The Healing Powers of Psychedelic Drugs

By Scott Binder 09/30/15

Doing ayahuasca was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. The ceremony was not at all about getting “high” for me, it was to heal and gain insight into my cancer.

The Healing Powers of Psychedelics

Since being diagnosed with cancer on March 5th of this year, life has become a journey of discovering my ultimate truth. Getting sober back on October 15, 2000, started the process, and my diagnosis deepened this path even more. No more would I restrict my self-discovery by what society or others deemed right or wrong. I’ve decided to discover my way by trusting the inner guidance system that I’ve been cultivating for 15 years.

As I wrote in my article “Cancer is a Gift,” I’ve chosen to heal the cancer inside me with a plant-based diet and natural medicines. I started the process by integrating The Gerson Therapy, which is basically a strict vegan diet, lots of cold-press juicing, and regular coffee enemas. 

The next phase of my journey is what this article is about: psychedelics and plant medicine. After years of grappling with the idea of whether or not to take ayahuasca as a spiritual journey, on July 6, I finally participated in my first ceremony. The main reason I hadn’t done it before now is because it’s viewed as a grey area in sobriety, but after hearing that people use the vine to heal cancer, my reservations melted away. I no longer care whether or not people consider it a relapse; at the end of the day, my life is about life and death.

I’m grateful I decided to do the ceremony, because doing ayahuasca was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. And although it’s a psychedelic, it was clear that doing a ceremony was not at all about getting “high” for me, it was to heal and gain insight into my cancer, and other areas of my life. 

After doing the ceremony, I felt inspired to research psychedelics and the spirit molecule, otherwise known as DMT, which is an active ingredient in the ayahuasca root. Along with reading articles and watching videos about the healing effects of these psychedelics, I also discovered that some people with advanced stages of cancer were using magic mushrooms and LSD to help them cope with anxiety around death. 

After learning recently that my cancer has spread from my throat area to my chest—and since I’m not afraid of death—I wondered, if these substances were helping people who had fear around death, what would they do for someone like me who views cancer as something that’s helped me become the man I’ve always dreamt of being?

My curiosity turned into action, and now I understand why Bill W. wanted to make LSD a part of Alcoholics Anonymous. The insights I’ve gained while taking these substances with purpose are beautiful. However, it’s also clear to me that the reason we take these substances is critical. If one is not emotionally and spiritually stable, a trip can turn into a bad one quickly, and using these substances to escape can cause the user to miss out on the deeper healing qualities they offer. For example, before I got sober I used drugs and alcohol to escape. What I’ve learned from LSD and mushrooms is that the trips mirror back to me the work that I’ve put into life up to that point. Whatever I am dealing with at the time I take the substance is going to show up during the trip. Taking them for the purposes of gaining insight and healing creates a deeper experience than if I’m taking them just to get high. I’m not saying one can’t have a deep experience on these substances during a recreational trip; however, the most profound experience with them, for me, has been when I used them with purpose.

Because I’ve poured my heart and soul into my recovery for nearly 15 years, and with my cancer situation, I believe I’ve been given a unique opportunity to tap into the powerful healing properties these psychedelics have to offer as being oracles of love and insight. However, I believe that the intention of the user and the work they’ve done in life is critical to how the experience will be shaped.  

For example, before I got sober I actually used LSD several times, and while I received some new insights, the experiences, although profound in many ways, were mostly about me escaping and getting high. Even though that was the case, I’ve always looked back at my drug use as an important time that laid the foundation for my path of spiritual exploration. Now that I’m walking on solid ground, though, the experience is completely different. 

Since being diagnosed and working with the plant medicines, my perspective on recovery has altered. I’ve spent the last 15 years identifying with being sober. I wore the label like a shield and believed that was who I was. What I understand now is that life is more dynamic and fluid than this. We’ve all got our chains to break, and this was mine. 

Up until now, I needed to restrict myself in this way until I was ready to fully explore who I was to the core. Being diagnosed with cancer was the first step. And as I travel down this road of healing, I understand that it’s not a disease at all. It’s a powerful opportunity that offers a new way of life if one is willing to commit everything they have to healing the mind, body, and spirit. However, if one does not fully commit to this balance, then our “vices” or “diseases” can and will kill us.

We put these “diseases” into a box, but I see them more like a powerful thing that’s trying to tell us what is imbalanced inside of us. And once we balance ourselves, we’re given the opportunity to let our true being come to the surface. On a very simple level, for me, this imbalance came down to my aggression, learning how to deal with my emotions, and lack of unity between the masculine and feminine energy inside. 

I understand that many people in the recovery network will consider what I’ve done with psychedelics as a relapse, and although my perspective regarding sobriety has shifted, I respectfully disagree. This is a delicate subject, and I truly believe that we all have our own path of healing to take. All I can say is that when I got sober, my life became about making healthy choices. And right now I am the healthiest and most free I’ve ever felt. Does my new perspective mean that I think it’s now “okay” for me to go back to drinking alcohol and doing drugs like crystal meth? Absolutely not. I believe that if we are choosing this path, that we know what is healthy for us and what direction would lead to suffering. 

That said, I want to be clear that I in no way am suggesting that you or anyone else should take psychedelics or any other illegal drugs. I am also not saying that I think being a member of AA or any other recovery modality is limiting. AA helped lay the foundation of my path. I’m simply passing along my experience, and I hope I’ve shed some light on a subject that I believe many in recovery think about. My hope for you is that you find your ultimate truth, however that may manifest. At the end of the day, we are explorers navigating life to reveal our ultimate truth. 

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Scott Binder is a sound designer, living in Berlin, Germany. He is the owner of Golden Needle Records and the author of Make Some Noise. Follow him on Twitter.