S Teve has police in his family, so he does not tell many about his work as an underground psychedelic…
S Teve has police in his family, so he does not tell many about his work as an underground psychedelic guide. The job takes a big part of his time – once a week he meets a client at home or in a rented home, doses them with MDMA or hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms and sits with them while traveling up to 10 hours ̵
1; but he does not tell for their siblings, parents or roommates about it, or his doctorate with other psychologists.
They probably would never guess either: Steve shows no signs of involvement in a stigmatized counterculture that many Americans still associate with their flamboyant 1960s figures. He is a sophisticated, softly spoken former college student who plays in a brass band and works part-time as a psychiatric adviser over the phone. After a glass of wine he says: “Who feels a little drunk.”
But if you send, he can tell about the time he took psilocybin and a “worm god” entered the body and left him hugging the floor for an hour. (The worm God was benevolent, he says, and the hug was catartic, “a huge release of anxious energy.”)
In early October, Steve participated in a conference in Manhattan called Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics, which counts as the world “largest and longest running annual collection of psychedelic society”. I went with my 51-year-old cousin, Temple, a relatively common psychotherapist. She had come to learn more about psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, which underground guides like Steve facilitate illegal. She hopes to incorporate this type of therapy into her exercise if and when substances such as psilocybin, MDMA, LSD and ayahuasca become legal.
Like many participants, Temple had recently read How to change your mind: What the new science of psychedelic Learn about awareness, dying, addiction, depression and transcendence a best-selling 2018 book by Michael Pollan. It convinced her that psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy “can really be the way forward”.
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Indigenous peoples are believed to have used herbal psychedelic for millennia; Nowadays, western medical facilities seem to be captivating. But most psychedelics are still Schedule In controlled subjects, in the same category as heroin and cocaine; possession or sale has been punished by prison sentences since 1971. With rare exceptions, you can only participate in one of the few clinical research attempts performed at universities such as New York University and Johns Hopkins
These studies have resulted in amazing results: they suggest psychedelics Drugs for administration to carefully screened patients by trained healthcare professionals are safe and effective tools for relieving PTSD, addiction, cluster headache, anxiety and depression.
broken health systems and rising frequencies of opioid addiction and suicide, seeking Americans alternative pathways to healing, which is where subway guides enter. The industry has its share of charlatan, but many guides stick to ethical norms and protocols comparable to those established in clinical settings.
Unlike psychotherapists, however, underground guides have no accreditation institutions, no licensing and no means to publicly market their services. How does a career like a guide then work?
Steve was one of many guides I spoke to as being described spiritually “called” to do this work. Like a doctor who gave abortion before Roe v Wade, he breaks his laws as he considers unfair. He considers legal offenses a risky but necessary part of his endeavor to alleviate people’s pain. He is loading a sliding scale ranging from about $ 15 to $ 50 per hour.
As is the case with most guides, his own psychedelic experience convinced him that the job was worth the risk.
“During an early guided psilocybin session, I realized that I had never taken sufficient care of the pain caused by my parents’ divorce,” said Steve. “It was still clear this 11-year-old part of myself that was: “I want to be part of a coherent family unit.” During the experience, I gained this vision – there is no way to say what does not. “T sounds stupid – but there was this figurehead that was like a half-vedic goddess, with a million arms and a million eyes and a half-space stranger with gray skin. She was this roomy surrounded by this space-family, and she radiated just this to me this incredibly welcome feeling, this is the divine family from which you originate. “
In addition to keeping silent about his work, Steve uses an encrypted messaging program to communicate with customers – precautions required to avoid the kind of legal issues that have arisen some underground guides, such as Eric Osborne, a former middle school teacher from Kentucky.
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“>  The felon-turned-psilocybin retreat entrepreneur
On July of July 2015, state troopers showed at Eric’s gourmet mushroom farm in Indiana with search options.
They took over their house and then trawled through their mushrooms, inspected places of shiitaks, turkey tails and reishis, which he sold to appreciate local restaurants. Eric was convinced that the police did not find anything incriminating there – he grew his psilocybin mushrooms far from his restaurant-grown crops – but when he saw them heading towards the forest on his property, he panicked.
Two nights earlier, Eric and his then had engaged around a campfire with a new friend, all stumbled. A self-described “Restoration Catholic” with a southern dragon, which became India’s first state-certified wild mushroom expert in 2009, he had for many years offered underground psilocybin treatments. (He has no formal training in psychology, he says that the fungus he consumes at high doses around 500 times is his teacher.)
The friend had hoped a session could help solve a year old trauma. When the mushroom came into force, she went to bed in her tent. Minutes later, Eric saw a spotlight through the trees. As a security measure, he had hidden the woman’s car keys in the house, but now her car was driving on her driveway.
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“My heart just dropped,” said Eric. “I was sure she would die.”
