When Psychedelics Are Legal: My Experience at a Psilocybin Truffle Retreat

What is it really like at a high-end psychedelic retreat?

Evan Lewis-Healey

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I’ve spent the last two-and-a-half years diving deep into the world of psychedelics. During my master’s degree I spent much of my time writing about the antidepressant effects of psilocybin, which led me to where I am now: disseminating current research in the field.

However, despite a fervent fascination with these substances, all of my previous psychedelic use had been purely recreational — I had never taken an ego-shattering dose in a suitable set and setting. As I was returning to the UK after living in Amsterdam for the last three years, I felt like this was an opportune moment to participate in a psychedelic retreat.

What compelled me to attend was a blend of the mystical and the mental. I had read extensively about the spiritual experiences that occur under a high dose of psychedelics. How would my experiences shape up to these descriptions?

But what seemed even more pressing was that my mind had become a turnstyle of ruminative thought. A long, cold, and dark winter coupled with lockdown after lockdown had a huge impact on my mental health. Maybe tripping on truffles could provide some fresh perspective?

Psychedelic Retreats in the Netherlands

A legal loophole in the Netherlands means that you can buy psychedelic truffles from smart shops on the high street. This liberal approach towards drugs, combined with the public’s deepening interest in plant medicine, means that the country has become a hotbed of psychedelic retreats.

After chatting to some retreat facilitators and some colleagues, I decided to opt for Essence retreat. I had the pleasure of interviewing two of the founders a couple of weeks before, and the way that they described the retreat was particularly appealing to me. Setting up a psychedelic retreat still suffers from a lack of standardisation — some colleagues advised me not to attend a couple with unprofessional practices. However, mental healthcare practitioners and responsible facilitators made up a core part of Essence’s team, which ultimately made me feel much more comfortable taking the trip in…

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Evan Lewis-Healey

PhD candidate at Cambridge University. Studying the cognitive neuroscience of altered states of consciousness.