EPISODE 381
Michael Higgs and Martin Polanco
The Mission Within & The Fight To Heal Our Vets

Today, Commander Divine speaks with Michael “Punky” Higgs and Dr. Martin Polanco of The Mission Within, a 6-week psychedelic therapy program for Special Operations vets based in Mexico. In the episode, Michael and Martin share personal and scientific testimony of the impact psychedelics are having on our vets and their loved ones.

Michael Higgs and Martin Polanco
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Show Notes

Today, I speak with Michael “Punky” Higgs and Dr. Martin Polanco of The Mission Within, a 6-week psychedelic therapy program for Special Operations vets. In the episode, Michael and Martin share their personal and scientific testimony of the impact psychedelics are having on our vets and their loved ones. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Drugs to bring us together. Psychedelics like DMT act on a receptor that normally help us differentiate ourselves from others. The effect is we lose track of where we end and the rest of the world begins, which helps create greater cohesion and communion in our world. 
  • DMT is already within you. Since psychedelic compounds DMT and 5-MeO-DMT are neurotransmitters, our bodies seem to be wired to have these connected, unifying psychedelic experiences.  
  • The caustic cocktail. Michael shares his layered experience with injuries, childhood traumas, concussions, relationship traumas, and medications and the deadly combination they can create. 
  • Success worth celebrating. The Mission Within has treated over 600 special operations vets and over 80 veteran spouses with psychedelic clinical programming at their retreats in Mexico. 

 

Hi, I’m Mark Divine and this is the Mark Divine Show. On the show, I explore what it means to be fearless through the lens of the world’s most inspirational, compassionate, resilient leaders and servants. My guests include notable folks from all areas of life, martial arts grandmasters, military operators, high powered CEOs, and even those on the cutting edge of psychedelic research and healing, like my guest today, Dr. Martin Polanco. And Mike “Punky” Higgs, a former teammate of mine, who run The Mission Within that Dr. Polanco founded. It’s a clinical program specializing in treatment-resistant to complex conditions such as TBI, post-traumatic stress, depression, addiction and suicidal tendencies, especially focused on military veterans. 

 

Dr. Polanco has treated over 600 Special Operators and SEALs, more than 80 veteran spouses, using medically supervised psychedelic treatments specifically around Ibogaine, and 5-MeO-DMT. Michael “Punky I used to serve with him and I did 30 days SCARS, special combat aggressive reactionary system, where we beat each other up for 30 days, we talk a little bit about that. He’s a 30 year SEAL, retired Command Master Chief, and he stumbled upon Dr. Parker’s work and the mission within in 2019, while helping a friend helping him prevent his own suicide. This unearthed a ton of suppressed trauma. So he accompanied his teammate to TMW or The Mission Within and went through treatment himself. And six months later, and after a ton of work, he was back on track and thriving. And so he began to work with The Mission Within as the Director of Operations. Additionally, he’s the Director of Programs for the Honor Foundation, which is a special ops transition program. Gents, thanks so much for joining me today. Hooyah, appreciate your time.

Mark Divine  0:05  

Coming up on the Mark Divine Show

 

Martin Polanco

There’s a theory that the DMT is acting on a receptor, a specific serotonin receptor, that in normal everyday reality helps us to differentiate itself from other, like where our body ends and where the rest of the world begins. So by flooding these receptors with an exogenous amount or an exogenous source of 5-MeO-DMT basically we feel that we become one with everything.

 

Mark Divine  0:36  

Hi, I’m Mark Divine and this is the Mark Divine Show. On the show, I explore what it means to be fearless through the lens of the world’s most inspirational, compassionate, resilient leaders and servants. My guests include notable folks from all areas of life, martial arts grandmasters, military operators, high powered CEOs, and even those on the cutting edge of psychedelic research and healing, like my guest today, Dr. Martin Polanco. And Mike “Punky” Higgs, a former teammate of mine, who run The Mission Within that Dr. Polanco founded. It’s a clinical program specializing in treatment-resistant to complex conditions such as TBI, post-traumatic stress, depression, addiction and suicidal tendencies, especially focused on military veterans. 

