4 tips to talk to family about drugs over the holidays

Following the Coming Out of the Psychedelic Closet series and the wave of drug policy reform that is soon to take effect after this year’s November election, we thought it might be prudent to provide some insight for those of our readers who feel inspired enough to do their own psychedelic “coming out” to friends and family this holiday season.

Outing yourself is challenging enough, let alone getting through those difficult conversations with people who may subscribe to the stigma and anti-drug propaganda that surround psychedelics.

However, times are changing and, as Julie Holland notes in her piece, Out Yourself, the more people begin to be open and honest about their responsible drug use, the more progress we as a society will continue to make.

So, to help you do the important work of tackling those tough talks with your loved ones, we’ve taken a page out of SURJ’s (Showing Up for Racial Justice) book and compiled a list of steps to take that will help you navigate the discomfort and disagreements that can arise from conversations with one’s relatives about psychedelic drugs.

Firstly, it’s critical that you set a compassionate tone for the conversation. This is not a debate. It is a discussion and one that’s not about being right, but about changing someone’s perception. The last thing you want is for your loved one to feel attacked.

Under those circumstances, the very people you are trying to convince are likely to respond defensively and to shut down, being closed off to new ideas. Let the people you care about know that it is precisely because you love them and respect their opinion of you that you want to have this conversation with them. Just because you may disagree, it doesn’t mean that you judge them. The flipside of this is that you can expect to receive the same compassion and intellectual consideration in return.

Look for opportunities to start a conversation. Rather than simply mentioning your psychedelic drug use between “pass the potatoes” and “no elbows at the table,” utilizing a point of entry can lead to a smoother transition to a touchy subject. Conversation starters like “What’s new?” or “How are you doing?” can be capitalized on with honest answers regarding recent drug policy developments worldwide, or if you’re brave enough to start off personal, an enlightening experience you had with drugs recently, etc.

Here are our top tips for being your best during—and getting the best results from—a daunting, perhaps difficult, but potentially transformative conversation over the holidays:


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1. Listen

Understanding where your friends and family are coming from is vitally important to fostering any kind of productive conversation about drug use. It’s likely that they may hold certain opinions based on fear borne of ignorance, decades of political brainwashing, or veiled prejudices of their own. When you know the backstories to the beliefs that you’re dealing with, you can better approach the conversation with nuanced facts, information, and personal experiences that speak to the misgivings your loved ones may express.

2. Ask Questions

A good listener will always ask engaging questions. Demonstrate to your loved ones that you genuinely care about their perspective and that you’re asking questions to understand them better, not to make a mental note of everything they’ve said wrong or to make them uncomfortable. What do they think about changing drug policy? What are they worried or afraid about when it comes to drugs?

3. Share Personal Anecdotes

Humanize the discussion. Your relatives’ perception of you can be a powerful tool in changing their perception of psychedelic drug users in general. If you choose to out yourself, you offer a new, positive association for your friends and family to make with drugs. So, tell them about your own experience. How has it benefited or helped you? What positive impact has it had on your life? If you have personal connections to other people who have been positively impacted by drug use, share their stories as well.

By being open with your own story, you may find your friends and family become more likely to share their own experiences and to be more forthcoming over the course of the conversation. Identify areas of agreement and acknowledge them, such as the undeniable positive effects of harm-reduction initiatives. You care about safety and the wellbeing of the community just as much as they do, so talk about how, together, we can make the social behaviors associated with psychedelic drugs safer so that more people can benefit from the healing powers of the drugs themselves.

4. Do Not Lecture

The helpful links in this article are here for you to be as informed as possible, not for you to shove down anyone else’s throat. Using social justice language and speaking at someone as if they’re ignorant is not going to help your case. If you’re unsure about something, reference these resources. If you’re just looking for interesting and recent news/media that depict positive development in psychedelic drugs, we’ve got that too.

Here are some positive psychedelic events from 2016, and drug policy reform initiatives working to make the world a safer place, that you might like to draw on when discussing drug policy at the dinner table.

Psychedelics can…

Treat depression

In a 2016 study at Imperial College London, a group of people who’d each suffered from depression for over 18 years were treated successfully with a single dose of psilocybin—some subjects remained free from their depression for up to three months.

Reduce end-of-life anxiety

Meanwhile, Roland Griffiths has continued to have great success in 2016 helping people to overcome crippling end-of-life anxiety using psilocybin at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Help autistic adults open up

In this brilliant interview, Daniel au Valencia explains how MDMA helped her navigate her social anxiety in a 2016 MAPS study.

These harm-reduction projects demonstrate the diverse and dynamic ways that the drug policy reform movement is working to make the world a better place:

The Global Drugs Survey – the biggest drug survey in the world, the GDS, collects information anonymously from people who use drugs worldwide and helps identify emerging trends in drug use, new drugs, and the ones to avoid. Have you contributed yet?

Drug TestingEnergy Control, DanceSafe, and The Loop have all continued to save lives this year, testing drugs and helping attendees avoid drug-related problems at festivals and events.

Safety Information – In 2016, students in the UK launched Drugsand.me—simple guides which explain how some of the most popular drugs work, for students, by students. Share it with younger siblings and cousins; you might save a life this holiday season!

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