The Medicalized Psychedelic Narrative Is Out of Control

Since when did taking acid inside, let alone in a clinical setting, start making sense?

The medicalization narrative in corporate psychedelia is out of control. Virtually overnight, hundreds of FDA-worshiping rent-seekers have founded non-profits, PBC’s, media platforms, professional societies and for-profit corporations to trumpet the benefit of psychedelics as rigidly controlled tools within the medical industrial complex. 

Whether it’s PTSD, depression, anorexia, or IBS, there’s a new magic pill in town to treat your symptoms without actually addressing any of the macro societal issues that cause the conditions in the first place. Those championing this forthcoming era of mainstream medicalized psychedelics often do so in a humorless and hubristic sense that emphasizes the importance of being in a clinically controlled environment far removed from any recreational, indigenous, or church setting. 

 There are even a number of companies actively devoting themselves to the noble task of removing the trip from psychedelic substances, so as to further cement their status as the newest portfolio asset in the pharmaceutical industrial complex.  

Pill-popping culture has engulfed the psychedelic renaissance, trampling upon indigenous sovereignty, individual autonomy and good old fashioned fun in the process.

Perhaps there’s a bright future in tripping on FDA approved, patented novel molecules in a clinic with strangers who will bill your employer-provided insurance handsomely, but I’ll still be eating homegrown mushrooms in a hot spring and smoking spliffs with my friends long after that time comes. 

Remember when tripping on mushrooms in the forest and taking MDMA on a dance floor at an underground rave was fun? 

When LSD was something you did in your friends basement on the weekends and at music festivals, and you couldn’t stop laughing about the most ephemeral and mundane aspects of life as everything around you pulsed with idiosyncratic meaning and the trees started breathing and communicating with you? 

Not on the corporate psychedelia watch. Psychedelics are tools of the medical establishment now, cogs in a closed loop economy dictated by pharmaceutical conglomerates and their armies of gatekeepers. Tripping is now serious business, and recreational use is dangerous and shameful. 

Trying to cope with untenable social and environmental conditions imposed by ecological collapse, soaring costs of living and a rapidly unraveling social fabric?

Oh, that little  quandary has been conveniently fit into an ambiguous and clinically-validated little box called ‘depression’ that puts the onus on you as an individual to find ways of coping with radical societal inequities, rapidly disappearing biodiversity, and the general collective crisis of meaning beleaguering humanity. 

Try hippy flipping in a clinic with a couple of therapists who took a 40 hour online course about psychedelics last year if you need a quick salve for your constant anxiety amidst our legit existential crisis. 

Or maybe hire a coach to help you spiritually bypass it all. Anything except address the root causes of the myriad symptoms collectively signaling a mental health crisis. 

As the newly appointed research fellows and establishment credentialed psychedelic scientists will tell you, “Trust the data. Let’s get psychedelics over the line.”

What fucking line? The line between cognitive liberty and rigidly hierarchically controlled pill popping? It’s a curious fact that most data agrees with those funding the research and setting the cultural norms. 

And of course millennia of indigenous use does not constitute data, because white men didn’t get to control for the placebo in these contexts.   

One of the preferred slogans of the psychedelic establishment is to confidently proclaim that “the hippies failed” and that we need medical data to decide who gets to access psychedelics, where, and for what reasons. 

Psilocybin mushrooms aren’t for elevating your creative potential and exploring your own consciousness – they’re for treating depression and anxiety, for restoring your mental health under the guidance of a state validated healthcare professional without changing anything else about the societal status quo. 

On that note, when did the flagship molecules of the psychedelic renaissance become a horse tranquilizer and an amphetamine? 

I deeply angered a leading corporate psychedelia advocate with that joke earlier this year even though I explained in advance that it was indeed a joke; apparently there’s no room for humor and laughter in our new psychedelic medicine paradigm. 

Remember when Shroom Stocks were a thing? And then everyone who has never grown or eaten mushrooms invested in them and quickly lost a lot of money? 

Maybe the handful of biotech companies actively working to remove the psychedelic experience from DMT and psilocybin have it right. If they can sell that ruse, they deserve the money they’re after. However, given the performance of these companies over the last few years, this crusade is more of a race to the bottom than a rising tide for the psychedelic renaissance. 

Or we could just keep pushing Microdosing, because it’s the perfect bait and switch. “Look! Psychedelics are socially acceptable now because they fit nicely within the prevailing societal ethos of habitual consumption! It’s almost like an SSRI, but a little more edgy!” 

I respect that a medicalized approach to psychedelic-assisted therapy should be an option available to people, and that many will benefit from such a hierarchical and centralized system. 

But when pharmaceutical executives are contacting me from their vacation house in Aspen asking me to jump on board with their push to politicize psychedelics, we no longer have any kind of renaissance on our hands. 

The sudden onslaught of overnight authorities positioning themselves as champions of mental health and chomping at the bit to advocate for psychedelics as a clinical treatment for X, Y, and Z without consideration of underlying socioeconomic and environmental determinants conspiring to create the mental health crisis in the first place is laughably myopic and disingenuous. 

Maybe we should entrust the keys to consciousness to the rent-seeking, pill-popping culture-devoted gatekeepers who often have little to no experience with altered states themselves. But maybe there’s still room for weirdness, levity and laughter in the coming age of mainstream psychedelics. 

