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Psychedelic therapy (sometimes referred to as psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, or PAP) is a type of psychiatric practice that involves ingesting a psychedelic substance as part of a psychotherapeutic process.

In psychedelic therapy, the use of psychedelics is typically combined with talk therapy. A range of consciousness-altering psychedelic drugs are currently being used or researched for therapeutic purposes in both clinical and nonclinical settings. Some are derived from plants, like psilocybin (magic mushrooms), DMT, peyote, ayahuasca, and ibogaine. Others — including ketamine, MDMA, and LSD — are chemical compounds.

While Indigenous communities have used psychedelics in therapeutic and religious settings for centuries, psychedelic therapy is relatively new in Western clinical settings.

It’s becoming more popular with increased legalization of certain psychedelic substances, a rise in mental health conditions, and a lull in psychopharmacological research.

What it's used for

Between the 1950s and 1970s — before former United States President, Richard Nixon prohibited them with the introduction of the Controlled Substances Act, and many countries following suite — scientists produced substantial evidence-based results verifying and pointing toward the therapeutic potential of psychedelic therapy to treat disorders such as addiction, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In recent years, renewed interest and investment have fueled a renaissance in psychedelics research, much of which is ongoing.

Effectiveness

Psychedelic therapy shows a great deal of promise in the treatment of a wide variety of mental health conditions including addiction and depression. While further research is needed, current trials are underway to better determine the applications and effectiveness of using different psychedelic drugs to treat specific conditions.

Dangers of Self-Treatment

Another potential concern is the possibility of people using psychedelic substances to self-treat. Self-treatment can pose a number of risks including the psychological dangers of experiencing a bad trip, the possibility of drug interactions, and the fact that many street drugs are mixed with unknown and potentially harmful substances.

The effects that a person experiences with psychedelic substances can be unpredictable and can vary depending on the amount of the substance that is used as well as the individual’s personality, mood, and surroundings.

Never try to self-treat with psychedelics. In clinical settings, people are given a specified, pure dose, are supervised during the psychedelic experience, and receive professional help from a therapist to integrate the experience.