Parenting on Psychedelics

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Parenting on Psychedelics During these shifting social tides, many parents are concerned about the drug education their children are receiving. So, many of parents take to teaching their children, themselves. During these shifting social tides, many parents are concerned about their kids’ drug educations. So, they take the role of education upon themselves.

Russell Hausfeld

Russell Hausfeld

om is wearing a rising-sun t-shirt and leggings, and her hair is pulled back with that crinkly blue headband she always wears. She had just come from a hike and her boots left crackling dry mud under our booth. The two of us are having lunch at a little bistro and she says, “I hope you didn’t expect me to look fancy or anything” — as if I ever thought of her without muddy boots and dirt under her nails. That’s just who she is: the lady who I hiked up two mountains with in one weekend, who is always tending her garden, who once took a months-long bike tour of Hawaii in her youth. In fact, I had wanted to ask her about Hawaii. 1

I had recently spoken with Harmony Sue Haynie, an Oregonian woman writing a book about raising children while participating in plant medicine ceremonies. She told me about some of her experiences with psychoactive substances. Mom and Haynie have a lot in common. Both of them are tan, wear wavy brown hair down near their shoulders and have approached the age of 50 with grace. Both of them had also felt the beckoning of travel at an early age. Haynie lived in Hawaii at one point, too, before she had children. She would occasionally harvest wild magic mushrooms from a cow pasture near her home. In my ongoing quest to pry out more proof that my Mom was once a hippie, I tell her about my conversation with Haynie. “Did you ever pick mushrooms off of cow poop when you were biking in Hawaii?” I ask her. “Actually, yes,” she admitted. She said she didn’t participate much, but the guy she was travelling with used to pick them 2

many mornings and spend the day on the beach. “He would be sitting there, watching people and the ocean, just completely ecstatic.� I feel like I take advantage of the ease at which a conversation like this flows with my Mom. Many people have never even discussed marijuana with their parents, let alone their psychedelic drug experiences. And, I would venture that an even smaller amount of people can say they have actually


shared a psychedelic experience with their parents. Haynie says she never even considered the idea of sharing psychoactive substances with children until her stay in Hawaii. Early one morning, Haynie and the women she was living with decided to have a women’s circle and eat some mushrooms while the dads stayed back home with the children. “Later on, we found out the dads had picked some mushrooms and had these journeys with their young children — 9-, 10-, 11-years-old,” Haynie says. She thought, “Huh, I guess I have a little bit of societal programming to work through, because I have this initial judgement come up. But, wait a second, what’s wrong with kids eating mushrooms?” My mom certainly had that initial judgement come up when I told this part of the story. And there’s an obvious, understandable stigma there, right? Psilocybin mushrooms are Schedule One drugs in the United States, up there with 4

1 Psychedelic Parenting Podcast, episode 20: “Growing Up Leary, with Zach Leary” 2 Before LSD was made illegal in 1970, child neuropsychiatrist Lauretta Bender studied reactions of severely autistic children to the psychedelic experience. She worked with just over 50 participants ranging from 6-years-old to 15. In her report, “LSD and UML treatment of hospitalized disturbed children,” she describes many positive reactions in the children: • “The vocabularies of several of the children increased after LSD or UML; several seemed to be attempting to form words or watched adults carefully as they spoke; many seemed to comprehend speech for the first time or were able to communicate their needs... Very few of


heroin, quaaludes and bath salts. You could end up with multiple years to life in jail just for possessing these substances. But, Haynie wonders where the stigma starts. Are people afraid of these substances because they are actually dangerous or just because they have been conditioned to live a certain way? Even a few of the biggest proponents for psychoactive substances, like Timothy “the-LSD-guru” Leary believed that these substances could be potentially damaging to the adolescent brain. “He was by no means an advocate of kids doing powerful psychedelics,” Leary’s son, Zach says.1 “He was of the opinion that psychedelic shamanism should be used by a brain that is fully formed. Not just mentally and spiritually, but also physically a lot of changes happen as you get older. And [he believed] that psychedelics are built for the adult mind.” And, although the research that has been done on common psychedelics doesn’t seem to suggest this claim,2 there hasn’t been nearly enough scientific

research done to prove for certain whether psychedelics are damaging to children or not. here are absolutely some cases of irresponsible parenting related to drugs, but even some of the most extreme don’t seem to prove Leary’s last point: that psychoactive substances are more dangerous for a young brain. A legal case ensued in 2006 when a Texan mother, Ashli Freas, brought her 3-year-old son to the hospital after he ingested approximately nine hits of candy laced with LSD. She nearly lost custody of her child — who was put into foster care after being released from the hospital. She was being accused of child endangerment. But, in a wild turn of events, Freas’ charges were reduced to a misdemeanor for waiting an hour to call 9-1-1 after being aware her boy had ingested the LSD. The penalty for these charges was $1,000 and two years probation, and she was able to regain full custody of her child in 2008.

