Psychedelic First Responders: Navigating the Psychedelic Boom With You
In the midst of the psychedelic boom, an emerging group of individuals has surfaced to provide crucial support and guidance during challenging psychedelic experiences. This article delves into the fascinating world of psychedelic first responders, exploring their role in helping individuals navigate potentially horrifying and life-altering journeys.
From the concept of psychedelics as "nonspecific amplifiers" to the transformative experiences of individuals like Jeff Greenberg, we shed light on this revolutionary movement that adds value to the universe. With a focus on mental health and well-being, society is slowly but steadily embracing the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
Jeff Greenberg's Profound Journey:
The story begins with Jeff Greenberg, a tech executive, who, like many others, had embarked on a psychedelic journey using psilocybin, one of the popular psychedelic drugs. During this experience, Greenberg's world seemed to implode as his thoughts spiraled into darkness. His mind, subjected to wild magnification, amplified his fears, grief, and paranoia. With no guidance, his mental state reached a critical point, and he felt utterly alone. However, in this moment of despair, he found a lifeline through the Fireside Project, a psychedelic peer support line, and connected with a compassionate volunteer named Jasmine. Her empathetic approach and understanding led Greenberg to a path of profound transformation.
These volunteers, inspired by indigenous wisdom and practices, provide a supportive and non-judgmental presence to help individuals process and explore their psychedelic journeys. Rather than trying to "talk them down" or suppress their brain melt, the approach is to guide and accompany them through the experience, allowing for potential insights and positive outcomes to emerge.
The Essence of Psychedelics:
Amplifiers of the Psyche:
The psychiatrist Stanislav Grof famously referred to psychedelics as "nonspecific amplifiers" of the psyche. These substances have the potential to intensify any existing thoughts, feelings, or memories, offering either revelatory or terrifying experiences. It is crucial to understand that while psychedelics can lead to life-changing insights and healing, they can also trigger deep distress and mental turmoil. Such distressing moments emphasize the need for effective support structures, especially from those who have studied the science of existential first aid.
.Wisdom from Indigenous Communities:
Indigenous communities have amassed millennia of knowledge in understanding and preparing for transformative psychedelic experiences. However, Western culture has only recently begun to recognize the importance of this wisdom. There is a growing realization that incorporating the support structures from these ancient practices can significantly improve the outcomes of psychedelic experiences.
These drugs include LSD, ayahuasca (a drink that contains dimethyltryptamine [DMT] and a monoamine oxidase inhibitor that prevents its breakdown in the gut), as well as 5-MeO-DMT (from the Sonora toad) and mescaline (from buttons of the peyote cactus). In the 1950s and 1960s, LSD was widely researched and was considered to achieve major breakthrough treatments, including for alcoholism, by many psychiatrists.
In that context, it is difficult to swallow the potential good that was wasted and lives ruined for no other reason than politically motivated ones.
At the same time, psilocybin was an experimental medicine supplied by Sandoz as "indocybin". Sandoz, not surprisingly is the company where Albert Hoffman worked as an organic chemist and who discovered LSD. The company is now known as Novartis. Hoffman correctly assessed the structure of lysergic acid to be unstable and made the amide analog. He spilled some on himself in April of 1943 and what followed was his confirmation by ingesting it in controlled fashion and riding his bike home. Considered among the pioneers of psychedelics, Hoffman also discovered the structure and synthesized the psilocybin molecule, which is the active psychotropic substance in magic mushrooms.
Enter the Psychedelic Boom First Responders:
As psychedelics gain popularity, a new wave of psychedelic first responders has emerged. These individuals are well-versed in the science of existential first aid and operate outside the traditional realms of psychiatrists and therapists. Most MDs don't do much beyond dispensing prescriptions and there is a need for something that isn't hundreds per hours but reduces the harm of a bad trip.
Some are volunteers which is the essence of the psychedelic peer. They offer their guidance and support to individuals navigating the uncharted territories of their consciousness. Similar to how ski patrols ensure safety in mountain sports, psychedelic first responders are becoming crucial guardians in the realm of psychedelic experiences.
The article mentions the Zendo Project, an initiative of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which offers harm-reduction services at events like Burning Man. Zendo Project volunteers are trained to create a safe and supportive environment for individuals undergoing difficult psychedelic experiences, helping them explore and understand the underlying causes of their distress. Zendo volunteers have attended events and used harm-reduction tactics like the hog farmers at Woodstock and for Zendo Burning Man.
The training manual for Fireside Project Volunteers contains the following:
Rule #1, under any condition, is that we honor and respect the person having the crisis. Even if we don't understand what's happening (the person having the crisis might be much more developed than we are, lost in worlds unknown to us, or reliving a drama we can't comprehend), we serve as an anchor, a resting place, and a quiet center …
We have to remember that tens of millions of people have used psychedelics, in many different, sometimes not very supportive, environments, and returned home safely. With support, knowledge, and integrative work there is very little danger in the psychedelic experience itself. Even the most frightening and bizarre behavior, when explored and worked with, will turn out to be beneficial and enlightening.
The Importance of Harm Reduction:
Despite the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, there are risks associated with their use, especially when unregulated or used without proper support. The harm-reduction approach is gaining recognition as an essential tool in promoting safe psychedelic experiences. This approach acknowledges the potential risks and seeks to minimize them through education, preparation, and support.
Balancing the Psychedelic Renaissance:
While the current psychedelic renaissance is encouraging, it's essential to address the challenges and potential dangers associated with these substances. The movement towards studying psychedelics requires rigorous data gathering and responsible use. Psychedelic peer support and harm-reduction strategies are essential components in ensuring the safe and beneficial integration of psychedelics into our society. Maybe good trip-sitting is all that's needed and the number of case reports would suggest that it works or at least helps.
Psychedelic Boom: A Broader Perspective on Mental Health:
The emergence of psychedelic first responders signifies a broader societal shift in how we perceive mental health and well-being. With increasing interest in these substances, people are seeking alternative approaches to tackle mental health. It's nice to have positive story about an important topic and encouraging to see people using their knowledge to lift each other up.