So, you’re one of the more than thirty million people who has had an experience with psychedelics? Your experience probably produced an array of feelings—awe, love, appreciation, confusion—and, as with any life-changing experience, further exploration and discussion of those feelings are critical parts of the process. Unfortunately, due to years of misinformation and social stigma, discussing one’s experience with psychedelics is easier said than done. However, if you’re thinking of coming out of the proverbial psychedelic closet, there has never been a better time to do so and accessing support in the form of a community group or integration specialist has never been easier.
Reasons for Stigma
Psychedelics have been considered the oldest class of psychopharmacological substances known to man. They have been used as spiritual sacraments for millennia and historians understand that many cultures have experienced a nearly universal desire to consume mind-altering substances—but that doesn’t mean their use in recent human history has come without obstacles.
In the United States, psychedelics have been subjected to prohibition for much of the last several decades. As it currently stands, many of the psychedelics we commonly speak of—LSD, cannabis, psilocybin, MDMA, peyote, DMT—are still Schedule I controlled substances and are not only illegal to possess or consume but are perceived by the federal government to have high potential for abuse and absolutely no potential for medical use.
It isn’t just federal regulation that has impacted psychedelics and their reputation. For decades, political leaders, religious groups, and the media have played a role in perpetuating the stigma of psychedelics as dangerous substances associated with vice, sin, insanity, and debauchery. For anyone who is a ‘graduate’ of an elementary school D.A.R.E. program, who’s experienced even just a few minutes of Reefer Madness, or who grew up with anti-pot TV ads, it’s no wonder that there’s some trepidation when it comes to expressing an interest in or experience with psychedelics.
America’s views on psychedelics have not only been misinformed, but have caused dangerous implications for all of those impacted. Associated with cultural propaganda, mainstream drug stigmatization has played a significant role in how drugs are perceived as well as how certain communities and segments of the population have been disenfranchised by prohibition.
Highlighted in Dufton’s book Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America, in 1917, US government documents highlighted how cannabis use was considered to only happen with “Mexicans and sometimes Negros and lower class whites,” who were in turn thought to threaten the safety of upper-class whites. Marijuana specifically has been intrinsically linked with immigration fears dating back to the early 1900s and involving immigrants from India and Mexico, to name just a few.
In more recent years, the war on drugs, which largely caused the stigma surrounding psychedelics, has been considered to be more immoral than drug use itself. It has resulted in systematic mass incarceration of people of color, with nearly 60% of those jailed for drug offenses being Latino or black when their rates of drug use and distribution are at rates similar or lower than those of whites. Nixon’s war on drugs targeted certain segments of the population, subversively employing the illegality of drugs like LSD as a way by which to achieve political aims.
So, if you’re apprehensive about discussing a psilocybin or MDMA experience with a co-worker or family member, understand that the factors that contribute to your hesitation have spanned decades and have been driven by sociopolitical motives with little to no scientific basis. Today, these dynamics are shifting, and you can take comfort in the fact that the stigma that has shrouded psychedelics in America for generations is beginning to dissipate.
Why Shared Experiences Matter
Psychedelics can help us look outside ourselves, which can help us better connect to our environment and other people in our lives. The overwhelmingly positive effects that many of us experience during a session with psychedelics provides an opportunity and a reason to connect with others who’ve experienced something similar.
Additionally, many of us who’ve undergone a psychedelic-induced experience have reported encounters with “God” or an “Ultimate Reality,” sometimes eliciting a shift in spirituality and potentially producing one of the most meaningful experiences of our lives. As with any significant experience in one’s life, connecting with other people who have had similar journeys and insights is as valuable as the experience itself.
Not only does coming out of the psychedelic closet present opportunities for solidarity with other psychonauts, but it may also encourage solidarity within society as a whole. Rick Doblin, a well-known advocate in the psychedelic world was interviewed in the book Neuropsychedelia and said that, “societies open to psychedelic experiences are likely to be less blind to their own demons and prejudices, and perhaps less likely to wage wars of all types.” Coming out of the psychedelic closet is the first step towards unlocking the potential benefits psychedelics may present for not only you, but also the most important people in your life and society as a whole.
Similar to many other modern movements (Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ rights, environmentalism, etc.), social change requires advocacy in the form of reframing perspectives. For psychedelics, this means shifting perspectives around the cultural, medical, and scientific use of these substances. Large scale change cannot occur until the world sees that the prohibition of psychedelics is negatively affecting society.
