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Doubleblind: illustration of hands holding onto a ring. In this article, Doubleblind explores how everyting's cancelled due to COVID 19 and looks at how the psychedelic community is coping.
Doubleblind: illustration of hands holding onto a ring. In this article, Doubleblind explores how everyting's cancelled due to COVID 19 and looks at how the psychedelic community is coping.
Collage by Georgia Love for Doubleblind (Illustrations courtesy of United Nations).

Everything’s Canceled: How the Psychedelic Community is Coping

We're all grieving something that doesn't exist any longer: in-person community. But here's how we're moving forward.

Sophie Saint Thomas // May 11, 2020

DoubleBlind is devoted to fair, rigorous reporting by leading experts and journalists in the field of psychedelics. Read more about our editorial process and fact-checking here. Editorially reviewed by Madison Margolin.

It’s the psychedelic renaissance. Researchers, patients, and psychonauts uttered those words like a mantra over the past few years. Denver and Oakland decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms. Ketamine became an accepted treatment for PTSD and depression. Ironically, cannabis was a gateway—not to despair and ruin, but to paving the way for psychedelics to reclaim their rightful spot as a therapeutic elixir for the masses. 

However, due to COVID-19, a pandemic so brutal that we likely won’t know the extent of its effects for years, if not decades, the “masses” no longer exist—at least out in public at the same time. Conferences are canceled. The Costa Rica ayahuasca trip you had planned before the pandemic is indefinitely on hold. Even if you can get your hands on psychedelics, many people don’t want to trip right now. “I’m worried about germs; I can get paranoid about that,” says Michelle Janikian, author of Your Psilocybin Mushroom Companion: An Informative, Easy-to-Use Guide to Understanding Magic Mushrooms.

Janikian had to cancel a book tour due to the pandemic. “I’ve been grieving that for a while,” she says. “I was going to do presentations on safe mushroom use. That was canceled, or postponed. I’m not starting yet until we really know what the future looks like,” she says. 

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We’re all grieving, whether we’re aware of it or not. We grieve for the dead, the sick, our social lives, our careers, our communities. “Within the psychedelic space, there’s been a lot of conversation about how this time has mimicked being in a global ayahuasca ceremony. Nobody knows what’s on the other side of it,” says Jennifer Sodini, the founder of an online platform called Evolve + Ascend. “The one thing in an ayahuasca ceremony, of many, that’s so important is practicing the divine art of surrender. The more you struggle with something the harder it gets. The more you surrender, the more you get clarity.” Sodini describes the concept of hiraeth, which she describes as a homesickness for something that doesn’t even exist.

We’re all grieving, whether we’re aware of it or not. We grieve for the dead, the sick, our social lives, our careers, our communities.

That something we’re all missing is community. Like many persecuted subcultures, the psychedelic scene has already gone digital. When COVID hit and large public gatherings became a thing of the past, psychedelics were uniquely suited to adapt to the new virtual world. It’s the direction we were heading in anyways. MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) is currently hosting an online webinar series that began on April 9th and runs through May 21. “We started talking about this webinar series a year ago and started developing it and inviting people several months before COVID,” explains Brad Burge, the director of strategic communications for MAPS.

Community organizers within the psychedelic space such as Sodini are also making space for online gatherings. She hosts an online gathering called Isolation Tank every Tuesday and Thursday made up of artists, creatives, and philosophers. Even at DoubleBlind, we’ve hosted online breathwork or integration sessions, Instagram Live interviews with experts in the space, and a course on how to grow mushrooms (tomorrow is the last day to register!). The psychedelic community didn’t have to go online when COVID hit, we already were online. 

Doubleblind- illustration of a woman at home with plants. In this article, doubleblind explores how everything this cancelled due to COVID-19. It explores how the psychedelic community is coping with this pandemic.

