Six Things to Know about Psychedelics
Curiosity about psychedelics is on the rise, encouraged in part by scientific evidence of their positive impact on well-being. From news headlines and fashion references to discussions around mental health treatments and brand developments, psychedelics are on everyone’s mind. Whether this is a new topic about which you’re seeking some baseline information on or you have digested some of the opinions on psychedelics but need more of the facts, here are six important things to know about psychedelics.
1. Using psychedelics safely and responsibly is critical.
When we describe psychedelics, we are referring to their legal use, overseen by a team of professionals. Approaching psychedelics responsibly and legally is paramount. At Dimensions, we take a very measured approach to research and medical oversight to ensure our guests have a well-guided experience that allows for positive outcomes. Long-lasting positive outcomes, especially those that increase overall quality of life for our guests, are encouraged through our programming, which integrates modern neuroscience with timeless wisdom held within Indigenous practices and rituals. This programming includes physical and mental assessment to ensure readiness, preparation for the mind and body, safe and sacred ceremonial settings and focused integration work that extends for many weeks after the retreat has concluded. We have a respect for the timeless wisdom of those who have walked before us, and we equally respect the advancements in modern science, research and innovation that support transformation and healing.
We exclusively recommend experiencing psychedelics in professionally supervised environments. When doing so, the opportunity for transformational healing and well-being is tremendous.
2. Not all psychedelics are the same.
Psychedelics are substances that stimulate a hallucinogenic response. This group of chemicals includes natural, plant-based substances such as psilocybin (mushrooms), cannabis and mescaline (cacti), as well as artificially produced compounds such as ketamine or lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). All of these can temporarily alter consciousness by inducing visual, auditory and psychological sensations and changes. (These changes are caused by the interaction of the psychedelic with your 2A serotonin receptors, the proteins in your central and peripheral nervous systems that channel neurotransmissions and carry messages to your brain and body.) But the biochemistry of each psychedelic is unique in terms of the location and functions it affects within the brain.
3. Psilocybin is not addictive.
Psilocybin does not affect dopamine receptors, which control the pleasure-stimulating, learning-associated signals our brain sends throughout our body. Instead, psilocybin activates our 5-HT2A receptors, which stimulate serotonin. Serotonin is associated with our memories and feelings of well-being, not short-term pleasure spikes. This is the critical difference that makes psilocybin a non-addictive substance. Psilocybin does not restrict serotonin but rather encourages it. And it doesn’t affect our natural dopamine levels at all. Psilocybin is not an addictive psychedelic.
Narcotics such as cocaine, on the other hand, disrupt the regular cycle of your brain’s natural dopamine. They create a synthetic pleasure spike while suppressing our bodies’ ability to create the natural one. When a drug increases natural dopamine levels, people become addicted to the false euphoric feeling the narcotic produces. These chemicals are very addictive.
4. Psychedelic experiences share similarities with spiritual experiences.
Plant Ceremonies have been a sacred ritual in ancient cultures for millennia. People who have experienced psychedelic-assisted therapies or guided psychedelic ceremonies often consider them some of the most meaningful experiences of their lives. Studies show that when people are using psilocybin, their brainwave patterns are similar to those measured during meditation, prayer or other peak religious and spiritual experiences. Deepening one’s understanding of the similarities between psychedelic states of consciousness and the states attained in deep meditation can help to foster long-lasting and meaningful results in one’s daily life, and to clear the path for continued growth, healing and transformation
5. People have used psychedelics throughout history.
Psychedelic compounds such as psilocybin have been an integral part of Indigenous cultures for thousands of years. Early translations from Aztec languages refer to divine mushrooms (with linguistic similarities to words for “God” or “deity”). Other translations refer to the “flesh of the Gods.” In North America, the central belief of many First Nations cultures is that the universe was made by a Creator, and that living in harmony with nature and sharing an interconnectedness with the natural world is the most important aspect of life. Throughout history and continuing today, these communities have used these naturally occurring mushrooms in ceremonial ways. These Ceremonies both connect them to the land and, through the psychedelic properties of the fungi, create access to spiritual realms and greater knowledge.
6. Psychedelic-assisted therapy has proven results.
Modern medical professionals are turning to psilocybin and other psychedelics in increasing numbers as many thoughtful, academic, peer-reviewed studies of patient outcomes indicate the success of psychedelic-assisted therapy in treating depression, anxiety, PTSD and end-of-life distress. More promising still, psychedelic-assisted therapy has produced positive results treating PTSD, depression and anxiety where other therapies have yielded no positive outcomes.
An ideal candidate for psychedelic-assisted therapy is anyone that is interested in rewiring their nervous system to operate in a more optimal, calm, and clear state of mind. From trauma resolution to pain and anxiety management to end-of-life care, intentional transformation can be supported and enhanced by psychedelic-assisted therapy and guided ceremonial experiences.