Despite never using psychedelics, I became deeply interested in the topic of therapeutic psychedelic research when I learned from close acquaintances and loved ones that psychedelics were able to help treat their own serious and debilitating issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer death anxiety, and addiction to alcohol, nicotine, and opioids.

In the late 60s and early 70s, psychedelic research was a booming field. But after a series of political crackdowns, it dropped off considerably. Recently, however, there has been a resurgence of interest in the potential of psychedelic drugs to treat mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. With more studies being conducted and an increasing acceptance of psychedelics’ therapeutic benefits, we may be on the cusp of a new era in psychedelic research. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how psychedelics are being used in scientific research today and explore some of the potential applications for these powerful substances.

Psychedelic Research

What are psychedelics?

Psychedelics are a class of drugs that produce powerful changes in perception and sensations. Common psychedelics include LSD, psilocybin, and DMT. These drugs are often used for recreation, but they also have a long history of use in religious and spiritual ceremonies.

Psychedelics can cause changes in perception, emotions, and consciousness. They can alter your sense of time and space, and make you feel disconnected from your body. Psychedelics can also cause powerful hallucinations. The effects of psychedelics vary depending on the drug, the dose, the person’s mood and personality, and the environment in which the drug is taken. 
Psychedelics are not addictive and there is no evidence that they cause lasting mental health problems. However, some people may have bad trips which can lead to temporary anxiety or paranoia. It is important to be careful when taking these drugs and to make sure you are in a safe environment with people you trust.

History of psychedelics research

Psychedelics research is enjoying a renaissance after decades in the wilderness. The classic psychedelics, LSD, psilocybin and DMT, were all discovered before scientists knew what to do with them. They were shelved as research tools for many years, but now they are being rediscovered as powerful therapeutic agents.

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was first synthesized in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann. Hofmann was investigating the medicinal potential of lysergic acid compounds when he accidentally ingested some LSD and experienced its mind-altering effects. He went on to study LSD's effects in greater detail, and his work laid the foundation for subsequent psychedelic research.

Psilocybin, the main active ingredient in magic mushrooms, was first isolated in 1958 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann (who also discovered LSD). Hofmann's colleague Werner Stoll also conducted pioneering work on psilocybin and other psychedelics. Psilocybin was used in early studies of mental illness and addiction, but its potential as a therapeutic agent was largely forgotten until recently.

Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in many plants and animals. It is also produced endogenously by the human brain. DMT was first synthesized in 1931 by British chemist Richard Mansfield Taylor, but its psychoactive properties were not discovered until 1956 when Hungarian psychiatrist Stephen Szára used it in an experiment with human subjects.

Recent resurgence in psychedelics research

Psychedelic research is currently enjoying a renaissance, with a surge in clinical trials and basic research being conducted on substances like LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA. This renewed interest in psychedelics is largely due to the promising results seen in early studies on their therapeutic potential.

Psychedelics have shown promise in the treatment of conditions like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and addiction. They are thought to work by increasing levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can lead to changes in mood and perception. Psychedelics also seem to reduce activity in the Default Mode Network (DMN), which is responsible for our sense of self-awareness and self-criticism.

While more research is needed to confirm these findings, the current data suggests that psychedelics could be an effective treatment for a range of mental health disorders. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, please reach out to a qualified healthcare professional for help.

The benefits of psychedelics research

Psychedelic drugs have been shown to be effective in treating a variety of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and addiction. In addition, psychedelic drugs can help to increase creativity and problem-solving ability. Psychedelic research is therefore important in order to further our understanding of these potentially therapeutic substances.

Psychedelics are a class of drugs that produce hallucinations and altered states of consciousness. These drugs have been used for centuries in religious and spiritual ceremonies. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the potential therapeutic benefits of psychedelics.

A number of clinical trials have shown that psychedelics can be effective in treating mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and addiction. Psychedelics can also help to increase creativity and problem-solving ability. Psychedelic research is therefore important in order to further our understanding of these potentially therapeutic substances.

