From entertainment figures to famous scientists, many important and influential individuals have experimented with psychedelic substances. Ancient civilizations often placed great cultural significance on these entheogens for their therapeutic, religious, and spiritual practices, and this diverse and rich palette of psychedelic use has colored human history.
Fast forward to the 1960s, these same mind-altering substances gained popularity in the counterculture movements of the West as a means of self-exploration and creativity. Famous figures of this time, like the Beatles, began broadcasting their love of hallucinogens like LSD and magic mushrooms.
In recent years, psychedelic research has yet again picked up after being banned in the 1970s from the Controlled Substances Act, because people are beginning to recognize the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
Recent studies show promising results for the treatment of mental health disorders like PTSD, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. From microdosing for work performance to tripping to heal trauma, we want to cover unexpected famous figures who decided to partake in the mystery of mind-altering substances. Let’s start the countdown!
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6 Actors Who Took a Trip on Psychedelics
1. Aubrey Plaza
First on the list is Aubrey Plaza, White Lotus and Parks and Rec actress, who is always full of jokes and strange anecdotes. On The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert, she recounted a story of taking psychedelic mushrooms with her co-star Meghann Fahy.
The pair apparently had a whimsical and funny experience getting lost in Italy while on a low dose of magic mushrooms, and it didn’t sound like her first rodeo. “Mushrooms are really good for depression though,” she added at the end, and we are pretty sure she wasn’t joking.
2. Kristen Bell
Many know her from the show The Good Place or as the voice of Anna from Disney’s Frozen, but she has had a full and successful career since her days on Broadway. More recently, this comedy actress came out about her struggles with depression, anxiety and long history of medication use for her mental health struggles (which she still uses).
She recounted that after reading Michael Pollan’s “How To Change Your Mind,” she became “really interested in doing mushrooms” for her 40th birthday and had her husband, Dax Shepard, trip-sit for her. She recounted that taking psilocybin helped her better appreciate and change her relationship with her body. We love that for her!
3. Chelsea Handler
The actress, comedian, and talk show host, Chelsea Handler, has actually been extremely public about her stance on and use of psychedelics, especially microdosing. In one episode of her Netflix show, Chelsea Does, she traveled to Peru and took ayahuasca.
She said later in an interview that the experience “was very much about opening [her] mind to loving [her] sister, and not being so hard on her.” So sweet! Life Will be the Death of Me is her podcast where she discusses more in-depth about her personal experiences with psychedelics and the therapeutic benefits of ketamine and other hallucinogens.
Taking it back to the 1950s, this actor was a star in the public eye as a true embodiment of classiness and success. Many people were shocked when he publicly declared that LSD psychotherapy “saved his life.” He initially went to see Dr. Mortimer Hartman after his wife, Betsy Drake, swore by the LSD treatments he was offering.
In those days, psychedelic research was still allowed, and the stigma surrounding those substances had not quite developed in full force yet. Regardless, the story goes that Grant had over 100 LSD trips and experienced a mental health breakthrough, and with that number, we are not at all surprised.
5 Musicians Who Got Creative on Hallucinogens
7. Paul Simon
Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel (according to Carrie Fisher) was no stranger to psychedelics either. One of his songs “Spirit Voices” is said to be fantastically inspired by his experiences on ayahuasca in the amazon. Simon is known for his experimentation with South African, Latin and Mesoamerican traditional elements in his music.
9. Kacey Musgraves
He got his start as the lead singer of The Police, but recently Sting made a cameo in the Netflix documentary Have a Good Trip. He said, “I don’t think psychedelics are the answers to the world’s problems, but they could be a start.”
He had possibly one of the most eventful (and special) trip accounts in which he felt nature come alive, contemplated mortality, and helped a cow give birth while on peyote (yes, there was a witness).
12. Miley Cyrus
The wild child, actress, singer, songwriter Miley Cyrus, has plenty of stories on her psychedelic experimentation. Her favorite drug was apparently ayahuasca, which she did with the lead singer of Flaming Lips.
She described ayahuasca as healing, and said that she saw snakes and was taken to “Mother Ayahuasca,” which is actually a pretty common experience while on the substance. In the past, she has been open about her use of marijuana and her preferences for “uppers”. However, more recently she decided to scale back on her drug use and focus on her career and health.
4 Scientists with Psychedelic-Induced Genius
13. Francis Crick
You may not know the name, but you certainly can appreciate his genius. A Nobel Prize-winning biophysicist and neuroscientist, he is one of the key minds behind discovering the double helix, the structure of DNA.
As the story goes, Crick was tripping on LSD when he “discovered” the double helix. Like with many stories though, there isn’t much proof that this is true. Many other great minds were developing theories on the double helix before or around the same time, so its construct can’t really be credited to a single person.
While we don’t know for sure if there was a breakthrough LSD revelation, we do know that he was known for taking LSD regularly and that he was a man of great intelligence who aided many great scientific discoveries of his time.
14. John C. Lilly
His claim to fame was two things: isolation tanks and dolphins (yes dolphins). I’m sure you can see the connection there. Lilly developed the idea of the isolation tank through a desire to explore human consciousness free from sensory input. His love of dolphins also included trying to develop a way for humans and dolphins to communicate.
Many of his adventures included LSD, and, in fact, he even wrote a book all about his psychedelic experiments called Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer.
