Psychedelic-assisted therapy refers to therapeutic practices that involve the ingestion of a psychedelic drug. Investigation into the therapeutic benefit of psychedelic substances, including LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin, was a popular area of research in the 1950s and ‘60s, before the drugs became used widely and dangerously outside clinical settings and made illegal. Since the early 1990s, a new generation of scientists has revived the research. Clinical trials have shown that ingesting a psychedelic in a carefully proscribed and monitored setting can induce an experience that is medically safe and that provokes profound, durable psychological and behavioral change. Psychedelic-assisted therapy has shown promise as a treatment for alcohol dependence, nicotine dependence, anxiety related to a terminal illness, and chronic PTSD, and research is underway to examine its efficacy in relation to obsessive-compulsive disorder, treatment-resistant depression, and social anxiety related to autism, among other potential applications.
What Is Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy?
Psychedelics for Serious Illness
While there is hopeful interest in the use of psychedelics for people suffering various conditions, there are researchers sounding concerns. Psychedelics are powerful, period. The user is known to experience mind-expansion, often with spiritual overtones. Some researchers have found that psychedelics like psilocybin may even change one’s personality. In this case, individuals reported increased openness to experience, one of the Big Five personality traits; and researchers are not sure such foundational changes are so welcome. While the use of these drugs may be useful for seriously ill people, do the benefits outweigh the risks for those who suffer less acutely from illness?