Men’s Journal’s Everyday Warrior With Mike Sarraille is a new podcast that inspires individuals to live more fulfilling lives by having conversations with disrupters and high performers in all walks of life. In our seventh episode, we talked to Dr. Martin Polanco and Dr. Kirk Parsley, who are leading the way in psychedelic research and therapy, and are changing people’s lives for the better, breaking down preconceived ideas about psychedelic therapy and its use in modern medicine.
Listen to the full episode above (scroll down for the transcript) and see more from this series below.
This interview has not been edited for length or clarity.
Mike Sarraille: Welcome back guys. I’m actually excited about this episode. I’ve got two guys that have been influential in my life. I know I look at Kirk right now and I’m smiling, not always in positive ways. But Dr. Martin Polanco, who we’ll get to how he came into my life. But this one is going to be focused on the rise of psychedelic therapy, which I’m going to be honest, I never thought in my life I would do. I was closed minded to that, just came from a traditional Roman Catholic family. Where drugs or the perception of drugs and I think LSD had a horrible, just… My parents grew up in the bay area in the sixties, seventies, and they had a horrible perception of LSD and that’s what we believed psychedelics to be. But opened my aperture, not only to Kirk recommended it, a good friend, Dan Luna recommended it. And then a Dr. Chris Free, who I know recommended.
And I said, “Okay. Hey, if three guys who I trust my life with are saying, ‘Hey, you need to go do this to improve your life.’ Then it was good enough for me.” And hence I went forward and did the psychedelic therapy. So Dr. Martin, I want to jump in. First, I want to hear your story and sort of take us from your upbringing to how you got involved with psychedelic therapy and why you’re so passionate and why you’re leading the way in many degrees, leading the therapy and trying to push it even within the United States for the benefit of a lot of people.
Martin Polanco: Yeah. Thanks for that. So I got into this trying to help a family member. I’m a Mexican and an Austrian national, so I was born in Austria, I grew up in Mexico. From my mom’s side of the family, they’re all physicians. So that was kind of the career path that I had for myself. But then I had a close family member go through treatment, and I saw the profound change in her. How she went from using cocaine and being in denial that it was a problem to actually confronting the issues that it was causing her, and then taking the necessary steps to move away from her addiction. And it was so dramatic that with one treatment, she could change from addictive thinking and denial to actually accepting that she needed to move away from Mexico City, where she was using. It really stuck with me. And at the time I was finishing medical school. So I went out and finished medical school, started my residency program, but it was something that never really left my consciousness, to know that there was something that could potentially cure addiction that I took a year off from my ophthalmology training, so I was going to become an eye surgeon, to try to open up a clinic and it worked well. So it just never look back.
Mike Sarraille: And so you say this treatment was just life changing for her. What was the treatment previous to that I’m assuming was just so unsuccessful that you guys took the leap to psychedelics?
Martin Polanco: We had tried all the traditional or conventional ways of dealing with addiction, which is 12 steps, rehab, kicking her out of the house. All the things that Western society recommends in dealing with problematic drug use and it just wasn’t working. So I had found out about ibogaine, which is an African psychedelic, and it’s potential to treat addiction by watching a documentary. And I was really struck by it because I knew the healing power of psychedelics because my dad was a hippie. He took me to a peyote circle when I was a teenager. So I was always aware that these were compounds that garnered a lot of respect and reverence from my elders. So it was just kind of a natural for me to try to explore a natural alternative to treating addiction.
Mike Sarraille: Now, before we get to where you’re at today, running these therapeutic sort of retreats, how did you two meet? Because I know Kirk, you’ve been influential in getting a lot of seals post-retirement into this therapy, sort of as a… I’m going to make a leap for post-traumatic stress into combat a lot of the depression and anxiety and things that come with all the booms of the bangs and the-
Kirk Parsley: Yeah. I mean, PTSD is a… It’s a syndrome. So, syndrome means that it doesn’t fit nicely into any box and we’re just clumping a bunch of symptoms together and calling it one thing. But it doesn’t… You don’t have to have PTSD to get the benefit from the psychedelics, right? The psychedelics are, they’re working through something called the default mode network where it’s how you view yourself and how you view the world. It’s pretty constant, and it’s hard to get out of. A part of that is what we call the ego. And so, as you’re trying to get out of that, you’re using the same pathways that you always use to try to come up with the different result and the psychedelics are going, “Well, let’s block all of those. Let’s let all these regions of the brain communicate.”
And then you see all kinds of different connections or you experience all sort of different connections, a little off topic. But anyway, you would have to give the details of the names, because I don’t remember that. So when I was the doctor at group one, he called me or one of them called me, and we had lunch down the Corona brewing company and they were primarily talking about opiate addictions. And assuming that we would have a lot of it and we really just didn’t. If we did, I didn’t know about it. I didn’t prescribe a lot of opiates. I did have a few guys that were kind of hooked up on Tramadol and having a hard time getting off of that. But for the most part, pretty rare. But I had had a pretty severe PTSD, pretty severe TBI patient who, as you’re saying, he’d been through Nyco, he’d had the full evaluation, he’d had all the studies.
He had either… He was either on or had tried, had been on 17 different medications. He was getting darker. He was getting worse. He was getting fatter. He was getting more depressed. He was getting more ruminative, just these angry spirals that ran through his head all day. I was genuinely afraid of him, and he came in my office every day and talks to me every day. And then he just went off to the Amazon, got out of the military and he threw away all his medications. And he said, “I’m not dying from these medications. If I’m going to die, I’m just going to go die in nature.” And he went out there, and he lived with a shaman for 30 days and he lived literally nude in the Amazon for 30 days and ate off the land and did ayahuasca every third day, I think. And did kundalini yoga every day for like four to six hours. He came back really… A really short version of it is, when we got reintroduced and I talked to him… A lot of times, I wouldn’t know who people were, because I was the doctor for like 2000 people, so I’d just wait until something sparked. And I couldn’t figure out who he was after talking to him for 30 minutes. And like I said, this guy had spent a hundred hours in my office. And he finally said something, I’m like, “Oh my God.”
Mike Sarraille: “It’s you.”
Kirk Parsley: He’s like, “Who’d you think I was?” I was like, “I don’t know, but not… I still don’t believe it. I get it now you’re saying that, but you still don’t look like you to me.” And it wasn’t somebody I had a casual acquaintance with, I knew this guy, I had spent hours and hours and hours this close to him. And he is complete transformation, he’d lost 60 pounds. He was just… All of his facial muscles moved different. His eyes were bigger. His eyes were whiter. Everything about him, the way he talked, everything about him was different. And so he had contacted me probably about a month after this had happened. So when they started talking about psychedelics, just like you, I grew up completely anti-drug. Every drug was on par. I didn’t care if you’re injecting heroin, injecting steroids, injecting whatever. I didn’t care what you’re doing. Smoking pot is all wrong.
And because of that patient’s experience… And he had done that when he got out of the military, complete transformation of his life. And he runs a non-for-profit now to help people. And he tells that story, but I didn’t ask him, so I won’t mention his name. But because of that experience, I was like, “Well maybe there is something to these drugs.” So when he started talking to me about it peaked my curiosity in a way that would’ve… A month before I would’ve been like, “I’m not interested. Yeah. Thanks for launching.” It would’ve been over. But he introduced me to the concept. I was really curious about the 5-MeO, and he facilitated me trying the 5-MeO. Almost all the treatments that I recommended for the team guys I did first and I’d do a little research on it myself. This one, I didn’t have a chance. I think we did it the same day or the next day or something. And yeah, it was a couple of days later, I think.
