S He has police officers in his family so that he does not tell many people about his work as an underground psychedelic leader. The work takes a long time – about once a week he meets a customer at home or in a rented house, doses her with MDMA or hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms and sits down with them as they stumble 1
They would probably never guess: Steve shows no sign of involvement in a stigmatized counterculture Many Americans still associate their extravagant figureheads of the 1960s. He is a bespectacled, quiet ex-student of the Business School, who plays in a brass band and works part-time as a telephone counselor for mental health. After a glass of wine, he says, "Whoa, I feel a bit drunk."
But if you investigate, he could tell you how much time he needed psilocybin and a "serpent god" invaded his body and he went writhing on the ground for an hour. (The serpent god was benevolent, he says, and the cramps were cathartic, "a tremendous discharge of anxious energy.")
In early October, Steve attended a conference in Manhattan titled "Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics." itself referred to as the "largest and longest running annual gathering of the psychedelic community" worldwide. I was with my 51-year-old cousin Temple, a relatively mainstream psychotherapist. She had come to learn more about psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy that illegally supports subway leaders like Steve. She hopes to bring this kind of therapy into her practice when substances like psilocybin, MDMA, LSD and ayahuasca become legal.
How many attendees had Temple recently read how to change their minds: What is the new science of psychedelics? Teach us about consciousness, dying, dependency, depression and transcendence a bestselling book by Michael Pollan in 2018. She convinced her that psychedelic-based psychotherapy "could really be the way of the future."
It is believed that natives were plant-based psychedelics for millennia; Now fractions of the Western medical establishment seem to prevail. However, most psychedelics are still Schedule I controlled substances in the same category as heroin and cocaine; Possession or sale has been punished with imprisonment since 1971. With few exceptions, you can only legally consume psychedelics in the US if you participate in one of the few clinical research studies conducted at universities such as New York University and Johns Hopkins.
These studies have produced amazing results: They suggest Psychedelics, when administered by carefully trained healthcare professionals to carefully screened patients, are safe and effective tools to alleviate PTSD, addictions, cluster headaches, anxiety and depression.
Americans are looking for alternative ways to heal where underground leaders come into play. Industry has its share of charlatans, but many leaders abide by ethical standards and protocols comparable to those established in the clinical setting.
However, unlike psychotherapists, underground leaders have no accreditation of educational institutions, no licensing and no opportunity to publicly market their services. How do you make a career as a leader?
Steve was one of many guides I talked to, who described the feeling that they have the spiritual feeling of doing this job. Like doctors who have performed abortions before Roe v Wade, he violates laws that he considers unfair; He sees rights violations as a risky but necessary part of his efforts to relieve people's pain. He calculates on a sliding scale, which is between 15 and 50 US dollars per hour.
Like most guides, his own psychedelic experiences convinced him that the job was worth the risk.
"During an Early Guided Psilocybin Session I realized that I had never adequately dealt with the pain caused by my parents' divorce," says Steve. "There was clearly still this eleven-year-old part of me saying," I want to be part of a coherent family unit. "During the experience I got this vision – there is no way to say that. It sounds stupid – but there was this mother figure who looked like a half -vedic goddess with a million arms and a million eyes and a half-space alien with gray skin. She was this space mother surrounded by this space family, and she gave me that unbelievable inviting feeling. This is the divine family you came from.
In addition to his work Steve is silent about an encrypted messaging app for communicating with customers – precautions that he takes to prevent legal problems that have occurred in some underground guides, such as Eric Osborne, a former high school teacher from Kentucky ,
The Entrepreneur Emerging from a Psilocybin Retreat Talent
On a July afternoon in 2015, state troops appeared on Eric's Gourmet Fungus Farm in Indiana search warrants.
She s Then he searched his house and sifted through his mushroom fruit chambers. He studied shiitakes, turkey tails and reishis, which he sold to upscale restaurants. Eric was confident that the police would not find anything offensive there – he grew his psilocybin mushrooms far from his crops in the restaurant – but when he saw her walking towards the forest on his property, he panicked.
Two nights before, Eric and he then had the fiancé and campfire with a new friend, all stumbled. A self-described "Catholic recovered" with a southern flair that became the first state-certified wild mushroom expert in Indiana in 2009 and has been offering underground psilocybin therapy sessions for years. (He has no formal education in psychology; he says the mushrooms he consumed about 500 times in high doses are his teachers.)
The friend had hoped a session could help solve a year-long trauma. After the mushrooms had become effective, she lay down in her tent. Minutes later Eric saw a glow of headlights through the trees. As a precaution, he had hidden the car keys of the woman in the house, but now her car was racing down its driveway.
"My heart just fell," says Eric. "I was sure she was going to die."
Eric and his fiancé spent 14 hours looking for her before she texted and said she was safe. She had fallen into a ditch near the farm after hiding a spare key under the back of her car. No one was hurt, but after the police found her disordered, she told them all about Eric's psilocybin operation so as not to be charged with drug possession.
