Are Psychedelics for Everyone? (spoiler alert – they’re not)
MAY 3, 2022.
There is much to be excited about amidst the ongoing renaissance in the psychedelics community. The study of psychedelic compounds was long relegated to outlaw chemists plying their trade in the underground, or to the occasional academic researcher. Now, things have changed. Magic mushrooms, LSD, DMT, and a raft of other drugs seem to be increasingly hyped as therapeutic tools, used both recreationally and in licensed, above-board clinical trials.
Once stigmatized—and still mostly illegal—psychedelics are now pitched as the answer to any number of serious problems, from grappling with end-of-life realities, to nicotine addiction, to homelessness. Dr. Bronner’s, the organic soap company, recently announced a program to offer psychedelic therapy to all its employees, free of charge. It can seem at times, well…a bit much. There’s good evidence to support psychedelics, and psychedelic-assisted therapies. There’s also centuries (even millennia) of anecdotal evidence supporting the use of psychedelics for mind-expansion, exploration, or just good ol’ fashioned fun. But it’s important to remember that the serious-minded psychedelic renaissance is still in its infancy. These are experimental therapies. And it can sometimes be a little hard to buy into all this buzz—some pushed by pharmaceutical companies with their own vested financial interests in the widespread “psychedelicization” of mental health care.
Nowadays it seems like everyone has a friend who can attest to the benefits of psychedelics. And again, that’s great! But it’s important to remember that these are extremely powerful and strange drugs, which aren’t for everyone. Many of the people who have most benefitted from psychedelic therapies are those with “intractable” psychological maladies; terminal cases, who have tried everything else under the sun. That they were helped by psychedelic interventions is a wonderful thing. But psychedelic therapy is generally a last resort in these cases, not the first proposed aid.
As it stands, the psychedelic landscape is a hodgepodge. Varying legal statuses of different psychedelic compounds has created different standards. Are you a Canadian who wants to legally trip on magic mushrooms? Well, you’ll have to request a legal exemption from the government, an incredibly tedious and time-consuming process. Or, you can drop a few thousand dollars on a magic mushroom retreat at a five-star resort in Montego Bay Jamaica. Both may prove beneficial. But they exist at opposite ends of a spectrum of cost, with the retreat model often only being accessible to people who can afford it.
The retreat model has also seen deeper problems, beyond exclusivity to those with deep pockets. Psychedelic tourism has, recently, seen increasing reports of abuse, at the hands of retreat leaders. It’s important to remember that psychedelics can render users extremely malleable, psychologically. This can be a good thing – it opens the mind to accept the guidance of trusted therapists and guides. But, as in all things, there are bad actors, looking to exploit that suggestibility. This can be compounded by the sense of openness and love that these compounds can produce. Psychedelics may be prized for their ability to facilitate “ego death”—a dissolution of the self and feeling of universal “oneness”– but they’ve also attracted their fair share of egomaniacs and gurus.
From the underground to the mainstream, psychedelics have a long, complicated, and sometimes troubling history. We want to grapple with that history - give our guests a sense of not just of how psychedelics are being reframed in the current moment, but of their rich and colorful history as well. We aren’t gurus. We’re fascinated – like you – keen to explore, and enjoy shared experiences with other like minded good people. Because remember – in order to expand your mind, you first have to open it.