But yeah, so I was open to the idea. And then I was still planning to go down to Crossroads when he had that center down there and try it. Hadn’t gotten down there yet. And then one of our mutual friends was really, really, really struggling. And I was like, “Well, I haven’t tried it yet, but I don’t know what else to do for this guy.” He’s done everything, he’s been through every treatment option we had, and he’s a very dear friend of mine. And I’m like, “Well, if this thing kills, it’s better than you suiciding. So let’s go try it.” And we tried it and he had a major transformation, and that was kind of the beginning of our community doing that. But you can give more details about how we actually got in touch. I don’t really remember that.
Martin Polanco: Yes. I was running, I was running a clinic called Crossroads, which was for opioid addiction. So we were in Tijuana, and we were seeing a lot of heroin addiction patients coming through.
Mike Sarraille: And I’m sorry. So it’s legal in Mexico at this point. There’s actually retreats and centers that are-
Martin Polanco: Yeah. I would say there’s around 50 clinics at this point in Mexico. We were the first one, I started in 2000. So it’s been about 22 years, and-
Kirk Parsley: So is it true that it was called Crossroad because of Eric Clapton?
Martin Polanco: No.
Kirk Parsley: Okay.
Martin Polanco: Yeah, there was another Crossroad zone in Acuna, which is why it’s confusing to people, but-
Mike Sarraille: And so you were one of the first in Mexico.
Martin Polanco: Yeah. We were the first physicians and the first clinic to operate and treat addiction. And ibogaine was never scheduled in Mexico, so it falls into this gray area of not being illegal, but not being really recognized by the Mexican government as a medication. And even it’s more like a supplement. So it’s just like an unknown to-
Kirk Parsley: Like GB was 10 years ago or 15 years ago.
Mike Sarraille: Even to this day, it’s not.
Dr. Martin Polanco: It’s not scheduled. Correct. And it’s actually only scheduled, it’s only illegal in seven countries. So Canada, it’s not illegal. In The Bahamas, it’s not illegal. Costa Rica, Brazil, all these countries, it’s just not scheduled. The US put it in the most restrictive category in the 1960s because they found that it causes hallucination. So they’re like, “Well, let’s lump it into all these other psychedelics.” When-
Kirk Parsley: And I think what happened was the psychedelics was some Congressman’s daughter or something had an LSD trip bad and-
Dr. Martin Polanco: Jumped out of a window.
Kirk Parsley: And so that was the end of psychedelics.
Mike Sarraille: Yeah.
Dr. Martin Polanco: That created a moral panic. And then also the Nixon administration used it to try to suppress the anti-war movement. Because they’re like, “Okay, it’s black people and it’s hippies. How do we go after them? By criminalizing their drugs, which is cannabis and psychedelics.” So it’s this whole other sub-story, which is pretty dark. But yeah, the point is it got scheduled in the US. So it’s schedule one, which means no medical use and high potential for abuse. And on both those counts, it’s completely wrong because it has no potential for abuse. It’s the least recreational of the psychedelics.
Mike Sarraille: Why would you do that to yourself? We’re going to get to that. We’re going to… Yeah.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. You can’t even navigate the world. You’re basically laying down in bed unable to really move coherently. So I can’t remember how we got there. What was the question initially?
Mike Sarraille: So basically how you guys met.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Oh, how we met. Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: So were you instrumental in the policy for the Mexican government? No?
Dr. Martin Polanco: No. So I wouldn’t… I did not discover ibogaine. Ibogaine was rediscovered in the west by a guy called Howard Lotsof. So he took it in 1962 and he realized that his withdrawal was gone. So he discovered that it has that this effect of taking away withdrawal and taking away cravings for opioids. I was just doing opioid treatments. And then in 2015, I had a Marine come through that was shooting heroin and he did well, and he reported his PTSD was gone. So I became really intrigued by that because there’s nothing in the west that actually cures PTSD. There’s treatments that we can give people to blunt their symptoms, to make them numb, to help them sleep better, but nothing that actually addresses the root cause. So we then did some brain scans, we took a guide to get a SPECT scan before ibogaine and then after ibogaine. And that was enough data, even though it was only two patients that we got those scans on, for me to feel confident to approach special operations doctors, like Dr. Parsley. So I got connected to him. I told him we had something that could help his friends. And yeah. He sent that patient who did really well.
Mike Sarraille: What was it about the brain scans? Would you say.
Dr. Martin Polanco: There was functional changes and there was blood flow changes. So there was obviously something happening that was profound. It wasn’t enough patient to really conclusively say that it was statistically significant. But we knew that there was some functional changes and there were blood flow changes.
Mike Sarraille: But there’s organ… I know like John Hopkins is conducting a lot of research. I know university of Texas just stood up center.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Absolutely. So UT Austin’s Dell Medical School, they started at center called the Center for Psychedelic Therapy and Research or Psychedelic Research and Therapy. But what’s unique about the one in Texas is that they want to focus on veterans and military families. So it’s pretty phenomenal. They want to take patients before they do ibogaine, do a brain scan and then have them come back and do biomarkers and brain scans. So really having that before and after very well documented.
Kirk Parsley: Which has been the problem for all of these novel treatments is that we don’t have any baselines on anybody. And I don’t know if you know, Karen Kelly in HRC and Point Loma. She’s been doing baseline now on guys and whatever it is at STT or SQT. I can’t remember whatever it is now. She’s been doing the baseline on the entry guys, as far as hormones and metabolomics and stuff like that. And she’s trying to move into brain scans and things. But I mean, that’s the evidence that we need, but once you do however many combat deployments and you’ve had however many thousand TBIs, over pressurization TBIs, and experience untold trauma and chaotic sleep and sleep deprivation, and all the stuff, alcohol abuse, psychedelic, or not psychotropic medications. So like antidepressants and stimulants and things like that. Well, now we do a brain scan and what the hell are we seeing, right?
Mike Sarraille: Yeah.
Kirk Parsley: What’s caused… And we didn’t have a baseline, so now that’s your baseline before you go do something else, but we’ve never had that. So does transcranial magnetic therapy work? Yeah, probably. How well? We don’t know, we need to do all these studies and the same thing with ibogaine and psilocybin and LSD and ayahuasca and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. And all of these modalities that we can use to help guys recover from the lifestyle we’ve led. But if you don’t have hard science to at least be able to approach it in a scientific way.. So you need-
Mike Sarraille: The community won’t accept it until this research is pushed.
Kirk Parsley: Well, you need enough data to even launch research. Because you can’t say, “Well, here’s a hundred guys. They’ll tell you their great experience.” That’s not enough for research. You have to have some sort of metrics. And so what… I’ve been out since 2013 and I don’t even know how many non-for-profits I’m on a medical advisory board for. And they all have their own elixir, and they all have their own focus. This is what they really think is going to be the thing everybody’s stove piping. And all I’ve ever tried to do is bring them all together and go, “Hey, man, let’s get everybody together and let’s get some entry level data.” Yeah. Let’s just… Anything we can think of as much as we can afford. Let’s just. And that’s what I did with the seals, when they came to me with their problems, I just shotgunned man. I was like, “I didn’t know. So just test everything, then do some interventions and see what fixes.” And now you have some data and now you can say, “Look, I have some data.” And now maybe you can get an IRB, maybe you can get some studies done.
