The intentional use of psychedelics is on the rise—primarily for treating conditions like PTSD, anxiety, and depression. But what about their potential effect on your sex life, intimacy, and sexual performance?
We are well aware of psychedelics’ potential to heal outside the bedroom—and the same healing benefits can be incorporated into your sex life. However, as you’ll see below, this depends on the type of substance as well when it’s consumed.
Before we dive in, it is important to acknowledge that there is a huge difference between having sex under the influence of psychedelics versus using psychedelics as a tool to heal and overcome intimacy issues. Those are very different scenarios that change the context of how you utilize psychedelics.
Regardless of the stage, stability, and health of any romantic relationship or encounter you have, first consider your own needs, challenges, and boundaries so that you can healthily explore how psychedelics might be of benefit.
In this guide, we’ll explore how psychedelics impact sexual performance, desire, intimacy, and your overall sex life. We’ll also provide you with some tips that make the healing process more effective while minimizing risks.
How Psychedelics Impact Sexual Desire
Psychedelics definitely have the potential to impact our sexual desires. Serotonergic hallucinogens are a class of psychedelic drugs strongly linked to the neurotransmitter serotonin—commonly referred to as 5-HT—which is linked to sexual desire.
This category of psychedelics includes LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, mescaline, and DOI (though ketamine and cannabis are often included, too). Here is how three of the most widely known psychedelics impact sexual desire.
Studies show that drugs like MDMA tend to leave users socially and sexually disinhibited. The participants of this study reported feeling outgoing and sensual, often seeking affection from other individuals.
One interesting outcome of this lowered inhibition was that study participants “described the lowering of their ‘sexual standards’ because they were high. Specifically, they tended to report that they engaged in sexual interactions with individuals they would not normally be attracted to if sober.”
Alternatively, studies show that drugs like ketamine, which is a dissociative anesthetic, tends to leave participants feeling numb and passive, both socially and sexually. This is a clear example illustrating how the specific drug you choose will greatly impact how it impacts your sexual desire.
The interesting thing about ketamine is that “although ketamine is not a very sexual drug, the passivity associated with use can in fact lead to sexual disinhibition. However, according to study participants, such disinhibition often took place in the form of letting one’s guard down. So unlike the more social and assertive disinhibition associated with use of other club drugs, ketamine tended to leave participants more vulnerable to others making sexual advances.”
Although not inherently sexual, studies show that LSD increased feelings of closeness to others, openness, trust, and suggestibility. Once again, these changes result in decreased inhibition and they reinforce how important it is to have mutual consent.
Regardless of the specific psychedelic substance, they are all associated with a risk of increased sexuality or vulnerability to sexual advances.
Key Takeaway #1: While this increase in sexuality may be what you seek, it’s important to temper it with an awareness of your surroundings and your environment. Pay particular attention to who you are with while under the influence. The key here is that these substances leave you in a very vulnerable state, so it is recommended that you are in a familiar environment with people you trust. As always, we advocate all who engage with psychedelics to do so intentionally and in accordance with Zendo Harm Reduction practices.
How Psychedelics Affect Sexual Performance
The bottom line is this: psychedelics alter the perceived sensation of sexual activity. And just like we discussed above, the type of substance, dosage, and timing make a big difference in the perceived effects.
For instance, studies show that 84% of MDMA users reported some form of related sexual enhancement. Most commonly, ecstasy was described as being a sensual drug that increased the sensation of touch. Also known as the ‘love drug’ MDMA users reported feelings of being temporarily “in love” with their partners while under the influence.
Interestingly enough, this same study showed that while MDMA users felt very sensual, the drug itself isn’t considered to be “sexual” because it left many users impotent. It is worth noting that the subset of users who we’re able to retain normal sexual organ function while under the influence of MDMA reported “enjoying sex while high on it.”
The opposite was true for ketamine. The study revealed that ketamine use left participants feeling numb and passive, often resulting in them assuming a passive role during sex. This is largely attributed to the “bizarre” mindset and hallucinogenic effects resulting from ketamine.
As indicated above, many of the classic psychedelics result in sexual dysfunction at high doses.
Aside from dosage, perhaps the most important factor impacting sexual performance was when the drug was consumed—timing is everything.