 

Dr. Polanco has treated over 600 Special Operators and SEALs, more than 80 veteran spouses, using medically supervised psychedelic treatments specifically around Ibogaine, and 5-MeO-DMT. Michael “Punky I used to serve with him and I did 30 days SCARS, special combat aggressive reactionary system, where we beat each other up for 30 days, we talk a little bit about that. He’s a 30 year SEAL, retired Command Master Chief, and he stumbled upon Dr. Parker’s work and the mission within in 2019, while helping a friend helping him prevent his own suicide. This unearthed a ton of suppressed trauma. So he accompanied his teammate to TMW or The Mission Within and went through treatment himself. And six months later, and after a ton of work, he was back on track and thriving. And so he began to work with The Mission Within as the Director of Operations. Additionally, he’s the Director of Programs for the Honor Foundation, which is a special ops transition program. Gents, thanks so much for joining me today. Hooyah, appreciate your time.

 

Mark Divine  2:23  

What led to you kind of finding and fulfilling your purpose or calling which kind of led to this conversation? And I know it’s a different path for both of you. Why don’t we start with you, Dr. Martin, you know what kind of what sparked your interest in psychedelic healing and vet healing and leading to the creation of this pretty amazing organization you have? 

 

Martin Polanco

So I got introduced to psychedelics as a teenager, and I was really curious about these experiences and how they could help people. Then I had a family member going through addiction and I took her to see an Ibogaine provider. And it really helped her get a perspective and greater understanding of the underlying issues of her addiction. So it really changed the course of my life, too, in seeing that there was something that I could treat addiction. I was supposed to become an eye surgeon, but this experience of watching a family member go through this journey really woke up in the desire to make this medicine more available. So I started working in 2000’s, with addiction patients, mainly opioid addicts, and did that for about 15 years, when I had some Marines come through that were dealing with heroin withdrawal, and they reported their PTSD was gone, in addition to no longer feeling that they had to use opioids. That really kicked off the veteran work. And then I met Dr. Kirk Parsley, who’s a phenomenal physician who lives in Austin. And he introduced me to a good friend of his who was suicidal at the time, and they had found him, you know, ready to kill himself. So he brought them down to the clinic, which at the time was called Crossroads. And he had a good experience. And that’s how the Special Operations Program started, was just, you know, us treating one guy and then that guy referring another and another, and it just snowballed from there. 

 

Mark Divine

When you and I met back in, I think was around 2012, had you started that piece yet? Or was it your, was that in the early days, kind of helping anchor my timeline? 

 

Martin Polanco

I think we met a little bit later, must have been around the 2015 or 16, Mark. I would have to look through my notes exactly when I met you. But the Veteran Program hadn’t really kicked off at that point. 

 

Mark Divine

Yeah, I’m anxious to talk more a little later about just what is Ibogaine and five Elio DMT and some of the other modalities that you’ve worked with, you know, so that listeners who aren’t clear or maybe have misperceptions, you know, can hear from the horse’s mouth from you’re really a pioneer in the space from medical use of it. But before we do that, monkey, you and I met on the battlefield so to speak. It was fun telling those stories last weekend and for listeners, you know, just for full disclosure, I did go through the program that Mike and Martin offered down in Mexico. You know, I’ve known you for a long time. And I mean, you’re a very different person than the individual, and I am as well, then I, you know, the two guys who were thrown down doing SCARS, frickin 30 years ago or whatever. So let’s talk about your journey a little bit, you know, Navy SEAL Master Chief, done all sorts of really cool things, and most people like to double click on that. But you know, you’re all about healing now. Kind of, what’s your journey? 

 

Michael Higgs

Yeah, it was really great running back and view again. Likewise, Mark and I met many years ago, in a fighting course, the SEALs used to run called SCARS. So for 30 days, we just got to beat the living crap out of each other. 

 

Mark Divine

Which says something about SEALs that we actually enjoy that, you know, it was really enjoyable. 

 

Michael Higgs

Yeah, it was a 30 year SEAL, you know, came in age six, pre war, you know, got to run around Europe and South America and have a really great time. I got married, divorced, married again. I had a bunch of traumas during those two marriages, you know, then the war kicked off. Just been, the grind constantly for the first 20 or 10 years weren’t that bad. And then once the workout kicked off, just more injuries started to kick in, had some issues with my divorce as a trauma from that. My ex had gotten addicted to Oxycontin. She was a triathlete, came home, dealing with that mess. And then my oldest daughter, the same thing. Then I started suffering blast injuries and was having cog injuries. That caused its own frustrations, trying to keep up in life, pain set in and then slowly I just stopped really giving a shit, I stopped feeling, I was angry, I was, my life at home sucks, it was finding a way to get back on deployment just so I could get out of town into an environment that I can control again, and did that grind and then retire to the end of 16. I look back I’m like, wow, that was a, that was a grind. 

