james fadiman

Book Review - The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide

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I have absorbed a lot of information concerning psychedelic substances during the past 13 years. Some sources took a scientific approach, full of statistics, surveys, and other assorted data. Others have focused on the spiritual use of these substances, which include direction for practices like meditation, yoga, and breathwork. There are also accounts of recreational use, which clearly illustrate the possibilities of both positive and negative outcomes of using and abusing these substances. I ate up as many books, movies, podcasts, YouTube clips, and audio lectures as I possibly could.

I also have my own experiences with several of these substances, and had already come to my personal opinion that they have the potential to awaken in me unexpected paths in my life, greater self-understanding, an ability to engage in self-healing, and a stronger connection with the Universe and the inhabitants of our planet that we call Earth.

Over the years, I learned a lot about psychedelics and often come noticed myself thinking to myself, "Oh, I've learned that already" while reading a book or watching a documentary. However, when I read James Fadiman's The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys back in 2012 I found it to be the first work in quite a while that had so many new things to teach me. This book covers many aspects concerning psychedelic use that I was previously unaware of, such as the concept of sub-perceptual dosing and the importance of listening to non-vocal music such as Classical during the beginning of a psychedelic experience.

I first heard of this book from Lorenzo Hagerty's "Psychedelic Salon," a podcast that I have listened to since 2006. Fadiman is the guest on episode 302, during which Lorenzo interviews him about the book and his experience in the psychedelic research field. After hearing Fadiman speak about these things, I put the book on my "To-Read" list and purchased it a few months later. My intention when reading this book was to learn how to become a guide for others undergoing psychedelic experiences. I was pleasantly surprised by the wealth of information contained in the book afforded to those of us who wish to better integrate our psychedelic journeys into ordinary reality as well as learn to be a better guide to others. Following my reading of this book, I identified some aspects of my own psychedelic practice that I ended up changing in an effort to focus more on the therapeutic and spiritual uses of these substances, rather than my previous goal of just having a good time. While I still believe that the recreational use of these substances can have a positive outcome, this is the book that sold on the concept of using them in a more intelligent manner.

The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide does a great job of dispelling some of the myths about psychedelics, offers a practical and positive itinerary for a successful experience, introduces several important people in this field, and does so in a way that is unbiased and helpful. It is important for the psychedelic community to have truth on its side, and Fadiman does an excellent job of collecting both scientific and anecdotal evidence and arranging it in a way that is easily understood. I commend him on his work and look forward to more coming from him in the near future.

5/5 stars. 352 pages.

Click here to buy the book.

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My Thoughts on Psychonautics: A Comic's Exploration of Psychedelics

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The documentary Psychonautics: A Comic’s Exploration of Psychedelics, featuring stand-up comedian Shane Mauss delving into the fascinating world of psychedelic drugs, debuted at the Dances With Films festival last June but wasn’t released to the general public until just last month. I was waiting with eager anticipation to watch this film from the moment I first heard about it, and now that I’ve watched it a few times since its release, I figured I’d share my thoughts on it.

Unless you’re already familiar with him, you might be asking yourself, “Who is Shane Mauss?” Well, as I mentioned earlier, Shane is a stand-up comedian with a wacky sense of humor. He’s also the host of the comedy science podcast Here We Are and a fellow psychonaut. After spending the last few years exploring psychedelics in a lot of his work, Shane was inspired to make a documentary about the topic in order to show the world that these drugs aren’t necessarily as scary as someone who is psychedelically-naïve might expect.

Psychonautics starts off mighty strong—and fast. The film opens up with a shot of Shane painted from head to toe in glow-in-the-dark body paint made from the MAOI Peganum harmala (also known as Syrian rue), right as he’s about to smoke DMT on camera. He looks at the camera in a slightly creepy way, ignites his lighter, and then leans in to take a hit.

Before he has a chance to inhale the DMT vapor, the film cuts to a stand-up comedy routine where Shane is telling the crowd that he was just let out of a psych ward two weeks earlier because he overdid it with psychedelic drugs. So much for trying to show the world the psychedelics are completely harmless!

A proper introduction follows these two opening scenes, and Shane shares a few stories about his upbringing in Wisconsin, his relationship to drugs, and his career as a comedian, Next, some of his fellow comics talk about him for a little while. Then the movie starts to talk about some of the scientific research concerning psychedelics before launching into the first section of the film: psilocybin mushrooms.

During the mushrooms portion, Shane accompanies Eric Osborne (the founder of a legal psilocybin retreat center in Jamaica at MycoMeditations) as they go hunting for mushrooms in an undisclosed location somewhere in Kentucky and talk shop about everything related to psilocybin mushrooms. This is a pretty laid back part of the movie and it’s chock-full of humor and silliness, just like the rest of the film.

After the mushrooms section, the film goes over a few other classic psychedelics: MDMA, LSD, ketamine, DMT, and ayahuasca. As Shane progresses through the various drugs, things start to get more and more intense until he reaches the mental breakdown that was foreshadowed in the beginning of the film.

