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Be Honest, is your Psychedelic Use Purely "Sacred"?

Stefanie Jones

With the growing acknowledgement of the use of psychedelics for medical, therapeutic or sacred uses, it may feel easier to “come out” about your personal use of these substances.

But if you’ve ever used these drugs outside of those contexts (yes and sorry, this includes at Burning Man), then you should probably pause a bit before going forward.

Are you ready to really, fully come out about your psychedelics use?

Because the truth is, most of us have probably had the majority of our experiences with psychedelics – and perhaps other drugs also – in what many people would categorize as “recreational” settings: at festivals, clubs, concerts or that party at your friend’s house that one time.

It may be that you walked into those places with every intention of using a psychedelic substance to heal you or teach you something about your life or the universe. It may be that you believe these drugs are inherently sacred, no matter how they’re used.

But many people, while they may be aware of the potential that psychedelics can have for healing or self-discovery, nonetheless stumble into their first uses out of curiosity or just for the simple experience of the unique visual and physical sensations they bring. For some people, this is really all they’re ever going to be interested in using these substances for.

Before you rush to judge, there’s also the flip side: while some people do come to psychedelics use with the goal to solve a particular problem or open doors in their psyche, sometimes they continue to use them because – well, it can be fun. And as anyone who has experience with psychedelics knows, sometimes it’s when you aren’t looking that you find something truly beautiful or valuable.

The point being: isn’t it just as valid and meaningful for psychedelics to be used for diversion, entertainment, relaxation, and adventure? Do psychedelics always have to be sacred?

If you’re going to come out about your psychedelics use, I beg you – I implore you: don’t leave that side of the experience by the wayside because it’s less popular or harder to defend.

People using psychedelics outside of specifically healing contexts – especially at festivals, concerts and clubs – have a whole different set of needs than those using them medically or therapeutically. And in many ways those needs are the same as those for any drug, be it legal or illegal: they need to be aware what exactly they’re taking and how much, they need to know what the effects may be and how to reduce any possible harms and maximize the benefits. They need to be conscious of how their choices may affect those around them. And they need to regularly self-assess to see if their use has tipped over from recreational into problematic.

Horizons 2015: STEFANIE JONES “Psychedelics, Partying, and Policy” from Horizons on Vimeo.

It’s an uphill battle to get these messages where they need to go – to the festivals, concerts and clubs where so many people are using psychedelics in this manner. A big part of the challenge is from where you’d expect, from the people producing and policing these events, who have an interest in upholding the law of the land (prohibition), no matter how much or little they may believe in it.

But another part of the challenge is harder to locate. The symptom of it can be seen in the balance of positive stories about psychedelics used medically versus negative stories about psychedelics used in recreational settings. It can be seen in the relatively small (but happily, growing!) number of people supporting programs like the one I run at the Drug Policy Alliance called Music Fan, or MAPS’ Zendo Project or organizations like DanceSafe – programs and organizations that regularly address this context of use and its needs.

We have internalized the deep stigma and shame associated with using some drugs for fun.

And that, to me, is the most important thing to consider when you’re thinking about coming out about your psychedelics (or other drug!) use. Don’t tell half the story. By all means, do hold up the incredible promise of psychedelics as healing agents, as therapies, as tools for an emotional re-boot. But do your best not to leave out the other side. If you’re going to come out, come out all the way.

Stefanie Jones is the director of audience development for the Drug Policy Alliance.

This piece originally appeared as a part of Psymposia’s “Coming Out of the Psychedelic Closet” series.

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