What’s The Afterglow Effect? An Interview with Neil Markey.

The phenomenon called the “afterglow effect” holds a unique place in the realm of psychedelic experiences.

Alexandra Plesner
5 min readSep 5, 2023

Originally published on Psilocybin San Francisco.

Studies have shown that psilocybin can have a sustained boost in mood after recreational use and might reset the brains of people diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression. As an illustration, recent discoveries reveal that just one dose of psilocybin, the critical active element found in Psilocybe mushrooms, holds the potential to lessen depressive symptoms in individuals grappling with treatment-resistant depression significantly. This positive effect can persist for as long as three months following administration.

We had the privilege of chatting with Neil Markey, the visionary Co-Founder and CEO of Beckley Retreats, about the afterglow effect and its profound impact on individuals’ perceptions and emotions following a psychedelic experience.

During a magic mushroom trip, individuals often encounter a range of experiences, including profound insights, visual hallucinations, spiritual revelations, and an enhanced appreciation for music, art, and nature.

The journey can be deeply introspective, leading to a sense of self-transcendence and a dissolution of ego boundaries. Many people report feelings of unity with the universe, a heightened sense of empathy, and a newfound perspective on life.

Markey emphasised that these compounds possess a truly remarkable potency and an almost enchanting quality. However, it’s essential to recognise that they aren’t standalone solutions. Instead, they serve as catalysts for transformation, opening doors for change and growth.

“Think of them as tools that can accelerate the process. Yet, achieving lasting benefits involves more than just their consumption. It’s about engaging in meditation, seeking supportive communities, pursuing meaningful endeavours, and aligning oneself with a personal sense of purpose,” Markey says.

Neil Markey, CEO and Co-Founder Beckley Retreats

“During a psilocybin experience, you very likely feel just how miraculous life is. Instead of nitpicking our lives and finding everything wrong, you can zoom out and sit in awe of how special this existence really is. I think that can be a bit of a wake-up call for people.”

The afterglow phenomenon is the remnant neural effect of psychedelic medicines. These lingering perceptual subjectivities don’t impair or incapacitate our physical competence. Instead, they accentuate the natural beauty and rawness of our inner and outer worlds. The afterglow effect is a positive, highly reported sub-product of psychedelic use. While its effects are not everlasting, they serve a healthy and fluid transition back into our daily mental matrices. Unlike the trip’s intense and potentially challenging aspects, the afterglow effect is characterised by a sense of clarity, peace, and contentment.

How does it feel like?

One might feel a sense of detachment from the typical rat race and daily routines, only to find a stronger connection with their inner self and the natural world. This altered state often leads to encounters with newfound openness and friendliness from strangers, almost as if stepping out of Alice’s Wonderland and into reality.

This journey frequently involves embracing the humbling realisation of not fully grasping everything, an insight that fosters humility. Once firmly held, belief systems begin to flutter as one recognises the blend of borrowed ideas and perspectives — pieces assembled to form a so-called “personal opinion”.

People who have recently used psychedelics such as psilocybin report a sustained improvement in mood and feeling closer to others after the experience. This is likely due to the fact that psilocybin can increase the connectivity between different regions of the brain, leading to a more integrated sense of self and a greater sense of connection to others.

One may experience a heightened sense of connectedness to nature, a reevaluation of their values and priorities, and a renewed curiosity about the mysteries of existence. This spiritual residue can inspire personal growth, self-reflection, and a quest for meaning. Magic mushrooms have been linked to increased creativity and open-mindedness. The afterglow effect can amplify these traits, leading to enhanced problem-solving abilities, a greater appreciation for art and beauty, and a more open and flexible mindset.

“Making things special matters.”

Markey shed light on the crucial role of integration in harnessing the positive potential of the afterglow effect. This intricate process plays a pivotal role in effectively navigating the transformative aftermath of a psychedelic journey. By assimilating and understanding the insights gained during the experience, individuals can cultivate lasting positive changes and achieve more profound personal growth.

Practical Tips

Here are some tips to address the overwhelming feeling of a different worldview during the afterglow and make the most of the experience while staying safe:

- Take time to reflect: Engage in introspection and journaling to process the insights gained during the psychedelic experience.

- Seek support: Connect with a therapist or integration specialist who understands psychedelic-assisted healing to discuss and integrate your experiences.

- Find like-minded individuals: Join support groups or communities of people who have had similar experiences to share insights and feelings without judgment.

- Start slow: Avoid immediately engaging with environments that might not be open to psychedelic experiences. Gradually introduce your insights into conversations with receptive individuals.

- Grounding practices: Incorporate mindfulness, meditation, or grounding exercises to stay connected to the present moment and manage overwhelming feelings of a shifted worldview.

- Know your limits: Understand that psychedelics can be powerful, and it’s essential to approach them respectfully and cautiously. Always follow recommended dosages and consider your mental and physical well-being before each journey.

Beckley Retreats takes integration seriously. The retreat provides a comprehensive framework designed to guide and support patients during the crucial afterglow phase.

“Our programs are designed with group dynamics in mind, creating an environment where participants’ nervous systems align and synchronise. For newcomers, initial sessions with lower doses ease anxiety and build trust with facilitators. This paves the way for deeper experiences with “breakthrough” doses later in the retreat. The entire journey is an art form.”

In essence, this journey encapsulates a transformative journey that leads to a shift in perception and an expansion of awareness. Remember, integrating the afterglow effect is a personal journey, and seeking professional guidance is beneficial for a safe and meaningful experience.

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Alexandra Plesner

Strategic designer, primary based in London, working worldwide.