Talking Psychedelics: John Moos MD
Welcome to “Talking Psychedelics”, where Frshminds takes you on a deep dive with the driving forces shaping the psychedelics industry. Today we are joined by John Moos, MD, a former trauma surgeon who transitioned his career to offering trauma healing after experiencing his own personal transformation. Listen in as John talks with Frshminds’ CEO Matei Olaru about his views on healing, psychedelic therapy and how he managed his personal challenges. In John’s own words, he has been “called to put the scalpel down and find a new way to heal. Accepting and surrendering to my suffering, I vowed to carry this wisdom – learned and earned – to better humankind”.
Listen To The Interview:
Read The Transcript:
Matei: Hey, John. Welcome to talking to psychedelics. You’re at Frshminds, where we help people find better prices, better products and better trips. Super excited to have you chatting with us for the next 20 minutes, minutes or so. And I just want to start by giving you the opportunity and tell us who you are and what you’re working on.
John Moos: Thank you so much. So my name is John Moos, I am a medical doctor. I started my career as a trauma surgeon, eventually switched over from trauma surgery to trauma healing and have since been going down the path of looking at psychedelic-assisted therapies as a tool and a set of tools to help people with personal transformation.
Matei: Talk to me a bit more about that, going from how you define your newfound role.
John Moos: I didn’t want my medical background to completely feel like a waste after spending nearly two decades of education, residency, academic training and then community practice, and also I had been exposed to a variety of physical traumas.
I’d seen people come into emergency rooms, trauma bays in the worst shape and then I started to see the effects of those physical traumas on their families. When I really checked in with my gut, my intuition, the reasons I had gotten the medicine were to be of service – to be of assistance, to help people heal.
But I think I got in it for the wrong reasons. There was financial pressure from my parents to be a doctor, and there was a status part to it. It’s hard to hold on to being a physician when you’re in a hospital five days in a row, you haven’t slept for multiple days, it wears away pretty quickly.
So I wanted to pivot, and I had experienced a low moment in my life that showed me that personal transformation was possible.
At one point later in my life, psychedelics did become a part of my personal practice. The understanding of trauma and seeing and integrating it into my own personal experience allowed me to see that I could take my medical background and learn a new set of tools. I could understand and work with these medicines in a way that I could help and facilitate other personal transformation for others.
So the idea was if you’re looking at traumas in the trauma bay and you’re looking at people’s psychospiritual traumas from developmental stages, the idea was to heal it before it happens. This idea that we could heal these traumas before people are alcoholics and driving cars and crashing them or destitute and living in survival mode and having to rob and murder and shoot people.
How can we affect change in those individuals’ lives before they get to the most desperate of conditions? And so that was the big impulse to sort of move into trauma healing.
Matei: Yeah, thanks for sharing that journey, personally, I also have found myself drawn to psychedelics and witnessing all that personal healing that I’ve experienced working on bringing that to others. So it’s interesting, I’m kind of seeing that happen to quite a few people in the space. What do you think is the number one blocker for those that haven’t yet experienced psychedelics to maybe explore the opportunity with assisted psychedelic usage?
John Moos: I think the biggest obstacle for most people is the fear of what they’ve been sort of imprinted on by society. I think there’s a lot of fear around these things as street drugs, I think there’s a lot of fears around the unknown.
I grew up in the 80s, so there was the midst of the tail end of the war on drugs, there was D.A.R.E., there were videos of eggs frying in pans, and that was your brain on drugs. There was a lot of propaganda around the evils of working with psychedelics, and psychedelics were no different from cocaine and PCP as far as the government was espousing their limiting beliefs.
I think that most people nowadays are seeing information that counters that propaganda, and I think that once they see people who have healed working with psychedelics, once they see the science behind it, it’s hard to refute.
Before most of these medicines were schedule one and made illegal, there was a robust body of literature and evidence to support their medical use. I think that as more information comes out, information transparency and people share stories, I think it’s a lot more relatable and a lot less scary.
Matei: It’s been a 40-50 year path to getting to where we are today, right?
John Moos: Yes.
