Psychedelics are not a panacea

Psychedelics are not a panacea

Published on:

June 18, 2023

Psychedelics and real context ...

Psychedelics are but one, albeit powerful tool, that change consciousness that can lead to personal growth. Psychedelics reliably move us from normal waking ordinary consciousness to a powerful non-ordinary state of consciousness which manifests potential to result in immediate antidepressant effects, reductions in negative thinking, increases in creativity and enhanced mental flexibility. Journeyers may be shown seemingly objectively true and compelling aspects of reality, often referred to as the noetic quality of a trip, that may help inform where growth is needed. Having access to these parts of the conscious and unconscious mind create opportunities to nurture new perspectives and skills that may play a role in helping us solve personal problems and be in better relationships with oneself and others. To have access to healthy relationships with yourself and others where people can be authentic, open and share their truth is a path to well-being and a door commonly opened by psychedelics. Opening this door can create chaos which which where to integration becomes important to help regain ones footing and stability. All of this therapeutic potential might be beneficial whether or not someone is suffering from a mental health condition.

With psychedelics therapeutic potential in mind, it is important to temper the hype and note that these outcomes are not guaranteed. Even though psychedelics may help some people, they are not for everyone and certainly not a panacea, that is a cure or 'fix' for life's problems. First, there are some people that should likely never use psychedelics due to certain medical and psychiatric conditions or vulnerabilities. Even though psychedelics are generally well tolerated, some people's body and mind may not be fit for this exploration. Secondly, if an individuals life is generally unstable or chaotic, perhaps it makes sense to wait and not introduce additional chaos that psychedelics can bring in. This point speaks to the importance of timing, that is, there are certain times in which our health and life circumstances may not be ideal for psychedelic use. Waiting for the weather to pass and more ideal conditions to emerge before setting off into new lands might be key, if one decides to take this journey at all.

Given the complexity one’s health, life and each person’s goals, it is not a stretch to suggest a single dose or multiple doses of a psychedelic in isolation will lead to some desired change, even with skillful integrative practices. We actually get glimpses of this in the clinical research looking at treatment-resistant depression or post-traumatic stress disorder - not everyone responds to the intervention, that is psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Like with many things in life, what works for one person doesn't work for another, there are few if any 'one-size fits all' approaches. Additionally, many people are in very difficult life circumstances that impart significant stress such as bereavement, unemployment, political oppression, disabling chronic disease or living with the scars of differing forms of abuse. No matter one’s resilience to a given stressor, it may not be possible to overcome it in its entirety, and so, why would we expect psychedelics to provide a some cure or quick fix for these problems of living?

Taking a psychedelics alone is often not enough to make desired change. If psychedelics are part of the path to better well-being, it's likely in combination with other practices taking place over extended periods of time where insights gained are engaged with through a process of experiential learning. Psychedelics can catalyze learning using the insights you capture from your experience. Now pair these insights with some form of reflection and active engagement such as journaling, art, connecting with community, psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, meditation or breath work. These activities are all ways to engage with new insights gained, a necessary ingredient to help you discover and pressure test how useful these insights are and to see what may actually help you live a more whole and authentic life.

Now beyond psychedelics, there are also many other ways people intentionally change consciousness for its therapeutic potential such as through holotropic breath work, hypnosis, meditation, dance, deep imagery, and exercise - all of these could be gates to better well-being. So assess you health, your current life stability, the risks and benefits of psychedelics, and consider what is a realistic expectation when deciding to set sail into the psychedelic winds of self-discovery.