If you’ve consumed any form of media recently, you have likely encountered a reference to psychedelics in one way or another. Psychotropic and hallucinogenic substances are definitely having a mainstream moment.
As this interest amplifies throughout entertainment, news, politics, and more, we want to keep our readers informed and up to date on the latest scientific research, legal developments, and therapeutic benefits of these substances.
With growing rates of mental health disorders and physical illnesses, people are looking for incisive and compelling tools for collective recovery that surpass conventional methods.
With evermore understanding about the delicate intersection between the human body and psyche, a top-down (or bottom-up, depending on how you look at it) approach to healing is needed now more than ever.
From headaches to benzodiazepines to superstitious beliefs, as part of our core series, Psychedelic Guides Answer FAQs, we wanted to address some questions submitted directly by our readers.
Is Psychedelic Therapy Safe For Someone 70 & Older?
We, Psychedelic Passage, work with clients in all age brackets (18+), and facilitators in our network provide screening and preparation sessions to determine if clients are physically and mentally equipped for psychedelics.
While there are a plethora of medical and clinical studies indicating that psilocybin in particular is safe with few serious side effects, it is important to consider each client’s capacity to handle medicinal hallucinogens.
Most available studies on the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic medicines have failed to include older populations in their test groups, so many of the results may have limiting significance for people 70 or older (Johnston et al., 2023).
What we do know is that there are studies showing positive results on psychedelics for terminal illnesses like cancer and for decreasing end-of-life existential anxiety, suggesting their safety for those with physical complications.
However, psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms and MDMA can increase heart rate and blood pressure, requiring extra screening for clients with serious cardiovascular diseases and conditions. However, many studies ironically suggest that psychedelics can have indirect and direct benefits for these exact contraindications.
For instance, those who experience chronic depression are 40% more likely to develop a metabolic or cardiovascular disease (Firth et al., 2019), and psychedelics are being extensively proven effective for depression.
Psychedelic substances can be particularly hard on the body and cause digestive upset, nausea, dizziness, and a number of other adverse symptoms, which—in conjunction with certain illnesses—could be serious.
Overall, age is less of a determining factor during the screening process in comparison with other factors like physical health, medical history, medication use, and psychiatric conditions.
If you are interested in psychedelic therapy but have questions regarding their safety for your unique situation, we have a past article about how to talk to your doctor about your interest in taking psychedelics.
The best way, however, to know if medicinal psychedelics are right for you is to speak with an expert psychedelic facilitator, which you can do by booking a consultation with our concierges to get connected with our network.
Is Long Term Ketamine Therapy Safe & Effective For Depression?
Ketamine has demonstrated remarkable efficacy in treating patients with treatment-resistant depression and rapidly reducing suicidal ideation and tendencies. However, the long-term effects of ketamine therapy have not been studied extensively enough to determine its safety and efficacy over a broader timeline.
Nonetheless, existing research can offer insights for those considering or already undergoing ketamine infusions and are interested in the potential long-term effects.
For instance, one study from 2010 indicates that consuming ketamine more than once a month was associated with dissociative symptoms, while users who took it more than 4 times a week exhibited an additional set of cognitive impairments (Morgan et al.).
These impairments, including executive functioning and the ability to focus and recall information, can compound the cognitive deficiencies that depression is already associated with (Strong & Kabbaj, 2018).
Another consideration is the fact that, ideally, any treatment method should lead to permanent and lasting improvement. If ketamine therapy is needed long term to manage symptoms of depression, is it really the best tool for healing?
It is worth noting that untreated depression can also increase the risk of certain physical conditions, so in many cases, the potential negative side effects of “Special K” are worth mitigating depressive symptoms.
It’s also important to note that about 50% of our clients approach us due to failed ketamine therapy or after experiencing only short-lasting benefits. The dissonance between research findings on ketamine and real-life experiences appears to be directly related to a lack of therapeutic support offered by ketamine clinics.
As the industry continues to grow, more and more clinics are diluting or all together avoiding the necessary preparation, integration, and in-person support measures required for clients to experience long-lasting and beneficial results.
Thus, if you choose to work with ketamine, it’s important that you connect with a clinic who offers the appropriate level of support. Another option is to connect with a psychedelic facilitator who can guide you through preparation and integration.
Lastly, keep in mind that, while other psychedelics have a low risk for abuse and addiction, ketamine has a higher risk for both of these (Geoffrion, 2022). To conclude, ketamine therapy is generally safe with appropriate supervision and timelines of use, but more research is needed to determine its long term safety.
Can Psychedelics Cause False, Irrational, or Superstitious Beliefs?
While this topic is too broad to cover in such a short format, we’d like to address and summarize some key considerations while providing additional articles we have on this conversation.
This question is founded on the age-old philosophical debate between a reductionistic/materialistic versus an animistic/holistic perspective, and this dichotomy has endless expressions and names. However, psychedelics are undoubtedly linked to mystical experiences, which is backed both by scientific evidence and countless anecdotal claims and historical accounts.
For instance, one survey analyzed 2,500 different participants’ reports of encounters with autonomous entities while on DMT, with over half of participants who previously claimed to be atheist no longer identifying with that label (Davis et al., 2020).
Johns Hopkins University has also conducted studies which reflected that, even in clinical settings, many psychedelic users come away from their experiences claiming to have had life-changing mystical experiences.
Reports of supernatural and paranormal phenomena have pervaded every known culture, whether present day or historical, and these experiences may not all fit into a reductionist worldview.
