A Guide on How to Choose The Right Psychedelic Substance

From Netflix to books to 60 minutes, psychedelics have been in the spotlight more recently than ever before and there is good evidence that this trend will continue. Backed by a wealth of scientific research showing the mental health benefits of psychedelics, it’s only a matter of time before legalization becomes a reality. 

Cannabis and ketamine have come a long way in terms of legality and other psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA are following suit. LSD, ayahuasca (DMT), and other psychedelic drugs are currently undergoing clinical trials, a promising step towards potential legalization and regulation. And other psychedelics that aren’t prevalent in the American public awareness are still valued in different areas around the world, particularly indigenous religious and spiritual cultures

With this newfound appreciation, it’s no wonder you want to harness the power of psychedelics. There are a variety of psychedelic substances and each of them is different in terms of form, potency, intensity, duration, effects, and benefits. Some are synthetic while some are 100% natural and plant-based. Some are legal and some are not. 

With scattered information and so many options, how will you know which psychedelic substance to consume? How do you know which one is best for your unique mind and body? How much do you take? How do you engage with these substances safely? With all of these questions, it is apparent that choosing the right psychedelic substance is a multilayered decision.  

This guide will help you select the right psychedelic substance for you and your desired outcome. It will also cover some history, context, standard dosage, and what one may expect for seven of the most well-known psychedelics. 

hand holding compass, how to choose the right psychedelic substance guide

Regardless of which substance you plan to work with, it’s vitally important for you to feel professionally supported on your quest to use psychedelics for personal wellness. This is why we started Psychedelic Passage. Without further ado, here is our Guide on How to Choose The Right Psychedelic Substance. 

Cannabis

History

Cannabis’ history as a medicine is a long one—likely dating back more than 2,000 years. More recently, California charged the way towards legalization in passing medical cannabis legislation in 1996. At the time this article was written (2020), there are 11 states (plus the District of Columbia) where cannabis use is legal recreationally, over 30 states that have medical cannabis programs, and a number of other decriminalized states. Suffice it to say that we have come a long way over the past few decades!

Cannabis use has increased over recent years, making it the most popular drug in the United States. The leafy plant can be smoked, extracted into oils for vaporizing, or further cooked for ingesting, with effects varying slightly depending on usage modality. 

Pharmacology

The psychoactive components are called cannabinoids, and the primary component, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is mainly responsible for the resulting “high”. However, the other 100+ cannabinoids (the most well-known being cannabidiol, or CBD for short) can synergize to create more compounding benefits depending on the combination. 

Recent studies also suggest that terpenes (the compounds that produce smells) also affect the high. Though typically classified as indica (body-high), sativa (head-high), and hybrid (somewhere in-between), this structure is rather limiting. Cannabis strains, depending on their cannabinoid and terpene profiles, have a wide spectrum of possible effects and users are now seeking highs that can improve energy, sleep, relaxation, and even sex.

Therapeutic Benefits

Medicinally, cannabis is used to help with a range of conditions. These include nausea, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, epilepsy, pain, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, depression, and degenerative neurological conditions, among many others. Additionally, cannabis assisted therapists are available around the country to help people use cannabis as a tool to explore and process underlying thoughts and feelings. 

Best For: Cannabis is best for those who are totally new to any sort of mind altering substance, as it is the mildest psychedelic presented in this guide. In fact, from the shamanic perspective, cannabis is actually considered an “ally plant”, whereas the other plant-based substances in this guide are considered “teacher plants”.  

Cannabis can help introduce you to altered states of consciousness. Cannabis often provides a fresh perspective and a tangible movement of energy throughout the body. 

man smoking joint, cannabis pharmacology and therapeutic benefits

Dosage 

The recommended dose varies depending on the product category (flower, oils, edibles) as well as consideration for treating specific medical conditions or for personal, recreational use. Overall, dose will largely depend on what type of strain is being consumed as some strains will have different cannabinoid and terpene profiles. For those looking to experience relaxation, euphoria, and slight changes in perception without overwhelming the senses, smaller doses (<5 mg THC) are recommended—particularly for beginners. 

If you’re looking for more information regarding cannabis dosage, we’ve put together a comprehensive dosage guide. This guide will help you choose the correct dosage based on your desired effects. 

Accessibility

Fortunately, with recent changes in the U.S., you can now legally purchase and use cannabis in many states. However, we understand that there is an overwhelming amount of product options in legal states with little to no guidance on how to choose the right products for your needs. 

A knowledgeable customer care representative can also answer questions such as how the cannabis was grown or extracted and the perceived effects of the high. Our best advice is to buy from legal sources as they are usually required to test their products for cannabinoid profiles as well as pesticides, contaminants, mold, and mildew. 

