Reilly Capps · February 19th, 2020
Gratitude for psychedelics is flooding the Internet.
Thousands of people from around the world are sharing stories of personal change: how marijuana healed childhood abuse, iboga extirpated heroin addiction, and ayahuasca replaced antidepressants. Videos and posts with the hashtag #ThankYouPlantMedicine pepper Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat, trying to concentrate love for these alternative remedies into the biggest-ever show of support. (#ThankYouPlantMedicine intends to encompass non-plant substances like mushrooms, LSD, and MDMA.)
“We hope that it can go viral,” says campaign co-founder David Grillot, from his home in Costa Rica. “We want it to become the biggest possible symphony of gratitude and awareness.”Starting with a big kickoff event Feb. 20 near the Envision festival in Costa Rica, organizers ask 100,000 more people to post their tales of healing, creating a crescendo that helps the Western world change its tune about these mostly-illegal and often-stigmatized substances.
It’s a much-needed adjustment. Plant medicines are thousands of years old. But, 50 years ago, the world signed a treaty, led by the United States, outlawing most psychotropic substances, including hallucinogens, as unhealthy and addictive. During the oppressive last half-century, daredevils kept psychedelics alive at raves, retreats, and underground cultures, risking arrest and calumny. With psychedelics hidden, the view from the outside was these drugs belonged to rebels bent on self-destruction, the type of people your mom wouldn’t want over for dinner.
But in the last 20 years, psychedelics’ reputation has been partly rehabilitated in hundreds of ways, including scientific studies suggesting they treat depression, PTSD and anxiety, anecdotes that they stop cluster headaches and enhance endurance sports, surveys showing microdosing helps focus, TV shows glamorizing them, and three cities changing their laws to decriminalize them.
More than that, streams of Westerners ventured to the Amazon to drink ayahuasca with shamans and facilitators in malocoas tucked deep in the jungle, returning with wild stories of ancient rites, encountered spirits and, often, deep release and healing. But because journeyers kept their stories to themselves, afraid to risk social and professional ostracism, little of that magic and wonder penetrated social media algorithms.
Personal stories matter. Brave folks coming out of the closet can open the world’s minds. Every gay cousin or brother living out in the open meant their relatives might vote for equality. And in the Internet era, a catchy hashtag can change the national conversation. After #MeToo shared millions of stories of sexual assault, it helped bring down several powerful men. #OccupyWallStreet highlighted financial corruption. #OscarsSoWhite worked to diversify entertainment.
#ThankYouPlantMedicine co-founder Grillot, 32, an environmental IT consultant, first used plant medicine — ayahuasca — a little more than a year ago. The do-gooder website he had founded, Karma Tribe, was hacked and shut down. “It felt like my right arm had been cut off,” Grillot says. In that vacuum of despair, his friend Jonathan Glazer invited him to a ceremony. Grillot learned from the medicine that he had a deep insecurity about not being smart enough, and always needed to seem more intelligent than others. That’s a sickness, he says, that ayahuasca helped him notice and release, to be okay with himself, whether he’s brighter than others or not.
You can also check out our podcast interview with the two co-founders of the Thank You Plant Medicine movement – David Grillot and Jonathan Glazer or you can read the transcript here.
Attending the World Ayahuasca Conference in Girona, Spain, last summer, Glazer and Grillot decided to launch their movement. “We’re just really big fans who have benefitted an enormous amount from the medicines,” Grillot says, “and so we wanted to raise awareness.”
It won’t be easy. Awareness campaigns for psychedelics have flopped in the past. Last year, citizens of the Internet declared chemist Shasha Shulgin’s birthday Psychedelic Coming Out of the Closet Day. But the effort never caught fire.
To achieve Internet liftoff for ThankYouPlantMedicines, the non-profit campaign has attracted hundreds of volunteers on several continents, “People sign up to volunteer and they come in super fired up,” Grillot says. “They say, ‘plant medicines didn’t help my life, they saved my life.’” The volunteers reached out to hundreds of journalists, partnered with dozens of psychedelic organizations, and attracted swathes of influencers. Dennis McKenna endorsed #ThankYouPlantMedicine. Soap magnate David Bronner says he was lost before plant medicine, and now he is found. Visionary painter Alex Gray transformed from a nihilist to a mystic, and his partner Alison from agnostic to “God Knowing.” Hundreds of non-famous people are sharing incredible stories worthy of a revival: mushrooms restoring the sense of smell, ayahuasca springing a woman from a wheelchair.
Grillot hopes 100,000 people will post #ThankYouPlantMedicine stories this month, and the trend can open the doors for psychedelics, for everything from research to respect for the customs of indigenous tribes.
“There’s something special happening,” Grillot says.