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Psychedelics are substances that after consumption induce non-ordinary states of consciousness. Such states include visual and auditory changes of perception and altered cognitive processes. Psychedelics can allow you to see the world anew, from a fresh perspective, with a childlike curiosity and untainted by prejudice or conditioning. This makes it easier to recognize the interconnectedness of everything.

History of psychedelics

Although the rise of interest in psychedelics may seem like a recent development in the Western world, psychedelic plants and fungi have been used in indigenous medicinal traditions for thousands of years. The scientific world has studied the benefits of psychedelics since the 1950’s and has consistently reported positive effects on behavior, cognition, spirituality and consciousness.

What does psychedelic mean?

The term “psychedelic” was first proposed at the New York Academy of Sciences in 1956 by Humphry Osmond, an English psychiatrist known for his research into practical applications for psychedelics. He explained its meaning as ‘mind manifesting’ or ‘mind revealing’ – a combination of the Greek words Psyche and Dēlōsē (from “mind”, ψυχή (psyche), and “manifest”, δήλος (delos)).

There are indications that psychedelics may have been used in ancient Greece. On the Eleusinian plain near Athens, it’s presumed a week-long ceremony was celebrated, now commonly referred to as the Eleusinian Mysteries. The pinnacle of these ceremonies most likely consisted of a powerful psychedelic experience. Some of the great Greek and Roman philosophers, such as Marcus Aurelius, Cicero and Plato, have written about the importance of their Eleusian experience and its influence on their philosophical inquiries.

Research into psychedelics

As an increasing number of scientific observations confirm the positive effects on our wellbeing, psychedelics have been gaining more and more recognition in the academic world in recent years. As scientific research continues, promising results are being made in neuroscience, mood and mental disorders, addiction and habit formation.

When supported by our program and in a broader context of habitual changes, psychedelics can be applied as a tool for personal growth and transformation. 

Read more below to learn what happens in the mind during a psychedelic experience.

How do psychedelics work?

Neuroscientists and philosophers have proposed various theories, yet up until this day, no one is able to fully explain how psychedelic substances actually work. The mind remains difficult to read. What has been demonstrated is that psychedelics generally have two common and clearly observable effects on the mind; they reduce activity in our Default Mode Network and they induce neuroplasticity. 

Our Default Mode Network is known for showing activity when we are not doing anything; when we’re not focused on a particular task in the outside world. On brain scans, you can see it’s active while we’re daydreaming, thinking about ourselves, remembering the past, and thinking of the future. Some neuroscientists see it as the ego’s seat, the place where our idea of an “I” stems from.

The Default Mode Network consists of three parts; the posterior cingulate cortex, the medial prefrontal cortex and the thalamus. What’s interesting about the thalamus, is that you can think of it as a braking system or a reducing valve of the brain. Sort of a filter. 

Aldous Huxley’s theory

Writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley had an interesting theory that relates to this effect. He proposed that in order to make it possible for humans to survive, the input of information into the human brain had to be filtered and reduced to information for more practical purposes. 

So, when the thalamus’ function is diminished in the psychedelic state, the filter functions less effectively, which means more information (although it may be less practical) is allowed to enter our consciousness.  Huxley described the Psychedelic state as “mind at large” because the mind then has access to a broader spectrum of brain functions, and allows us to tune into a more free and limitless state of mind, playful and less restrained by our sense of self – with the ability to extend beyond the individual out to the collective. According to Huxley’s theory, psychedelics literally open the mind. 

Psychedelic truffles

Effects of psychedelics

The second observable effect is enhanced neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change and adapt by forming new connections. New connections are made when we learn and experience something new, but can also mean new insights, ideas and perspectives on a certain problem or observation.

Thoughts and habits create neurological pathways in the brain. When we repeat a particular habit or thought, this pathway gets ingrained in the mind.

What is neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity may sound like something complex or rather medical, but it can simply be described as the flexibility of the brain. The ability to adjust to new thoughts and experiences. When we are young, our brains have tremendous neuroplasticity. This is why it’s easier for children to learn to play an instrument or to learn to speak a new language.

When we get older, our neuroplasticity decreases. Our minds are shaped in a certain way. So, let’s think of the brain like a forest, with countless pathways. These pathways are created by all of the thoughts and habits we have and repeat. Now, every time we repeat a particular habit or thought, its pathway gets ingrained deeper into the mind. When this continues for a long time, we can come to a point where we think there’s no other option or no different route to take. And so we stick to the same path, like a vinyl record stuck in a repetitive loop. 

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to make new connections. New connections can mean new insights, ideas and perspectives. Psychedelics can create a window of time where there is an opportunity to rearrange or reroute some of your old pathways. This enables you to replace habits and thought patterns that are no longer beneficial to you. 

A psychedelic experience can create a window of time where it’s much easier for the brain to adapt and change, allowing you to replace habits and thought patterns that may no longer be beneficial to you. This is why we believe that the beneficial effects of psychedelics find their roots in the weeks following a psychedelic experience. It’s the integration of new habits and thought patterns that ultimately lead to a sustained state of wellbeing.

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