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As the psychedelic wave of the 1960s swept through the U.S., Austin and San Antonio were early adopters of the scene, welcoming the free-spirited users who created a new genre of music—psychedelic rock—with the help of LSD, the popular drug at the time.

The psychedelic drug scene, including those who took acid (LSD) and magic mushrooms (psilocybin mushrooms) for a trip, may have quietly dissipated after the 70s but—just as trends of yore come in and out of style—psychedelics have been resurging in Austin, with a new generation to back them up this time.

'The hippies are already here'

Growing up in the 90s, 29-year-old Austin Gould said he feels like millennials and Generation Z will be more likely to embrace more casual and multifaceted uses for psychedelics. Gould said he uses psilocybin mushrooms, a naturally-occurring psychoactive and hallucinogenic, and DMT, a recreational chemical psychedelic, about once a year on different occasions with close friends.

As a tech sales worker in Austin, Gould has numerous reasons why he uses psychedelics: his stressful job, a desire to explore his own consciousness and a way to quit drinking.

"I think culturally us '90s Babies are in the office now and we're a little unbridled, we're less modest. We were exposed to more worldly and internet-based social experiences and that more comfortable with being our true selves," Gould said.

Psychedelic trips can cause users to see bright colors, shapes form and think about things they wouldn't normally. (Giphy)

Gould, who has been using psychedelics for more than 10 years, doesn't want people to view him as a junkie or a high-chaser but rather as a productive person taking part in a cultural shift. The way Gould sees it, psychedelics allow people to feel their emotions in a raw state.

"It's not a party thing for me—it's better than Disneyland... if you're at a point in your life where you're pretty comfortable, and you can just be silly in a way," Gould said. "There's this spark of insanity and an almost naive childlike wonder involved with experiencing the world through psychedelics."

Gould said he sees a similar trend starting here the more Austin grows into "Little Silicon Valley," and follows in the footsteps of the microdosing-loving region. Microdosing, the consumption of very low amounts of psychedelic substances, is sometimes practiced by tech workers and creatives during an average workday.

"You've already got that underlying 'Keep Austin Weird' thing,'" Gould said. "The hippies are already here, the culture is here."

Research points to key benefits

Several studies over the years have linked the use of psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms to mental health benefits, lessening the symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Executive Director for Root Behavioral Health Andrea Turnipseed is readily prepared to delve into integration therapy as more psychedelics are authorized for medical use but for now she practices Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy, a guided session using a tenth of the anesthetic dose of Ketamine to produce a psychoactive result.

According to Turnipseed, KAP has shown 66% effectiveness with treatment-resistant depression, compared to about 30% with a prescription antidepressant. Turnipseed's clinic, located in Austin, was the first to start offering KAP in Texas, starting in 2018. She said she has seen people with treatment-resistant depression make real breakthroughs—like conquering alcoholism or long-term depression—through the treatment.

"A lot of research is out there to try to bring these things to the market so that we can do it in an ethical way," Turnipseed said. "Psychiatry hasn't had new medications or new drugs that are distinctly different like this in a long time and it's an innovative treatment that can really supercharge mental health treatment, which is awesome if it gets more people interested, but also gets more people safe and healthy."


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