While under the influence of a standard or high dose of any psychedelic (i.e. MDMA, psilocybin, LSD, DMT, etc.) having sex will likely be difficult, if not impossible, as your body is functioning differently. Sexual organs don’t function normally and there are substantial changes in brain function in the psychedelic state. However, as the drug effects began to wear off, users reported increased sexual effects.
Should you still seek a sexual experience while under the influence of a hallucinogen, we recommend doing so with a trusted partner that you have healthy communication with. That way, should anything awkward or unexpected occur, you are more likely to resolve any issues as they arise and avoid negatively impacting your relationship.
Key Takeaway #2: Sexual sensation can increase or decrease depending on the substance, dosage, and timing of consumption. Psychedelic substances can also temporarily impair motor function and induce impotence in some cases. Our suggestion is to have sex during the comedown or afterglow when you aren’t so heavily intoxicated, but still feel the sense of openness that psychedelics provide.
Using Psychedelics to Heal Intimacy Issues & Trauma
The two sections above pertained specifically to having sex while under the influence of psychedelics. In this section, we’re going to address how to use psychedelics to address issues surrounding your sex life. These are two very different scenarios, and the context of how you use psychedelics in each situation is vital to harnessing any potential healing benefit.
Our focus here is going to be on creating a permanently increased sense of connection & openness as opposed to a temporary enhancement of physical sensation. As with any type of medicinal psychedelic use, the intention (or reason) one may want to use psychedelics is vital to the progress and potential benefit—and can vary greatly from person to person.
For instnace, some people want to be more open and intimate with their partner, some want to address negative sexual habits and patterns, and others seek healing from past sexual abuse. These obstacles may prevent someone from connecting with their partner and having the sex life they truly desire. Each of these intentions is better addressed by different psychedelic substances and therapies, and the support needed to truly heal from these issues may also vary.
One amazing feature of therapeutic psychedelic experiences is that it provides a safe environment for you to access and integrate both conscious and subconscious elements of your mind. In fact, there are numerous clinical studies showing MDMA’s effectiveness in addressing PTSD, leading to the FDA’s designation of MDMA as a “breakthrough therapy”.
By way of example, let’s say a woman was sexually molested in the past by a family member and that trauma prevents her from being present, open, and vulnerable during intimacy with her partner—even though she consciously wants to. That’s because her subconscious programming goes against her conscious desires.
An intentional psychedelic experience has the potential to rewire her subconscious brain. So rather than subconsciously seeing her partner as a potential threat (past programming), she sees him or her as the kind hearted person they are (new programming). In essence, this breaks the pattern of subconscious fear and replaces that fear response with love, openness and vulnerability.
Although grossly oversimplified, this theme of transmuting pain, fear, and trauma into love and compassion is a key reason why psychedelics can improve the romantic and sexual aspects of our lives. For many of our clients, the result is they are able to improve their intimate relationships by reprogramming their subconscious brain.
Key Takeaway #3: In addition to MDMA, other hallucinogens like psilocybin and DMT are well suited to overcome sexual compulsions, sexual trauma, and sexual dysfunction. By safely integrating both the conscious and subconscious brain, psychedelics are better used as tools to address underlying cause of sex and intimacy issues rather than a drug to ‘improve’ sexual experiences.
Psychedelics themselves don’t inherently make sex mind-blowing. In fact, on high doses they may make sex totally impossible. Perhaps the biggest benefit to your sex life will come from using psychedelics as tools to address your own insecurities, beliefs, and sense of self-love.
At its core, sex is an expression of love and if you don’t love yourself, your sex life will be mediocre at best. Your sex life will likely improve drastically after using psychedelics to heal your insecurities and to discover who you truly are and what your purpose is—few experiences can equip you with that level of confidence and clarity.
This means that psychedelics improve your sex life by strengthening your relationship with yourself—which has very little to do with your partner. Psychedelics are not a cure for a toxic relationship, but they can help you step into a more open and loving version of yourself.
If you’re looking to be supported in this process of using psychedelics as a tool for enhanced intimacy, openness, and sensuality, we are here to help. Simply schedule a free initial consultation with one of our psychedelic integration specialists and we’ll help you harness the healing power of psychedelics to make lasting change in your life.