these changes in communication had been noted previously in such a large number of children, and at such a relatively rapid rate.” • “They appeared flushed, bright eyed and unusually interested in the environment... They participated with increasing eagerness in motility play with adults and other children... They seek positive contacts with adults, approaching them with face uplifted and bright eyes, and responding to fondling, affection, etc.” • “There is less stereotyped whirling and rhythmic behavior. . . They became gay, happy, laughing frequently... Some showed changes in facial expression in appropriate reactions to situations for the first time”


3Bradley speaking with reporter Charles Wood of The Hill Country News in 2007.


The reason for the drastically reduced sentencing? “We decided the charge that best fit was failure to report a felony,” Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said. 3 “Her son suffered no permanent physical or mental danger, so it would’ve been difficult to prosecute for endangering a child.” No permanent physical or mental danger to a 3-year-old who ingested nine hits of LSD. There was enough evidence against potential danger of this child to sway the ruling of a Republican District Attorney from Texas. The real danger to be concerned about as a parent, it seems, is the threat of a broken home, fines and jail time. Had Freas’ been sentenced more harshly, she would most likely never have had custody of her child again and could’ve spent up to 10 years in jail. This was something that Haynie had to consider when she first approached her children

about using plant medicines. At the time she decided to talk with them about the subject, Haynie was a sixth- and seventhgrade English teacher and would almost certainly have lost her job if word of her use spread too far. But, encounters she had with ayahuasca and yagé — traditional brews of Peru and Columbia — were so profound, she knew that she had to share her thoughts and experiences with her children. During an early experience with ayahuasca in her 40s, she says that she had what can only be described as a soul retrieval, even though she admits using the term “soul retrieval” feels a little New-Agey for her taste. “It basically ‘uncorked’ some major repressed childhood traumas. Keeping the lid on that all those years had been using up a lot of my energy and was minimizing my ability to feel joy and happiness,” Haynie says. She continues in her blog, Medicine Children, “After this experience, I felt as though a part of my soul had come back to me. From that day forward I felt like some huge part of me that had been missing had 8

4 Specifically, between the frontal and posterior regions. Two hours into an ayahuasca experience, we see “frontal brain regions are decreasing the control or the influence they have over posterior brain regions,” Riba explained in a lecture he gave in 2013 entitled “Fourteen Years of Clinical Research with Ayahuasca.” He then went on to show that a half hour later, “what we see here is an increase in interior posterior connectivity. So, this might appear to be in contrast with what we were seeing at two hours but if we take a look at the sources and targets of these changes, we see now that the source areas are posterior brain areas and the target areas are basically all interior...what we saw before was a decrease in information transfer from interior to posterior and here


been returned. I suddenly felt more vitality, more life force.” o, let’s say that — in some hypothetical world — your pediatrician tells you that ayahuasca might be a useful alternative to prescription antidepressants for treating your child’s depression. You mean get my kid high on that stuff my brother-in-law drank before he went off to start writing music? “Not quite,” the doctor tells you. And she hands you the contact information for a doctor who’s been studying the effects of ayahuasca for the past 18 years. His name is Jordi Riba, and he has made some incredible discoveries about this medicine. Through Riba’s research, he has come closer to understanding the phenomenon of “soul retrieval” and mental healing experienced by users like Haynie. In his research, he observed patients during ayahuasca experiences and found that the levels of interaction between differing areas of the brain4 fluctuate between highly decreased and increased interactivity. What

this looks like in action is an activation of parts of the brain, like the neocortex, amygdala and insula — which deal with reasoning and decision-making, as well as emotional memories and impulses. To fully comprehend how this could be useful to someone suffering from emotional distress and trauma, it is important to understand that when a new stimulus enters our brain, we try to make sense of it based on past experiences. Early in life, powerful experiences — like being raped, being attacked by a dog or losing a parent — can create patterns or imprints on the brain. These patterns act sort of like shortcuts to our responses in certain situations, and repeated events cause these patterns to be reinforced and build up like scar tissue. By hyper-stimulating parts of the brain that process emotional memory, ayahuasca can uncover long forgotten memories and allow the conscious part of the brain to override previously entrenched patterns, create new neural pathways and reevaluate past experiences.

what we see is an increase of information transfer from the parietal cortex to the frontal cortex. So in a way we’ve seen an inversion of what would be normal functioning without ayahuasca.” (AUTHOR’S NOTE: I know, I know. This is pretty dense.)


