Psychedelics, sex and intimacy. Photo credit: twenty20 photos.
Humans have used psychedelics throughout history, influencing many cultures along the way. These drugs were mostly used in religious ceremonies or for their medical benefits. However, the ancient Egyptians had another use for them. The pharaohs and nobles of ancient Egypt would ingest the extract of the blue lotus flower to increase their sexual desires.
History is repeating itself, as psychedelics have again begun to play a huge role in society’s medical and sexual awakening.
Psychedelics, aka hallucinogens, are psychoactive drugs which induce altered thoughts and sensory perceptions. At high doses, psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) cause hallucinations.
According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, there are two types of psychedelics; entheogenic and synthetic. Entheogenic are hallucinogens derived from nature (psilocybin and ayahuasca). Synthetic psychedelics, however, are produced in a laboratory (LDS and ecstasy).
The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that the psychoactive effects of psychedelics usually begin 20-90 minutes after consumption. These effects can last up to 12 hours. In pop culture, many know the effects or experience of psychedelics as a “trip”.
Other common psychedelics include: mescaline (peyote), dimenthyltryptamine (DMT), dextromethorphan (DXM), and phencyclidine (PCP).
Dr. Jerrold Rosenburg, director of the Center for the Neuroscience of Psychedelics, believes that psychedelics act as a kind of “reset button” in a person’s brain. In an interview with Harvard Health, Rosenburg explains that they temporarily disconnect the brain’s “default setting,” while new connections are made in the neural network.
Under their effects, neurons form new neural connections through a process known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt both its structure and function throughout a person’s life.
Dr. Roseburg also describes to Harvard Health the transient state in which psychedelics put users under. This state allows them to better process memories, feelings, and past traumas.
“Psychedelics induce the brain to change transiently in ways that appear to allow a reset to take place and permit alterations in previously ‘stuck’ ways of feeling and thinking,” Dr. Rosenburg explains. “It’s like rebooting a computer, [where the user reemerges] with a new perspective on them that is freeing and healing.”
This “reset” of mind and ego is why Dee Dussault, a sex coach and the creator of Ganja Yoga, believes psychedelics can improve a person’s sex life.
“[Psychedelics] have the ability to dissolve the boundaries of the ego. The boundaries between myself and my partner,” Dussault explains. “Psychedelics can help us realize how interconnected we all are.
Intimacy is Sexy
Dussault has been passionate about psychedelics since her teenage years. She studied sexuality in college before dropping out to become a yoga instructor. In 2008, she created Ganja Yoga, and began exploring the world of psychedelics and sex.
“There are multiple benefits of having sex while on psychedelics,” Dussault says, “we can have more compassion for our partner. A greater sense of exploration. We can be more free and spontaneous. We can be more in the present moment and open to what might arise.”
For Dussault, psychoactive sex isn’t necessary about orgasms or hot vibrant sex*. Instead, she explains, psychedelics can create intimacy between two people having sex.
“My coaching clients have found that sometimes they intend to have this really hot sex night on MDMA, and they actually end up cuddling and talking loving words to each other,” Dussault adds “And it turns out, that’s even better than what they thought was gonna happen. It’s an extreme intimacy. It’s a mind blowing experience.”
Annie Sprinkle, a sex work advocate and coach, shares Dussault’s ideas of interconnectedness through psychoactive sex.
“Although I did have some wonderful orgasms on ecstasy, the experience of ecstasy was not so much about orgasm or sex, as it was about looking deeply into my heart, soul, and psyche,” Sprinkle writes to Psychoable.
A Healing Orgasm
The same way that psychedelics can have a nurturing effect on one’s sex life, the combination of both can promote healing in victims of sexual crimes.
According to RAINN, one in every six American women have fallen victim of rape or attempted rape. Furthermore, 94% of women experience post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the two weeks following rape and 30% experience PTSD nine months after. PTSD symptoms include vivid flashbacks and anxiety, which can prevent the creation of any kind of healthy sexual relationship with a loving partner.
A 2021 study from Nature has already shown that, “MDMA-assisted therapy is highly efficacious in individuals with severe PTSD, and treatment is safe and well-tolerated.”
With such research coming into the foreground, Dussault believes that treating trauma with both sex and psychedelics is naturally the next step, especially for victims that have completely buried their trauma.
“Obviously, oftentimes when we have trauma, we choose to run away from it. [Through sex] we become aware of our trauma, [because] arousal in itself is an altered state, like cannabis and psychedelics. Altered states amplify things that may have been happening otherwise subconsciously,” Dussault says.
