🫠 Psychonaut POV

[6-min read] Q&A with Kyle Buller, Therapist & Cofounder

Welcome to Tricycle Day. Only three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and Tricycle Day becoming your favorite email newsletter. 🫶

Kyle Buller almost died at the tender age of 16. Fortunately for us, he lived to tell the tale and create one of the foremost education platforms in psychedelics today. It’s called, well, Psychedelics Today.

We spoke to Kyle about confronting mortality, the psychological risks of psychedelics, and building a safety net for people as psychedelic interest goes mainstream.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
Tandava

When you take the leap to ingest the most powerful entheogen known to man, the last thing you want is to be treated like a row on a spreadsheet.

Tandava Retreats does the total opposite. Drawing from deep expertise and years of practice, their staff will work with you to craft a personalized 5-MeO-DMT retreat tailored to your individual needs.

That means you’ll get private 1:1 support before, during, and after your ceremony, so that you can fully surrender in a safe container.

Whether your goal is to deepen your self-understanding, heal from traumas, or bring your true self to light, Tandava has the tools to support you.

Kyle Buller Psychonaut POV

Q&A with Kyle Buller, Therapist & Cofounder

You had a traumatic near-death experience at 16. How did that experience impact your view on life and your interest in psychedelics?

At 16, I was in a snowboarding accident that changed my perspective on life forever. I collided with a hidden mound of snow, sending me soaring through the air in what felt like slow motion. The crash left me in excruciating pain. I was sure I had at least broken a rib.

During the 45 minutes I laid on the snow waiting for help, I was overwhelmed with fear. The ski patrol eventually brought me to the first aid station, where my low vitals indicated I had internal injuries. I prayed. I was terrified of dying. Fortunately, a medevac helicopter arrived instead of an ambulance, saving my life.

As I reached the hospital, my consciousness faded, and I entered a surreal state. I sensed the panic of the medical staff, running tests to gauge the severity of my injuries. They struggled to insert an IV, realizing my veins were collapsing from internal bleeding.

During a CT scan, I experienced an indescribable sensation. An internal voice assured me that I was returning home, transcending physical existence. Relaxing into the process would ease the transition. I felt an overwhelming sense of going home, enveloped in bliss and love.

In that critical moment, I faced conflicting emotions. The doctors were urging me to stay awake, while a part of me really wanted to surrender to the light. Something that somehow felt beautiful, mysterious, and familiar all at once was calling me.

Once I woke up and recovered physically, I was filled with questions about the purpose of life. The experience left me disoriented and confused about what was real.

Reflecting on this experience, I can’t help but draw parallels between psychedelic trips and near-death experiences. Years later, during an Ayahuasca retreat, I revisited the forgotten fear. The terror I had experienced resurfaced, reminding me what it felt like not knowing whether I’d live or die. While recounting my story, I often focus on the blissful aspects, overshadowing the genuine fear that surrounded it. But that memory of confronting my own mortality holds a lot of power for me.

As someone with a clinical background in counseling at-risk teenagers, can you speak to the potential risks of using psychedelics without proper guidance or in unsupervised settings?

During my late teenage years, I immersed myself in psychedelics, driven by the challenges I’d faced including that near death experience. Back then, topics like integration and safety were rarely discussed, which meant I had to navigate the risks alone. It was a different era. We didn’t have the online support or resources we do today.

Fortunately it’s much easier to find guidance and support now, but there were some risks I faced as a teenager that are still very real today.

A major one is the potential for adulterated substances, containing fentanyl for instance, from the illicit market. Many young people lack information about drug safety because our culture tends to shy away from open dialogue. This knowledge gap poses real danger, especially when it comes to non-plant psychedelics like LSD, MDMA, and ketamine. Even with mushrooms, there’s a possibility of cross-contamination.

Another risk is the emergence of unprocessed trauma in uncontrolled settings. Being at a party or rave, people might suddenly find themselves reliving traumatic experiences from their past. The impact can be overwhelming, potentially leading to spiritual awakenings that stretch people’s nervous systems to their limits.

There’s also a little-known condition called hallucinogen persisting perceptual disorder (HPPD), usually associated with LSD use. Individuals with HPPD may experience visual disturbances like tracers and static snow, causing prolonged stress and anxiety.

I think it’s important to address the existential disturbances that can arise from unexpected experiences with psychedelics and even with concentrated cannabis oil. Some individuals may find themselves perceiving reality differently, feeling shaken and disconnected. Unfortunately, our culture lacks a comprehensive framework to support young people grappling with these challenging experiences. This void often leaves them struggling with depression, anxiety, derealization, or depersonalization.

While psychedelics are generally considered safe from a physiological standpoint, they have the potential to stir up deep psychological processes when used without the necessary support, proper set and setting, and reliable testing procedures. The risks lie not only in the substances themselves but also in the lack of resources and community to guide individuals through their journeys.

What is the difference between “spiritual emergence” and a psychotic break, and how can you tell them apart?

It’s a fine and tricky line. The concept of spiritual emergence or emergency, coined by Dr. Stanislav Grof and his wife Christina Grof, describes a psychospiritual crisis that can be distressing yet also offer an opportunity for personal growth and heightened awareness. During a spiritual emergence, you might experience grandiose visions, resembling bipolar or manic episodes, which can be overwhelming. In our culture, we struggle to contain and understand these experiences.

