The process of integrating psychedelic substances is inevitable in the contemporary world. The increasing alienation from nature and from ourselves, not to mention the expanding intensity of trauma causing activities require solutions aiming to save human beings and provide further progress of our civilization.
Psychedelic substances such as psilocybin, ayahuasca, DMT, kombo, Peyote, Ibogaine, San Pedro, mescaline and a number of other plants have been known to people for centuries (tens thousands of years ago), while some of them, of synthetic and industrial origin, have been around for less than a century, such as LSD, MDMA and others. However, the former and the latter have or could have the potential for a large impact on the human mental health and cognitive development.
Recent global developments indicate to a growing use of these psychedelic substances in a legal, semi-legal or illegal context. More importantly, though, providing better mental health and surpassing traumas and other problems is more crucial.
In many ancient civilizations the use of psychedelic substances in certain rituals was an integral part of people’s life i.e. a way to preserve values and communicate with other worlds. In plain words, a celebration of life. In recent times, in the 1960’s, the hippie culture attempted to integrate these substances in the Western civilization. Although generally not completely successful, the endeavor at least planted the seed of psychedelic substances in the West, partly for medical use and partly for cultural exploitation. Just a reminder: LSD as a substance, lysergic acid diethylamid (LSD), was first synthetized by the Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann in 1938, who later in 1958 was also the first to synthetize psilocybin and psilocin from magic mushrooms (Psilocybe semilanceata).
Contemporary electronic/rave/drum & bass/trans music culture further helped promote some of these substances, although mostly from a recreational and generally illegal aspect (LSD, trip, MDMA, ecstasy…).
Psilocybin and decriminalization processes
Nonetheless, a new trend towards decriminalizing and legalizing most of these substances is emerging globally nowadays. This refers mostly to the decriminalization of psilocybin (and psilocin) in several cities and states in the USA. More precisely: Denver (Colorado) in 2019, Oakland (California) in 2020 (in addition to psilocybin, peyote is also legal here), Santa Cruz (California) 2020, Ann Arbor (Michigan) 2020, Washington DC 2020, Somerville (Massachusetts) 2021, and Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2021. In November 2020, Oregon became the first federal state in the USA to decriminalize psilocybin use and legalize its medical use as the same time, a solution known as Ballot Measure 109 authorizing the Oregon Health Authority, OHA to create and develop a specific program for its controlled use in a period of two years. The chief advisory of the state body would be the Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board, OPAB. As prescribed with the Measure, clients (psilocybin users) will be allowed to purchase, possess and consume psilocybin and psilocin in a specialized psilocybin service centre, in a controlled environment, monitored by a licensed service psilocybin facilitator. According to Oregon laws, i.e. Measure 109, OHA is going to define the criteria and terms regarding the eligibility of the facilitators, the requisite qualifications and trainings, the list of exams required for becoming a facilitator and define a code of professional conduct. In addition, OHA is going to define the legal psilocybin dosage and the rules on packaging and labelling the dosages. Measure 109 allows cities and counties to place referendums on local ballots to enter this sector and allow legal subjects to manufacture and sell psilocybin.
According to the Oregon psilocybin decriminalization initiative psilocybin products are defined as: psilocybin-producing fungi and mixtures or substances containing a detectable amount of psilocybin. The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), on the other hand, defines psilocybin as a hallucinogenic chemical obtained from certain types of fresh and dried mushrooms (known as magic mushrooms or hallucinogenic mushrooms). International conventions on opioid drugs and psychotropic substances classify psilocybin as Schedule I drug, i.e. a substance without any medical use, which is completely incorrect and poorly defined.
Nonetheless, awareness on the psilocybin usage value in contemporary society is increasing, as evidenced in the initiated decriminalization processes. Apart from civil activists, political leaders also appear to gain a different perspective seeing that psychedelic therapies are among the rare methods to help in healing trauma, particularly among veterans. Furthermore, the academic and scientific public is becoming more included in the definition of specific protocols and therapies for healing health issues, some of which of pandemic dimensions, such as: depression, anxiety and different types of addiction.
Despite the fact that psilocybin is not legal in Macedonia, a growing number of people have found an answer for their troubles in it.
Ayahuasca is a South American psychoactive brew made out from different plants, used mainly socially and for ceremonial purposes by the indigenous people of the Amazonian basin, with a current trend of more active use developing in USA and Europe.
This psychedelic brew is usually prepared from the Banisteriopsis caapi vine (often known as Ayahuasca vine or “Vine of the Spirit”) and the Psychotria viridis shrub, used by indigenous people in healing ceremonies in Central and South America. Ethnic groups such as the Shuar of Ecuador, the Shipibo of Peru and various Tukano groups in Columbia maintain a culture of traditional ayahuasca use, with many of their practices and plants transported throughout the world due to the increased demand of the ayahuasca experience. The sessions or rituals during which ayahuasca is used are performed by shamans, translated simply as “the one who knows”. The natural ingredients used in these rituals or sessions are not illegal or prohibited substances. The process of consuming ayahuasca should not be associated with recreational substance use, for fun, but rather with a purification process aimed to free people from their traumas, a basis for further spiritual development.
The process of consuming ayahuasca begins by purging the body of all the toxins we consume (relating in particular to people from the Western civilization meaning: detoxification from recreational drugs, medicine, processed food, alcohol etc.; the indigenous population which does not subject itself to such harmful substances does not undergo the cleansing process), followed by the process of preparing the brew (the ingredients are boiled for twelve hours) and finally ending by consuming the ayahuasca brew, in the presence of shaman(s). Taking ayahuasca is a unique experience, accompanied by a revision of the individual’s past, different visualizations, and later during the sessions a pleasant overwhelming feeling of love and belonging to the whole. It cannot be generalized and is conditioned by previous events experienced in life.
Ayahuasca sessions and shamans are rare in Macedonia but do visit once to twice a year. However, some Macedonians seek this experience by traveling to Greece, Austria, Spain, even the countries of South America. The number of tourist agencies offering related services is increasing. Surprisingly, sometimes the shamans involved in these processes, coming from South America, even risk their own safety (finding themselves in criminal circumstances despite no wrong-doing on their part is easy) only because they are aware of the problems troubling people from the West and the help they need. Creating an alternative and broadened awareness by consuming psychedelic substances might be the only way out for people from the Western civilization (along with yoga and meditation, but we will talk about that on a different occasion…).
Author: Filip Sekuloski
The author has been working as a consultant in good governance, local economic development, equal regional development, rural development, tourism and other sector policies for many years. He works actively throughout Macedonia and Western Balkan countries. At the close of 2019, he co-founded and became the Executive Director of the association Cannabis Institute Pelagonia, Prilep, while the interest in psychedelic substances sprang from his desire for personal development and integrating these substances in modern society as a natural response to the decadence of the Western civilization.