Families Who Value Psychedelics

In this section of the Rites of Passage project, families share their experiences creating their own contexts for psychedelics and marijuana. Just as each family is unique, each of the following accounts describes a different approach to these substances, and a different choice about their use. In some cases, parents have created a ritual for their child to celebrate the coming of age. In others, young people have introduced their parents to psychedelics or marijuana, bridging the generations with a powerful experience. In each story, families have negotiated their own relationships to these substances, finding their own way in a complex territory — rendered all the more difficult by criminal prohibition and widespread misinformation.

MAPS’ Rites of Passage project is thus an effort to provide information to families, particularly parents and their adolescent children and young adults, about the potential benefits and risks of an educated and careful relationship with psychedelics and marijuana.

The MAPS Rites of Passage project advances the idea that discussing potentially beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana is an effective technique in reducing haphazard or reckless use. Responsible decision-making must begin with honest and balanced dialogue, dialogue that reflects these substances’ potential to be helpful or harmful. Simplistic answers like “Just say no” education and criminal prohibition not only fail to protect families, they can drive families apart.


While we don’t claim to have the answers to all the difficult questions surrounding psychedelic and marijuana use, we do believe that families must take a greater role in defining the place of these substances in society. We believe that adults should have the right to decide whether or not to experiment with psychedelics and marijuana. Furthermore, we believe that the family is the appropriate locus for decision-making about the use of substances by adolescents. While we recognize that not all minors live within healthy family systems, and we support the role of social service agencies intervening in cases of abuse and neglect, we nevertheless believe that within responsible limits, families should have priority over government in educating their children about drugs. We hope this site will provide families with useful and thought-provoking ideas and information.

One unique aspect of this project is our effort to collect a group of personal accounts, either anonymous or signed, written by members of families who have created their own contexts, rituals, and rites of passage using psychedelics and marijuana. These stories, ideally written by family members of different generations, offer insight into the complexities, difficulties, and rewards of such an unusual and personal choice. We are also asking high school and college students to write accounts of what they would like to tell their younger siblings or future children about drugs, and what they would like to tell their parents. MAPS hopes that stories written by family members who are forging new ground in drug education will be helpful to other families who find the “Just say no” approach inadequate.

As we continue to compile information for the Rites of Passage site, we hope to provide a broad range of resources designed to open family dialogue about psychedelics and marijuana. The Rites of Passage project will offer ideas for creating a safe and supportive context for psychedelic experiences, primarily for the passage into adulthood, but also for the passage from life to death and other transformations and stages of growth in between. We will plan to offer information on the use of psychedelics and marijuana in religious settings and in cultures around the world, illustrating how these substances can be useful and valuable tools within appropriate social contexts. We will explore drug education and may also work to develop content about psychedelics and marijuana for drug education/drug abuse prevention programs from grade school through high school.

We will also endeavor to balance our exploration of the beneficial uses of these substances with realistic information about the risks inherent in their use. The Rites of Passage project will include material on working with difficult psychedelic experiences and offer links to other sites which tackle the dangers associated with the Drug War.

It is because the issues surrounding psychedelics and marijuana are so complex that support for and communication with young people is so important. By presenting the possibilities of socially sanctioned contexts for psychedelics and marijuana, used within rites of passage and other carefully created settings, MAPS hopes to reduce the abuse of these substances, and work toward their potential as tools for growth and exploration.

By providing accounts written by families who have chosen to experiment, MAPS hopes to broaden the dialogue among other families thinking and talking about psychedelics and marijuana. These stories reflect the practical, ideological, and emotional issues involved in such profound experiences, and we hope they will be thought-provoking.


Rites of Passage: Kids and Psychedelics, a special issue of the MAPS Bulletin from 2004.

What Do We Tell the Kids?
A special section on drug education from the Winter 1996 issue of the MAPS Bulletin includes several articles relevant to drug education and family discussion of psychedelics and marijuana;

Stumbling on His Stash
A mother’s story of accepting her son’s entrance into adolescence, and creating a rite of passage ritual for him using marijuana.

The Rite of Passage: A Family’s Perspective on the Use of MDMA This beautiful account is the story of a daughter introduced to MDMA by her parents; it is told by each member of the family: mother, father, and daughter.

