What Are Magic Mushroom Retreats?

Psychedelic travel retreats have been on the rise over the past decade, with many becoming more interested in awakening spiritually, healing, and addressing the root cause of their trauma. While it's been the standard to turn to pharmaceuticals when faced with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, people of all walks of life are seeing the infectivity of solely treating symptoms.

"People in the west are finally realizing that medication isn't providing long-term benefits." Jessica Grotfeldt, co-founder of Sol Medicine retreats in Mexico, told Amuse. "Synthetic medication shuts down feelings and emotions, whereas plant-based psilocybin reconnects parts of the brain that have not been communicating, thus helping to heal you." Lifestyle changes, meditation, mindfulness -– there are many avenues to enhance mental and spiritual wellness. But sometimes the adverse experiences we carry have too strong of a handle on us to be eased this way. So, some seek out bigger, more life-changing methods of healing, read: magic mushroom retreats. Let's take a closer look at what Goop refers to as a 'psychedelic renaissance' consists of.

Magic mushroom retreats are controlled environments for deep, spiritual healing

People are flocking to psychedelic retreats at both luxurious and more rustic venues in Costa Rica, Jamaica, the Netherlands, and even some U.S. cities, like Santa Cruz and Denver (via The New York Times). These spiritual getaways are typically five to seven days long, cost anywhere from $5,000-$10,000, and include a lot of what you'd see at a typical wellness retreat -– healthy meals, yoga, guided meditation, dancing, therapy. Plus (what makes them stand out from the rest) a guided psychedelic trip with a shaman or healer. "I was shown why I'm not happy, and it became clear I was carrying around the pain of my ancestors," Lynn Cohen, a deep-tissue manual therapist, told The New York Times of her psychedelic experience with a shaman.

Ingesting these psychedelics stems from shamanic traditions. This is a healing journey, not to be confused with impulsively eating mushrooms at a party in the woods. "The mystical experience in and of itself seems to be predictive of a positive therapeutic outcome," said UCLA's Charles Grob, one of America's leading clinical researchers in the field of psychedelic-assisted therapy, in an interview with Goop.

Research your retreat and don't throw caution to the wind

While a psychedelic retreat sounds pretty dreamy, there are some vital safety measures to be aware of before booking a mushroom or ayahuasca retreat. Psychedelics can be incredibly therapeutic, almost as though they're earth's gift for healing, but if someone is predisposed to mental illness, psychedelics can actually have the opposite effect and trigger psychosis (via The New York Times). "The entire cultural conversation around psychedelics has changed," said Roland Griffiths, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, in an interview with The New York Times. "And that's a concern to me, because I think we're underestimating the risks involved," he said. "The retreat center question is, buyer beware."

From heartbreaking stories of assault, suicide, and even murder, psychedelic retreat centers around the world have seen the most devastating of consequences from those under the influence, even in reportedly safe environments. And the tricky part is that there isn't a surefire way to predict how the substance will affect an individual. "Check what kind of clinical and medical training do the facilitators have. If abroad, ask whether the retreat leaders have ever been supervised in apprenticeship with an indigenous elder, and always check the laws in the country where you'll be partaking — don't just believe what the website says," Katherine McClean, a research scientist who has conducted legal clinical trials of psilocybin, told Amuse.