“In the study, more than 60 percent of subjects described the effects of psilocybin in ways that met criteria for a “full mystical experience” as measured by established psychological scales. One third said the experience was the single most spiritually significant of their lifetimes; and more than two-thirds rated it among their five most meaningful and spiritually significant. Griffiths says subjects liken it to the importance of the birth of their first child or the death of a parent.” – John Hopkins Medicine
Disclaimer numero uno: I’m probably not the right guy to be doing this but we’re going for it.
Disclaimer numero dos: This is not a “how to” blog on psychedelics. That’s not my intention in writing this.
Disclaimer numero tres: There are no more disclaimers. Lets get into it.
So, if I had to narrow down the top 3 most positive impacts on my life, psychedelics make the cut no question about it. This is a blog that I’ve wanted to write about for almost two years now, but you can see my apprehension towards actually making the plunge to put this one out there. Anytime that I’ve ever had an idea about something that I’m interested in writing about, I feel like I can only go so long before I eventually cave and have to work on getting it out of my head and onto…paper? Computer screen? Anyways, I’ve put this topic off for a while but I’m at that point that until this is out there, I won’t be able to write about anything else.
Just like all these other ‘taboo’ subjects that people have a hard time talking about (suicide, anxiety, depression, mental disorders), I think the more that we bring these subjects to light in a respectful, proper manner, the more they start to stray away from the world of taboo and head back into reality right where they belong. Talking about these subjects as we’re constantly looking over our shoulders in secrecy does us zero justice in the long run. That hushed tone surrounding these topics will only stunt our growth and continue to cement them in the world of taboo.
Now to try and give this blog the proper justice it deserves in a comprehensible way, I’m going to break it down into 4 sections; My personal story with psychedelics (as I don’t think there’s a way around this one), the positive side of psychedelics, the negative aspect of psychedelics, and the current studies that are being taken place across the board with psychedelics like John Hopkins University, among other major universities, currently heading into Phase 3 trials of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy being used to treat end of life anxiety in terminal cancer patients, along with treatment-resistant depression and anxiety; MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) also going into Phase 3 trails of MDMA assisted psychotherapy being used to treat PTSD, anxiety, and depression; and Ibogaine being used to treat patients with drug and alcohol addictions and is showing to have anywhere from a 70-90% success rate on treating heroin addiction. Compared to the conventional treatments of heroin and their 15-35% success rates. This is only the tip of the iceberg in the world of psychedelics. Their integral role in healing has been around since the time of our earliest ancestors.
So please, all I ask is that you read this with an open mind and save all judgments/stigmas that you have towards psychedelics for the end.
“Consistent with hypotheses, lifetime classic psychedelic use was associated with a 19% reduced likelihood of past month psychological distress, a 14% reduced likelihood of past year suicidal thinking, a 29% reduced likelihood of past year suicidal planning, and a 36% reduced likelihood of past year suicide attempt. […] By contrast, lifetime illicit use of all other substances was by and large associated with an increased likelihood of psychological distress and suicidality at or above the trend level.” – Studies led by Peter Hendricks in the Journal of Psychopharmacology
Welp, my use of psychedelics is officially out there and it doesn’t go without extreme hesitation. My relationship with psychedelics has been on going for about 8 years now. Something that started out slow, shortly followed by it picking up steam, it has now slowed down dramatically. Almost exclusively to once a year to be exact. And that once a year is for no other purpose than to do “mental laundry” to try and sort through my shit. My first experience with psychedelics was with psilocybin and was an experience that went from pure bliss to pure hell all in the course of a couple of hours.
So now why would anyone who describes something as pure hell want to put themselves through that again? Pure hell and all, I knew there was more to that trip than just a unique experience. It was the first time I had ever viewed the world through that kind of perspective. To say the least, That trip shattered everything that I had learned growing up about how one is supposed to make it through life abiding by our cultural norms. It was also the first time I had ever objectively looked at myself like that. The first time I had ever taken a step outside of the ‘me’ that I had been lugging around day after day. The first time where the ego had dropped any sense of identification allowing me the insight to see that, “ohhh, so this is what we really have going on here.”