Psychedelic Family Values

Parenting in a War Zone: A Conversation with the Grey Family

Adolescent Drug Use in Cross-Cultural Perspective, by Charles Grob and Marlene Dobkin de Rios. An examination of drug use among adolescents in initiation rituals in several indigenous cultures, concluding that it is the lack of socially sanctioned context that promotes drug abuse in Western societies.

Hallucinogen Use by Juveniles in Cross-Cultural Perspective, by R. Stuart. This article, which also looks at adolescent initiation rituals in various cultures, includes interviews with a number of families in northern California who use psychedelics. (click here for html version)

This is the account of a beautiful rite of passage a mother shared with her teenaged son, strengthening his family connection, his sense of self, and his bond with nature. Both the mother and son describe the event from their perspectives.

Originally published in The Guardian, this account is written by a father who was introduced to MDMA by his teenage son. While MAPS does not support the wholesale endorsement of recreational use found in this account, it’s a powerful account of intergenerational bonding.

A woman tells the story of her daughter overcoming drug abuse through her participation in an ayahuasca ceremony.

Psychedelics, family, and life-threatening illness

The following accounts are written by people who found psychedelics, particularly MDMA, useful in coping with terminal illness. Their stories highlight some of the benefits people have found using these substances, as well as the courage and compassion of those who tried such an unconventional approach to helping a loved one.

A series of accounts from both Sue, above, and Shane, who passed away from cancer in 1999. This couple used MDMA to cope with Shane’s illness and the strains it placed on their relationship.

Letters are from a daughter who gave her father several MDMA sessions as he was dying from pancreatic cancer.

In this account, a woman describes her 92-year old grandfather’s MDMA session and its success in freeing him from the physical and emotional pain he suffered.

A story of a therapist who gave her husband MDMA to help manage pain related to liver cancer.

This man helped a friend cope with terminal cancer using mescaline.

One man’s account of how he believes his cancer was healed with the use of the botanical psychedelic ayahuasca.

“Facing death is about the most painful situation anyone will ever encounter, and with pain comes fear and anger. These two emotions cause many different blocks in communication that make things worse for all involved. Taking these barriers away opens the people involved to more open and caring communication – which is what we experienced.”

– Sue Stevens, who used MDMA with her boyfriend Shane while he was dying from cancer.

Submit your story

MAPS is gathering accounts, primarily anonymous, written by people who have created a family context for the use of psychedelics or marijuana. We hope to find stories which will raise new possibilities of how psychedelics and marijuana can be used beneficially, as well as deepen our understanding of the risks and issues involved in their use. It is through hearing the experiences of others, rather than digesting scientific studies, that most of us come to new ideas. Because people respond more powerfully to personal accounts than to the abstract presentation of ideas, we encourage anyone with a personal story to please share it.

Accounts should be between one and five pages long. We would especially like to have accounts written by each family member present. If you or your family member would prefer to record your story, you can send us the tape and we’ll transcribe it.

You may wish to include details about the preparation and setting you chose, as well as your intentions for the experience. Please also discuss your reflections afterwards. How has this impacted your life? What would you have done differently? What would you tell other families considering the same choice?

Let us know if you’d be willing to be contacted further. For those who choose to sign their accounts, we could also consider posting photographs with the story. Let us know also if you’d be interested in discussing your experiences, anonymously or not, with the media.

Have you experienced psychedelics or marijuana with family members? We’d like to hear from you.

External resources

Common Sense for Drug Policy’s research on child and adolescent drug use and the failure of current drug abuse prevention strategies.

A Common Sense for Drug Policy ad revealing some of the harm the drug war inflicts on children.

The Drug Policy Alliance’s Fact Sheet on children and drug policy.

“Children of the Drug War” — from the November Coalition, a non-profit group focused on the drug war prison population, a heartbreaking page dedicated to children of drug war prisoners, with stories and letters from children and their parents behind bars.

Family Watch is an organization dedicated to the impact of drug policy on families, women, and children.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a organization of families who have been torn apart by mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug violations.

Psychedelic Parenting

“Dope.” A May 17, 2002, Alternet column by Dan Savage, about a teen who turned in his pot-growing father. The author comments on the disturbing implications of this son’s choice, and of the press’s reaction.

The Case for Using Drugs to Enhance Our Relationships (and Our Break-Ups)
January 31, 2013 – The Atlantic – Ross Andersen