FAQ: Why do you advocate for the entheogens, natural psychedelics, rather than the synthetic ones to be used in psychedelic journeys?

The simple answer is – because I am a Nurse Herbalist, and I have chosen the paradigm of “Nature heals” for my life and my profession as a Nurse.

I feel very certain about this choice, because it resonates with my core value system and I integrated it into my practice long time ago. However, for many it requires more of an explanation, so here is my attempt at exploring this position in more detail.

  •  To start from the periphery of the problem with synthetics – source and reliability. To acquire a synthetic psychedelic, you will probably have to deal with a drug dealer, who handles many other illegal substances. So here I have a problem with funding the trade of things that I really do not endorse because of their high addictive potential and serious harm to human’s body and psyche, like opiates, meth etc. You might also be facing a considerably high chance of adulteration of the material, considering common practices on the market of illicit substances. It is not always an option to test the materials for purity.

Psilocybin mushrooms on the other hand are often produced (grown) and distributed by people growing and distributing only psilocybin mushrooms or perhaps C. sativa as well. Mushrooms sold in whole dried form are relatively easy to identify by appearance and smell, and I have never come across any instances of their adulteration. It mostly applies to other entheogens I’ve experienced as well.

  • Presence of toxic residue. Manufacturing of a synthetic psychedelic usually involves the use of toxic substances, e.g. solvents like heptane. The target product is supposed to be free of toxic residue, but what if it isn’t? How much do you trust the diligence of your drug trade chemists in following all the manufacturing steps and not cutting corners?

Cultivation of mushrooms is a pretty organic process that mostly requires whole grains and vermiculate or coconut fiber and can be performed by yourself in as much of eco friendly fashion as you wish.

  • DIY factor. You can choose to cultivate your own mushrooms or go mushroom hunting in the field, grow your Salvia divinorum or Trichocerius pachanoi, source and harvest your own ingredients for Ayahuasca brew (if you happen to be in the jungle). Even if you buy the raw materials, you can prepare the entheogen for consumption in your kitchen pretty easily, without the use of any hardcore chemicals or a basement lab. I see it as being in more alignment with certain lessons that psychedelic dimension teaches us – learn to be self-reliant, work for what you need, embrace nature.
  • Potential for harm. The decision to take psychedelics has to be considered carefully as it is always a risky endeavor. Neither entheogens, nor synthetic psychedelics come free of a possibility of serious adverse effects for one’s body or mind. People have died after the consumption of Ayahuasca, and some jumped out of high rise building after consumption of LSD. Carefully learn about and consider all the risks and make sure your Set and Settings are right whether you choose to take a natural or a synthetic psychedelic. However, bear in mind, that there is some evidence that the occurrence of HPPD (Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder) is considerably higher with synthetic psychedelics.

As far as long-term consequences go, entheogens have been with humans for hundreds of years and their long term safety has been verified over many generations. And while LSD has been in use for a few decades and has not raised many concerns about its short term toxicity or long-term effects (except for possibility of abuse and psychologic imbalance it brings), novel designer drugs that come onto the market regularly in the attempt to outrun the prohibition are still too new and lack any long-term data to trust their safety. Taking new drugs is your contribution to science, sure, but in a role of lab rat.

  • Potential for abuse. It is commonly stated that psychedelics are not addictive, and it is almost true. When entheogens are taken at full doses, psychedelic experience usually constitutes deep and intense work, which most people are not ready or capable of undertaking too often. At the attempt to do so, the journeyer is often faced with a stern reality of being unwelcomed to the psychedelic dimension, “bad trips” and /or realization that integration work in between psychedelic ceremonies is absolutely essential.

The strange tastes, textures or nauseating effects of entheogens often add the self-limiting effect to the frequency of their use. It might be just not that easy to get it down if you are not absolutely ready for another experience, and forcing another cup on yourself despite the certain measure of inner resistance usually results in the substance promptly coming back up as vomit.

But here come the risks of small recreational doses and convenience of taking synthetics nausea free ad lib (freely) – a tab, a tasteless dropperful, an injection. The combination of a recreational set and setting, the ease of substance delivery, under-psychedelic-threshold- dosing, and/or callousness of physiology or personality preventing one from fully entering the inner psychic dimensions can lead to the abuse of psychedelics and the problem it entails – disintegration rather than integration of personality, persistent delusionary states, reckless behaviours, HPPD etc.  

  • Perhaps the most crucial factor in my choice of entheogens over synthetic psychedelic substances is their spiritual character.  A psychedelic journey is a bizarre, dogma shattering experience where factors previously overlooked become of paramount importance. In the psychedelic realm, the journeyer can really understand the necessity for the impeccable choice of the Set, the Setting and the Medicine for that experience. Entheogens emerge in their full glory as Medicine with the capital M, when we feel that their essence, their spirit is working with us on our healing, towards our wholeness. In the realm where our control is lost, when our complete surrender is required to go forward, it becomes very important to what we surrender. Humans have had working relationships with those spirits, those teacher plants for many, many years, many, many generations. I have learnt to trust that collective relationship and the collective wisdom. And when in the depth of the psychedelic experience I let go of ‘I’, my consciousness rests on the ancient spirit of the Medicine that is with me on that journey, and it carries me through safely.

LSD and the rest of the synthetics are new kids on the block. Sure, they have their own spiritual character. In the early days I had a handful of experiences with LSD and MDMA, and they were beautiful and proper magical. Do I trust them? Not so much. Give it a few hundred years, and I might start to change my mind about them, but for now – I choose to work with Master Plants (where mushrooms are conveniently even though not necessarily nomenclaturally correctly included).

You are free to choose what feels right to you, of course 😊

Go well, be safe, be happy.