Dark Side of the Shroom: Erasing Indigenous and Counterculture Wisdoms with Psychedelic Capitalism, and the Open Source Alternative

Neşe Devenot, Trey Conner, Richard Doyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Psychedelic or ecodelic medicines (e.g., psilocybin, ayahuasca, iboga) for the care and treatment of addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, cluster headaches, anxiety, and depression have surged to the forefront of discussions about mental health in the US, leading to the emergence of well-capitalized biotech companies offering multimillion-dollar IPOs. Venture capital website Pitchbook reports “continuing investor interest and growing acceptance of what until recently was seen as a fringe area of medicine.” As scholars, activists, and practitioners who have been healed by these medicines and applaud the recent wave of decriminalization after a long, strange trip of mass incarceration and widespread dangerous misinformation, we look forward to a culture that makes these medicines available in a safe and affordable way that respects the lineages of the knowledges that are essentially and not accidentally bundled with these plants—Indigenous and counterculture wisdoms for whom these medicines were never “fringe,” but always foundational. In place of corporadelia's pursuit of standardization, we emphasize the care and wisdom of the Indigenous and countercultural teachings—traditions that have made psychedelics available to the emerging corporate/research partnership in the first place. These knowledge traditions offer foils to the ongoing translation of university peer-reviewed research into market copy, technical articles, and IPOs, and the concomitant emergence of psychedelic pundits. In particular, we examine instances where prominent researchers have overstated the findings of existing clinical trials in public-facing representations of the field. We argue that these corporate priorities and tactics are being aided by a new wave of psychedelic “thought leaders” who seek to delegitimize non-hierarchical approaches to knowledge production and community support within a psychedelic commons. While prominent psychedelic psychiatrists and behaviorists are focused on rooting out and transforming individual habits of mind, we argue that there is another, latent potential for psychedelics to draw attention to—and transform—the invisible, hegemonic infrastructures and ideologies that subtly naturalize and perpetuate deeply unequal societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)476-505
Number of pages30
JournalAnthropology of Consciousness
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology


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