Get the Latest News From Maya

Sign up for our monhtly newsletter.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Why the Future of Psychedelic Medicine Depends on a Data Science Approach to Measuring Health Outcomes and Best Practices

February 22, 2023

Why the Future of Psychedelic Medicine Depends on a Data Science Approach to Measuring Health Outcomes and Best Practices

Psychedelics work across conditions, setting them apart from the "one-pill-for-one disease" model that typically dominates mainstream medicine. Occasioning psychological transformations after just one or two sessions, these compounds offer new paradigms of personal growth and healing that set them apart from conventional antidepressants—in the most important ways.  

Despite the love affair between the press, media, literature, research, culture, and psychedelics, this burgeoning field hasn’t yet arrived at a set of universal best practices to guide psychedelic healthcare. There are a variety of unanswered questions interfering with its ability to scale. For example, we don't know if there is a specific talk therapy model most suitable for the transformations psychedelics offer. The extent to which practitioners should engage with their clients during their journeys is also ambiguous. 

The previously coined terms ‘set’ and ‘setting’ have yet to be integrated into a priori clinical practices. Integration itself continues to be reverently described as ‘the most important part of these modalities.’ However, almost in the same breath, there’s a universal admittance that we don’t yet know how to implement integration for the masses, much less account for their costs of equitable access to this critical component of the continuum of care. 

It’s becoming clear to all stakeholders across the value chain that universal best practices will be fundamental to the long-term success of psychedelic healthcare. Yet it’s also becoming clear just how unlikely it is that we achieve such standards relying solely on the current approaches, i.e. deductive academic science; underfunded grassroots campaigning; glacial legislative iteration; capitalist content marketing; siloed practitioner experimentation, and of course the neo-political infighting and board room debating that courses through the veins of this optimistic but fragile marketplace. 

To create a set of universal best practices that will guide psychedelic protocols—and uphold the best interests of patients and participants—experts are acknowledging that we need a data science model that helps practitioners and researchers learn from one another, share their methodologies, support participants with precision personalized care, entrenches privacy and security along with patient data ownership, and ultimately allows the entire community to identify the essential variables for success, all as one cohesive ecosystem

"Data moves science, and story moves culture": Using data to create a bedrock of evidence to advance psychedelic medicine


Though the pharmaceutical and academic world has generated a wealth of data about psychedelics, it's challenging to gather insight from studies done by drug companies or clinical researchers performing randomized controlled trials. As reported by Clerkenwell Health, pharmaceutical research and development is notoriously secretive and doesn't involve high degrees of sharing between external stakeholders. Other research groups are generating incredible amounts of data, but intentionally not in a way that can be shared or sifted through for new protocol approaches.

The Maya platform was developed to create an atmosphere of collaboration and open science within the psychedelic ecosystem. It invites cohesion by meeting the unique needs of psychedelic providers, researchers, and individuals embarking on psychedelic journeys. 

Maya empowers practitioners to implement measurement-based care (MBC) into their practices. MBC is an emerging best practice in its own right, throughout therapeutics and healthcare, that helps practitioners make data-driven adjustments to their clients' care in real-time, giving both parties a more holistic view of health outcomes and the components of their journey that contributes to them.

Similarly, the Maya platform gives researchers access to anonymized, aggregated data that can inform clinical trial design and provide the evidence needed to inform efficient psychedelic studies. 

When researchers and practitioners can share findings and learn from one another, they can create a foundation of data demonstrating the safety and efficacy of their protocols. In this way, Maya unites intuition and science, bringing scientific rigor to a field that previously relied on storytelling and trust. 

As leading psychedelic scientist Robin Carhart-Harris noted, any time an industry evolves, it happens because of the power of data to tell the most comprehensive story. Data allows science to progress: a data-driven model will engender a centralized way to track, measure, and understand the experiences people are having on psychedelics. 

It will, in turn, sculpt avenues for that research to inform the larger psychedelic ecosystem. Using data, we can tell a comprehensive story about the healing these medicines make possible. If done well, this data can also tell more accurate stories than the stigmatizing propaganda likely to flood the news as psychedelics become more mainstream and inevitably become more widely abused.

Data: An unconscious, extractive mechanism or a non-negotiable for scaling psychedelic medicine effectively?

"There are times in the evolution of a species when the old patterns no longer avail, and the radical, potentially innovative perceptions and behaviors that psychedelics sometimes inspire offer the best chance for adaptation." How to Change Your Mind - Michael Pollan

With the publication of books like The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, which documented the collection and commodification of personal data by corporations, data can feel inexorably linked with extractive intentions. 

