Psychedelics are not an integrated part of our culture in the West and as such they can be difficult to talk about. There is still social stigma attached to the topic, and even though they are increasingly gaining credibility and acceptance, they are still in many ways taboo.

How easily and openly you can talk about psychedelics of course depends on who you are talking to. If you have a very open minded friend then perhaps it is no problem to speak with them about your interest or experience with psychedelics. However, if you come from a conservative background then it may be very difficult to speak about with family members and even bringing up the topic might start ringing alarm bells.

Selective Sharing For Integration

When it comes to a successful integration of your experience, selective sharing is an important point. Just as you have certain friends that you might speak to about certain things like music or philosophy, in the same way you probably have friends that would be more open and receptive to the topic of psychedelics.

Choose carefully who you will share your experience with and how much you will share. The experience can lose some of its magic if not held properly by the listener. A highly skeptical or even mocking response can really dampen what was a very personally meaningful experience and detract from it’s power to catalyze positive change in your life. In some cases it may even cause you to doubt what you experienced and and be encouraged to brush it off as nothing more than a weird drug experience.

Know Your Crowd

Selective sharing should also take into account which aspects of your experience you choose to talk about. If you had a spiritual experience and you have a friend who is very firm in their material mechanistic worldview, then it may not be worth speaking to them about the spiritual aspects of your experience or connecting with the divine. Most likely it will be written off and rationalised by someone who at the end of the day did not experience what you experienced. However, you may be able to speak to that same friend about some of the positive changes you have felt since the experience. You could talk about how you feel or think differently and can even reference some of the science which has shown the changes that happen in the brain. Referencing some of the scientific research that has been done may provide a perspective on the experience that your friend will more readily trust.

 

With this in mind it may not be that with some friends you can speak about psychedelics with and others not. It is more a case of choosing how you speak about psychedelics with each individual.

Opening a Conversation

A good entry to a conversation about psychedelics is to ask a question. Rather than opening up with “I had an amazing experience last weekend on LSD“ you could open up with:

  • “did you ever try LSD?“
  • “did you have any experience with psychedelic drugs?“
  • “do you know anything about psychedelic drugs?“

Entering into a conversation this way is a good way of putting the feelers out. You can get a gauge on persons perspective without commiting yourself to anything and can proceed accordingly in the conversation. If it seems like you do not want to go any further you can say “oh I just read something interesting about it the other day and it got me quite interested.”

Choosing a time to share

If there is someone who you would really like to speak to but are afraid of their response, try to choose a time when they are in a more open and less judgemental state. Generally if someone opens up or shows a vulnerability to you then they will be in a more open frame of mind. Another good sign is when they are really listening to you and asking questions that come from a place of curiosity rather than challenge.

Shifting the landscape through conversation

Talking about psychedelics is an important part of shifting the cultural conversation around the topic and moving the psychedelic movement forwards. With that in mind I would like to share a quote from my friend and Altered founder Dax DeFranco from an interview I did with him back in 2017:

“I think the most important thing is to use and talk about them in an honest way. There’s a lot of talk about ‘coming out of the psychedelic closet’ – like I mentioned before, when you’re the only person who’s experimented with x, it’s hard to talk about it or make it a part of your identity, but the more people that do, the less pressure and fear others feel to identify that way. I think the simple act of being a psychedelic person who’s honest about being a psychedelic person is extremely powerful.”

Something I find very interesting is how perspectives change on a collective and societal level. At our current point of incredible and accelerating global change, many societal shifts are underway, and this is happening with attitudes towards different types of drugs too.

Very taboo ones, like psychedelics, are becoming more accepted, championed even, and party drugs like MDMA and ketamine are gaining respect as therapeutic treatments.

Perhaps the most obvious example of how quickly a collective attitude towards a drug can shift from negative to positive is that of marijuana. Not so long ago it had fairly firm connotations of lazy people and potheads, and now in the States, it is a legitimate and respected medicine prescribed by doctors, with that reputation making its way worldwide.

In the other direction, older ones that have long been accepted like alcohol are dying down. Many people are cutting back, or quitting altogether, and the young generation are not drinking nearly as much as those gone before, even as recent as the youth of 20 years ago. A great example of this trend is the rise in alcohol free beers.

I happened to walk past this bar this morning

Sugar is another one that seems to be on the decline, something that people seem to be more conscious of in their use. The fact that many people now even view sugar as a drug is notable and this is something I think we will continue to see.

Another one which is beginning to be viewed more as a drug is caffeine. More and more people seem to be cutting back on coffee and keeping an eye on their caffeine intake. The idea that people have coffee addictions would have seemed very strange to me just 10 years ago. Now it seems totally normal, and also totally understandable due to the jitters and anxiety that a high intake can bring. I myself am currently doing a 30 day coffee break this month (yes another 30 day challenge, I know 🙂 ).

What is Shifting Awareness and Social Acceptability of Drugs?

Awareness around mental and physical health is growing in general, as can be seen by the rise in the term ‘wellness’ which is at least in part as a response to rising rates of mental health problems. Also a big contributing factor is lots of good science and solid data, combined with thoughtful researchers and writers.

Recent examples that spring to mind are Michael Pollan’s best seller How To Change Your Mind, and The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes. Pollan’s book tells us before we even begin, through its subtitle, that psychedelics have something to teach us across a wide variety of topics, and Taubes title sets the tone, with the book basically concluding that sugar should be a controlled substance.    

