Does Psychedelic Therapy Work For The Experienced Psychedelic User?

Does Psychedelic Therapy Work For The Experienced Psychedelic User?

Psychedelic therapy can be incredibly fruitful, even if you’re a psychedelic veteran. Some clinical trials on psychedelic therapy exclude participants with lifetime use of psychedelics, but not all do. Some only exclude those with substantial lifetime use. Others don’t allow those with recent use of psychedelics to join at all.

However, these decisions are based more on study design rather than who is suited for psychedelic therapy at the moment and in the future. Experienced users can certainly undergo this form of treatment.

Psychedelic therapy offered for both novice and experienced users doesn’t mean that it will work equally for everyone. Past or current use of psychedelics may impact the therapeutic outcome. This article will explain how psychedelic therapy can differ for the experienced psychedelic user.

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Past Use Of Psychedelics Can Affect Outcomes

There is a reason why researchers exclude people with recent use of psychedelics from participating in their trials. This is because this use could affect the clinical outcomes of the study. Here are some scenarios that might hinder psychedelic therapy:

  1. Let’s say you are suffering from a mental health condition. This could be depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or a substance use disorder. And, you’ve also had a recent, powerful session with a psychedelic. In this instance you may have already had a therapeutic experience. However, you may still be struggling psychologically to integrate this experience. In this case, having another mystical experience may not be what you need to feel well. What you might need is psychological support to help you process your recent experience.
  2. Or, you may have had a recent psychedelic experience and this in itself triggered psychological distress. In this case, a further experience with a psychedelic may not help you recover.
  3. Psychedelic therapy also may not work because experienced users may already be in good psychological health. In several cases, lifetime use of psychedelics is associated with a lower rate of mental health problems. It is possible, then, that psychedelic therapy won’t work for a particular experienced user. Moreover, the therapy could work for an experienced user, but perhaps not in a substantial way.
  4. Lastly, an experienced user has had one or more mystical experiences with psychedelics. Though this seems to be key for therapeutic effects, psychedelic therapy could still fail. If it has not offered significant relief, then psychedelic therapy may not be what they need. Sometimes, other treatments are more relevant.

Why Psychedelic Therapy Still Works For The Experienced User

Psychedelic therapy can still be effective for the experienced user if the conditions are right. The quality of the psychedelic experience may predict its benefits. In this case, as long as an experienced user has a certain type of experience, they can benefit from it.

For instance, you may be experienced with psychedelics but you’ve not had a mystical experience. To reiterate, this seems to predict improvements in mental health. You might have used psychedelics many times and even had intense experiences. Some therapeutic effects may be lost if you never had a mystical experience.

You will be encouraged to explore your inner world after receiving psychedelic treatment. This can be done by wearing eyeshades and listening to music, without interruptions from others. Recreational use, however, might involve different doses, social environments, and focusing on your external environment. Unlike these contexts, a psychedelic therapy session is more conducive to a mystical experience.

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Psychedelic Therapy Includes Professional Support

Furthermore, psychedelic therapy features psychological support from therapists before, during, and after the session. Most experienced users of psychedelics don’t enjoy this kind of support, which can affect mental health outcomes. The supportive setting and psychotherapeutic component of psychedelic therapy seem to be critical aspects of it. Indeed, combining psilocybin with psychotherapy appears to be more effective than either intervention alone.

The psychological support involved in psychedelic therapy can benefit experienced users. This is based on the following factors:

  • Discussing intentions and what you wish to explore in the session before it takes place
  • Discussing your mental health issues and trauma before the session
  • Comfort and care during the session should you experience any negative emotions or feel overwhelmed
  • Integration after the session, helping you make sense of the experience and then apply it in a beneficial way to your life

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Experienced Users May Reap More Rewards From Psychedelic Therapy

Rather than limit the outcome, past use of psychedelics could actually prove beneficial. Experienced users are familiar with the territory they will be exploring during a psychedelic session. Given this new context, undoubtedly, the experience may be completely unique. Previous experiences with psychedelics can benefit you in the following ways:

  • Finding it easier to let go and surrender, rather than resist intense aspects of the psychedelic experience, such as ego dissolution
  • Experiencing less anxiety before and during the session since you are somewhat more prepared for the effects. This can result in a more positive experience
  • Being more comfortable dealing with negative aspects of the experience
  • Being able to connect the experience to previous experiences with psychedelics, which could lead to new insights

Psychedelic therapy can certainly work for the experienced user. However, it’s important to keep in mind how past use of psychedelics may affect psychedelic therapy.

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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.

Abid Nazeer

This post was medically approved by Abid Nazeer

Dr. Nazeer is the Founder and President of APS Ketamine/Advanced Psychiatric Solutions, which he established in 2016 as the first psychiatric outpatient ketamine clinic in Illinois. He is board certified in Psychiatry as well as Addiction Medicine. He completed his psychiatry residency at Louisiana State University Health Sciences in Shreveport where he held the role of Chief Resident. Dr. Nazeer is providing medical oversight to the growth plan of Wesana Clinics, with the model of comprehensive psychiatry clinics specialized ketamine and psychedelic therapies, integrated brain health and wellness centers, and technology utilization of Wesana Solutions remote patient monitoring product.

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