Turn on, tune in, but don't drop out: The impact of neo-liberalism on magic mushroom users (in)ability to imagine collectivist social worlds

Sarah Christine Riley, James Thompson, Christine Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (SciVal)


Between 2002 and 2005 fresh or unprepared psilocin-based ‘magic’ mushrooms were legal to possess and traffic in the UK, and commercial sales demonstrated a significant market for this hallucinogenic drug. During and after this time there has been relatively little analysis concerning how magic mushroom users accounted for their drug use, nor on the wider political and cultural discourses that might have shaped this sense making.

In this paper we present a critical analysis of contemporary discourses around magic mushroom use in the UK through a multi-level discourse analysis of focus group data from 20 magic mushroom users (13 male and 7 female, mean age 25 years), taken at a time when magic mushrooms were being legally sold in the UK.

Locating participants’ use of magic mushrooms within the context of a culture of intoxication, neo-liberalism and the legacy of 1960s psychedelic philosophy, we identify six interpretative repertoires in their talk, which were subsumed within two overarching discourses. The first discourse drew on neo-liberal rhetoric, constructing participants as rational risk managing subjects engaged in a form of calculated hedonism that was legitimated as an act of personal freedom and consumer choice. The second discourse, identified as ‘post-psychedelic’, both celebrated and problematised a collective, connected ‘hippy’ form of spirituality.

The paper analyses the relationships between identity, consumption and citizenship by arguing that people's ability to imagine collectivist, spiritual or interconnected social worlds has been contained within neo-liberalism rhetoric.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-451
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2010


  • Magic mushrooms
  • Identity
  • Citizenship
  • Neo-liberalism
  • Psychedelic
  • Discourse analysis


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