An experienced user of recreational drugs explains how psychedelic trips can enhance your mental health journey.
Mental health can be hard to describe, but I find a metaphor for drinking alcohol to be at least digestible. Most adults have a base scale for being drunk and sober. It’s harder to describe love, anger, health, anxiety and coitus. But there are times I have had all those feelings (and experiences) drunken or sober, at high or low points, vigorously or weakly. The truth is the mind is something we all share in common but can’t share with each other. Moods and ideas and even health are felt but not articulated. They consume the human experience at any given time and, sometimes, we can feel shame and guilt for sharing it with others.
I believe that everyone should do drugs, but most people either do too many drugs or not enough.
Some fiend whippets and others Candy Crush. Our brains are wired to be wired. They feverishly want to pulse synapses to the farthest reaches. They are really, really good at making neuro pathways. So when we are depressed, our brain tries it’s hardest to be depressed. It will strengthen those pathways again and again till we are actually addicted to being depressed. The same can be said for love, hate, anxiety, joy and even stillness (props to all my monks out there).
The brain is the most mighty of all human muscles and should be respected like one. And I believe drugs should be a part of that homage. People have been ingesting plants for spiritual pursuits from the dawn of man. And our curiosity was met with wonder beyond our wildest dreams: true wonder that is scary and mean and closer to the veil that sits between us and everything.
Hallucinogenics are the mind's tools to stretch the higher conscience. But it flies like Icarus. Those ideas and dreams that seemed so vivid at the time turn to faint memories quickly when you come back down. I smoke cigarettes and chew on gumballs every time I trip mushrooms, but don’t enjoy them the same way the next day. It always has an Odysessian experience to it. As for alcohol, I wait each day for it to hit my lips and to lift the monkey off my back long enough to wake up again the next day. That’s just addiction.
LSD: Now that is a drug I can get behind! It’s easier to dose out and gives a user a chance to transport out of this reality, to see new colors, to feel new sensations, to enter the realm of the ancestors. It hurts most people to see the truth behind the cosmos. Most people drink alcohol just to deal with the part of the conscience they can perceive.
In my travels, I have taken lots of drugs. Ayahuasca in the Amazon, khat in the Maasai Mara, opium in the lost mountains of Laos. I believe travel is a chance to see the world through the eyes of the native people. And that includes dipping into the local stash. But through all these travels, I find myself thinking about others: about what they feel and think. A bad trip could be a necessary experience: Every time drugs scare me, it’s really me scaring me. I am allowing my mind to travel to the deepest of caverns and holiest of mountain tops, and sometimes I am not ready for the exposure that comes with the ride.
Prozac, OxyContin and lithium don’t send you to those places: They keep you numbed from the brain’s potential. I have a dear friend who is bipolar. He doesn’t take drugs to get high, and I know he loves the journey his own brain conjures up for him. Three days barefoot on the streets of L.A. feels like walking through the Garden of Eden—but when the paramedics have to restrain him as they deal with swollen toes and bloody lips, they have a deep desire to send him crashing back down into the world in which we all supposedly live. I take psychedelics to reach a sliver of that experience, and hope I won’t need medical attention along the way too.
I also have a friend who has taken Zoloft for over a decade, and when he is swimming under his anxiety, the spark he normally shares with everyone is drowned. That numbness comes at a cost. But I can tell you one thing: It’s not their fault that they are pushed into these realms without a proper guide. Ancient cultures around the world used shamans to heal mental health among the community. A person who has spent a lifetime feeling all the feels, and taking all the drugs, to know who needs what. To bring the low, high, the lost to be found, the forsaken, to be blessed. But all of our villages are burned down in the modern world. We no longer hear the stories from the elders telling us which plants to imbibe, stay away from the brown acid, or how to control the desire to start drinking before breakfast.
For example, I went to Peru for my uncle’s wedding. Before the nuptials, my brother and I asked around for how we might go about doing some ayahuasca. Eventually, at this super heady store, we got the nod. The shaman picked us up in his car and drove us into the mountains to his round hut. We drank the tea, I puked and the shaman gave us toilet paper, telling us, “You might shit yourself.” He played the drums for a while and then I entered the stratosphere. It was a crazy trip, a white-coated doctor laboratory thing. It lasted four hours and when I snapped out of it, the shaman was there. He had been there the whole time.
Instead, here in the States, we fixate on the lives of the others—others who live thousands of miles away—all being curated by capitalistic appetites. We believe Cristal champagne is the poshest drunk, fentanyl with Sprite makes us more like Justin Beiber, and drugs are just a commodity to be sold, abused and rapped about on Spotify.
There are several types of peyote native to my home state of Colorado, but I have never tried any of them once. Instead, I fly to faraway places to experience a culture that is preserved—yet it can be pushed on tourists with the same gusto of influencers on Instagram.
We have an obligation to the human experience to alter our state of mind.
It can be long runs, isolation chambers or a good, old fashioned drunk with friends; I don’t search for what is comfortable or easy to repeat. I believe we need disruptive experiences to help us control our minds. After a good concert on molly, I always tend to sit in bed depressed, thinking about my life. It is truly cathartic for me. I need to travel to the top and bottom before I can see the horizon. And I need to remember that all humans are on a similar but authentically different journey.
Take time to remember bad thoughts, the depressed feelings, the grief of our ancestors: We need to harness the feelings of power, ego and delight to bind our souls back to the body. Next time you take a drug, think about your mental health before and after. If it is leaving you in the same place afterward, you are doing it wrong.