What Is Psychedelic Therapy for Addiction Treatment?

When people hear the term ‘psychedelic’, they don’t often associate it with major research institutions like the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (the VA) and Johns Hopkins University. However, both are currently studying and using therapeutic psychedelics or psilocybin treatment in clinical trials and seeing promising results.


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Most people associate the term “psychedelic” with the 1960’s counter-culture, magic mushrooms, and illicit drug abuse, but psychedelic integration therapy for addiction treatment has proven to be highly effective in actually repairing damaged brain tissue, not just masking the problem with antidepressants or worse, addictive, habit-forming, prescription opioid medication. It turns out psychedelic drugs used therapeutically may provide a long-term solution for alcohol and drug addiction as well as substance abuse and use.

To be clear, psychedelic drugs like psilocybin (magic mushrooms), LSD, and MDMA are illegal Schedule I drugs that have a high potential for abuse and carry significant legal repercussions for possession.  You should not attempt to obtain or use these drugs on your own.  But for people struggling with mental health disorders, including a range of depressive disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychedelic treatment in the form of Ketamine therapy is legal when administered under medical supervision and can help people better manage their disorders. WhiteSands is one facility on the leading edge of this therapeutic approach offering Ketamine therapy in their host of recovery programs.

The History of Psychedelic Therapy

The 1950s were a time of prolific clinical research around psychedelic therapy, particularly the newly discovered drug, LSD.  Much of the early psychedelic research was focused on the treatment of alcoholism.  Researchers were seeing promising results and felt their preliminary findings warranted further research.  However, in the 1960s, when psychedelic drugs made their way into the mainstream they were increasingly viewed as drugs of abuse and were made illegal.

The 1990s ushered in a renewed interest in the therapeutic effects of psychedelics, particularly psilocybin (mushrooms), ketamine, and MDMA, on patients with depression and other mood disorders. Johns Hopkins researchers were the first in the United States to obtain regulatory approval to research psychedelic therapy. Since then, they’ve released numerous groundbreaking studies showing psychedelic therapy’s effectiveness in multiple conditions including:

  • Treating major depression
  • Helping longtime smokers quit
  • Helping people with alcohol use disorder reduce or abstain from alcohol
  • Easing existential anxiety in people with terminal cancer diagnoses

With a shift in psychiatric research, the advent of new and effective forms of therapy and treatment have emerged. The term ‘psychedelic’ means ‘mind manifesting’ and that is exactly what doctors conducting therapeutic research aimed to accomplish. Psychedelics appear to facilitate an elevated consciousness among participants, as well as bring about a high level of self-awareness; both effects have significant therapeutic possibilities. When individuals are exposed to nonordinary states of consciousness, it may open a part of their mind to health and healing in a way that more conventional forms of medication cannot.

What Psychedelic Drugs Are Used in Addiction Treatment? 

Currently, clinical trials are taking place for various psychedelic drugs. Some of these include:

  • Psilocybin (also known as magic mushrooms)
  • LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)
  • MDMA (methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine)
  • Ketamine

Outside of clinical trials, psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA are illegal Schedule I substances meaning they have a high potential for abuse and are not recognized as having any medical uses.

Ketamine, however, is a Schedule III non-narcotic drug, meaning it does have legitimate medical uses and is a legal psychedelic when administered by a medical professional.  WhiteSands is one of the leading-edge addiction treatment centers offering ketamine therapy for patients with treatment-resistant depression and substance use disorder. 

Is Psychedelic Therapy Effective? 

Psychedelic therapy is effective in treating treatment-resistant depression (TRD). When other forms of drug treatment have failed, ketamine therapy can be a solution that works. Ketamine therapy is not an ongoing medication but a series of treatments with lasting effects. Patients will undergo a series of therapeutic sessions for a set duration, ranging from a couple of weeks to one-month long.

The therapeutic effects of psychedelic drugs have anti-depressive effects. When individuals follow the program their therapist has outlined for them, psychedelic therapy is highly effective. Recent studies have discovered the efficacy of psychedelic-assisted treatment in those who struggle with underlying mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse. Individuals report improved mood and reduced anxiety without any report of adverse effects. 

Psychedelic Treatment for Depression

Therapeutic psychedelics and their holistic approach can greatly help those struggling with depressive disorders. Some of the disorders that WhiteSands rehab centers can help with include:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Depressive disorders
  • Major depression and major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Unipolar depression

Treatment plans are in-depth and the psychedelic substances used are prescribed and administered at highly-regulated doses in a monitored and controlled environment. Everybody’s psychedelic experiences are different because each individual struggles with something unique. 

Ketamine Psychedelic Therapy at WhiteSands 

Ketamine is not a traditional psychedelic drug, technically it is a dissociative anesthetic. It does induce hallucinogenic effects but it works differently than other psychedelics. How?

  • Traditional psychedelics temporarily but completely override certain aspects of the brain, Ketamine works on the same parts of the brain, but it simply relaxes them
  • Ketamine produces a significantly milder and gentler experience than traditional psychedelics
  • Traditional psychedelics induce powerful experiences that can be challenging, Ketamine therapy participants report a “lifted” dream-like state that is familiar and not separate from their normal reality

There is a true paradigm shift in psychiatric medicine, and WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab is proud to offer psychedelic-assisted treatment in the form of Ketamine treatment. Psychedelic therapy is at the forefront of treating mental illness and substance abuse. 

With continuing care, this newest form of substance abuse treatment can be truly life-changing for many. Contact our intake team today if you are struggling with addiction and mental health. Life-long recovery is possible through psychedelic psychotherapy, coupled with traditional treatment forms such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

Jackie has been involved in the substance abuse and addiction treatment sector for over five years and this is something that she is truly eager about. She has a passion for writing and continuously works to create informative pieces that not only educate and inform the public about the disease of addiction but also provide solutions for those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.