Building a psychedelic community isn’t easy. Psychedelics are emerging into a landscape dotted with brands that understand the power of community and are trying to weave it into a business model. Yet, creating a community around a brand or product doesn’t happen overnight and needs special conditions to grow. Communities are emergent and don’t always pop up where we expect.
The dark artwork and cryptic catchphrases like “We Are The Night” or “Imagine Reality” of the Psychedelics Anonymous NFT project aren’t exactly the welcoming outreach many community managers would readily choose. Yet, the resulting intrigue has sparked one of the largest and most successful Web3 projects powered by a passionate community.
What is Psychedelics Anonymous?
Psychedelics Anonymous or “PA,” regards itself as a web3 brand. The project orbits around NFTs or non-fungible tokens, which are digital pieces of art whose ownership is verified through blockchain technology. To create and disseminate unique artwork, NFT projects utilize algorithms to “mint”, or generate, the desired rarity of aesthetics. PA creates artistic busts, some with intricate masks, and all with a variety of individual “traits.”
Different traits and characteristics of NFTs occur with varying levels of frequency, making some combinations more aesthetically pleasing or rare, thus adding value to different tokens.
There is no shortage of psychedelic-themed NFT projects, but PA is a departure from the psychedelic 60s cliche of tie-dye and rainbows (although a few tokens pay homage to that era). Instead, a modern, ominous, cybernetic vibe prevails with PA. Wearing suits or hoodies, the faces of perhaps human creatures are obscured by steampunk gas masks and other unidentifiable technology covered in detailed clusters, horns, and spikes. At the height of crypto valuations, this blockchain-based art sold for thousands of dollars apiece.
Behind the Masks of Psychedelics Anonymous
To better understand why this project has become such a force in crypto, we reached out to BTabs, a prominent Psychedelic Anonymous Council member and neuroscience researcher.
Btabs aka @Psilocybrain shared his unique journey through training at Johns Hopkins and early interest in NFTs like Bored Ape Yacht Club in positioning him to become a Council member of Psychedelic Anonymous. The Council meets weekly to convene with the founder of PA, Voltura, to discuss operations, in-person events, content, and share the voice of the community.
BTabs explains that his medical school training didn’t mention psychedelics once. He has long been surprised that psychiatry and neuroscience are different disciplines, “as if the brain is not one organ.” After BTabs became inspired by the potential of psychedelics, he gave a TEDx talk at UCLA and got involved in Psychedelics Anonymous while maintaining clinical practice and contributing to research efforts.
Game Theory and Psychedelic Anonymous
“It was the art that first attracted many of us to the project, but it was the community, the leadership of the founders, and the vision that kept us coming back for more,” BTabs says over Zoom.
He explains that the NFT space has a very short attention span. Traders chase new announcements and projects to gobble up NFTs that they can quickly flip for profits. To keep people engaged in a project with a long-term vision, the team at Psychedelics Anonymous was keen to get creative and turned to Game Theory.
When a user purchases an NFT from the Psychedelics Anonymous Genesis collection, they gain access to an elaborate game. BTabs quickly rattles off how all the NFT and platforms are interconnected within the Psychedelics Anonymous ecosystem. While BTabs knows all the functionality by heart, the moving parts quickly become dizzying to an outsider.
For example, an initial offering of Psychedelics Anonymous was purchasing a “full set.” Rather than getting a single piece of art, the buyer also acquired NFTs that functioned as passes to the metaverse, real-life events, and other NFTs such as “Components” and passes. The “in real life” or IRL pass could be held to secure access events such as NFT NYC or “burned” (destroyed) to redeem high-quality branded merchandise.
As more collections are added, so are more components, which can be burned to create other NFTs, each with more functions and utility. Longtime holders of sets of NFTs also get gifted or “airdropped” other NFTs like the “printing press,” which facilitate the creation or “minting” of more NFTs, compounding value and functionality.
There isn’t a tidy flowchart on the website to figure the puzzle out — yet. BTabs explains that building intrigue and collaboration between community members drives engagement. Constantly creating new ways for community engagement has kept the PA team engaged too:
“It was something that brought us together, we were able to pontificate and hypothesize what sort of significance was behind these different components, how these pieces would come together.”
The Psychedelics Anonymous Community
The strategy proved successful, as the ever-evolving game PA has created works because the community wants to play it.
Their Twitter has over 200k followers, hosts regular Spaces, and is a constant buzz of conversation. Of the 9500+ tokens created, only 1% are actually listed for sale on NFT marketplaces like Opensea. The tokens are held by their owners and “staked” by their holders, which locks the tokens into the PA ecosystem and offers more perks.
When asked exactly how the community surrounding Psychedelics Anonymous came about, BTabs consistently returned to highlighting core principles. Psychedelics Anonymous is a dedicated and committed community because there is more than simply price talk. BTabs shares that he connects with PA community members every day, and it’s not about the floor price. “We talk about everything from life experiences, celebrating work promotions, stories about our kids, breakups, and family trauma.” For those that resonate with the project’s mission, a real, supportive community exists through a Discord server and Twitter.
While game theory drives the buzz around the project, not everyone has to play. BTabs assures us that simply buying a Psychedelic Anonymous Genesis NFT, at the time of writing priced at around $700 – $800 USD, allows access to 90% of the ecosystem, which gives more than simply trading and exchanging NFTs for more NFTs.
Psychedelics Anonymous exists to educate about psychedelics and make a real impact on addressing mental health. While spending 700 dollars on digital art might seem steep, there are more perks than Twitter profile pictures.
By holding a Genesis token, community members can access Impact Suite, a separate online platform which BTabs describes as “unlimited virtual talk therapy sessions.” Psychedelics Anonymous has also created its own native coaching app. Those holding a Genesis NFT can access individual or group coaching, breathwork, and meditation classes. PA Genesis also allows access to sessions about Web 3 and related topics like online security.
For those interested, it’s also possible to access educational content created by Cornell University about medicinal plants, or to apply for tickets to psychedelic events like the Second Annual Conference on Psychedelics and Psychedelic Medicine hosted by Harvard in Boston, and the upcoming Psychedelic Science Conference hosted by MAPS in Denver.
Is Web 3 the Future of Online Psychedelic Platforms?
There is no doubt that NFTs and web3 is still a fairly niche area of interest. Yet, as many companies in the psychedelic space move online, create apps, and ponder the question of building a community, there are lessons to be learned from the innovation of web3.
Sure, your mom might not be excited about the aesthetic value of a Genesis token, but love or hate the crypto space, projects like Psychedelics Anonymous are out ahead of many online platforms looking for sustainable business models able to reach mass audiences.
From the inside, BTabs calls the PA community “a diverse and adept collective of holders passionate about mental health and the potential for psychedelics to serve as a paradigm shift.”
For outsiders, the art is dark, and the tone is mysterious. But behind the masks of Psychedelics Anonymous token holders, BTabs tells of a real connection between people drawn to similar ideals. Education and community continue to be a valuable resource for navigating psychedelics, and PA has proven successful at creating both, all while utilizing the latest tools of Web 3. Where the project goes next is worth paying attention to for anyone curious about the potential of Web 3.