Disclaimer | In Crisis?
If you are in crisis or contemplating self-harm or suicide, please call 988 or visit 988Lifeline.org, which provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24/7 in the United States. An extensive list of International suicide prevention hotlines can be found there. Remember: You are needed, you deserve to be here, and you are not alone. Reach out, and do not give up.
Having a Challenging Trip?
If you are experiencing a difficult psychedelic event, or still need help processing one, call or text 62-FIRESIDE. The Fireside Project offers free emotional support during or after a psychedelic experience. You can also download their app. Their services are completely confidential, and their staff is rigorously trained, compassionate, and knowledgeable regarding psychedelics. You can also contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at (800) 622-HELP (4357). Their confidential helpline is available 24/7 in English and Spanish for individuals and family members experiencing emotional distress or crisis.
Additional support resources can be found in the Zendo Project directory. The Zendo Project was founded in partnership with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Their extensive list of harm reduction resources, emotional support services, and peer support hotlines offer a vast array of tools to help you move through a challenging experience and come out the other side feeling empowered and secure.
Having a Medical Emergency?
If you or a loved one are experiencing a medical emergency and require immediate attention, please dial 911 (USA) immediately.
Are You a Veteran Having a Medical Emergency?
If you are a veteran experiencing a difficult trip or crisis, please contact (800) 273-8255 and Press 1. This will connect you to the Veteran Crisis Line. Their hotline is staffed by experienced personnel, many of whom are also veterans. A trained responder will answer your call 24/7 to help you through a crisis, anxiety, or thoughts of self-harm.
Emotional and Crisis Support for the LGBTQIA+ Community.
Members of the LGBTQIA+ community may face unique and difficult situations during a challenging psychedelic experience. If you need emotional or crisis support, dial (888) 688-5428 or visit LGBThotline.org. Their hotline is designed for people of all ages and staffed by a dedicated team of highly trained volunteers from all parts of the LGBT+ community. They also offer a dedicated line for LGBT+ seniors that you can reach at (888) 234-7243.
Be Wary of Fentanyl-Contaminated Drugs.
The United States is experiencing a synthetic opioid epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives due to street drugs being adulterated with other drugs, such as fentanyl. Fentanyl is an incredibly powerful and deadly narcotic, with doses as low as two milligrams (a dose so small it could fit on the tip of a pencil) being potentially deadly. While it is never recommended to consume any illicit substances, it is critical that you or the people you know test any drugs you may ingest for fentanyl. Several non-profit harm reduction organizations, such as DanceSafe, offer fentanyl testing strips and at-home drug testing kits.
The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider. Some individuals with preexisting mental health conditions should not use psychedelics. Always consult with a trained medical professional about your specific healthcare needs.
Are Psychedelics Legal?
Most classical and non-classical psychedelic drugs are prohibited in the United States under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This family of chemical compounds are considered Schedule I drugs, the most tightly controlled and generally illegal class. This includes psilocybin (aka Magic Mushrooms), Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), Ayahuasca, Ibogaine, Peyote, 2C-B, Cannabis, and others. Ketamine is also controlled under the same act and listed as a Schedule III drug. Due to the illegal or controlled nature of these drugs, it is not advised that you attempt to purchase, source, or otherwise possess any Scheduled substances, as you may be at risk of civil and criminal penalties.
The information provided on this website is intended for informational and harm reduction purposes only and does not constitute medical or legal advice. Nor is this information, or any journalistic stories, anecdotes, visual or artistic material intended as a replacement or supplement for medical or legal advice. It is important to understand that using any psychedelic compounds from the streets has significant risks and is unlikely to produce the promising results emerging in some clinical trials which involve particular dosing and purity, along with specific, carefully crafted psychotherapy in a safe, controlled environment. Various psychedelics purchased illegally often are adulterated with other, possibly harmful substances, making it difficult and not advisable to self-medicate for PTSD, anxiety, depression, or for the treatment of other mental health issues.
A Psychedelic pastor? That’s probably not something most people expect to read. But why not? Some evidence suggests that the link between religious practices and psychedelic use is as old as organized religion, with some evidence tracing psychedelic use back at least 6,500 years. We can also trace modern psychedelic practices found in countries like Mexico, the Southwestern United States, and South America back thousands of years.
Often, these practices hold a deep spiritual significance. Individuals like the “Mother of Modern Psychedelics,” Maria Sabina, were respected spiritual leaders for their communities. When we look at Western Judeo-Christian traditions, we also find clergy, religious leaders, and spiritualist researchers interested in the link between God and psychedelics. Individuals like Walter Pahnke, a minister and psychiatrist working for Boston University in the 1950s and 60s, would conduct research, such as the Good Friday Experiment, in an attempt to ascertain the connection between psychedelics and the divine. Eventually, this led to an explosion of religious and spiritualist interest in psychedelics.(1, 2, 3)
A Psychedelic Pastor’s Search For God and Meaning
Fast forward to the contemporary era, where the discourse around psychedelics is slowly shifting. We find individuals like Pastor Steve Parker, a member of the Mainline Protestant clergy, advocating for a balanced understanding of psychedelics, especially within religious communities. The Mainline Protestant clergy includes religious leaders with a more forward-thinking and progressive view of religion, often serving multicultural and LGBTQ+ congregations. Parker, whose journey with psychedelics began due to his engagement with PTSD-affected children and adolescents, has found psychedelics to be a potential conduit for spiritual growth.
