Before the sixties when "abuse" of psychedelics had become widespread, substances like LSD and psilocybin were the subjects of much scientific research. Lysergic acid diethylamide, among others, appeared to hold infinite possibilities for exploration of the mind on many levels. It was investigated by the government for its use as a "truth-serum." It also attracted the interest of psychiatrists. Since then, there have been numerous studies showing that psychedelics and entactogens are useful tools in the treatment of some psychological disorders.

For the scope of this paper, the term psychedelic will be used to describe any substance that is capable of creating an experience involving "ego dissolution." Psychedelics allow a person to see and judge himself as another person would see him. Chemicals that fit into this category include LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, ketamine, and MDA among others. The term psychedelic is not synonymous with hallucinogen. An entactogen is a substance that incites a sense of "connectedness" with one's surroundings. It is used interchangeably with the term empathogen. The term literally means, "to touch within." Entactogens ease the process of opening up and sharing one's emotions or troubling memories. The most notable member of this category is MDMA. It is possible for a substance to be both psychedelic and entactogenic.

Lysergic acid diethylamide was appealing to psychotherapists because of the range of effects it had on people: causing panic, fear, confusion, delusions, ego dissolution, or euphoria. It had the ability to separate a person from his own self, allowing him to analyze his life and his character without bias. This experience had the potential to catalyze a change in his value system, ultimately affecting his behavior. Studies were conducted with many different types of patients: schizophrenics, obsessive-compulsive, alcoholic, post-traumatic, depression, etc. The drug was used with varying success in many of these, however much of the data is inconclusive.

Originally published in 1959, The Handbook for the Therapeutic Use of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-25 , provided a model for effective use of LSD-25 in psychotherapy sessions. The book goes into great detail on how to conduct an effective therapy session, focusing on sessions involving high doses of LSD-25. Higher doses, the authors stated, bring about the maximum value of the experience, permitting an increased self-understanding and a reassessment of values. Of the two hundred or so sessions observed, 35% of the patients exhibited a permanent relief of symptoms following a single session (Blewett and Chwelos 73). A study using this method to treat alcoholism was conducted on 24 patients with generally severe prognosis. Twenty of which failed to remain dry after trying AA. Following treatment, around half showed improvement, and six of the patients never drank again (71).

In the Netherlands, the most well known psychiatrist to work with psychedelic drugs was Jan Bastiaans. He had developed a treatment method for victims of "KZ Syndrome," or Concentration Camp Syndrome, which was known as "Bastiaans' method." Bastiaans' method used psychedelics as a last resort to allow his clients to re-experience the traumatic event and bring about integration and recovery from the psychosis. LSD-25 was used primarily, and occasionally psilocybin or ketamine. LSD produces "emotionally laden hallucinations, affects ego functioning, and facilitates the recollection of past events and associated emotions" (Maalte and Ossebard). Based on the preliminary follow-up study, it is difficult to assess the overall effectiveness of Bastiaans' method. Ex-participants were difficult to contact, and it was impossible to tell how many clients were treated with psychedelics and of those, how many were partially or fully relieved of their symptoms. Nonetheless, of the small number of ex-participants that were contacted and interviewed, many reported that they had been cured or palliated. One ex-participant claimed, "I learned a lot about earlier experiences which I didn't know were stored in my head" (Maalte and Ossebard).

During the 1970s, when LSD, psilocybin, and other common psychedelics were banned in much of the world, scientific studies with these substances came to a near halt. The practice of psychedelic psychotherapy had moved underground. Sessions are conducted, for the most part, in groups, and are not advertised (Philipkoski). It is impossible to provide conclusive statistical information about the effectiveness of these sessions; however, numerous first-hand and second-hand accounts are available, many showing very positive results.

In 1997, a book was published documenting the practices of an underground psychotherapist known as "Jacob." It was called The Secret Chief, after the nickname given to Jacob by Terrence McKenna. Jacob utilized a variety of substances (both psychedelics and entactogens), including LSD, ibogaine, TMA, mescaline, MDMA, MDA, and harmaline (also called yagé). Each experience had its own unique flavor. First-time patients had a one on one session with Jacob using LSD-25. The purpose of the individual session is to familiarize the patient with the psychedelic experience and to assess their ability to handle such an experience. The group sessions allow people to "try new things, and to connect with a lot of individuals" (Stolaroff). These sessions usually consisted of ten to twelve participants and took place on Friday evenings. Jacob reported good results with his patients.

