mdma music playlists therapy

MDMA has long been known as a party drug but it’s effects have shown it to be an ideal tool for use in therapy. If you are planning a therapeutically oriented MDMA session and looking for a ready made playlist to use, this post contains links to two music playlists.

mdma effects therapy tool music playlists

Ben Sessa, speaking at Beyond Psychedelics 2018, explaining why MDMA is such a useful tool for therapy

Playlists:

1. Psychedelic Therapy Playlist 3 – Mendel Kaelen
2. Heart Playlist – Shannon Clare

Timeline and Dose

Similar to the psilocybin playlists, these have been designed to follow the arc of the drug’s effects. The music is more gentle at the beginning, then intensifies and becomes more evocative as the drug’s effects reach their peak. The music then winds down in sync with the drug, gently bringing the session to a close.

You will notice that these sessions are both over 5 hours, which is longer than the effects of a single dose of MDMA. That is because these playlists have been created to cover a session which includes a supplemental ‘booster’ dose. In most research studies, a full 125 mg dose of MDMA is taken at the start of the session, and then a booster dose of half that, 62.5 mg, is offered 1.5 to 2 hours later.

When I am doing an MDMA session, I will typically weigh out both the initial and booster dose before the start of the session. I make a note of the time of the first dose in my journey log, and set an alarm for 70 minutes later for the booster dose (I have personally found this to be the best timing for me). When the alarm goes off, I take a moment to check in with myself and make a decision on the booster. This timing extends the duration of the session by around an hour, without increasing the intensity. Due to the short length of MDMA’s effects, you might consider doing something similar.

Psychedelic Therapy Playlist 3 – Mendel Kaelen

  • Psychedelic Therapy Playlist 3: Spotify

Here is another one from Mendel Kaelen, who designed two psilocybin playlists for use at Imperial and now Usona. If you are especially interested in the role of music in psychedelic therapy and would like to learn more, I recommend keeping an eye on Mendel’s current project, Wavepaths, who are providing adaptive music for psychedelic therapy.

This playlist was originally created for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy studies at Bristol University, Imperial College London, and MAPS. It is a similar vibe to his psilocybin playlists, and even contains a few of the same tracks. I have not personally used it, as I generally prefer other styles of music with MDMA. However, a good friend of mine has and highly recommends. Also, knowing it’s from Mendel Kaelen, I’m sure it’s excellent.

Heart Playlist – Shannon Clare

Shannon Clare has been working in key roles in some of the most important modern day research involving MDMA. After graduating with a masters in Integral Counseling Psychology at CIIS, one of the leading institutes in psychedelic education today, she has worked a co-therapist in MAPS-sponsored clinical trials, researching MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with life-threatening illness. She has also served as the therapist training program coordinator at MAPS.

This playlist has a somewhat similar vibe to other modern therapy playlists, using similar styles of music, such as neo-classical, ambient, but also some more indigenous type music, including drumming and more traditional instruments such as flutes.

Shannon also has collections of music for various stages of a session in playlists on her spotify profile, such as Active, Returning, Inner Exploration, and Joy Peace. These can be very helpful if you’d like to make your own playlists. You can find more information about what role the music will play on the top of each’s spotify page. For example, the Active playlist contains ‘music that energizes or activates, may be evocative or stimulating, possibly triggering’.

As a bonus, Shannon also has a playlist called MDMA Mountain Magical Movement, which looks like a very fun one 🙂

I wish you wonderful journeys!

Music is such an integral part to the setting of an experience, so finding a good playlist is an important part of preparing. If you have any other playlists, please get in contact, I am always on the hunt for more!

Best of luck in your sessions!

psychedelic experience five 5 level scale

The Graeme Carl Scale is a five level scale for measuring the effects of a psychedelic experience.

I first came across the scale whilst doing dosing research for the New Moon psychedelic retreat project. Myself and co-founder Tuk needed a way to collect data on the strength of people’s experiences with psilocybin truffles, and we found Graeme Carl’s on Erowid.

We were aware of the Shulgin Rating Scale too, and to be honest thought that would be really cool to use, but it just wasn’t as practical and useable as this one.

We adapted a version for ourselves, making some small changes and additions, and splitting up the effects described at each level into cognitive, physical, and visual effects. It’s not a flawless categorisation of effects, but it has proven to be very useable.