5 Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a common chemical naturally found in plants, animals and humansall around the globe. The compound’s biological function is relatively unknown, but in combination with an MAOI or smoked as a free base, it can produce a profound and immersive psychedelic experiences.

“In line with this possibility of being able to detach yourself from your own thoughts and to observe your feelings, emotions and memories,” Riba told the OPEN Foundation. “We’ve done recent studies in which we have assessed ‘mindfulness facets’ and creativity following ayahuasca intake...We’ve seen in a recent study that in the hours following an ayahuasca session, these mindfulness abilities are increased. Enhancing these skills is the goal of mindfulness therapies and may take a long time to achieve using more classical approaches, such as meditation. In our study, participants’ scores after a single ayahuasca dose were similar to those of experienced meditators with many years of training.” or Riba’s research, he was able to encapsulate doses of ayahuasca in a pill form. But in traditional use, ayahuasca is consumed as a liquid concoction created by boiling the Banisteriopsis caapi vine (an MAOI) with a dimethyltryptamine5(DMT)-


containing plant.6 DMT is the chemical which produces the profound mental effects of ayahuasca. But the amazing thing to understand, here, is that if you ingest DMT orally — without the presence of an MAOI — your body naturally degrades the chemical and you’ll experience no effect. With an MAOI such as B. caapi, DMT can take effect and send you into a full blown hours-long visionary trip. And, the indigenous people of the Amazon figured this out thousands of years before the dawn of modern medicine or any of Dr. Riba’s research. The brew varies from tradition to tradition. For instance, Haynie told me that in the Peruvian ayahuasca tradition, the medicine is a thick, sweet, molasses-like concoction served in what amounts to a shot glass. And, you drink it once during ceremony. In the Columbian tradition — which calls the medicine yagé, not ayahuasca — the medicine is brewed more like a tea, which can be refilled as many times as an individual feels called to drink it. Haynie says the typical amount of drinks

6 Common DMT-containing plants used to brew ayahuasca include Psychotria viridis and Mimosa hostilis.

Psychotria viridis

Mimosa Hostilis Root Bark


at a yagé ceremony is about two, but she knows people who stick with one and others who might refill three or four times in a night. Since her initial experience with ayahuasca, Haynie has tried to be very open with her children. At that time, she explained to her 13-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter that she’d had a life-changing experience with a plant medicine which their society doesn’t accept, but still felt the need to tell them about it. It opened up an ongoing conversation within their household about psychoactive substance use. Haynie also extended an open invitation to her children to attend ceremonies. The people of the culture in which the ayahuasca and yagé brews come from may drink it up to three times a week and it is offered to any member of the community who is interested — Haynie adds that a young child would obviously not receive an adult-sized portion. “It’s such an integral part of their life and culture, which is built around these medicines,” she says. 15

“They could never understand the kind of taboos against plant medicines that we have here in our culture.” A 2005 report in The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs entitled “Report on Psychoactive Drug Use Among Adolescents Using Ayahuasca Within a Religious Context” 7studied individuals within the União do Vegetal (UDV) and Santo Daime churches — which use ayahuasca. The study found that in Brazil, the current estimates of adolescents using ayahuasca is close to 2,000. While working with these adolescents (41 ayahuasca users and 43 who had never used ayahuasca), the researchers found that the ayahuasca drinking adolescents were basically the same, mentally as their non-using peers. “Despite their early exposure to a hallucinogenic substance, adolescents using ayahuasca in a controlled setting were mostly comparable to controls,” the study’s abstract reads. “Except for a considerably smaller portion of alcohol users [among the ayahuasca drinkers.” That last part is

7 Report conducted by Evelyn Doering-Silveira, Charles Grob, Marlene Dobkin de Rios, Enrique Lopez, Luisa Alonso, Cristiane Tacla and Dartiu Xavier Da Silveira.


