Psychedelics are hitting the mainstream. From festivals, to recreational use, to informal therapeutic gatherings — more and more people are making psychedelic medicine a part of their lives. Which is why it’s important to ensure they are used safely and responsibly, with a knowledge of harm reduction measures and other strategies.
Psychedelic Harm Reduction
According to the National Harm Reduction Coalition, harm reduction is “a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.”
While according to the Zendo Project, an organisation focused on psychedelic support:
“…millions of people will use psychedelics outside of supervised medical contexts, many of them for the first time. Taking psychedelics can result in overwhelming and uncomfortable experiences, more likely with high doses, amongst first-time users, and without adequate preparation or setting. Psychedelic harm reduction includes a variety of methods to help prevent and transform difficult experiences while in a non-ordinary state of consciousness.”
Education and Preparation
Knowledge is power when it comes to harm reduction. Organizers should provide educational resources, including information about substance safety, potential risks, and harm reduction techniques. Encourage attendees to educate themselves and make informed decisions about their participation. Offering workshops or informational sessions before the event can also help foster a culture of responsible use.
See this video from the Zendo Project Harm Reduction training at Burning Man:
Safer Substance Use
Promote responsible substance use by emphasizing the importance of testing substances for purity and potency. Encourage participants to bring their own testing kits or provide access to testing services at the event. It’s also essential to communicate guidelines regarding dosage, potential interactions with medications, and the importance of moderation. Encourage a culture of respect for personal boundaries and consent.
Visit Dance Safe for information on drug testing and other safety measures
Set and Setting
Creating the right environment is key to a positive psychedelic experience. Choose a venue that is comfortable, safe, and supportive. Consider factors like lighting, temperature, and access to nature. Designate quiet spaces for introspection and relaxation, and ensure there are trained volunteers or staff members available for support and assistance. Pay attention to set and setting to help cultivate a conducive atmosphere for transformative experiences.
Peer Support and Integration
Encourage the formation of a strong community within the gathering. Foster connections among participants and provide opportunities for peer support and integration. Facilitate group discussions, workshops, or integration circles where attendees can share their experiences, ask questions, and receive guidance. This sense of community and support can enhance the overall well-being of participants.
Medical and Psychological Support
Having trained medical and psychological professionals on-site is essential to handle any potential emergencies or challenging experiences. Ensure that there are designated spaces for participants to receive confidential support if needed. Establish clear communication channels with nearby medical facilities and create protocols for emergencies. Participants should feel reassured that their well-being is a top priority.
Accessibility and Inclusivity
Make the event accessible to a diverse range of participants. Consider factors such as physical accessibility, affordability, and accommodation for different needs. Promote inclusivity by actively engaging with and welcoming individuals from various backgrounds, cultures, and identities. Ensure that harm reduction materials and resources are available in multiple languages, if possible.
Here are some additional tips for participants in psychedelic gatherings:
- Do your research. Learn as much as you can about the psychedelics you are planning to use.
- Start low and go slow. Don’t take more than you need, and give yourself time to adjust to the effects of the drug.
- Be with trusted friends. Having a supportive group of people around you can make a big difference in your experience.
- Listen to your body. If you start to feel uncomfortable, take a break or stop using the drug altogether.
- Have a plan. Know what you are going to do if you have a bad experience.
By implementing these guidelines and strategies, organizers can create safe and inclusive spaces for psychedelic gatherings. Prioritizing education, responsible substance use, set and setting, peer support, and access to medical and psychological assistance is crucial for a safe and responsible experience.
If you or someone you know is having a hard time or is in serious need of help, you can contact:
Fireside Project – Psychedelic Support Hotline: (623) 473-7433 FiresideProject.org
Fireside Project’s Psychedelic Peer Support Line will offer free peer support by phone and text message to people in the midst of psychedelic experiences, people holding space for others who are in the midst of psychedelic experiences, and people integrating past psychedelic experiences.
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