Here is the adapted Graeme Carl Psychedelic Experience Scale:

Level 1

Visual

  • Brighter or clearer colours
  • Environment becomes more tangible

Cognitive

  • Some short term memory anomalies
  • Music and sounds become ‘wider’
  • Mild ‘stoning’ effect

Physical

  • No notable physical effects

Level 2

Visual

  • Things start to move and breathe
  • Some 2 dimensional patterns become apparent upon shutting eyes
  • You can control OEVs i.e. they only appear if you look carefully for them

Cognitive

  • Increase in abstract, novel, or creative thought becomes apparent
  • Confused or reminiscent thoughts
  • Continual distractive thought patterns, alternated with periods of focus

Physical

  • Body can feel heavy making standing up more difficult
  • Movement at times more difficult and balance can be off

Level 3

Visual

  • Very obvious visuals, everything looking curved and/or warped patterns and kaleidoscopes seen on walls, faces etc.
  • Some mild hallucinations such as rivers flowing in wood grained or ‘mother of pearl’ surfaces
  • Closed eye hallucinations become 3 dimensional
  • OEVs appear everywhere without any effort

Cognitive

  • Losing track of time concerning how long you have been tripping
  • Time distortions and ‘moments of eternity’

Physical

  • Movement at times becomes extremely difficult

Level 4

Visual

  • Strong hallucinations, i.e. objects morphing into other objects

Cognitive

  • Some loss of reality
  • Destruction or multiple splitting of the ego. (Things start talking to you, or you find that you are feeling contradictory things simultaneously)
  • Time becomes meaningless
  • ESP type phenomena
  • Blending of the senses: synaesthesia

Physical

  • Out of body experiences

Level 5

Visual

  • Total loss of visual connection with reality

Cognitive

  • The senses cease to function in the normal way
  • Total loss of ego
  • The actual universe within which things are normally perceived, ceases to exist

Physical

  • Merging with space, other objects or the universe
psychedelic experience five 5 level scale

The levels of the psychedelic experience scale are non-linear compared to dose, illustrated on Erowid.

Using the scale

Writing up a report after your experience can help to track your level of experience at different doses. This can give you useful data for future explorations. These reports can be kept in a journey log, AKA a drug journal.

Bear in mind that being on one level for one domain does not mean that it will be the same on another. For example, an experience could show level 2 effects on the cognitive, and level 3 on the visual. You can rate each level a different score, and then an overall, and this allows you to get a snapshot of the intensity at a glance. For example:

Cognitive: 2
Visual: 3
Physical 2
Emotional: 2

Overall: 2.3

Emotional effects aren’t included in the scale, so you can just do that one just based on your feeling. 😉

It may be that effects of more than one level can be felt. If that’s the case, score the highest domain at which effects were felt. For example, if you felt an increase in abstract thoughts (level 2) and were losing track of time (level 3), then score the cognitive level a 3.

You can read more about Graeme Carl’s Scale on Erowid here.

lilly psychonautic center

The Lilly Psychonautic Centre was a remarkable place. There was a special atmosphere in the air. There was a feeling of comradeship, of brotherhood and sisterhood in our shared vision and passion. We were explorers on the far reaches of consciousness, pushing the boundaries of the known, and dedicated in our mission of contributing to the sum of human knowledge.

The centre was first established in 2033. I was one of the founding members and eventually, a lead explorer. When we started out some people compared the centre to early experimental hippie communes, like Millbrook. In reality, it was much closer to places like the Kennedy Space Centre, or Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center: the facilities where astronauts did their training. We journeyed under tightly controlled conditions. We were systematic in our approach. Aside from a few experimental missions, we conducted all explorations under precise controls. 

Psychonauts were sent off in mission rooms; padded, soundproofed, insulated, zero gravity containers. We’d essentially removed all variables from the physical plane. We were linked up by intercom to talk to ground control, when relaying information or needing guidance.

Explorations began at precise times. Doses were administered into the bloodstream on the second. Before taking off, we had checklists we ran through that were spoken out loud, like the old airplane pilots.

Around the camp you could feel a deep sense of belonging. Though each of us journeyed alone, we were all part the same team. Everyone there was supportive and encouraging of each other. Sure, there were some rivalries, especially at the top level, between those who wanted assignments for the missions furthest and deepest into the verse, but mostly it was healthy and playful competition. We pushed each other on in ways that were conducive to our shared goals.

At the camp all of the psychonauts were on training regimes. We focused on all the aspects that were fundamental to being explorers. Physical conditioning was key. We underwent specific physical regimes and consulted with the best nutrition experts in the world. This kept our bodies primed to handle the vibrational changes and recalibration that deep journeying required.