Mike Sarraille: So let me go. So it started with opioid addiction, but as you’ve taken it further over the years, you found that psychedelic therapy works for not only addiction because quite frankly, chewing tobacco was my addiction and I think I told you, I stopped.
Dr. Martin Polanco: That’s amazing.
Mike Sarraille: After it. That was 19 years of dipping and I stopped cold Turkey. So you’ve got addiction, you’ve got depression. What else are you finding that the therapy is a good cure for?
Dr. Martin Polanco: So it helps with anxiety that helps with post-traumatic stress. We’ve seen patients resolve severe pain syndromes, and we’ve also seen improvements in cognitive performance that are related to mild TBI. Because for your community, the signature injury is actually the repetitive exposure to small and large blast. And there’s a lot of overlap in the symptoms between TBI and post-traumatic stress. So doctors often find it easier to diagnose post-traumatic stress and give you a bunch of medications rather than look at what’s going on. [inaudible 00:18:39]-
Mike Sarraille: So you’ve basically just addressed those as well. Pretty much what 90% of the American community is-
Dr. Martin Polanco: I just assume everybody has mild TBI.
Mike Sarraille: Well, but even the anxiety, the depression, the mental health issues within the US. I mean, the way you’re describing it is pretty much every American is eligible.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Well…
Mike Sarraille: For this type of treatment.
Dr. Martin Polanc: When it comes to mushroom forms potentially. Yeah. Or Ketamine.
Kirk Parsley: And like I was talking about earlier the default mode network of how you perceive yourself in the world. That’s not only altered during the experience but a lot of the psychedelics are classified as, is it neuroplastigens or psychoplastigens? Meaning that it increases the neuroplasticity of the brain and allows you to regrow tissue and to reconnect tissue in a different way. So while you’re in the experience, you’ve experienced it you’re actually perceiving your thoughts and your experiences differently than you’ve ever perceived them before. Once that drug wears off, you still perceive things slightly different and that’s the neuroplasticity like you’ve actually made some new connections. Actually psychedelics allow brain regions to communicate that never communicate, never in your entire life. Since you were formed, since your brain formed these regions in your brains haven’t really connected in a conscious way.
And these psychedelics will allow you to do that. And that’s why you can… So it’s like the difference between me telling you a fact and you trying really hard to remember that fact all day. Now, when you go to sleep tonight you can take that out of your working memory and you put it into your long term memory and you’ll start forming connections with other stuff you know from all different directions. And then when you wake up tomorrow you’ll actually know something about that fact that I told you without learning anything else, because you’ve looked at it from different ways and now you’ve associated it. As an example, when I did ayahuasca I had this really… Well, who knows time’s distorted but I felt like about an hour long experience where I was looking at hand tools and power tools and how they relate to the shape of the human hand and the function of the arm and why that came up, I have no idea but it was the most random thing. And it was like comparing it to branches on a tree and then there’d be like a saw and then a hand. And I don’t know, so what I was doing is I was thinking about things that I’ve thought of a million times in a different way than I’d ever thought of them before.
And the neuroplasticity would allow me to keep doing that forever. And sort of the big thing with PTSD is that we’re living in a… Whether you can point to the trauma or not, we are living in essentially a traumatic world all the time because we weren’t to do this, right. We weren’t meant to live the way we live, we weren’t meant to have this amygdala function, this fight or flight pathway stimulated all the time it was meant to be episodic. A bear came out, you saw the bear, you got away from the bear, it went away. And then you processed that when you slept at night and you categorized it and whatever, and now you can think about it in a different way. And now you’ll have a plan next time you see a bear and it becomes less traumatic, whatever. But now it’s like everything all throughout the day, traumatic, traumatic, traumatic, traumatic, traumatic, and that word is a trigger traumatic.
It doesn’t have to be anything major just a stressor, a stressor, a stressor. And it’s a stressor that you don’t know what to do with. That’s what PTSD, all PTSD is you’ve experienced a lot of crap that you don’t know what to do with. You don’t know how to organize it and until you can organize it, you can’t work with it. And so when you improve the function of the brain to organize through neuroplasticity and through the actual conscious experience of connecting all these regions of your brain in a way that you’ve never connected them before you can look at it from a different angle and go, “Oh, that’s actually not that big of a deal.” You think about trauma as a kid, like an abused child. Why is that so hard to get through? Because you don’t have any understanding when you’re a kid, right? Like who-
Mike Sarraille: Who is safety to a kid? Grownups generally and more specifically your parents. Well, if your parents are the ones abusing, what the hell does that mean? So you don’t know what to do with that. And so you just suppress it and you suppress it, you suppress it, you suppress it, but all while that’s working on you. And so the same thing just your general life, there’s all sorts of stuff. If you aren’t dealing with those traumas they just add up. Just like if you don’t deal with injuries, they add up. If you don’t deal with nutritional deficiencies, they add up. It’s whatever, it’s a lifetime of buildup and everyone in society seems to have it now. It’s the way we live and especially the last two years.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: But before we go forward, let’s go back. Dr. Martin, you said depression, addiction, trauma. Let’s talk about-
Dr. Martin Polanco: I’m sorry.
Mike Sarraille: Go.
Dr. Martin Polanco: I don’t know if this is an official, but I can’t tell you how many people in our community have said-
Mike Sarraille: This has changed their life.
Kirk Parsley: After they did, I began… I don’t I don’t have any craving for alcohol whatsoever. And they weren’t even alcoholics. They just drank on a fairly regular basis and they’re like, “I’m not stopping myself, there’s no willpower. I’m not interested in it.”
Mike Sarraille: And you’ve treated how many I know specifically from special operations. Well, over 200?
Dr. Martin Polanco: Oh, it’s 550 at this point.
Mike Sarraille: 550.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. Yeah. Last year it was-
Kirk Parsley: 20% of the horse.
Dr. Martin Polanco: There was a huge increase. I mean, obviously COVID drove that and then Marcus and Amber really promoting it, that it drove a lot of patients to seek out treatment. We’ve also seen over 80 family members at this point. So we’re seeing also the spouses and the adult children because if you don’t heal the whole family unit, you’re sending the guy back into an environment which is reactive and just problematic because the wives have also been traumatized by-
Mike Sarraille: In some of their spouses too, I know they lost their husbands.
Dr. Martin Polanco: We have treatment closer widows and we’ve seen improvement also in grief because grief underlies a lot of trauma, right. When people have PTSD is actually unprocessed grief.
Mike Sarraille: That’s 550. And I know we’re not going to name names, but knowing the community between the three of us, some of the people I’ve attended, people are starting to open their aperture to this. And what I mean is some high ranking senior enlisted and officers raising their hand to say, “Hey, I need this.”
Kirk Parsley: And to be honest, not to get ahead of our skies, we’re at least 10 years away from the military ever accepting this, if they ever do. It’s a very conservative, slow moving organization as you know and they’re very risk averse and things like this. So the active duty, I don’t have a whole lot of hopes for this going.
