency’s eagerness to speed up the approval process. “That’s pretty impressive. I don’t know how often it happens but it’s not common. The FDA is unusually happy with what they’re seeing and unusually approving of what they’re seeing.”

MAPS is also researching the drug’s effectiveness in treating eating disorders and other mental health issues, especially those brought on by trauma.

That’s exciting and interesting, even if the rest of The Goop Lab is not. (“Being the person people believe me to be is inherently traumatic,” Paltrow says at one point.)

In The Healing Trip, a handful of Goop staffers travel to Jamaica to casually experiment with magic mushrooms as a means of healing their trauma — a typically unscientific approach from the wellness brand.

But Haden was impressed by the show’s realistic, clear and level-headed approach to the staff’s psychedelic experiences.

“I’ve seen different attempts to demonstrate psychedelic experience and psychedelic therapies — the worst-case scenarios, where you see swirling, purple colours and people gigging, and thought: ‘OK that didn’t work,’” he said. “So I’ve really been interested in how you actually show what we do, and they did a pretty good job.

That’s not to say that Haden endorses Paltrow’s company, or the bee-sting therapy, or the yoni eggs, or the exorcisms.

“Goop, I have no opinion on, quite frankly,” he said. “I hadn’t even heard of it. I’m not a big social media person — I had to figure out what it was when I was invited.”

Still, he certainly endorses a vigorous discourse around psychedelic interventions, and as the streaming era presents new opportunities for Haden and others to lead those conversations, he intends to take advantage.

“Our agenda is to bring psychedelic healing into the mainstream,” Haden said.

hmooney@postmedia.com


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