Opening the Mind with Psychedelics

Mushrooms. File photo.

From the Grand Rapids Magazine September 2018 issue. Available on newsstands now or via subscription.

Transformative experiences with unconventional medicine led Paul Austin, a Grandville native and Hope College graduate, on an unconventional career path.

The medicine? Psychedelic plants, like psilocybin mushrooms and LSD. The career? World’s first online psychedelic microdosing coach.

Shown to treat depression, anxiety, addiction, post-traumatic stress and more, clinical trials using psychedelic-assisted therapy instead of pharmaceutical treatment by Johns Hopkins and New York University show incredible results. In some cases of depression, for example, patients no longer consider themselves depressed or are significantly less so after two sessions with psilocybin. Published research spans decades and many organizations continue studies.

From a neuroscience perspective, Austin noted the brain’s default mode network, which refers to levels of activity in the brain at rest. Higher levels of activity are linked to depression and anxiety; the network is essentially stuck in rumination and fixation.

Conventional medical treatment for depression acts as a Band-Aid, blocking emotional responses to this pain experience when the brain network is stuck in fixation. Research shows that antidepressant medication may be only slightly more effective than placebo. What’s more, they are highly addictive and carry side effects.


Psychedelics, however, are nonaddictive, and when used responsibly, nontoxic. They activate the receptors in the brain network, forcing you to deal with the root cause of pain rather than block it, ultimately enabling integration and cure of depression. A core tenet in psychotherapy affirms that to come to terms with negative emotions, we must face them head-on, not turn away.

From a psycho-spiritual perspective, an existential crisis is at the root of depression — disconnection, isolation; feeling unloved, unsafe or unaccepted. “Psychedelics help to open you up to the fact you’re not alone in this world,” Austin said.

In an assisted psilocybin experience, a client of mine calls it the most profound experience of her life. Not only has it shifted mental, emotional and spiritual states, pain lingering from chronic irritable bowel syndrome and endometriosis finally have disappeared.

Psychedelics can be consumed in amounts that create a mind-altering state or as a microdose, a tiny amount that doesn’t induce mind-altering effects.

Austin compares microdosing to a whisper. “A microdose is quieter and can have the same effects of a higher dose but over a long term,” he said.

While the use of psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD is rarely linked to human fatalities, it’s important to use these responsibly, whether it’s for health reasons, creativity, productivity or spiritual work.

Austin launched ThirdWave, a media source committed to the advocacy of psychedelics through accurate and safe information, and hosts international retreats. For more information about working with these plant medicines, visit ThirdWave or connect with the Grand Rapids Psychedelic Society.

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