One example documented in The Secret Chief, is the case of a 34 year old graphic artist named Susan. She sought psychedelic therapy for a morale boost as well as to further her personal growth. Susan reported that it is best to "confront your crap rather than laying around in paradise." She found the experiences to be quite beneficial in a number of ways. Susan found that the best experiences were those where she had to confront her fear. She had learned that "love is not `out there' to be found, but comes from within yourself." She has also found herself to less defensive and judgmental, and has learned to "mind her own business." In other words, her experiences with psychedelics have had a positive effect on her life.

In the last decade, research into psychedelics and entactogens has picked up pace. This is largely attributed to the formation of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), who provide funding and other forms of support for studies involving psychedelics, entactogens, and marijuana, and publish the results. Most of the recently completed studies on the therapeutic value of psychedelics and entactogens are followup studies, critically analyzing results from experiments as far back as the sixties. Up until very recently there haven't been any new experiments using a controlled substance in humans. On July 2, 2002, Dr. Francisco Moreno received final approval from the DEA to study the effects of psilocybin, a seratonergic hallucinogen, on patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). No results have been published yet. There is also a study under development on the effectiveness of MDMA in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (MAPS).

In Russia, ketamine was evaluated for its usefulness in treating heroine addiction. Ketamine is used as a general anesthetic, but is psychedelic at lower doses. A double-blind study was conducted using psychedelic (for the experimental group) and sub-psychedelic (for the control group) doses of ketamine in combination with regular psychotherapy on a group of seventy addicts. In a six-month followup study, it was found that 50% of the patients in the experimental group and 60% of patients in the control group relapsed during the first three months. However, the rate of abstinence in the first six months of the experimental group was twice that of the control group (Burakov et al.). Further studies would determine whether repeated sessions would further reduce the rate of relapse.

In Switzerland, permission was granted by the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health to a select few psychiatrists for using LSD and MDMA in psychotherapy. This lasted until 1993 when their permission was revoked (Gasser). A followup study was conducted a year later by Peter Gasser, M.D. The study consisted of a questionnaire sent to 171 patients who had undergone at least one psycholytic therapy session. Of those, 135 responded. Two thirds (66.7%) had sought psycholytic therapy for social problems, another 66.7% for psychological symptoms, and 57% for self-exploration. Thirty-eight percent of the patients were diagnosed with a personality disorder, 24.8% with an affective disorder, and 6.6% with eating disorders. Nearly half (46.3%) reported a good improvement in their symptoms, another 38.8% reported a slight improvement, 5.8% reported no improvement, and 4.2% reported slight deterioration (Gasser). It is also important to note that no patients noticed an increase in use of drugs following therapy. Many reported a decrease. All in all, the psycholytic therapy sessions with LSD and MDMA proved to be very beneficial.

Psychedelics and entactogens, when used in a controlled setting, are useful tools for treating psychological disorders. They can help a patient re-experience a traumatic event in his life and learn to cope with it, allow him to examine elements of his character and personality which he would like to change, and have shown in some cases to improve symptoms of psychological diseases such as obsessive compulsive disorder and chemical dependency. Results from the studies mentioned prove that psychedelic and psycholytic therapy are as or more effective than psychotherapy without them for treating certain disorders. However, there is much room for further exploration into the use of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes.

Works Cited

Blewett, Duncan Ph.D. and Chwelos M.D. Handbook for the Use of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-25: Individual and Group Procedures. MAPS/Erowid. 2002. 28 October 2002 <>.

Burakov, et al. "Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KPT) in Heroine Addiction: Immediate Effects and Six Month Followup." MAPS Bulletin 9.4 (1999): 30 pars. 3 November 2002. <>.

Gasser, Peter M.D. "Psycholytic Psychotherapy with MDMA and LSD in Switzerland." MAPS Bulletin 5.3 (1994): 40 pars. 2 November 2002 <>.

Maalste, Nicole, and Hans Ossebard. "The Baastians Method of Drug Assisted Therapy." MAPS Bulletin 9.2 (1999): 23 pars. 3 November 2002 <>.

MAPS Research. 2002. 28 October 2002 <>.

Philipkoski, Kristen. "Lucy in the Sky with Therapists." Wired Magazine. 9 November 2000. 2 November 2002 <,1282,39796,00.html>.

Stolaroff, Myron. The Secret Chief. MAPS. 1997. 3 November <>.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.