MAPS Bulletin 2021: Vol. 31, No. 2
Henrita just arrived home from a week-long ayahuasca retreat and she is perplexed by her experiences. What happened there was something she didn’t really expect, and she doesn’t know how to make sense of it. She now views the world in a completely different way, and feels disconnected from her work, old friends, and family. She feels isolated and alone. With these emerging realizations, she decides to find other people she can relate with that can help her gain understanding.
In my role as Executive Director of San Francisco Psychedelic Society, I frequently welcome people like Henrita to our healing community. As research expands, interest in psychedelics is increasing rapidly, so the need for guidance is more in demand than ever. Unregulated information and societal stigma have largely left people to educate themselves, often relying on shaky anecdotal accounts to determine how to navigate their journeys. We believe that every psychedelic seeker will have better outcomes if they learn to prepare for and integrate their experiences within a supportive community.
This can be a lifeline for newcomers and individuals who have just come back from retreat centers, clinical studies, underground ceremonies, clinics, or even experiences with friends. For those who don’t know where to start, this support system can make all the difference by introducing them to this unfamiliar landscape.
Psychedelic Societies are here to provide globally available harm reduction services to help grow a contemporary psychedelic culture from the ground up. With over 50 psychedelic societies around the world, thousands of individuals are being guided to improve the quality and outcome of these experiences.
What Do Psychedelic Societies Offer?
Psychedelic Societies are a network of evolutionary healing communities that are empowering modern culture through accessible education, integration and connection. We do this through a series of consistent courses, classes, groups and weekly supportive meetings. This provides opportunities for people to learn about best practices as they transform their lives and develop new ways of thinking. We have seen that our gatherings have a significant positive impact on the mental health of otherwise isolated psychedelic explorers.
We help with the powerful shifts in drug policy reform through our local advocacy work with decriminalization. We welcome people from all walks of life, gender identification, age, race, religious beliefs, cultural backgrounds and experience. Our members consist of every type of person: students, activists, therapists, artists, professionals, parents, technology experts, scientists, lawyers, doctors and travelers. We meet consistently to have a dialogue about some of the most miraculous compounds on the planet.
Our classes feature thought leaders in the space who teach students how to understand psychedelic substances, use them respectfully, grow their own medicine and mitigate risks. Our intention is for our community to become confident and resourced with information, both to minimize harm and increase potential benefits. As this knowledge becomes more widely available, it decreases the stigma and the likelihood of difficult experiences that often come from not having access to the proper information.
We host gatherings known as integration circles to help individuals discover how to embody the extraordinary states of consciousness into their ordinary lives. Many find these groups transformative, where participants can share and learn together. We believe that we have a responsibility to help some of the most marginalized and vulnerable populations. Supporting people overcoming adversity is our shared mission.
Our circles are a safe space to talk about trauma, systemic racial oppression, mental health issues, addiction and even psychiatric drug withdrawal. Countless new friendships have formed and many lives have been saved in the presence of our skilled facilitators. These stories continue to highlight the profound therapeutic powers of integration when practiced in community. Our goal is to normalize the practice of integration, so that it becomes an integral part of our culture.
A New Model For Addiction
There is a new wave of people who are using psychedelics respectfully to interrupt their addictions, which leads to a better life, habits and relationships. The current widely accepted model for addiction treatment is abstinence-only. While this approach does work for some, for others this belief system prevents people from healing themselves with these tools. We encourage people to target their abstinence by having the agency to decide which substances and behaviors are harmful to their lives, and which are transformative and helpful.
We aim to shift the current treatment model for addiction away from the disease model, to one that is more holistic, loving and harm-reducing. Our core belief is that people are more powerful than their addictions, and through our psychedelic recovery offerings we give them the strategies and tools to overcome them.
The spiritual experiences associated with psychedelics are commonly what break people out of their addictions and once their addiction has been overcome, individuals often develop a practice using psychedelics to further themselves spiritually. Psychedelic medicines can serve as evidence-based tools that afford suffering individuals new ways of thinking and talking about personal change. Psychedelic Societies intend to foster a culture where people are healing the root of the problem which led them to self-soothe in the first place.
Greater Context In Society and Our Future
As we stand on the shoulders of psychedelic medical research, we are birthing a new era of citizen scientists who aim to shift public perception of these sacred medicines by sharing their experiences. Our goal is to facilitate exciting new research about these compounds with data gathered from our communities.
Together our offerings represent an example of how psychedelic culture can be holistically and safely integrated into modern society. We facilitate this by providing a central nexus for information and resources that is focused on ethical practices, inclusivity and bridging the gap between ancient ancestral medicine with psychedelic science. In the future we envision, Indigenous traditions and land are honored, emerging and marginalized voices have a platform to share their teachings, and discussions around using psychedelics for mental health are destigmatized. With legitimate support, integration and connection, we can shape the concept of psychedelic community both locally and globally.
With this structure in place, people like Henrita will know where to go and what to do.
Psychedelic Societies are expanding, growing and empowering individuals to evolve together without outside funding. We need help to make that growth happen. Currently we are building conscious communities, sustaining our work through membership models. As we remind each other that we have the capacity to heal and transform our own lives, we inspire new hope for future generations.
Danielle Negrin and Seth Warner, directors of SFPS pictured here with Dennis McKenna
Danielle Negrin is Executive Director of the San Francisco Psychedelic Society, founder of Psychedelic Recovery, on the founding team of Decriminalize Nature Oakland and on the advisory board for Project New Day. She specializes in building conscious community, providing education into the use and science of psychedelics, addiction recovery services and integration. Danielle is dedicated to exploring mental health, trauma recovery, personal development and overcoming substance abuse through integrative techniques with psychoactive substances. The intention of her work is to help people and communities through sacred intentional practice, to ultimately make this a better world for us all to live in.