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A science podcast that trips into the realm of psychedelic psychiatry, as hallucinogenic mushrooms go on trial in South Africa.

A science podcast that trips into the realm of psychedelic psychiatry, as hallucinogenic mushrooms go on trial in South Africa.
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South Africa


A science podcast that trips into the realm of psychedelic psychiatry, as hallucinogenic mushrooms go on trial in South Africa.








The Psychonauts Voice Diary 7 Kalk Bay Books

Kalk Bay Books is an independent bookstore outside Cape Town that regularly invites authors to speak about their latest book projects. This month, they hosted science writer Leonie Joubert to speak about her podcast The Psychonauts, a serialised audio-book project which she's release chapter by chapter as the book unfolds. Leonie sat in conversation with medical doctor Rene Usdin to talk about research in the field of psilocybin-therapy, and the changes of mainstreaming it in South Africa.


Psychonauts Episode 8 - Going Gonzo

In South Africa, the underground psilocybin community is relatively new, and from the outside might look more like a religious group than a collective of therapists. These journey guides work by a set of principles for how to facilitate journeys, which, for the most part, try to manage the risks that come with deep-dose sessions. They draw on tried-and-tested shamanic traditions and some good old-fashioned common sense. But a whole lot of New Age gimmickry has crept in, too, which is a bit...


Psychonauts Episode 7 - The Octopus's Garden

Human beings are hardwired to ruminate, leading to depression, anxiety, and addictive rituals. Boosting our emotional wellbeing with techniques like mindfulness and meditation is a bit like good oral hygiene: we need to brush and floss and visit the dentist regularly. But every now and then, we might need something a bit more drastic, like root canal. That’s where a psychedelic session comes in.


Psychonauts Voice Diary 6 - Legislation

A quick update on the status of the podcast after a long silence, and a look at the different legal routes that could see hallucinogenic mushrooms decriminalised or legalised in South Africa. And if, as some argue, we have a constitutional right to access a substance that our laws withhold from us, where is there scope for civil disobedience?


Psychonauts Voice Diary 1

A voice diary insert to keep everyone up to speed with behind-the-scenes podcast developments.


Psychonauts Episode 4 - Bottom of the Bottle

As recently as the 1960s, the hallucinogen LSD showed promise in treating alcoholism and heroin addiction. But then the moral panic at the Flower Power generation got psychedelics frogmarched into the shadowy company of a suite of illicit drugs. For four decades, research stopped. But now scientists are back at the drawing board, testing to see if psychedelics can put the brakes on certain addictive spirals. In this episode, a man in his mid-50s goes down the rabbit hole, in search of the...


Psychonauts Episode 3 - Shellshocked

A traumatic event can be like an emotional sledgehammer to the brain, rewiring your nervous system, so it’s always revving in the red. It could leave you permanently edgy, your startle response on a tripwire. You’ll be quick to rage. You might struggle to concentrate or sleep. You’ll become listless and depressed. You might have flashbacks, or suppress those fossil-like memories. You might sink into the bottle, cut yourself off from others, or worse. But early efforts to treat...


Psychonauts Episode 1 - Tripping the Blues

Some neuroscientists are confirming what their colleagues were discovering in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s: that a few deep psychedelic ‘trips’, supported by conventional psychotherapy methods, may be able to unlock some crippling mood disorders and addictions. But because psychedelics are illegal everywhere, the growing movement of people in South Africa who are using them therapeutically must rely on an underground movement of traditional healers and ‘journey guides’.


Psychonauts Episode 2 - The Drug Den

The police arrived at a suburban home, near Cape Town, in the early hours of a Sunday morning, shortly before Christmas in 2014. They thought they’d stumbled upon a drug den or some kind of sex ring. Instead, they found a odd sort of traditional healer, who looked more like a suburban grandmother than a drug kingpin, and she was minding a group of psychedelic night-trippers. This launched an upcoming bid in the South African courts to have hallucinogenic mushrooms taken off a list of...


Psychonauts Welcome - An introduction of sorts

Cape Town-based science writer Leonie Joubert introduces The Psychonauts, and explains why she's departed from her usual written form of storytelling.