As psychedelic healing moves into the mainstream view, there has been an attempt to separate “therapeutic” psychedelic use from the stigma of “recreational” drug use. This separation between good and bad usage goes back to the War on Drugs where pharmaceutical drugs are seen as permissible while recreational drugs are considered dirty and addictive across the board. This bias has continued as modern psychedelic aficionados seek to distance current psychedelic research and practices from the negative connotation of raves and “street drugs.”
Understandably, clinical use of entheogens sets an intention that creates a much different container than entheogens used for fun. However, medicinal psychedelics, or substances used as a medical treatment, do not create the only environment in which substances can be therapeutic or transformational. Recreation substance use has the same transformative power as medicinal application when intention setting is paired with set & setting.
Here at Altered States Integration we believe that recreational is not a dirty word! We prefer to reclaim the word ‘recreational’ rather than eliminate the term because of its current negative connotation. It’s essential to recognize that fun and recreation have an important role in facilitating healing and growth. Therapeutic experiences don't just take place in a clinical setting nor should we spend all of our time hyper focused on healing.
Here’s some ways that recreational psychedelics can be therapeutic.
Taking a Mini Vacation: In today’s Covid era it may be hard to take a vacation or even get out of the house. Witnessing the visual and mental changes of psychedelics in spaces you are familiar with can be transformative and change how you view things once you come down. Within reason, taking a mental vacation can be protective to our mental health and be like a breath of fresh air allowing us to be renewed so we can continue to face difficulties in our lives.
Connecting With Others: At the right dose, psychedelics can remove barriers to interpersonal connection and heighten the sensations of connectedness and unity to others. There is emerging scientific evidence(study here) that entheogens have been shown to have to modulate social processing. Experiencing an altered state with friends strengthens bonds while partners may reach a new level of vulnerability.
Playing With Your Inner Child: When was the last time you played freely and embraced your inner child? Psychedelics are like a magnifying lense for curiosity and exploration. Having a magical adventure can remind us of the wonder around us in our everyday world. Play can be especially therapeutic because our culture doesn't create spaces for adults to really let go and enjoy their inner child.
Leaning Into Spontaneity: Embracing the unexpected is a large part of many peoples psychedelic adventures. Recreational psychedelic use can be an exercise in surrender and acceptance. Learning to go with the flow is a hard skill for some and entheogens make good training wheels.
Enhancing Creativity: Altered states have a long history of enhancing creativity from enhancing playful expression through art to giving inspirational downloads. Using entheogens to neurohack creativity can be a place to explore artistic expression or produce art worthy visions. Leaning into nonverbal ways of expression can encourage new neurological pathways and tap the deeper psyche for therapeutic results
Art Appreciation: There is nothing quite like taking a lower dose of psychedelics and spending all day at the art museum. In fact, this recreational use of psychedelics was so popular it spawned a new term - taking a “museum dose”. Coined by the prolific biochemist Alexander Shulgin, it refers to the fact that on this lower dose, you can still participate in public activities, such as visiting the art museum, without attracting attention to yourself.
Communing with Nature: Feeling connected to nature is a common theme with psychedelics. Communing with nature under the influence offers a contrast to everyday problems by giving us a sense of wholeness with the natural world. Whether it’s the visual enhancement or increased spiritual attunement, doing a nature based trip can really soothe the soul and bring inner peace.
This is not to say, that using any substance or any form of escapism (including video games and alcohol) too often is healthy. Psychedelics can be part of an abuse pattern or result in spiritual bypassing(link here). Caution and introspection should always be applied to our habits and extrinsic motivators to assess for vices and stumbling blocks.
Setting an intention for recreational use provides an opportunity for therapeutic play. It also is one way to avoid habitual and unsafe use. Recreational intentions can be super simple like “having fun at the park with my friends” to more complex like “I would like to examine potential blocks to social connection”. Setting an intention like “I would like to flow” can be a great practice at leaning into spontaneity and seeing where the psychedelic rabbit hole goes. Mindfulness is key when setting recreational psychedelic intentions.
Applying integration principals to process recreation psychedelic sessions can provide feedback and promote the therapeutic effect after a night out with friends or a night in with a partner. Bringing some of the play you experienced from your session in the default world can shake up routines. Working with the fun and relaxing concepts that bubbled up during your altered state is essential to building a life you don’t need a vacation from.
There is nothing wrong with taking off the eye shades and headphones to outwardly enjoy the effects of entheogens. Enjoying a few hours of time through new, altered perspectives can be relaxing and healing at the same time. Taking a break from reality and entering an altered state to have fun can have therapeutic rewards like decreased stress or increased social connection. It’s important to honor that everyone has a different way of entering the psychedelic container and to be mindful that we don’t create a culture of psychedelic exceptionalism.
How do you bring therapeutic fun into your psychedelic sessions and integration? Leave a comment below or email us at AlteredStatesIntegration@gmail.com