The risks of psychedelics research

Psychedelics research is regaining popularity after a long hiatus, but there are still many risks associated with studying these substances. Psychedelics are powerful drugs that can cause profound changes in consciousness and perception, and they can be difficult to control. This can make it hard to conduct research on their effects, and there is always the risk that something could go wrong during a study.

Psychedelics also have the potential to be abused, and there is a lack of understanding about their long-term effects. This means that researchers must tread carefully when conducting studies on psychedelics, and they need to be aware of the risks involved.

The legalities of psychedelics research

Psychedelic research is currently enjoying a resurgence, with many scientists and medical professionals now taking an interest in the therapeutic potential of these substances. However, there are still some legal hurdles to overcome before this research can be conducted on a larger scale.

In the United States, psychedelics are classified as Schedule I drugs, which means that they are considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. This classification makes it very difficult to obtain funding and approval for studies involving these substances.

Fortunately, there are some organizations working to change this. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is one such organization that is pushing for more research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. They have successfully completed Phase II clinical trials of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD, and are now working towards Phase III trials.

With more research being conducted on the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelics, it is hoped that the legal landscape will eventually change in favor of this type of research.


Psychedelic research is experiencing a significant resurgence, with many researchers and medical professionals recognizing the potential therapeutic benefits of these substances. Recent studies on psychedelics have shown that they can be effective in treating mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and addiction. While there are still many legal and social barriers to overcome, the growing acceptance and recognition of the therapeutic potential of psychedelics are paving the way for a new era of research in this field.

As we continue to learn more about the potential benefits of psychedelics, it is important to approach these substances with caution and respect. Psychedelics are powerful drugs that can cause profound changes in perception and consciousness, and they should only be used under the guidance of qualified professionals. With careful research and responsible use, however, psychedelic substances could have a significant impact on the treatment of mental health disorders and the exploration of the human mind.


Lessons from two early psychedelic psychonauts are as relevant today as they were in 1977.

In 2020, psychedelics are still illegal to produce, possess, distribute, sell or consume, but therapeutic applications are beginning to receive long overdue support from reputable scientists and clinicians again, with expectation that therapeutic protocols will be developed to help with conditions such as PTSD, severe depression, opiate additions, smoking cessation, and anxiety for the dying. There may even be applications for autism.

But what about those in less extreme circumstances who want to explore psychedelics for their personal spiritual value, or who want to get unstuck from other emotional or habitual ruts? If a legal way or jurisdiction can be found in which to gain access to these drugs, how should an explorer approach them?

Perhaps history holds some clues. Remember that peyote, mescaline, and psilocybin mushrooms had been in use for countless generations. But what made LSD so interesting to Hofmann and other chemists of his time was the extremely small doses that could be administered to bring about similar psychotic effects. Hofmann wondered if there was a hidden chemical basis for naturally occurring psychosis that could be counteracted.

But the genie quickly got out of the bottle. Governments were soon experimenting with mind control, and an entire counter culture was taking it with their middle finger in the air. Everyone was talking about it and writing about it—while straining to find the words for it. Psychedelics were a veritable explosion that could not be controlled, except to outlaw them in 1968.

LSD: A Generation Later

The resulting psychedelic underground had been operating for almost 10 years, when Bruce “Eisner” Erlich organized a conference entitled “LSD: A Generation Later” at UC Santa Cruz in 1977, combined with Albert Hoffmann’s visit. There, many of the most loud-mouthed first generation responsible for starting the war on drugs with Nixon, and many less ostentatious explorers came together to discuss the state of affairs.

Two of the attendees: John C. Lilly, and Richard Alpert, offered clues to approaching psychedelics some 40 years after LSD 25 was first synthesized from the ergot mushroom, that are still relevant more than another 40 years later.

Approach Your Own Trip with Naïveté

John C. Lilly introduced himself and stressed that, being among the first generation of psychonauts, there was very little by way of scientific or cultural information to prepare them for where LSD would take them, or how the drug would impact their lives. They were the most naïve generation, and this, he said, was an advantage that later generations would miss out on.