Mike Sarraille: Yeah. Well, we had that conversation. I remember the Saturday or after the Friday night when we did ibogaine, we’re going to get to that whole experience all of us looked at each other and we’re like, “Why wouldn’t we do this every time we came back from one of those deployments? Is it reset before you even get to see your family?” [inaudible 00:25:59]
Kirk Parsley: And it does do that. It’s a great term-
Mike Sarraille: Reset.
Kirk Parsley (00:26:02):
It completely resets the autonomic nervous system.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. No. And I think that a lot of ancient warrior traditions have this transition where you go from war time to peace time and you either spent time farming or they did sweat lodges, or there was some kind of process. Or even in the second world war when people had some time to spend on the boat processing it took them two weeks to get back home. But now that we where we have international travel-
Mike Sarraille: Two weeks, if you were lucky. Yeah.
Kirk Parsley: Yeah.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. You just you’re back in eight hours.
Mike Sarraille: Again, we get off track here, but we talk about the normal modalities, the modern practices, you said the VA. Because they handed me like 15 different pills. Why is this so drastically different? Talk about how depression, anxiety is treated from a normal traditional medicine approach.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. So the way that we’ve treated things in the west is to target just one receptor with a single compound, for example, with benzodiazepines. We’re just numbing and calming the nervous system but anything that changes the mind changes the brain. So you’re actually going to create a process of rewiring that when you get off of the drug, you’re going to get withdrawal and withdrawal looks different for different drugs. Like opioid withdrawal is different from alcohol is different from benzodiazepine, but they all aren’t uncomfortable and just problematic because you actually get the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. Whereas psychedelics like Kirk was saying is they come in and they turn off the default mode network. Which is just these structures that are communicating in a specific pattern. And if you really pay attention to your thoughts, you’ll realize that there’s not much original thinking going on. We always go down the same loops. We think about one thing and that takes us to another, another, another, another. And we’re either living in the future or living in the past, we’re projecting it to future scenarios or we’re regretting things that happen in the past.
And what psychedelics is that they just turned that off. So your brain for the first time in decades or forever is able to just create new connections. And then that increased plasticity afterwards allows you to adopt new habits as well. And that’s why the process of integration is so critical with psychedelics. I would say 70% of the benefits actually happen after the experience because-
Kirk Parsley: And a hundred percent of the durability happens after the experience.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. If you just take a psychedelic and don’t change anything in your life, it’s going to wear off after like a month or two. But if you implement meditation or breath work or physical exercise-
Mike Sarraille: The holistic approach that you apply to-
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yes. Then you could experience the benefits indefinitely. And that’s why it’s so important to work with a coach, to have structure, to take your time, to prepare for the experience and then to integrate it properly.
Mike Sarraille: I remember watching my former brother-in-law go in and out of drug rehab centers in the one come out. He’s good for a few weeks, fall off the wagon back to drug. And I think for a lot of people listening, it may be odd to treat a drug addiction with [inaudible 00:29:11] with another drug.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Mm-hmm.
Mike Sarraille: But the research and the data shows that this has been just wildly successful for addiction.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Correct? Yeah. I would say it’s about 300% more successful than what we are currently using.
Kirk Parsley: At least. Yeah. And MDMA on its own, there’s a recent study on that where it’s three standard deviations more powerful than SSRIs with a single treatment with one treatment and SSRIs take months to work. Because they’re working through down regulation of receptors, they’re changing of receptors. Your neurons they release these neurotransmitters and neuropeptides into this cleft, this open area where they’re floating around. And it depends on what receptors that other neuron has, what it’s going to pick up. And then what it picks up and pulls in processes it differently tells that nerve what it’s going to do and what it’s going to connect to. And so SSRIs change what’s in that cleft and they change the receptors on there. And so they change your thinking over time and that’s working on the serotonergic. We have a noradrenergic which is noradrenalin is a adrenaline for the brain.
Norepinephrine, norepinephrine is adrenaline for the brain. Epinephrine is a adrenaline for the body. So we have a noradrenergic system that’s primarily firing our fight or flight and our attention. Think about it when you’re in fight or flight, how many things are you paying attention to? It’s like you’re focused on one thing but you can see everything for 180 degrees. And you’re going to take in any new threat immediately, instantaneously now you can’t run around like that all the time would be exhausting as hell, right?
Mike Sarraille: Yeah.
Kirk Parsley: Yeah. And then you have an endocannabinoid thing that’s changing what regions of your brain you’re communicating to. It has some pain threshold things. You have your serotonergic, which is weight promoting and again, alertness, you have histamine, which is… So you have a lot of different of course, endorphins, opioids, essentially opioid receptors, endorphins, same type of thing. So this is all managing everything all of the time. And so when you change any bit of that, you’re changing the way the brain functions. And we keep going back to this default mode network. Think about when you wake up in the morning and your brain’s just kind of, and you’re like, “Okay.” Taking a shower and you’re getting dressed, whatever, your brain’s just all over the place, that’s your default mode network, right?
Mike Sarraille: Yeah.
Kirk Parsley: That’s just you floating through life. The metaphor I like to give is you think about it, if you had all the time in the world, no pressure to walk through the woods or the forest, what path would you take to get from here to there? Who knows, whatever. But now something’s chasing you or you have a time commitment, you’re going to focus on this task, this task network. You’re going to go on the path that you always know. And I think the reason that they tell people to meditate in the morning, this just occurred to me today when I was driving in. I think the reason they tell people to meditate in the morning is to get you out of the default mode network and into the task oriented network earlier in the day. And that’s why people’s days feel more productive.
But what the point I was going to get to is that… I’ll add a little philosophy in here. Basically, everything you do is for one of two things, it’s reaction to fear or it’s desire for love, some form of love. So you’re moving towards or away from things at all points. And we live in a society where, and we talked about earlier the amygdala, which is our alerting mechanism, the region of our brain that perceives threat. Our community’s really good at perceiving threat, but we’re really good at… And then they’ve done studies on it, functional MRIs, and they just show facial expressions. We’re really good at perceiving threat. We’re not really good at perceiving friendliness or happiness or [inaudible 00:33:15].
We’re really good at perceiving threat. So we’re running around with this threat network all the time going. And one of the things that these do when they… The research on MDMA is that it decreases the function of the amygdala to essentially zero. And that’s with this feeling of love and connection is, it’s just the apt absence of fear. That’s all it is. So you’re taking away all the fear, once you take away all the fear. Well, you know that, right? How do you make decisions when you’re stressed versus when you’re completely relaxed and in a good place. And-
Mike Sarraille: One of the revelations there was one of the people who helps you in San Diego, who’s quite active. I knew as a young seal and he scared to living crap out of me. And now he’s the most loving, welcoming individual. And the guy obvious-
Kirk Parsley: Might have went to the Amazon, same way. Yeah. He was a big bur [inaudible 00:34:10]-
Mike Sarraille: Helped them put that down. It helped him put down the warrior, that constant fight mode. So before we get… Because I want to talk about the experience, because this was the most professional thing I’ve ever been through. And I had these preconceived notions about how it was going to be, and I was completely wrong. But to the point where I’m your biggest advocate where people contact me and they’re like, “Hey, dude, should I do this?” So I’m like, “100%. Don’t even think about it. Contact Dr. Martin get signed up right away.” Air force, buddy, Eric just went through and a couple of guys that have recommended, they text me afterwards and they’re like, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” And I know there’s probably parents that may have kids or loved ones that have addiction, and they’ve been trying all these different things, this may be the answer. But in terms of… So I know within your rep, I’m saying repertoire in my non-medical verbature. Ibogaine is probably the strongest substance you used, you have ayahuasca. And then I definitely want to talk about the 5-MeO-DMT, but what other things do you have in your arsenal that you use for-
Dr. Martin Polanco: So we have access to ketamine, which is also beneficial for chronic pain. It can help with suicidality. So there’s some evidence that having a session with ketamine can stop about 60% of people from wanting to kill themselves. So 60% improvement.
