Sasha Frost
Content manager

Metaphor, Myths & Psychedelics

If the general public largely gets its views about psychedelics from the media, pop culture and governments, then it’s worth examining the metaphors shaping people’s understanding of psychedelics and their place in society. By looking at some of the most common conceptual frameworks in use, we can see where dialogue is being blocked and where there may be opportunities for a change in conversation. A concept as prevalent and powerful as the ‘war on drugs’ can both dominate the discourse and distort the issue in how it limits thinking about drugs and society.

Metaphors can stick not because they illuminate, but because a comparison is neat and visceral, like the multisensory metaphor of cracking and frying an egg in the ‘this is your brain on drugs’ campaign. They are drawn from the systems we understand: metaphors of food and cooking have long been embedded in the narrative, with brains being fried, scrambled, baked and poisoned, while ideas like a defragging computer resetting the system are tied to our technological age. Visual representations like the homological scaffolds can also help people to grasp a concept like a more interconnected brain.

Psychedelic therapists use metaphor to prepare patients for an experience repeatedly described as ineffable, with imagery of freshly fallen snow hiding old grooves and drawbridges opening the entrances to castles. Are there ways of thinking that patients and therapists find useful that could be helpful in dialogue with the general public? When thinking about the kind of language that may be useful in resituating psychedelics in society, it’s helpful to be aware of the pre-existing structures that limit discussion and how they can be challenged.

Sasha is the Content Manager for the Beckley Foundation, where he explores effective ways to tell stories about psychedelic science and drug policy reform. He is keen to make use of emerging forms of communication to inform the dialogue around drug prohibition and the place of psychedelics in modern society. With a background in literature and psychology, he's interested in how stories from different communities can leap across the divide. Most recently Sasha has been creating videos and animations to promote the work of the psychedelic community.