Psychotropic drugs are often marketed as a gateway to spiritual encounters. But what are the risks to believers?
We have now had years of headlines talking about new research into using psychedelic drugs for therapy and, along with it, an increase in spiritual seekers.
Studies about the use of psychedelic drugs for therapy have been growing for years, with increased institutional involvement from universities, Congress, and the US Department of Defense to name just a few.
Outside of clinical trials, psychedelic use among young adults has nearly tripled in the past decade. Religious leaders—including hospital chaplains and religious psychotherapists—are also exploring the use of these drugs, as recently reported by NPR and Esquire. Ordained clergy are even conducting underground retreats that blend psychedelics with Christian worship with an emphasis on “healing.”
While I believe there are likely legitimate-use cases for psychedelic therapy that will bear out in time, I want to raise awareness of the many psychological risks of psychedelics that are often underemphasized in the research. And as a pastor, I feel an urgency to inform Christians of the serious spiritual risks of psychedelics—including the idolatry of spiritual experience.
I’m not speaking about this as an outsider. More than a decade ago, psychedelic experiences felt more real to me as a young ex-Christian than God did. For years, I was a recreational psychedelics user who became involved in the movement to medicalize psychedelics, also working for their use in non-Christian religious contexts. I promoted the healing potential of psychedelics, but I was even more interested in their spiritual power.
Over time, however, I grew deeply disenchanted and ultimately left the movement behind.
The psychedelic industry is plagued with many of the same …