December 8, 2021

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The Rise of Psychedelic Retreats

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Amanda Schendel, 39, opened The Buena Vida Psilocybin Retreats, a collective of roving five- and seven-day psychedelic retreats run from within luxury resorts in Mexico, in January 2019. The retreats include breath work, hypnosis and gourmet food; attendees are screened for cardiovascular and mental health fitness before attending. They shut down in March 2020, but by June were back up.

“The amount of lives that I feel this has saved, and changed in a drastic, meaningful way, made me feel able to take that risk,” Ms. Schendel said. “The people who came in 2020 all felt like, ‘Yes, I know there’s a pandemic and I’m risking my life, but what I have been suffering from is so severe that I’m willing to take that chance.’”

Ms. Schendel works with local tribal medicine healers, who help source the psychedelics as well as dose them for her participants. She requires participants to fill out a medical intake form that screens for mental and physical fitness, then flags any applications that might present a risk and passes them to an on-staff medical doctor. About 10 percent of applicants for her retreats are ultimately not admitted. The entire psychedelics industry needs to be vigilant, she said.

There haven’t been any health emergencies or psychological crises at her resort, she said. “The minute one thing goes wrong or a mistake is made, it could crumble the whole house of cards a lot of us have spent many years building,” she said.

At OM Jungle Medicine in Costa Rica, the managing partner Angel Twedt — a former nurse who believes psychedelics cured her multiple sclerosis — handles logistics and runs the physical space. For dosing the psychedelics at her resort, she, too relies on local shamans, and says she trusts their tribal knowledge.

“There’s something very special about sitting with the tribe that has done this work for many generations,” she said. “Their knowledge comes from a place that is magical, pure and authentic. It makes you feel really safe.”

Dr. Griffiths, of Johns Hopkins, said that while he welcomes the erasure of decades-old stigma around psychedelics, he also urges travelers to ensure that any psychedelic experience is done under the care of a vetted medical team, with proper screening and oversight.

Debra Kamin

2021-11-25 10:00:15

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