Psilocybin Dispensaries Could Soon Be Coming: What Does That Mean For Psychedelic Therapy?

Psilocybin Dispensaries Could Soon Be Coming: What Does That Mean For Psychedelic Therapy?

Psilocybin dispensaries already exist in Canada, despite the compound still being illegal. These dispensaries sell microdoses of magic mushrooms online, and, while these operations aren’t legal, so far the authorities seem indifferent about them. Psilocybin dispensaries could soon become a reality in the United States as well, with these operations being completely legal.

However, given the different pace at which laws surrounding psilocybin are changing in Canada and the U.S., it seems that the former will have legal psilocybin dispensaries first. Already in Canada, certain patients with terminal cancer and depression are legally allowed to use magic mushrooms for therapeutic reasons.

But when psilocybin dispensaries start appearing, what will this mean for psilocybin therapy? If we see psychedelic therapy centers emerge first, followed by psilocybin dispensaries selling magic mushrooms for personal, non-medical use, will this affect psychedelic therapy in any way?

In this post, we highlight some scenarios in which psilocybin dispensaries could alter how people use psychedelics for therapeutic reasons. But also, being able to buy psilocybin products won’t necessarily mean that people will choose that over psychedelic therapy.

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Psilocybin Dispensaries Could Encourage Self-Medicating With Psychedelics

The first thing to note is that psychedelic therapy is likely to be expensive. It is estimated that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for instance, will cost around $15,000.

MDMA is not expensive to produce, of course. This price is due to the amount of time that therapists and medical staff dedicate to an individual patient. Psychedelic therapy, whether it involves MDMA for PTSD or psilocybin for depression, includes many therapeutic sessions.

There will be a few preparatory sessions with a therapist, without the drug. Then there will usually be at least two guided sessions with the compound, with two therapists present. And after this, a patient will have follow-up, non-drug sessions with a therapist. This is to help the patient integrate their experience and use it to the best of their advantage.

If psilocybin or MDMA therapy will be this expensive, then many patients may simply be unable to afford it. It may also lead to some having reservations for spending that much money on unproven treatment.

But if psilocybin dispensaries existed, some people struggling with PTSD or depression might be tempted to treat their condition themselves. The high cost of psychedelic therapy could motivate this decision.

There are many anecdotal reports of people who have self-medicated with psychedelics, with users reporting it to be more effective than the treatment offered by a medical professional. Self-medicating with psychedelics does pose greater risks than taking these substances in a therapeutic setting, however.

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Psilocybin Dispensaries Could Lead To A Rise In Underground Psychedelic Therapy

The cost of legal psychedelic therapy may cause some patients to seek out underground psychedelic therapy, which could be cheaper. For example, an underground guide (not a trained therapist) charges between $15 and $50 per hour for a session. The patient simply consumes a psychedelic.

Some psychedelics last longer than others, of course. So a psilocybin experience (lasting six hours) could cost a client $300. On the contrary, an LSD session (lasting 12 hours) might cost $1,800. This is certainly less than the estimated cost of legal psychedelic therapy.

In contrast, underground psychedelic therapists (who have professional training) charge between $400 and $2,000 per session. The cost will vary depending on the therapist’s level of experience, the substance, and the level of care. Again, this is considerably cheaper than the cost of legal psychedelic therapy. It is also less expensive than many psychedelic retreats.

If psilocybin dispensaries existed, someone could simply buy their magic mushrooms, then bring them to their underground psychedelic therapy session. (Underground guides and therapists do not generally supply psychedelics for the client).

RELATED: Mio’s Story: How Psilocybin Therapy For End-Of-Life Anxiety Helps To Treat The Whole Person

Psilocybin Dispensaries Would Lead To More Psychedelic Retreats

When psilocybin dispensaries start opening, it will then be possible to have legal, psychedelic retreats. The most popular places for magic mushroom retreats are, unsurprisingly, in countries where the mushrooms are legal. These are countries such as Jamaica and Holland. Many people join psychedelic retreats like these to deal with various mental health issues, addictions, and other personal problems. Some simply take part simply for exploratory and spiritual reasons.

The cost of a 4-day psilocybin retreat in Holland, for example, starts from €1,650 (about $2,000). This is the price of a full psychedelic therapy session with an underground therapist. However, as earlier mentioned, an underground psychedelic therapy session with a guide or trained therapist can vary quite a lot. The benefit of paying for this four-day psilocybin retreat over one session with an underground guide or therapist is that other beneficial experiences are included, such as preparation and integration.

Also, you might prefer to have a psychedelic session in a group setting and in nature. For many people, this kind of environment can promote a different experience yet still one that is therapeutic. Synthesis, which offers psychedelic retreats in Amsterdam, now features Dr. Rosalind Watts on its Advisory Board. Watts is the Lead Clinical Psychologist at Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research. She is now helping Synthesis to optimize its retreats so that they can better help people with depression.

When psilocybin dispensaries open, it is possible for people to choose psychedelic retreats over legal psychedelic therapy to gain therapeutic benefits.

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Why People Will Still Seek Out Psychedelic Therapy

Having the option to buy magic mushrooms for a fraction of the cost of psychedelic therapy doesn’t mean people will automatically prefer the former. If new to psychedelics and struggling with a mental health condition, one may be wary about having a bad trip. By opting for psychedelic therapy, you might therefore enjoy greater peace of mind.

In addition, one might prefer to have private sessions with therapists who have developed relationships, rather than at a retreat with strangers. While many people enjoy the experience of tripping in a group setting, there is always the possibility that other people could become a source of distraction. This could prevent a person from really going inward.

Moreover, some people will seek out psychedelic therapy involving psychedelics other than psilocybin. Ketamine treatment centers and ibogaine clinics can target conditions different from the ones targeted by psilocybin. Psilocybin can treat a variety of conditions, but it is particularly effective in the treatment of depression. While ketamine and ibogaine can also treat depression, people also seek out ketamine therapy for PTSD and ibogaine therapy for addiction. If someone is struggling with PTSD or addiction, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will want to take legal psilocybin from a dispensary.

It will still be some time before psilocybin dispensaries become commonplace. But when they open alongside psychedelic therapy clinics, this will present more opportunities for people to use these compounds. After all, some people will want to have a psychedelic experience in a controlled and structured way. Others, meanwhile, will prefer to buy magic mushrooms and then take them how they best see fit.

RELATED: Opinion: Current Psychedelic Therapies Use Flawed Models of the Mind – It’s Time for Relational Therapy

Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe

View all posts by Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer based in London. His main areas of interest include mental health, mystical experiences, the history of psychedelics, and the philosophy of psychedelics. He first became fascinated by psychedelics after reading Aldous Huxley's description of the mescaline experience in The Doors of Perception. Since then, he has researched and written about psychedelics for various publications, covering the legality of psychedelics, drug policy reform, and psychedelic science.

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