Altered State of Mind: 5 Ways to a Controlled High

artist: Sean Norvet

Even if you don’t agree with any form of drug use, there is a controlled or more healthy way to consume many substances, and there are many different reasons why people seek that respective substance. Knowing and reflecting on these different forms of how and reasons, why people are looking for their high, can prevent a lot of misunderstandings and stigmas in our everyday life. In light of the Altered Conference, held in Berlin for the first time in 2017, with workshops, talks and rituals on the subject of psychedelics, conscious drug practices, and the social issues that come along with it, we thought about different approaches to substance use that exist here. After all, it’s not as easy as You take drugs, so you’re a total wreck! In collaboration with the Altered team, we put together a list of 5 different scenes and motivations that are significant in Berlin.


These are the highs that, for many, seems like the ‘easiest’ drug to use, right after alcohol. Who hasn’t smoked some green leaves at least once in their lives? A gateway drug for some, for others it’s just a casual Friday night. Even when it comes to strong hallucinogens, like mushrooms, often they are seen as a ‘milder’ option, compared to similar chemical drugs. It’s a plant, mother nature created it. That’s easier to trust than some substance out of a lab, understandable.

Additionally, organic drugs have already found their way into conventional medicine, Marihuana is already prescribed for therapeutic reasons, to lower stress or heal traumas for example. One of the more recent drugs that made it from ‘the jungle’ to western research, and manages to gain more and more popularity for therapeutic and health reasons, is ayahuasca. Studies already show that this brew out of different plants from the Amazon can cure depression, and potentially redress neurological damages from diseases such as Parkinson’s, making it an organic drug trend in many European cities including Berlin.

At Altered Reverend Danny Nemu will talk about his 17 years of first-hand experiences with ayahuasca, and the cultural complexities that come along with it. The hypnotherapist connects different fields from Religion to Neurobiology, and Linguistics.

artwork: Matt Furie


By far, the first thing people tend to think about when it comes to drugs. Nightlife, clubs, parties, this easily becomes a narrative of people losing themselves and the control over their lives over drugs. And, the most realistic answer to this is: Yes, true, this does happen – especially in a city so infamous for reckless and never-ending nightlife. But, stigmatizing this reality, and dismissing everyone, who ends up in this spiral as a hopeless drug addict, won’t help anyone, really.

An open and healthy dialogue about reduced forms of drug use and a conscious and compassionate community is needed. People will always have the need to escape the reality they live in, so let’s rather discuss the best practices in regards to set, setting and substance. It’s better to educate on safe ways to escape, then shaming the need for it in itself. Anyone who really wants to, will and without education on safe practices this can easily go from ‘a mere need to escape’ to ‘totally losing control’.

Ciara Sherlock and Stefana Bosse, who run “Psychedelic Experience Weekends” in the Netherlands, will speak about ‘tripsitting’ and their experiences with helping people to practice safe drug use and harm reduction.

artist: Uno Moralez


Often, but not necessarily, overlapping with drug use in nightlife is the desire to venture through one’s mind instead of an urgent need to escape. Although most of these substances still remain illegal, many people accept the complexities involved in drug use to open gates to areas of their minds that might remain sealed off otherwise. Despite the underlying motivation not being a self-destructive one, a healthy, open dialogue is just as necessary. Escapism or Exploration, ignorance can be very harmful.

At Altered, social anthropologist Giorgia Gaia will be talking about the ‘breakthrough moments’ users of DMT, changa and ketamine experience, and how these experiences have benefitted their lives.

artist: Uno Moralez


And beyond mind exploration, there comes an approach to drugs that might be harder to grasp for some. An approach that has spiritual, even religious roots. For example, ayahuasca is mostly practiced in a ritual setting, with participants being guided by a shaman. Of course, these ceremonies can cover various fields of spiritual mind alteration, it can be something more intangible as shamanic magic, or areas of our everyday life like sexuality. No matter how spiritual you are, a person, responsible for safely guiding you through a mind-altering experience, entails many positive effects and can reduce a lot of damage mainly caused by a mere lack of knowledge.

Activist of ‘Risk Aware Consensual Kink’ (RACK) and Berlin-based queer woman of color Caritia will be delivering a workshop on sex and psychedelics at Altered, focused on how sensuality can allow us to access the truest version ourselves, and the issues to be aware of whilst engaging in kink and BDSM practices in a contemporary club context.

Album cover of Fear Fun by Father John Misty, artist: Dimitri Drjuchin


Microdosing, this might easily sound like a euphemism for being mildly high, but medical research has not only proven the positive effects of organic, but also chemical drugs, not in large amounts but as the name implies, small, microdoses. Studies show that this controlled way of substance use can have positive effects on health, mood, and productivity. What else are most pharmaceuticals, but chemical substances produced in microdoses?

James Fadiman, Ph.D., and Sophia Korb, Ph.D., will be talking about the parameters of safe and effective use of microdosing. J. Fadiman has spent the last five years mapping the terrain of microdoses, taught at several universities, and published various books on this subject matter. S. Korb has researched psychedelic experiences and positive effects on harm reduction, and trauma-informed therapies.

If this made you curious about Altered, you can buy tickets here and be part of the experience.

artist: Sean Norvet

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