 

Thought I was doing pretty good. And then over a series of years, just all these symptoms, I called my train of life just slowly caught up with me. I started drinking heavily, I was just into super, just bad behavior, pushing the limits everywhere I was going, just asking for it, right? And I forgot I just had a bunch of more friends die, younger guys too. And then another buddy of mine I had a grocery store with died in Syria. So that was a big shocker. And then I had a friend who was having a psychotic break at the same time, on top of all these other things. And for some reason, over this period of time, my whole world just caught up with me and just melted me down. I got a DUI, but I was running around beat people up, I should have been in jail, and very quickly became suicidal. 

 

So all the typical meds that all of us get into, you know from the VA psychotropics pain meds, sleep aids, that caustic cocktail that we get, and I was just spiraling out of control. But I’d heard about, you know, The Mission Within, Martin’s program from a bunch of other friends that I’d seen kind of go down and they’re in the same state I was, or worse than they came back just these completely changed, guys. But for some reason, I never dove into it. I never even researched and I was just like, well, good for you. And that was the extent of my, my research and my concern. Until it was my turn, then it was like, I had a buddy that needed help, was trying to get him in the program. He came over one day and basically found me with a gun to my head. He’s like, yeah, let’s go get some help. And then it turned into well, I’ll go down with you. And that was our deal. So we went, both went down together. And a four day retreat, saved my life, saved his life, got me on this beautiful healing path that I never even knew existed. And since then I’ve just really devoted my extra time or whatever time I have just to help. You know, one of myself, my family that knew my brothers and sisters. It’s worthwhile. 

 

Mark Divine

It’s an incredible story for a number of reasons. And I know Dr. Martin has seen this many times, but it was kind of hidden from me. Because I don’t think teammates really admit the extent of the trauma that’s been going on. And maybe it’s just my, you know, my perspective, as you know, I kind of caught that first tenure phase that overlapped with yours. Pre war was my active duty. And then my combat experience was, you know, a dim shade of yours. You know, I spent time in Iraq on the staff, and I wasn’t a breacher or wasn’t a you know, enlisted operator who gets to take the brunt of the TBI causation, you know, events, particularly breaching and bombs going off and whatever. So maybe I just missed it. But um, it seems to me that this is a more common challenge. I mean, look at you like, frickin’ 30 year, retired Master Chief, done all these extraordinary things and you’re sitting there melting down. What caused us to have this conversation was my good friend and platoon SEAL Team Three Platoon Chief, I recruited out of BUDS Mark Cramp and phenomenal guy, like just world class hero. Right? You both are, and he, offed himself. And I’m like, What the eff is going on here? I guess my, you know, this will kind of lead into a deeper conversation. But how big of an issue is this? Is it just a few special operators that, across this all services? I mean, what’s going on? 

 

Michael Higgs

Or I think the big one is, you know, we come from a very high performance environment, right. So we’re meant to perform. We know that we’re always looked at, at the same time, you know that we ever exposed any weakness, you know, the beast is coming, you, you know, you expose your belly. So everyone goes through life, I imagine, just thinking that they can’t share, you know, these moments where they’re, you know, they need help or they’re vulnerable, they can’t figure it out on their own. And then I think a lot of us, we just don’t feel that we want to burden somebody else with our shit, our stuff. So we’re like I got this by myself. I think you and I, we talked about that in Mexico, was like, yeah, I can figure this out on my own. 

 

Mark Divine

But you can’t, you can’t. How much do you think is the cumulative effect of TBI that eventually catches up to you and literally changes your behavior without you being cognitively aware of it?

 

Michael Higgs

I mean, I look back at my life and knew it was very cumulative. You know, I had some childhood traumas that affected my reactions, exponential later on life. I had football injuries, you know, tons of concussions, I was a Master Preacher in the SEAL teams, I got paid to basically blow myself up or just experiment around with, with stuff, and you stack that to other injuries. You stack that with the meds everyone’s on trying just to just show up to work, and move through life. And then you start adding moral injury and other traumas to that, it’s a caustic cocktail, it’s bound to happen. 

 

Mark Divine

For those who aren’t really familiar with psychedelics, and might still have kind of some cultural baggage around psychedelics, from the war on drugs and from misperceptions. Can you give us a sense of what these molecules are? Actually, you know, what they actually do? And are there risks? And if they’re risks, how do we mitigate them, or, you know, maybe educate us a little bit. 