8 9 The “purging” point is where a lot of people lose interest in using ayahuasca and yagé — any benfits it may offer seem less enticing when potential users realize they could end up puking or having diarrhea during the experience. “I’ve been to ceremonies where people are just purging all night long, and others where I hardly see a single person purging,” Haynie says. “I’ve personally had times where I’ve purged one time from the medicine and others where it’s like five times. Then I’ve had a whole yearand-a-half where I never purged once in all the times that I drank. So, it’s really hard to say [what your reaction will be]. The only thing to say is that it is going to be different for every person. I’ve talked to other people who have taken it for years and


thought to be associated with the churches’ view-point on alcohol being rather negative. ast forward four years from Haynie’s initial talk with her children, to a yagé ceremony in Oregon. The room is thick with silence as some people begin to get nauseous and go outside, while others sit contented in a state of calm presence, or see visions, or receive information or help from their guides. Haynie is a helper during this ceremony, meaning that she is there to assist participants — whether that be emotional support (not processing, but sitting with them as a quiet presence), or help outside of the ceremonial space where participants are encouraged to go if they need to purge. 8 Haynie’s daughter is also in attendance, participating in ceremony for the first time at the age of 13, by her own choice. During this ceremony, Haynie’s ‘mommy radar’ goes

off. She had been assisting an elderly participant in the bathroom and suddenly felt that her daughter needed her immediately. She found another helper to take over with the older woman, ran in to let her partner know to find her daughter, who — turns out — was already assisted by a friend. And Haynie was then able to return to her role helping the older woman.

never purged.” In traditional rituals, however, purging isn’t necessarily seen as a bad thing. It is referred to as “getting well” and people often report cathartic experiences during and after purging on ayahuasca and yagé.


Her daughter said later that she had thrown up in the yard, and that all of the upset she had been feeling lately about her personal life had been churning inside of her. And she threw it up and was struck with the realization that it wasn’t anyone’s fault, and that she should be able to move on. “That was the first time [she used yagé] and that was amazing,” Haynie says. For Haynie, it was reassuring to hear that her daughter was working through those feelings and happy that the medicine provided her with the opportunity to receive those teachings. The second time her daughter sat up for a yagé ceremony, she was 14 years old. She was sitting in the ceremonial space, looking very stoic and silently crying. Haynie couldn’t keep her curiosity at bay and sat down next to her. “I see you are crying,” she told her daughter. “Tell me about that.” (Helpers never ask people on the medicine direct questions— it brings them too much into their minds). 19

“Oh, it’s not a bad thing,” her daughter said. “I’m crying from relief. I was sitting here and I started having all these impulses — the impulse to check my phone, the impulse to call someone, the impulse to go eat something or get up and do something else. And I just realized, I don’t have to do any of that. I don’t have to follow any of these impulses that come out of nowhere.” This blew Haynie away and reassured her once again of her choice to introduce her daughter to these medicine rituals. “I can’t imagine being that age and having that realization,” Haynie says. “That helped inform her whole life in a good way. I know a lot of adults that still don’t know they don’t have to be subject to their impulses.” Having witnessed and experienced such life changing moments through the use of plant medicines — or her prefered term, entheogens 9— Haynie has a hard time with people who write off her parenting as irresponsible. One of her good friends, who

9 Haynie prefers this word because it has less stigma attached to it. The term “psychedelic,” to many, implies something illegal. The jury is out on if the two terms are interchangeable or not. I had first heard the term “entheogen” in relation to MDMA (Ecstacy), as a distinction from hallucinogenic substances, since MDMA just has more of a feelgood effect — less of a hallucinogenic one. But one Shroomery user, NiamhNix, says, “I think they’re pretty interchangeable terms. Psychedelic means ‘mind manifesting’ and entheogen means ‘God illuminating’ or something to that effect. I use them interchangeably all the time, depending on what I’m trying to express. Maybe entheogen is more used for plant hallucinogens as opposed to


chemicals and psychedelic can be any of them? Whatever, they work interchangeably for me.” 10 Haynie wrote this in her blog, Medicine Children.