Next Steps

If you’re interested in a further exploration into how cannabis can help you with anxiety disorders, insomnia, or mood swings, we can connect you with a vetted and knowledgeable psychedelic coach who can give you actionable advice. It’s quick, easy, and the first step towards a new relationship between cannabis and your psyche. 

Ketamine

Therapeutic Benefits

Ketamine isn’t as widely accessible as cannabis, but its use in therapy has been just as noteworthy. Traditionally used as an anesthetic, alternative applications of ketamine have shown promising results in relieving symptoms of treatment-resistant depression, social anxiety disorder, chronic pain, and more. 

Correct dosage, set, and setting can produce positive effects like euphoria, increased energy, sense of calm, and reduced pain. It can even provide meaningful spiritual experiences and an enhanced sense of connection with the self and the world at large. In the therapeutic setting, these effects can be used to explore normally unconscious emotional material—which may contribute to long-term healing. 

kaleidoscope woman face, ketamine therapeutic benefits

Ketamine is a dissociative psychedelic, meaning that it can impair motor function and distort the perception of sound and time. Supervision is highly recommended, as is avoiding alcohol, operating machinery and tools (from driving to cooking to even using scissors), and physical activity such as running or swimming. 

Best For: Ketamine’s potential for treating depression is quite promising and it is considered nothing short of a wonder drug in today’s psychotherapy community–specifically with regards to severe and treatment resistant depression. The other benefit to ketamine is that it’s the only drug on this list (besides cannabis) that can be legally administered in a therapeutic setting. This means it’s a great choice for those who are looking for traditional psychedelic assisted therapy.

Dosage

Though a clinical setting under direct medical supervision is currently the only legal method of accessing ketamine, dosage and route of administration matter regardless of context. Dosages range from intravenous infusions of 0.25 mg to up to 200 mg when insufflated (snorted). Oral lozenges and intramuscular injection are other common routes of administration. 

If you’re looking for more information regarding ketamine dosage, we’ve put together a comprehensive dosage guide. This guide will help you choose the correct dosage based on your desired effects. 

Accessibility

Though legal ketamine assisted therapists are popping up across the country, these options can be quite expensive when used for long-term treatment. Rather than relying on just the substance itself, we believe in using ketamine as a tool in conjunction with shamanistic coaching practices. 

Our coaching program can help you vet out the right treatment options as well as provide long-term support services so you can get the most out of your ketamine experience. If you want help exploring your consciousness and discovering new pathways to healing, we are here to help. 

Psilocybin

Psilocybin is a psychedelic compound that is found in more than 200 mushroom species, collectively known as psilocybin mushrooms. Psilocybin has been decriminalized in three US cities and is well on its way to becoming a legal therapeutic tool. 

Therapeutic Benefits

Many who use psilocybin report it as one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives. The mystical and spiritual experiences associated with psilocybin have been evidenced throughout history, particularly within indigenous cultures who have used magic mushrooms as a tool for healing and communicating with the gods. While use has varied amongst several different tribes and cultures, some of the methods from indigenous and shamanic psilocybin use have contributed to the practices used in clinical and retreat settings today. 

Best For: Currently considered a breakthrough therapy by the FDA, psilocybin has demonstrated a particular ability to address both treatment-resistant depression and major depressive disorder. Other mental health issues like anxiety disorders, OCD, and substance abuse have also found a common solution in psilocybin. We also like using psilocybin for general healing, wellness, and self-actualization.

woman laying in dark room, psilocybin therapeutic benefits

Dosage

After eating approximately 1 to 2+ grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms, the user will begin to experience hallucinogenic effects within 20 to 40 minutes, with effects disappearing after several (3 to 5) hours. Users will typically experience euphoria, visual hallucinations, and a pleasant body sensation that is often accompanied by increased laughter. Nausea is also a common side effect. With the right dose, normal tasks will seem more complex, interesting, and sometimes even funny. Many users also report a deep level of introspection and life-study during a psilocybin experience.

If you’re looking for more information regarding psilocybin dosage, we’ve put together a comprehensive dosage guide. This guide will help you choose the correct dosage based on your desired effects. 

Necessary Precautions

While there’s a great potential to experience positive effects, an encounter with psilocybin shouldn’t be taken lightly. The same introspection that accompanies a smaller dose can transform into confronting past mistakes or hidden parts of your psyche which can be challenging. Larger doses will lead to more intense experiences, which can bewilder and alarm the user. Caution should be taken to ensure that the user is under the care of a trip sitter, someone who knows what to expect during the journey, provide support and exercise harm reduction techniques as needed. 