If you need me, I’ll be frolicking in the forest with friends tripping on some homegrown cubensis.

  1. Bravo, Dennis! 🥳
    “…and the trees started breathing and communicating with you?”
    They do this anyway: the trees. It’s just so beautiful when we can tune in and see past the illusion of separateness.
    Beautifully written.

  2. “We need access to these life changing substances”
    “No not like that” if doing ketamine in a hospital stops me from offing myself and is the only way I can access it who are you to judge me for trying to stay alive. This take is trash

    1. Amen 🙏🏽 This person obviously has a really bad experience with psychiatrists or doctors because they’re just bashing this for no reason when it’s literally helped thousands of people it’s disgusting with this article is staying

      1. I think both of you should work on your reading skills: “I respect that a medicalized approach to psychedelic-assisted therapy should be an option available to people, and that many will benefit from such a hierarchical and centralized system.”

  3. Yikes. This is a bad take. There is plenty of room for all types of psychedelic use.
    Signed, someone who has received psychedelic therapy who also likes to frolic in the woods with their friends while on shrooms. Both have been very, very good for me in different ways.

    1. As already mentioned, I think you should work on your reading skills too: “I respect that a medicalized approach to psychedelic-assisted therapy should be an option available to people, and that many will benefit from such a hierarchical and centralized system.”
      DW is not saying that any medical use is bs, is saying that an exclusive focus on a medicalized use managed by stock market guys and pharma companies is bs, while recreational, spiritual and ceremonial uses are put aside (or criminalized) and the root social causes of our depression and anxiety is left untouched.

  4. There are a lot of really valid points in here, but I agree with another commenter in that this is just one of many ways of using psychedelics. The joyous, raucous laughter with friends in the woods isn’t going to stop just because there’s a new medicalized context. People use psychedelics for all kinds of reasons— deep healing, fun, connection, creative expansion— and I really don’t anticipate that that’s going to stop. If anything I feel like those kinds of usages might increase, now that we have more science to empirically support the benefits of these medicines, because there are a lot people who need that kind of backing to engage in something as mired in false mythos as psychedelics. And yeah, maybe that feels overly sanitized to a lot of people, and I don’t necessarily think that they’re wrong to feel that way, but it’s a context that works for people who might not otherwise get that kind of deep healing. We’re mostly hearing about execs and Silicon Valley types, but that’s true in a lot of contexts (“habits of successful people” type of media). It’s unfortunate that they seem to be the current face of the psychedelics movement, but they are from the only facet, and far from the only type of people who are deeply benefiting from this current wave.

    And I agree that implying that psychedelics will change systemic issues is a stretch, and that putting the onus on individuals is just ridiculous and irresponsible. We do the same thing with individualized therapy. It’s not the only solution. But, from my own experience, it becomes -much- easier to address larger scale problems when you feel more at peace with yourself. Begin from within, and all 🙂

  5. This is article is spot on. The idea of supervised psychedelic usage may be fine for some first time users but psilocybin particularly is much too safe to require such a strange and ridiculous restriction, really just to monetize usage and appease the FDA. The truth is the biotechs aren’t accepting the harsh reality – there is no simplel multi billion dollar industry here unless you create new novel drugs or pretend to have phony patent thickets on natural medicine. There are a handful of companies bravely trying to push this as more of a farming recreational industry. Red Light Holland comes to mind as one of the few publicly traded companies that actually gets it and where the industry is heading. But this is few and far between. In the end, biotech companies are either naive or pretending to be unaware of how easy it is take psilocybin spores and make mushrooms at home. This isn’t as hard to grow as weed nor as smelly. Psilocybin mushrooms are too easy to grow and their effects overlap with MDMA, LSD, DMT etc. Why would anyone spend thousands for a synthetic version when you can get the natural so inexpensively?

    1. Because it’s illegal and they don’t want to go to jail and some people would like to make sure that the things that they’re putting in their body have some kind of regulation or have some kind of dozing because you don’t really know how much that you’re getting when you take some thing that grows out of the ground be kind to people and gentle with their exploration not everybody is comfortable buying illicit street drugs and not everybody has the money to do so imagine how amazing it will be when you can just go to a doctor and have insurance pay for your ketamine treatment that would cost thousands of dollars now will cost nothing you people need to be kinder and have more grace towards people who are seeking help for themselves psychedelics don’t belong to anybody

      1. Not against the medical model for psychedelics. I am against that being the only model however. And psilocybin content can be measured in natural products…it just isnt as precise as the FDA might stipulate for clinical trials. It would be more similar to weed re THC. Oregon already has a regulated system which measures natural psilocybin. Either way, the market for psilocybin will slowly unravel similar to cannabis. Psilocybin mushrooms are simply too pervasive and easy to make with a mushroom kit. Even the FDA will not be able to really control it.

  6. This isn’t new at all…for example LSD, you worry this will become some pharmaceutical but that is exactly what it has always been. Created in a lab and introduced as a commercial medication under the trade-name Delysid for various psychiatric uses in 1947. Your friend’s basement is the newcomer on the scene not the application of hallucinogenics for psychiatric disorders.

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