Sunday, June 4, 2023

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New Christie’s NFT Auction to Benefit Psychedelic Therapy Research


A collection of NFTs, dubbed “Cartography of the Mind” is on sale this week at art auction house Christie’s to benefit the psychedelic therapy research.

If you’ve been on the fence about NFTs, or psychedelic wellness, for that matter, a new collection at Christie’s may sway you. Sales from the curated digital pieces, in collaboration with Ryan Zurrer, founder of Dialectic and Vine Ventures, goes to benefit the groundbreaking work at the Multidisciplinary Institute for Psychedelic Studies, better known as MAPS.

The collection features works from more than two dozen artists with a focus on psychedelic experiences. Notable artists including Beeple, Sarah Meyohas, Refik Anadol, Mad Dog Jones, and IX Shells, among others, have NFTs in the auction.

Beeple’s Pilgrimage NFT

Noah Davis, Christie’s Head of Digital Art called the experience a “blast.” Davis made headlines when he sold an NFT from Beeple (Mike Winkelmann) for more than $69 million last year. The show will be Davis’ last for the auction house as he announced his resignation from Christie’s last week in order to join Yuga Labs—the creators of the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs. “It’s a bittersweet transition, but I’m happy this gets to be my last sale,” he said last week.

“MAPS is an organization that has benefited an incredible array of people, many of them artists,” Davis said. “I’m ecstatic to know that proceeds from this auction will go towards furthering [MAPS’] mission.”

“There is an intrinsic connection between the psychedelic community and art.”

-Rick Doblin, founder and executive director, MAPS

Christie’s was the first major art auction house to sell an NFT last year. And this collection marks its first benefit for psychedelic research.

“There is an intrinsic connection between the psychedelic community and art,” Rick Doblin, Ph.D., MAPS founder and executive director, said in a statement. “Art is often used to integrate psychedelic experiences, transcending language, culture, and experience to communicate what words simply cannot.”

Psychedelic therapy

The collection comes as interest in psychedelic therapy soars. The World Economic Forum just hosted its first event on psychedelics in Davos last month. The psychedelic research project that got the late activist and author Timothy Leary banned from Harvard is now back at the university.

Psychedelics, including psilocybin, MDMA, and ketamine, among others, have consistently shown benefits in reducing or even eliminating signs of mental health issues including depression and anxiety. Notably, some of the treatments can be effective in as little as a single dose, with benefits lasting months. Mental health issues have skyrocketed since the pandemic, including increased rates of climate anxiety.

MAPS has been working to better understand psychedelic-assisted therapies since the 1980s. It was the first to achieve federal approval for Phase 3 trials with MDMA as a treatment for PTSD, working with a group of 90 volunteers, including veterans, who suffered from PTSD for an average of more than 14 years.

music for psychedelic therapy
Musician Jon Hopkins’ album Music for Psychedelic Therapy aims to provide appropriate soundscapes for psychedelic journeys. | Courtesy

The study involved therapy sessions either with MDMA or placebo. Findings from that research were published last year in the journal Nature Medicine. According to MAPS, the trial was a success; 67 percent of study participants no longer qualified for having a PTSD diagnosis after just three MDMA sessions. For the placebo group it was 32 percent. Eighty-eight percent of participants showed a “meaningful reduction in symptoms,” among other findings.

Its Phase 2 trials that preceded last year’s findings saw the success rates jump from 56 percent to 67 percent for the group that could no longer qualify as suffering from PTSD one year after the MDMA treatment session. The second Phase 3 trial is expected to be completed this fall, and FDA approval could follow next year.

“Once I realized the potential of psychedelics, I also realized that there was this massive backlash that had criminalized them and was wiping out psychedelic research all over the world,” Doblin said in a 2020 interview. “So, out of fear and desperation at age 18, I told myself I would dedicate myself to psychedelic therapy and trying to bring back psychedelic research.”

There have already been several legislative victories for psychedelic wellness therapies. The state of Oregon legalized therapeutic psilocybin use and decriminalized recreational psychedelic use. Denver, Colo., Ann Arbor Mich., and Washington D.C. have also decriminalized psychedelics. Ketamine therapies are currently legal for off-label use such as treatment for anxiety and depression. A new ketamine treatment allows individuals to take the therapy at home in conjunction with telehealth support.

The Christie’s Cartography of the Mind auction ends on June 28th.


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