The distinction between spiritual emergence and spiritual emergency is nuanced but important. In emergence, individuals can still function in daily life while having profound experiences, whereas in emergency, they may struggle to maintain relationships, work, or take care of themselves, often requiring higher levels of care.

The line between spiritual experiences and serious medical issues is not something to be taken lightly, either. Stan Grof himself warns against romanticizing these experiences without considering potential medical causes. Factors like vitamin deficiencies, thyroid issues, or brain injuries can manifest similarly, for example. It's essential not to generalize or oversimplify these states. We have to balance our perspectives and approach each case individually and with caution.

In working with individuals experiencing early-episode psychosis, I've tried to hold the spiritual emergence framework while recognizing Western medicine's role. While some may require the care and intervention of psychiatry, we have to acknowledge the biases and mistrust many hold towards the medical system. Still, Western medicine has its place and can be life-saving, even if it has its flaws.

Personally, I owe my life to Western medicine. It's a complex landscape that requires careful navigation and consideration.

You’re also a co-founder of Psychedelics Today, a platform through which you teach several courses and trainings. Who is that content designed for?

Psychedelics Today is a media and education company that provides free educational content through podcasts and offers courses and trainings for professionals and the general public. Our flagship course, Navigating Psychedelics, focuses on safety, harm reduction, and integration, addressing the need for education in these areas during the early stages of the psychedelic renaissance. As psychedelics become more mainstream, we want to equip professionals with the knowledge and competence to guide their clients and communities responsibly. So many people are seeking knowledge right now, and as laws change all over the world and the industry readies itself for broader access, the time for training is now. We’ve seen a huge increase in the demand for education over the past few years; it’s almost hard to believe.

Last year, we launched a twelve-month training program called Vital, primarily targeting professionals but open to all to some extent. We recognize the growing movement, with substances being decriminalized in certain places and policy changes happening at the state level. While we understand the importance of clinical training, we also acknowledge that involvement in this field goes beyond the medical and clinical realms. Operating from a harm reduction approach, we believe in broadening access to information to reduce risks and harms associated with psychedelic use.

We understand the need for inclusivity due to accessibility issues surrounding psychedelics. By providing education and fostering better-informed decision-making, we hope to mitigate potential harm and support the overall movement. This applies not only to consumers but also to professionals seeking guidance on vetting individuals they work with or finding appropriate resources. We recognize the expenses associated with providing services in legal markets, so want to provide affordable options for proper training and preparation.

Our decision to be more inclusive stems from the reports of misuse and abuse we've received over the years. We believe that increasing the number of well-informed individuals will contribute to safer practices and better outcomes for everyone.

What's next for Psychedelics Today, and what are you most excited about in the future?

Our team at Psychedelics Today is filled with visionaries and dreamers who are constantly exploring what the future holds. We have a range of possibilities on our radar, including expanding our media presence with podcasts and videos, creating exclusive content for our community members, and developing our educational programs. I'm particularly excited about our in-depth training through Vital, which has been my main focus over the past year-plus. We're thinking a lot about how to establish a pipeline for training in this emerging field, addressing questions of accreditation, gatekeeping, and the educational funnel. It's a fascinating puzzle to figure out how to provide comprehensive and safe education for the increasing number of talented individuals entering this field.

When we started Psychedelics Today seven years ago, I never expected the rapid mainstreaming of psychedelics and the amount of work that lies ahead. While many are eager to dive into the vertical growth of the field, I'm deeply invested in establishing a strong foundation and safety net. As the hype grows, we need to consider how to support and catch people who slip through the cracks. That includes addressing fallout from intense experiences and cultural issues, such as the abuse that still occurs in the underground scene.

It feels like we still don’t have a theoretical or philosophical container for these transformative states of consciousness. But we’re going to need to create one if we want to effectively care for individuals having profound experiences. A paradigm shift requires a thoughtful approach that goes beyond our Western default of suppression and control. We need to recognize the potential of these experiences, even when they are challenging, and find ways to support people moving through them. If people feel called, we invite them to join us. There’s a place for everyone in our courses, our community, and the movement.

Want more from Kyle? Get on the waitlist for Vital 2023, and check out Psychedelics Today’s other courses for practicing professionals and the psychedelic-curious.

That’s all for today. Before you head off, don’t forget to share, rate, and review Tricycle Day below. Catch ya next time, Cyclists! ✌️

Reach 22,000+ Psychedelic Enthusiasts 📣 

Tricycle Day is the fastest-growing psychedelics newsletter with 22,000+ active subscribers. Want to get their eyeballs on your product, service, or brand? Book a Sponsored Ad by replying to this email or hitting the button below. (July is sold out, and August spots are almost gone.)

So, how was your tricycle ride?

Let us know what you thought of this week’s newsletter.

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

One Cyclist’s Review 👍

Feeling euphoric

Didn’t Meme to Psych You Out 🫠 

DISCLAIMER: This newsletter is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. The use, possession, and distribution of psychedelic drugs are illegal in most countries and may result in criminal prosecution.

Join the conversation

or to participate.