For those of us who grew up in the “Just Say No” era of drug education, the idea of any parent condoning their kids’ use of illegal drugs is pretty damn hard to wrap our brains around. I mean, sure, we know that kids will experiment just like we did, but we’re not supposed to tell them it’s OK, are we? Well, that’s exactly what Dax Shepard plans to do with Lincoln and Delta, his daughters with wife Kristen Bell.
“I am pro my children doing mushrooms at some point,” Shepard said on his Armchair Expert podcast interview with Rob Lowe. “There are a lot of different studies that have pretty conclusively shown that you have long-lasting creative advantages … People who have done mushrooms have markedly more creativity that lasts. So, I guess, yeah, I’m going to tell my girls to do ‘shrooms and to smoke pot and to drink and just don’t do cocaine or opioids. If you don’t do those two things, you’ll likely be able to do all the other ones for the rest of your life. But if you get involved with those two it’s probably going to end the party…”
Lowe agreed with Shepard, though he also added that he was worried about kids abusing Adderall. And though neither actor is a medical professional, we do value their perspectives as two recovering drug addicts who have tried a lot of substances. But as parents, we’d also just like to fact check their statements before going and brewing our kids a pot of magic mushroom tea.
Do psychedelic drugs increase creativity?
Well, we’ve always had anecdotal evidence, coming from poets, artists, and musicians of centuries past and present. Then again, it’s hard to know whether those people were just creative anyway and also chose to take some fun drugs. (Correlation isn’t causation, after all.) There are a few studies we can point to that backs this up. One study showed that microdosing psychedelic truffles improved convergent and divergent thinking performance, and another showed that ayahuasca enhanced “creative divergent thinking” and “psychological flexibility.” But neither of these was a large-scale trial and the researchers have encouraged more work to be done on the matter.
Meanwhile, naysayers can also point to this study that showed marijuana having the opposite effect on creativity. Then this paper argued that while psychedelics improve cognitive flexibility, creativity, and imagination, they also impair the ability to understand cause and effect and organize thoughts. So maybe you have lots of ideas but can’t really act on them? Bottom line: These drugs seem to help some people form interesting new ideas, but they’re not going to magically turn us all into artistic geniuses.
But are psychedelic drugs as safe as Dax implies they are?
Contrary to the rhetoric we used to hear, psychedelics like LSD, psilocybin (mushrooms), and mescaline are not addictive, researchers say. What’s more, there’s evidence that they might help treat people’s addictions to other substances. They also may help treat depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
But what about all the stories we heard in childhood about people going crazy and throwing themselves off of buildings? Or the headlines about people murdering their spouses under the influence? Bridget Huber — who helped author Michael Pollan research his book on psychedelics, How to Change Your Mind — wrote this very informative piece debunking many of those myths. For one, there are very few reports of LSD actually killing anyone — although it has led to the death of some with other underlying medical conditions. And for another, many of the more recent stories of LSD-induced murders turned out not to involve LSD at all but a dangerous new drug called 25b-NBOMe.
“You never know what’s in the stew,” Rob Lowe said on the podcast, speculating about the story of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, who said LSD made him start hearing voices.
Which brings us to this last point…
Is it OK for teenagers to use psychedelic drugs?
This is tricky to answer, since researchers don’t test drugs out on teenagers or children because it’s unethical.
“Children’s brains are developing and you don’t want to risk disturbing that development in an unhealthy way,” George Greer, MD, a researcher on psilocybin and other psychedelics, told Fatherly. “So there has to be a very clear and good reason to believe it will help the children and not cause problems before doing the research.”
The same rationale governing that decision should probably apply to kids’ own experimentation as well. But as we all know, teenagers may think differently. That’s why you should definitely consult our very practical guide to talking to children about drugs.
It’s very important for your children to feel comfortable talking to you about drug use, because they’ll be more likely to turn to you when they have questions or need help. Bad trips do happen, and if your kids are afraid of your judgment, they won’t be calling you to get them out of scary situations.
Your kids probably aren’t that into listening to Armchair Expert with you, but here are some podcasts both you and your kids will love.