15. Kary Mullis
Inventor of the process known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Kary Mullis, was a Nobel-Prize winner in chemistry. Not without his quirks and controversies, he was known for being argumentative and for his unpopular views on climate change and the role of HIV in forming AIDS.
He synthesized and experimented with LSD and other hallucinogenic substances at UC Berkeley much like an evil genius, with his operation being underground, metaphorically speaking.
16. Humphrey Davy
Picture this: a pre-victorian inventor and chemist engineers an air-tight breathing box for him to inhale massive amounts of nitrous oxide. In an elaborate do-it-yourself manner, he made his own “laughing gas,” as he himself coined it, and did so in the name of scientific and self exploration. Surprisingly, he still managed to invent the field of electrochemistry by being the first to isolate many different elements.
3 Writers Who Found Meaning in Mind-Altering Drugs
17. Jean-Paul Sartre
A French philosopher and writer who coined the term ‘existentialism’. Much of his work consisted of topics on unlearning bourgeois culture and reaching a state of authenticity through unlearning the repressive effects of socialization.
In one of his trips on mescaline, he reportedly saw a lot of lobster-like creatures and had an unpleasant experience, but then stated later on that he really liked mescaline. We aren’t sure what to make of that, but it’s probably safe to assume it was existential.
18. William James
Not only a beautiful American writer but also a foundational 19th-century philosopher, James is known for his contributions to the fields of philosophy, psychology, and spirituality. His writing blends together seemingly opposing ideologies of science and religion, and part of what made this possible was his use of nitrous oxide, which he discussed in an anonymous article.
“I myself made some observations on…nitrous oxide intoxication, and reported them in print…It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it…there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.” Only William James could make laughing gas seem classy.
19. Deepak Chopra
Bringing it back to the present day–Deepak Chopra is a beloved spirituality and wellness author and philanthropist. As an alternative medicine advocate, he has aided in bringing more positive awareness to psychedelics like magic mushrooms and lsd, claiming that his interest in the mind-body connection led him to be curious about psychedelics.
Some of these experiences have included participating and residing over ayahuasca ceremonies and taking LSD in a lab setting, in which he stared at a Mother Teresa image for hours. His experience was so profound that he said he was, “filled with a deep, deep compassion and desire to alleviate suffering, which never left.”
2 Business Magnates Who Dabbled in Hallucinogens
20. Steve Jobs
Odds are, you are reading this on your iPhone. It is safe to say that Steve Jobs is arguably one of the most influential figures in American history. As co-founder and CEO of Apple, he wasn’t shy about giving due credit for his success to his dabbling in psychedelics, and he had a lot to say about LSD specifically.
“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life … It reinforced my sense of what was important — creating great things instead of making money.” It’s not everyday that you hear of a billionaire blatantly praising psychedelics for their success-ridden outlook on life, but Steve Jobs certainly served up many statements like this one.
21. Bill Gates
Bill Gates is known as a private man, however, in spite of that privacy, he is still a household name, especially when topics of wealth and power arise. Gates was a billionaire by 38 from co-founding Microsoft, of which he later became CEO. In 1994, he did an interview with PlayBoy where he answered some personal questions about his experience with LSD.
“The young mind can deal with certain kinds of gooping around that I don’t think at this age I could. I don’t think you’re as capable of handling lack of sleep or whatever challenges you throw at your body as you get older. However, I never missed a day of work.” Ironically, he was only 39 at the time of this interview, but you have to respect his dedication.
Two Honorable Mentions Who Allegedly Took Psychedelics
22. Elon Musk
Now here is a man with a long and interesting resume. Musk is the second wealthiest person on the planet according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Most people know him as a business magnate and CEO of Tesla, Inc., but his quirky demeanor and love for space exploration, tech, and artificial intelligence has landed him as one of the more interesting billionaires.
Elon has all but explicitly admitted to using psychedelics himself. His public endorsements and history of frequenting Burning Man lead many to believe that he is a seasoned psychonaut.
His company, Space-X, had to be drug tested for a year, all because he smoked weed on The Joe Rogan Show. We are sure his tweets and interviews endorsing psychedelics probably didn’t help either.
Here is another Nobel Prize-winning, brilliant theoretical physicist who did extensive work in the field of quantum mechanics, quantum electrodynamics, and particle physics. Given that he was a close acquaintance of John C. Lilly, it’s probably safe to assume that he had plenty of psychedelic experiences. In his book, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, he said:
“You see, I get such fun out of thinking that I don’t want to destroy this most pleasant machine that makes life such a big kick. It’s the same reason that, later on, I was reluctant to try experiments with LSD in spite of my curiosity about hallucinations.”
We can’t say we blame him for worrying about the destruction of his brilliant mind, but we doubt some mind-altering drugs would’ve hurt anything. His statement was vague enough, however, that we had to bump him down to the “allegedly” section.
After hearing the incredible and eventful experiences of many influential figures, it’s hard not to imagine the profound effects of psychedelics on personality, creativity, and mental and emotional health. It is important to experiment with psychedelics in a safe way, with proper support and setting, and with adequate preparation and integration.
We at Psychedelic Passage connect psychedelic seekers with our network of pre-vetted psychedelic guides who specialize in harm-reduction, navigating the psychedelic landscape, and helping your experience be transformative. If you are interested in having a safe and profound mind-altering experience, book a call with a psychedelic facilitator in our network today.
If you are intrigued by the topics touched on in this article, check out our resources page for more information and articles on psychedelic research, preparation, and integration topics.