Fireside Project and UCSF Partner to Assess Psychedelic Support Line

Fireside Project and UCSF Partner to Assess Psychedelic Support Line

The Fireside Project and University of California San Francisco researchers have teamed up to assess the effectiveness of the Fireside Project’s Psychedelic Peer Support Line, which assists people with “challenging psychedelic experiences.”

The study will examine how well the support line reduces risks associated with psychedelic drug abuse, such as physical abuse, psychological trauma and the use of emergency services. The study will also investigate how the line’s effectiveness varies across demographic measures, such as ethnicity and gender.

This partnership and study, announced in September, is the first of its kind to analyze a psychedelic peer support line’s potential public-health impacts.

The support line began operating in April and “offers free, confidential emotional support by phone and text message to people during and after their psychedelic experiences,” according to the Fireside Project, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco. Since the line started operating, the project had more than 700 conversations by phone or text up to September, according to the news release.

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Joseph Zamaria, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco, is the study’s principal investigator, and Mollie Pleet, a clinical psychologist and research fellow at UCSF, is the co-principal investigator. 

Data collection began when the support line was launched in April. The data is anonymous and collected through web-based surveys given to users of the support line 24 hours after their conversation over the phone or via text message. The Fireside Project’s app, available for iPhone and Android devices, also gives users access to the survey. 

In a preliminary analysis of the Psychedelic Peer Support Line, the Fireside Project found nine out of 10 clients said they felt heard and understood during their conversations and would recommend the project to others, according to the release. The support line also helped de-escalate psychological distress for clients and reduced 911 calls and emergency-room visits.

In the news release, Pleet said the research may be a crucial step toward “breaking down stigmas” that prevent people who use psychedelic drugs in disadvantaged or underrepresented communities from receiving support.

Zamaria emphasized the importance of studying the Psychedelic Peer Support Line’s efficacy given the changing role of psychedelics in therapeutic settings.

“With access to psychedelics expanding rapidly in therapeutic settings, and decriminalization measures advancing in California and around the country, having available and effective harm-reduction services in the psychedelic space is more important than ever,” Zamaria said in the release. “We need to look at who is using this service and how it is helping them.”

Gabrielle Lewis is a journalist at the University of Maryland College Park. She has written and edited for the school's flagship newspaper, The Diamondback, as well as other campus publications. You can find her on Twitter @gabrielleslewis.

Gabrielle Lewis is a journalist at the University of Maryland College Park. She has written and edited for the school's flagship newspaper, The Diamondback, as well as other campus publications. You can find her on Twitter @gabrielleslewis.

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