You’ve had a life-changing experience with psychedelics. Do you tell your kids?

By Russell Hausfeld|August 22, 2017

“Did you ever pick mushrooms off of cow poop when you were biking in Hawaii?” I ask her. “Actually, yes,” she admitted. I take advantage of the ease at which a conversation like this flows with my mom.

Illustration by Russell Hausfeld

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My mom is wearing a blue rising-sun t-shirt and leggings and her hair is pulled back with that crinkly headband she always wears. She’d just come from a hike and her boots left crackling dry mud under our booth at the restaurant.

“I hope you didn’t expect me to look fancy or anything,” she says, as if I ever thought of her without muddy boots and dirt under her nails.

That’s who she is: The lady who I ascended two mountains with in one weekend, who is always tending her garden, who once took a months-long bike tour of Hawaii in her youth. In fact, I had wanted to ask her about Hawaii.

I recently spoke with Harmony Sue Haynie, who is writing a book called Medicine Children, about raising her children while participating in plant medicine ceremonies. Haynie lived in Hawaii at one point, too, before she had children. She would occasionally harvest wild magic mushrooms from a cow pasture near her home.

In my ongoing quest to pry out more proof that my mom was once a hippie, I tell her about my conversation with Haynie.

“Did you ever pick mushrooms off of cow poop when you were biking in Hawaii?” I ask her.

“Actually, yes,” she admitted.

She said she didn’t participate much, but the guy she was traveling with used to pick them many mornings and spend the day on the beach.

I take advantage of the ease at which a conversation like this flows with my mom. Many people have never even discussed marijuana with their parents, let alone their psychedelic drug experiences. I would venture that an even smaller amount of people can say they have actually shared a psychedelic experience with their parents.

Haynie says she never considered the idea of sharing psychoactive substances with children until her stay in Hawaii. Early one morning, Haynie and the women she was living with decided to have a women’s circle and eat some mushrooms while the dads stayed back home with the children.

“Later on,” Haynie says, “We found out the dads had picked some mushrooms and had these journeys with their young children—9-, 10-, 11-years-old.”

“Huh,” she thought. “I guess I have a little bit of societal programming to work through, because I have this initial judgment come up. But, wait a second—what’s wrong with kids eating mushrooms?”

My mom certainly had that initial judgment come up when I told this part of the story.

And there’s an obvious, somewhat understandable stigma there, right?

Psilocybin mushrooms are Schedule 1 drugs in the United States, up there with heroin, Quaaludes and bath salts. You could end up with multiple years in jail just for possessing these substances. But, Haynie wonders where the stigma starts. Are people afraid of these substances because they are actually dangerous or just because they have been conditioned to live a certain way?

Although, some of the biggest proponents for psychoactive substances, like Timothy “the-LSD-guru” Leary, believed that these substances could be potentially damaging to the adolescent brain.

“He was of the opinion that psychedelic shamanism should be used by a brain that is fully formed,” Leary’s son, Zach, told the Psychedelic Parenting podcast. “Not just mentally and spiritually, but also physically a lot of changes happen as you get older. And [he believed] that psychedelics are built for the adult mind.”

The research that has been done on common psychedelics—such as mushrooms, LSD and ayahuasca—doesn’t seem to suggest this claim. But there hasn’t been nearly enough scientific research done to prove for certain whether psychedelics are damaging to children or not.

Regardless, there are plenty of parents around the globe using psychedelics for recreation, healing and spirituality. And there are plenty of kids inheriting these practices directly through their family lives.

A 2005 report in The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs studied individuals within the União do Vegetal and Santo Daime churches—which use ayahuasca. The study found that in Brazil, the current estimates of adolescents using ayahuasca is close to 2,000. While working with these adolescents (41 ayahuasca users and 43 who had never used ayahuasca), the researchers found that the ayahuasca-drinking adolescents were basically the same, mentally, as their non-using peers. Except, the ayahuasca drinkers consumed less alcohol than their peers, which was thought to be related to the churches’ negative views of alcohol.

Jonathan Thompson, host of the Psychedelic Parenting Podcast, recently returned from a retreat with MycoMeditations in Jamaica. He happily reported that he will be helping them develop a framework for intensive family retreats.

“Ultimately, our goal is to create a group rite-of-passage experience that parents can bring their young adult or mature teens to and help them have a profound psychedelic experience at a really pivotal point in their life,” Thompson said.

Understanding psychedelics in a family context is a subject close to Thompson’s heart.

Following a run-in with some smoked DMT in his 30s, he decided to reintroduce psychedelics into his life after nearly a decade of abstinence. At that time, he had three young children, so he knew he would have to address the subject soon in his personal life. The Psychedelic Parenting Podcast was born as a way to find out how other parents had used psychoactive substances openly within their own families.

“At this point, I consider mushrooms to be the core spiritual practice of my life,” he says. “I can’t very well hide it from my family and my children and be an authentic human being.”

“In fact,” he continues. “I want to be able to share these experiences with them.”

Through Thompson’s podcast, he has learned that everyone is just making it up as they go along when it comes to kids and drugs—which is fine, he says. Because, as long as they are trying to make something up, they’re creating a model to pass on to their children. That way, the children won’t have to wing it like their parents did.

Early on, Thompson found some advice that he employs in his life today. He stumbled upon material from Alex and Allyson Grey, two visionary artists and psychedelic advocates who have spoken extensively on raising their daughter, Zena. He took their advice: To answer any of his children’s questions with straightforward and honest answers, but not offer more information than was asked for.

His kids know about the medicines that he and their mom take and they know about their dad’s new job in Jamaica. They even know that their dad could still be an alcoholic, were it not for his ayahuasca experiences over the past few years.

Thompson’s oldest son even trip sat for him once after he ate some mushrooms.

“I’m relatively experienced, so I know what I’m up against most of the time,” Thompson explains. “I know how much to take. His mom had some errands to run, so he just kind of hung out, kept an eye on me and got water if I needed it.”

Usually, though, Thompson’s parents take the children when he and his wife want to have a spiritual journey.

His children, though well-informed, aren’t all that interested in having a psychedelic experience, yet.

“One of the patterns I’ve found through talking to people who are really open with their kids about drug use,” he says, “is that most of their kids aren’t really interested in it at all.”

But, when his children feel they are mature enough for a psychedelic experience, Thompson says he’s more than willing to talk with them about setting it up.

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Russell Hausfeld


Russell Hausfeld is an investigative journalist and illustrator living in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Religious Studies from the University of Cincinnati. His work with Psymposia has been cited in Vice, The Nation, Frontiers in Psychology, New York Magazine’s “Cover Story: Power Trip” podcast, the Daily Beast, the Outlaw Report, Harm Reduction Journal, and more.