When it comes to the therapeutic use of psychedelic medicines, what usually comes to mind are the benefits for mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or PTSD. However, their use supersedes mere pathological healing.
This topic of relationships not only reaches into interpersonal bonds, but also up into the collective dynamics of humanity and down deep into the individual human experience.
Simply put, we struggle to connect—whether it be with family members, friends, partners, or ourselves. For all our coping mechanisms and behavioral strategies, seeing each other with crystal clear clarity can be a challenge.
Humanity is seeking revolutionary tools which can help us reconnect and reestablish mutual understanding and resonance with each other, and psychedelics may provide an opportunity to see beyond the chaos of the ego.
This article will explore recent scientific research on the effects of psychedelics in relationship dynamics and what you should consider before journeying with hallucinogens for this specific purpose.
Let us forge deep and meaningful connections that transcend the mundane, peer into the depths of our fellow human souls, and succeed at the challenging quest of maintaining healthy and fulfilling relationships.
*This article is part the Psychedelic Passage Blog X Podcast series. To learn more about How Psychedelics Impact Intimate Relationships, check out the Psychedelic Passage Podcast–a podcast hosted by our co-founders Jimmy Nguyen and Nicholas Levich. Stream it on Apple Music, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever else you get your podcasts!
10 Key Ways Psychedelics Can Impact Relationships
While these points will be covered in more detail later in the article, we wanted to provide a quick snapshot of the primary mechanisms for transformation which impact personal relationships via the tool of psychedelics:
- Improved mental health
- Decreased stress levels
- Healed codependency
- Increased perceived social connectedness
- Modulated emotional reactivity
- Enhanced open communication
- Heightened emotional empathy
- Reduced defensive barriers
- Minimized social anxiety symptoms
- Boosted trust in others
The Potential Benefits of Psychedelics for Improving Relationships
Before diving into specific research on this topic, it is important to recognize that the ways in which we interact and relate to those around us are profoundly affected by the state of our mental health and worldview.
That is why therapeutic uses for psychedelic medicines, specifically in treatment for mental or physical health conditions and disorders, can have lasting impacts on our relationships with loved ones.
In a previous article, we explored how psychedelics can benefit someone who is happy and who doesn’t necessarily need therapeutic healing to the same degree as someone with severe trauma, for instance.
However, mind-altering substances have the potential to improve relationship dynamics through their effects on other life factors, such as improving stress levels or illuminating unhealthy behavioral patterns developed in childhood.
Psychedelics also can potentially help those with codependent relationship dynamics by helping instill self-confidence, self-trust, and independence.
Furthermore, in a 2020 survey analyzing usage of different substances (and even comparing with no substance use), psychedelics were uniquely associated with greater degrees of perceived social connectedness (Forstmann et al.)
The study found that psychedelics cause “feelings of oceanic boundlessness or external unity during the psychedelic state, and thereby fostering a sense of connectedness with external objects or entities.”
“In psychological terms, feelings of unity with other living entities can be described as an increased inclusion of others in the self—a self-construal incorporating other human beings that is considered a crucial element of close relationships—or a heightened sense of social connectedness.”
— Forstmann et al.
This increase in perceived connection impacts both how we relate to strangers we interact with on the street to how we express our needs and desires with our romantic partner(s).
Psychedelics: A Peaceful Weapon Against Domestic Violence
Out of a survey of over 1200 respondents, men who reported at least one single use of LSD or psilocybin mushrooms had “decreased odds of perpetrating physical violence against their current partner” (Thiessen et al., 2018).
They also reported having better emotional regulation, which was believed to act as a modulating factor in the prevalence of events of domestic violence, for example, by helping one think before acting on their anger issues.
Because of a stereotypical correlation between substance abuse and higher rates of domestic violence, this result may be shocking for some. Ironically, while some drugs have an increased association with arrests for domestic assaults, psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD have a low risk for abuse and dependency.
More research is needed to fully understand a causative relationship between the two factors, but this could have broad implications for how society deals with perpetrators of violent crimes.
How Psychedelic Therapy Can Improve Communication & Bonding
For this article, we took to Reddit to find anonymous anecdotal stories on how individuals with a history of psychedelic usage have seen transformations in their personal relationships. One story highlighted the powerful effects of LSD on transforming communication, bonding, and emotional intimacy in their marriage:
“LSD has led to some very open and meaningful conversations with my wife. Some of them have been difficult, but all have been important. Over the years, our communication got better and better…I think it’s been very good for our relationship…
We’ve had some really honest and open discussions about things that are usually hard to talk about…The conversations have a cathartic quality to them, and we both feel that we can listen and respond – [even] to the more difficult truths.”
A study in 2016 showed that, in participants, LSD promoted feelings of trust, social closeness, emotional empathy, and a “desire to be with other people.” Interestingly, the study also showed a decrease in sad and fearful emotional facial recognition (Dolder et al.)
