In the beginning...
The OPEN Foundation was founded in 2007 with the then unheard of mission to advance psychedelic research. The foundation quickly gained international prominence through their psychedelic conferences, which would eventually come to be named ICPR. 2022 will be the fifth edition of OPEN's ICPR conference. Read on to learn how OPEN and ICPR have grown through the years.
From 2007 to 2010
Serious interest in psychedelics began to re-ignite in the mid-aughts. Foundational conferences put together by Gaia Media’s 2006 LSD Symposium - given in honour of Albert Hofmann’s 100th birthday - and the 2008 World Psychedelic Forum, confirmed and catalysed this renewed enthusiasm.
The OPEN Foundation (‘Stichting OPEN’, in Dutch) was founded in 2007, and after several years of organising individual lectures at universities we put together our first two-day conference in 2010 at the University of Amsterdam. And it was called: Mind Altering Science. This was the same year that MAPS organised their inaugural Psychedelic Science conference; and our British friends launched Breaking Convention the next year in Kent.
2010 Mind Altering Science
Taking over the University of Amsterdam for a weekend-long conference was something none of us had done before, but to all accounts it was a big hit! With over 450 participants for our first event, Mind Altering Science showcased, among other things, the results of two Swiss randomised controlled trials: on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, and LSD-assisted therapy for anxiety in dying patients. It featured Torsten Passie - a long-standing OPEN collaborator and the embodiment of Encyclopedia Psychedelia. He is also the only speaker who’s spoken at all our events.
Two other names that stood out at Mind Altering Science - and who have sadly passed away since then - were renowned ayahuasca psychopharmacologist Jordi Riba and Andrew Sewell, who is a neurologist and cluster headache research pioneer at Yale University.
In 2011, we put together a small symposium, co-organised by OPEN, Bia Labate PhD (of Chacruna fame) and Brian Anderson MD (currently at UCSF). The Symposium brought together researchers from across Europe who over the last few years have been studying ayahuasca and DMT within the disciplines of anthropology, neuroscience, psychology and religious studies, with over 300 attendees at the University of Amsterdam.
The next morning, the presenters from the seminar were joined by other European ayahuasca scholars for a closed-door researcher workgroup intended to stimulate future ayahuasca research and possible collaborations in Europe. The workgroup succeeded in building a shared knowledge base of ongoing and planned ayahuasca research, in facilitating discussions on methodology and obtaining institutional approvals for research, and in developing personal and professional contacts among the few ayahuasca researchers currently based in Europe.
ICPR’s second iteration – and its first under its current appellation – was launched on 6 & 7 October 2012 at the Waterlooplein in Amsterdam. Opened by professor Wouter Hanegraaf with a lecture on entheogenic religions, the stained glass elements of the Aaron & Moses Church were the perfect decor for his thought-provoking lecture. A sold-out crowd of about 400 participants attended lectures by the likes of Ben Sessa, Robin Carhart-Harris, and Matt Johnson, who all appeared in a Dutch documentary about psychedelic treatments. Other speakers included Ilsa Jerome, Mitzi Waltz, Jordi Riba, and … Torsten Passie.
After a four year hiatus, ICPR returned to Amsterdam in 2016. This time, the gorgeous canalside Amsterdam-school building ‘The Jewel’ hosted our conference during some of the nicest summer days the Netherlands has seen. The atrium’s glass roof shone bright to ICPR’s 550 attendees.
This was the first time ICPR was upgraded to three days, and it featured two parallel tracks. ICPR 2016 hosted talks by more than 60 speakers, among them Alicia Danforth, Roland Griffiths, Marcela Ot’alora and Bill Richards (and Torsten Passie, of course).
Much of ICPR 2016 has been saved in our archive on video, and it is available on YouTube.
2020 ICPR Online
Organising ICPR 2020 took more than one and a half years, almost two entire new teams, a lot of digital meetings - and very nearly never happened at all. Originally scheduled for April 2020 at the Philharmonie Haarlem, and scheduled to become our biggest conference to date, we had little time to reorganise after the global Covid pandemic hit.
After some contemplation, we decided to reschedule our conference. Initially as a physical conference, but we soon decided the pandemic was too fickle for us to plan around. So we decided to create an entirely virtual conference.
None of us had done this before, but between periods of intense doubt and uncertainty, we believe that ICPR 2020 was a big success. Attended by nearly 1,400 people from all over the world, and with three days and three parallel tracks being run at the same time, all centrally run from a single home in Amsterdam, we surprised ourselves with our technical agility to be able to run something like this.
Michael Mithoefer, Janis Phelps, Wade Davis, Katrin Preller were some of the names that stood out, as did the insightful and critical discussion on topics around diversity, equity and access in psychedelic medicine, the medicalization and mainstreaming of psychedelics. Being able to have little after chats after talks fostered community when many were home by themselves or in a limited group.
Meeting digitally was good for accessibility and for our carbon footprint, and it was relatively easy to record talks to Youtube. But after the pandemic waned, we got to thinking on how we could catch up on the original plans that never came to fruition.
ICPR 2022 will be held at the Philharmonie building, an alluring performance space in the historical city of Haarlem. After our last, screen-mediated gathering in 2020, ICPR will return to being an in-person event for 2022 with up to a thousand visitors meeting face-to-face. We’ll discuss the latest findings in psychedelic science, foster the development of psychedelic therapies and education, and build community in a rapidly expanding field.