According to Parker, his experiences with psychedelics were not just transformational, he feels they helped him become a better pastor and leader for his Church.
“I remember having a personal experience where I was deeply connected with the idea that everything is connected,” Parker says. “We are one world. We’re one people. We’re one with the planet. We’re one with God’s creation… That was a profound, life-changing experience for me that helped me through my ministry. So you hear from people in all walks of life talking about how psychedelics have assisted with their spiritual growth, and I think that it’s something that we need to explore more fully.”
Parker believes that there is a real place for psychedelic use within the church as a tool to help people reconnect with their idea of god. He says, “When you have someone like me, a Methodist Pastor saying, ‘Psychedelics strengthened my relationship with God,’ you get a lot of weird looks from other clergy. This shouldn’t be the case if you look at the research. Powerful psychedelic experience brings people closer to God, or their idea of God.”
Parker is referencing a 2019 study by the late Roland Griffiths published in PlosOne. The study found compelling data regarding how psychedelic-induced spiritual experiences can have a profound and lasting impact on individuals’ perceptions of the divine. About 75% of respondents rated their encounter as one of the most spiritually significant experiences of their lives, attributing to it positive changes in life satisfaction, purpose, and meaning. The experiences also led to a shift in religious identification among more than two-thirds of self-identified atheists, showcasing a potent transformational quality.(4)
The vividness of these encounters, as reported by participants, further underscores the depth and impact. Many participants recounted their journey as being characterized by a sense of consciousness, benevolence, intelligence, sacredness, and eternal existence. These attributes reflect traditional religious or spiritual descriptions of divine or higher power encounters. The shared nature of such experiences suggests a common human capacity to engage with transcendental realms, whether facilitated by psychedelics or achieved through other means.(4)
The Future of Psychedelics in Spirituality
“I am amazed by the emerging science demonstrating the benefits of supervised psychedelic use,” Parker shared at Psychedelic Science 2023, while sharing his intent to become a psychedelic therapist post-retirement. He highlighted his transformative personal experience in which he felt a deep connection to the idea of universal oneness—a sentiment that Parker feels has fueled his ministry.
Parker’s experience mirrors many within the clergy who have found psychedelics to be more than just mind-altering substances. They see them as tools for deeper spiritual exploration and a greater understanding of the divine. The testimonials suggest a common theme—a transcendental experience that brings about a sense of interconnectedness, a realization of being one with the world, with people, with the planet, and, in religious terms, with God’s creation.
But how does Parker see this playing out in practice?
Due to the largely illegal status of psychedelics, an underground community has emerged. This clandestine nature means some psychonauts may lack the guidance and education necessary to explore these substances safely. Drawing a parallel with sex education, Parker emphasizes that better education around psychedelics can lead to safer practices and a harm reduction, saying, “Because these drugs are illegal, there’s an underground community, right? [Let’s say] a person has a family history of schizophrenia or they’re currently bipolar: in that case, there are all kinds of screening factors where it likely would not be healthy for that person to participate. But because it’s not legal, there’s very little education.”
As such, Parker believes that the key to the success of the “psychedelic renaissance” lies in education. He says, “Very few people have someone to walk with them through that experience unless they’re pursuing paths that aren’t legal. And I think overall it does a lot more harm than good. If we look at things like sex education, we see that better education drastically cuts down on unplanned pregnancy and the spread of STDs. If we educate people about the potential risks and benefits [of psychedelic use] in a healthy, communicative way, then we can probably reduce their risk of having a bad trip or developing long-term psychiatric conditions.”
As Parker suggests, the ongoing psychedelic renaissance is not just about rediscovering the mystical, but also about fostering education and safe practices in this exploratory field. His quest, much like those of other spiritual leaders, reflects a timeless human endeavor to understand the larger forces at play, to seek meaning, and to communicate with the divine.
The investigation of psychedelics’ potential to foster spiritual growth and healing by both traditional practitioners and modern clergy presents a compelling case for their place in contemporary spirituality. It’s a narrative that transcends cultural and religious boundaries, offering us a chance at a deeper exploration into the essence of human existence and the divine. Testimony from people like Parker and the growing body of evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, shows the need for further research that could redefine how we perceive, practice, and experience spirituality.
This material is not intended as a replacement or substitute for any legal or medical advice. Always consult a medical professional about your health needs. Psychedelics are widely illegal in the United States, and readers should always be informed about local, state, and federal regulations regarding psychedelics or other drugs.
- George, D. R., Hanson, R., Wilkinson, D., & Garcia-Romeu, A. (2021). Ancient Roots of Today’s Emerging Renaissance in Psychedelic Medicine. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 46(4). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11013-021-09749-y
- Krippner, S., & Winkelman, M. (1983). Maria Sabina: Wise Lady of the Mushrooms. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 15(3), 225–228. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.1983.10471953
- Cambridge, R. (1991). PAHNKE’S “GOOD FRIDAY EXPERIMENT”: A LONG-TERM FOLLOW-UP AND METHODOLOGICAL CRITIQUE. https://www.atpweb.org/jtparchive/trps-23-91-01-001.pdf
- Griffiths, R. R., Hurwitz, E. S., Davis, A. K., Johnson, M. W., & Jesse, R. (2019). Survey of subjective “God encounter experiences”: Comparisons among naturally occurring experiences and those occasioned by the classic psychedelics psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca, or DMT. PLOS ONE, 14(4), e0214377. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0214377