“You’re a universe. But you don’t know your own depth.” – Deca
One of the central occurring themes throughout every experience are moments of intense, introspective analyzation of one’s self. And let me say that while under the influence of psychedelics there is absolutely no hiding whatever is going on in your life. I know I say this a lot with meditation, and while it is true, meditation is dipping your toes in the water, and if it’s too cold, you can always pull your foot right out. Whereas psychedelics on the other hand, is like doing a swan dive only to find out the water is actually freezing. Swan dives are good for the soul though, don’t worry. So now, if you had to ask me why I enjoy psychedelics, it’s for that reason alone. Learning anything that I can from the experience, the help that you get with the releasing of old baggage that doesn’t serve you anymore, and integrating that experience into your life to help grow. Anytime I take psychedelics, to this day I think of it less as ‘tripping’ and more as “let’s get to work.” Psychedelics can absolutely be done in any setting that you desire and I’ve done them in most, so this isn’t me trying to take the moral high-ground saying that one way is better than the next. As silly as it may sound to anyone who’s never done psychedelics, I honestly view them as a cheat code that allows you to level up your human. So, to not take all the right precautions to help take full advantage of an experience that can essentially re-route your course for the better just seems like a waste to me. What might have taken five years, maybe even longer to come to terms with, can fundamentally be resolved or at least made consciously aware of by the end of a single session.
Here’s my analogy for a psychedelic trip: Think of the experience as a snow globe; your thoughts are the snowflakes, the use of psychedelics is the shaking of the snow globe, and the new rearrangement of the snowflakes is a shift in perspective. Before the trip, everything is calm. The snowflakes aren’t going anywhere. They’re stuck in their ways. Well, let’s go ahead and give that a good shake. Now, these snowflakes are going everywhere, your thoughts are going everywhere. To say that it’s not chaos for a little while would be a lie. But there you are, trying desperately to cling to ideas that you thought were undeniable, that there was no way things could be otherwise. And good luck trying to grab those snowflakes to put them back in the correct order that they were in before. While it may seem counter-intuitive to a good time, that is when the magic happens. That moment when you get the chance to look at every single thought through an objective lens. And god damn I can’t stress how important that is. Not just with psychedelics but throughout all of life. That person that did you wrong that you swore you could never forgive, or a particular belief you had about how the world works, those are just some of the many snowflakes that went from being cemented in place, to now having some wiggle room to examine its credibility objectively. One by one the snowflakes start to fall back to the ground slowly. This time in a new order. And unless that globe was shaken, there was no way that those snowflakes were going to rearrange.
“Author Daniel Pinchbeck, in his book Breaking Open the Head, describes Iboga/Ibogaine as “10 years of psychoanalysis in a single night.””
I guess if you’ve never done psychedelics before you’re looking at those words, “the good,” and are rolling your eyes. I know some of you did, too! I can feel it! “There is no good coming from psychedelics, are you mad, child?! You’re doing drugs for crying out loud! You’re getting high and are seeing things that aren’t there! You’re hallucinating!” First off, let’s just get this out of the way; I’ve never seen anything that wasn’t there while under the influence of psychedelics and have had more coherency the entire time during a psychedelic trip compared to making some of the worst mistakes of my life being blackout drunk. Or the most reckless and violent I’ve ever been under the influence of alcohol. Think about that one for a second.
In all seriousness, I’m beyond grateful for the introduction of psychedelics into my life merely for the positive role that they’ve played. (But not always and we’ll get to that next.) These next couple of paragraphs that I’m about to get into about my experience with psychedelics are purely subjective but not uncommon among most people who’ve done them before. Whereas the real positives of psychedelics, the aspect that is not subjective, not spoken through the words of a schmuck (I say schmuck with love), and has an actual concrete foundation in studies and science to back it up, that’ll be explained later.
Blows to the ego
There is nothing better than a psychedelic trip to chop down one’s ego. It’ll show you every weak link in your chain in a way that’s never presented itself to you before. And this isn’t a bad thing if that’s what you’re thinking. It may be tough to initially deal with if you’ve been ignoring those aspects of your life, but every once in a while, we need to get humbled. Absolutely everyone does. It’s nature’s way of keeping us in check, ya know? Not always will this happen with a trip. But if you’ve been avoidant to life, you’re about to be served the best piece of humble pie that you have ever had. Lame metaphor, I know. Sue me. Avoidant can also mean that maybe there’s just unconscious behavior hidden in there and there’s nothing wrong with that. Shine the light on it and make it conscious so you can start to integrate it and move forward. Psychedelics or not, growth is hidden in discomfort.
“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”
Man, a shift in perspective might be the most valuable take away from a psychedelic experience. Unlike other drugs (cocaine, heroin, meth) there are no addictive qualities when taking psychedelics and there LD50 (lethal dose) is nonexistent. And this doesn’t mean that there aren’t side effects, but these side effects are vastly different from the aforementioned drugs above and deal purely on a psychological spectrum.
