All it takes is a simple google search of “psychedelic therapy” to find endless articles on the new trend people are raving about: dropping acid (or mushrooms, or LSD) for improved mental health, focus, and creativity.
Once you notice it, it’s suddenly everywhere.
We crashed a friend’s book club where the featured book was Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind, a detailed look at how psychedelic drugs can help one “become more open” or “touch the face of God.” We heard from a woman going through a divorce as she went on a guided acid trip, coming out the other side free of resentment and negativity. We even watched Chelsea Handler in real time taking ayahuasca with a Shaman and professing her love for her sister as if she never realized it before.
To sum it up, drugs are having a moment.
The Death of the War on Drugs
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that psychedelic drugs are hitting mainstream. For decades, the War on Drugs told us that all drugs – cannabis, mushrooms, LSD and the like – are bad for us in every sense of the word. The funny thing about humans, though, is that we can be told the stove is hot but we still have to touch it anyway. Sure enough, over the last decade we’ve seen a societal shift in questioning this narrative, starting with cannabis. With recent state legalizations of the plant and the federal legalization of CBD, Americans are learning that contrary to previous claims, cannabis can be good for the mind, body, and spirit if used appropriately.
We went from believing all drugs are bad (believe me, I went to D.A.R.E. camp as a kid), to realizing that at least one is proving to be massively beneficial for our health. It makes perfect sense then to touch the stove again and see what other drugs might shake out positively.
Not to be Confused with Full-on Tripping
To us, the difference of a good and bad experience on drugs lies in the directive to “use appropriately.” This new wave of exploring psychedelic drugs for productivity or a boost in mental health often comes with one of two options: to use with the guidance of a skilled, trained counselor (psychedelic psychotherapy) or to microdose in such small quantities that a mind-altering trip is non-existent.
The Secret Sessions of Psychedelic Psychotherapy
Just like cannabis, the outlawing of psychedelic drugs in the 1960’s made for scant research into their effects and benefits. That said, we’re experiencing a shift in medical opinion on just how powerful psychedelic drugs (in conjunction with psychotherapy) can be.
MDMA, (a.k.a. ecstasy), is beginning its final phase of clinical trials with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psilocybin (a.k.a. magic mushrooms) was just granted a “breakthrough therapy” designation for treating depression, proving that it has such potential that the development and review process have been expedited. Other studies from the American Psychological Association found that “using hallucinogens led to improved emotional stability and fewer symptoms of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.”
All this is to show just how far the research and societal perception of psychedelics have come.
Unless or until we live to see the day of full legalization of psychedelic drugs, the underground world of psychedelic-assisted therapy will continue to grow. These guided ceremonies (sometimes called ‘sessions’) happen all across the country, especially in major cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. They are hosted in homes with anywhere from six to ten attendees alongside one or two professional, experienced guides and the drug of choice, most often Ecstasy, LSD, Mushrooms or Ayahuasca. Most novices arrive understandably nervous but, with the guide’s calm and steady hand to lead them through the process, they leave with a more enlightened, clear-headed, focused mindset.
Guiding itself has become a viable profession. “More Americans are seeking out safe, structured environments to use psychedelics for spiritual growth and psychological healing,” reports Vox. “It functions as a parallel mental health service and it’s evolving quicker than you’d expect.”
Microdosing for Everyday Productivity
The other use is a new productivity hack found in the working world: taking small doses of psychedelic drugs (otherwise known as “microdosing”) for focus, energy, and creativity. This is particularly popular in Silicon Valley, where tech engineers have graduated from Adderall to LSD, acid, or mushrooms in order to power through deadlines, think outside the box, and build that next billion dollar company. As the writers over at GirlBoss say, “The premise is simple enough: Take part of an acid tablet or pop a mushroom pill. Focus more, work harder, work longer. Build the next Uber, Airbnb, Soylent.”
Microdosing has become so widespread in Silicon Valley that there are well-known dealers and “microdosing coaches” who help clients achieve the best experiences from their small doses. Since these drugs are illegal, employers don’t officially condone the use of psychedelic drugs at work, but they’re not testing or seeking it out either.
The Future of Psychedelics
Looking forward, it’s hard to see a world where psychedelic drugs are non-existent. Unlike (perfectly legal) alcohol and cigarettes, one of the most striking findings about recent psychedelic research is that these drugs don’t appear to be addictive or have adverse effects. In fact, many researchers believe that these drugs, when used under the supervision of trained professionals, could revolutionize mental health care.
Take it from Gwyneth Paltrow, Founder of Goop and trendsetter of all things women’s health and wellness. When asked what she sees as the “next big thing” in wellness, Paltrow said: “I think how psychedelics affect health and mental health and addiction will come more into the mainstream. I mean there’s undeniably some link between being in that state and being connected to some other universal cosmic something.”
All in all, we’re at the precipice of a decision not unlike that of cannabis years ago: to continue to ignore medical research and keep psychedelic drugs illegal for everyone, or to provide education and support for a responsible, controlled, and positive experience for the mind, body, and soul. In other words, stubbornly cling on to the days of D.A.R.E. or open up our minds to another tool that could help us achieve a more balanced life.
References: American Psychological Association, Can Psychedelic Drugs Heal?; Vox, The Extraordinary Therapeutic Potential of Psychedelic Drugs, Explained; GirlBoss, Can Microdosing Really Help Us at Work?; Wikipedia, Psychedelic Therapy; IFL Science, I microdosed with LSD for a month and this is what it did to me