Haynie added was a “liberal, hippie, deadhead with plenty of personal psychedelic experience,” almost accused her of child abuse when she found out Haynie had invited her almost-thirteen-year-old daughter to a medicine ceremony. She stresses that she wasn’t forcing this tradition on her children, though, which is evident in her children’s differing relationship with the ritual. Her daughter, who is now 22, has continued attending ceremonies off and on throughout the past decade. And her son, who is now 26, has only participated twice: at age 18 and 23 — both times “doing it for mom,” because he knows it means a lot to her.10 “I believe that it was not only OK to invite my children to participate in entheogenic ceremonies with me, but that it was essential, given the immense growth and transformation I have experienced on this path, and seen in them and others as well,” Haynie writes. “I could not have been in an authentic relationship with them if I had been forced to keep this part of my

life a secret. I believe their exposure to this medicine tradition was gradual, safe, and respectful and that their own inner wisdom told them when they were ready for such an experience.” Haynie acknowledges, however, that there was an upside and a downside to her openness about psychoactive substances. The upside being that Haynie maintained a level of honesty and connection with her children that most mothers of teenagers could never dream of. Haynie says her daughter once came to her as a teenager and said, “One of the main themes my friends talk about is how they’re getting it over on their parents and going behind their backs. It’s so strange, because I can never really participate in that.” The downside was that her children had to straddle two worlds with significantly differing values throughout their teenage years. Neither of the children could talk about the practices with friends, at least not until they matured some. There was also the striking dissimilarities between the 22

mindset of the people attending medicine ceremonies — who were looking to become better people — and the drama-ridden, oftenshallow mindset of the teens within the high school hallways. “Just seeing the bizarre duality of those two worlds was really intense for my daughter,” Haynie says. t is a big risk to grow most psychoactive spiritual medicines. It can be even more dangerous if it’s proven that you are synthesizing your own chemicals. But, some folks see enough value in these substances to commit acts of civil disobedience, supplying themselves with their medicineof-choice. Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin was the living archetype of a mad scientist, and is to the psychedelic community something like Marcel DuChamp was to contemporary artists. He took the established knowledge of psychoactive chemicals and turned them over, twisted them in knots, and expanded our knowledge of such substances exponentially. By the end of his life, Shulgin 23

had synthesized hundreds of previouslyunsynthesized chemicals in his little backyard laboratory, including — most famously — MDMA (though he wasn’t the first to do it). But, there were also chemicals like DIPT, which completely distorts your hearing, or TMA-2, which Shulgin describes as “calmly cosmic” in his book, “PiHKAL.” It is safe to say that his books, “PiHKaL” and “TiHKaL” revolutionized the psychedelic community, forever. Both are nearly 1,000 pages of entries on how to synthesize different psychoactive chemicals, plus his own personal journals on his experiences with each new chemical. And, you can buy those on Amazon. The Erowid website even has most of the entries for free. Never before has information like this been so accessible. Shulgin died in 2014, but is survived by his wife and co-author of the aforementioned epics, Ann Shulgin. Shulgin’s son, Ted, passed away a few years before him in 2011, of cancer. Before he passed, though, he told the Shulgins’ research assistant Tania Manning 24

11 When a Mycotopia forum user, called divine, asked for opinions on giving her 9-year-old daughter mushrooms to help her with traumatic childhood behaviors, the forum moderator responded: “No no no. Bad idea. Your child’s brain is still developing, don’t mess it with by giving her a powerful psychoactive drug. If I hear that you did this, I will ban you.” 12 Reporter Alasdair Baverstock spoke with Gomez for the Daily Mail in 2015.


about his first experience with psychoactive substances. His dad gave him TMA-2, the “calmly cosmic” substance from above, as his first dive into the lands of psychedelia. From there, Ted learned chemistry from his dad. His favorite compound to synthesize, Manning writes in her piece “Life with Sasha and Ann,” was 2C-I — a Shulgin family original (Sasha was the first to synthesize it). Ted and his mother, Shulgin’s first wife Nina, were part of Shulgin’s original research group for the new substances that he was creating. Practices like this — of making psychoactive substance use a family affair — are controversial even within the psychedelic community. Mycotopia, a forum dedicated to growing ’shrooms, threatens to ban members who admit to giving kids 11 mushrooms. Yet, the Mexican Zapotec tribe has been doing this for as long as anyone can remember. “We don’t see it as dangerous,” said Lilia Gomez, a Zapotec woman who gave her five-year-old son psychoactive mushrooms.12 “There is a lot of