For certain mental health disorders like schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder, the therapeutic use of psychedelics are not recommended given that they can intensify symptoms already linked to those disorders.
Overall, delineating between spiritual emergence and spiritual emergency can be elusive, but a wealth of fascinating research exists which indicates that psychedelics are not only beneficial, but also help us explore transcendent aspects of reality.
Lastly, our article, Why Do Psychedelics Produce Paranormal & Mystical Experiences? discusses the neurochemistry of paranormalities and Aldous Huxley’s “reducing valve” theory which could provide additional information on this topic.
Why Do I Get Headaches After Taking Shrooms? Can I Mitigate That?
Thank you for your question! Headaches and psychedelic use is an interesting topic, because these substances are currently being studied for their potential benefits for cluster headaches and migraines.
Ironically, headaches are a common side effect of consuming mind-altering medicines—even though they are being studied as a treatment for headaches—so your concern is absolutely reasonable.
However, in a 2006 study, almost 85% of participants with pre-existing frequent cluster headaches reported that psilocybin and/or LSD halted their headache attacks during the trial (Sewell et al.).
While this may seem confusing and contradictory, the mechanisms at play are not fully understood. Scientists believe that the reason psychedelics can induce those cranial pains is due to the triggering of nitric oxide release (Johnson et al., 2013).
Nitric oxide isn’t the only factor, however, that contributes to this relationship between entheogens and headaches, and we actually know more about why it could cause headaches than how to actually mitigate this side effect.
Typically, the same practices used to alleviate or manage an episode can be applied during a psychedelic experience, but ensuring that you stay hydrated throughout a psychedelic experience is extremely important.
Excessive urination can lead to depleted electrolytes and fluids. Resting and limiting light exposure can also help given that mydriasis is a common physiological response to magic mushrooms, DMT, and LSD.
Lastly, regulating your body temperature as much as possible—which often vacillates drastically on psychedelics—may help, as well as calming and embodiment practices to mitigate muscle strain and tension in the neck.
Will Microdosing Lead to a More Profound Trip For Someone on SSRIs?
There is currently no evidence suggesting that microdosing would be more effective for a therapeutic psychedelic journey in comparison with taking a larger dose. While we do not recommend particular dosages to our clients, generally speaking, journeyers on SSRIs and other antidepressants have to take much larger doses in order to get a comparable effect.
We have past articles on the topics of the psilocybin blunting effects of SSRIs as well as tapering off of antidepressants leading up to a psychedelic journey to help you get clarity on how these two psychotropic drugs interact in the brain.
Overall, because SSRIs inhibit the binding of serotonin to receptors, psilocybin and other serotonergic drugs struggle to interact with those receptors in the same way. Due to this fact, it is unlikely that someone would have a more intensive trip on a microdose than on a macrodose, even when on antidepressant medications.
Does Benzodiazepine Use Cause Deleterious Psychedelic Effects?
There are many myths surrounding using benzodiazepines like Xanax for preventing a bad trip, stopping or decreasing the intensity, or even preventing seizures during a psychedelic trip. Benzodiazepines interact with the central nervous system neurotransmitter gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) which inhibits the excitation of neurons (Griffin et al., 2013).
Tryptamine psychedelics, on the other hand, interact with serotonin receptors in the brain and gut. If you are curious about how psychedelics work in the brain, we have written past articles which may be informative for you.
Whereas benzos—by virtue of the inhibitory faculties of GABA—actually create a relaxant effect, tryptamine psychedelics are mimicking endogenous neurotransmitters to flood receptors with information. Interesting to note—certain mushroom species such as Amanita muscaria contain muscimol, which does interact with GABA receptors in a similar manner.
While taking benzos and psychedelics is less dangerous than mixing benzos with opioids, for instance, it may be better to stop using other drugs leading up to a psychedelic journey to ensure a clear channel for the medicine.
No current studies are available indicating the safety of combining psychedelics with benzos, and currently, most anecdotal reports range from claiming it helped with trip anxiety to simply being a waste of the psychedelic medicine.
Can Psychedelic Therapy Help Integrate Negative Experiences, People, & Forces in Your Life?
Yes! Psychedelics have proven to prompt lasting benefits across various life factors which could contribute to the cultivation of healthier relationships and integration of traumatic experiences.
In a past article, we explored the therapeutic benefits of mind-altering medicine for trauma and PTSD, and keep a lookout for our future article on how psychedelics can improve relationships!
One interesting way that these adjacent effects may contribute to the integration of negative experiences and catalyze resolutions with difficult relationships is through enhancing creativity.
Creativity is associated with being able to identify problems and create novel solutions, and—when it comes to complex interpersonal conflict and traumatic experiences—creativity may prove to be a valuable tool for resolution.
In conclusion, the quality of the psychedelic journey and your own willingness to surrender to the experience can impact how deeply it transforms your life, but these substances have a tendency for having sweeping advantages.
Explore How It Feels to Be Connected
We hope that these Q&As were valuable and informative for our readers! In this series, we will continue to answer your FAQs, so we encourage you to send us your questions and topic requests via this topic suggestions box.
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If you are curious about having an intentional, guided psychedelic experience, we empower you to book a consultation today with our concierges and get connected to our network of pre-vetted psychedelic facilitators.
Along with connecting clients with guides who provide preparation, harm-reduction, and integration support, we also have an abundant resources page with articles on a wide variety of topics related to psychedelics. Safe travels!