Things yo should know about psychedelic retreats before you go.

Things You Should Know About Psychedelic Retreats

Are you thinking about going to a psychedelic retreat but aren’t entirely sure what you’re signing up for? Or if you’ve made the right choice?

In this article, we’ll share with you five key things you should know about psychedelic retreats so you feel more comfortable jumping into this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

1. Are Psychedelic Retreats All The Same? No!

Psychedelic retreats come in all shapes and sizes. Depending on your budget and preferences, you can go to a retreat that features:

  • Anywhere from one-to-one sessions all the way to large groups of participants
  • Sessions targeting similar types of people, such as female-only sessions, corporate team-building sessions, or patients with similar experiences, such as certain types of trauma
  • Accommodations range from luxury to basic, shared or private
  • One or more psychedelic substances per session
  • Facilitators, shamans and/or medical professionals that are well-trained in the administration of psychedelic medicines
  • A setting that ranges from deep jungles, mountaintop lodges, tropical beaches, or a space right down the street, hiding in plain sight!
  • Encourages you to stay connected with the outside world or takes your phone away until the end of the retreat

Retreats typically take one of four main approaches to their programs:

The Recreational Approach

This is the most informal type of retreat and may be closer in experience to summer camp then to that of a wellness retreat. Often you will find a lack of supervision and medical support on-site, and more unstructured activities.

Don’t get us wrong – there’s a time and a place, and to each their own. But in this environment, personal growth and introspection are more difficult to achieve.

The Empowerment Approach

These retreats focus on educating visitors on psychedelic practices and empowering them to make their own choices.

Guests are also encouraged to continue the journey self-sufficiently and sustainably after the retreat.

The Shamanistic Approach

The shamanistic approach is used primarily for spiritual growth and metaphysical purposes.

This approach is more experience-based rather than science-backed and tries to align its practices very closely with those of the indigenous peoples that popularized it.

The Clinical Approach

These retreats are providers of medical-oriented treatment, with trained practitioners on site. They also take background checks more seriously, meaning people with certain medical conditions won’t qualify. Generally, it’s harder to access this type of retreat.

2. The Legality of Psychedelic Retreats

It’s hard to talk about the legality of psychedelic retreats in general. Each country has its own laws for each plant medicine.

Plus, even if a given psychedelic is legal in that country, the retreat might be run illegally.

You need to go on a case-by-case basis, but we’ll still give you a rundown of the legality of psychedelic retreats in some of the most popular retreat destinations.

The Legality of Psychedelics in the US

In the US, different cities and states have taken wildly different legal stances on psychedelics.

As of mid-2023, Oregon was issuing licenses to therapeutic centers, and while the law precludes an overnight stay, many operators confess that they will be structuring the retreat in partnership with local hotels to make the experience more retreat-like. And across the rest of the country, government-approved “religious exemptions” have led to “churches” springing up across the country, offering psychedelics to their “parishioners”, particularly psilocybin.

Generally speaking, psychedelic retreats are not legal in the US, but there is clearly a lot of activity happening anyway.

The Legality of Psychedelics in Canada

In Canada, the legality of psychedelics is just as chaotic.

Some are illegal, some are legal for medical purposes, some are legal for churches only, there are different rules in different provinces… the list goes on.

Due to the medical and church exemptions and Canada’s generally more relaxed stance on drug law enforcement, retreats have been popping up all over the country.

The Legality of Psychedelics in Other Countries

In other popular psychedelic retreat destinations, most countries operate under legal or decriminalized regimes. For example:

  • In the Netherlands, all psychedelics are illegal except magic truffles. Magic truffles are a less potent version of magic mushrooms. Practitioners legally use them in retreats.
  • In Portugal, all drugs were decriminalized in 2001. It doesn’t mean they’re legal, but if you’re caught with small amounts of any drug, including psychedelics, you won’t get in trouble. Plus, the authorities basically turn a blind eye to retreats.
  • In Jamaica, psychedelics are legal. In recent years, the country has become a psilocybin retreat haven and research pioneer.
  • In Peru, Ayahuasca, San Pedro, and coca leaves are 100% legal. Other drugs, such as marijuana and MDMA, are legal under a certain amount. But possessing two drugs, even within the legal amounts, is illegal. There are plenty of Ayahuasca retreats to choose from in Peru.
  • In Brazil, both psilocybin mushrooms and Ayahuasca are fully legal. Most psychedelic retreats in the country follow the shamanistic approach.

Regardless of the official policies, problems with authorities have been exceedingly rare in any of these countries. Usually, the only people facing legal ramifications are those who import or export illegal psychedelics in or out of the country retreats operate in.

3. Psychedelic Retreat Preparation and Integration

The ceremony and the substance or actually just one part of the whole; your retreat experience starts before you arrive and ends long after you leave.

A good retreat will provide you with guidelines and exercises to ensure you’re physically and mentally prepared for your stay and ceremony. Some retreats even host online events so you get to know your fellow retreat-goers and staff beforehand.

After you leave, they’ll continue to help you integrate your learnings online, through individual or group sessions.

4. Psychedelic Retreat Credentials and Experience

Psychedelic retreats are a pretty novel concept. That’s why they aren’t regulated by any guidelines or entities (yet!).

Emphasis on training, credentials, and medical licensing varies greatly from retreat to retreat. You really need to dive deep into researching the retreats you’re interested in before deciding which one you’ll attend.

Look into past customer reviews, speak to the staff and find their online profiles and, if possible, chat with the staff and a past attendee who can personally vouch for the retreat.

5. Safety of Psychedelic Retreats

Psychedelic retreats are generally very safe.

In most cases, the staff is empathetic and truly wants to help improve your well-being. Plus, some retreats have pretty strict security measures. But things do, and have, happened, and it’s wise to converse with former guests to get their take on things.

Other safety measures you should take include:

  • Thoroughly researching the retreat and its staff
  • Consulting with a healthcare provider to know which plant medicine is best for you. You may have mental or physical issues that put you at risk of an adverse reaction. Further, interactions between psychedelics and certain medications can lead to serious side effects. If you take any medication, consulting with a healthcare provider to know if it’s safe to use psychedelics is indispensable.
  • Using common sense and taking any personal safety measure you would in any other trip

Finally, it’s important to know that psychedelics put you in a vulnerable position. Women need to attend a retreat they can really trust. Alternatively, they can opt for a retreat with female-only sessions and/or practitioners.

Is There Anything Else You Want to Know About Psychedelic Retreats?

Psychedelic retreats are still a very novel concept for Westerners. It’s totally normal to have questions and reservations about attending one for the first time.

Here’s a summary of the five crucial things you should know about psychedelic retreats:

  1. Psychedelic retreats come in all shapes and sizes — there’s something for everyone!
  2. You need to research the legality of each retreat in your shortlist individually — some countries are more psychedelic-friendly than others.
  3. The positive results you can take from one of these retreats depend on how well you prepare and integrate your experience.
  4. Psychedelic retreats aren’t regulated by any entity or guidelines — the level of training and credentials depends on the retreat.
  5. Psychedelic retreat centers are generally very safe.

Do you still have any doubts or questions about psychedelic retreats? Drop them in the comments. We’ll address them in future posts.

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About the Author

Having experienced the healing powers of nature first-hand, through cannabis and psychedelics, I now aim to educate and, hopefully, improve the lives of as many people as possible.

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