🫠 Psychonaut POV

[4-min read] Q&A with Amanda Siebert, Author & Journalist

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When Amanda Siebert started educating herself about cannabis, she never guessed she’d go on to write the best-selling book in Canada on the topic.

We caught up with Amanda about her path to becoming an award-winning journalist in plant medicine. Then, she shared her most surprising and insightful takeaways from writing her new book—a deep dive into seven psychedelics changing the world as we know it.

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Amanda Siebert Psychonaut POV

Q&A with Amanda Siebert, Author & Journalist

What inspired you to pursue a career in journalism, and how did you become interested in covering cannabis and psychedelics?

Storytelling—in a word—is what truly ignited my passion for journalism. Right after high school, I pursued photojournalism. But living in Canada, it wasn’t exactly a booming market for photojournalists, especially women. I did manage to have some amazing experiences in that field, though. Eventually, I made the decision to switch gears and focus on writing. I just wanted to get better at telling stories.

As far as cannabis and psychedelics, plants have always fascinated me. Cannabis, in particular, has been a significant part of my life and helped me through some tough times. At first, my main motivation to learn more about cannabis was to be able to respond confidently when people criticized my choice to use it! That's what inspired me to write my first book—to arm myself with knowledge and counter misconceptions.

And then there are psychedelics, these plant medicines that have been instrumental in maintaining my mental health and overall well-being. I felt compelled to find a way to share this transformative experience with others, in a way that they could easily understand and relate to. It was about translating scientific research that the average person might not typically seek out into something accessible.

Your first book, "The Little Book of Cannabis," was published on the same day cannabis was legalized in Canada. How did that historic moment impact your work and influence the content of the book?

I'd say it had a significant impact on both getting the book off the ground and shaping the trajectory of my career. Initially, I started out as a generalist writer at a local urban weekly newspaper. Then, cannabis became a hot topic due to its impending legalization and the attention it was receiving from politicians. My editor noticed the trend and asked if I'd be interested in writing more about cannabis. Soon after, an editor from a publishing company approached me with an opportunity to write a book on the subject, anticipating the increasing public curiosity. It's still hard to believe that for a while, my book became one of the best-selling cannabis books in Canada. Seeing my name above Ed Rosenthal's was a surreal moment. It definitely had a profound impact on my career and fueled people’s interest in engaging with the book.

My intention was to shed light on the fact that cannabis wasn't just something to avoid at all costs. There was a wealth of information showcasing its various medical benefits, along with countless anecdotal accounts from individuals. But the prevailing narrative around cannabis was still negative. I aimed to combine scientific research with practical applications, incorporating case studies and stories from people who had used cannabis to improve their health. While I'm not a researcher myself, as a journalist, I wanted to present a different perspective. I kept coming across literature that highlighted the positive aspects of cannabis but ultimately discouraged its use. In my social circles, almost everyone I knew used cannabis in some form, so it felt like the right time to offer a more positive take.

In your new book, "Psyched," you explore the history and cultural significance of seven different psychedelics. Can you share some insights or revelations you had while researching and writing this book?

When I reflect on those interviews, a couple of things really stand out to me. One, which was brought up by two separate experts, was the notion of using psychedelics to explore your ancestral history. There's often a discussion about cultural appropriation when it comes to psychedelics and ceremonies. Using psychedelics to delve into your own lineage can actually serve as a way to bridge that gap. You gain a deeper understanding of where you come from, which can shed light on your mental health issues, coping mechanisms, and so much more. I included this topic in the chapter on ayahuasca since those individuals specialize in that particular medicine. But honestly, I think you could apply the same approach to any psychedelic experience.

Now, do you need to use substances that come from your own cultural heritage to access this kind of information? My suggestion would be to follow what resonates. If a particular medicine calls to you, that's an important factor to consider. That said, there are some substances, like peyote, that require caution due to issues like overharvesting and extinction concerns. If you're not invited to use peyote, exploring alternatives like San Pedro could be a better approach. It's also worth noting that this type of self-exploration doesn't have to be limited to psychedelics alone. Pairing this work with a little genealogy research, or maybe an ancestry kit, could be an interesting idea.

Another observation that really amazed me was the incredible diversity of experiences people have with psychedelics. Even if they use psychedelics in the same place, at the same stage of their lives, with the same group of people, no two trips are identical. While writing this book, I learned about the vast array of ways people use psychedelics. Sure, there are common themes like mental health and performance enhancement, which are frequently discussed. But what really intrigued me were the stories of how people used psychedelics to navigate grief, conquer procrastination, regulate dopamine, and so much more. The range of experiences and applications was eye opening.

Can you share a particularly memorable experience or story from your reporting on psychedelics that has stayed with you over time?

Sharing my work with the very people it's about or who have been involved in it is always an incredible experience. It's a surreal moment when I get to hand a copy of my book to someone who took the time and care to serve as an expert interviewee.

Second to that, the most memorable moments have been those in which I've had the opportunity to moderate live discussions about psychedelics, including a recent one at a conference where I was asked, with just over an hour to prepare, to host a panel on Psychedelics, Trauma, and Spirituality. The room was packed and I was nervous. After a quick chat with the expert panelists and two minutes backstage to learn their names, what resulted was a powerful discussion that received a lot of positive feedback. These talks often lead to intimate moments with people who want to share their psychedelic experiences with me.

Through these interactions, I am continually discovering the diverse ways these medicines have transformed people's lives. The stories they share, the life-changing moments they describe, and the challenging traumas they've overcome—each experience is a testament to the profound and ongoing power of these substances as tools to help us move through the ups and downs of life.

Want more from Amanda? Grab a copy of Psyched and tune into Ibogaine Uncovered Podcast, where she hosts conversations about this powerful plant medicine.

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! ✌️

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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.

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