TULUM, Mexico – At the break of dawn in Tepoztlán, a quaint misty mountain town, I find myself wrapped in a white poncho, warding off the morning chill. The day began with a serene session of breathwork and yoga, part of a unique retreat experience. My anticipation grows for the day’s highlight: an encounter with 5-MeO-DMT, also known as the ‘God Molecule.’ This compound is revered in psychedelic circles for inducing a profound non-dual state of consciousness, often described as ineffable.
I volunteer to be the first of our group of seven for this experience, driven more by fear than bravery. In the ceremonial space, I’m greeted by Joel Brierre and Victoria Wueschner, the CEO founder and head of education of Tandava Retreats, respectively. They prepare me for the journey ahead, explaining what I might encounter. Wueschner hands me a pipe containing the vapor of 5-MeO-DMT. I inhale deeply, hold my breath as long as possible, and then lay back. What follows is a tumultuous journey through panic and into a state of ego dissolution. This intense experience, common among 5-MeO-DMT users, leaves me struggling for words—a rare occurrence for a writer.
The rising popularity of psychedelics for both therapeutic and recreational purposes is evident in the growth of the industry. Data Bridge Market Research projects the psychedelic market to reach $10.7 billion by 2027. This coincides with the Global Wellness Institute’s report, which forecasts the wellness tourism market doubling to $1.4 trillion by the same year. The intersection of psychedelics and tourism, particularly in retreats, presents a significant opportunity.
5-MeO-DMT, derived from the Sonoran Desert toad, offers a unique psychedelic experience. Unlike my previous encounters with ayahuasca, mushrooms, and peyote, which lasted about six hours each, the 5-MeO-DMT experience was brief yet profound. In a mere 30 seconds of consciousness, I perceived the smallest molecule and the vastness of the universe simultaneously. This glimpse into the cosmic joke of existence was both terrifying and euphoric.
However, the aftermath was challenging. I experienced reactivations during sleep, a common occurrence post-5-MeO-DMT, leading to restless nights. This phenomenon heightened my awareness of the thin line between life and death, especially during REM sleep, the closest state we have to death.
Recent studies highlight the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. A majority of participants diagnosed with depression or anxiety reported symptom improvement after a 5-MeO-DMT session. These findings align with similar research showing lasting reductions in depression, stress, and anxiety, coupled with heightened awareness and life satisfaction.
Despite these positive outcomes, there’s a darker side to psychedelic experiences. Research indicates that psychedelics can also trigger negative reactions, such as anxiety, fear, and resurfaced trauma. This underscores the importance of choosing a safe, well-regulated retreat for such experiences.
The burgeoning interest in psychedelic retreats extends beyond 5-MeO-DMT to other substances like ayahuasca. Lena Franklin, co-founder of The EAST Institute, sees this trend as a response to a collective yearning for deeper life experiences. Meanwhile, psilocybin, derived from psychedelic mushrooms, is gaining recognition for its potential to alleviate depression, anxiety, and addiction.
However, the lack of regulatory oversight in the psychedelic retreat industry is a cause for concern. Prospective participants must diligently research to find trustworthy retreats that offer thorough pre-screening, emergency procedures, and post-experience care.
Despite not being universally legal in Western medicine, psychedelic therapies are advancing in countries like Mexico, Jamaica, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, and Australia. The potential legalization in the U.S. remains uncertain, but the interest and advancements in the field continue to grow.
After my experience with Tandava Retreats, I appreciated their emphasis on post-care, including sessions with a certified integration specialist. These sessions helped me process the profound insights gained during the retreat. The realization that everyday life can be miraculous has profoundly changed my perspective.
By Michaela Trimble, freelance journalist based in Mexico City who enjoys covering all things Latin America, travel, design, wellness, and spirituality.