One side effect that you will encounter, however, is a shift in perspective. A lifting of the veil on your current relationship with your view of reality. Maybe a realization that those thoughts and ideas that you’ve been desperately clinging onto don’t have to be held so tightly. Perhaps that shift in perspective helps you finally consciously become aware of a couple of life’s hidden truths. Or maybe there’s a realization that the career path that you’ve been heading down was only a coverup of fear to keep you from pursuing your real passion. When people hear this they get nervous. They get nervous that by doing psychedelics, it’ll show them ‘truth’ or make them realize that they’re not on the path that they truly desire. Good! While yes it can be a little nerve wrecking, but the way I see it is, if you’re doing everything correct it will only continue to fine tune those aspects of yourself. But for the areas that get the light shown on them only to find out that the foundation has been rotting this entire time, well I mean, shit. We were going to have to find out sooner or later. Right?
Why waste anymore time going down the wrong path? Two options here: Take the left road and continue on playing it safe as you slowly start to distance yourself from the core of who and what you truly are. If that’s your choice you can undoubtedly expect that feeling of discomfort start to grow into something that will soon consume you. Or, option two; Take the right path and maybe start fresh. Start from square one and take a chance on something. It’s not easy, but at least you had the courage to pump the brakes and switch lanes to the path that’s intended for you. You had the clarity to realize that the further you went down that wrong path, the further you were distancing yourself.
“Perspective shifts will unlock more than smartness will.” – Astro Teller
No question that by the end of a psychedelic trip you’ll be exhausted. It’s basically a mental marathon. Every corner of the human experience will have been covered. Think of it like a grandmaster lesson of life all packed into a couple of hours. The good, the bad, your fears, your desires, your career, death, relationships, the past, the present, and the future. So yeah man, safe to say that by the time you’re done you’ll have a new understanding of the word gratitude.
Gratitude first and foremost for the people in your life. You’ll have a new-found appreciation for the people closest in your life like you’ve never had before. I can absolutely guarantee that. Those relationships that maybe have been rocky will almost always have had a light shown on the chinks that need to start to be smoothed out. Let the healing process begin. You’ll also have gratitude for having been able to look at your life objectively. Even through meditation or deep introspective work, you’ll have never had the chance to observe your mind the way you do while under the influence of psychedelics. Earlier I talked about psychedelics being a cheat code and what I meant by that is once the experience is over, there’s this intense clarity that follows in the upcoming days that leaves you knowing exactly what comes next. What areas you need to start to improve on and the direction you’re going to head in to get it done. Without that integration of actualizing and moving things forward in your life of what you just learned though, it will have all been a waste. Integration is one of the most important things––if not the most important thing that is required after a trip, however long that may take.
So yeah, when I think about psychedelics, I can be a bit biased thinking of the good. But that’s not always the case . . .
“This is not to say that everyone should take psychedelics. As I will make clear below, these drugs pose certain dangers. Undoubtedly, some people cannot afford to give the anchor of sanity even the slightest tug. It has been many years since I took psychedelics myself, and my abstinence is born of a healthy respect for the risks involved. However, there was a period in my early twenties when I found psilocybin and LSD to be indispensable tools, and some of the most important hours of my life were spent under their influence. Without them, I might never have discovered that there was an inner landscape of mind worth exploring.” – Sam Harris
When it rains, it pours…
It should be noted that anytime you take psychedelics, you’re playing with fire. As blissful and as transcendent psychedelics can be, they can bring you to the absolute depths of hell in a matter of minutes and should not be taken lightly. A lot of these “bad trips” that can sometimes sneak up on you with psychedelics can be from a number of reasons, and I’m going to do my best to cover a few of the major ones.
Set and setting
Honestly, to me, this is probably the most significant factor of a trip going south. I find it extremely difficult for a trip to go south if this first box is correctly checked off the list. The more variables presented to you throughout a trip, the more chances for things to slip out of your control. So, if you’re someone who has a hard time letting go of control and going with the flow, then this can be a recipe for disaster and leads us to our next bullet.
Fighting what is
Whether a trip goes sideways from a change in set and setting, or through unwanted thoughts, that clinging to maintain control will only drive you deeper into the chaos. That feeling of letting go or being comfortable enough with things being out of your control is like a muscle that continually needs to be worked out. And I’m not saying that you need to take an eighth of shrooms to learn how to let go (but I mean, it’s probably not the worst idea). If a trip gets too intense and you’re unable to go with the flow however, this can lead to extreme paranoia, anxiety, onset of schizophrenia, or psychosis which can then lead to PTSD. It’s almost like a break in the brain from being unable to accept what is.
