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Conference Report:
Erowid Presents
at the Women's Visionary Congress
by Erowid
Nov 2007
Citation:   Erowid. "Erowid Presents at the Women's Visionary Congress". Erowid Extracts. Nov 2007;13:2.
For three sweltering days in July, 65 people convened at Wilbur Hot Springs in Northern California to discuss women and psychoactives. Bringing together healers, activists, researchers, and artists, this gathering was designed to continue a long tradition of women exercising their right to shape social policies, as well as to introduce members of like-minded groups who may not have interacted directly at previous conferences. Drug policy reform, psychedelic research, and medical cannabis were represented, as well as shamanic traditions and historical perspectives on the psychedelic Sixties.

Nearly half of the attendees were speakers, organized into six panels: The Art and History of Women and Entheogens; Drug Policy Activism and Reform; Healing and Caregiving; New Entheogenic Research and Data; The Role of Entheogens in Death and Dying; and The Entheogenic Community. Fire and Earth Erowid spoke on this last panel. A theme of many talks was the role of feminine principles such as cooperation, nurturance, and education in describing and informing experiences, regardless of gender.

Mountain Girl (Carolyn Garcia) spoke as part of the Community panel, and her presence and insights were particularly valuable over the course of the weekend. Her stories about the Sixties offered a unique and entertaining perspective on the spiritual lineage of contemporary psychedelic explorers. It was Mountain Girl's encouragement that inspired the event's producer, Ann Harrison, to fulfill the dream of holding this gathering; Mountain Girl also suggested the event's name.

The conference was co-sponsored by the Sibyl Society, a women's education and service organization, and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). It was designed as a benefit for the Women's Entheogen Fund (WEF), which was founded in 2002 to make grants to women who spend a significant portion of their professional lives studying psychoactive plants and chemicals.

The Women's Visionary Congress coincided with the publication of Erowid's Women & Psychoactives Vault. Several issues related to the use of psychoactives are gender-specific and, as with many fields of study, men have historically received disproportionate attention and documentation in psychoactive literature and research. In this new vault we are collecting articles and information related to women, including ethnographic accounts, clinical studies, prominent women in the history of psychoactives, and gender-specific health information.

An example is a 2006 article by Terner and de Wit in Drug and Alcohol Dependence titled "Menstrual cycle phase and responses to drugs of abuse in humans”1, which discusses recent studies that have examined subjective and physiological responses to psychoactives in relation to menstrual cycle phase. The authors found that cyclical changes in ovarian hormones impact the central effects of stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamine, though their review found little influence of hormone levels on the effects of other drugs. "Similar discriminative-stimulus effects of D-amphetamine in women and men” by Vansickel et al. (2007) noted differences between women and men on only three of 28 subject-rated items2. Unfortunately, Vansickel et al. did not evaluate menstrual cycle data in female subjects and, as a result, might have under-reported potential gender differences.

As the story of psychoactive research and culture continues to evolve, public perception and knowledge about relevant gender issues evolve as well. With the internet permitting greater access to diverse viewpoints and sources of information, hopefully more voices will continue to be heard, representing a broader spectrum of opinions and ideas, and encouraging a concordant evolution of attitudes and beliefs.

Revision History #
  • v1.0 - Nov, 2008 - Published in Erowid Extracts.
  • v1.1 - Aug 10, 2008 - Published on Erowid.org.