New Categories Of Drugs

Another type of drug which is on the rise, and whose category bleeds into that of enhancer or supplement, is the nootropic. Nootropics are riding the wave of the rising trend of human performance and optimisation, and is linked to health as well as productivity. The category of nootropics is not that specific and could generally be termed as cognitive enhancers. As such it is wide ranging and includes things like medicinal mushrooms supplements, vitamin pills, and ‘study drugs’, such as modafinil. Because of its wide ranging term, it also includes drugs from other categories, such as coffee and microdoses of psychedelics.

What’s The Difference Between Drugs and Food?

An interesting discussion point made by both Terence McKenna and Michael Pollan is that of the distinction between food and drugs. Both affect our neurochemistry, our mood, health, energy, and sense of wellbeing. Both are consumed, as an external item into the body (this is where you would exclude exercise, for example, as a drug). Previously, one might have said that what is made in a lab is a drug and what is grown on land is food but the lines are blurring.

Some examples to consider the distinction:

  • Magic mushrooms
  • Processed food. Factory farmed meat.
  • The very idea of ‘organic’ food

Are mushrooms food or drug? If they have a psychoactive effect, do they stop being a food? If diet affects mood and how our mindbody organism operates, is food a drug? If standard coffee is a drug, is decaffeinated coffee not? If our food is created in a lab or factory, is it still a food?

I find this to be a very interesting topic and I think the changing attitudes to drugs are intertwined with changing trends and increased focus on nutrition and diet. This can be seen with the huge rise in veganism, and also in new ideas of diets, such as gluten free, lactose free, paleo, keto etc. In general we are paying much more attention to what we are putting in to our bodies and the impact it has on us.

Where will be in 20 years?

I think that psychedelics will continue to rise, as both a means of self exploration and a science backed response to the mental health crisis, and I’d also suggest that veganism will continue to rise, as awareness rises of the appalling conditions of exploited animals, and seeing as the environmental problems we are facing don’t seem to be going away any time soon.

As for the others, I really am not sure. Perhaps nootropics will usher us towards the next stage of our evolution and we will merge with tech in an transhuman stage of life on earth. Really, its anyone’s guess.

dennis mckenna conference

Last year I was lucky enough to meet the legendary Dennis McKenna at the World Ayahuasca Conference. As a huge and long time fan of his, it was truly a great moment in my journey in the psychedelic world.

So, in the presence of one of the most influential figures in the psychedelic world, what question did I ask?

Well, Dennis said it was a good question (yeah!) and didn’t disappoint with his answer.

You can hear my question and Dennis’ answer in the video below.

Video credit: Kate Kifa.

Thanks to ICEERS for organising such a great conference and granting me access to the media room.

P.S.
If you are looking for a great psychedelic book, check out The Brotherhood Of The Screaming Abyss. Absolutely one of my favourite psychedelic books, it is Dennis’ account of an incredible story. He honestly shares mistakes he’s made on his journey and tells tales with refreshing humour. It includes great chapters on Eliade and Jung, and is notably interesting in its documentation of how the psychedelic movement has developed in the West since the 60s.
Go, read!

ozora festival

Rausch is a documentary series by photographer Robert Funke which chronicles the present day use of psychoactive substances in society. Through Rausch, German for intoxication, Robert explores the myriad uses and settings of drug ingestion, including scientific, spiritual, therapeutic and recreational, and a wide range of substances, from LSD and other psychedelics to alcohol, heroin and cocaine.

imperial college london lsd psychedelic

Redecorated hospital room used in LSD studies at Imperial College London.

Rob has been collecting these photos over the last few years and I find the series provides great insight in to the relationship humanity has with drugs and altered states of consciousness. Drug use is as old as civilisation itself and this series explores the topic widely, offering a broad perspective of what can be considered ‘drug use’. Rausch also gives us an opportunity to visually visit some striking and surprising, lesser known settings.

I first met Robert online, and through an unwinding course of events, we are now flatmates and good friends. It brings me great pleasure to be able to present his work here on Maps Of The Mind.

In this post I present a just a few of my favourites. You can find the full collection on his website.

Enjoy the exploration.

santo daime ceremony ayahuasca

Santo Daime church ceremony in Germany’s Harz region. The sacrament of this syncretic religious community is Ayahuasca, a brew made out of psychoactive rainforest plants. The potion is used during fixed rituals for divine experiences, to heal and to strengthen the community.​​​​​​​

ozora festival

Goa-Festivals, like the OZORA in Hungary, are comparable to huge trance-rituals. Music and decoration imitate the neurologic effects of LSD. After hours of dancing to monotonous rhythm in combination with psychedelic substances, people get into a trance-like state.

imperial college london lsd psychedelic study

Another of the redecorated hospital room used in LSD studies at Imperial College London. This is where for the first time computer tomography scans were used to record brain activity while under the influence of LSD, and the impacts of music on therapy were investigated.​​​​​​​

poland therapist 2cb mescaline mdma

In Poland a group meet with the intention of using psychoactive substances therapeutically. Under the supervision of therapists, doctors and experienced attendants, they take Mescaline, MDMA and 2-CB on two consecutive evenings.​​​​​​​

maastricht university brain scan psilocybin

The active compound psilocybin, which occurs naturally in psychedelic mushrooms, is being researched at Maastricht University. Brain scans and cognitive tests are used to find out whether this substance can boost creativity and help change learned behavior patterns.​​​​​​​

You can see the rest of the collection here and more of Robert’s work at robertfunke.com
You can also find him on instagram.