 

Martin Polanco

So the word psychedelic means mind manifesting. And these compounds allow a person to gain perspective on different aspects of their personality, to see their narratives and stories that they have carried on for the majority of their lives and see them in a different light. There’s also some evidence that they affect the Default Mode Network, which is basically your ego and system that kicks in when we’re in idle, when we’re not focusing on something we’re projecting into the future, thinking about the past, worrying about things that might happen might not happen, or regretting things that we’ve done. And by shutting that down, there’s different brain areas that are now speaking to each other maybe for the first time. And this is a very helpful and beneficial state to be in because it increases neuroplasticity, which then also allows a person to incorporate new habits into their lives, and having those habits stick. 

 

In terms of the risks. There’s psychological risks to all psychedelics. These are very powerful experiences that can be scary and even traumatic. So having the right container, the right practitioner, the right dosage, and then having proper integration is critical. When it comes to Ibogaine it has particular risks to itself, which is some cardiovascular effects, there’s drug interactions with specific medications, there’s a potential for bradycardia, so this is a slowing down of the heart rate. And it’s important to be monitored while you’re on it, so that the medical professionals can detect if there’s an arrhythmia or slowing down to the heart rate. It is rare for something to happen. And most of the risks are in opioid addicts because they are by definition, not healthy and they often don’t disclose what medications they might be on or what drugs are in their system. And there’s also the risk of somebody using drugs after Ibogaine and overdosing because it reduces your tolerance. So Ibogaine is a, you know, whole conversation in terms of how to mitigate these risks. But for the rest of the psychedelics, it’s, like I said, there’s psychological risks, and then there’s the risks of not integrating the experience properly. And for those I would single out ayahuasca and 5-MeO-DMT, which are sometimes really hard to come back from and to properly integrate. So I would just caution, people from you know, blindly going to the first practitioner that they find.

 

Mark Divine  13:56  

We’re gonna take a short break here from the Mark Divine Show, to hear a short message from one of our partners. And now back to the Show.

 

Mark Divine  14:08  

I’ve done both ayahuasca and the 5-MeO-DMT, and they’re profound experiences. And I would agree that this experience, the context matters, the intention matters. And also, your expectations matter. If you’re going to just do these thinking it’s going to be like a weekend recreational experience with a friend who happens to have come across some or know somebody who knows somebody. It’s not a good idea, in my opinion, and I’m sure in yours as well. But it gives a well curated experience, where there’s pre preparation and post integration, like you said, and I’d like to talk more about what that looks like. It can be profound because there’s some contextualization and support that might be required to help understand some of the experience. I’ve read a little bit about this. Maybe I got this from Michael Pollan in his book, How to Change Your Mind, about how context and you know, just the state of your mind going into an experience can dramatically affect the nature of the experience. Can you speak about that a little bit and kind of what’s going on? Martin? 

 

Martin Polanco  15:00  

Yes, the context matters. And it’s also important to have trust in their practitioners. Because the therapeutic relationship with these medicines is really critical to talk more about context. So context is also set and setting. So it’s your mindset when you’re going into these experiences. And then the setting, which is the physical environment. We focus on providing a clinical experience, but also having a very beautiful surrounding and the right music, the right lighting, and contextualizing these experiences as ceremonial and having the right reverence for them, while at the same time having medical staff and heart monitors and medical equipment present. And I’ll add Punky a bit more to that, because he’s been helping us for a couple of years. And, you know, setting the right context and helping guys go down to Mexico and helping them feel safe. 

 

Mark Divine

Yeah, I’d be interested if you could describe, in that vein, just a little bit of adequate preparation, and then also what happens in the post experience of the integration. 

 

Michael Higgs

Yeah. So when I screened for the program, so, I went through a screening process, went through medical screening, and then met with my coach. So she prepped me, had two beautiful sessions with her, she was really just walking me through the mess like, Hey, here’s what you can expect. But here’s also how you should meet the medicine, right? Because I think, I very easily, I think you’d I joked about this. I could have come down there going, yeah, we’re just gonna crush this medicine. Like, okay, do you want to play ball? 

 

Mark Divine 16:30  

Yeah, I think I share with you not to interject here. But I share with you, that’s sort of the the Navy SEAL attitude I had when I first met Martin, up at the SEAL Four training center, and I wasn’t prepared for that experience. It was a great experience. Don’t get me wrong, but it was incomplete. I yanked myself out of it, because I was like, part of me was like, whoa, you weren’t ready for this. And you could go South, quickly. 

