Psychedelic Therapy for Mental Health



It is being said that the therapy using ayahuasca—a plant medicine that has been used in the Amazon for centuries for healing and spiritual purposes—is the next best thing. Dennis McKenna, an ayahuasca’s scientific researcher and author, points out that the contribution of ayahuasca can make to physical and spiritual healing. The psychedelic adventure might be a perfect trip to ease our anxieties during the pandemic.


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When we hear about psychedelic therapies, perhaps it's the magic mushroom that immediately pops into our heads... the unicorn flies in the rainbow, and we're suddenly talking to butterflies. Yes, of course, the term psychedelics refers to the name of drugs that cause hallucinations and apparent expansions of consciousness that can produce certain psychological, visual, and auditory changes. Hence, we - as if -hear the grass is talking to us! But how can it be that this kind of drug can be the help for our wellbeing?



In recent years, psychiatrists and psychedelic researchers have explored the potential contribution of plant-based medicine for various mental health conditions; including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression. Notwithstanding prohibition and stigma. McKenna, a founding member of the Heffter Research Institute and one of the leading experts on the therapeutic uses of psychoactive medicines derived from nature, began researching these drugs back in the 1960s. In an interview, he mentioned that the chemical substance he found (N-dimethyltryptamine or DMT) in cannabis and ayahuasca plants have some healing effects and therapeutic agents. In addition, a growing body of evidence suggests that psychedelic drugs, particularly when used in conjunction with talk therapy, are safe and can be effective in treating a range of mental illnesses. Researchers believe the drug may help loosen the brain's fixed pathways.

Small Pharma, a neuropharmaceutical company in the UK, is conducting a trial of psychedelic drugs. Dr Carol Routledge, the company's chief scientific officer, says: "We believe the effects are almost immediate and last longer than conventional antidepressants." Routledge also mentions that psychedelic drugs allow us to get to the core of our problems that affect our mental health by opening up aspects of ourselves and our personal histories that we are not aware of.

However, McKenna warns, "Don't mess around if you're going to do it." Psychedelics are not something to be taken lightly. It requires a high level of care and expertise and supports to achieve the desired therapeutic effects, or it can harm us.

Further in the development and due to its "wide-appeal", Canadian startup Core One Labs is bringing psychedelic medicines to the public and is now in the final stages of completing its U.S. patent application for its proprietary biosynthetic psilocybin production - also known as magic mushrooms. The company plans to use the biosynthesised psilocybin in conjunction with its patented transmucosal thin-strip delivery method, which allows for more precise dosing for people using psychedelic treatments for mental illness.



If you consider partaking in psychedelic treatment, it is only wise to do so if you are in good hands. The good news is, there are a number of psychedelic retreat centres that will arrange the treatment in a safe setting. Remember, a good programme will include a medical examination - to make sure it is safe to take the medicine they provide - and well-arranged emotional and psychological integration programmes. Another thing to keep in mind is that psychedelics are illegal in many countries and unregulated in others; therefore, check again before proceeding with your treatment.

The psychedelic "trips" are not as fun as we might think. In fact, according to one participant, it's exhausting and overwhelming. During the course - which usually lasts days or even weeks - we enter a new realm as we embark on self-exploration using the truffle or ayahuasca as a vehicle. The journey is not always "smooth," sometimes it is challenging, and not everyone has the same reception. Therefore, the role of the expert or facilitator is crucial at this point; to reassure participants that "they will make it" and to navigate the realm- to breathe and relax. As the drug takes effect, the magical journey will come in waves and we will begin to open up and connect more with the surroundings. As the trips come to an end, the course is integrated with other treatments related to our daily lives; for example, journaling, meditation, yoga--to help us focus on our wellbeing. For some people, it takes time to "recover" from the whole experience. It is advisable to always consult with the experts. 


Followed are some centres you can visit that are recommended by researchers and doctors.


Hong Kong

BE HOLD retreats launched last year by Jonathan de Potter. This opulent retreat caters for leaders, executives, and entrepreneurs. The retreats themselves take place in various countries where it is legal to consume psychedelic medicine, including Costa Rica, Netherlands, Ecuador and Portugal. Treatment is tailored on a case by case basis. The retreat is scheduled for approximately 3-10 days, depending on the client's case and availability. Before proceeding with the retreat, there is a consultation and later they will suggest the treatment based on the need.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Synthesis is leading a movement to transform the way people approach emotional, cognitive, and spiritual well-being through safe and legal truffle experiences. Led by a team of therapists and facilitators, Synthesis retreats last three to five days, during which participants stay in the community or private residences. Private coaching, breathwork and integration workshops round out the experience, from which guests walk away with clear new insights for their daily lives.



Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica

Rooted in emotional, energetic and spiritual healing, Soltara's retreats offer ceremonies using the sacred plant medicine Ayahuasca. The breathtaking setting of the Costa Rican rainforest makes it a perfect place to retreat and recharge your batteries. The course lasts between five days to three weeks and the programme offers one-on-one consultations with Shipibo master healers, accompanied by translators. During the course, the programme integrates breathwork, yoga, journaling, floral baths, nature immersion and community events. Dennis McKenna and trauma expert Gabor Maté are Soltara's advisors.

Psychedelic medicine offers an alternative for those struggling with mental health. Perhaps it is the solution you've been looking for, under the proper care of the experts, of course. Once you make up your mind, maybe... the unicorn will guide you home.




 +  Words: Alvia Zuhadmono, Luxiders Magazine 

 Sweden-based writer

Connect with her through LinkedIn