rites of passage project

MDMA Image

MDMA Image

Welcome to the MAPS Rites of Passage project, an alternative to the abstinence-only drug abuse prevention strategies currently dominating public discourse. Click for more information about the Rites of Passage project and browse the links below to many resources and articles on the subject.

Welcome to the MAPS Rites of Passage project, an alternative to the abstinence-only drug abuse prevention strategies currently dominating public discourse. Acknowledging that experimentation with consciousness is nearly universal, we believe that the creation of socially-sanctioned contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana may be a powerful approach to reducing drug abuse. In other words, education about appropriate drug use may be more effective in reducing drug abuse than the pursuit of an undesirable and entirely unobtainable “Drug-Free” world. 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.

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

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.

Rites of Passage Project


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 woul
d 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.

For more information or to submit a story, contact us at askmaps@maps.org. I look forward to your comments and questions; it make take a little while, but I will respond to every message.


Difficult psychedelic experiences can be among the most frightening and disturbing experiences we have. They are also, however, potentially among the most valuable. Difficult psychedelic experiences can be the result of external factors, such as a chaotic environment or traumatic events, or the result of painful or troubling emotions which arise during the experience. By working with these emotions, rather than trying to “talk someone down,” one can make a difficult psychedelic experience an opportunity for personal growth.


    Written by Stan Grof, the author of LSD Psychotherapy, this article offers an experienced psychedelic therapist’s perspective on working with difficult psychedelic experiences.
    This document offers lots of concrete suggestions for helping someone undergoing a difficult psychedelic experience. It also helps in determining whether a person’s condition is critical, and requires medical intervention, or if it should be treated as a medically stable psychedelic crisis.
    SEN offers support, including a hotline and therapist referrals, for those undergoing spiritual emergencies. From Erowid: “Generally considered to be psychedelic-aware, meaning that SEN therapists will react compassionately and non-judgementally when an individual seeks help after a difficult or traumatic experience precipitated by a psychedelic or strong psychoactive.”
    For information on Holotropic Breathwork, a technique to alter consciousness through breathing. The site offers info on workshops, lectures, training, and books.

contractFamily Accounts

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.

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.

    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.
    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.
    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 mother’s story of accepting her son’s entrance into adolesence, and creating a rite of passage ritual for him using marijuana.
    A woman tells the story of her daughter overcoming drug abuse through her participation in an ayahuasca ceremony.

Explore the Psychedelics and the Dying page for more personal accounts, written by families who have used psychedelics to cope with terminal illness

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

We’re seeking additional stories by families who have shared experiences with psychedelics or marijuana. Click here if you’d like to contribute an account!

contractYoung People

We offer the following information and links to provide more resources related to the issues of young people and drug use. We’ve included information on the topics of cross-cultural adolescent drug use, alternative drug education strategies, and drug policy as it impacts families.

Articles and research on young people and & drug use
Youth-focused organizations and programs
Drug Education links
Families & Drug Policy

  • DanceSafe — an organization which provides harm reduction info and techniques, primarily to the rave community.
  • Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. A campus organization focused on involving students in changing drug policy; one major issue on the SSDP agenda is repealing the Drug-Free Schools provision of the Higher Education Act which bars students with drug convictions from receiving financial aid.
Links about the drug war’s effects on children and families

contractLSD Handbook

contractRites Of Passage

Confronting death can be one of our most meaningful experiences, as well as one of our most difficult. The following resources explore the potential of psychedelics and marijuana for those who are dying. Used carefully in a supportive setting, these substances have been shown to help people reach greater acceptance of their own mortality, transcend depression to reconnect with loved ones, and even
find relief from physical pain. A number of studies have been conducted which explore psychedelic psychotherapy with terminally ill cancer patients, with powerful results. In Laura Huxley’s This Timeless Moment, she tells the story of the most famous instance of psychedelics aiding the passage into death, when she administered LSD to Aldous Huxley as he lay dying.

Psychedelics may be able to help us enhance our understanding and acceptance of death. The materials on this page offer insights and information about their potential to deepen our experience of this final rite of passage.

Families and individuals who have used psychedelics with the dying
Research on psychedelic therapy with the terminally ill
Other resources


“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.

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.


MDMA Dose Response Safety Study in Cancer Patients
This project is no longer active; however, you can view the project description and its proposed protocol. Dr. Grob is now designing a study to use psilocybin in the treatment of cancer patients. MAPS will initiate a study with MDMA in a hospice setting once MAPS’ MDMA/PTSD study, approved by the FDA on November 2, 2001, is fully underway.

LSD-Assisted Therapy in the Treatment of Cancer Patients
This project is currently under development.



The use of psychedelics can be a safer and more meaningful choice when we create responsible and caring contexts for psychedelic experiences. For instance, some of the most basic ways to do this include having a sitter present and setting aside enough time to have and integrate the entire experience. The following resources offer more on the complexities and potential benefits of psychedelic use in a structured setting.

Resources on the MAPS website
Resources elsewhere on the Internet


Also, see the Working with Difficult Experiences section of the Rites of Passage project, or check out individuals’ Personal Accounts.

  • The Erowid Guiding and Sitting Vaults. This section of the Erowid website provides a great collection of links and information on structured psychedelic experiences. 
  • Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides, from the Council on Spiritual Practices. While specifically concerned with religious or spiritual experiences, these guidelines provide an ethical framework valuable to anyone facilitating the psychedelic experiences of another.

  • Stories about Cosmicare: The Boom Festival’s Safe Space
  • Confessions Middle Aged Ecstasy Eater
  • Stories About Family MDMA Use
  • Another
  • Model For Working With Psychedelic Crises At Concerts
  • Peyote Ritual Stories
  • Stumbling On His Stash
  • This Timeless Moment (LSD and Death)
  • On the Treatment of Difficult Psychedelic Experiences