history and culture surrounding these sacred plants, and they link us directly with our ancestors.” The argument over children ingesting psychoactive substances rages on online drug forums, where you can find some of the most poignant discussions about modern drug use. In 2012 a member of the forum, The Shroomery, made a post entitled “That faith that gives their children (and their babies!) Ayahuasca” and asked: “Do you think this is okay, or do you think this is wrong, giving children and babies a dose of an extremely powerful psychedelic before they are even old enough to know what they are taking?” There were a number of factors other users brought to this debate in favor of and against the practice. But one forum member named Almond Flour made a tongue-in-cheek jab that speaks loudly to American parents’ cultural biases around the subject of drugs that are OK for children. “I know what church you’re talking about,” Almond Flour wrote. “But could 26

be worse. They could be feeding them stimulants and research chemicals to do better in school, or suppress energy and hormones.” Haynie and Shulgin obviously didn’t invent the idea of introducing their children to psychoactive substances. The idea of using psychoactive substances as a rite of passage is integral to a widespread range of cultures around the globe, like the one referenced in the Shroomery post above. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has started a program called the Rites of Passage project specifically based around this idea. The project strives to provide an alternative education to the DARE and abstinence-only drug policies which shape much of the public discourse in the USA. “Acknowledging that experimentation with consciousness is nearly universal,” MAPS’ website states. “We believe that the creation of sociallysanctioned contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana may be a powerful approach to reducing drug abuse.” 27

Currently, these socially-sanctioned contexts often take the shape of outof-country retreats, usually focused on adults. Jonathan Thompson, the host of the Psychedelic Parenting Podcast, recently returned from a retreat with MycoMeditations in Jamaica. He happily reported that he is now partners with them, and — along with his role working monthly mushroom retreats over the Summer — he will be helping them develop a framework for intensive family retreats. “Ultimately, our goal is to create a group, rite-of-passage experience that parents can bring their young adult or mature teens to and help them to have a profound psychedelic experience at a really pivotal point in their life,” Thompson says. “I see that as the groundwork for creating a truly psychedelic society.” 13 In an article published through MAPS’ Rites of Passage project, author R. Stuart brings to light some helpful ethnographic records of children using plant medicines.

13 Terence McKenna once said:“What I think a psychedelic society, what that notion means or implies to me in terms of ideology, is the idea of creating a society which always lives in the light of the mystery of being.”


Ethan Russo


The Huichol Indians of Mexico, for example, give peyote to children as young as six, according to D.L. Dorrance’s research from 1975. He found that the Huichol believe childhood is the best time to learn how to use peyote. “Children should have reached ‘the age of understanding’ so they can verbally articulate their experience,” Dorrance writes. “Rather than fix a chronological age for initiation, the maturity, interest and personal circumstances of each child are individually considered. The Huichol find that pre-pubescent children can integrate a peyote initiation better than an adult whose mind is already rigid, or an adolescent going through the confusion of role transition and sexual maturation.” The culture which ceremonially uses ayahuasca is from Peru. A bespectacled, mustachioed neurologist named Ethan Russo visited the Machiguenga people in Peru in 1995 in search of medicines to treat headaches. He was exposed to many of the native plant medicines, including the ayahuasca brew.

He wrote that Machiguenga children, all boys by his observation, use ayahuasca as an integral part of their religious upbringing. “Ayahuasca is a window on enlightenment, a portal to divination and a teacher of plant, hunting and spiritual knowledge,” Russo writes. “The kids accept it in that context and none see it as a ‘kick’ the way American youth might brag about sneaking a swig of bourbon from the old man’s stash. Rather, they enjoy it for the same reason other members of the tribe do: it is a thrilling experience that binds the tribe in their philosophy and mutual interdependence to survive and thrive in an eternally challenging environment.” ontext was always an important priority for Haynie when approaching her children about using mind-altering substances. She says that she grew up as a rebellious youth, so she always understood that her kids might experiment and party with their friends growing up. “That’s valid,” she says. “I get 30

that...But, I also told them, I want you to know there are other ways to alter your consciousness that are based in tradition and which are under the guidance and supervision of real, experienced elders.” She, personally, gets a lot out of feeling like she is part of a lineage of

