What Are Psychedelics And What Are Their Health Benefits?


Psychedelics, also referred to as hallucinogens, are a group of psychoactive compounds that induce alterations in perception, mood, and cognitive functions.


These substances impact all the senses, leading to changes in thinking, time perception, and emotions. Additionally, they have the potential to induce hallucinations, wherein a person may perceive things that are not present or are distorted.





What are psychedelics?


Psychedelic drugs belong to a category of substances that modify or amplify sensory perceptions, cognitive functions, and energy levels. These substances are alternatively referred to as hallucinogenic drugs or simply hallucinogens.

While some psychedelics are currently under investigation for their therapeutic potential, this research is still in its preliminary stages, and these substances are not legally accessible outside of controlled experimental environments.


In June 2023, the FDA issued draft guidance aimed at assisting researchers in designing secure studies that can provide meaningful results to support future investigations and potential applications for psychedelics.


How are psychedelics used?


Psychedelics are gradually resurfacing in the fields of psychology and psychiatry as a potential treatment option for conditions like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and others. Nevertheless, controlled therapeutic approaches involving these substances are still in experimental stages and remain inaccessible to many individuals.


There are many different kinds of psychedelics. Some occur naturally, in trees, vines, seeds, fungi and leaves. Others are made in laboratories.  They come in many forms including tablets, blotter paper, dried mushrooms, powders and crystalline powders.


LSD, magic mushrooms, Mescaline, and DMT are commonly ingested by swallowing, smoking, or inhaling. Magic mushrooms are typically consumed fresh, cooked, or brewed into a tea.


Occasionally, these substances may be combined with tobacco or cannabis and smoked. Mescaline is generally ingested orally. Peyote buttons can be ground into a powder and smoked with cannabis or tobacco, or they can be chewed or soaked in water to create a liquid preparation.


what are Psychedelics?
The ADF interactive Drug Wheel source: Alcohol and Drug Foundation



Why do people turn to psychedelics for health benefits?


People turn to psychedelics for health benefits primarily because of the reported therapeutic effects they can offer. Research and anecdotal evidence suggest that certain psychedelic substances, such as psilocybin (found in “magic mushrooms”) and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), may have potential therapeutic applications for mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction, and end-of-life distress in terminally ill patients.


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Some of the reasons why people explore psychedelics for health benefits include:


Mindfulness and insight: Psychedelics can induce altered states of consciousness that may lead to increased mindfulness and insights into one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This heightened self-awareness can facilitate personal growth and emotional healing.


Neuroplasticity: Psychedelics have been shown to increase neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize and form new neural connections. This could potentially aid in breaking maladaptive thought patterns and forming healthier ones.


Mystical or spiritual experiences: Some individuals use psychedelics to have profound spiritual or mystical experiences, which they believe can bring about a sense of interconnectedness, purpose, and transcendence.


Enhanced psychotherapy: Psychedelics have been studied in combination with psychotherapy, and it’s believed that the altered state of consciousness they induce may help therapists and patients delve deeper into unresolved issues.


Breaking addiction cycles: There is some evidence to suggest that psychedelics may help individuals break free from addictive behaviors by promoting introspection and reevaluating their relationship with substances.


What are some risks of using psychedelics? 


However, it is essential to recognize that the use of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes is a complex topic. These substances are not a panacea, and not everyone may benefit from them. Moreover, their use comes with risks and potential adverse effects.

LSD, peyote, and DMT can produce short-term effects that may include elevated heart rate. Furthermore, LSD and peyote might lead to increased body temperature. Additionally, LSD can result in dizziness, drowsiness, heightened blood pressure, reduced appetite, dry mouth, sweating, numbness, weakness, tremors, and impulsive behavior.

It’s crucial to emphasize that the therapeutic use of psychedelics should only occur under the guidance of trained professionals in controlled settings. Self-medication or recreational use of these substances can be dangerous and is strongly discouraged. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider before considering any form of psychedelic therapy.

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