So what were my overall impressions of the film? Well, first off I should mention that I’m a pretty big fan of Shane’s work. I saw his psychedelic-themed comedy routine called A Good Trip a few years ago when he came to Raleigh, NC and laughed my ass off for two hours straight. That’s where I found out his podcast Here We Are, which blends together the odd bedfellows comedy and science, two things that I definitely enjoy. After going home, I started listening to his podcast, and have kept up with it ever since.

Psychonautics is engaging and well-polished. The narrative arc is tight and easy to follow, it keeps the viewer’s attention the whole way through, and it supplies a fairly thorough overview of everything related to psychedelics, including the relevant scientific research, the history of the drug war, and the harms of prohibition. If you’re a hardcore psychonaut like me, a lot of the material might be familiar, but reviewing what you have learned over and over again is a tried and true method that can help you really internalize the information, so it’s still well worth a watch. And if you’re brand-new to psychedelics or want to introduce someone else to them in a lighthearted (and somehow serious) way, this is a solid option for those purposes too. Mixing science with humor can make new information a bit easier for some people to swallow, after all.

A bunch of well-known leaders in the psychedelic movement are featured in the film, including Rick Doblin, Dennis McKenna, James Fadiman, David Nichols, Emanuel Sferios, and some of the world’s top psychedelic researchers and comedians. No psychedelic documentary would be complete without a few super trippy visual representations of psychedelic experiences that can be had with the different drugs discussed in the film, and fortunately Psychonautics doesn’t disappoint. Each psychedelic drug has a unique visualization style that is similar to what you could expect from taking said drug, which certainly helps keep things interesting.

Shane is currently on a stand-up tour across America (dates can be found on his website, linked above) so he might come somewhere near you soon, and you should go see him if you get the opportunity. But if that’s not an option, then you can at least watch Psychonautics to get a feel for what he’s all about.

Bottom line: if you’re into psychedelics and have a sense of humor, you should definitely check out this documentary.

This Week in Psychedelics - 10.27.17

Image by  Dahtamnay , courtesy of  Creative Commons  licensing.

Image by Dahtamnay, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Cannabis

  • A Record High 64% of Americans Say Cannabis Should be Legal (Leafly)
  • Legal Marijuana Is Becoming the Norm (Reason)
  • Study: Cannabis Use Inversely Associated With Fatty Liver Disease (NORML)
  • Israel Decriminalized Marijuana (ATTN:)
  • Digital Currency Looks to Solve Cannabis Industry's Cash Problem (The CoinTelegraph)
  • Washington Tops $1.1 Billion in Cannabis Sales at 9-Month Mark (Leafly)
  • Arizona Judge Rules Medical Cannabis Extracts Are Illegal (High Times)
  • People Who Smoke Pot Have More Sex, Study Says (TIME)
  • #ACT: Medical Marijuana Could Be On The Line (NORML)
  • Five Things Canada's Cannabis Act Will Legalize Besides Possession (Leafly)
  • Eventbrite Is Pulling Some Cannabis Events From Its Site, Leaving Organizers Frustrated (Forbes)
  • Can Cannabis Treat Asthma? (High Times)
  • Marijuana Can Replace Deadly Prescription Drugs (ATTN:)
  • South Carolina Congressman Co-Sponsors Cannabis Business Bill (Leafly)
  • Former NFL Players Say League Should Allow Players to Use Marijuana to Treat Pain, Injuries (Reason)
  • Ex-policewoman's cannabis use to relieve pain from MS (BBC)
  • Sessions Continues to Push 'Gateway Drug' Myth About Marijuana (Reason)
  • Companies That Drug Test for Marijuana Are Losing out on Good Employees (ATTN:)
  • Jeff Sessions: We Will Do Our Best To Enforce The Laws As We're Required To Do (NORML)
  • Colorado's Top Doc Debunks Legalization Fears (NORML)
  • Legal Cannabis Grow and Retail Operations Enjoying Continued Growth and Increasing Revenue Opportunities (MarketWatch)
  • Are Stoned Motorists Driving Amok in Post-Legalization Colorado? (Reason)
  • Non-Antagonistic Medication with Cannabis Oils from Craft 1861 (Forbes)
  • N.J. Cops Say Someone Might Distribute Marijuana Edibles on Halloween (Reason)
  • Police investigate after 65 pounds of weed included with Orlando couple's Amazon order (WFTV)
  • Cannabis Crunch – Texas Medical Marijuana, Weed Delivery Driver Sting And New Zealand Considering Cannabis Legalization (Psychedelic Times)
  • Take Control of Mites in Cannabis Crops (Greenhouse Grower)
  • Facebook is slammed after cannabis seeds including 'lemon haze' and 'double bubble' were brazenly sold on its site (Daily Mail)

LSD

  • Mind-blowing secret of Italy's 'LSD Island' where locals were once so high 24/7 they saw flying witches (The Sun)
  • Could LSD Lessen Lawlessness? (Pacific Standard)
  • Why Colorado Tokers Love LSD (Westword)