Eric and his fiancé spent 14 hours to look for her before she texted and said she was sure. She had crashed into a gravel near the farm after retrieving a spare key that hidden under her car’s transom. No one was injured but after the police found her, she bothered them all about Eric’s psilocybin surgery to avoid being charged with drug content.
“I knew the policemen came for me,” said Eric. Before they arrived, he stashed a pound of dried “Mr E psilocybin sponges – a unique tribe that he had bred and named himself and did not want to lose – inside a hollow log in the forest.
Somehow, the police managed to find it: “That was the end there.”
He spent a week in prison thinking about the effects of drug war on mental health. “The terrible irony was, I was sitting in this cell with people who had drug abuse as psilocybin can help remedy,” he says. After being released, he was thrown into a house arrest with an ankle camera for eight weeks, forbidden to speak with his fiancee whose parents had bailed her out of jail after one day. He was facing at least 10 years in prison for each of three B-felony charges – I schedule the production, distribution and possession of substances.
“The night our friend drove away was my life’s most scary life, but in the eight weeks that followed when I sat on these 87 hectares alone, there was a moment of complete despair. I had to take my shotgun against a neighbor, he says. “I have uncles who were cannabis farmers who spent years in prison. I was sure I would follow their way. “
However, the judge at his trial was mercilessly liberal. The B-felonymer fell down. Eric was sentenced to” maintain a common inconvenience “and sentenced to two and a half years.
” Yes, that’s what I’m doing – “Maintain a common inconvenience,” he says. “I’ve turned it into a career now.”
He’s not joking: In October 2015, he founded MycoMeditations, a global psilocybin-assisted therapy in Jamaica, in October 2015, instead of quitting the mushroom world. Some countries where psilocybin is legal.
“I felt I had no other option,” he says. “The landlord kicked me off the farm, I worked in a Louisville restaurant – I could not go back to education with a crime – so I just pushed it up. I felt like medicine was so necessary I could not do it. “
During the three years, around 400 people from around the world have participated in MycoMeditation’s seven to ten day group retreat at Treasure Beach, on Jamaica’s remote south coast. Guests travel on psilocybin every other day in a fenced-in field surrounded by mango and coconut palms. “All I do is just sit there with people, support them quietly and sometimes hold their hands,” says Eric.
While each guide has a unique approach, psychedelic-assisted therapy tends to follow a similar structure. Before a trip, clients have preliminary treatment sessions with guides, discussing their psychological problems and intentions for treatment. (Some guides do not work with people taking psychiatric drugs; they are careful that prescription antidepressants may have potentially dangerous interactions with some psychedelics, especially ayahuasca.)
During the trip, the guides are with the customer, ensure their safety and, if necessary, help they navigate what scientists call “difficult fighting experiences”.
“What we find in talking to patients is that this” hard fight “is not a bug in the experience, but actually a function,” says Dr. Alex Belser, who founded the psychedelic research team at NYU 2006. “When they take These drugs go to people in difficult places – they handle past grief, trauma and suffering, and feel intense for some time … Outside a strong sense of security and trust with a therapist that can lead to what is called a “bad journey” . But if there is enough intention to support that experience, it’s the beginning of an arc of healing that can lead to something extraordinary. “
After a trip, guides facilitate” integration “sessions, where the customer strives to incorporate lessons from experience in their everyday lives. At MycoMeditations, after integration sessions, guests can massage and swim among sea turtles and coral reefs.
A participant, a stage four cancer patients, felt so healed by the retreat that she donated one year’s salary to Eric, which enabled him to quit his job at the Louisville restaurant – he had split his time between Jamaica and Kentucky – to focus full time in the middle. “Now she is in remission, the country travels fly fishing in its Mercedes Winnebago,” says Eric. “Miracles remain – not everyday, but quite normal here.”
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I meet the hummingbird at Alice’s Tea Cup, an Alice in Wonderland theme cafe in Manhattan. Wear a lavender shawl and a gold turtle-shaped brooch, matching the Hummingbird decor. One in six children of Cuban immigrant parents calls themselves a “medical woman”; Her attitude towards guiding is ceremonial rather than clinical.
As a teenager in New Jersey in the 1980s, she was a star cheerleader and an enthusiastic participant in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (Dare) program. For 10 years she had dreamed of becoming a social worker; After gaining her master, she basically tried all social jobs she could find, including working at a metadont clinic and as a family therapist in the Bronx. “I was very googly-eyed,” she says. “I would like to change the system.”
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After several years, “apathy built,” she said. “I was very dissatisfied with the system, burned out, very sick – constant bronchial infections, flush”.