Mike Sarraille: And how long does that last?
Dr. Martin Polanco: It’s only about five days, so you might need another one. But oftentimes that short period is enough for you to move away from the environment to break up with a toxic person or clean your room. There’s just certain things you can do to just start feeling better. We also have access to mushrooms. Mushrooms is probably the most studied compounds, psilocybin. There’s a lot of research from NYU, from Johns Hopkins. And it’s the closest one to approval, as well. MDMA probably is going to get approved 2023, and then psilocybin is going to be next after that.
Mike Sarraille: I’m micro-dosing psilocybin daily. And we’ll talk about that from a daily perspective of maintaining. But now ketamine is being… It’s starting to be more widely used, a lot of centers are approved in the US. What does ketamine treatment look like? What are… Because I’ve heard people just feel like they… The most common things that they melt into the chair and it’s-
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. They feel like they’re floating. It’s at dissociative, so you separate from your body at higher doses. It’s an aesthetic. And when you use it at about one 10th of a dose-
Kirk Parsley: That’s where it came from, anesthesia.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: Anesthesia.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. And it’s used in battlefield medicine because it’s a very safe drug. So you can give it to somebody where you don’t know their medical history because you know it’s not going to depress their respiration. So they have it in ambulances. They use it on children. Most commonly people associate it with being a horse tranquilizer. And it is used as a recreational drug as well, so there’s a lot of abuse of ketamine and it is the one psychedelic that is addictive. So it’s definitely, there’s a cautionary aspect to ketamine. It shouldn’t be misused, but sometimes these things are.
Mike Sarraille: So let’s get into the experience, and open up as much as you can about San Diego. And I’m going to weigh in just from my perspectives. So I think we started planning a month out and I went in June of 2021. And so there was some pre-work, talk about the pre-work before we even get to San Diego and eventually take the drive across the border.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. So the first step is a process of screening people, making sure that they’re medically fit. And also that they’re not on medications that would be contraindicated that would interact with ibogaine. Then there’s at least four weeks of preparing, where you’re working with a therapist or a coach. And there’s a workbook that we send to people, so there’s exercises that you do. The main things that we want people to do before their experience is journaling, meditation, physical exercise. There would be a range of other things that would be great, but it’s hard to implement behavior change.
Mike Sarraille: Clean diet. You wanted a clean diet a few weeks before.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah, exactly. And once you start implementing that, you start feeling better already. People need to be off of alcohol and off of stimulants for at least seven days before. Which can be a challenge, but as long as people are not physically dependent on alcohol it’s-
Mike Sarraille: Yeah. Sorry about that. I through a few tricks in the flight out. I’ll be honest, but okay. Yeah.
Dr. Martin Polanco: And then people meet us in San Diego, we have lunch together. Then we drive down to Mexico. It’s about a 40 minute drive to the border and then another 20 minutes to the location.
Mike Sarraille: So I remember, I think we took off at 12 or one from San Diego, but you also had us fast from that point on.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Correct. Yeah. So people are fasting. Once we get to Mexico, we do EKGs, we place IVs and then we have a little ceremony and we start the treatment process around 8:30 PM.
Kirk Parsley: Is the fasting just to prevent absorption issues.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. Absorption and aspiration, if somebody vomits.
Kirk Parsley: All right.
Dr. Martin Polanco: And also if you guys are throwing up, we don’t want to clean a lot.
Mike Sarraille: Yeah. And we’re going to talk because I was purging, I think is what you called it, but I was not physically throwing anything out, but I was purging the entire night. Now step back from me because that threw me off. I mean you had doctors there, you had a cardiologist at one point, is that correct?
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. We have a Stanford trained cardiologist that is there during treatment night and there’s always three medical professionals that are ACLS trained. ACLS, advanced cardiac life support. Ibogaine has some risks associated with it, which is bradycardia. And then some drug interactions where it can cause arrhythmias, if it’s combined say with methadone. So we also do a drug test on people just to make sure that they don’t have any drugs of abuse in their system. And we’ve had to turn people away because sometimes they pop positive.
Mike Sarraille: But you also… I know you took my weight, you took everyone’s weight. And then you specifically calculated the ibogaine dosage into a capsule based off people’s weight. Is that correct? Or you just-
Dr. Martin Polanco: Correct. Yeah. So there’s a range that we use and then also depending on their weight. So yeah, every dose is individualized.
Mike Sarraille: In the holistic approach, you said we had a meditation, we had a gathering together which was very spiritual and you had us write out our intentions of what we hoped to gain from the treatment. Funny enough, I came across that, what I had written out, the other day and I have it in my everyday sort of calendar.
Dr. Martin Polanco: I’m glad you got that.
Mike Sarraille: Yeah. I know this… I was with several special operations guys. You had the beds laid out in a room. But you even hooked us up to heart monitors, so that you’re monitoring us through the entire-
Kirk Parsley: You also was on magnesium drips during.
Dr. Martin Polanco: We give people electrolytes orally.
Kirk Parsley: Okay.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. But yeah, we monitors people’s heart rate because that is the most common thing when giving ibogaine is bradycardia. And usually what you can do if somebody’s heart rate drops, you just pull them a little bit out of the experience. You wake them up and that’s enough, but you don’t know if they’re bradycardic, unless you’re looking at an pulse oximeter or a heart monitor.
Mike Sarraille: So you guys mitigate risk to the highest degree possible.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Correct. Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: And then in terms of… I was also impressed of setting the environment. You had lights on the ceiling, you had background music to make it as enjoyable, I guess, as you could say.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. Well, I would say evocative because these are experiences that are very much dependent on context. So the light, the sound, the smell, and then obviously the music, the musical selection, or the playlist is designed to evoke emotions. Because you want people to sometimes address things that are challenging. So you can have something that it’s a little bit faster tempo, then there’s some that are slower. And in some cases, some practitioners use music from Gabon, which is the culture or the religion is called Bwiti. And that is a whole different kind of experience to actually have the traditional music.
Mike Sarraille: Is that East African?
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. What it is, it’s music designed for iboga experiences and for the Western ears, it can be a little bit unmelodic and disjointed. But it keeps the heart rate from dropping because it never really lets you relax into the experience.
Mike Sarraille: Yeah.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah.
Kirk Parsley: And I think people completely underestimate the significance of the container of your environment when you’re doing this. As an example, when people do MDMA recreationally, it’s a completely different… Subjectively, if I’m watching somebody do MDMA recreationally, it’s a party drug and they’re acting like party animals, raves. But when you do MDMA in a clinical setting and you’re doing, it’s a completely different thing. People are breaking down, they’re crying. I mean, so the environment that you do it in is just as important as the drug itself.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Absolutely. Yeah. And then also the therapeutic relationship that you have to the people, the therapeutic… Yeah. The trust that you have in the therapist or the provider is really important and critical in being able to just-
Kirk Parsley: Which our community sucks at, which is one of the benefits of this drug in the first place is to open up some trust and vulnerability in our community. Because they’re very walled off people that are always looking for threats. [inaudible 00:44:03].