Matei: So speaking to where we are today, what are in your opinion, the major catalysts that will incentivize more awareness and more self-education from the average consumer or average person down the street, what has happened?
John Moos: I think the biggest motivator is going to be frustration. I think people are frustrated with the current state of treatment options. We have talk therapy, and we have medication, we have hospitalization. But the reality is, you look at the rate of transformation that occurs from psychotherapy, and it cannot compete with the meteoric rise in mental health and mental illnesses.
We’re seeing a disproportionate rise of mental illness in our adolescents and our young adults. I don’t know if it’s related to social media, electronic consumerism, or the fact that everyone feels more connected, and therefore there’s a higher degree of scrutiny and self-judgment. I don’t know, there are so many varieties, the state of the environment, the state of our government, the bipartisan nature, the conflict everywhere.
There’s a variety of reasons to sort of have a sense of despair, but when you look at Big Pharma and look at these medicines that people are being given for depression and for anxiety – they weren’t intended for chronic use. They were intended to help us when our internal resources were unable to handle our external circumstances. They were a temporary staying measure to get through a difficult situation.
When we look at people’s developmental trauma, and we look at what Big Pharma is doing, they’re palliating symptoms. They’re treating depression. But depression is a symptom of developmental trauma.
Anxiety is a normal reaction. But when anxiety becomes something that is debilitating and a magnified response to normal stimuli. Medicating that isn’t helping people feel safe, helping them feel secure, helping them to reduce their anxiety because they have a fear of the unknown.
So what is missing? I think there are a lot of root causes. I think as people become more frustrated and aware that these tools that have been around for a long time are no longer working for them, they’re going to look for different solutions. And I think pain is the greatest motivator.
When somebody is in enough pain, they will look to things that maybe they didn’t think of before. And if they see somebody who has their story, a story of depression, a story of anxiety, who then finds relief working with psychedelics and they’re in pain, they will turn to psychedelics.
Matei: Sure. And probably for lack of any other option. We have to start exploring this because, to your point, we’re just numbing the issue, not treating the issue 100%. We’ve talked a bit about the end of the call Grey Rainbow. You now have depression, you have anxiety, and you’re not in the best place.
I think what’s coming out, for example, if you look at Oregon, is this ability to experiment with the treatments. We have a diagnosed condition a bit about that, whether it’s the Oregon model specifically or this idea of, quote-unquote, healthy normals, going to a coach and saying I want to be less stressed in my job, I want to be a better spouse. Can this be something that helps?
Yes, I think there are two parts to that. So if you look at the medical model, it is about treating disease, right? It’s not about promoting wellness. If we really look at the psychiatric DSM 5, the diagnosable diseases, and we take those sort of on the spectrum, as sort of an expression of the human condition.
If you’re a human being in a human body. You’re at the mercy of the human condition and at the most debilitated state. We’ll see addictive behaviours. We’ll see alcoholism. We’ll see debilitating depression. Debilitating anxiety.
But on the lower end of the spectrum, we’ll see somebody who maybe binge-watches a little Netflix at night, who works a little bit later to the detriment of their family, who is numbing or avoiding through substances or behaviours in a more culturally appropriate way.
But the reality is these are all gradations of this human condition. And like I said, if you’re in a human body in existence and you’re a human being, you’re at the mercy of the human condition. And so I think that when people feel like they have some constriction in their life or they have self-limiting beliefs, or they have patterns that keep occurring in their life, or they even feel like they have creativity that they haven’t tapped into, there’s something there.
There’s an obstacle that can be navigated around or moved through to provide a new level of expansion and a new level of freedom. Exploring these before you get to that completely debilitated state is completely valid and reasonable.
Matei: Definitely. So let’s talk about the Oregon model. I think it’s January go to a licensed practitioner, and it’s interesting the way they define it is not necessarily a pre-licensed therapist. They will come up with their own licensing, and then you will consume onsite, and someone will supervise you. I haven’t seen much indication of what the licensing will cover. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to be any use case with psychedelics.
What do you think about the Oregon model? Do you think it’ll be, I guess, an archetype for future things? To reframe the question, do you believe more states will go the way of we’re going to allow people to self-identify and they don’t need a pre-existing medical condition, or will they go the other way where you need a pre-existing medical condition?
