S4-EP17: Dr. Bree Johnston on Psychedelic Therapy to Ease Fear of Death

May 20, 2022


Debbie talks with geriatrician and palliative care physician Dr. Bree Johnston about psychedelic therapy and its uses and benefits for older adults.



Today, Debbie talks with Dr. Bree Johnston, a geriatrician and a palliative care physician who is also certified in psychedelic therapies.

In case you haven’t noticed, the topic of psychedelic therapy has gone mainstream in the past several years. Taking a guided psilocybin trip is now viewed as a highly effective way to ease fear of dying. But it’s complicated. It took Debbie several months to find just the right person to interview about the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics. 

Her research led her to Dr. Bree Johnston who is perfectly credentialed for this topic as well as being a notably clear and wise teacher for [B]OLDER podcast listeners. She’s been a practicing physician for 35 years and recently became certified in Psychedelic Therapies and Research through the California Institute of Integral Studies.

They talk about:

– The problem of legality (she predicts psilocybin therapy will be legal in a few years)
– Why psychedelic therapy is especially useful for older, dying patients
– Her own psychonaut experiences
– The dissolution of “self” and becoming part of a whole (a common experience on a psychedelic trip)
– The current studies being done at Johns Hopkins and NYU
– Microdosing
– And her evaluation of which psychedelic therapies are currently most useful: psilocybin, MDMA (aka ecstasy), ketamine (not illegal but results can vary widely).

They also explore the complexity that comes with medicalizing psychedelics as well as the ethics surrounding legalization.  This is a highly informative conversation with a knowledgeable physician. 


Mentioned in this episode or useful:


Note from Debbie

If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving a short review on Apple Podcasts. It takes less than two minutes and it really makes a difference. It makes me feel loved and it also attracts new listeners. – Debbie


Support this podcast:


Connect with us:

Thanks to our media partners

Encore.org, our newest media partner, is an ideas and innovation hub tapping the talent of those 50+ as a force for good. Founder and CEO Marc Freedman is an award-winning social entrepreneur and author, most recently, of How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations. Looking for a great gap-year transition program? Check out Encore Fellowships, which match skilled, seasoned professionals with social-sector organizations in high-impact, paid assignments.


Modern Elder Academy is a program dedicated to navigating mid-life transitions. MEA, based in Baja California, Mexico, provides the place and the tools to start reframing your lifetime of experience. Grow whole, not old. Founder Chip Conley is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning hospitality entrepreneur and a rock star of the mid-life transition movement. His newest book is Wisdom @ Work: the Making of a Modern Elder.


Next For Me is an important new resource for the 50+ crowd focused on rewriting life. Taking a gap year or timeout may be the best way to figure out "what's next" when you're in this stage of life. Founder Jeff Tidwell explains, Next For Me "connects and inspires our generation to evolve our post-50 lives through new work, a new purpose, or a new social contribution."