Psychedelic Drugs: Do You Need A Prescription For Medical Use?
Psychedelic drugs are among the most promising new treatments of intractable mental health conditions: depression, end-of-life anxiety, addiction. They have also proven effective as therapeutic aids for milder mental health problems and even as tools for healthy people wishing to gain further insight into their own psyches.
Unfortunately, in the West, most of these drugs remain illegal. The United States has particularly stringent regulations on psychedelic drugs, with most being classified as Schedule I. While inconsistently enforced, penalties for sale and possession are high.
Psychedelic therapy thus remains out of reach for most. The one legal exception in the U.S. is ketamine. Some of the best ketamine therapy clinics are now in major urban areas, and may provide effective therapy for depression and other mental health issues. Responsible clinics require a formal diagnosis of the condition, and will prescribe a dosage off-label.
Those who wish to legally avail themselves of other psychedelic therapies involving magic mushrooms, LSD, MDMA, or ayahuasca will find themselves limited to government-approved research trials in most Western countries. (Search for psychedelic trials on ClinicalTrials.gov).
Interested Users Do Have Choices
Successful trials have facilitated greater acceptance of these therapies. For example, four end-of-life patients gained access to psilocybin in Canada in 2020, along with 16 therapists. Still, they remain unavailable to most who are concerned about the legality of these drugs.
There are other options to be sure.
- Several American “churches” have used religious freedom laws to ensure that their members can consume ayahuasca legally.
- Underground ayahuasca retreats and psilocybin sessions have proliferated in the United States.
- A number of South American countries offer legal ayahuasca retreats.
- The Netherlands allows for the use of “truffle” — the mycelium or “root” from which psilocybin mushrooms grow.
- Mexico has established a number of ibogaine treatment centers. Check out Healing Maps’ list of some of Ketamine Clinics, Ibogaine Treatment Centers, and Ayahuasca Retreats.
Nonetheless, those looking to use these substances for therapeutic purposes must educate themselves about the side effects of medical psychedelics. Also, it’s important to know how these drugs may impact conditions in the absence of clinical observation. Many have reported positive effects, but there are a number of factors to keep in mind when venturing outside the boundaries of clinical medicine.
A Safe Setting
Regardless of your mental state, do some serious research before pursuing a psychedelic experience. This is particularly important if you are planning on using this experience to address a mental health condition.
Experts advise going to psychedelic seminars or meetups in your area. This will allow you to talk to people who are knowledgeable about the available arrangements. They can provide informed recommendations for underground sessions conducted by responsible guides in your city or direct you to reputable centers out of the country.
If possible, select a retreat run by medical professionals. They will be able to address any health concerns that arise during the experience. While most psychedelics are safe, people with cardiac conditions and other health problems may encounter problems such as elevated heart rate and body temperature.
Centers that feature trained shamans or guides are a reasonably safe alternative. These people have spent years facilitating psychedelic experiences. They also understand the powerful and sometimes disturbing sensory phenomena that may occur.
The most established and reliable networks in the West deal with ayahuasca, though underground groups also work with psilocybin mushrooms.
How To Take Control
Additionally, microdosing psychedelics may be another option. Consuming psychedelics in doses below those required to induce a psychedelic experience has proven effective in addressing some conditions. Still, these formulations available on the black market come without reliable quality controls.
Pursuing street drugs on your own is generally inadvisable. Substances such as MDMA are often adulterated with dangerous compounds. Even magic mushrooms bought from unknown sources may have LSD in them to amplify effects. Underground networks that take psychedelic drugs seriously can direct you to reliable sources, though even those should be treated with skepticism.
If traveling overseas, ensuring that your clinic is reliable and has good reviews is essential. A number of people who have attended psychedelic retreats in South America have encountered physical and sexual violence. Other clinics offer sub-par decoctions of the plants used in the preparation of ayahuasca and offer little in the way of guidance.
Integration Of Psychedelic Drugs
Anecdotal reports testify to the profound effects psychedelic drugs can have on mental illness. Patients suffering from PTSD, depression, addiction, and other conditions claim miraculous remission of their symptoms after attending underground or overseas retreats. Clinical trials that have used psychedelics to treat these conditions verify some of their claims. Ketamine therapy for PTSD has shown promise, for example, but more research is necessary.
Patients seeking psychedelic treatment without medical supervision will need to take into account a number of other concerns. Clinical trials typically involve an element of psychotherapy that assists patients in processing their thoughts and feelings in the wake of a psychedelic trip. And well-run ayahuasca retreat uses either Western psychotherapy or shamanic ritual practice to help attendees work through the experience. The absence of these factors can significantly impact the outcome of these gonzo therapy sessions. Without structure, psychedelic experiences can be destabilizing and counterproductive.
Those who take psychedelic drugs in less-formal settings may benefit from legal counseling before and after their trips.
An increasing number of therapists offer pre- and post-experience counseling that assists patients in integrating psychedelic experiences into their lives. (The Center for Optimal Living offers resources for those looking to try psychedelic therapy. Institutes devoted to the study of psychedelic therapy may be able to connect you with appropriate therapists.)
By processing the strangeness of the psychedelic experience through an objective, clinical lens, patients can effectively leverage their altered mental state into sustainable change. This approach appears to be fully legal because the psychiatrists who provide these services do not actively provide drugs to their patients.
Warnings Of Psychedelic Drugs
Although more studies are needed, not all mental health issues mix well with psychedelics. It’s important to avoid treatment if the following is present.
- Avoid psychedelics if you have had psychotic breaks, symptoms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or other similar psychiatric conditions.
- If you have heart problems, approach psychedelic use with extreme caution. These drugs can cause increases in heart rate.
- Do your research. Find centers and therapists endorsed by major advocacy organizations such as MAPS.
- Make sure that you find experiences that include an element of integration. Or ensure that you have external therapy sessions before and after taking psychedelics. While recreational users may be able to process unstructured psychedelic trips, those who wish to extract a therapeutic element will benefit immensely from counseling.
Psychedelic Therapy Clinic Spotlight:
Ketamine Wellness Centers – Phoenix, AZ
Cope Psychiatry – Houston, TX
Ketamine Infusion Centers – Bakersfield, California
Acute Pain Therapies – Bellevue, Washington
Advanced Psychiatric Solutions – Oak Brook, Illinois
Albany Ketamine Infusions – Albany, New York
Ketamine Health Centers – Weston, Florida
Manlove Brain and Body Health – Rapid City, South Dakota
Thrive Wellness – Brentwood, Tennessee