John Moos: I don’t know if I could speculate on what other states would do. My hope is that you don’t need to jump through hoops because I find that if you need a certain label in order to be able to participate with these medicines or ingest these medicines and facilitate experiences, I’ve seen this with off-label use and I’ve seen this in the medical model, people would just artificially create labels to be able to jump through the hoop.
And the reason I think that’s problematic is it doesn’t foster a level of integrity. We’re asking for integrity with these practices. We’re asking for people to restore the integrity of their being and their wholeness, and we’re asking them to magnify or lie or fix a label to them just to have this experience.
To me, it seems contradictory to what we’re asking of the experience. Whether or not that will actually have a negative effect on the experience, I don’t believe so. But the Oregon model, it’s interesting to me because they’re pushing forward with legalizing psilocybin, and it’s interesting to me the conflict that is arising because of it.
I guess there are a variety of counties that are now pushing back at the legalization because of their fear of what it may unearth. I don’t know if that is still in a rational sphere based on, like, oh, we’re going to have drug addicts running around on psilocybin, and everything is going to get crazy.
The reality is I think there’s an extensive amount of education that still needs to go into it. And I think that if we’re looking at who is eligible to facilitate this experience, I think we need to move away from the therapist and medical model.
Just because you’re a medical doctor doesn’t mean anything about psychedelics. Just because you’re a therapist doesn’t mean that you know anything about psychedelics.
I think a therapist has an incredible set of tools to be able to help people through psychological difficulties. I think they’re naturally poised to be people who could help people integrate difficult experiences, especially if we’re taking substances that allow individuals to access unconscious material and bring it up into their conscious awareness and then how we process them.
But I think everybody needs a new set of tools on how to be able to interface and integrate these experiences. That could be coaches, that can be skilled in a tune empathetic individuals, that could be doctors, that could be therapists, could be a variety of individuals who are chaplains. And I think that recognizing that healing doesn’t have a linear path if we look at it like a mountain, right?
The goal is to get to the peak of the mountain, but at the base, there could be thousands of different routes that eventually get narrower and narrow as we get to that peak experience. And so I think if we have more inroads into and onto the mountains to get to the peak, I think that we’re going to be better off as a community at large.
Matei: Definitely. Especially with the view that you’re no longer focusing on prescribed afflictions, like depression, the pool is so much more preventative than anything else. So you run a successful ketamine clinic in California. What learnings from operating have you maybe picked up on what works or maybe like a highlight of something that someone could take away that’s listening to this as they think about treatment or maybe a practitioner that wants to get into the treatment.
John Moos: One thing that I try to do is I try to be very humble, and I say that because I feel like in today’s day and age, we’re leveraging different tools. Some of them have been around for millennia. A lot of these practices started and originated with indigenous tribes and indigenous cultures.
We have new tools like ketamine which is a synthetic molecule that started out as an anesthetic. But really what we’re doing is we’re repackaging old wisdom in new ways that it could be digested.
I don’t think I’m doing anything particularly unique or new, but I think I do well is I think I provide a pragmatic and practical approach to healing that blends mysticism. It blends live experience, it blends spirituality, and it blends medical knowledge.
And one of the things that I do, and this is not unique to me, this is unique to a lot of psychedelic practitioners, is we rely on the medicine to activate the highly intelligent interviewers. So what we’re doing is we’re creating, and this is my tagline, creating the conditions for your love and light to shine. What I’m doing is I’m helping create the conditions for somebody’s love and light to shine.
So how can we activate their inner healer in a place where they feel compassionately witnessed, they feel empathy, they feel safe, they feel transparency? It’s for trust. Trust in the container, trust in me as a provider. Trust that I’m going to know my limits, that I’m going to be able to safely support them through difficult circumstances and ultimately allow them to trust themselves, to heal themselves from the traumas that they sustain.
And I do that in a way that is non-clinical, very nontraditional. I disclose my own personal traumas, I disclose my own self-limiting patterns that I’ve dealt with, and I self-disclose experiences from my family. And what I think that does is it creates a level of shared humanity. So there’s not a power differential.
