In high school, I dated someone who I thought was going to be my soulmate for almost 4 years. After watching his life change due to his chaotic relationship with opiates, and knowing I would never be able to help him, I became inspired to go to college and become a therapist specializing in substance use disorders. During and after college I worked in a few different outpatient and inpatient substance use disorder treatment facilities and saw first-hand how the failures of the drug war impacted the clients I worked with.  

Early on in undergrad, I started to learn about psychedelics.  As someone who has struggled with my own mental health issues such as PTSD and has watched many loved ones die from a drug overdose, I quickly became fascinated by the work of MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies). All of the research using psychedelics to treat mental health conditions and substance use disorders opened my eyes to the drug policy reform world. I couldn’t believe I never knew any of this was ever going on and how it can help so many people who are suffering.  

Lauren Parasconda ’14 speaking at SSDP2016.

At my first conference ever, Psychedelic Science 2013, I found out about SSDP. Over the last 5 years, I’ve been the President of the UAlbany Undergraduate SSDP Chapter and President and Founder of UAlbany’s Graduate SSDP Chapter. My early experiences have helped me discover my passion for harm reduction. It’s incredibly fulfilling to work with organizations that take harm reduction approaches, especially having experience with those that approach substance use disorder treatment from an abstinence perspective.  

I advocate every day for things such as drug checking at music festivals, teaching people about the importance of being trained to use naloxone, and fighting for Safe Consumption Sites to be in every area of the US, especially those where overdose deaths are occurring the most frequently. I couldn’t thank SSDP enough for influencing my passion for fighting the drug war and allowing me to continue to fight for more sensible drug policies based on compassion and human rights.

This blog is part of a series of alumni-authored posts during #SSDPalumni Week, our annual Alumni Association membership drive. Become a member today by 1) Joining the Sensible Society and 2) submitting a short info form