 

Michael Higgs 

Yeah, was that and then I think, coming down, I laugh when I look back at it, but I see it every weekend, when I’m down, you get these operators coming in, and you’ve worked with them. I’ve known him for years, and he’s just pretty bad guys. And they’re terrified, like, yeah, freaking terrified too, right? So there’s, there’s a fear, there’s a reverence to the messenger that a lot of the fiercest, we’re afraid of ourselves, right? What we’re gonna see. Is God gonna hand me my ass, all that. So you know, the staff works really hard, and just creating a really safe and loving container and easing all those concerns. You know, like Martin said, it is a clinical, somewhat clinical setting, but very nurturing at the same time. And I think that just creates the space that really, you know, lets guys and girls really just kind of let down their guard just be vulnerable for probably once in their lives, right? 

 

Mark Divine

In terms of integration coaching, is that we’re kind of like the therapy part kicks in where someone’s like a week later, or two weeks later, and saying, hey, you know, I’m having this experience or this challenge came up, or I’m remembering this, you just help walk them through it or hold their hand through it? 

 

Michael Higgs

The preparation is probably the biggest one. But the integration is the most important. I think a lot of us and I, myself included, I felt like I could just go down, this will be a one shot deal, right? Took my magic pill, I felt great. And now my life shouldn’t change for the better, as long as it’s not. So though, I still struggled, I still had tons of self doubt will come back up, or I will struggle with memories and thoughts that were coming up. And then slowly found myself almost stepping back into my same thought patterns and habits. That’s where the coaching kicks in. And just one, you know, letting go that goes into the hate this is normal, this is what can happen. Well, you have to do the reps, you have to create, you know, the walk, walk the walk that you want. And now you have a really beautiful chance to, you know, to find a fresh path, but it does take work does take reps. And that’s where the coaches kick in. And they’ve seen it, they’ve heard it, they’ve done it, they’ve lived it. And they’re human. Think, you know, for a lot of us, even coming back, myself included, I just had a client last week, you know, he was struggling for like three weeks before he finally picked up the phone again.

 

You got there by yourself before we get there, so now’s not the time to go subtle again, right? That’s where the coaching is just works hand in hand with the medicine. And then for me, you’re working with a therapist, that’s where the therapy really can actually do some work because you finally got to the x, you finally peeled the onion back far enough to really get to whatever it is that was kind of started this process and life and really started deep dive to work. 

 

Mark Divine

Yeah, this is not a panacea, right? I mean, for someone who’s hit bottom or is suicidal, or you know, really struggling with addiction, it can have a dramatic impact. But like you said, you know, the work is still to be done after that the work of integration and then the work of self care. A lot of times you know the people are in those places the addiction or the depression or whatever it is, has removed any motogram of self care and they’re all in destructive behavior mode, right? So you got to rebuild those habits, you know, movement of exercise of healthy nutrition and sleep and recovery and all those fundamentals, then it becomes like an upward spiral of positive, you know, results. 

 

Martin, I’m curious because you know, rightfully, especially when dealing with suicidal individuals and Ibogaine we’re really focused on the medical and therapeutic and then kind of the neuroplastic effects, but there’s no question a spiritual quality to these molecules, you know, it’s been considered a way to to experience God or unit of consciousness. How do you think that works? Like what’s the physiological mechanism that DMT plays in allowing us to have that experience? What’s your perspective on that? 

 

Martin Polanco

There’s a theory that the DMT is acting on a receptor, a specific serotonin receptor that in normal everyday reality helps us to differentiate itself from, like, other. Like where our body ends, and where the rest of the world begins. So by flooding these receptors with an exogenous amount, or an exogenous source of 5-MeO-DMT, basically, we feel that we become one with everything. And it’s important to know that DMT and 5-MeO-DMT are neurotransmitters, so they’re already present in the human brain. It’s almost like we’re wired to have these experiences. And evolutionarily, it could be for, you know, creating greater cohesion and communion in human societies and, you know, achieving greater things like, you know, building cathedrals or projects that require kind of believing in something bigger than ourselves. 

 

Mark Divine

Yeah, well said, I love that. And it’s interesting, you know, kind of historical note that, you know, these have been used, especially psilocybin for, I don’t know, you know, probably 1000s years, but certainly hundreds of years. And I think the first accounts in the US were from the conquistadores, Mexico, or South America, or, or both, maybe, and how they ended up with reports back home, and the missionaries, you know, that kind of accompany them. Basically, that was the first example of outlining these things, because the church said, you know, what, these people are having a direct experience of God, they don’t need the Catholic Church, so we’re not going to succeed here.