A safe environment should be prepared prior to the experience and a knowledgeable specialist, like an integration coach, should be consulted to make sense of enduring wellbeing and worldview changes. We recommend booking a discovery call with one of our psychedelic integration coaches to help you prepare for and make sense of these profound experiences. 

MDMA

Therapeutic Benefits

3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is the synthetic psychoactive substance commonly known as ‘ecstasy’ or ‘molly’ and is one of the most widely used recreational drugs in the US. Considered to be a ‘love drug,’ MDMA enhances empathy and other prosocial behaviors. MDMA has been considered a breakthrough therapy by the FDA causing an increase in clinical trials over recent years. 

black couple relaxing, holding disco ball, mdma therapeutic benefits

Best For: MDMA has shown promise in couple’s therapy and positive results when it comes to treating symptoms like social anxiety and depression. Additionally, it has been considered a breakthrough therapy by the FDA and is well on its way to becoming legalized for the treatment of PTSD.

Dosage

Doses of 75 mg have been associated with enhanced trust, lowered inhibition, closeness to others, happiness, and openness. Other effects include decreased appetite, visual distortion, increased awareness of senses, and decreased pain. The effects last upwards of five hours, and unlike the other psychedelics listed here, MDMA does have more risk of safety complications. 

If you’re looking for more information regarding MDMA dosage, we’ve put together a comprehensive dosage guide. This guide will help you choose the correct dosage based on your desired effects. 

Necessary Precautions

Due to the massive release of serotonin and norepinephrine, frequent MDMA experiences should be avoided so as to not deplete your body’s reserves of these vital mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters. Low doses of MDMA are recommended as some users report an acute sensitivity to the substance. 

Also, MDMA can interact dangerously with certain drugs like alcohol, MAOIs, and protease inhibitors. Lastly, hyperthermia (overheating) is a possible side effect and users should stay hydrated, but not drink too much water. 

Next Steps

If you’re curious as to how MDMA may be able to help you overcome anxiety, depression, or PTSD, please schedule a call with one of our psychedelic mentors. Our coaches are shamanically trained in states of altered consciousness and can help you use psychedelics as tools for deep healing. 

LSD

History 

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is one of the classical psychedelics and could be considered a ‘poster child’ for the initial psychedelics movement of the 1960s and 70s. A partially-synthetic product of a natural substance found in parasitic rye fungus, LSD was synthesized in 1938 by Albert Hofmann, who accidentally discovered the effects a few years after. Following that, the unusual psychological effects were studied for their bizarre reality-altering nature.

colorful expressionist art, lsd history and therapeutic benefits

Recreational LSD experiences have been driven for decades by those seeking spiritual enlightenment and it’s been widely used throughout the world since the 1970s. LSD has been shown to be safe, although mental preparation, appropriate surrounding conditions, and a trip sitter are all advised—this is actually why we started Psychedelic Passage!

Therapeutic Benefits

Along with many of the other psychedelics mentioned here, LSD has been shown to reduce symptoms in those suffering from depression, OCD, PTSD, and substance use disorders. Under supportive and controlled conditions, LSD use may contribute to lasting positive effects, like improved body image and psychological states. 

Best For: Those who are looking for an intense and long lasting psychedelic experience with the presence of visual hallucinations. For true wellness, we advise our clients to stick to fully natural, plant based substances. However, LSD can certainly provide profound spiritual breakthroughs.

Dosage

A standard LSD dose is around 75 to 150 micrograms, which will cause a significant alteration in consciousness. Users will typically feel the effects within 30 to 90 minutes and the trip lasts an average of eight hours. The usual positive effects include a mood lift, an increased appreciation of music, enhanced introspection, connection with the divine, synesthesia, and sensory enhancement. 

If you’re looking for more information regarding LSD dosage, we’ve put together a comprehensive dosage guide. This guide will help you choose the correct dosage based on your desired effects. 

Necessary Precautions

LSD is an optically intensive experience and can produce both closed- and open-eye visuals. Since LSD is a longer and more intense experience lasting 8 hours on average, it is best taken in a safe, private, and uninterrupted environment. Users may also benefit from preparing food and snacks in advance and having water readily available. 

Next Steps

If you’re curious as to how LSD may be able to help you develop a sense of inner peace, cultivate self-love, or overcome a mental/emotional block, you’re in good company. If you’d like help preparing for an intentional psychedelic experience with LSD or any other drug, please schedule an appointment with one of our coaches today.

hawk totem statue, ayahuasca history and therapeutic benefits

Ayahuasca

History 

Another psychedelic substance that has a long history of use in spiritual contexts is ayahuasca. With use possibly dating back thousands of years, complex rituals performed by shamans in the Amazon region are still central to healing practices of specific cultures in South America. Over the past 20 years, talk of ayahuasca has increased in the Western world—both by laymen and scientists. 

