Introducing Drexel University SSDP

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Written by Justin Serwinski ‘21, Madi Rockett ‘21, and Naomi Shifman ‘21

How did you hear about SSDP?

After Justin’s initial outreach to start an organization focused on psychedelic medicine at Drexel, he met with a few faculty and students who appeared interested. During our first meeting, a faculty member discussed how it might be advantageous to integrate with SSDP since many of our goals seemed to overlap. We agreed to pursue becoming a chapter, and the rest is history!

Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?

We find it unsettling that much of our society is still very weird about drugs. America will allow some substances but ban or illegalize others for seemingly inconsistent reasons, even in opposition to scientific evidence—and when people reach out with addictions or different opinions, they’re often met with negativity. Additionally, the War on Drugs is a War on Consciousness, and we find it disappointing that laws are preventing individuals from seeking help and exploring their own minds with responsible use of psychoactive substances. This doesn’t seem healthy, so we’re hoping to initiate some challenging discussions that educate people and prevent harm for both users and non-users of drugs.

What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc.
So far, all of the outreach we’ve done has been met with positive reception—students expressing interest and enthusiasm, faculty providing support, etc. We’re quite surprised with how frequently students have engaged with us and responded to our inquiries, and this makes us optimistic. We’ll be doing more outreach soon, so either that will change as our sample size increases, or the positive sentiment will amplify across campus. Either way, we’ll be ready to move forward. We’ll see!

What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester?
We’re big into leading with the educational aspects of drug use & policy, so we’d love to pack our meetings and events with scientific reviews, guest speakers, harm reduction education, and discussion while we have people’s attention. Then, once COVID eases up a little, we’d love to initiate community events that get us all working together physically to help communities and refine some of the strange drug policies on-campus and in the greater Philadelphia region. Most importantly, though, we want to open people up and foster a community that sustainably challenges nonsensical drug polices and misinformation. 

What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
Timing and commitment have been a challenge so far. With how slowly something like this moves, generating ideas and meeting consistently whilst accommodating everyone’s schedule has proven to be difficult. But it’s the price you gotta pay to get some ears perked up, we suppose!

What is the most rewarding part?
The excitement is tangible—students, faculty, and other interested individuals have shown incredible support and enthusiasm for getting something like this started. Abd we’ve each met so many nice people since reaching out! We’re very glad we’ve begun to organize.

What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region right now?
We think the more we open up the discussion regarding psychedelic therapies and harm reduction, the more momentum the “psychedelic renaissance” so-to-speak, which is arguably already underway, will gain. This will undoubtedly expose more people to new options for healing trauma and addiction, and we’re psyched to be a part of that.

What is your vision for your SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? In 4 or 5 years?
We think in a year or two we’ll have made some noticeable progress on campaigning for drug policy reform on campus and at local/state/federal levels. We also hope to create a community of individuals with diverse interests related to harm reduction and drug education, research, and policy. Some of the initial officers will likely be leaving in 1 to 2 years, so we’re excited to engage underclassmen and facilitate a smooth exchange to a few younger, ambitious leaders. We’re excited to feel out the general interest on campus around these topics and see where our chapter evolves from there!