The less a new explorer’s mind is seeded with pre-programming of earlier trippers, the less their own trips would be contaminated by others’ notions, and the more meaningful the trip would be. He often told anyone who had read his material to do their best to forget it before their own trip. “We’re published”, he said, implying that while the experience itself was alive, once written about, it is long dead.

Lilly’s Lesson: Approach your trip as a truly naïve beginner. Kill any pre-conceptions and enter into your own trip as a means of gathering data about your own mind and earlier life experiences. It is up to you and you alone to interpret the data from your own trip.

There is Life Beyond Psychedelics

Richard “Dick” Alpert, a.k.a. Ram Dass introduced himself and said that during his first five years included hundreds of LSD trips (then legal), but that tapered off to a trip every year or two afterwards, and by the time of the conference in 1977 said, “I really don’t know that I care whether I ever take it again.”

Alpert honored LSD for it’s ability to break up many of his calcified thought patterns, but after so many trips, he had developed a tolerance for the drug, and he was not learning anything new. More trips just provided more grist for the mill. There was just too much data to know what to do with, and not enough time in one lifetime to process it all.

Having learned what he needed from LSD-produced egoless states, Alpert went on to live an egoless life to the best of his ability. The endgame, according to Alpert, was to become what one is trying to find through psychedelics or other spiritual means.[^fn1]

[^fn1]: Ram Dass dies at 88. (

Alpert’s Lesson: Psychedelics are one instrument for achieving a temporary, egoless state. At some point even these powerful instruments run their course. Learn from them and move on.

The trip comes and goes, but preparation and integration make all the difference in the long run.

A life best lived is one that is examined, and improved as it is lived. An examined life includes regular small doses of introspection punctuated with experiences that can shake our world view and view of ourselves to the core. Used judiciously, psychedelics can offer such planned experiences.

Psychedelics are inert, and do not produce experience by themselves. They are not magical on their own, though their affects on a human mind are often reported to be. Psychedelics require a working human brain as a substrate to act on, and they do so by activating serotonin 2A receptors throughout the brain, while they also disrupt the normal function of our default mode network. These brain chemistry shifts underpin the experience that Jimi Hendrix sang about more than 50 years ago. If you are looking to become experienced at least once in your lifetime, this article is about getting the most out of your trip, in the larger context of an examined life.

Disclaimer: This author does not condone the illegal use of any substance. Never take personality altering drugs alone or in a public setting. Never administer drugs to minors, or adults without their consent. People with psychotic tendencies should steer clear of these potentially permanently unhinging substances.

Preparation for the Trip

Personal Preparation

As with any goal, start with the end in mind. There is life after the trip—and that should weigh heavily on your decision. Integration work—is work—taking weeks—and so does preparation. Preparation is what is referred to as “set” in “set and setting”. What you bring to the trip is the fodder for the trip itself.

Understand the Role of Expectancy

There are people who rank their trips among the most important and transformative events in their lives, and others whom the trip does not change in the long run. There are people who report finding god, and others who report finding dead people or aliens. There people who report leaving drugs, alcohol, and nicotine behind, and others that can’t quite quit. There are people who report more or less of PTSD, chronic anxiety or depression in the weeks and months following their trip.

The time to understand and cultivate your expectations is before your trip, because during your trip you will not be in control.

Do your Research

For understanding something of the history of psychedelics and potential of psychedelics from articulate, experienced people, I recommend reading or listening to: Terence McKenna, Michael Pollan, Steven Kotler, Sam Harris, Rachel Harris. For recent, current clinical research read or listen to: Roland Griffiths. For a detailed guide on how to prepare for your trip, read or listen to James Fadiman.

