Psychedelics are shedding their bad reputation with wellness seekers. No longer are hallucinogens like mescaline (found in peyote); psilocybin (found in mushrooms); and ayahuasca being associated with out-of-control music festivals, fringe societies, and addiction. Instead, they are becoming more widely accepted, as people are using them in safe environments as a way to get in touch with their inner emotions and discover a deeper sense of self. Psychedelics alter the brain’s serotonin receptors, which are connected to feelings and vision. The brain is less restrained when exposed to these psychedelics, which makes it possible to access deep emotions. As a result, retreats around the world are incorporating drugs that expand consciousness to help clients reach a greater state of wellbeing.
MycoMeditations (Treasure Beach), for example, offers a seven-night all-inclusive retreat in Jamaica. Involving no more than 15 guests, the retreat provides participants with meals, accommodations, massages, and ingestible mushrooms, which contain psilocybin. “About 90 percent of the guests on our retreats are dealing with some form of depression or anxiety, sometimes alcohol addiction to varying levels,” says Justin Townsend, CEO of MycoMeditations. “These are people who have spent years trying the conventional mental health options such as talk therapy and/or medication.”
According to a study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, there were about 32 million lifetime users of psychedelics in the U.S. in 2010. Despite that figure, many Americans remain wary of such drugs. “Being skeptical is healthy,” says Myles Katz, director of business development at Synthesis Retreat (Amsterdam). “We are also skeptical, which is why we take so much time, care, and consideration into the medical screening and safety process to ensure the experiences can be had safely and without adverse effects.”
Synthesis Retreat operates in the Netherlands, where psilocybin can be accessed legally. According to Katz, it has helped more than 400 individuals experience the psychedelic. Katz recognizes the expansion of these psychedelic retreats as part of a greater health movement. “Transformative wellness falls amid the axis of three converging trends in today’s evolving society: a growing demand for taking control of one’s own health decisions, including medical tourism; the psychedelic renaissance; and a shift in people seeking out meaningful experiences rather than material possessions,” says Katz. “It’s a new realm of holistic healing.”
At the Imiloa Institute (Dominical, Costa Rica), participants benefit from transformational workshops and retreats with masters from around the world, including experienced ayahuasceros. “People are earnestly searching for answers and ways they can wake up,” says cofounder and president Jake Sasseville. “From our perspective, plant medicine does not contain all of the answers. It is a tool, a bridge, an activation point. Plant medicine clears the way, so we see the answers within.”
Others see the acceptance of these retreats as a societal shift. “I believe that people are turning toward these retreats and these plant medicines because they are faced with the experience that our society does not have answers to the questions we now need to be asking,” says Lodé Lhamo, codirector and lead facilitator of Experience Retreats, which operates out of the Netherlands. “Our society is operating within a kind of paradigm and a framework that actually is at the cause of the current crisis, and therefore, it cannot give solutions or answers.” As the wellness industry expands into new realms, the tolerance for substances has increased. Now, the stigma associated with cannabis is declining, as it is legalized across much of the country.
While the acceptance of such psychoactive drugs continues to grow, it is only natural that more wellness-seekers will embrace their mind-altering and mood-enhancing benefits.
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