What Is Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

The three stages of the therapy are much more thorough than simply taking a high dose of psychedelics.

Evan Lewis-Healey

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

To treat their patients, a number of therapists are turning to psychedelics. But what is psychedelic-assisted therapy and how does it work?

Therapists do not simply hand over a bowl of psilocybin mushrooms to their patients and wait for them to work their magic. To say that it is ‘just’ the drugs that are having an effect is a misconception.

Rather, therapists employ psychedelic-assisted therapy, a multifaceted therapeutic tool, comprising three main stages that work synergistically to deliver a powerful way to change the mind.

What is Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy? A Brief History

Psychedelic-assisted therapy entails using a high dose of a psychedelic substance to treat a mental health issue. In the Western world, psychedelic-assisted therapy made an indelible imprint in the field of psychiatry in the ’50s and ’60s. The discovery of LSD by Albert Hoffman in 1938 propelled psychedelic substances to become readily accessible in the West.

The profound effects of LSD quickly became apparent, and the synthesis of the substance was relatively easy. So, in 1949, Sandoz Laboratories (the company that Hoffman was working for at the time) marketed LSD as Delysid to Universities and institutions, to test it out for potential clinical applications.

What ensued was a flurry of research into the effects of psychedelics; from 1950 to 1965, some 40,000 patients were treated with LSD, with overwhelmingly positive results. Despite these groundbreaking results, psychedelics gained a notorious reputation as the instigator of anti-government sentiment. This led to the infamous convention on psychotropic substances in 1971, ultimately ending in a blanket ban on psychoactive drugs.

From 1971, the rapid pace of psychedelic research quickly ground to a halt. This stagnant period lasted for several decades, despite the groundbreaking nature of much of the findings from the first wave of psychedelic research. It was undeniable that psychedelics could…

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Evan Lewis-Healey

PhD candidate at Cambridge University. Studying the cognitive neuroscience of altered states of consciousness.