Mike Sarraille: You don’t trust people, Kirk?
Kirk Parsley: Not a hundred percent.
Mike Sarraille: Okay. We’ll work on that.
Kirk Parsley: Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: We’re going to take a mid-roll break here. But before we do, we usually end it with a question, we’re going to put you on the spot. And you can always answer after the break. We ask you what we call the hard questions. What’s the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make in your life?
Dr. Martin Polanco: I would say that moving away or walking away from ophthalmology, which would’ve been a pretty easy and lucrative career. Especially because I would’ve been the fourth generation of my family to become an eye surgeon, my uncle, my cousin, my grandfather, my great-grandfather. So it’s kind of runs in the family. So that was not a popular decision, as you can imagine.
Mike Sarraille: Yeah. I thought you were going to go there or even taking your loved one to go try the iboga experience. But did you have a lot of people telling you like, “Hey, don’t do this. This is risky. You’re accepting too much risk.” I mean, was the family-
Kirk Parsley: You still have that, don’t you?
Mike Sarraille: Yeah.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: No, I hopefully that’s subsiding.
Dr. Martin Polanco: It’s gotten better. Because there’s greater understanding of the effectiveness and the importance of these treatments and addressing the mental health crisis that we have. But back in 2000, there wasn’t really a lot of data, a lot of research. And I had gotten into the best residency program in Mexico. So it was not-
Mike Sarraille: Counter intuitive.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah, exactly.
Mike Sarraille: In a lot of ways. Okay. Yeah. That’s a good one. All right, well, we’ll be right back. And we are back with Dr. Martin Polanco and Kirk Parsley, Dr. Kirk parsley. Talking about the rise of psychedelic therapy, which we’ve all… Well, Kirk and I have done. And you’ve dedicated your life to it, and I know there’s been a lot of publicity. It seems like Joe Rogan has done some shows on it. Definitely, Tim Ferris has done many, many shows on it. Almost seems like every show. So almost on psychedelics. But where we left off was the Friday night group of five special operations soldiers have now taken the ibogaine after some meditation in some intention setting, of course they’ve been medically screened, hooked up to EKG machine or monitoring their heart. And so they’re all in the same room environment set, music, the lights, everything is very intentional to evoke emotions and reactions. What does the typical ibogaine sort of… I hate to say trip, because I always say LSD trip. Journey, journey, journey. What does that look like for your average person?
Dr. Martin Polanco: So everybody’s different, but generally it takes anywhere from 45 minutes up to an hour and a half to start. People feel just heavy. They start having this very vivid imagination where you really can’t tell. It’s like, “Is this starting? Is it not starting?” So it’s subtle. Usually what people report is a six to 10 hour window of what they call visions. Which is… I wouldn’t say hallucinations because it is more like awaking dream state. It’s like having a lucid dream, being awaken the dream and then seeing the content of your memory displayed in visual format. So people are able to focus on a specific memory, almost like pull it out of the file cabinet, open it up. And it becomes a short movie, and it’s specific things that affected them. It could be interactions with a parent. It can be traumatic things that happen to them, either in wartime, relationships or childhood.
And from your perspective, you’re almost like floating in the room, observing what happened. And that observer role also allows certain emotional separation. So you don’t get retraumatized by what you’re seeing. But you’re objectively observing what happened to that child. And now you’re seeing it through the eyes of an adult. So you have more tools to recontextualize the memory, to forgive the perpetrator, to let go or to just understand better what happened. Early on the conversation, we were talking about how children, they just don’t understand what’s going on. Like it could be something as simple as your artwork getting rejected by a parent because they were busy and that could be trauma or a little brother being born, and suddenly people don’t pay as much attention to you. And in the moment you don’t understand what’s going on and you think it was your fault for some reason. And you blame yourself.
But then through the eyes of an adult, you see like, “Okay, that’s what happened. Okay, look, I’m going to let that go.” So that goes on and there’s a certain intelligence to the medicine where it shows you what you need to see and you become your own therapist. So you have this, almost this conversation with your higher self where… It’s a very direct experience as well. It doesn’t let you bullshit, doesn’t let you look away. It really shows you your faults too, with minute detail, which is not fun. And that’s why people don’t generally want do ibogaine right away again, because it is pretty confrontational. But sometimes we have to go through that. So some people say it’s like 10 years of-
Kirk Parsley: It’s known as the father of the psychedelic medicine, because it teaches harsh lessons.
Mike Sarraille: Not the father, the godfather.
Dr. Martin Polanco: It’s a stern father figure.
Kirk Parsley: Ayahuasca is the mother, right?
Mike Sarraille: Yeah.
Kirk Parsley: So it’s like, “I’ll gently show you some-”
Mike Sarraille: And so ayahuasca, which I’ve never done, is that… I don’t want to say, is it a milder experience or just a different experience?
Dr. Martin Polanco: It’s different. So ayahuasca, it’s a different category. It’s also tryptamine similar to 5-MeO or on mushrooms. And it’s much more visual. So ayahuasca is geometries and seeing jungles and seeing temples. Everybody different obviously, but that a lot of people report that.
Kirk Parsley: Power tools.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Power tools in the case of Kirk. Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: So it’s funny, you said takes 45 minutes to an hour and a half. I definitely felt like I was slowly melting into the bed and then right around 45 minutes to an hour, I felt it starting to hit, I think by an hour, 30. I don’t know if I said it audibly. I’m like, “God, I’d like to get off this train now.”
Kirk Parsley: “Can I get off the ride? Stop the ride.”
Mike Sarraille: But it was just… One, it was almost like everything that was in my dreams had these like triangle shapes, all over people’s skin that I saw. It was weird. But every time I opened my eyes, I’d seen-
Kirk Parsley: Lizard people.
Mike Sarraille: Lizard. There were lizard people, there was some weird things going on, people running across. But if I wanted to open my eyes, that vision would stop and I would just breathe. And then I would go back. What was interesting. And you told me afterwards, and I want to talk about afterwards, my liver was oscillating at a million miles an hour and I was purging. I think more than some of the other guys in the room, of course, nothing was coming out. We had the bucket bowl right there. But you said sometimes damage is held at the cellular level and that’s your body just sort of purging that damage.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. So purging can be energetic, it can be spiritual. Like you were mentioning, it’s not that you were actually vomiting anything, but people are still retching. And in the experience, it can be almost like a vision of getting edema now or whatever way your brain is representing that thing that you’re getting out. Purging can also manifest with shaking, it can manifest with yawning. So purging is a concept in psychedelics, which doesn’t always refer to vomiting.
Mike Sarraille: Yeah.
Kirk Parsley: Yeah. And it can come out the other end.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Correct.
Kirk Parsley: Yeah.
Dr. Martin Polanco: With ayahuasca people do get diarrhea. Ibogaine, not as common.
Mike Sarraille: Yeah. I know some guys had to get up and use the restroom. I didn’t have that.