That’s not to say that there aren’t topics to be bummed about. COVID put all research on pause, although researchers are even studying ketamine as a treatment for COVID-19. While we can communicate online, we can’t take psychedelics online, which sucks, as many of us could use it more than ever. “COVID will increase the number of people with PTSD,” Burge says. I recently took ketamine orally at home for my depression, which has flared up while in quarantine, through a program called Mindbloom. And I’m not the only one. “Over 300 remote sessions have been booked since we announced the offering about a month ago, which speaks to the need right now,” says Dylan Beynon, founder of Mindbloom. They are also offering a free bi-weekly webinar series on navigating anxiety and depression during turbulent times. 

Sadini describes the concept of hiraeth, which she describes as a homesickness for something that doesn’t even exist. That something we’re all missing is community.

While the educational component of online workshops and conferences is invaluable, most members of the community attend such events to connect with others. “It’s amazing that the conferences moved online, we get access to researchers and talks, but the really big part about the conferences for me was meeting and connecting with people,” Janikian says.

DoubleBlind's newest course: Using Psychedelics for Growth.

One of my quarantine gigs is hosting virtual play parties. At times, it’s depressing and beyond frustrating to connect with others in the scene—virtually—but not be able to touch them. However, I’ve noticed that through follow-up Zoom dates, despite the inability to meet up for sex, or perhaps because of it, people are going deeper. Couples are taking the time to really get to know their unicorns. Casual affairs are suddenly far more emotionally considerate. The same phenomenon exists for the psychedelic community. 

“I’m sure people want to come and they want to sit in the academic research and learn. But mostly what they want to do is connect with others,” Burge says. There is a chat feature at all of MAPS webinars to meet new friends with similar interests. 

Although, while we still can’t sit in circle and trip together, and the idea of taking shrooms with friends while wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) and following social distancing rules sounds like a bad trip waiting to happen, we can continue to connect and follow the upwards trajectory that psychedelics were already on—while remembering our strength that prepared us for this moment. 

Sophie Saint Thomas is DoubleBlind’s Community Engagement Editor. Her writing has been published in GQ, Playboy, VICE, Cosmopolitan, Forbes, Allure, Glamour, Marie Claire, High Times, Nylon, Refinery29, Complex, Harper’s Bazaar, PRIDE Magazine, SELF, and more. 

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We have a small favor to ask. In 2020, more than five million readers like you visited DoubleBlind’s website. Many of them are suffering and simply seeking trusted information on how to use psychedelics to heal.

We started DoubleBlind two years ago at a time when even the largest magazines and media companies were cutting staff and going out of business. Friends and family said we were crazy. But we did it anyway, because we believe in it—deeply. We believe in the value of good journalism. And we believe in the extraordinary potential of psychedelics to reduce suffering. At the time we made a commitment: we will never have a paywall, we will never rely on advertisers we don’t believe in to fund our reporting, and we will always be accessible via email and social media to support people for free on their journeys with plant medicines.

To help us do this, if you feel called and can afford it, we ask you to consider making a monthly donation to DoubleBlind, starting at $1. In exchange, you’ll be invited to a monthly Zoom call with DoubleBlind’s co-founders, Shelby Hartman and Madison Margolin, where they’ll answer any questions you have about the psychedelic movement or your own journey with psychedelics. These Zoom calls also include special guests, some of the people who we love and respect most in the psychedelic space. Together, we brainstorm, collaborate, dialogue, and, simply, commune. Either way, please know that we value you as a member of our community. Make a gift now from as little as $1. Thank you.

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Sophie Saint Thomas is a journalist and author based in New York City originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Her writing is published in GQ, Playboy, VICE, Forbes, Allure, Glamour, High Times, SELF, and more. Her writing focuses on sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll as well as the occult and other subcultures. Brooklyn Magazine included her on their annual 2016 30 Under 30 Envy List and High Times named her one of their 2018 100 Women in High Places. Saint Thomas is the author of multiple books, including Finding Your Higher Self: Your Guide to Cannabis for Self-Care, The Little Book of CBD for Self-Care, and Sex Witch: Magickal Spells for Love, Lust, and Self-Protection. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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