In her practice, Dussaults uses tantric sex, a combination of practices such as breathing, awareness, visualization and psychedelics that help clients stay present during intercourse.
“Practices like, ‘okay, sex is making this sensation come back (trauma), but let me slow down my breath, visualize a “loving light,” communicate with my partner.’ That’s how we heal the nervous system,” Dussault says. “It’s safe. I am not in that past moment, I am here in the present. It’s just a memory, I’m safe now.”
Psychedelics were often used in couples therapy before their criminalization, in 1973. As Dussault stated, this practice allowed users to create stronger senses of intimacy with their partners.
The Doctor Prescribed Psychedelics
In the U.S., psychoactive drugs are still illegal. They are still considered experimental treatments and are largely condoned in the medical field. As a result, not much research exists on the subject matter, but the little data that has been published is remarkably positive.
In November of 2021, the federal government approved federal funding for psychedelic-assisted therapy for the first time in history, reports Rolling Stone. The grant will give John Hopkins Medicine, in collaboration with University of Alabama Birmingham and New York University, $4 million to research whether psilocybin can help people quit smoking.
As more and more research is done, psychedelics are slowly building a case for legalization. A 2021 study in JAMA Psychiatry concluded that “psilocybin-assisted therapy was efficacious in producing large, rapid, and sustained antidepressant effects in patients with major depressive disorder.”
In previous research conducted at the John Hopkins University, researchers also found that two doses of psilocybin proved to be an effective treatment against depression, with half the study’s patients showing remission through the four week follow-up.
Additionally, a 2014 study found that ketamine is an efficient treatment against depression. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually approved the drug as a treatment for selected patients with treatment-resistant depression.
Medical professionals are also evaluating the idea of introducing psychedelics to hospices, reports Harvard Health. The belief among the medical community is that these drugs can help make the process of dying a more meaningful and spiritual experience.
Whether using psychedelics for medical purposes or pure enjoyment, it is important to note that they can still be dangerous if one does not take it properly. The National Institute of Drug Abuse, reports that the misuse of psychedelics can cause severe health issues such as paranoia, panic attacks, psychosis, anxiety, depression and in some cases, death.
HeretoHelp provides an outline to using psychedelics to ensure a safer experience. Tips include getting into the right frame of mind; knowing the dealer; and asking a friend to supervise a trip. The article also urges users to avoid the use of psychedelics as a coping mechanism, as this can result in a “bad trip.”
When it comes to sex, Dussault recommends that users experience psychedelics before incorporating it into their sex life. She suggests that psychoactive sex be performed with a trusted partner, opposed to a one night hookup; and that stating one’s intentions before hand is crucial to a good experience.
“I advise people to slow down the consumption moment. State your intention with your partner. Make a ritual out of it. It can be something pragmatic. ‘Let’s light a candle, and take three breaths before we dose.’ Something that doesn’t have a specific spiritual significance,” Dussault describes. “Or it can be something spiritual. Burn some sage to purify the energy. Whatever it may be, by making it ceremonial or by at least stating your intention you are more likely to have the experience and affect you are hoping to have.
The Psychedelic Revolution is Coming
There’s still a long way to go before psychedelics can become a standard medical treatment. Medical professionals must conduct more research; legislation must change; and the taboo around the drug must be cleansed. But little by little, psychedelics are being reintroduced into society.
For example, countries like Brazil, Jamaica, the Netherlands and Peru have all either decriminalized or legalized the buying and selling of psychedelics.
In November of 2020, Oregon became the first state to eliminate criminal penalties for any psychedelic drug. With this change in legislation, Oregon also became the first state to set up a regulatory program for psilocybin. Cities like Detroit, Oakland, and Denver have also decriminalized psychedelics. In Native American reservations, the use of psychedelics have been legal since the 1960s.
Cannabis, although not considered a psychedelic drug, does have its psychedelic properties. Dussault believes that the psychedelic industry could model itself on cannabis, as it continues to push for legalization. She hopes that one day psychedelics can become legal.
“I certainly hope that it goes the way cannabis is starting to go,” Dee explains, “psychedelic-assisted therapy, psychedelic retreats, sex coaches, yoga classes, things like that I would love to see more of. I think that in my lifetime it will happen.”
The psychedelic revolution has begun. Society is in for a trip.
*This article contains a sponsorship