SSDP focusing on harm reduction as COUP approaches

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The Manual of Psychedelic Support is a text used by SSDP for information on harm reduction and responsible substance use.

As one of the largest, and arguably most controversial, events this year draws near, a student-run organization has already planned to make the Center of the Universe Party (COUP) as safe as possible for attendees.

The Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) was established in 1998 and has since become an internationally recognized organization. A chapter has existed on campus since 2013 and, since then, SSDP has been an accessible resource for education on substance use and harm reduction.

“[SSDP] is a grassroots network of students who are critical about the state of drug policy in this country,” third-year and SSDP Co-President Mariana Bonilla said.  

“They’re students who want to have honest conversations about drugs and drug policy,” thesis student and SSDP Co-President Jane Hepler said.

COUP, formerly known as Palm Court Party (PCP), has been a source of controversy in the past year. Following the overdose deaths of two college students on campus, Graduation PCP was cancelled. The upcoming Halloween COUP will be the first time the event has been thrown since February, as well as the first COUP for the first-year class – one of the largest classes this school has seen.

In preparation for COUP, SSDP has a range of plans to educate and take care of students.

“We are gonna have the roaming harm reduction fairies who will be equipped with water and phone numbers of people you can talk to,” Bonilla said. “And mainly just keeping an eye on whether or not people are safe or are having a good time.”

Bonilla, Hepler, and second-year and SSDP Secretary Hannah Procell and second-year transfer and SSDP Chancellor Andrew Lanser, will be wearing fairy wings at COUP.

Additionally, SSDP hosted a Psychedelic Harm Reduction Training on Nov. 1 in the Gender and Diversity Center (GDC). The training featured a video of Linnae Pontae, an alum and founder of the Zendo project, an organization that focuses on education in order to create a safer psychedelic experience.

“People who are interested have been assigned a chapter of this ‘Psychedelic Harm Reduction Manual,’ which is about creating a safe space to do psychedelic harm reduction,” Lanser said. “We are also hoping to be certified psychedelic harm reductionists.”

The manual’s foreword reads: “Concerts, electronic dance music parties, and festivals offer rich aesthetic and social environments that some attendees choose to explore with psychoactive drugs. Those who take ecstasy, LSD, cannabis, or other recreational drugs at these events are generally hoping to have a fun time with a sense of connection, interest and wonder. But a combination of factors—inexperienced users, novel substances, festival chaos, contaminated or misidentified drugs, et cetera—creates a context where some participants may have psychologically difficult or physically dangerous experiences.”

SSDP has also noticed more student interest in the club, particularly among first-years.

“I think a lot of the changes on campus, and through administration, have sparked a lot of people to want to come to the meetings,” Lanser said. “We’ve also been talking about school policy, and what’s going on here, and people seem even more interested.”

SSDP meets weekly on Tuesdays either in the Nook or by the GDC. Anyone interested in getting involved is welcome to come.

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