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Psychedelics and Therapy

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An August 19 article in The Guardian, written by psychotherapist Andrew Feldmár, talks about the benefits of using hallucinogenic drugs alongside conventional treatment:

After three LSD sessions, a patient emerged from what was labelled chronic psychotic depression (she had attempted suicide three times, had been hospitalised, and given several courses of ECT, major antipsychotics and antidepressants), and was able to hold a job, derive pleasure from her days, and look forward to cultivating a varied garden of delights. She moved from cursing me for not letting her die to blessing me for the surprising freedom that opened up for her as a result of her LSD experiences. Psychotherapy, without LSD, would not have been enough, I’m afraid.

I’ve been curious about such methods ever since reading Aldous Huxley‘s book, The Doors of Perception. (Not curious enough to try the stuff, though.) I’m wondering what it is, exactly, that helps the mentally ill get better so much faster with such drugs than without them. If we could determine that, we could determine how to duplicate the results more safely and consistently… perhaps even without the drugs.

Go read Psychedelic Drugs Could Heal Thousands.

(Thanks, BoingBoing, for the pointer.)

Written by Michael DeBusk

August 21st, 2008 at 6:37 pm

Posted in Neuro,Psych

4 Responses to 'Psychedelics and Therapy'

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  1. Hey Michael,

    Have you looked at Ken Wilber’s four quadrant model? I’m sure you’ll find useful leads to answer your question in his work.

    Terrence McKenna also offers some interesting pointers as to why pharmacologicals work to open perception.

    Castañeda also describes how the use hallucinogens loosens up crystallized “mental” structures.

    In short, software rides atop hardware. They go hand in hand. Same for mind and neurology. You play with one, you affect the other.

    When someone’s model of the world is so tight that they start believing that corpses do bleed (I’m sure you know what I’m talking about), the only way out of the self-referencing loop is to leverage a pharmacological substance that will stick a crow bar into perception, thus creating room for influence and consequently, change.



    16 Sep 08 at 07:47

  2. The neuro research on hallucinogens has shown that the drugs do not, in point of fact, open anything; they shut down judgment instead. One ends up suspending the ability to think rationally. So it may well be that such drugs regress people to infancy in that one aspect of the personality.

    I remember being a pre-verbal child and having a mental “conversation” with a stuffed toy. I felt a little surprised when it “talked back” and tried to get it to talk to one of the adults in the room. It’s no surprise to me that an adult with the ability to converse can, while on acid, have serious conversations with animals or inanimate objects.

    Michael DeBusk

    18 Sep 08 at 00:00

  3. Hey Michael,

    Thanks for the mention in the blog.

    “have serious conversations with animals or inanimate objects.”


    In fact, that’s only the beginning. The most privileged ones get a chance to visit with Jesus, aliens, deceased spirits and a number of additional non-material entities.

    Glad you corrected me on the effect of hallucinogens. What could we use as a better metaphor? “Entice the watch dog of the mind away from the gate?”

    Your pointer on hallucinogens reminds me of the effect of a well-executed hypnotic induction: dislocating the watchdog to get straight access to the vault.

    Do you know of any research that discusses the biological seat of the rational, judgmental “module” of our toolkit?


    30 Sep 08 at 10:29

  4. I regret that it has been too many years since I saw the report. I believe it was on The Discovery Channel, though.

    I’m not so sure that “watchdog” is a fitting metaphor for the ability to think in a straight line. Good question, though. 🙂

    Michael DeBusk

    1 Oct 08 at 02:38

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