Peer support lines have proven to be effective. Whether they’re warm lines attempting to help people improve their mental health or deal with a particular issue like substance abuse, or hotlines to prevent suicide or much more complex addiction cases, talking to someone does help. When it comes to psychedelics, a peer support line could help reduce harmful consequences for those in altered states of mind. This is why Fireside Project, a San Francisco-based non profit organization, launched the world’s first psychedelic peer support line on April 14, 2021.
What Is Fireside Project?
Fireside Project is a peer support line that aims to help people reduce the risks and maximize the potential of their psychedelic experiences. They provide support to users who are having an intense psychedelic experience, or who want to process previous experiences that they’ve had in therapeutic, ceremonial, social, or any number of other settings. They do so by providing compassionate, accessible, and culturally responsive peer support, as well as educating the public and supporting psychedelic research.
The line is open to all kinds of callers, whether it be someone who mistakenly ate a whole batch of infused brownies, or an experienced user who’s consuming psilocybin mushrooms in their living room and looking for companionship on this journey.
How Does Fireside Project Work?
Just like with other support lines, those answering the phones and at Fireside are volunteers. 30 volunteers were chosen and trained out of over 200 applicants. Among these volunteers, there are 14 countries, 11 spoken languages, and 16 ethnic backgrounds represented, as well as a range of different sexual identities.
The volunteers went through a 36-hour series of mandatory training which focused on universal practices applicable to any support line setting, as well as strategies that are specific to psychedelic use. Adam Rubin, one of Fireside Project’s shift supervisors, said that the training is more about how to be a supportive person, which does not relate only to psychedelics. Because of this, it is not necessary for volunteers to have personal experience with psychedelics to qualify for a position in the organization.
“Just because someone takes a psychedelic,” Rubin said in an interview with SFGate, “that does not mean they can offer effective peer support to others. Likewise, just because someone has not taken a psychedelic, it does not disqualify them from being a calm, grounded, compassionate presence.”
Who is Fireside Meant For?
When we think of psychedelics, we immediately think of psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, and other similar substances with mind-altering effects. This means that the line is open to anyone who is under the influence or wants to discuss experiences related to classic psychedelics and cannabis. Co-founder and Executive Director Josh White explained that Fireside’s approach with this support line isn’t to focus on the substances, but simply to support each caller’s needs.
“When we think about psychedelics, often there’s a certain person that comes to mind,” he said in an interview with Esquire. “We’re very intentional about saying all communities, all people.” While everyone is welcome to call, White is hoping to help individuals who might not have the means to safely access psychedelic support otherwise.
“We think that Fireside Project could become the go-to resource for anyone having a difficult experience who doesn’t have other kinds of support available, and that nobody will ever need to be alone in a scary psychedelic experience ever again,” White told Truffle Report by email. He added that they also see themselves as being critical resources for people processing past trips.
In general, Fireside’s line will be a resource for those who are going through a psychedelic journey, anyone trip sitting, or anyone looking to process a past psychedelic experience. The line is there to meet people wherever they are in their personal voyage. Fireside includes a phone line, text service, and in-app chat support.
Fireside’s support line was launched on April 14 2021, just a few days before Bicycle Day, which also happened to be the same day that California’s Bill 519 passed a second senate committee hearing. Bill 519 was introduced by Senator Scott Wiener in February 2021 and aims to decriminalize the use and possession of some psychedelic drugs in California.
According to White, the launch went well. He told Truffle Report that 240 people from all over the world signed up to attend their opening ceremony. Immediately after that, the support line went live at 4:30pm PST on April 14 and since then they’ve been receiving a steady stream of calls and texts.
“We’ve seen a range of issues so far,” he said. “Everything from people in the midst of psychedelic experiences, to people wanting to talk about past trips, to people who are just curious about the support line.”
All of this suggests a moment in time when psychedelics are closer than ever to transitioning from counterculture to mainstream. There is, of course, a lot left to be seen about how that process will play out, but the fact that substances are being decriminalized, that more psychedelic-assisted therapies are being approved, and that support lines like Fireside are being created seems like a good omen.
Fireside Project Psychedelic Peer Support Line went live on Wednesday, April 14, and is scheduled to run regularly for its pilot year from Thursday to Sunday, 3:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. PST, and Mondays, 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. PST.
Call or text: 6-2FIRESIDE (623-473-7433). For more info and to access online chat services, visit https://firesideproject.org/