Forget everything you thought you knew about psychedelics, especially if you never tried them before. A minority of people has ever tried psychedelics and many associate them only with concerts, escape and youthful experimentation. I would say a minority of that minority has intentionally consumed them for spiritual, medicinal or self development purposes. All of this is fine except a great majority of us are completely missing what psychedelics have the greatest purpose and potential for, teaching us how to better exist on this planet together. Not only are we unaware of their true purpose, but we are forbidding those who want to explore this potential from doing so.
Just say no
If you were born in my generation then chances are most of what you know about psychedelics was taught to you by the famous slogan from the war on drugs, “just say no”. First Lady Nancy Reagan, who passed away earlier this year, was the leader of that campaign, and regardless of her intentions the war definitely had some negative consequences. Do not say no to all drugs, only those the government disapproves of, and that includes nearly all psychedelics. The implications for this are huge as many psychedelic substances were classified as Schedule 1 meaning they supposedly have a high potential for abuse, are unsafe, and have no known medical value. We now know that many of these Schedule 1 substances can actually be safely used to help you end your abuse of other Schedule 2 or 3 substances and therefore have a very high medical value. So if you had a loved one succumb to their addiction, who knows, a single session with Iboga may have saved them, but since that option is illegal we will never know.
“They’ll try to push drugs that keep us all dumbed down and hope that we will never see the truth around”
-Lyrics from Uprising, performed by Muse
Medicine or drug?
Terminology tends to be very important when debating the merits of psychedelics. By placing psychedelics in a general category called “drugs” it leaves the impression that Ayahuasca is similar to heroin, which it definitely is not. We’ve been taught to believe that all drugs are bad because we associate them with crime, addiction, overdose, and bad behavior. This is why proponents of psychedelics are quick to use terms like sacrament or plant medicine instead of drug. While my primary concern is with the legal status of psychedelics because they have such high potential for advancing humanity, many believe the entire war on drugs should be abandoned. For example, the war on cannabis is increasingly absurd as half of US states have already legalized medical use and some are beginning to legalize recreational use. By making cocaine illegal we have also made the coca plant illegal, which makes it difficult for South Americans to continue their tradition of consuming coca leaf in pure form. The unprocessed leaf has many medicinal uses that include helping people cope with high elevation in the Andes and enhancing their productivity.
The most profound experience of my life came from a 3 day Ayahuasca retreat (more on that in a future article). Some may argue, why do you need drugs to get high? The answer is quite simply that I don’t because the benefits have continued during sobriety months later. Compare that to a night of heavy drinking and not even 12 hours later you are certainly no longer high, in fact you are definitely hurting. Chances are I’m more sober than you a majority of the time as I rarely consume alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, or sugar. The only pharmaceuticals I consume are for urgent situations, or an occasional non prescription pill when necessary. So I ask what is wrong with consuming a natural plant to experience the most profound moment of your life? Would it be better to say the best time of your life was a day at SeaWorld, shopping at the Mega Mall, or a weekend gambling in Vegas? Quite honestly these are artificial experiences designed to generate a profit. These days most of the classic profound moments in a person’s life are at least partly influenced by drugs. Pain killers are used during the birth of a first child. Weddings, birthdays, and graduations are celebrated with alcohol. Antidepressants are prescribed while witnessing the death of a family member. Even the thrill of visiting the Grand Canyon is enhanced with a Coke. So rather than bashing psychedelics through a war on drugs the real question is, when don’t we depend on drugs in this society?
You may have heard people talk about their dislike of psychedelics due to a bad trip they once had. Depending on the situation a bad trip can be nothing more than a missed healing and learning opportunity. If psychedelics are capable of triggering a challenging experience does that make them bad? The answer is not so simple. Consider a person who has a bad trip at a party with their friends. There are many factors that could cause this including: they were young or immature, they were in a bad mood before the evening began, there was no support available when dark thoughts arose, the party was too crowded, the music was too loud, the temperature was too hot, drugs were mixed, etc. Psychedelics are powerful substances and they should be used in a safe and supportive setting with clear intentions. Even in a proper setting a so called bad trip is possible, but this is actually a blessing in disguise because bad trips can be a way of processing difficult traumas from your past. Bad trips may seem dark, scary and nasty but that is not because the psychedelics are the problem. The surfacing memory or emotion feels dark, scary and nasty which is exactly why we suppressed it in the first place. Psychedelics are simply the keys that unlock the doors allowing those memories and emotions to surface. As unpleasant as it may feel at the time, we should be anxious to process and purge those stored traumas and allow our bodies to heal.
We the AWAKENED
If psychedelics are actually medicines that can make the world a better place then why are they illegal?
Here’s a bold theory, because psychedelics tend to awaken those who consume them.
I know there are plenty of people who never tried psychedelics that would take offense and argue they are already awake. Psychedelics are certainly not necessary to initiate an awakening though they can definitely help. There are also people using psychedelics recklessly who somehow remain asleep. Generally speaking many people upon taking psychedelics for their first few times tend to report an awakening. A realization that they have been eating toxic food, treating people poorly, feeling spiritually depleted, consuming material products to feel better, destroying the environment, wasting their time in traffic, miserable at work, obsessed with money, and deceived by the media. In other words, the realization that there must be more to life than all this. Are there elite government, business and religious leaders having secret meetings where they plan how to make a fortune by keeping us all asleep? I really don’t know though it sure seems that way. What matters most is to understand that sleeping people are easier to control and they make great consumers while people who have awakened, with or without psychedelics, tend to question authority and practice conscious consumption. The good news is that in South America the right to experience plant medicine continues to exist, and in the US there are cases of people taking their sacrament under freedom of religion protection. Meanwhile scientific research of psychedelics expands at a rate we haven’t seen in decades. It’s time to replace the “just say no” philosophy with a new one, “just say KNOW”, because we all deserve to know the truth. Better yet, “just say YES” to allowing adults to manage their consciousness as they choose.