Kirk Parsley: I did ayahuasca, I couldn’t purge.
Mike Sarraille: You couldn’t purge.
Kirk Parsley: And I really, really, really wanted to. And I kept trying, I was flipping my epiglottis like this. For 10 minutes, I’m like, “Come on. Come on, man. Come on. Now start. Nope.”
Mike Sarraille: The morning after was… I can’t quite remember what time I got up, but we started at 8:00 PM, you said. I think I got up at 10, I was exhausted. Because I guess you’re not sleeping, your brain is on rapid fire. But it felt like I’d entered the matrix and then at the end of the movie, they shut the computer off. My brain felt like it was shut off. But I remember it took two people to help me get out of bed. And then I just couldn’t walk by myself. Eventually it came back very quick, walked downstairs. And of course you have a chef there the entire weekend. That’s cooking whole foods, everything’s natural. And she brought me a strawberry shake and I was so grateful when I drank probably half the shake. And then I say… There are other people around the main living room, I said, “Hey, would you excuse me?” Run to the bathroom and just three projectiles and just… Yeah, my stomach couldn’t hold food at the time, I just had to wait a few more hours.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. Yeah. So the day after ibogaine is usually challenging because people feel exhausted from having done all this psychological work. Their body still feels heavy. They haven’t been able to sleep. And ibogaine has a stimulant effect as well, so it’s just a weird sensation. But by night fall, people feel better and then they sleep, and then the next morning they feel great. So we always just warn people that the great A is not the happiest, always.
Mike Sarraille: Nothing about it was insurmountable. You knew it had a positive effect, and sometimes you’ve got to put your body through pain to do something.
Kirk Parsley: It’s purposeful suffering.
Mike Sarraille: Absolutely.
Kirk Parsley: And you can feel that there’s a purpose to it.
Mike Sarraille: And I know we were journaling. We’re talking to you guys, you guys are coaching us on it. We’re talking about what we saw and what that could potentially mean. And it was, again, the setting in the environment were so relaxing. And from the specific location, we could see the beach across Rosarito. And then, yes, that night we slept well, and then the next morning, 5-MeO-DMT. Talk to us about that, because that was probably the most spiritual thing I’ve ever been through. And having just gone to Everest, it still dwarfs Everest.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. It’s a pretty phenomenal compound. So the 5-MeO-DMT generally derived from the secretions of a toad that lives in Northern Mexico. And when you smoke it or you vaporize it induces a mystical type experience. And what that means by mystical type experience is a sense of oneness, of unity. Some people feel infinite love. Some people feel they’re like dissolving and merging with the universe so that they’re at the center of the galaxy, or that they meet God, whatever God means to you. So it’s a very profound experience. It also has a lot of similarities with near death experiences, where people feel that they die and then they come back, and then there’s this like very profound feeling of gratefulness and appreciation, and then wanting to make changes so that your second half of your life is better or more meaningful. Each experience it’s between five and 20 minutes. And we tend to dose on the lower range and then let people step into it and go as deep as they want.
Mike Sarraille: That’s right.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: So this one was… I felt amazing, but there was this part of me that felt like I was selfish, that my family couldn’t experience this. And it’s funny, I know a lot of people know 5-MeO-DMT for Mike Tyson on the Joe Rogan podcast, calling it the ego killer.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah.
Kirk Parsley: Right.
Mike Sarraille: And-
Kirk Parsley: That’s what you explained it to me. When we had lunch, you said, that’s the complete ego death. And I was like, “I want that, sign me up.” And that’s-
Mike Sarraille: I need that every month.
Kirk Parsley: I need that right now. Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: And I couldn’t think of a better way to end it. In the way, again, you guys set the conditions. I don’t want to share what I saw because it was very personal to me. But you did have to… You had to give us a little preparatory training of, “Hey, you’re either going to… Or at first, you’re going to feel like you want to fight it.” And you said, “Hey, we need you to repeat some phrase to let go.” And I felt it was easier than I thought it was going to be, I just melted right into the journey.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Correct. Yeah, it can be rough coming into it. It feels like you’re almost jumping out of an airplane or being projected by a rocket ship. Some people feel they’re falling through the ground. So the first few seconds your ego’s trying to hold on. But once you are able to breathe and let go, then it’s generally one of the top three spiritual experiences for people of their lives.
Mike Sarraille: Is it true? I don’t know if I heard it from you or somebody else that they actually think the brain releases the same chemical upon death.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. There is some theories that the pineal gland releases DMT and 5-MeO-DMT. I mean, these are nerve-
Kirk Parsley: It was actually just validated last month.
Dr. Martin Polanco: They founded in rats, or? *
Kirk Parsley: I know, they were doing a functional MRI on-
Mike Sarraille: Somebody who passed away?
Kirk Parsley: I want to say a dementia patient. They’re studying him, and he died on the table. And they watched his brain go through all of the transformations. That’s definitely, definitely the exact pattern and the DMT.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. We all have DMT in us. We all have 5-MeO-DMT and more than we used to assume. So it’s-
Kirk Parsley: And we have cannabinoids, which is why we have cannabinoid receptors. And we have essentially opiates, which are our endorphins. So we have receptors for all of these plants because they’re on the planet with us, and we’re all part of the same planet.
Dr. Martin Polanco: We evolved together.
Kirk Parsley: Evolved together to be on the planet at the same time. Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: When we went through that one… She wouldn’t mind me using her name. Tori was there to save space. And my nickname was captain intensity. And-
Kirk Parsley: Why is that?
Mike Sarraille: I don’t know.
Kirk Parsley: I can’t figure that out.
Mike Sarraille: I don’t know.
Kirk Parsley: That’s weird.
Mike Sarraille: She said she’s never seen me smile so large with the tears coming down. I don’t know if you remember, you-
Kirk Parsley: Oh, were you the laughing Buddha?
Mike Sarraille: No, I wasn’t. Not laughing, just crying. And when I came to you in the last one, I looked at you and I said, “Dude, you are an angel amongst men.” Is more people need to experience this, it would just let them let go. Because I know specifically that specific part of the journey, regret and guilt, that I’d held onto selfishly, just went away. Let’s talk about once people leave. I mean, that’s probably one of the most crucial parts is you want them to one, they continue to go through the coaching and group work. You hold group sessions. Talk about what the post journey work looks like in order to sustain those results.
Dr. Martin Polanco: So there’s three therapy sessions with a therapist that you were working with prior. And then there’s a weekly integration call that is for guys that have gone through the experience where they can share. And the main tools that we recommend are breath work, meditation, fasting, physical exercise, getting sleep under control and optimizing hormones. When you have these mild traumatic brain injuries, there’s a lot of hormone dysregulation. And if you don’t get that part right, it’s like not having… You don’t have the right building blocks to them build the right kind of emotions. So I always recommend everybody to get a very comprehensive [inaudible 00:59:59].
Kirk Parsley: And all of those are balanced during sleep. Yeah. So every night they’re rebalanced while you sleep. And so if you don’t sleep well, you don’t rebalance your hormones. You can’t integrate, you can’t repair. You can’t emotionally categorize all of the stuff that you’re trying to get better at. You can’t get better at when you’re now sleeping well.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. Insomnia, if prolonged, is a type of brain injury. So you have to address it.