Traditional sacramental use of this powerful medicine has caught the attention of thousands of people who travel each year to the Amazon to experience “Madre Ayahuasca” (Mother Ayahuasca) firsthand. The ingredients for the ceremonial brew can vary but primarily consist of plants containing N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) that allows the substance to be active when ingested orally. 

Dosage

A ceremonial dose of ayahuasca contains 27 mg of DMT, which is naturally found in many plants and has also been detected in the human brain. If you’re looking for more information regarding Ayahuasca dosage, we’ve put together a comprehensive dosage guide. This guide will help you choose the correct dosage based on your desired effects. 

Therapeutic Benefits

The very powerful ayahuasca experience averages four hours and is generally safe under trained support. The guidance of a vetted and respected shaman/practitioner is highly recommended, if not essential. 

While feelings of self-love, empathy, and emotional healing are usually reported, so is a sometimes-total ego dissolution. Beautiful visions are commonly reported, as are elements of an “ayahuasca world” whereby users witness spirit guides, beings, and geometric patterns. Many users also experience a vomiting purge that, while uncomfortable, is considered a positive and necessary part of the cleansing process. 

Best For: Ayahuasca has demonstrated long-term changes with users, particularly reductions in depression and grief, and improved quality of life and self-transcendence. Enhancing mindfulness in users, ayahuasca has also been shown to produce positive ‘afterglow’ effects long after the drug has worn off. It has also been studied as a therapeutic option for addiction, amongst other mental health ailments. 

Next Steps

If you’d like help working with Ayahuasca in an intentional fashion, please contact us today. Our coaches have been trained by shamanic practitioners and have direct experience in facilitating these ceremonial plant medicine experiences. 

bright light in cave, dmt history and therapeutic benefits

Honorable Mention: DMT

History 

Although we addressed Ayahuasca above, which shares DMT as the active ingredient, we believe smoked DMT deserves it’s own mention because it is more widely available and user friendly than ayahuasca. Though present in many plants and used in indigenous cultures for millennia, DMT was first synthesized in 1931, with its psychedelic effects discovered by western medicine in 1956. 

Typically in the form of crystalline powder or dissolved oil, the DMT trip usually lasts 15-20 minutes due to its activation via the respiratory system as opposed to the longer ayahuasca experience that processes through your digestive system. A blend of plants and herbs containing DMT and MAOI’s, called ‘changa’, is another smokable form of DMT, though it is important to mention that this blend contains many other constituents besides the chemical itself. 

Therapeutic Benefits

DMT has often been called ‘the spirit molecule’ due to its profound nature and users reporting interaction with god or a feeling of connection to the energy of the universe. Much like Ayahuasca, smoking DMT is an intensely visual experience filled with sacred geometric patterns, communication with divine entities, and the possibility of total ego-dissolution. 

Best For: DMT is best for those looking for a short, yet intense, psychedelic experience. We like to think of DMT as a ‘tune up’ that helps you remember the frequency of oneness and your connection to the divine. 

Positive mood enhancement can last hours or days after the experience, as well as the ‘downloading’ of messages and lessons gained during the trip. Because of its intensity, proper harm reduction techniques should be exercised, though users report less nausea and purging than ayahuasca. Luckily, DMT is currently being researched in several international studies that can unlock more information about the mysterious and powerful molecule. 

Further Resources

Though barely scratching the surface, we hope this guide gives you more clarity on which psychedelic substance is right for you. With research continuously discovering more benefits, it’s clear that psychedelics will continue to get more accessible over time. 

Harnessing the power of psychedelics is easier than ever—assuming you have the proper guidance and support. As with any substance or medicine, safety should be a priority. 

If this guide has been of value to your journey and you are curious about learning more, please check out more educational content on our website, including How to Use Psychedelics for Stress Relief and 10 Tips to Help You Safely Navigate a Bad Trip

When you’re ready for the next step, we recommend that you work with a coach, mentor, or someone who has specialized knowledge about psychedelics—and we’re here to play that role. We would be honored to hear from you, learn about your story, and see if we are the right fit. Click here to book a free discovery call today

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About Us

We are a collective of psychedelic integration coaches here to provide you support and accountability on your journey. Our mission is to help you harness the power of psychedelics to make lasting change in your everyday life, while minimizing the risk of a “bad trip”. We do this because we believe everyone is worthy of living a fulfilling life.

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