This wasn’t the only psychedelic substance to be studied for its effects on empathy. A 2017 study by Pokorny and colleagues found that psilocybin also increased emotional empathy in participants. One Reddit user said:
“LSD makes it hard to hide from the subtexts in conversations…I once said to my wife, ‘on acid we always say the quiet part out loud,’ and she agreed. That day we agreed to keep saying the quiet part out loud.
I don’t want to speak for my wife, but I for one am tremendously happy in the marriage. We’ve learned some really important lessons about ourselves and about each other during our trips.”
Breaking Down Barriers: Increasing Openness & Empathy
Another anonymous Reddit user shared a beautiful story of how they were able to work through parental resentments and patch up a wounded relationship:
“I used to get frustrated and irritated with my mother and hated her personality. Now I understand the connection we have, and the time I have with her…is precious…I now laugh at things that used to irritate, annoy, or anger me. I had pent up irritation which tended to come out whenever I was near her…
I guess I subconsciously put a lot of the blame on my mother for her decisions…After my experience with DMT, I felt all that frustration ease off, as if I’d always [been] missing a piece of the puzzle, and it suddenly fell into place.”
When it comes to psilocybin (magic) mushrooms, LSD, and DMT, these substances largely act on the same parts of the brain, interacting with the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor which plays a role in modulating mood. However, when it comes to MDMA and other non-tryptamine psychedelics like ketamine, the effects on the brain and physiology can be quite different.
One recent 2022 study found that MDMA helps users open up and dissolve perceived barriers between people, echoing the common notion that MDMA is a “heart-opening” drug. They found that it “reduce[s] the defensive barriers which ordinarily prevent powerful feelings from being intersubjectively shared, allowing the subject to experience knowing and being known.”
In another randomized, double-blind 2018 study by Danforth and colleagues, adults with autism and social anxiety underwent MDMA-assisted therapy and were evaluated on their social anxiety symptoms post-treatment.
Remarkably, participants were evaluated according to the Leibowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS) and exhibited significant improvements in social anxiety symptoms of fear, aversion, and feeling closed-off. This faculty of dissolving barriers and promoting feelings of unity is also commonly experienced across tryptamine psychedelics like magic mushrooms, LSD, and DMT.
Our anonymous Reddit user shared, “DMT forced me to review my bad habits and behaviors whenever they came up – helping me to take a step back and think a little about a situation before acting.”
“I didn’t realize how much of an issue my relationship was in my life, and as a consequence, my mental health has improved dramatically now that it’s no longer on my mind…I haven’t felt as good as I am now for more than 15 years,” they said.
Being able to simultaneously self-reflect on one’s own reactivity but also experience transcendent feelings with those around you could be a profound antidote for our world at large, promoting compassion and intentionalism.
Precautions: Understanding the Significance of Psychedelic Usage
While recent research seems entirely promising for entheogenic use for healing unhealthy relationship dynamics and promoting meaningful connection with others, more scientific exploration for this issue is needed.
Aside from that, it is important to understand that psychedelics do not always give you the answers you want to hear. Oftentimes, these mind-manifesting substances provide us with painful insights that are necessary for our growth.
It is important to check in and ask yourself prior to a psychedelic experience, “Am I looking for a specific outcome, or am I open to whatever truth needs to be illuminated?”
When it comes to relationships, you may discover that, instead of experiencing deeper bonding with a partner, you may feel the opposite—ostracized, alone, or that your relationship needs to come to an end. For one Reddit user, they found that psychedelic usage with their partner actually increased feelings of attachment when the relationship wasn’t healthy.
“For me, tripping with my ex…was a terrible idea. It deepened our relationship to the point where I was convinced we were fated to be together forever…This led to me staying with him way too long…
I was so sure of our destiny that I couldn’t accept that he had led me to a dark place. In the future, I won’t trip with a partner again unless I’m 100% confident that we are lifetime partners and not codependent.”
While psychedelics can have profound positive impacts, set and setting is extremely important, so ensure that you have a safe, supportive, and neutral environment in which you can explore inwardly without external tampering.
Overall, transformative trips happen when we find ourselves in a conducive space for fully surrendering and allowing the medicine to unfold and inform you naturally.
Be aware of ways in which you are clinging to particular ideas or outlooks and how those around you could potentially alter your vulnerable experience, and, most importantly, trust the process.
Explore How It Feels To Be Connected
This brings us to our offerings here at Psychedelic Passage. We connect clients who are seeking safe and intentional ways to interact with mind-altering medicines with a network of pre-vetted professional guides.
When it comes to therapeutic and intentional psychedelic journeys, the presence of a facilitator provides an element of harm-reduction and support around setting intentions, preparation, and integration.
If you are ready to be supported in your process, whether individually or with a partner, we encourage you to book a consultation with our concierges and get started on a professionally facilitated journey today. Lastly, check out our resources page for more information and articles on the latest scientific research, psychedelic legal developments, and helpful topics on psychedelic use.