Self Help Through Psychedelic Experiences

Many people are reading and hearing about the therapeutic use of psychedelic medicines like MDMA and psilocybin. Michael Pollan’s book on the subject has ignited an interest ..along with numerous podcasts and films celebrating the use of psychedelics to help with emotional problems. I visited a meetup group and took note of the number of people attending who had used these drugs to help themselves. I would like to add several notes of caution here. The research results that are cited are a result of careful screening; preparation for the experience; controlled conditions in a medical setting;  the use of pure substances;  known dosage; the presence of two therapists whose primary concern over the course of 6-8 hours is the well-being of the research subject; and the use of an integration process to discuss and work through any difficulties that emerged.  Very few people will be able to replicate this situation with all of the safeguards provided in a research setting. The presence of these therapeutic factors is a partial contributor to the good outcomes discussed in the media.

I strongly encourage those who are interested in using psychedelic drugs for self help to try to reproduce the research factors listed above.. Please note the age ranges in the actual studies. Too many young adults are experimenting and having negative outcomes. The brain does not complete its development until about age 25..brain maturation is potent factor in how a person responds to events. Being able to hold and understand conflicting sides of the same issue is a sign of maturity as is controlling impulses and considering the long term effects of what you are about to do. The difficult cases I have seen in my office related to the unfortunate use of psychedelics have convinced me that doing these in the teen years and early 20’s is risky. Doing these alone is also  risky. And not knowing the source of the drug and not having tested the drug is an additional risk factor. If you are currently experiencing mental health challenges, these drugs can intensify the experience of your current crisis. High levels of anxiety are especially difficult to manage even when you are not in an altered state.

What can help you? I encourage you to gently walk into the experiences of altered states of consciousness…perhaps take a workshop using breathwork to facilitate a gentle immersion into alternative views of your world. You can control how far you go by changing your breathing patterns if the experience becomes difficult. Breathwork workshops have experienced facilitators who can assist you. Alternate states can also be accessed through meditation, centering prayer, drumming, hypnosis, ecstatic dancing, vision quests, flotation tanks and other methods. Begin there and gently immerse yourself as you develop skills to support yourself into and out of differing versions of yourself.

Please note that I am not able to accept new clients who have had difficult psychedelic experiences and my office doesn’t provide psychedelic therapy as it is not legal. If you have had a difficult experience while using psychedelics there is now a trained peer support service accessible to the public, either during the experience or after the experience.

Call the Fireside Project during their support hours at 623-473-7433 or go to their website… to find out more about the services they are currently offering.