In the infamous words of South Park’s Mr. Mackey, “Drugs are bad, m’kay!”
But perhaps not. Research has shown that although there may be no actual benefit in sitting on the toilet in a cubicle in Copper Face Jacks, hoovering up line after line of baking-powder laced speed from the top of the toilet roll holder, convincing yourself that this is actually the high quality cocaine that your dealer promised you… sorry, I got lost there. So, while there is no benefit to that side of the illegal drug market, psychedelics have been proven to help people mentally, physically and spiritually. One such advocate for the use of psychedelics is Ciara Sherlock, founder of The Psychedelic Society of Ireland. We caught up with her to find out more:
How did The Psychedelic Society of Ireland come about?
I founded The Psychedelic Society of Ireland in March 2015. The inspiration began when I was living in The Netherlands in 2013. I had many very mind-opening and transformative experiences with the legal psychedelic truffles that are available and was exposed to the alternative laws and culture there. At the same time, there was lots of new research into psychedelics and mental health happening around the world that I was reading about. I was fascinated by this world I was discovering, but also suffered massive culture shock when I moved back to Dublin. During that period, I found out about the newly founded Psychedelic Societies in San Francisco and in the UK through the internet. I suppose I was just disappointed that there was nothing like that in Ireland, I could see the need for it. I felt passionate about the idea, so I decided to create it myself. Since then it has grown into something I could never had dreamed of. It has organically spanned into a number of areas; cultivating the psychedelic community through social gatherings, creating harm reduction and educational spaces at festivals, lobbying for drug policy reform and facilitating Psychedelic Experience Weekends in The Netherlands.
Tell me about the weekends in The Netherlands that you facilitate?
I am working with a team of facilitators from around Europe in bringing small groups of people on retreat style weekends in which they take the legal psychedelic truffles in a safe and held environment. People who attend may be new to psychedelics or want to go deeper into their exploration and are seeking the best environment to do that in. That’s what we are providing. We go to a beautiful secluded countryside venue in The Netherlands, hold group sharing circles, connection exercises, meditations, bodywork practices, mindfulness, communal meals and nature walks. On Saturday afternoon, the participants have a psychedelic trip and are invited to wear eye masks and listen to specially curated music, just like in the therapeutic research trials. The sober facilitators act as support for the participants throughout their journeys. Friday is the preparation day and Sunday is the integration day, we feel these days are equally as important as the trip itself. It’s an incredibly beautiful thing to be involved in and is highly recommended by the past participants.
How can people get involved?
They can go to the website to learn more and simply apply online to begin the process you need to go to our website (which is here)
How has your life changed since you “found” psychedelics?
Wow, huge question! With regards the Psychedelic Society of Ireland, it’s taken me so many places in the world, has caused me to meet the most inspiring and amazing people and has gotten me involved with some really meaningful projects. Personally, the way I have consciously and respectfully used psychedelics has transformed me as a person. The powerful experiences I have had seemed to free me from the restrictions of my own mind, I’ve learned a lot about myself, become more empathetic and compassionate, I’ve been motivated more than ever before, I feel empowered, full of love… I could go on and on! But the important thing about the way I have used psychedelics as tools is the preparation and integration work I have done around the experiences themselves. You don’t just take the substances and automatically grow and change for the better, but the experiences open you up to the awareness of the work that’s necessary and the possibilities that are there for you. The preparation and integration is a hugely important part of it.
Explain to someone who has never taken a psychedelic what a trip feels like?
The psychedelic experience is totally beyond language or explanation! It also varies dramatically from person to person and it completely depends on the set (state of mind), setting (physical environment) and substance (type and quality of psychedelic). But to give an idea of typical aspects of a psychedelic trip, you could expect strong perception changes, seeing magnificent colours, appreciation for everything, seeing new beauty in everyday objects, interconnectedness of all things, loss of sense of time, old repressed memories coming to mind, feeling sensitive and exaggerated emotions, and probably lots of laughs! During intentional and strong psychedelic trips people can have powerful mystical and spiritual experiences. But as I said, it totally depends on the set, setting and substance.