Mindset training was core to our programme. We conducted various training sessions in pods and VR simulations. The simulations were useful, but they never compared to the actual journeys. The best preparatory work was actually done in the test runs that were run on lower doses. If not in sensory intensity, they were closer to the real missions in terms of headspace. The VR states could never quite capture that sense of expanded consciousness.

We had flotation pods around the camp for recovery. The type of sensory deprivation tanks that Lilly, our namesake and one of our forerunners, had invented. Upon returning from missions, it was obligatory to spend time in the pods to aid our bodies in recovery and to mentally decompress. Some of those conditions in the deeper spaces were bewildering, and psychonauts often came back confused and shellshocked. We tried to incrementally increase doses and account for safety, but when you are pushing on the furthest reaches of awareness, you can’t account for the unknowns you’ll encounter. The undiscovered terrain was precisely what we were intent on exploring.

To assuage the the worst of it, we had reorientation processes in place, and teams of therapists to help crews’ mental health. Everyone felt supported, and that was important. That sense of support emboldened some of our bravest explorers to keep going further, no matter how crazy it seemed.

We had teams of psyche-cartographers, who would aid in the creation of the reports once psychonauts got back. And we also had dedicated teams whose work it was to bridge the gap between individuals’ experiences. At first it was difficult, because we psychonauts were from all around the world, and the difference in our native languages made it almost impossible to translate into a single unified theory and map of the terrains we were uncovering. So we experimented with various forms of relaying and mapping the information once explorers returned.

In time, we developed our own vocabulary, our own terms, and eventually our own language. Looking back, some of those early terms were so primitive that they are laughable now, like the ‘quasi-quantum loop jumps’, ‘arche-psyche-spirals’, or the ‘nothing-beyond-nothingness field’. Early on we often borrowed words from old spiritual traditions and wove them in, where states of being seemed to overlap. But in time we found that we had to create new methods based on our own base vocabulary. In that way we even made advances in linguistics.

We had our skeptics early on. We started out before psychedelics had been uncovered as the next great tools for discovery, able to unravel key information that would help us to understand spiritual matters that science hadn’t yet been able to touch. At the time psychedelics were mostly used for personal therapy, there was a mental health epidemic and it was through that lens that they were rediscovered.

But when the findings that we brought back continued to hold up, it came harder and harder for people to deny the value of our work. We made significant contributions to breakthroughs in multiple other fields. We unlocked problems in quantum physics and mathematics. Some of our protocols were even adopted by NASA, as our funding overtook theirs.

By the very nature of our field, we were obliged to incorporate epistemology, and eventually we created a whole new field of knowledge. We had discovered our next great frontier as a species, and in doing so, we made the largest strides in the evolution of consciousness that life had undergone in millennia.

It was as much a scientific endeavour as it was spiritual. They were so deeply intertwined that it was impossible to say one was more important than the other. In time it became known that they were one and the same.

It was the most incredible time. We had some of the most curious minds and courageous souls in the world in that centre, and we all knew it. For all of us on site, there was nowhere else we wanted to be. We woke up every day with a sense of inspiration, adventure, and belonging. It was the time of our lives.

Looking back, I feel truly blessed to have been part of such an incredible, pioneering and revolutionary venture of our species, which ultimately lead us beyond our previous conceptions of what we thought it was to be human.

How little we knew.

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This retrospective report was transformed into old perception and translated into the English of 2021 to be sent back there as a vision of the future.

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Inspired by all the great explorers. Especially John C. Lilly, Kilindi Iyi and Christopher Bache.

Featured for day 24 PSYJuly 2021.

nitrous oxide gas c9 music connoisseur

Welcome to day 23 PSYJuly! Today’s guest post is fun romp through the wonders of nitrous oxide from my long time friend and main man Kieron Ramsay. I can personally attest that this is a man writing from hard won experience on the subject, and have had my share of explorations alongside him. Without further ado, over to Kieron…

Mindful Use of Nitrous Oxide

C9s have the power to transform your reality inside out in the blink of an eye. In a short space of time, everything you know disappears. You surrender your connection to the real world to embark on a rocket ship that takes you to the brink of consciousness and back again.

You will not return empty-handed. You will have a gift, a souvenir, a revelation that you will feel compelled to share. However, when you try to talk about your new life-changing discovery, the words that feel like they are on the tip of your tongue desert you.

We call them C9s because they make you feel like you are floating on cloud 9.

It is a cruel trick of Nitrous Oxide (N2O); revelations do not come back from the other side with you. Stopped by the minds inability to express the abstract nature of the experience. When you attempt to describe it, the meaning gets lost like a hazy dream. In other words, it cannot be explained; it must be experienced first hand.

Welcome to the world of N2O

This is a celebration of the fun and fleeting world of Nitrous Oxide. I want to share with you some tricks and tips that have taken my laughing gas enjoyment to the next level. Over the years I have done my fair share of playful experiments, and hopefully, I can open your mind to the potential within those little canisters.

What is in those canisters?

Nitrous Oxide (N2O), also called Dinitrogen Monoxide, laughing gas, or nitrous, a colourless gas with a pleasant, sweetish odour and taste, which when inhaled produces insensibility to pain preceded by mild hysteria, sometimes laughter. (Because inhalation of small amounts provides a brief euphoric effect and nitrous oxide is not illegal to possess, the substance has been used as a recreational drug.)*

Misconceptions

Nitrous oxide has a negative reputation for many people. The general view of N2O is that it is a childish endeavour, where the users are dangerously having a good time at the expense of the environment. I hold nothing against anybody that wants to have a good time, but it does break my heart to see these little metal canisters all around towns, cities and the country.

However, I would beg for you not to let the behaviour of those youngsters cast judgement on these little canisters. Likely, those young whippersnappers are also consuming alcohol with the same disregard.

Without being snobby, there are levels of appreciation and respect that we give to our drugs, poisons and drinks that we use to alter our minds. N2O has the ability to transform my reality and alter my perception of the universe. Therefore, I should be treating this psychoactive experience with my utmost.

Do you think a connoisseur of whiskey lets some spotty adolescent dictate how they drink? I don’t think so.

So why would you do the same when it comes to the N2O? Most people will try it a few times, feel a little dizzy and enjoy that feeling. I am here to tell you that there is way more to it than that.

Mindless vs. the connoisseur

People enjoy alcohol in different ways and the same goes for Nitrous. One way is a means to an end; mindlessly getting as drunk as possible, as quick as possible. It is similar to thoughts of someone huffing a balloon, surrounded by a group cheering them on.

Compare this to the refined whiskey drinker who sips their poison with a sense of purpose. They take time to savour the experience because they appreciate its value.

A connoisseur of C9s would have a private, comfortable space. Ideally, with friends and a pre-loaded piece of music to enjoy. They would be high enough that their mind is lucid and feeling relaxed. Once everyone has a swollen balloon to the tune of 2 canisters, they say cheers by bashing their balloons together with a knowing smile. The person who picked the music informs everyone of the optimum time to start inhaling. (Read below to find out why).

What happens when you inhale a gas

From my non-scientific, anecdotal knowledge, as you inhale the gas over and over again, it short term displaces a certain amount of oxygen and replaces it with N2O. This combines with the breathing in and out of a balloon which causes you to hyperventilate. It seems like there is then a moment where all reality is out the window.

This moment is fleeting and probably lasts no more than 30 seconds. That might seem short to the sober mind, but to someone who is under the spell of N2O, it is everything.

You are somewhere between a dream world and the conscious world. In this space, your mind is trying to interpret how you feel and what is going on around you (that is why music is so powerful in this scenario. Imagine if you could clear your thoughts and let the track of your choice dictate your mood).

Music

If we are going to talk about how to get the most from your gassy enjoyment, then we need to talk about when you add listening to music at the same time.

I think music and N2O work so well together because music is a powerful tool that can work wonders on the mind.  Music has the power to stimulate many different areas of the brain, and while under the influence of nitrous they combine to produce an intense feeling that can teleport you into a different time and place.

It gives your mind an anchor from which you can build thoughts or emotions. When you consider that you are coming back from the brink of consciousness, it can have a powerful effect on your thoughts.

Different genres, rhythms, instruments all have their place and are worth experimenting with. However, one thing that is consistent, is volume. Best served loud; there is normal volume and then there is gas volume.

Having the music louder creates an immersive feeling. Although you must be mindful that it isn’t too loud. The last thing you want is to crank it up so loud that the neighbours are banging on the door asking you to turn it down. That is no way to come back to reality.

5 of my favourite tracks to have a gas to are;

The Chain – Fleetwood Mac
Heroes And Villains – The Beach Boys
The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill -The Beatles
Ice Cream – Battles
Spanish Sahara – Foals

Something else to consider is that there may be some sections of a track that have more optimum time for tripping. If a track builds up to a particular crescendo, breakdown or satisfying bridge that you enjoy, you should start inhaling 30 seconds before that starts. E.g. The Chain, by Fleetwood Mac has a tempo change at 2:48 (when to start inhaling), which is roughly 30 seconds before the famous bassline brings the rest of the band into a solo.