I’m not the provider in a patriarchal way telling you what you need to do. We’re making decisions together, and I’m doing it from a place of informed education, and I’m helping manage risk, and I’m helping create safety. But ultimately, it’s a partnership, and that’s the type of model that I want to foster forward.
Matei: Definitely, everyone has trauma. I think it’s the ability to speak to it and make that obvious build. I mentioned a trust that helps with dinner healing concepts. Interesting. Tell me about what you want to work on next.
John Moos: One of the things I really wanted to do is focus on an educational element. The educational element is a curriculum that we were talking about this earlier before we started recording. This was centred around my tagline.
The tagline is creating the conditions for your love and light to shine, and that involves three lenses. The lenses are how we process information, and the three lenses are a cognitive lens, an emotional or feeling, a thematic lens and then an embodiment or a deep knowing lens.
And the reason I differentiate those three is because things that you think about generally are things that need to be felt, can’t be cognitive, sort of processed and things that you embody, you can’t sort of feel or cognitively work your way through. You just have to have a deep knowing.
And so processing information with those three lenses, there’s a couple of pieces to that tagline that are important, and I look at it sort of like a garden. So before doing any of the work you have to be in a relationship where there’s trust, safety and transparency. So how do you create that once you establish trust in the relationship, trust in the container?
And there is a working model where you can do the deep work. You look at your garden, you have to weed the garden. And weeding your garden is naming your trauma. It’s going through your trauma, identifying it and being willing to remove it from your garden.
Creating the conditions is your bedrock or your soil. And your conditions are these five conditions that I’ve worked through, which are integrity, nurturing, play, stillness, and community. And those, to me, are where we’re going to be dropping our seed of consciousness so we can sprout forward. And if we look at love as a rose or some sort of flower, there are three concentric circles to that.
There’s the love of self, love of other, and love of creation. And if you look at those three elements, love of self is your roots. Love of others is your lead. It’s how you receive your information from the environment and give your information. So photosynthesis, things like that.
And then your love for creation is sort of your blossom, your flower, and what you express, creating a condition for your love and light to shine. And your light is your purpose and your meaning. And your purpose and your meaning are that existential questions that connect us to everything and everyone else.
The bigger concept of self is the capital “s” self. If you’re thinking about the frame, the analogy of a flower, it could be the pollen that you spread, it could be the fragrance that you admit.
And so, with this curriculum, I want to develop it as a way to bring clients through an experience where they have a framework to work through their lived experience and to structure their future free of the burdens of their traumatic past. And if you look at it from practitioners.
I want to give practitioners a framework to be able to work with clients so they can help them create conditions. So they can know the three levels of love. So they can help them work through purpose and meaning in a way where it feels purposeful as opposed to sort of grasping it. Reading intuitively what’s going on. Or getting lost in the process of healing.
And I think that can happen at times and on a tangent a little bit. I had a conversation with some individuals last night who were very frustrated with therapy, and a wrote response in a lot of therapy, I’m not knocking therapists, but I think that when smart people get involved in therapy, and they have a therapist that may not be as adept as others, a therapist will just sort of mirror back and sort of throw back what you’re saying on to them.
So if you challenge a therapist, well, what do you think that means? And it sort of feels disconnecting and not acknowledging, like, if they’re in a place where they are. I’d love a therapist to say like, you know what? I really don’t know the answer right now. But you hardly hear that, right?
You hear this sort of professionalism they always know the answers, but they’re just sort of guiding you back to you. What I’m trying to create is a set of tools to be able to allow more humanism into working with both facilitators or providers and clients and patients, allowing more humanism in that dynamic.
Matei: It’s really interesting what you said about this social pressure to always have an answer. As a therapist, one of the first things you learn when you interview for a job is if you don’t know something, you say you don’t know the other person. Appreciates that. I’ve never heard of described in that way. As a therapist, you feel that pressure because if not you, then who’s going to answer these questions? That’s a tough position to be in.
John Moos: Well, I think there’s this grave fear, right? If you, as a therapist, don’t know the answer, could you throw your client or your patient into despair? Well, if you don’t know, what am I supposed to do? And the reality is I feel like there’s become this aversion to avoiding the discomfort of the unknown.