During such a disease, she tried to treat herbs while conducting a program aimed at reducing psychiatric hospital reactivity. – Elderberry and tail elm – instead of visiting a doctor. This caused a different kind of fever, she says: “I have cold sweating and chills, and I feel this weight on me – this is what makes this pure sound in a language that I now understand much better. It was who called me. I wake up saying, “Okay, I’m leaving my job.” “
Soon after she left, a friend took her to a ceremony in Upstate New York and introduced her to” abuela ” , as many devotees call ayahuasca, a herbal tea containing the natural hallucinogen DMT. “Then I had tried everything – mushrooms, LSD, ecstasy, cocaine – but it was different,” says Hummingbird. “The sky opened. At the end of a walkway of stars this feeling was like you home . I was flooded with tears of gratefulness. And I began to speak in this second language and shouted and talked to Birds in the forest. “
On sabbatical she packed back through Guatemala, where she participated in eight more ayahuasca ceremonies led by domestic curanderas . “When I got back to my luxury home, I was shocked by the American way of life,” she says. “I could not believe I would make myself part of this system.”
Instead of returning to social work, she studied native healing traditions with a New York-based shaman, Irma StarSpirit Turtle Woman. By 2015, after adopting a “drug name” – Hummingbird, translated from Zunzún, her Cuban grandmother’s nickname – she began to lead ayahuasca ceremonies herself.
At ceremonies costing $ 230 a night, Hummingbird blows a tobacco snake rap é up the nose of his nose, then serves ayahuasca and sings icaros – medicine songs – while they cleanse . “It’s a lot to cry, laugh, vomit, urinate, sweat – [what I call]” get well, “she says.
Also offered is sananga, a psychoactive eye body that burns like habanero chilis and Kambo, a drug made from the poison from Amazon’s giant monkey frog.
Hummingbird’s work with the psychiatric health care system left her worried that the millennial spiritual traditions surrounding psychedelics risk being sidelined in the process of medical treatment. Despite the psychedelic researchers’ attempt to quantify results using tools like ” Mystical Experience Questionnaire, “experiences travel experiences – like meetings with” worms “- to fall outside the current scientific understanding.
” Abuela is an everlasting-increasing quantity, “said Hummingbird.” There are no end results that science loves to ha. “
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Since the publication of the book Pollan reader has bombarded him with requests for referrals to subway guides – requests he turns down to protect its sources.
“The demand [for psychedelic therapy] considers the very supply and care we have, whether in clinical trials or in the subway” Pollan said at Horizons. “I was struck by how many people really suffer. I wish people could only go to the 1-800-Underground Guide.
Steve’s schedule is in capacity; he finds turning away about three-quarters of References he receives, some of which come from licensed psychotherapists who may risk losing their licenses by pursuing interests in illegal subjects.
But many are optimistic about the future of legalization for medical use The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave 2017 “breakthrough service” to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, confirming that it “can show significant improvement over existing therapies” and agrees to accelerate its development and review. In October, researchers from Johns Hopkins University recommended that psilocybin be reclassified to a Schedule IV drug, with accepted medical use.
The protection for legalization has Obtained support: Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire Republican and co-owner of Breitbart, recently donated $ 1m to the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (Maps), an ideal organization that performs much of today’s psychedelic research.
In anticipation of expanded access, the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco offers an education and certification program for healthcare professionals who hope to finally facilitate legal psychedelic-assisted therapy.
While metro guides tend to strongly support decriminalization, some like Jackie, say that even though psychedelic would be legalized medically, they would continue to work underground.
“I do not want to work under the medical model,” said Jackie. “It’s too regenerated for me.”
Before joining a guide, Jackie worked as a birthday and a registered labor and delivery nurse. “I used to sit with people as they gave birth to humans, “she says.” Now I sit with people they feed to themselves. “
After leaving her” tumultuous, kawbled family “at 17, she tried LSD for the first time with the man whom she later married. During the 1980s, she woke up to her children and suffered from “long-term emotional pain” and tried to treat it: decades of psychotherapy, yoga, meditation, neurofeedback, self-help shops. Nothing worked.  In 2016, on the recommendation of her 30-year-old daughter, she participated in a shaman-led ayahuasca retreat in Costa Rica. “Even when I threw up on the jungle floor, I was like:” Thank you. Therefore, I came here, saying ho n. “Afterwards, I felt like all the trauma stuck inside my body had been released.”
When she returned home, she broke up with her psychotherapist. “I have not felt like going back,” she says. “I’m a very happy person now.” She started going to Horizons and trained as a guide with several mentors.
Now she works full time as a guide for two to four clients a month, either in her New England home or an Airbnb, charges thousands of dollars for 48-hour sessions and “Unlimited Post-Travel Integration.”
Many of her customers are “genius entrepreneurs”; most, she says, has little experience of drugs. She gets word-of-mouth references from around the world and also mentors beginners guides.
“As therapists we must think if the worst happened and we went to prison?” She says. “But if I went to prison, I think I would still find a way to earn. And I know it sounds woo-woo, but I feel somehow protected by the mushroom.”
• Steve and Jackie’s name has been changed to protect their anonymity