Expert Interview: Eva Césarová

Eva Césarová is Media coordinator for psychedelic research, National Institute of Mental Health, Czech Republic and a co-founding member of the Czech Psychedelic Society.

How did you get involved in the Czech Psychedelic Society?

A friend of mine went to South America on an Ayahuasca Retreat. When she came back to the Czech Republic she wanted to establish a psychedelic society. I got involved with it because I have a degree in marketing and media and thought I could help but I had no prior expertise in psychedelics at that time. The first event we organised involved a guest lecture by Robin Carhart Harris, Head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, and it grew from there. Eventually my friend parted company with the Czech Psychedelic Society (CZEPS), although I am still involved, organising events and covering the external communication.

Please tell us about your work with the National Institute of Mental Health.

I currently work as an assistant researcher and media communication coordinator for the psychedelic research team in the National Institute of Mental Health. I’m responsible for communicating our current research to the public, organising educational workshops for researchers and coordinating the PSYRES – Foundation for Psychedelic Research. I am also part of a team in discussion to establish an ibogaine clinic in the Czech Republic.

In relation to psychedelics as medicines, how important are set and setting?

With psychedelics, both set and setting are very important. I believe psychedelics could have greater efficacy if experienced in nature, rather than in a medicalised setting. A doctor is the last person I want watching over me if I am having a psychedelic experience. Also, integration of the psychedelic experience, making sense of it afterwards is key. When it comes to microdosing psychedelics, I don’t feel setting is as important.

What will the future of psychedelics look like in five to ten years?

Within two years MDMA will be rescheduled, same goes for psilocybin. Ibogaine might happen even sooner because it isn’t regulated, so it just needs to be scheduled as a medicine. The Czech Republic has already changed a lot in the past four years when it comes to psychedelics. I think this will continue but I wouldn’t want to see psychedelics commercialised in the same way cannabis has been. I don’t want to see psychedelic edibles on supermarket shelves, for example. These substances are not for everyone, and in the wrong circumstances or without the appropriate support they can cause trauma.

What are the most exciting developments in psychedelic science at present?

I am excited about MDMA for people who are resistantto the treatment of PTSD and how soon it might be available on the market. I am personally also very curious about the results of our ayahuasca study, conducted in Peru and Brazil in collaboration with the local indigenous people. The study used EEG to examine the effects of ayahuasca on people taking it in a traditional setting in the jungle. Not to forget to mention research on psilocybin, ketamine, LSD…. I believe we are getting to a point when the ‘psychedelic experience’ itself is going to be accepted as part of the mental health development/cure/prevention – all three are valid! Lastly, I would mention iboga, as this plant has the potential to offer us a unique understanding of the driving motifs in our lives.

Which other countries are you watching with interest and why?

I try to stay on top of what is going on around the world. Canada is very interesting because they are pioneers and the first to recognise the fact that the war on drugs has failed and we now need to set up a functioning system regulating substances which alter consciousness. I admire Canada because they promote ‘harm reduction’ policies in relation to drugs and they are one of the G7 countries, so they are well respected internationally, and I believe the US will not want to be ‘left behind’ and we are already witnessing decriminalisation of certain psychedelics in some states. I am also very keenly observing the situations in Brazil, Ecuador and other South American countries, where not only are the indigenous people and rainforest in danger but also the very plant medicines they use are under threat. I’m excited about the MDMA trials in Israel and Palestine, looking at its potential to heal the divisions and trauma arising from the conflict between these two countries. In Europe I am most excited about Spain, thanks to the research efforts of ICEERS, as well as the courage of civil society groups involved in the substance analysis programmes and cannabis social clubs.

Are there any Czech companies getting involved in psychedelic medicine that you are aware of?

I believe the researchers that started the PSYON, a psychedelic clinic in Prague, are planning to step into this realm because medical psychedelics are so expensive, therefore research is often stalled due to financial obstacles. Another current discussion is related to ibogaine treatment centres as there is considerable patient need, which should always be the focus rather than profits.

Tell us about ‘Beyond Psychedelics’, the conference you co-founded?

My friend and I talked about working together again on something else in the psychedelic space and that led to us setting up Beyond Psychedelics (BP). BP is a group of researchers and specialist experts who engage in innovative discussions about access to psychedelics and altered states of consciousness and their importance for improving the quality of mental health of society and individuals. BP strives to facilitate communication between research and practice – transferring practical experience and scientific knowledge both globally and interdisciplinary, leading to the creation of new synergies. The ultimate goal is the successful integration of psychedelics into society. The main focus of BP is a conference held every two years.