Being unable to accept too intense of a situation can lead to onset of psychosis (psychosis is an altered state of mind or a break from reality, that is often indicated by delusions and hallucinations) that can either last just for the duration of the trip or if severe enough, can have lasting effects of PTSD. Psychosis is a little more common than I think people realize and can be found on a broad spectrum anywhere from drug and alcohol abuse to the withdrawal symptoms, to sudden death in the family, or even from a bad break up. The other real possibility is the onset of schizophrenia. Most likely though this will only be an issue with someone who already has a predisposition for schizophrenia or any other mental disorder.
Now, this isn’t to scare you but more so to help make you aware of the absolutely real potential consequences of the negative side effects of psychedelics. To sit here and give you a fluff piece about how awesome psychedelics are with only positives would be a lie. I’ve experienced my fair share of the negative aspects of psychedelics and want to make sure that I cover both sides with complete honesty.
The last heavy hitter in the potentiality of a trip going haywire.
So, in the past couple of years the only times that I’ve ever experienced traumas that I had either long forgotten about from childhood or other emotional wounds that I was aware of but hadn’t completely had the courage to look directly in the face has either been from the use of psychedelics, or through meditation. And dealing with that through meditation alone can be devastating. Now let’s go ahead and factor in the reality that’ll you be in a different state of consciousness trying to deal with whatever comes up appropriately. Yikes.
But the caveat to this is that I don’t count this one as a full negative side effect.
The only way to get past unresolved trauma is to face it head on which is why I don’t count this as a total negative. Yes, it may be hard to deal with or can potentially leave you with a trip that went sideways, but had these traumas not been addressed, they will only continue to have control over you and your life. Yes, there are other ways that are probably a safer approach to dealing with trauma, but sometimes you need to face it head on. And with a dissolution of the ego, psychedelics help us look at our traumas from a place of safety and honesty.
“In this way we find once more things that we have repressed or forgotten. Painful though it may be, this is in itself a gain––for what is inferior or even worthless belongs to me as my shadow and gives me substance and mass. How can I be substantial if I fail to cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole; and inasmuch as I become conscious of my shadow I also remember that I am a human being like any other.” – Carl Jung
MDMA- Rick Doblin; don’t forget this name. Rick Doblin started up MAPS 26 years ago in hopes to get MDMA legalized in the use of treating PTSD through MDMA assisted psychotherapy. For years the FDA has continually denied Rick the recognition in the use of MDMA as an authentic form of treatment, and for years he’s fought back and presented his case in every way possible trying to show the FDA the potential benefits. And now with the FDA finally on board with Rick and the team over at MAPS, they’re currently heading into Phase 3 trials of MDMA assisted psychotherapy.
The FDA is now MAPS biggest ally strictly for the fact that they’re pro-science. That science specifically; MAPS heading into Phase 3 trials (200-300 participants throughout 14 different locations) after completing Phase 2 trials (Phase 1; demonstrate that what you’re proposing is safe. Phase 2; the first time you get to test your hypothesis with a randomized double blinded placebo control alongside continuing assessment for safety, and now for the first time you’re giving it to participants who potentially have the condition for which you believe the treatment is going to be sufficient. And Phase 3; more safety data alongside showing that it’s reproducible all over.) with 103 participants showing that 2 out of every 3 treatment resistant patients with PTSD has been cured by 3 sessions of MDMA assisted psychotherapy. And this isn’t a temporary fix. They’re finding with long term follow up that the patients are continuing to get cured. Most psychiatric treatments only address symptoms whereas MDMA assisted psychotherapy is about an actual cure. What might potentially take 10 years of psychotherapy to cure, can potentially be cured within a few sessions of MDMA assisted psychotherapy
So far, this treatment has cured PTSD in patients who have suffered from childhood sexual abuse, rape, war veterans (Vietnam included), drug/alcohol addictions, and much more. PTSD will wall off those traumatic incidents to protect from pain. So now people have a hard time remembering a lot about the incident because the emotions are so painful. The PTSD conflicts then get locked into patterns and are reinforced over the years, but it doesn’t mean that they’re permanent. Now under the influence of MDMA where the fear-processing part of the brain in the amygdala is reduced (in return this also focuses on self-acceptance and opening the heart), people are then able to remember more and more of the trauma which is extremely important because when these memories are unconscious memories linked with painful emotions, they have an influence on us, we’re just not aware of it. With the memories enhanced, this now becomes a crucial part in the healing process. Sometimes all it takes to get the ball rolling with the healing process is the ability to look at that forgotten memory through the eyes of your current self to be accurately processed.