 

 And so they literally, they turned them into a heretical substance, banned by the, you know, whatever the religious powers that be of the of the day, the Catholic Church, I think that’s fascinating. Because that that same kind of cultural banding happened in the 60s because of the explosion of psychedelic research with Timothy Leary, and through Harvard, and Stanford and MIT, and even the CIA, that was at the Harbinger or the forefront, I should say, of the counterculture movement, which was a real threat to the government, which kind of replaced the church as the major control mechanism, right? And so guess what, they get banned again. What’s your take on all that, Mike? And where we’re going with this?

 

Michael Higgs  22:34  

The way I look at it, the way I like to explain to myself as you know, I was born already having this connection with myself and with God or Spirit and, and earth, and life and everybody else, and then life kicked in, right? And slowly, that connection that I had got separated. I look at this every day, I’m like, alright, where are they gonna take us away? You know, we’re slowly getting this access back, right? And certainly letting men and women heal to the point to like, hold on, they’re cutting out the middleman again, that’s gonna get locked back down. So I’m curious where it’s gonna go

 

Mark Divine

I think the genie’s out of the bottle this time, you know, I hope anyways. What could cut it down, and this is why I value what you guys are doing so much is the indiscriminate use or the improper use, like we talked about earlier. And so I think that’s important. This is probably something you’ve noticed. But it was surprising to me that every single individual who was down there with us, my two weekends ago, had learned about it from a podcast, that was mind-blowing, like, wow, like, that information is spreading fast. Something you said really struck me, you said, you know, you, you try to avoid sharing your personal experience with the actual kind of journey, we’ll call it, because everyone’s going to have a different experience. And I saw that down there, like everyone that was down there had a radically different experience. And so if I tried to frame an expectation around your experience, or something I heard Tim Ferris talk about or someone else Joe Rogan, then I can be setting myself up for disappointment, because I might go in with an attitude or a mindset, like Martin said, that is inappropriate for what I need. Right? What’s your take on that? 

 

Michael Higgs

I agree. I’ve seen it too. I think I was lucky. My Ibogaine experience was it was beautiful. It was exactly what I needed to get the reconciliation that I did. But my fight wasn’t pretty. I mean, I got through enough to feel love and a lot of healing. I felt like I just got tossed out of heaven and couldn’t get back in there. And it was me doing it. But I could have very easily walked away from that with the feeling that I failed, right? I didn’t do this, you know, all these other guys are upstairs with this beautiful experiences of love and connection. And I didn’t have it. And I was seeing that with other guys and girls to begin. And then the more they hear like you said, what podcasts are they also going down now they’re already coming in on the front end with all these expectations and maybe even misconceptions. And as best as we try to alleviate that and go hey, listen, this is not the path you want to go down. You’re human, right? So you’re gonna go into the medicine with some expectation. But I think on the back end, being able to take what you got, which is what you need, not what you want, and learn how to work with that. Again, we’re so self critical, right? So you can easily come out and just be even more self critical because you didn’t get something.

 

Mark Divine   25:21  

We’re gonna take a short break here from the Mark Divine Show, to hear a short message from one of our partners. And now back to the show.

 

Mark Divine  25:34  

I’d love to hear from Martin, kind of like, the nuances between the different psychedelics, so people can get a sense for… hey, this sounds interesting Mark, but like, where should I go? You know? Is it psilocybin? Is it Ibogaine? Is it ayahuasca? Is it 5-MeO-DMT? Is it Ibogaine, what is it? You know, I had heard that, I became, was just like, kicking the jimmy, right? It was super long, painful, like a little bit of a battle. And so I resisted it. And yet, I found it to be the opposite. I actually really enjoyed it. It was a little bit long, and I had some nausea, you know, experience but did not have that kicking the jimmy experience whatsoever, actually, my Ayahuasca experience was much more painful. So it’s so interesting how it affects different people differently. But Martin, what are the you know, could you take us like a, just through a little bit of a preview of what these different molecules are like the in terms of the experience without like, try to pre frame people’s expectations, and the different uses, maybe? 

