Psychedelic medicines have long been utilized in non-clinical settings for emotional and mental healing. Individuals taking part in non-clinical psychedelic experiences often report that the experience offers them new insights, perspectives, and opportunities for processing past traumatic memories through a new empowered and often forgiving lens.
While psychedelic research for mental health has been growing exponentially in recent years, a large majority of individuals experimenting with psychedelics do so outside of clinical environments in ceremonial or personal settings. A recent study conducted by scientists at The New School for Social Research In New York aimed to better understand the effects of psychedelic medicine use in natural non-clinical settings.
"The researchers surveyed 166 English-speaking adults regarding childhood maltreatment, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and internalized shame. The survey also asked: “Have you ever used a psychedelic/entheogenic/hallucinogenic substance (including, but not limited to: psilocybin ‘magic’ mushrooms or truffles, LSD/’acid’, ayahuasca/yagé, mescaline/peyote/San Pedro, DMT, MDMA/ecstasy, ketamine, or 2 C-B) with the intention of healing or processing childhood trauma?”" reports PsyPost.
Of the 166 surveyed participants, 93% scored in the severe range for at least one of the childhood maltreatment subscales ((physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect). Approximately 31% reported using psychedelics in an intentional therapeutic capacity.
The results demonstrated that childhood mistreatment was linked to increased PTSD symptoms as well as internalized shame. "Those with a history of intentional therapeutic psychedelic use, however, tended to report less symptoms associated with disturbances in self-organization, a cluster of complex trauma symptoms that is comprised of affective dysregulation, negative self-concept, and disturbances in relationships."
The researchers also discovered that more than five occasions of intentional therapeutic use were linked to reduced PTSD symptoms and a decreased impact of childhood trauma on self-organization.
CJ Healy, the lead researcher shared that the findings suggest “using psychedelics with therapeutic intentions, even in non-clinical settings, may help reduce internalized shame and complex trauma symptoms in people with histories of complex trauma in childhood”.
"Moreover, these benefits might be more pronounced with repeated use; in this study, the group that reported the overall lowest levels of internalized shame and complex trauma symptoms was the group that had used psychedelics with therapeutic intent more than five times.”
The researchers noted that further studies are warranted to prove causality since the survey-based studies do not have a pre-treatment point of reference to determine whether psychedelics were responsible for symptom reduction or individuals with less severe symptoms were more likely to use psychedelics in a therapeutic setting. Another noted limitation was that the study included predominantly white demographics and are not representative of other groups' outcomes and experiences.
While more studies are warranted to prove causality and efficacy across a more representative and diverse subject group, these findings offer further potential validation for the intentional therapeutic use of psychedelics for personal healing outside of clinical settings as long practiced in ingenious traditions and underground organizations.