Psilocybin (magic mushrooms) – Taken from the Heffter Research Institute website: “Our research has shown that, in a medically controlled setting with expert screening and preparation, psilocybin can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression often found in patients with a cancer diagnosis. Since 2003, Heffter has sponsored three completed Phase 2 studies—at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University, and New York University—with a total of 92 participants—all demonstrating statistically significant improvements with enduring effects for months after a single psilocybin treatment session.”
Just like MDMA heading into Phase 3 trials, the use of psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) assisted psychotherapy to help cure PTSD, anxiety, and depression is also heading in Phase 3 trials. The psilocybin therapies have also shown an 80% reduction rate in the use of nicotine and come this June they’ll be using the psilocybin for an OCD study and are interested in following it up with an eating disorder study down the road.
Remember how I said that taking mushrooms nowadays is looked less as a ‘trip’ and more as “lets go to work”? Well the participants of these studies are given the dose of mushrooms, a blindfold, and some ambient music, and then instructed to lay down under the supervision of two psychotherapists and are encouraged to look inward the entire duration of the experience. No talking, no questions, no activities, just them vs. themselves. If that doesn’t sound like work, then I don’t know what does.
“Psychedelics work well in the very aspects psychiatry is weak at in terms of addiction recovery, treatment resistant depression, chronic severe PTSD, and end of life transition issues.” – Dr. Dan Engle MD
Ibogaine – “Research has shown that a single dose of Ibogaine has a success rate of anywhere from 70% to 90% when it comes to immediately interrupting addiction to heroin, cocaine, methadone, alcohol, or other addictive substances. As far as long-term success, that often requires a greater commitment than just doing Ibogaine and expecting your life to change. The immediate effects of the Ibogaine treatment experience often reveal the underlying trauma that led to the addiction in the first place and helps the individual find some acceptance of self. Combined with a comprehensive aftercare program, Ibogaine treatment has the potential to help patients establish long-term abstinence from addictive substances.”
“As an Entheogen, Ibogaine has the power to help individuals find a greater sense of purpose, heightened spirituality, and connection. Often, the introspective journey provides clarity into the events that caused the deep pain and trauma in the first place and sometimes even allows the person to accept where they are without needing to understand–it is no longer important as the trauma no longer serves them…” – https://crossroadsibogaine.com/
The world is always going to be in a constant state of flux. To try to cling to any one way on how to make it to the end is foolish. What works for me won’t always work for you, and what works for you may not always work for me. But it’s crucial that we keep an open mind to weigh out all scenarios as honestly as we can. Maybe psychedelics aren’t your win which is totally fine. For me though, they’re one of my wins and the reason why I wrote this blog. Simply put, the profound role that they’ve played in my life while help in shaping me into the person that I am today, I will be forever grateful.
So, I hope that you read this with an open mind and even should you still have zero interest in ever trying psychedelics, I hope that maybe I’ve gotten your perspective to shift a little bit. Trauma is so very real to each and every one of us, and we need to have the open-mindedness courage that is necessary to realize that this old paradigm of “take this pill,” plus substance abuse, followed by constant deny, deny, deny, aren’t the correct ways to help us move past our traumas. They’re just the Band-Aids covering symptoms of a root cause that hasn’t been adequately addressed. Through proper science, we’re slowly realizing that there are drugs out there that are beneficial to us if used correctly. We need to have the courage to face our fears head on––objectively and as honestly as we can. Authentic change comes from within and nowhere else, but along the way, there will always be help.
Thanks for reading.
“I have two daughters who will one day take drugs. Of course, I will do everything in my power to see that they choose their drugs wisely, but a life lived entirely without drugs is neither foreseeable nor, I think, desirable. I hope they someday enjoy a morning cup of tea or coffee as much as I do. If they drink alcohol as adults, as they probably will, I will encourage them to do it safely. If they choose to smoke marijuana, I will urge moderation. Tobacco should be shunned, and I will do everything within the bounds of decent parenting to steer them away from it. Needless to say, if I knew that either of my daughters would eventually develop a fondness for methamphetamine or crack cocaine, I might never sleep again. But if they don’t try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in their adult lives, I will wonder whether they had missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience.” – Sam Harris Neuroscientist
All of these organizations are non-profit and are working hard to be an approved form of therapy. According to Rick Doblin, should Phase 3 trials go as planned, the FDA could approve MDMA treatment for PTSD as soon as 2021. So should you feel pulled to it or to help out, I left the thanks for donation down below.
Edited by: Patrica Hendriks