As the cultural tide ebbs toward greater mainstream acceptance of psychedelics, many of us are looking to “come out” to our communities as psychedelic users. This is not to appropriate language from the LGBTQIA+ movement; we recognize coming out psychedelic does not carry the same risks as coming out queer or trans—but nonetheless, there are benefits on a societal level to being more open about our entheogenic experiences. The more of us who come out of the psychedelic closet, the more we may shift the public narrative about these substances, help reduce the stigma, and lead to policy reform to eventually tear down psychedelic prohibition. That, in turn, would give more folks safe, legal, and affordable access to these consciousness shifting and, often healing, experiences. Plus on an individual level, being truthful about one’s life can help folks feel more connected to themselves and live authentically in the world. To that end, if you’ve been mulling over how to go public, we’ve got some tips to make it easier.
Take it Slow, Be Honest, and Tell Your Story
Like most advice in drug culture, a good way to begin is to “start low and go slow.” But this time we’re not talking about dose; instead, we mean to begin your process of coming out by talking to folks in your immediate inner circle about psychedelics—whoever will be the easiest and most understanding—and slowly expanding who you’re open with from there. It can be easier for friends and family to understand if you have a story about how psychedelics have helped you. The Thank You Plant Medicine (#TYPM) campaign, which launched an international psychedelic coming out movement on February 20, 2020, recommends people present their journey with psychedelics as a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end, emphasizing how you were feeling in your life before working with psychedelics and how you feel now that you’ve incorporated them into your life.
Melissa Lavasani, the chairwoman of Initiative 81—Washington D.C.’s campaign to Decriminalize Nature (i.e. all naturally-occurring psychedelics) and a mother of two young children—recommends being “brutally honest” about your experience. She talks candidly about how psychedelics helped her out of a dark and dangerous depression, and now she fights for decriminalization so others don’t have to break the law to access this medicine. “I wanted to stay alive for my children and for myself but I didn’t know how,” she says. “Psilocybin, ayahuasca, mescaline, and a slew of changes to my daily lifestyle did just that for me.”
Know the Law and Possible Repercussions
Part of coming out safely is knowing the laws in your area and what kind of repercussions could be possible. On the federal level, psychedelics are still illegal, even if your locality has decriminalized personal possession of psilocybin or other entheogenic plants. In other words, you could risk arrest, or in some professions, losing your job or tarnishing your public reputation. The #TYPM campaign reminds folks there can be more risk for certain individuals to come out publicly, such as a public online post impacting immigration status, child custody, or the ability for non-US citizens to enter the country. So it’s important to really educate yourself on the laws and to think about your personal situation when weighing the pros and cons of coming out.
For some, it may only be possible to come out to people in your private life, although that can still go a long way in spreading education and decreasing stigma. You could also reserve sharing for situations where psychedelic use is sanctioned, such as traveling to a country where it’s legal to use certain medicines in a ceremony or retreat.
Have a Supportive Psychedelic Circle
Having a community of like-minded individuals who you can be open with is vital to all psychedelic work—especially integration—and coming out is no different. For some folks, it can be hard to tell friends and family about their psychedelic use. Even if entheogens are helping you tremendously, people close to you could be concerned, angry, misunderstanding, or judgmental, and that can be a painful or frustrating process. But having a psychedelic community to talk these things out with—like a local integration circle, psychedelic society, or one of many online gatherings—can help you feel supported. It can be helpful to practice what you’ll say when you come out and to hear what other folks have done within these safe spaces. It’s also good to cultivate a communal safety net to fall back on during the process.
Educate Yourself on the Science and History of Psychedelics
If you have scientific research and historical evidence to back up your personal experience, it might help those to whom you’re coming out better understand where you’re coming from. You can share links to many of the exciting, recent studies coming out of esteemed institutions like Johns Hopkins, NYU, and UCLA on the benefits of psilocybin for depression, addiction, eating disorders, and other ailments, or on the promise of MDMA for PTSD. You can also talk about how the FDA has granted breakthrough therapy status to both psilocybin and MDMA, which are due to become prescription medications in talk therapy early this decade—not to mention that, according to the Global Drug Survey, magic mushrooms are considered to be the safest illicit substance.
You can preemptively acknowledge that indeed, psychedelics can cause a “bad trip,” but that these challenging experiences are also opportunities for learning and growth, and that you can reduce the likelihood of a “bad trip” through careful self-reflection and preparation for an intentional journey. Zoe Helene, founder of Cosmic Sister, an environmental feminist advocacy group that supports women’s voices in the sacred plant community, suggests reading up on the ritual and sacramental use of psychedelics in indigenous cultures and ancient civilizations. She explains that in indigenous Greek culture, for instance, sacred plant rituals helped people glean a perspective shift that was considered “essential to the human experience—to make us better humans.” In such turbulent times such as those we’re living in now, it’s hard to refute that perhaps we’re in need of a similar cultural sacrament.
Show Mainstream Media about Psychedelics to Skeptics
When I surveyed other psychonauts about how they came out, several people said something along the lines of, “I got my dad a copy of Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind, and my mom a copy of Ayelet Waldman’s A Really Good Day.” Both the recent New York Times best-selling books do a good job of describing the medical promise of psychedelics and microdosing in a mainstream, Boomer-friendly tone. Especially if you have friends or family members who have yet to be convinced by your version of the scientific and anecdotal findings, it can be helpful to meet them halfway with media they already know and trust, like articles in The New York Times or The Guardian, or the 60 Minutes segment on psychedelic therapy with Anderson Cooper.
Accept Others’ Boundaries and Represent the Medicine Well
We know you’re passionate about psychedelics and want to come out to your community and have long conversations about their healing potential into the wee hours of the night—because we do, too. However, it’s also important to respect others’ boundaries and accept that some folks are going to take longer than others to come around. They’ll likely, eventually, sense that the cultural winds are shifting, so it’s your job to “trust the process” and not force this information down anyone’s throat. Let go of your own agenda, and if you “represent the medicine well,” which Helene emphasizes is the most important part, the rest might naturally fall into place.