"I knew the police would come for me," says Eric. Before they arrived, he put a pound of dried & # 39; s & # 39; psilocybin mushrooms – a unique strain that he had bred and named himself and did not want to lose – in a hollow tree trunk in the forest.
Somehow the police found it: "That was the end there."
He spent a week in prison thinking about the effects of the drug war on the mental health system. "The terrible irony was, I was sitting in this cell with people who had drug addictions that psilocybin can fix," he says. After his release, he was put under house arrest for eight weeks with an ankle monitor . He was forbidden to speak with his fiancée, whose parents threw them out of jail after one day. For each of the three B offenses, the production, distribution and possession of Substance I, at least 10 years in prison have been recorded.
"The night our friend left was the most awful and profound moment of my life But in the following eight weeks, sitting alone on these 87 hectares, there were moments of utter despair. I had to bring my guns to a neighbor, "he says. "I have uncles who were cannabis breeders and spent years in jail. I was sure that I would follow her path.
The judge in his trial, however, was mercifully liberal. The B-crimes were written down. Eric was convicted of "maintaining a joint harassment" and sentenced to two and a half years probation.
"Yeah, that's what I'm doing -" Maintaining a common harassment, "he says." I've now made it into a career. "
He's not joking: In October 2015, he started MycoMeditations Nationwide Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy Retreat Center in Jamaica instead of leaving the mushroom world some countries where psilocybin is legal.
"I felt I had no choice," he says. "The landlord has me thrown from the farm, I was working in a restaurant in Louisville – I could not teach a crime again – so I let myself in. I felt the medicine was so necessary that I could not do it. "
In the three years since around 400 people from around the world participated in MycoMeditations' seven to ten-day group retreats in Treasure Beach, on Jamaica's remote South Coast, guests are driving everyone second day in psilocybin on a fenced field surrounded by mango and coconut palms. "I just sit with people, silently support them, and sometimes hold hands," says Eric.
While each leader has a unique approach, the psychedelically-supported therapy on board and underground follows a similar structure. Before traveling, clients will conduct preparatory therapy sessions with guide books to discuss their mental health issues and treatment intentions. (Some guides do not work with people taking psychiatric medications.) They point out that prescription antidepressants may potentially have potentially dangerous interactions with certain psychedelics, especially ayahuasca.)
Guides sit with the client during the journey to discuss their experiences Ensuring safety If necessary, they help them navigate through what researchers call "difficult combat experiences."
"What we find in conversation with patients is that this" difficult fight "is not a mistake in the experience, but a feature," says Dr Alex Belser, who co-founded the psychedelic research team at NYU in 2006. "When they take these medications, people go into difficult situations – they deal with the grief, trauma and suffering of the past and feel those feelings intensively for a while … without a strong sense of security and trust in a therapist that leads to such called "bad trip" can lead. However, if there is enough intention to support this experience, this is the beginning of a healing bow that can lead to something out of the ordinary. "
After a journey, leaders facilitate integration sessions in which the client wants to incorporate the lessons of their everyday experience. At the MycoMeditations, after the integration sessions, guests receive massages and swim between sea turtles and coral reefs.
One participant, a fourth-stage cancer patient, felt so healed by the retreat that he spent a year's salary on Eric, which allowed him to quit his job at the Louisville restaurant – he had split his time between Jamaica and Kentucky – to concentrate completely on the center. "Now she is in remission and travels the country with her Mercedes Winnebago for fly fishing," says Eric. "Miracles do not become commonplace, they are pretty normal here."
The social worker who became the medicine
I meet Hummingbird in Alice's Tea Cup, an Alice in Wonderland Café in Manhattan. Hummingbird wears a lavender cloth and a golden brooch in the form of turtles. As one of six children of Cuban immigrant parents, she describes herself as a "medicine woman"; Her approach to leadership is ceremonial rather than clinical.
A teenager in New Jersey in the 1980s, she was a star cheerleader and an avid participant in the Drug Abuse Resistance Program (Dare). Since the age of ten, she has dreamed of becoming a social worker. After her master's degree, "she basically tried every social work job" she could find, including at a methadone clinic and as a family therapist in the Bronx. "I had very good eyes," she says. "Quite the idealist. I wanted to change the system. "
After a few years, however," apathy was built, "she says. "I was very dissatisfied with the system, was burned out, very ill – constant bronchial infections, flow."
While undergoing a program to reduce psychiatric hospital readmissions, she tried to treat herself with herbs – elderberry root and slippery elm – instead of seeing a doctor. This triggered a fever dream, she says: "I have cold sweats and chills, and I feel that weight on me – this being that makes this purring sound, in a language I now understand a lot better. It was I called . I wake up and say, "OK, I'm leaving my job."