Skepticism is also understandable given the preciousness of the insights in question. Psychedelic experiences initiate some of the most spiritually and psychologically profound experiences of individuals' lives, bearing similar significance to the birth of a child or a loss of a parent. The notion of collecting data to inform medical or political decision-making can feel out of touch with the personal gravity of these experiences. 

Yet the purpose of collecting aggregated data to advance psychedelic medicine is by no means to support capitalist infrastructure for its own sake. By making it a norm for practitioners and researchers to collect and learn from data about psychedelic experiences, Maya's goal is to accelerate our society’s ability to heal itself from the global pandemic of stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, compulsivity, and pain. 

Data-driven insights can inform protocols and effective policies that will not only expand access to these medicines but also pair this access with the highest quality of affordable care for all. By collecting vast amounts of aggregated, anonymized data about psychedelic journeys, we can discern patterns and isolate variables that we simply couldn't while relying only on individual case studies and clinical trials alone. 

The origins and uses of psychedelic data

While controlled research studies are essential, valuable insight can also come from observational research into how people take psychedelics in naturalistic settings: whether recreationally (in places offering regionally legal experiences), ceremonially, or in licensed care-providing facilities. 

Of course, it's equally imperative that any participant in this model be given appropriate opportunities to signal ‘informed consent’; it's our priority that individuals and practitioners understand that data is being used to advance policy, protocols, and the psychedelic movement at large. 

Yet it's not a question of whether aggregating data for psychedelic healthcare will occur (it’s as inevitable as it has been for most any other segment of healthcare), but who and how it will be used. For this reason, it is a central intention of Maya’s to be the ethical stewards of psychedelic health data.

This is why we've created an industry-leading, robust data and privacy policy and remain abreast of data ethics best practices by protecting de-identified, aggregated, and anonymized data. We use this data strictly for conducting research and delivering collective insights to the community, first and foremost our practitioner partners and their clients, patients, and participants. 

How the field is channeling data to accelerate psychedelic healing at scale

Along with the transformations that psychedelic medicines offer to the individuals who take them, the field has an opportunity to finally engender the medical and therapeutic paradigm shift the world has been pining for. 

The rise of health information technology, along with a growing interest in whole-person-focused healthcare, has led to a "heal thyself" revolution. Instead of being passive recipients of their doctors' interventions, individuals are taking a proactive role in their health. Using wearables, mental health apps, and sleep and blood sugar tracking tools, an individual can now gain a holistic, real-time understanding of what's going on in their body. 

As described in a 2021 article published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, biometrics from wearable devices could help accrue large pools of objective data about individuals' experiences on psychedelics. These discoveries may answer questions about the optimal frequency of dosing, the nature of post-dosing psychotherapy sessions, and other questions relevant to creating psychedelic best practices. 

When individuals have access to digital tools, they're empowered to make educated adjustments to their behaviors, both to optimize their health and prevent problems in the future. In addition, using this data in psychedelic research and healthcare may give rise to more holistic offerings within mainstream medicine.

Wearable technology, digital phenotyping, and other digital tools, combined with intelligent data modeling (and with psychedelics themselves) can penetrate more deeply into the etiology of a person's state of health. The potential savings in time and money that would otherwise be devoted to reactive symptom management may be too massive to adequately forecast.

Data is an imperative and perilous initiative in the psychedelic community


Introducing a data-driven treatment model into psychedelic medicine rests in paradox: it's vital to growing the movement while simultaneously holding the potential to derail it. Without an aggregated psychedelic dataset, we can't establish the protocols that will inform best practices. Yet if data were to be collected from an unwieldy, extractive perspective, it would interfere with the trust that is the lifeblood of the psychedelic movement.

Addressing this paradox is our mission and our task. We hope you will join us in supporting this revolution: the movement we call Decentralized Psychedelic Medicine, #DePsy.


If you're a psychedelic researcher or practitioner, we invite you to book a demo of Maya so you can expand the impact of your work, connect with our global community of psychedelic researchers, providers, and dedicated enthusiasts, and contribute to the larger psychedelic knowledge base. 


Other posts you may also like

January 28, 2021

Blending the Art and Science of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

What if psychedelic-assisted therapy could be rooted in a whole-person approach of holistic care, while being supported by the type research and data found in the world of biomedicine?

Read post

October 19, 2021

What Is Psychedelic Therapy & How Does It Work?

Psychedelic therapy can transform mental healthcare. Yet without universal best practices & communication throughout the field, its reach will remain limited.

Read post

February 22, 2023

Why the Future of Psychedelic Medicine Depends on a Data Science Approach to Measuring Health Outcomes and Best Practices

Why a data-driven treatment model is the necessary missing piece for scaling psychedelic healthcare safely

Read post