Psychedelics & Seniors: The Perfect Combination?

You can’t pick up a newspaper paper today, watch the news or browse any psychological, transpersonal or addiction journal and not come across some reference to, or scientific article about, psychedelics. We are currently undergoing something of a psychedelic renaissance with even wider acceptance, far more scientific and medical research and excitement around the psychological and mental-health benefits of psychedelics, than occurred during the 60’s. However, I have a growing suspicion – anticipation actually – that the demographic or age-group where psychedelics may hold the greatest promise and show the greatest benefits, value and ultimately use, may be with seniors – our Elders. Before I share my reasons for believing that psychedelics and seniors could be the perfect match, here is what Steve Jobs – the founder of the Apple Computer Company – had to say about these substances.

“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.” ~ Steve Jobs

(1) Seniors deal with more neurodegenerative disorders (dying neurons/connections) disorders (dementia, Alzheimer’s etc), than any other age group.

(2) Seniors also experience depression, anxiety, addiction and other types of mental illness.

  • Psychedelics have been found to decrease anxiety, improve depression, help with addiction, withdrawal’s from opioid’s as well as reducing the symptoms (and root cause) of PTSD and other types of mental illness.

(3) Seniors are of course, closer to death and often isolated. Therefore mortality concerns, death anxiety and other existential questions around life-meaning and purpose, are not uncommon.

“Subjects see new dimensions in the universe, have strong feelings of being an integral part of creation, and tend to regard ordinary things in everyday life—such as meals, walks in nature, playing with children, or sexual intercourse—as sacred.” ~ Stanislav Grof

(4) Seniors (I believe) suffer from terminal illnesses more than any other age group.

  • Psychedelics have been found to significantly decrease and even eliminate fear of death in terminally ill patients. Psychedelics have also been found to be very effective in addressing many of the psychological, emotional and existential challenges of those in palliative care.

As you get older you start thinking more about death, spirituality and what is your life’s meaning and what you want to do with your time. So psychedelics are great for all of that. You know, psychedelics in the hospice center context are going to be terrific, as are psychedelics when people have a life-threatening illness.” ~ Rick Doblin

(5) Throughout ancient history, seniors (Elders), with their life-time of experience and wisdom, have been the “teachers” and “healers” of  indigenous communities or tribes going back thousands of years. The Elders were often the one’s to leverage the insights and wisdom of psychedelic plants as sacramental tools or entheogens to provide healing, teaching and knowledge for the tribe/village, especially as mentors to the youth.

  • Safe, responsible and informed psychedelic use among seniors could
    Hippie Grandma - Iryna Papirkovska

    Art: Iryna Papirkovska

    provide a means by which they could return to being acknowledged, respected and valued members of our communities through engaging with and supporting the younger members. Seniors proficient with and experienced in the safe and responsible use of psychedelics could become spiritual or psychedelic life-guides to the younger (relative to them) members of the community. Potentially reducing the Western stigma around aging (ageism) and acknowledging seniors – our Elders – as contributing, respected, valued and even revered members of the community.

“Life lived in the absence of the psychedelic experience that primordial shamanism is based on is life trivialized, life denied, life enslaved to the ego.” ~ Terence McKenna

(6) Seniors have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying psychedelics (with a supporting and psychedelic-trained/experienced doctor’s or therapist’s approval and supervision). As we get older, after we have lived a productive life (or not), were successful in a career (or not), raised a family (or not) and are now living out our remaining years in retirement (or not), we often begin to pursue past hobbies, revisit familiar activities, travel the world seeking out new adventures and ultimately try and fill our remaining days with joy, gratitude and meaning. 

  • Psychedelics can produce some of the most powerful, deeply meaningful, insightful and personally transformative states of consciousness that any human can experience. In some cases, a single powerful psychedelic experience can fundamentally transform one’s perspective to where every moment, every person, every form of life and even the cosmos itself feels like a part of you, and you a part of everything. Expanding one’s consciousness and transcending the self may be the single most important, healthy and fundamental aspect of human psychology and exceptional states there is. When faced with dwindling time on this planet in physical form, what do seniors (or any adults) have to lose by giving psychedelics a try? They are non-addictive and some of the least pharmacologically harmful drugs around. In fact there are already growing signs that seniors are becoming more curious about and trying psychedelics, including one of the most powerful ones, Ayahuasca.

It’s a very salutary thing to realize that the rather dull universe in which most of us spend most of our time is not the only universe there is. I think it’s healthy that people should have this experience.” ~ Aldous Huxley


So that’s my argument for the prediction – maybe even some advocacy – that psychedelics may become increasingly of interest, and value, to seniors. The Elders, and often discarded and ignored members of our communities. And not merely for their medical, psychological or existential benefits which have already been demonstrated. But maybe psychedelics could help our Elders re-enter active Western society as participating, respected, productive and even revered members. Wisdom Teachers who combine their life-time of experiences and knowledge, with the sometimes noetic (inner wisdom, direct knowing), as well as psychologically and existentially transformative capacity of psychedelics to support, guide, mentor and even heal others.

Personally I can’t think of a more perfectly suited demographic for psychedelic use than seniors. Given that I am 59, I am well aware of my potential self-serving bias with this claim. But everything I stated above is also supported by scientific evidence, some of it overwhelming and unprecedented. So I guess time will tell. 🙂

“I am convinced that the way forward for the human race is to recognize and protect the fundamental right of sovereignty over consciousness, to throw off the chains of our divisive religious heritage, to seek out forms of spirituality (or no spirituality at all if we so prefer) that are truly supportive of liberty and tolerance, to help the human spirit to grow rather than to wither, and to nurture our innate capacity for love and mutual respect.” ~ Graham Hancock

References:

Rosner, A. (May 6, 2020). Psychedelic Drugs Can Improve Quality Of Life – And Death – For Older Adults. Forbes

Rosner, A. (May 11, 2020). MAPS Founder Rick Doblin: You’re Never Too Old For A Psychedelic Experience. Forbes

A Jolly Mystic Dude and Old Hippie. At 15 I was introduced to spirituality, shamanic practices and non-ordinary states of consciousness through the writing of Carlos Castaneda. Those teachings and practices not only provided psychological tools to help me survive early childhood abuse, trauma and mental illness, but laid the foundation for a life-long curiosity about spirituality, non-ordinary consciousness and psychedelics. Those early experiences with psychedelics and a transformational near-death experience at 24, solidified my interest in psychology and consciousness to where I began to pursue formal studies at 25. I have an academic background in neuropsychology, applied statistics & research, spirituality, consciousness and transpersonal psychology as well as decades of business technology experience. I hope to combine the wisdom of personal experiences with my education and studies into spirituality, consciousness, transpersonal psychology and technology, in the support of others on their journey’s of healing, wellness, spiritual growth and transformation. I am also hoping to engage with and support major research organizations in spreading awareness of and the science behind, psychedelic medicines.

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