Shortly after she quit, she took a friend to a New York State ceremony and introduced her with "abuela," as many devotees call ayahuasca, a plant-based tea containing the natural hallucinogen DMT , "Until then I had tried everything – mushrooms, LSD, ecstasy, cocaine – but that was different," says Hummingbird. "The sky opened. At the end of a path of stars, this feeling was like home . I was filled with tears of gratitude. And I started talking in this other language, chirping and talking to birds in the woods.
On the sabbatical, she rowed through Guatemala, where she took part in eight other ayahuasca ceremonies led by indigenous curanderas . "When I returned to my luxurious home, I was shocked by the American way of life," she says. "I could not believe that I became part of this system."
Instead of returning to social work, she studied indigenous healing traditions with New York-based shaman Irma StarSpirit Turtle Woman. In 2015, after adopting a "medical name" – Hummingbird, translated from Zunzún, – the nickname of her Cuban grandmother – she herself began ayahuasca ceremonies.
At ceremonies that cost $ 230 a night, Hummingbird blows a tobacco snuff called rap é in the nose of her guests, then serves ayahuasca and sings icaros – Medicine Songs – while they are cleaning themselves. "There's a lot to cry, to laugh, to vomit, to urinate, to sweat – [what I call]" Goes well, "she says.
Also on offer is Sananga, a psychoactive eye drop that burns like Habanero chilis, and Kambo , a drug made from the poison of the Amazon giant aphrodisiac.
Hummingbird's work with the mental health care system worried that the millennia-old spiritual traditions surrounding psychedelics might end in medicalization, despite psychedelic researches, the results With such instruments as the Mystical Experience Questionnaire, travel experiences – such as encounters with serpent gods – tend to fall outside the scope of contemporary scientific understanding.
"Abuela is an eternity evolutionary set," Kolibri says. "There are no definitive Results that science likes. "
The former work nurse helping people to give birth
Since its release, Pollan's readers have bombarded him with requests for referrals to underground guide requests he refuses to protect his sources.
"Demand [for psychedelic therapy] outweighs the supply and care we have, whether in clinical trials or in the subway," said Pollan at Horizons. "I was impressed by how many people really suffer, I wish people could just go to the 1-800 Underground Guide.
Steve's schedule is full, spending about three-quarters of the money he receives some of them come from licensed psychotherapists who may risk losing their licenses by being interested in illegal substances.
Many are optimistic, however, about the legalis The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted MDMA-based psychotherapy for PTSD in 2017 a "breakthrough therapy" in which it acknowledged "that they may show significant improvements over existing therapies can "and is willing to accelerate its development and review. In October, researchers at Johns Hopkins University recommended that psilocybin be reclassified into a Category IV drug with recognized medical use.
The legalization move was supported by two parties: Rebekah Mercer, billionaire, Republican and co-owner of Breitbart, donated $ 1 million to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (Maps), a nonprofit organization that covers much of today's psychedelic Carries out research.
In anticipation of expanded access, the San Francisco-based California Institute for Integral Studies offers a training and certification program for medical and mental health professionals who wish to support legal psychedelic-supported therapy.
"I am now a super joyous person"
While underground leaders strongly support decriminalization, some, such as Jackie, say that even if psychedelics were to be medically legalized, they would continue to work underground.
"I do not work under the medical model," says Jackie. "It's too regimented for me."
Before becoming an executive, Jackie worked as a birthing diploma and as a trained work and maternity nurse. "I sat with people when they gave birth to people," she says. "Now I'm sitting with people as they give birth to themselves."
After she left her "turbulent, damned family" at 17, she tried LSD for the first time with the man she would later marry. During the education of her children in the 1980s, she suffered from "stubborn emotional pain" and tried everything to treat her: decades of psychotherapy, yoga, meditation, neurofeedback, self-help workshops. Nothing worked.
In 2016 she took part in a shaman-led ayahuasca retreat in Costa Rica on the recommendation of her 30-year-old daughter. "Even as I vomited on the jungle floor, I thought," Thank you. That's why I came here, "she says. "After that, I felt that the entire trauma that was in my body had been released."
When she got home, she separated from her psychotherapist. "I had no need to go back," she says. "I'm a super happy person now." She attended Horizons and trained as a tour guide with several mentors.
Now she works 57 years full-time as a guide for two to four clients a month to her home in New England or to an airbnb that charges several thousand dollars for 48-hour sessions and "unlimited post-trip integration".
Many of their clients are "brilliant entrepreneurs"; Most, she says, have little experience with drugs. She receives word-of-mouth recommendations from all over the world and also looks after newbies.
"As subject therapists, we need to think about what happens when the worst happened and we go to jail?" She says. "But if I went to jail, I would probably still find a way to serve. And I know it sounds woo-woo, but I feel somehow protected by the mushrooms.
• Steve and Jackie's names have been changed to protect their anonymity