Blogger Andrew Penn continues his series on psychedelics with an entry about the challenges that face mental health professionals who study and work with these substances. In “Psychedelics: What to Tell Patients Today,” Penn discusses the problem of explaining psychedelic therapy to patients who may be enthusiastic about the subject but unaware of potential negative consequences. Penn also presents a list of challenges for future research as well as questions for clinicians and researchers.

“As studies of psychedelic drugs garner more attention in the popular press, our patients are more likely to show interest in them. Thus, it is important that, as clinicians, we underscore for our patients the difference between therapeutic and recreational use of these drugs. In the former, participants are carefully screened and treated in controlled settings with pharmacologically pure compounds, while in recreational use drugs of unknown composition are ingested with the intention of intoxication in settings that can be overstimulating or even dangerous.

“Furthermore, we must communicate that even within a clinical setting these compounds carry attendant risks that can be safely managed in such a setting and should not be used recklessly. Thirty to forty-five percent of subjects in the psilocybin trials reported significant anxiety at some time during the drug administration, but this did not prevent many of those subjects from reporting that the experience was one of the most spiritually important of their lives. This all said, it needs to be underscored that our patients should not be trying to treat themselves with these drugs. If they are interested being subjects in this research, refer them to to see if there are trials that are enrolling subjects.”

Psychedelics: What to Tell Patients Today | PsychCongress