When you’re engaged in inner exploration via psychedelics, it’s helpful to speak with like-minded people about your experiences and get support as your emotional wounds are uncovered. Fortunately, there’s an underutilized resource that helps people obtain this kind of support: psychedelic societies.
These groups, where people get together to talk about psychedelics, exist all over the world, with the Global Psychedelic Society website counting nearly 300 globally. Between online and in-person meetings, they provide opportunities for people to learn about psychedelics and connect with other psychonauts.
“Psychedelic societies play a multidimensional and vital role in our society,” says Danielle Nova, executive director of the San Francisco Psychedelic Society. “We serve as hubs of education, fostering informed and responsible use with psychedelics while promoting harm reduction practices to enhance safety. We provide a sense of belonging and community for individuals on diverse paths of exploration, offering emotional support, integration, and opportunities for shared experiences.”
What Are Psychedelic Societies?
“A Psychedelic Society is an organization that is dedicated to offering consistent local community gatherings and education around psychedelics,” says Jaz Cadoch, co-director of the Global Psychedelic Society (GPS). People tend to utilize psychedelic societies for education, support, and networking, says Kazzrie Hekati, former events director for the Portland Psychedelic Society.
“For people, especially people new to psychedelics, a lot of times they won’t have a lot of people in their life who have any experience,” says Hekati. “There is still stigma—‘ooh, that’s drugs’—so it’s great to have a community of people you can talk to who are completely supportive and accepting and have more experience.”
Psychedelic society events range from lectures by experts to integration circles to informal social gatherings, according to Mike Margolies, co-founder of the GPS. Margolies recommends psychedelic societies to “anyone who’s interested to learn about psychedelics or find local community.” Mareesa Stertz, director of strategy and communications for the Global Psychedelic Society, says such groups may also be helpful for finding “new ways to address mental health” and “new perspectives on life.”
Some societies have a physical space, while others are online or meet in various pop-up locations, according to Colin Pugh, executive director of the Brooklyn Psychedelic Society. Psychedelic societies do not give people psychedelics or refer them to psychedelic providers, though members might provide one another with such connections outside formal psychedelic society activities.
“One of the defining features of a society is that it is very low cost or no cost to be a part of,” says Pugh. “It’s kind of supposed to be extremely accessible and very community-focused. Usually, they’re non-profits.”
The History of Psychedelic Societies
During the hippie era in the 60s and 70s, groups like the Merry Pranksters spread awareness of psychedelics, although more through tours and parties than formal educational events, says Stertz. Modern societies began popping up in the early 2010s, according to Pugh. The first in the U.S. was the San Francisco Psychedelic Society, founded in 2011 by drug policy activist Daniel Jabbour, who held meetings on everything from digital security to harm reduction, according to Nova.
Pugh elaborates: “Psychedelics were still pretty taboo, and people were having beneficial healing experiences from psychedelics on their own but didn’t really have anywhere to go and talk about them. They served as an emergent community for people to talk about their psychedelic experiences and to learn from each other.”
Today, psychedelic societies more often provide emotional support for those who are processing recent psychedelic experiences. “They went from just educational resources to actual healing communities in of themselves,” Pugh says. “It’s also kind of a reservoir for people who don’t know much about psychedelics and just kind of want to dip their toes in and meet other people who are interested.”
Some societies have different programs to serve different populations. For instance, the San Francisco Psychedelic Society has a support group for people who are overcoming addiction with the help of psychedelics and collaborations with indigenous tribes to spread awareness of their teachings throughout the psychedelic space. The group also offers online courses and advocates for drug policy reform and psychedelic research.
How to Find a Psychedelic Society
“You want to make sure that if you’re hooking up with a psychedelic society, the psychedelic society is legitimate and valid,” says James Giordano, PhD, professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center, whose research has addressed psychedelics and psychedelic societies. “Do the homework: Is it a real society? Do they have an online presence? Who are their members? What is their mission statement? Most, if not all, legitimate psychedelic societies are very well organized and have an administrative hierarchy.”
Fortunately, some websites do some of that work for you. To find societies near you or ones you can join online, Pugh suggests searching the Global Psychedelic Society website, which has a database of psychedelic societies around the globe. You can also find some psychedelic societies by searching Meetup.com. “There’s definitely a lot more psychedelic societies popping up all the time, and I would say it’s accelerating,” says Margolies.
“There are probably enough of them out there that people can be somewhat picky about what psychedelic society they seek and choose to affiliate with,” says Giordano. “Align your interests with the interests of your society. The best fit is when your moral compass is aligned with the practical and moral compass of the institution.”
If you don’t find a psychedelic society that’s a match for you, you can search for similar groups like integration circles and psychedelic meetups on sites like Meetup. “In the bigger cities, there’s definitely adjacent groups,” says Pugh. If you want to start a psychedelic society or make yours publicly known, you can fill out a form on the Global Psychedelic Society website, where you can also find volunteer opportunities.
How to Participate
Most societies will welcome anyone into their meetings, says Pugh. Some charge a membership fee to help fund their operations, but most welcome people in without a membership.
Once you’ve decided to attend a meeting, Pugh recommends you “show up with an open mind and ear,” explaining, “you’re going to meet people different from yourself, and people come to psychedelic societies for a very amazing diversity of reasons.” Not only will people differ in their level of experience with psychedelics, but some might approach them from a scientific perspective while others will view them through a spiritual lens.
To get the most out of a psychedelic society, Pugh also suggests listening intently, offering others support, and volunteering your time to help the society itself. While people may want to just listen and take in what the group has to offer in the beginning, volunteering can offer members “the sense that they are contributing to their community and that they are helping something bigger than themselves,” he says.
“What people get from coming to the psychedelic societies in general, whether or not they volunteer, is a sense of being a part of a community and having a connection with others,” Pugh elaborates. “I think those sorts of spaces, where the point is to connect with people, and it’s not really a financial transaction, are rare—and that is what people go to psychedelic societies for. Our tagline is, ‘community is the medicine.’”
Toward a Psychedelic Future
Pugh hopes that the community-based healing model of psychedelic societies becomes more prevalent within other realms of the psychedelic space—and that retreat centers and medical centers form relationships with psychedelic societies to offer people more support.
“No one started these to make money from them; it was just to hold space for each other, and there’s something very, very important contained in that,” he says. “We need new economic and governance models that are more people-centric, and those are more likely to be developed in psychedelic societies than any other sector of the psychedelic ecosystem. They should be interoperable with the medical and retreat sector as well, and I think there’s a lot of medical and retreat centers that are very community-centric, but it’s not always enough support for everyone.”
Because psychedelics tend to foster community in of themselves, Pugh hopes to see more opportunities for psychedelic explorers to come together. “We’ve been doing psychedelics in community for millennia,” he says. “It’s what naturally happens when you do psychedelics. You want to talk to people about it and understand your experience. There’s something natural that we don’t really have a cultural container for in the West. What cafes do for coffee or gyms do for fitness, we don’t have that framework for transformational community-based healing.”
Margolies agrees that community is essential for those seeking healing through psychedelics. “All these ailments in society—PTSD, depression, addiction—we can’t just treat these as diseases that occur in individuals as though they’re in a vacuum,” he says. “These are systemically caused conditions, and so they involve a level of community healing. The whole point of psychedelic therapy is to get to the root cause, and if we’re just treating individuals as isolated cases, we’re just treating the symptoms. To get to the deeper root causes of these things we’re calling disorders, we have to look at the systems and community. Community is the foundation of a healthy psychedelic ecosystem.”