Kirk Parsley: Builds up the same type of brain amyloid does.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: It seems that you’ve almost built a tribe within a tribe. I know you’ve been treating a lot of the special operations guys, a lot… I hate to use the word civilians, average people now like me. But there’s also this sense of community when you’ve gone through that together. That shared adversity.
Dr. Martin Polanco: I think that is one of the more powerful things where people are having such good outcomes is because you guys already have this very tight community and then you support each other when there’s difficulties. And people then are able to relate on a different level as well, where are having conversations about connection and love when… And before the experience, I think those things would’ve been a little bit taboo to even go there. We’re seeing much higher success rates with veterans than we were with opioid addicts. And it is because you guys are peak performers. You already know what it takes to achieve results, and you’re willing to work at it. And the Delta between where you were and where you get to is much bigger. Because many of the guys that come in are actively suicidal.
Mike Sarraille: Yes.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: Yeah. In terms of success rates, I mean, you’ve seen the positive effects. People are talking about it, I know within our community. But for some people do you… They may need another journey. It may not be ibogaine or, I mean, how does that look?
Dr. Martin Polanco: For everybody’s different. Some many people are micro-dosing, which is taking tiny doses of psychedelics, which are supposed to be sub-perceptual and then they feel more present, more positive, better able to focus. Other people have a journey every quarter, they take a big dose of mushrooms or they go to an ayahuasca retreat. But everybody’s different, so there’s no standard protocol.
Mike Sarraille: The micro-dosing has been amazing. And I know, particularly for me, it’s psilocybin. I know for some people, the psilocybin wasn’t as effective. And so they went to micro-dosing of LSD. And when they told me that, I’m like, “Ooh, that sounds dangerous.” But explain micro-dosing for people because you’re not going on a journey, you’re not hallucinating. And the two words I would say is for me, it’s been mood, and I know you said present, it’s like energy. Mood and energy. I feel present is a good way to say it.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Yeah. So the neuro-regenerative benefits of these compounds, you’re still getting them at smaller doses. Many people after like a large dose of mushrooms, for example, they feel this glow. And you can get that same glow from taking a one 10th of that dose. And then you don’t get any of the psychological risks. So yeah. micro-dosing is taking sub-perceptual doses of psychedelics.
Kirk Parsley: And people do microdose iboga or ibogaine or both.
Dr. Martin Polanco: They microdose both of those too. It’s just much harder find ibogaine and iboga.
Mike Sarraille: Yes. Do you have to… Is there a cycle to micro-dosing? Like use it for a period of time then come off or can you just use it all the time?
Dr. Martin Polanco: I would recommend using it for a few months and then stopping, and also giving some breaks in between. So that your brain doesn’t develop tolerance. Tolerance is always requiring higher doses, but if you take, for example, five days on two days off, then you don’t develop tolerance.
Mike Sarraille: Yeah. I noticed that. I had to go from a hundred milligrams to 200 milligrams a day. Yeah. For people listening, you know who, again, their only access is to modern traditional medicine. How can they find you? And how can they get started in this path to potentially doing the journeys and the treatment?
Dr. Martin Polanco: So they can find us online. The website is missionwithin.org. Our focus is military first responders and now families of military, but we can direct them to the right resources if they’re dealing with addiction or they’re wanting to deal with trauma. We have some weekends that are for civilians. So the same protocols are used for people dealing with depression, anxiety.
Mike Sarraille: With the community of treatment facilities. I’m sure you know Which ones are good, which ones are bad. I mean, the reputations are out there.
Dr. Martin Polanco: Correct. We can direct them to the good ones.
Mike Sarraille: Now from a regulation standpoint. I would be pro-regulation of once the US, which, military, you said may take 10 years. Military’s always slow with things like that, very quick with other things. But once it is approved within the US, you’d be pro-regulation to some degree that some people offering these treatments have to go through some sort of certification, training it’s got to be regulated or?
Dr. Martin Polanco: Absolutely. Yeah. I think that the model that was followed by cannabis, for example, just having dispensaries is not the right way to go about with psychedelics. Because it is so much dependent on the context and on the preparation and the integration of these experiences. So there’s some legislation that was passed in Oregon that mandates clinics, and anybody can apply for a license to run a clinic, but there is a process of getting certified for that. So I think that is the right approach. And having medical professionals for ibogaine is critical, ibogaine is a little bit different than other psychedelics.
Kirk Parsley: That’s not a risk free drug.
Mike Sarraille: But as you said it, like MDMA, people using it as a party drug then.
Kirk Parsley: Right. Yeah.
Mike Sarraille: And people will always find a way to abuse.
Kirk Parsley: Well, and the problem is when you open it up and you make, and you’re too laissez-faire about who has access, then people do get bad outcomes. And then that becomes part of this storyline of that drug. Well, that drug led to this and that, and that. Well, you can abuse anything, you can abuse a car. You can kill people with a car, that doesn’t mean cars are weapons. But that’s the way things go. So I think in order to keep the movement going, it’s better to have regulations. So that you can say, “Well, there’s a difference.” There’s a difference between a dentist using cocaine to numb your gums, like they used to do, and people abusing cocaine.
But now it’s like, “Well, that’s a scheduled one drug. And that’s how these things become schedule one drugs, again, is because people abuse them and do stupid things under the influence of them. And then, “Oh, well, we need to crack down on that.” Because it’s a social harm issue at that point. And so then they crack down on it and you lose. We’ve just lost, what? 60 years of research, potential research on psychedelics that we’re kind of just now getting back into it in the last 10 years or something. Because it all got shut down.
Mike Sarraille: And if people want to donate to your organization, it’s a nonprofit. Correct?
Dr. Martin Polanco: So the nonprofit that we’re working with is Heroic Cards Project. And they are a 501(c)(3), so they can accept donations and give a tax deduction. And then they sponsor people to go through ayahuasca or through ibogaine.
Mike Sarraille: Say, “Hey, I want to support a veteran going through this.”
Dr. Martin Polanco: They would through Heroic Cards Project.
Mike Sarraille: Okay. And if people want to bring you in to speak to their organizations again, mission?
Dr. Martin Polanco: Missionwithin.org.
Mike Sarraille: .Org. Okay. Well, thank you for joining us. And I mean it, Dr. Martin, you’ve helped 550 souls where we know some of those souls might have taken their own lives had you not done this treatment. And you’ve dedicated your life to helping others that is impactful. And it leads to the last question we ask on the Everyday Warrior podcast is, for Dr. Martin, what is a life well lived? How do you measure if you’ve lived well?
Dr. Martin Polanco:
So I would say just, I think at the end of our life, we want to look back and we want to know that we helped people, that we made a difference. And right now, for me, the best way to do that is to get the research out there, to be able to convince governments around the world, that this is something that needs to be more widespread, more available. So if we can document more extensively what we’re doing, and we can potentially change legislation, then that would be a life well lived.
Mike Sarraille: I couldn’t agree more and we’ll have links to your organization, to where they can find you. Maybe some of the listeners out there can help you move that research or that legislation along. Again, thank you for joining us. And to all of you, all I can say is from a guy who was closed-minded on this until the age of 43 it’s worth pursuing. I grew as a person, I’ve changed my perceptions on a lot of things. And most importantly, I think I came back healthier for my wife and my kids and my family, more loving and less ego. All right, Dr. Martin, Dr. Parsley, thanks for joining us.