“ Horizontal learning is what many teenagers in the United States may be familiar with — peer to peer learning. Vertical learning is defined as elder to youth learning. “ knowledge that is being passed down over many generations. Haynie refers to a concept from the book “Hold on to Your Kids” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate. That concept is Horizontal versus Vertical learning. In this scenario, Horizontal learning is what many teenagers in the United States may be familiar with — peer to peer learning. Vertical learning is defined as elder to youth learning. Haynie believes 31

that plant medicines and the cultures that surround them encourage the idea of Vertical learning, which isn’t as common in Western society. She felt it important to introduce her children to that unbroken wisdom in the right context, with the right mindset. And if research is correct, more parents might want to consider the importance of the context in which their children end up taking psychoactive substances. In a 2008 study on psilocybin 14 mushrooms carried out by Dr. Roland Griffiths, it was found that — for nearly twothirds of volunteers — the experience with the substance was rated within the top five personal and spiritual experiences of their entire lives. Thompson, the Psychedelic Parenting Podcast’s host, says there are some groups out there who are trying to promote more informative drug education programs for children. One of these groups is the Unitarian Universalist Church. They’re developing a drug education curriculum

14 You can get away with equating mushrooms to other psychedelics, such as LSD and ayahuasca, in this scenario.


modeled after their Our Whole Lives (OWL) sex education curriculum — which is based around the idea that honest, accurate and unbiased information about sexuality can change and save lives. They are applying those same principals to their current drug education endeavor. Thompson thinks it’s important that parents and educators be honest with kids about these substances. Especially about the reasons why people choose to use them. If you go your whole childhood being told by your parents that drugs are always bad, he says, the first time you try a drug that makes you feel good, all the information your parents gave you flies out the window. Thompson started the Psychedelic Parenting Podcast to find out how other parents had used psychoactive substances openly within their families. Following a run-in with some smoked DMT in his 30s, Thompson decided he wanted to reintroduce psychedelics into his life after nearly a decade of abstinence. At that time, he had three young children, so he knew 33

he would have to address the subject soon in his personal life. “At this point, I consider mushrooms to be the core spiritual practice of my life,” he says. “I can’t very well hide it from my family and my children and be an authentic human being.” “In fact,” he continues. “I want to be able to share these experiences with them.” Through Thompson’s podcast, he has learned many things. Mainly, though, that everyone is just making it up as they go along when it comes to kids and drugs. Which is fine, he says. Because, as long as they are trying to make something up, they’re creating a model to pass on to their children. That way, the children won’t have to wing it like their parents did. There’s that Vertical learning concept, again. For Thompson, the most important policy he implies in his parenting — and his life, in general — is radical honesty. Early on, he found material from Alex and Allyson Grey, two visionary artists and psychedelic advocates who have spoken extensively on raising their daughter, Zena. He took 34

their advice: to answer any of his children’s questions with straightforward and honest answers, but not offer more information than was asked for. His kids know about the medicines that he and their Mom take and they know about their Dad’s new job in Jamaica. They even know that their Dad could still be an alcoholic were it not for his ayahuasca experiences over the past few years. Heck, Thompson’s oldest son even trip sat for him once after he ate some mushrooms. “A year ago, maybe, he trip sat for me,” Thompson says. “I’m relatively experienced, so I know what I’m up against most of the time. And I know 35

how much to take. His mom had some errands to run. So, he just kind of hung out, kept an eye on me and got water if I needed it.� Usually, though, Thompson’s parents take the children when he and his wife want to have a spiritual journey.


His children, though well-informed, aren’t all that interested in having a psychedelic experience, yet. “And one of the patterns I’ve found through talking to people who are really open with their kids about drug use,” he says. “Is that, most of their kids aren’t really interested in it at all.” But, when his children feel they are mature enough for a psychedelic experience, Thompson says he’s more than willing to talk with them about setting it up. o, I wonder — “—Mom, what do you think of me using psychedelics?” “Well, there’s a combination of things,” she says. “I have my own biases in my mind — like, if you get caught and health issues like depression and schitzophrenia and that kind of weird wacky stuff everybody’s probably heard. There’s always that in the back of my mind as a quiet concern. But, I think that it’s very responsible, the way you approach it, so I don’t really worry about it. I think you’re 37

very intelligent in recognizing that it’s not just a recreational drug you can just pop whenever you feel like it. Because you communicate with me about it being about psychological and spiritual growth and help, I feel like it is a positive thing for you. That’s the only reason that I’m not freaked out about it. That’s you in particular.” That leads me right into my next question: How would you feel about giving my little sister a psychedelic substance?” “Me, personally, because I don’t know much about them, and am not familiar with the experience — besides mushrooms a few times — I would not want to be in the position of the responsible person who administered that to my child,” she says. “I just dont know enough about it. At her age, I would feel fully responsible for anything that happens to her. So, I would want to know more about it. I would have to experience it for myself and learn more about it. I would have to do a lot more research. I couldn’t just do that.” 38