So you’re thinking of getting into psychedelics during lockdown?
Some believe it's never been a better time.
Lockdown rules may be easing, but life is far from back to normal. With international travel off limits, house parties prohibited and pubs, bars and clubs not commencing their gradual, socially-distanced reopenings until July in the UK, many people are feeling the adverse effects of social distancing. Unsurprisingly, many have turned to drinking, with alcohol sales rising sharply. Many have also turned to prescription drugs, with UK doctors struggling to source adequate numbers of antidepressants for new patients. Others, however, have decided to escape the tough mental constraints of lockdown in a different way, by experimenting with psychedelics.
Though, unsurprisingly, there are no official stats around these sales, a dealer in London tells me they’ve first hand experienced a spike in sales of magic mushrooms and truffles, with many buyers being first time users. One such person who decided to try psychedelics for the first time during lockdown is Emily. She and a friend took a trip away from their home in New York City and tripped on mushrooms at a nearby nature preserve. “I realised the mushrooms had kicked in because the trees suddenly looked so GREEN.” Emily explained in an email. “It was like someone had turned the colour saturation way up. I saw the world in extreme detail.”
Emily explained that quarantine felt like a good time to try psychedelics for the first time, as she isn’t working and thus has more time on her hands to reassess her priorities. “I’m spending a lot of time reflecting on the big existential questions (as I’m sure we all are these days.)” The experience, she tells me, has had a lasting positive impact in the weeks that have followed, helping her to deal with the stresses of lockdown. “Before the trip I was working out obsessively, scrolling through social media all the time, crying a lot. It was a very bleak situation, emotionally. After I came back from the woods my roommate said it was the first time he’d seen me look relaxed in months And he’s right! It’s really helped me to slow down.”
Ed, who lives in London, speaks of a similar breakthrough. “A lot of people go through their lives with certain coping mechanisms, things they use to distract themselves, this might be thinking about their career or how much money they make,” he tells me. “Right now, a lot of those default modes of thinking have been stripped away from us.” Ed took magic truffles during lockdown for the first time, deliberately taking a relatively large dose of 25g. “I didn’t feel good at first, it was like my ego was trying to hold on. I think it’s important to try not to resist that. And it’s definitely important to go into it with an intention.” But as the day went on, he began reflecting on some of his historic modes of thinking,” he explained. “It was very profound, I felt that what I was experiencing on the truffles was really the truth. I realised that this is real, and until now I’d been seeing the world through a clouded lens.”
However, it’s worth noting that his housemate had a very different experience when taking the same truffles. “He was hungover and had just eaten lunch when he took the truffles. He felt really sick and then spent the rest of the day just worrying about what he was doing with his life.”
Online supplier Avalon Magic plants sells magic mushrooms, truffles and growing kits. Although magic mushrooms and truffles are classified as a Class A drug in the UK, the company will ship to the UK from the Netherlands, where the drug is legal. Their website includes a number of guides for first timers, encouraging first-time users of the importance of taking magic mushrooms when you’re feeling good -- both physically and mentally. “Stress, fear, and anxiety before a trip can make a trip turn bad really quickly and will only enhance these feelings,” they write. It’s also recommended that mushrooms and truffles are taken on an empty stomach. Online supplier Zamnesia advises against fighting a bad trip, saying “you may want to consider working with the mushrooms to get to a more positive place, instead of fighting against them to end the trip.” Failing that, they advise listening to your favourite music and eating sugary fruit to lessen the effects of the drug.
Both Ed and Emily said that they’d thought carefully about trying psychedelics and did their homework before tripping. Emily quizzed her more experienced friends and watched documentaries on the effects of psychedelics. “I am an extremely anxious person, especially when I feel out of control. It took me a long time to decide I was ready to trip,” she said. Likewise, Ed thought about the possible effects of the drug and considered how he might react psychologically to a negative experience. He summed it up: “The question is, are you able to realise that a lot of the shit you believed doesn’t matter and just let go, or do you still need to grasp onto it?”
Just last week, Robin Carhart-Harris, the head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, published a piece for The Guardian laying out the potential for psychedelics to provide a breakthrough in mental health treatment. First, we have to overcome a stigma at both ends; one that prohibits us from seeking adequate mental health treatment, and another that discourages us from experimenting with drugs. But, as Robin puts it, there couldn’t be a better time: “Like the present pandemic, a psychedelic drug experience can be transformative -- of the individual -- and of society. Both illuminate the extent to which the condition of the world we inhabit is dependent on our own behaviours. And these, in turn, are a consequence of how we feel, think and perceive.”