A rough how-to guide

As a minimum, you will need a gas gun, a balloon (bigger the better as it is less likely to burst) and at least 1 N2O canister (my preference is having two canisters in one balloon). Place the balloon over the top of the nozzle, ensuring that you create an airtight seal with your hand. Once everything is in place, pull the trigger until the canister has emptied and the balloon is full.

Then lie back or make sure you are seated in a comfortable position. Once you are ready and the music is cranked up to gas volume, put the balloon to your lips (I like to pinch my nose to maximise the effect of the gas). Then start inhaling from the balloon, then exhale into the balloon (you can experiment with rhythm and different breathing techniques). Repeat this until you are done. How will you know if you are done? That’s easy – if you come round feeling that you have had your mind blown, it is safe to say that it worked.

Experiment

I have found the C9s to be a mixer that every serious drug taker should consider having in their arsenal. Like Coca-Cola, it is tasty on its own. But you can also mix it with other delicious things to make a more interesting experience. It is the same with gas. Try it when you are stoned! Try it on acid!! Then try it stoned and on acid!!!

There is a whole world of endless possibilities ready for you to explore. Forrest Gump said, Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you are gonna get. If Forrest had found nitrous oxide, he probably would have said, Life is like a gas; you never know what you are gonna get, but I am glad I had a gas. Load the next one up.

I encourage you to try and experiment with different scenarios to see what works best for you. Play around and have fun with it, I guarantee it will leave you curious and thirsty for more. So go on and explore with a dash of finesse – the balloon is your oyster.

References

*Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Nitrous oxide”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 30 Aug. 2019, https://www.britannica.com/science/nitrous-oxide. Accessed 21 July 2021.

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About Kieron

Kieron Ramsay is a writer, adventurer and explorer. Read more of his adventures at www.kiramusu.com or follow him on Instagram.

psychedelic menus options activities session

Welcome to PSYJuly day 22! 🙂

Yesterday I wrote about psychedelic sessions that are focused on one specific theme. However, sometimes it’s nice to be more flexible and take an open-ended approach, without any fixed plans for the session.

That said, it can still be nice to have some options available to us, rather than going in completely empty handed. That’s when a session menu can be helpful.

What is a session menu?

A session menu is a list of activities that are available to you during your session. At a glance, it gives you options for things you might like to do.

Remembering things can be hard when high. A menu is useful in that you don’t have to remember your options during the session. It holds them all in one place for you. The menu can act like a butler, who asks you ‘what would you like to do now? Do any of these options interest you?’.

Depending on your tastes and the day, menus might look very different to different people. 

Here is an example of a menu:

  • consult I Ching
  • Listen to new Tame Impala album (I often save first album listens for sessions)
  • meditate
  • brainstorm dreams and goals
  • draw
  • guitar

Other items I have seen on friends menus have included: take photos, dance, have sex, watch documentary.

Really, you can include anything. I have a friend who likes to look at profound quotes during his trips. Another likes to draw a tarot card. In both these cases, they find that they are able to connect more deeply to the meaning and message .

Creating a Menu

Writing up a menu can take as little as two minutes before starting a session, and you then have it there for your reference throughout. Depending on the items on your menu, you might need a little extra time to ready any necessary materials before the session starts. Once settled into your session, you can take a glance at the menu and see if anything takes your fancy. 

You might also have menus for different purposes. Here is an example of a chill out menu I made in the form of a deck of cards. I have it around in case I or others feel uncomfortable or agitated.

chill out deck menu

My Experience

I use menus on various kinds of sessions: both solo and with friends, introspective and recreational. I find them to be very useful and a nice reminder to check in and think: ‘what would I like to do now? Where do I want to go next?’. 

On one session with a friend, after riding the stormy come up and settling into an LSD and MDMA session, we gathered ourselves, then sat down and looked at our menu together. We had a list of fun activities for us to explore together before our eyes. I looked at him and said;

‘Is there anything here you’d like to do? We have the whole day ahead of us’.

Smiling, he took a moment, ‘you know, this is actually quite a nice situation to be in.’

Free time, with a friend, enjoying the wonders of life, and a beautiful psychedelic menu in front of us. All that was left to do was pick one and enjoy!