And the reality is if you look at things like boredom boredom is the touchstone for creativity. When a kid is bored, and he doesn’t know what they’re doing, bugging you and whatever. I have six kids, so I get it. When a kid is bored, they will eventually find a way to become creative. They will eventually start putting things together, creating stories. Their brain will become active because they don’t tolerate these words for long. And so the same thing with the discomfort.
I think if we allow each other to sit in the discomfort of not knowing, eventually, we will develop enough pain, motivation, whatever it is, to find the answers. And I think that in those moments like we have to embrace pain, not in a sadistic way, but embrace pain as a catalyst for substantial and meaningful change.
Matei: Yeah, the way that branches out is, for example, anxiety or anger. Seeing is something that we have to let go of and push away. Anxiety and anger are bad, but it’s not necessarily bad. There are lessons in anxiety and anger, and that approach is different.
John Moos: I mean, I actually love the example of anger because if you look at social justice movements, they don’t start with people being sad, they start with people being angry. Right. And anger is an incredible motivator for meaningful change. When we stay angry, we go to rage. Then that’s sort of the mismanagement of a motivational force. But I think anger is really important. When we suppress anger, we’re suppressing a part of ourselves, and it’s important to acknowledge and honour all parts of ourselves.
Matei: Definitely. Inner Healer with psychedelics might help you see some of that.
John Moos: Exactly.
Matei: Is there a resource that you really gravitated towards on your journey that maybe we could share out with people?
John Moos: My journey started when I got sober. I’ve been sober for almost two years now, and I was really alone. And it wasn’t just rehab. Everything played a part. It wasn’t rehab. I was in rehab for 44 days. It wasn’t therapy, and I was in intensive therapy for a long period of time.
It wasn’t any one thing, but in my aloneness, I was trying to figure out how to create community. And I did some Twelve Steps for a number of years and then eventually moved away from Twelve Steps, but it was creating community. And so one of the things I did in creating community is I went to Twelve Steps, but I didn’t really have a strong community.
But I started listening to podcasts, and I started running, and I ended up going from somebody who was overweight from drinking. I was like 190 pounds at the time. I could jog about one or 2 miles and feel incredibly winded, and I just kept running and I kept listening to podcasts. And one podcast in particular, I listened to Rich Roll and his podcast, I would consume religiously for what would start out as one, and two-mile runs, which eventually morphed into 15 to 20 miles runs.
And I’d spend three to 4 hours on trails, on the beach, running, running, and I would just consume content, and it was interesting. So podcasts became an incredible resource, and books became an incredible resource because I felt like I was reprogramming myself and reprogramming my beliefs.
I felt more in alignment with my head and my heart. It was nice to just be involved in conversations and topics that felt nurturing and expansive. I would hear examples of accountability, I hear people sharing their vulnerable stories, and I hear compassionate inquiries.
And it was something that was uniquely nurturing to my soul and my psyche at the time. And since I was alone, I had this sort of like the online community that I was listening to, and I was listening to conversations like sort of created an artificial community. So I’ve absolutely loved podcasts.
And on the way up here, I was listening to a book I just finished, A Run Up a Mountain, and I like doing that because it gives me an ability to integrate information, especially when I’m running. It gives me this capacity to integrate information and then take what is what could potentially serve me and then sort of discard the rest.
It’s just a way of continually aspiring to grow as an individual.
Matei: And the podcast? Rich. R-I-C-H roll Roll.
John Moos: Okay. The rich roll podcast. Yeah. And then the other one I listen to a lot with Michael Gervais’s Finding Mastery. It’s about peak performance. He’s a sports psychologist. His was absolutely fascinating, but two of theirs were fascinating. Podcasts, I would just consume them for hours.
Matei: Wonderful. Okay, is there anything else that we didn’t touch on you on?
John Moos: No, this has been fine. It’s been explorative, and it’s been great. So thank you.
Matei: Very cool. The link to your work and the other stuff that we’ve spoken about. And we’ll keep in touch and are super excited to follow you on your journey.
John Moos: Thanks so much. Bye
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