What Is Psychedelic Therapy?
Psychedelic therapy refers to therapeutic practices involving psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, DMT, mescaline, 2C-B, and MDMA. In psychedelic therapy, in contrast to the use of conventional psychiatric medication which is taken by the patient regularly or as-needed, patients remain in an extended psychotherapy session during the acute activity of the drug and spend the night at the facility. In the sessions with the drug, therapists are nondirective and support the patient in exploring their inner experience. Patients participate in psychotherapy before the drug psychotherapy sessions to prepare them and after the drug psychotherapy to help them integrate their experiences with the drug.
Types of Psychedelic Therapy
There are a number of different types of substances that can have psychedelic effects. Some common psychedelic substance and their uses include:
Ayahuasca: This brew originating in South America is purported to help with addiction, anxiety, and depression. Possible side effects of Ayahuasca include serotonin syndrome and medication interactions.
LSD: Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) can lead to altered mood, perception, and consciousness. Potential uses include the treatment of addiction and anxiety.
Psilocybin: Like LSD, psilocybin alters consciousness, mood, and perceptions. It is being studied for its use in the treatment of addiction, anxiety, and depression.
MDMA (ecstasy): While not a classic psychedelic substance, MDMA (also known as ecstasy) is a drug that produces “psychedelic effects” including feelings of euphoria, altered perceptions, increased arousal, and increased sociability. Research suggests it has therapeutic potential in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
One variation of psychedelic therapy is known as microdosing, which involves taking very small, sub-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelic substances. Proponents of microdosing suggest that even these very low doses can have beneficial health effects such as enhancing performance, increasing energy, and decreasing depression.
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While there is some evidence that microdosing may have some beneficial effects, more research is needed.
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Common classic hallucinogens include the following:
LSD (D-lysergic acid diethylamide) is one of the most powerful mind-altering chemicals. It is a clear or white odorless material made from lysergic acid, which is found in a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.
Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) comes from certain types of mushrooms found in tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico, and the United States.
Peyote (mescaline) is a small, spineless cactus with mescaline as its main ingredient. Peyote can also be synthetic.
DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is a powerful chemical found naturally in some Amazonian plants. Ayahuasca is a tea made from such plants, and when taken in this form it is also known as hoasca, aya, and yagé. People can also make DMT in a lab. Synthetic DMT usually takes the form of a white crystalline powder that is smoked.
251-NBOMe is a synthetic hallucinogen with similarities both to LSD and MDMA (see DrugFacts: MDMA) but that is much more potent. Developed for use in brain research, when sold illegally it is sometimes called N Bomb or 251.
Common examples of dissociative drugs include the following:
PCP (Phencyclidine) was developed in the 1950s as a general anesthetic for surgery, but it is no longer used for this purpose due to serious side effects. PCP can be found in a variety of forms, including tablets or capsules; however, liquid and white crystal powder are the most common.
Ketamine is used as a surgery anesthetic for humans and animals. Much of the ketamine sold illegally come from veterinary offices. It mostly sells as a powder or as pills, but it also available as an injectable liquid. Ketamine is snorted or sometimes added to drinks as a date-rape drug.
Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a cough suppressant and mucus-clearing ingredient in some over-the-counter cold and cough medicines (syrups, tablets, and gel capsules).
Salvia (Salvia divinorum) is a plant common to southern Mexico and Central and South America. Salvia is typically ingested by chewing fresh leaves or by drinking their extracted juices. The dried leaves of salvia can also be smoked or vaporized and inhaled.