Dr. Ben Sessa is a consultant psychiatrist, psychedelic researcher, and the Chief Medical Officer of psychedelic biotechnology company AWAKN Life Sciences.
He studied at University College London, earning his BSc in Psychology in 1994 and his MBBS in 1997. He then trained in general psychiatry for 5 years at the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust in London and became a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2002. In 2005, he earned a CCST (a specialist certification) in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry from Oxford. Since then, Dr. Sessa has worked in various clinical, consultation, and research roles, including serving as a senior research fellow at Bristol University, Cardiff University, and Imperial College London.
Dr. Sessa’s clinical work has focused on children and adolescents, as well as adults grappling with addiction. He is a licensed provider of MDMA and psilocybin psychotherapy. His private practice, Mandala Therapy Ltd., was acquired by AWAKN when he joined the company as CMO in 2020. A press release from AWAKN explained that Dr. Sessa will oversee the company’s efforts to bring therapeutic psilocybin and MDMA to those suffering from mental illness and addiction. In the release, Dr. Sessa stated, “Enough of the incessant belief that mental health disorders cannot be cured, this is the legacy of the ill-informed. Psychedelics have the potential to heal when used correctly and with psychotherapy pathways built for purpose.” Beyond his role at AWAKN, he continues to offer psychiatric consultation through his practice, Dr. Ben Sessa Ltd.
A curriculum vitae from 2016 states Dr. Sessa’s research interests in the developmental impacts of childhood maltreatment on adult mental illness and drug abuse as well as the use of drug-assisted therapies as treatment. Over the years, Dr. Sessa has conducted research on substances including MDMA, LSD, cannabis, and psilocybin. He led the first-ever clinical study investigating MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) at Imperial. Dr. Sessa presented preliminary data from this safety and tolerability study at ICPR 2020 and results were published in February 2021.1 The data revealed high tolerability, no unexpected adverse events, and a sustained decrease in alcohol consumption. AWAKN summarized the results in a press release. Dr. Sessa has also participated in psychedelic research as a subject, such as with LSD, DMT, and psilocybin.
He is also a widely published author of academic articles and books, including titles such as The Psychedelic Renaissance, Advances in Psychedelic Medicine, and Psychedelic Drug Treatments. A full list of works is available on his website.
Dr. Sessa is devoted to public education and advocacy, as well. In 2010, he co-founded Breaking Convention, a renowned biennial psychedelic conference that he still directs today. He is a vocal advocate for drug reclassification for research and harm-reduction purposes. In his profile for BBC Drugsland television series, in which he appeared in 2017, he wrote, “Our system for classifying drugs is unscientific, socially irresponsible and morally reprehensible. Our drug laws increase the harms, deaths, associated crime and even the usage of drugs…” He’s made several dozen other media appearances and international presentations which are listed on his website.
Offering a critique of the psychiatry field to The Guardian reporter Alexandra Jones, he stated, “We need innovation in this industry, desperately and now. If you broke your leg and went to an orthopedic specialist, you’d expect it to be fixed. You wouldn’t expect to be prescribed painkillers for the rest of your life. But if you present to your psychiatrist in your early 20s with a severe mental illness, there’s a good chance you will still be seeing them when you’re 60.”