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What do I need to know before having psilocybin-assisted therapy?

Updated: Apr 24

If you’re considering psilocybin-assisted therapy, here are some things you might want to know.



Benefits

Humans have benefited from psychedelic plants for thousands of years, and one of these plants is the psilocybin mushroom. The oldest written record of psilocybin use was found in the Florentine Codex — a Mesoamericans manuscript complied between 1529 and 1579. In the 1950s, scientists in the U.S. began studying the psychotherapeutic effects of psychedelics, but because of psychedelics’ association with the hippie counter culture, in the 1970s, the Government clamped down on psychedelics, and research came to a halt. In 2004, a study from the University of California on the potential of psilocybin treatment in patients with advanced-stage cancer reignited public interest in psilocybin, and in the last decade, an increasing number of clinical trials have shown its efficacy in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Other studies have shown that psilocybin can be helpful with smoking cessation, in the treatment of alcohol and substance use disorders, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, cluster headaches, and chronic pain.


Risks

Of all the psychedelic drugs, psilocybin has the most favorable safety profile. However, psilocybin services are not well suited for schizophrenics, anyone with a history of psychosis or bipolar disorder, anyone who is on lithium, or who has suicidal tendencies. Individuals who are taking SSRI or MOAI antidepressants should speak to their psychiatrist before considering psilocybin services. The most common risk that comes with ingesting psilocybin is what is commonly referred to as a “bad trip”, where a person may experience high levels of panic, paranoia, or psychological distress. “Bad trips” typically happen when a person is using psilocybin recreationally and without careful supervision, either alone or at large social events like a musical festival. When used in a safe, therapeutic setting with a trained facilitator, this risk is rarely a problem. Christopher Pittenger, MD, PhD, co-director of the Program for Psychedelic Science at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut says, “Using psychedelics recreationally increases the chance of having a negative experience. In my mind, it’s clearly important that there be an environment of safety in which the psychedelic is delivered.”


What to expect during the experience

Your psilocybin experience will take place at a licensed service center, where the psilocybin you’ll be given has been regulated to ensure it’s free from toxins and alternants. A trained and licensed psilocybin service facilitator will give you the psilocybin and will be with you to support you through the duration of your experience. The experience can last from between two to six hours depending on the dose that you take. For most of the experience, you will be lying down or sitting comfortably on a bed or couch and will be wearing blackout eyeshades and listening to music with earbuds or headphones. If you have any questions or if you need assistance, your facilitator will be there to help and guide you.


The importance of preparation and integration

Preparation and integration are two important aspects of psilocybin-assisted therapy.

Aside from being present with you during your experience, your psilocybin service facilitator will also help you to prepare for and integrate your experience. During a preparation session or sessions, you’ll get the chance to ask questions, set your intentions, and work through any anxieties you might have. By doing so, you’ll be able to get more clarity on your purpose for embarking on this experience and what you hope to get from it. After your experience, an integration session or sessions with your facilitator will help you to discover how you might apply the insights gained from your experience to improve your life and overall wellbeing.


By Michele Koh Morollo, NUMEN NoSC Therapies

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