Psilocybin/Magic Mushrooms

  • Magic Mushrooms Show Promise As Depression Remedy By 'Resetting' The Brain (Forbes)

MDMA/Ecstasy

  • Ecstasy users are increasingly young adults with higher education, study finds (PsyPost)
  • The FDA says this recreational drug is 'breakthrough' treatment for PTSD (Metro)
  • Partiers Confuse Ecstasy and Molly Confound Rates of U.S. Drug Use (Inverse)
  • Law Student Dies En Route to BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend After Consuming 2.3 Grams of Molly (YourEDM)
  • Girl, 14, hospitalised after taking 'ecstasy' at Dorset nightclub party as boy, 15, is arrested on suspicion of supplying Class A drugs (The Sun)

Ayahuasca/DMT

Dissociatives

  • Ketamine may help treat migraine pain unresponsive to other therapies (EurekAlert)
  • PCP-addled woman hits pedestrian at Lazarre Park: WMPD (The News Star)

Opiates/Opioids

  • Narcan Opioid Overdose Spray Is Now Stocked By All Walgreens Pharmacies (NPR)
  • How the DEA Changed the Overdose Numbers (Pain News Network)
  • FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb Goes to Bat For Evidence-Based Opioid Policies (Reason)
  • President Trump Revealed His Plan to Deal With the Opioid Crisis. Here's What Experts Think (TIME)
  • Heroin: A Clear And Present Danger (HuffPost)
  • The Hidden Tragedy of the Opioid Crisis (TIME)
  • Why Are Local Officials Shutting Down Needle Exchange Programs During an Crisis? (Reason)
  • Puppy That Collapsed From Opioid Overdose Is Saved by Reversal Drug (TIME)
  • U.S. urges Mexico to tackle "increase" in heroin trafficking (CBS)
  • IACP Quick Take: Why the fight against the opioid crisis can't stop with naloxone (PoliceOne)

Kratom

  • American Kratom Association Questions DEA on Kratom Concerns (KNWA)
  • Turning to Kratom For Opioid Withdrawal (WebMD)
  • Critics slam reports linking controversial supplement Kratom to recent deaths (WRIC)
  • Can the kratom plant help fix the opioid crisis? (CNN)
  • Kratom For Pain Relief In Pets: Is That Good Or Bad? (Kratom Guides)
  • "Fake News" Of Kratom Deaths Spurs Demands For Tennessee TV Station Retraction, Reprimands By Georgia County And State Coroners Group (PR Newswire)

Kava

  • No Kava For New Chief (Fiji Sun)
  • Increasing theft of kava plants in Vava'u (Matangi Tonga)
  • Traditional ceremony to be held during the installation of Roko Tui Bau (Fijivillage)

Khat

  • Khat consumer population reaches 16 percent in Ethiopia : Study (Borkena)

Miscellaneous Psychedelics/Psychoactives/Drug Policy

  • Neuroscientists improve human memory by electrically stimulating brain (Medical Xpress)
  • New study suggests psychedelic drugs may reduce criminal behavior (EurekAlert!)
  • An Oxford professor explains what it feels like to take a "true" smart drug (Quartz)
  • The Shadow of Underground Entheogenic Use: Interview With Eleonora Molnar (Psychedelic Times)
  • Massachusetts Mulls Whether to Classify Drug Dealers as Murderers (Reason)
  • Overcoming the trauma through the psychedelic in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (Journal of Advances in Humanities and Social Sciences)
  • Thailand Drug Decriminalization Edges Forward - With Little Fanfare (Khaosod English)
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren Discusses Jailing Low-Level Drug Offenders (ATTN:)
  • James Fadiman Discusses the Many Benefits of Microdosing (Psychedelic Frontier)
  • Donald Trump Wants to Spend Big on Anti-Drug Ads. Here's Why They Don't Work (TIME)
  • 'Stranger Things' Actor Charlie Heaton Denied U.S. Entry Over Drugs, Official Says (TIME)
  • Jeff Sessions Says MS-13 Is a Major Player in the Narcotics Trade. The DEA Disagrees. (Reason)
  • Misguided Mainstreaming of Psychedelic Drugs: Challenging Experiences (Rick Strassman MD)
  • Scientists have developed "mini-brains" to test the way psychedelic drugs affect the brain (Addiction Now)
  • Psychedelics and Mental Health (Psymposia)
  • Misplaced Ecstasy? Questioning the Role of Psychedelics as Therapy (Medscape)
  • The necessity of legalizing ecstasy and LSD (The Massachusetts Daily Collegian)
  • Shane Mauss – A Good Trip (Alt Media)
  • This british conservative thinks drug prohibition is about as intelligent as alcohol prohibition in US (Psymposia)

Disclaimer: "This Week in Psychedelics" does not censor or analyze the news links presented here. The purpose of this column is solely to catalogue how psychedelics are presented by the mass media, which includes everything from the latest scientific research to misinformation.