How do we do that? By sharing direct examples and personal stories to connect with our friends and families on an emotional level. It may be difficult to change a conservative family member’s mind with books or scientific journal articles, but a personal story coming from the mouth of a loved one can do the trick—and many in the psychedelic community are aware that this is where true advocacy lies.
During the closing session of a recent Drug Policy Alliance Reform conference, the audience was asked to “out themselves as responsible drug using adults.” When the psychedelic movement includes people representing all walks of life, ages, professions, and socio-economic backgrounds, it will become more socially acceptable and therefore better achieve its aims. This means your participation is vital.
Imagine reading the best book you’ve ever had your hands on. Not only was it a page-turner, but it also changed the way you think about life, love, the planet, and existence itself. You know that this book has the potential to change not only your life, but the lives of others as well. Unfortunately, you’re nervous about sharing this book with even your closest friends and instead choose to bottle up what you’ve learned. Over time, you start to lose some of those insights, and even start questioning them.
Fast forward a few months and it’s like you never even read this book in the first place. This is what can happen if you remain in the psychedelic closet. We get it, ‘coming out’ is hard. Our psychedelic mentorship program is a way for you to take a peek out of the closet and begin experiencing the full benefits of sharing your journey. You are not alone. Set up an introductory call with us today to start receiving support wherever you are.
No Better Time to Come Out than NOW
America is in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance—one in which the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics are being researched and promoted. At the same time, psychedelics are becoming more and more culturally accepted; meaning that they are starting to move beyond the stigma of ‘bad’ or ‘immoral.’ And we are now seeing the results of tireless efforts from psychedelic researchers and advocates who have studied or implemented psychedelic treatments for a range of mental health illnesses.
Cannabis has truly led the march towards this newfound acceptance and appreciation of psychedelics. It’s legalization in most states has paved the way for discussion of other mind-altering substances, namely psychedelics as exemplified by ketamine, psilocybin, and MDMA. Ketamine has received recent recognition by the FDA for its role in treating depression, and there is similar scientific evidence for psilocybin and MDMA.
In Denver and Oakland, psilocybin has been decriminalized—Santa Cruz recently followed suit. When the perception of psychedelics improves both in regulation and cultural acceptance, society can shift away from the notion that entheogens are dangerous and immoral. Instead we may be closer to understanding how to harness their healing power, of which indigenous cultures have accessed for thousands of years, into modern day society.
While this country has experienced a significant shift in the perception towards psychedelics, it doesn’t mean that your group of friends and family members has. Thanks to legalization, many of us have been able to slowly creep out of the psychedelic closet, but for some, there is still too much stigma associated with being a plant medicine user.
If you’d like to feel supported in your desire to share your psychedelic experience with others and be able to fully come to terms about your relationship with the plant medicine, we can help. Working 1-on-1 with one of our psychedelic integration experts can help you get the guidance and support you desire. You can set up an initial consult with a member of our team today to see if its a good fit.
The landscape is changing for the better on how psychedelics are perceived, and who can benefit. No longer are psychedelics relegated to individuals on the outskirts of society. From stories of microdosing in Silicon Valley to families using MDMA together in a therapeutic context, psychedelics have recently emerged in a new light. This is all possible because of psychedelic pioneers such as Alan Watts, Terence McKenna, and Timothy Leary, among many others, who kept the advancement of psychedelic research alive from the 1960’s.
Today, researchers such as Paul Stamets and Rick Strassman continue to advance the study of psilocybin and DMT, respectively. Michael Pollan, through his book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence may be the most mainstream psychedelic proponent to emerge in recent years, but he’s not alone. From tech giants like Steve Jobs and writers like Sam Harris, to actors like Susan Sarandon and musicians like Sting, it’s clear to see that being a psychonaut isn’t a one-size-fits-all classification. If you’re afraid of ‘not fitting in’ once you emerge from the psychedelic closet, don’t worry—no one fits in and that’s the beauty of it.
The simple fact that you’re reading this article says a lot about you and where our society currently stands when it comes to psychedelics. If you’ve already begun a journey with psychedelics, or just curious about how to get started, we commend you. You’re living in a time where psychedelics are more accepted and appreciated than they have ever been in America. We want to help you on your journey by providing you support and accountability along the way. Make an appointment to connect with one of our psychedelic integration coaches today.