Till the Soil and Plant good Seeds

  • During your trip, you will be too preoccupied to remember what to ask, so weeks in advance, start a journal and plant some seeds in your psyche in the form of important questions to you. For example:
  • If I could understand one thing about myself better, what would that be?
  • If I could understand one thing about my relationships better, what would that be?
  • If there were one relationship that could be redone, which one would that be?
  • If there were one habit to leave behind forever, which would that be?
  • If there are underlying causes for my dissatisfaction in life, what might those be?
  • Is there anything in life that I was uniquely born to do?
  • If there were one ability or talent to develop further, what would that be?
  • What areas of my life need more stability?
  • What areas of my life need more courage or grit?
  • What emotions do I want to feel more or less in life?
  • What is at the root of my best and worst relationships?
  • Which offenses or insults against me could be reframed or dropped?
  • How could my studies or work be more meaningful?
  • Do I need a trip to gather the data to reach my goals?
  • How can I more clearly understand my own and others’ limitations?

Planting these seeds weeks in advance of your trip will prime your subconscious mind to gather the best data during the trip, and organize that data after your trip.

Setting Preparation

The cardinal rule is: if you trip, do it under expert supervision. Never trip alone. The setting can be under clinical or shamanic care—ideally under someone who is experienced, spiritually neutral, and reputable as a sitter or guide. A good sitter knows the stages of the trip, and how to stay out of your head. A good guide should not be under the influence during your trip. When necessary, a sitter can help you find the bathroom, stay hydrated, stay away from traffic and other people, or even cut your trip short with a counteracting drug if it goes too badly.

During the Trip

A purposeful trip is not about escaping everyday reality, it is about gathering psychological data through direct experience to bring back with you on your return to normal life. Resolve to open your mind and let the data flow in unimpeded. Remember: You chose this.

When the drug engages your brain and warps your identify and history, you can’t know specifically how your trip will go. You will no longer be in control. The only way from here is forward. This is where your preparation will come to your aid. Trust your mind to absorb the raw data for later analysis while you go with the flow. To use the analogy of a kayaker in a challenging river, a few mantras you’ve practiced earlier will keep your kayak working with the current during the roughest stretches.

  • Relax.
  • Lean into this.
  • I will get through this.

If during your trip you are confronted with other presences, this is no time to run away or overanalyze the situation. Trust your mind to face these presences, whatever their origin. In the warped space time of your trip, your attitude will be your best tool. Just remember these:

  • I am safe.
  • I come in peace.
  • What do you need from me?
  • What do you have for me?

Post Trip Integration

Integration is an organic and iterative process. It is work you alone can do. It is nonlinear, and unpredictable. It takes time, so be patient!

First rule: don’t rush to quit your job, leave your partner, change your major or career in the first few days. Give yourself weeks or more of reflection for adjustments to your values and the realities of life to settle into one another.

Second Rule: choose carefully whom you share your trip with and pay attention to timing. Sharing the details of your trip with the wrong people, or even the right people at the wrong time can be like throwing pearls before proverbial swine. When you do decide to share, you’ll get further by discussing meaning or learnings with other people than on the specific imagery. Stick to the gist of the learning. Nobody but you can relate directly to the content of your trip.

Ineffable means there are no words, so don’t try too hard to describe or explain. Stick to what you learned.

Double down on your contemplative or meditative practice. Meditation is shown to balance brain chemistry and calm the default mode network, which supports integration, because it reconnects you to your earlier bygone selfless experience.

Keep writing in your journal. Note any new gains and freedoms. Note any losses and what they’ve taught you. Note any new coincidences and synchronicities in your life. Note any changes in your priorities. Note changes in sleep, exercise, sex, diet. Note changes in mood and overall health.

Healthy Examined Life

Remember, we are born, we live, we learn, we love, we die. We only live once, but an examined life is the best life we can make.

There are many alternatives to learning about ourselves than psychedelics, though obviously less potent. Regularly losing ourselves in activities like music, meditation, sports, aerobic exercise, walks in nature, yoga and tai chi, and charitable service are flow state-producing activities. Done regularly, these states can loosen up our rigid, egoistic world view and generate insights. With or without psychedelics, I believe these should be part of a healthy, examined life. The positive effects from these activities have a half-life, but they have a cumulative effect too.

Lose yourself to find yourself.