The media only tells of horror stories involving people suffering severe mental breakdowns, flashbacks and suicide while on or after experimenting. Why is this?
So, psychedelics were not always illegal. There was a point in time when it was legal to use substances like LSD, psilocybin and MDMA. Mental health illnesses like depression and PTSD were being treated with psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for years before their ban. There was the beginnings of a massive psychedelic revolution happening in the 60’s, people of the general public were opening their minds, realising the dark side of capitalist industries, refusing to be drafted as soldiers and go to war. This didn’t work too well for the government. There was a huge chance of loss of control of societies. Additionally, there was a huge wave of people over-using psychedelics unconsciously in a recreational way with a lack of education and integration so people could struggle to come to terms with what they were experiencing and that could manifest in negative ways. So the government and the media decided to stamp out “mind opening” psychedelics, creating the War on Drugs, imprisoning people and spinning crazy media stories of people doing all sorts of awful things while under the influence. Most of these stories were exaggerated or untrue and were just scare tactics to make people fear the substances.
In saying that, I don’t want to deny the risk of people having mental health issues if they have had an overwhelming psychedelic experience and don’t know how to come to terms with it. In our society, we have to completely hide our drug interest or use. It’s generally socially unacceptable to talk about drugs, and that’s massively damaging for someone who has a difficult experience and can’t process it. It’s a huge taboo, and that can be applied to the general mental health issues in Ireland. Our culture is one of not talking about anything, keeping things to ourselves and suffering in silence. Psychedelics have been proved to not cause mental breakdowns, flashbacks and suicide when taken in the correct way, but it’s true people can have difficulty processing the experience. I believe that it’s not the psychedelics that cause the problems, but the lack of supportive, compassionate and understanding society we live in.
What is the biggest misconception about psychedelics?
The one you mentioned before, about people suffering severe mental breakdowns, flashbacks and suicide, is a huge one, but also that they make you do crazy things like jump out of windows or try to peel your eyeballs! What crazy ideas that just simply aren’t true. People also think they might be “too old” for psychedelics. I don’t think you can ever be too old, and this is proven by the age brackets of people who come on the Psychedelic Experience Weekends. The age ranges from early 20’s to late 70’s, and we generally have many participants that are 45+ years old. You’re never too old to have the most profound and meaningful experience of your life!
Name me the biggest benefits from using psychedelics?
There are many fascinating benefits of psychedelics. There is so much scientific research looking into the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics to treat mental health illnesses such as PTSD, anxiety related to terminal illness, OCD, eating disorders, depression as well as couples therapy and autism in adults. You simply have to type it into Google and there is loads of up to date media coverage on it, it’s amazing! Plus you have this huge new wave of microdosing that originated in Silicon Valley, where people are using small doses of LSD or psilocybin to enhance their work ethic, production and creativity.
What is the best experience you have ever had?
The unanswerable question! I’ve had so many great experiences… I’m tempted to say that my whole life is the best experience I’ve ever had! Is that too much? Haha!
How can people learn more?
We live in an age of endless information due to internet access. It’s brilliant! The choice is in our hands to education ourselves. Research organisations like The Beckley Foundation, Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), The Hefter Foundation who are leading the way in psychedelic research. Check out Erowid, Psychedelic Press and Psymposia for more experience and cultural stuff. And of course, keep in touch with The Psychedelic Society of Ireland.
People could also join us for a day of raising awareness on 9/20 (September 20th) for psychedelic mushrooms and their medical, personal, and social benefits.
The evening will begin with seminars from special guests discussing the magic of our native psilocybin mushrooms, their history and their uses. We will then have a slot for open mic psychedelic story sharing, before some light refreshments, music and time for socialising with like minded folk.
Join the celebrations, door open at 6pm and tickets are available from eventbrite.
Find out more on how to support The Psychedelic Society of Ireland by visiting Patreon https://www.patreon.com/psysocireland
For more information go to the following websites: