Does Psychedelic Therapy Work for Depression? We Ask an Expert

Psychedelic medicines for depression, PTSD, and other mental health issues show encouraging outcomes, even though research is still in its early stages and they are not yet approved in all states.

A growing amount of evidence indicates that depression and other mental health issues may benefit from psychedelic-assisted therapy.

Receiving a psychedelic drug in a therapeutic context is known as psychedelic-assisted therapy. It is typically used in conjunction with talk therapy and other mental health therapies. Both during and after the drug wears off, you are welcome to speak with a therapist.

These hallucinogens may consist of:
  • ketamine
  • MDMA (ecstasy)
  • psilocybin (magic mushrooms)
Numerous mental health issues, such as addiction, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety disorders, may be treated using psychedelic-assisted treatment.

Psychologist Dr. Reid Robison, chief clinical officer at Numinus, told Healthline that "with psychedelic-assisted therapy, you're able to address the root cause of the problem and often, fix it more quickly and effectively than alternative options like traditional talk therapy or antidepressant medications."

However, what is the scientific consensus regarding psychedelic treatment for depression? Is it secure? How does it operate? What you should know is as follows.

How effective is psychedelic therapy as a depression treatment?

Studies on psychedelic therapy are still being conducted, but the data that is now available indicates that some psychedelics may be a promising treatment for depression.


The FDA authorised Spravato, an esketamine nasal spray, in 2019 for the treatment of depression that is resistant to previous treatments. A stronger version of ketamine is called escateramine.

That year's research revealed that esketamine, which can provide relief from treatment-resistant depression in as little as 24 hours, is a safe and effective treatment for the condition.

The findings of a 2023 study carried out in China and the US were comparable.

A recent small-scale randomised, double-blind, active-controlled experiment from 2023 investigated how ketamine affected depression that was resistant to therapy. (These trials are regarded as the gold standard for high-calibre research.)

For four weeks, participants in the trial were given ketamine or the benzodiazepine midazolam twice a week. Twenty percent of ketamine recipients said they were in remission, which meant they were no longer suffering from clinical depression.

The only psychedelic medication for depression that has received FDA approval is ketamine, but it's not the only choice.

Other treatment options

Two doses of psilocybin taken in addition to talk therapy effectively reduced symptoms of depression for at least four weeks following therapy, according to a 2020 clinical research.

According to a review of trials published in 2020, psilocybin is safe enough to be taken into consideration as a first-line treatment for anxiety and depression.

In a similar vein, MDMA was evaluated as a therapy for severe PTSD in a 2021 clinical trial. Researchers discovered that patients with PTSD, even those who also had severe depression, significantly improved with MDMA-assisted therapy.

Treatment integration is key

Even while these findings are encouraging, keep in mind that you should not expect too much.

"Remember that psychedelics are not a miracle treatment," Robison advised. "Psychedelic experiences become truly enduring ' magic' when they are assimilated into daily life."

Psychedelic integration is the process of applying the understanding you have from using psychedelics to your day-to-day activities.

To properly embrace the wisdom and insights gained during a psychedelic adventure, Robison advised prioritising your integration process.

What drugs are used in psychedelic therapy for depression?

Several medications may be used during psychedelic-assisted therapy, including:
  • ayahuasca
  • LSD, also called acid
  • MDMA
  • psilocybin
  • DMT
  • ketamine
The only psychedelic-assisted therapy that is permitted in the US is ketamine-assisted because it has FDA approval.

By taking part in clinical trials, you can still receive therapy that makes use of other psychedelics in a scientific setting.

Getting involved in clinical research

Check out ClinicalTrials.gov to find trials that are actively accepting volunteers if you're interested in learning more about psychedelic treatments and would like to support research into these treatments.

Before beginning a trial, make sure to talk about it with your primary care physician and therapist.

Side effects and risks

Psychedelic treatment drugs have several potential negative effects, such as:
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sleepiness
  • lightheadedness
  • increased heart rate
  • dissociation
  • increased blood pressure
  •  vision
  • shifts in perception, such as the sensation that time is passing more quickly or slowly
  • visual abnormalities, such as fuzzy or double vision
If you have an underlying medical condition, any of these side effects may be concerning. Make careful to discuss any of the following with your healthcare provider before doing psychedelic therapy:
  • a history of psychosis
  • heart disease
  • unmanaged high blood pressure
  • an elevated intracranial pressure history
  • a history of substance use disorder

Keep in mind

It is usually preferable to combine any psychedelic treatment with continuous therapy or other psychiatric treatment, just like with any depressive medicine.

A qualified therapist can watch for any unnoticed adverse effects in addition to guiding you through the procedure.

See our guide on selecting the best therapist for you if you don't currently have one.

Cost and coverage of psychedelic therapy for depression

Ketamine-assisted therapy, which consists of conversation therapy and a ketamine dosage, typically costs $350 to $500 per session at most facilities.

A consultation appointment is usually required by the clinic before you start therapy. Typically, a commitment of one to twelve sessions is required, contingent upon the substance being used and the clinic's procedure.

Since esketamine nasal spray (Spravato) has FDA approval for treatment-resistant depression, certain insurance providers might pay for it. They most likely won't, however, pay for other forms of psychedelic-assisted treatment.

Discussing psychedelic therapy with your therapist or psychologist

Although psychedelic therapies are usually safe to use in a clinical context, it's a good idea to discuss any concerns you have with your therapist before attempting any new treatments.

Robison advises against beginning psychedelic-assisted therapy unless you have the necessary support system in place. Getting help from family members and a certified mental health care provider are two examples of this.

Perhaps your therapist can assist you:
  • locate a licenced, skilled therapist who uses psychedelics.
  • Examine your objectives for therapy using psychedelics.
  • Think of choices. if receiving psychedelic-assisted treatment is not appropriate for you
Use one or more of the following prompts (or a combination of them) if you're unsure of how to bring up the subject:
  • "I just read an article regarding the potential benefits of psychedelic-assisted treatment for treating depression. What do you think?
  • "Psychedelic-assisted therapy is something I've been researching, and I believe it would be a good fit for me. Could you help me while I go to a nearby clinic for treatment?
  • My friend just told me that using ketamine therapy helped them feel less depressed. Do you have any knowledge of psychedelic-assisted treatment?
If discussing it in person makes you uncomfortable, you can think considering sending your therapist an email in between appointments. This will enable them to investigate your query and respond to you with knowledge.


There is some hope for treating depression, particularly treatment-resistant depression, with psychedelic-assisted therapy.

It's critical to get assistance from a certified, licenced therapist with experience using psychedelic-assisted therapy if you're considering using psychedelic therapy for depression.

These chemicals are prohibited in many places. To find out more, look through the database of certified therapists maintained by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).


How do psychedelics help with trauma?

Stimulates neurogenesis

Are psychedelics more effective than antidepressants?

Psychedelics—which include ketamine, LSD, and psilocybin—function differently from conventional antidepressants.

Can drugs worsen depression?

They can worsen it long-term

Do depression drugs work?

Antidepressants may be beneficial for those with moderate to severe depression, according to research

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