 

Martin Polcanco

There’s not enough research yet to definitively say what psychedelics work for what conditions. So there’s still a lot of unknowns, what we do now see, and the way that we frame it when we’re talking to people, is that, if somebody is actively suicidal, then ketamine might be the best option because it’s available in the US. It’s FDA approved, it can be prescribed by doctors, and it has very high success rate for addressing suicidality. Also, it’s important to note that not everybody should take psychedelics, there are a lot of contraindications. Specifically, if somebody is manic, it can make them more manic. If somebody is not in touch with reality, they’re hearing voices, this could potentially push them over the edge. So there’s other modalities that people should explore first, like flotation or breathwork, or meditation before even embarking on a psychedelic journey. 

 

If they have made a decision to take psychedelics, then they have to be mindful about the psychotropic medications that they have in their system. If they’re prescribed antipsychotics, if they’re prescribed antidepressants, they may need to taper off of them. And that in itself is challenging because you’re gonna get the opposite of what these drugs are doing. So if you’re on an antipsychotic for a number of years, and you suddenly get off, then you’re going to be psychotic. Or if you’re on an antidepressant, that depression is actually going to get worse when you quit taking it. And while people are tapering, they could potentially do ketamine or they can incorporate microdosing. And microdosing is the ingestion of sub perceptual doses of psilocybin or LSD, where you’re getting some of the brain healing effects of the psychedelic without the psychological risks. So that is a good place I would say for most people to start and when it comes to, you know, categorizing which psychedelic for what condition there’s some broad buckets so Ibogaine works best for addiction, and I would say for mild traumatic brain injury, but it’s also not the place I would start with most individuals. So I often dissuade people from taking Ibogaine. I point them more towards mushrooms, or MDMA as a first experience. And then if that does the trick, then they’re good. They don’t need to do Ibogaine. So that’s kind of a general framework that we use to look at these compounds with.

 

Mark Divine

But you use Ibogaine with the vets. And it’s been very successful, especially with suicidal tendencies. So for why is that? 

 

Martin Polanco

With the SEAL community and with the Special Operations community, there’s a desire by the guys to do what their friends did. So they often gravitate to treatments that they’ve seen work for other individuals. And I do think Ibogaine is fantastic for addressing depression and anxiety and suicidality. And if the person can get down there, and they’re prepared properly, it’s a great approach. But we generally recommend at least four weeks of preparation. Most people do between two and four, but four is ideal. It’s hard to tell people to do something else when all of their brothers have done Ibogaine and I think that’s part of the reason why they’ve gravitated towards the program.

 

Mark Divine

And it makes sense, Mike, you know, I think if there’s any vets listening, I mean, maybe the cat’s out of the bag now, but I’m not sure everyone knows that they can get this type of treatment and a lot of, if not all other modalities financially supported through different foundations. SEAL Future Foundation, one example, Naval Special Warfare Foundation, Marcus Capone’s organization, I think it’s called that right or something like that, like, what’s the normal process? If someone comes to you, and you say, hey, you know, go here, right or call this person.

 

Michael Higgs

Yeah, I mean, most of the work that we do wouldn’t even be possible without these grants, right? So we get grant funding from different foundations. So you know, when I went through I was funded by Marcus and Amber with that, just a goal from Heroic Hearts, former Rangers raising capital in sponsoring Gaza Girls, SEAL Future Fund, the Hope Project, and then just individual donors. 

 

What I always ask, you know, is that, hey, have some skin in the game, you know, some pay some money into this. So we could spend our capital across more people and allow for more healing. 

 

Mark Divine

And also you take it more seriously.

 

Michael Higgs

And you take it more seriously, I think, you know, probably in the last, you know, 10 years or so I think the communities have just gotten used to so much public support that they almost expect it. You know we’d rather get the support to the guardrail that really, really needs it. If I can go out, buy a $10,000 mountain bike, I could probably afford my audience. We all know those people. So I think they’re getting better at it, we just go to the website, and then we talk to them. And then we steer them to the organizations if they need funding, and we get them dialed in as best we can. And what I’ve seen most of the time is because we have a backlog, most of these retreats have a backlog. And it’s funny, when you’re like, well, it’s gonna take a little bit longer because we have to raise some capital. And then it’s like, oh, I came up with the capital. I got it. So, you know, try hard. But have some skin in the game. So we could spread love this across more people.

 

Mark Divine

The Mission Within, you’re taking people from despair back to normality? I think that’s awesome. Do you also work with individuals who are looking more for the spiritual aspect? Or do you refer that out? 

