Psychedelics as Therapy

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

We had a piece last week from Sam Wong about therapists who want to revive the use of psychotropic drugs—LSD, psilocybin, MDMA—for the treatment of mental-health issues. The piece resonated with a lot of readers:

Psychedelics really need to be reclassified in the U.S. It’s preposterous that completely non-addictive (even anti-addictive, if several studies are to be considered), demonstrably safe molecules, some with thousands of years of human use and almost no directly attributable deaths, should be classified as Schedule 1 drugs. Especially something like psilocybin or LSD, both of which have been shown in numerous studies to have a number of medical and psychiatric benefits with very little risk to most people.

The bottom line is that no one should spend even an hour in prison or a dime in penalty for making a personal choice to use a substance to alter their own consciousness. No other person—certainly no government—can claim any right to tell you what you can do with it. If anything at all can be called yours, it’s your consciousness.

This reader has a vested interest:

I had clinically diagnosed PTSD—woke up sweating and screaming several nights a week for years. One guided session with LSD and I was cured. No further symptoms, and it’s been years.

These drugs are called criminal. The real criminal activity is depriving millions of vets, rape victims, and others in desperate need of the opportunity for healing.

Also, there is fascinating evidence that low-dose LSD can tremendously enhance creativity. It’s increasingly popular in Silicon Valley.

It’s called microdosing, and Andrew Leonard wrote a piece about it for Rolling Stone:

A microdose is about a tenth of the normal dose – around 10 micrograms of LSD, or 0.2-0.5 grams of mushrooms. The dose is subperceptual – enough, says Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, “to feel a little bit of energy lift, a little bit of insight, but not so much that you are tripping.”

Doblin is featured in the above video, discussing several myths surrounding psychedelics. One more reader addresses a drug that was only briefly mentioned in Wong’s piece:

Tak a look at ibogaine (derived from the iboga plant). Forty years of studies show it to be effective at curing various addictions including alcoholism and heroin in a single session, about 50 percent of the time.

Ibogaine is definitely psychoactive. However, to my knowledge no one has ever called it addictive. Actually, few want to repeat the day-long journey, which includes massive, intense introspection.

Go here for a great article from The Village Voice, a clip from a BBC documentary, and a personal account all centered on ibogaine and its remarkable ability to get people off heroin. Ever had a therapy session on psychedelic drugs? Drop us an email.