Can Psychedelics Help Heal Childhood Trauma?

A recent study has investigated how the therapeutic use of psychedelics may reduce symptoms of trauma from childhood abuse.

Evan Lewis-Healey
3 min readOct 25, 2021


Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash

Psychedelics are leading a paradigm shift in the fight against poor mental health. To add to the long list of disorders that these powerful compounds have the potential to treat, a recent study has shown that psychedelics may alleviate symptoms of childhood trauma and shame spurred by abuse and neglect.

Childhood abuse and neglect is extremely common worldwide, leading to a battery of psychological issues in later life. Common treatments of the consequences of childhood abuse, such as antidepressants, are, however, unlikely to address the trauma itself. The research at hand may represent how psychedelics can fill the gap, and address the root causes of childhood abuse.

How Psychedelics Can Treat Trauma

The article, published in Chronic Stress, surveyed 166 participants who had suffered from child maltreatment. The participants were asked to detail the extent of the abuse they had suffered as a child, and to document their current symptoms of trauma. Many of the participants had serious symptoms of trauma, with 61% meeting the criteria for PTSD.

Participants were also asked, “Have you ever used a psychedelic/entheogenic/hallucinogenic substance…with the intention of healing or processing childhood trauma?” Out of the 166 participants, around a third of them had used psychedelics in a therapeutic context in an effort to heal childhood trauma.

The researchers found that there were significantly lower levels of complex trauma symptoms and feelings of internalized shame in the participants that had used psychedelics therapeutically. That is, participants that had used LSD, psilocybin, or MDMA to self-medicate were less likely to experience severe symptoms of PTSD like feelings of deep shame and guilt, or suicidal thoughts.

Remarkably, and importantly, this was found despite the two different groups (psychedelic users and non-psychedelic users) undergoing similar levels of childhood abuse and neglect.

Treatment at the Root



Evan Lewis-Healey

PhD student at Cambridge University. Studying the cognitive neuroscience of altered states of consciousness | Writer for Psychedelic Spotlight

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