It seems like in the last 10 years that there has been an explosion of substance use and substances associated with the spiritual path. So many new substances have found their way into recreational use, and many people are confusing the experiences they have from substances with something spiritual.

I’m here to tell you that substance use is IRRELEVANT to spiritual freedom.

In spiritual freedom, we are surrendering to what Is. We are not seeking to change, control, or manipulate our experiences.

But many others are.

And others are seeking substances as a quick fix to whatever issues they may have.

So let’s put a reality check on this situation today.

So Many Substances

In the 60s a couple substances like LSD got popularized and associated with modern spirituality, and I feel like this validated substance use with spirituality, which in turn has given rise to the surge of spiritual substance use I’m seeing these days. Now, I’m also sure that plenty of substances have been used for centuries in other cultures for varying spiritual purposes. However, if you want to understand this blog and the perspective I’m offering, you have to understand what spiritual freedom is.

Spiritual freedom is surrendering to what Is.

Typically, that means letting go of our attachments. Our attachments are essentially our ego beliefs, which seek to control our lives to fit a certain way of living. That actually doesn’t mean having an enjoyable life. If someone is used to a lot of pain and suffering, then they are actually used to that and are not used to peacefulness. Regardless, spiritual freedom embraces all experiences–peaceful and unpeaceful, turbulent and quiet, scary and happy, and so forth. 

And that’s not what most human beings want.

Types of Substance Users

I could list out some of the ways that I’ve seen substances responsibly used to support someone on the spiritual path, but that’s just what some people are waiting for. They want validation to continue to do whatever it is they are doing. But remember that your experiential states are irrelevant to spiritual freedom. Awareness watches while your body goes through all its different experiences.

But most people don’t want to be the witness nor to be free. They want to feel a certain way, and some of the types of people who confuse spirituality with substance use include:

  • High-state seekers
  • Spiritual bypassers (people trying to avoid their issues inside)
  • Lost souls
  • Spiritual tourists

More specifically, the types of people in those categories include:

  • People with trauma
  • People who dealt with neglect and abandonment issues
  • People who have, in general, a lot of unmet emotional needs
  • People trying to replicate a past spiritual experience that they got attached to

The high-state seekers think they can be endlessly blissful. Since some spiritual traditions present spirituality and dissolving the ego as a kind of “Heaven on Earth,” having an enjoyable experience gets attached to that idea and to spirituality. The lost souls feel connected again. The tourists enjoy their time, and since they’re trying to avoid themselves at a certain level, they enjoy not being themselves.

Obviously, the spiritual bypassers just want to get away from whatever it is they want to get away from.

Strangely enough, some spiritual-workaholics are mixed in here who think that they need to constantly have some kind of big release to be spiritual. Certain substances can certainly offer big emotional experiences.

Lost in Bliss: Reclaiming Yourself from the Trap of Good Feelings

6 Types of Spiritual-workaholics

The Problems of Substance Use

The biggest problem with any substance use is that people are attaching their internal emotional states with an external substance.

I could now go on about all the different healthy spiritual tools that have no side-effects and require no external substances to have different experiences. But, once again, this path to spiritual freedom isn’t about experiences. It is about letting go and being in that space of awareness with no attachments to what is arising.

But most people, really, really want to control their experiences and their emotions, and Western Culture encourages us to find happiness in the external world. That’s why abuse of substances and external world distractions is huge in this culture!

For example, there’s an opiod epidemic in the U.S. – and no I’m not insinuating that that is the same as Ayahuasca, marijuana, LSD, and any number of other substances that have been included with the spiritual path these days. I’m pointing to how people attach to substances psychologically. I’m pointing to how people attach to anything external as THE ANSWER to their problems. 

The opiod epidemic is merely a reflection of deeper pain that people try to cope with, and unfortunately, like most external substances used for coping, coping is not freedom. With the deeper attachments to pain still in place – and yes, human beings are very much attached to their pain – the coping mechanism needs to continue to be used again and again and again regardless of if it is biologically addictive or not.

All that does is create and continue suffering.

Do You Really Want Freedom?

I honestly want to help people alleviate suffering. Regardless of some benefits that people have found with substances, they are not necessary in terms of realizing spiritual freedom. Spiritual freedom is here and now. If you stop and go within, you’ll find more than enough different types of experiences already needing your attention without trying to manipulate your perspective and your biology to have other kinds of experiences. And with a sober mind, you’ll have the autonomy and clarity to address your attachments and release them with the only side effect being the discovery of greater freedom.

How to Find Spiritual Freedom


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.


  1. Good post Jim- and particularly relevant as it's currently magic mushroom season (in the UK at least). I can speak from personal experience of these issues. I think many in the "high state seeker" category are looking for some kind of easy "shortcut" to enlightenment, especially in the case of more extreme "psychonauts", in which large doses of psychedelics are used to achieve an experience of total non-duality/ ego-death. Whilst this can be a neat thing to experience, it certainly isn't the same thing as awakening on a more ongoing/permanent basis. Otherwise everyone who tripped a certain number of times would be totally liberated – evidently this is not the case.

    At best, it is simply a cool temporary state that can provide a degree of insight, but which quickly fades. At worst, the experience can be so different to a person's everyday perception that they have a very hard time integrating it and dealing with "normal" life again, because they don't have a foundational spiritual practice that has already given them a degree of non-dual awareness in everyday life. Whereas when experiences of oneness etc. arise as a result of awakening/spiritual practice, they are easily recognised, understood and integrated as part of an on-going process.

    In any case, as you say, the true measure of liberation is the degree to which you can simply accept and be with what's happening right now, not the extent of your "amazing transcendent experiences"!

  2. Thanks for sharing, Paul. As usual, great points in your comment. And yes, people can have experiences that they can't integrate that can put them in a total tailspin. I get emails from people precisely about that.

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