TV: Andrea Jungaberle urges caution in “Radical Ideals: Drugs? Legalize!” on SWR3/ARD Mediathek

Henrik Jungaberle

Gülseren Ölcüm discusses “Drugs? Legalize!” in her TV-show

„Radical Ideals“

Dr. med. Andrea Jungaberle and staff of the OVID Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in ARD/SWR3

In the last 15 years, a scientific renaissance has happened in relation to the use of psychedelics for treating mental health issues. Dozens of high-quality studies investigate the safety and effects of psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs for “augmenting” psychotherapy. Augmentation means to intensify and expand the psychotherapeutic process. Psilocybin and MDMA are in phase III of the approval process. Already, companies and universities are beginning to implement “psychedelic-augmented” therapies for the treatment of depression, anxiety, or trauma. In Germany, the OVID Clinic Berlin is a first mover in the field of high-quality psychedelic-augmented psychotherapy.
Andrea Jungaberle and the staff at the OVID Clinic were interviewed for an episode of Gülseren Ölcüm’s series “Radical Ideals”.

This is how Gülseren Ölcüm phrases the content of her episode in the ARD Mediathek: “Drugs as a cure for the soul? Gülseren Ölcüm meets activists who use psychedelics to expand their consciousness. And doctors who want to use them to treat the mentally ill. They are fighting for easier access. Some of them go further than the law allows.”

Impressions from the OVID Clinic Berlin

Comment by Henrik Jungaberle

False Balance No 1

This is a well-researched video report by Gülseren Ölcüm. Andrea expresses her views on the false polarisation in the drug policy field clearly and strongly. And she emphasizes the need for training and medical expertise when conducting psychedelic therapies with care, knowledge, and safety.
Nevertheless, some stereotypes are often seen lately creep into the reportage, related to the presence and marketing activities of some workshop providers in the gray or illegal area.
Concerning the “activists” that are presented, I have to express my concern about a tendency in current media reporting. “Activists” who are often entrepreneurs get a lot of unpaid marketing time on TV lately. There is very little innovation and almost no promise in the underground practices shown on some of the TV programs. And if radio or TV producers provide “activists” the stage for legitimizing their practices with results from new medical research this distorts the science. The fact that there are some very interesting positive results in academic or pharma research with psychedelics does not translate into underground practices. The fact that a neurosurgeon is able to do brain surgery in hospital does not legitimize a teacher to perform brain surgery in school (excuse the example).
Would the overreporting and false balance between the science-based actors and the supposedly daring “activists” lead some people to engage with dubious underground practices? Likely. False balance arises when a topic or an actor that has minor relevance or representation in a field receives the same attention as the topics or actors who shape the field. Psychedelic research and therapy are not shaped by underground therapists and private retreat entrepreneurs. They are shaped by the diligence and intelligence of researchers like Gerhard Gründer, Matt Johnson or Franz Vollenweider. Just listen to some of the juniors and seniors on the MIND Foundation-organized INSIGHT 2021 conference and you will probably see what I am talking about.
The recipe for improvement in the media field here is: raising the standards of inquiry and reporting about both the upsides and downsides of these practices – but don’t go for those who don’t care about the rules and the system, at least not too often. It is well-known (in public health) that showing a difficult behavior or model does not automatically “deter” people from imitation. It often stimulates.
This is an ethical problem that journalists, but also the whole field of psychedelic research and therapy needs to address. Well-balanced, critical science communication is the goal.

July, 8th, 2021

Thanks to Gülseren Ölcüm for expert, thoughtful and critical questions in her SWR3 program “Radical Ideals: Drugs? Legalize!” (in German)