 

Michael Higgs

No, we’ve had them come in, you know, this is a very intimate weekend, right? You got, you know, five or six men or women down there. It’s best not to have tourists come through with people that are trying to get some healing. Do we occasionally get some? Of course we do. We’ve really never seen anything that’s really taken away from the weekend. And it’s also, be careful what you ask for, right? You come and go, and hey, I don’t have anything to uncover, and you may get something uncovered. So my biggest suggestion is… even if you’re coming through as a, as a tourist or expat, that you really take the process seriously, especially the preparation on the front end. But yeah, know that you’re going to be in a group down there with a bunch of guys and girls that have a lot of stuff to unpack, right? 

 

Mark Divine

That saying ignorance is bliss that’s coming through my mind because, you know, be careful what you look for kind of what you’re saying. If you want ultimate growth, it’s a fantastic thing, right? Because you’re going to be shown your true self. But if things are okay, and just cruising along and you don’t want to upset the apple cart, then be careful stay ignorant in your ignorance. 

 

Michael Higgs  32:39  

It’s true, it’s true, unless you’re a wrecking ball. Don’t be a wrecking ball. 

 

Mark Divine

That’s awesome. I really appreciate you guys. Anything else that you think would be worth sharing, Martin, that I haven’t asked here, you know, we haven’t had a chance to talk about?

 

Martin Polanco

I want to share the research studies that we have planned and that are starting recruitment. Specifically a study for Gold Star spouses and women that lost men to suicide, we are looking to recruit 15 Women for a psilocybin retreat and 15 women for a 5-MeO retreat. They would go to UT Austin, get a brain scan, get biomarkers measured, and then go do a retreat. And afterwards go again, to get another brain scan to see that changes. Potentially, our hypothesis is that psychedelics can help address problematic grief and other mental health issues. We’re also looking to recruit women for a military sexual trauma study. This one is a little bit further behind. So we are still raising money for it. But we’re gonna look to see if 5-MeO-DMT can help with post traumatic stress associated with these negative experiences some women encounter in the military, if you’re a widow, and if you’re interested in participating, please visit missionwithin.org or sign up to receive more information. 

 

Mark Divine

Awesome. Yeah, thank you for that. And thank you very much for being here today, Martin, I appreciate it. How about you, Mike, anything you’d like to add? Before we sign off here? 

 

Michael Higgs

Yeah, just wanna thank you one Mark, for having us on. It’s been beautiful seeing you again. We’re trying to change the narrative, right? So these are sacred healing medicines. We look at it that way. We’re keeping the narrative in that lane. We want to be able to affect policy change, policy shift. Yeah, check out our website and check out Brookhart street, SEAL Future Fund, check out vets. Check out all the beautiful organizations that are out there doing work and funding these

 

Mark Divine

Hooyah. Well, thanks you both, for joining us today. Thanks for the work you’re doing and we’ll put all those links in our shownotes and on the website and appreciate you guys. And Hooyah.

 

That was an extremely informative episode, learned a ton about psychedelic therapies and treatments, different modalities, the do’s and the don’ts, and all the great work that Martin Polanco and Mike Higgs are doing and others at The Mission Within down in Mexico with their psychedelic assisted medically supervised healing retreats. You can find the shownotes and transcripts up in MarkDivine.com The video up at YouTube MarkDivine.com/youtube. Reach out to us at Mark Divine on Twitter and at real Mark Divine on Facebook or Instagram or find me on LinkedIn. If you’re not on my newsletter subscription list and consider subscribing at MarkDivine.com. To receive my Divine Inspiration newsletter every Tuesday as well, I have a synopsis of this week’s podcast as well as my blog, as well as a book that I’m reading, and some other cool things that come across my desk. 

 

Special shout out to my amazing team, Geoff Haskell, Jeff Torres, Melinda Hershey and Jason Sanderson who will produce this podcast and bring incredible guests like Martin and Michael to you every week. Reviews are very helpful. So please review the show, if you have the time. And if you’d like it, it helps other people find it and helps with our credibility. And yeah, that’s it, enough for this week, the world is definitely chaotic and dangerous out there, so it appears. It’s up to us to do the work to move it toward a more positive place, to be the change that we want to see in the world, in ourselves first, but then to do it at scale by paying it forward and teaching others and sharing. So thank you for being part of the journey. Thank you for your support, check out TheMission Within and if you know anyone who’s seriously struggling with addiction or suicidal tendencies, then seriously consider that as an option because it’s been extremely helpful and successful. Talk to you next week.

 

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