Psychedelic therapy (also called psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, PAP) is a method of diagnosing and treating mental and emotional disorders that involves ingestion of a psychedelic substance.
Psychedelic therapy usually includes talk therapy combined with the use of psychedelics.
Both clinical and nonclinical settings are currently using or researching psychedelic drugs for therapeutic purposes.
Many of these substances are plant-based, such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), DMT, peyote, ayahuasca, and ibogaine. In addition, there are chemical compounds such as ketamine, MDMA, and LSD.
Psychedelic therapy is relatively new in Western clinical settings, after centuries of use in Indigenous communities.
It’s increasing in popularity as more psychedelics are legalized, mental health problems rise, and research on psychopharmacology stalls.
Researchers created a wealth of evidence, both verifying and pointing toward the therapeutic potential of psychedelic therapy between the 1950s and 1970s – before former President Richard Nixon outlawed them with the Controlled Substances Act.
- mental health conditions like depression and anxiety
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Renewing interest and investment have sparked further research in recent years, including much that is still ongoing.
The following is an overview of various psychedelics and their uses.
According to multiple phase 2 clinical trials, MDMA is able to treat PTSD symptoms for as long as 4 years.
A phase 3 trial has also been completed with MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD, designed to determine if a treatment is better than what’s currently available. In this study, psychedelics were used as the primary therapy method.
Following three treatments, 67 percent of participants with severe PTSD were no longer diagnosed with PTSD, and 88 percent had reduced symptoms of PTSD.
It is expected that the results of this trial could lead to FDA approval by 2023, according to the trial sponsor, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
Psychedelic drugs such as ketamine have been used to treat mental health problems for centuries.
Studies exploring its potential to treat depression have shown that it is effective at low doses, but its effects are short-lived.
Research shows that those suffering from severe depression, for example, improve significantly after treatment, and results generally last between 6 and 8 weeks.
As a result of these findings, the drug Spravato has been developed. Ketamine is the active ingredient in this nasal spray. The intravenous administration of ketamine is considered to be more effective and less expensive than oral administration.
People with terminal illnesses have shown positive results from the use of psilocybin, the main component of magic mushrooms.
More research is needed to determine whether it can treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction, and treatment-resistant depression as well.
People living with terminal illnesses have been shown to benefit from LSD, a long-lasting, powerful psychedelic. It is considered the prototype for therapeutic psychedelics.
Here’s how it’s done.
The effectiveness of treatment is currently being evaluated by clinicians, so dosing, the number of treatments needed, and the approach to psychedelic therapy will vary according to who you are working with.
In most clinical settings, psychedelic therapy is conducted in three stages:
First, a consultation is usually needed to ensure that the treatment is safe for you. This is also a good opportunity to discuss your personal background and any goals or concerns you have around psychedelic therapy.
Under the supervision of a trained therapist, the psychedelic substance is ingested orally or by injection.
According to the type of psychedelic and the treatment plan, there are usually multiple sessions. For instance:
- MDMA-assisted therapy typically involves three sessions.
- Treatment with ketamine typically takes between one and twelve sessions.
- At least two sessions are usually necessary for psilocybin- and LSD-assisted therapy.
Finally, there will be an integration phase during which the therapist and client will work together to integrate meaning from the psychedelic experiences.
However, there is still a lot to learn about psychedelic therapy’s potential, especially for those with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
Advocates and lobbyists have therefore been working to decriminalize some psychedelic substances in order to improve access and opportunities to conduct research. Stay tuned, because these treatment options are evolving each week.