Common testing kits may not keep you safe when purchasing illegal substances.

Common testing kits may not keep you safe when purchasing illegal substances. Image source: Pixabayuser PublicDomainPictures.

Sometimes, it can be frustrating to be a writer in the field of psychedelic therapy. Every day, I gather exciting news about the progress researchers are making regarding the use of psychedelics to treat a host of psychological disorders. I read about microdosing and migraines, and I think to myself, “I know so many people who would benefit from that!” Or I read about treating PMDD with a single, yearly dose of psilocybin, and I imagine how much easier it would be than balancing SSRIs with an irregular cycle and extended breastfeeding. But most psychedelic treatments are still illegal, making them just out of reach.

Some individuals who are desperate for relief may be tempted to obtain psychedelic substances illegally, but this is problematic in several ways. Not only can you face potential criminal charges if you are caught with illegal substances, but it is getting more difficult to trust the quality and content of these substances. Testing kits—meant to keep people from using pills or powders laced with alternative substances—cannot test for everything currently in the underground market. Perhaps most importantly, even if you obtain a pure substance, psychedelics don’t effectively treat psychological disorders on their own; they need to be combined with therapy for you to notice long-term results. But if you are excited about psychedelic therapy, you have several options that are safer than trying to obtain illegal substances.

Wait for the Substances to Become Legal

It is likely that MDMA will be approved for PTSD treatment by 2021. After that, studies will be easier to conduct, and MDMA—along with other psychedelics—will probably be approved for various treatments. If you are currently suffering from a psychological disorder, waiting four or more years may not seem appealing, but remember that psychedelic therapy is still in its infancy. Over the next few years, as more research is done and therapists gain more training, methods for treatment will likely become safer, more effective, and more accessible. This makes waiting for psychedelic therapy worthwhile for some people. For instance, if you suffer from depression and can manage your symptoms with currently available medication, you may simply want to keep up-to-date with psychedelic research and wait for psilocybin therapy to become available as a more long-term, curative solution.

Enroll In a Study

Psychedelic therapy studies are gaining traction around the globe, and researchers are getting permission from their governments to look into psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD as possible therapy aides for a variety of ailments. While the MDMA trials are about to go global with a large sample size, most of these studies start small, some with less than ten test subjects. Their small size and the current interest in psychedelic research can make them difficult to find and enroll in. But if you are in overall good health and have a treatment resistant psychological ailment, then it may be worthwhile to try to find a study to enroll in. Most research centers will allow you to submit an interest survey and will notify you if you qualify for a study. Your current therapist or healthcare provider may also recommend a study if you seem like a particularly good match for it.  

Enrolling in a study does come with certain risks. You will be taking medications that have not been approved for the treatment of your disorder. You may experience no benefits and, for some people, your ailment may even get worse. You may also be assigned to a control group and not use the medicine you hoped to take. But for many people who are confident in the benefits of psychedelic therapy, the possibility of a cure is worth the potential risks.

Consider Psychedelic Tourism

Each country has slightly different laws when it comes to psychedelics, which may make some forms of psychedelic therapy legal in some countries and illegal in others. For ayahuasca, it is illegal in the U.S. but legal in much of South America. This may make traveling to South America for treatment safer than trying to find an illicit substance in your home country. Similarly, iboga is legal in many countries outside of the U.S., and countries such as Mexico have government licensed treatment facilities. In Switzerland, Dr. Peter Gasser is the only psychiatrist in the world that is legally allowed to prescribe LSD. Psilocybin mushrooms are legal in the Netherlands, and you may find many places to buy them and perhaps take them ceremonially.

The main issue with psychedelic tourism is that taking a psychedelic substance can put you in a vulnerable psychological state, and doing so in a foreign country may be overwhelming. Because of this, you should thoroughly research any center or psychedelic healer you are thinking of working with. Additionally, most psychedelic tourism relies on ceremonial psychedelic use as opposed to modern therapeutic use. While ceremonial or traditional use can be helpful, many Americans will benefit from a modern therapeutic approach that can integrate the experience more fully into their modern American lives. You may also want to work with a local therapist before you travel to help you set intentions and once you return to integrate what you’ve learned into your everyday life.

Opt for Legal Alternatives

While classic psychedelics are illegal in the U.S., there are some legal options such as kambo, rape, and sananga that are becoming more widely available. Although these do not have the hallucinogenic properties associated with classic psychedelics, they detoxify the body, clear spiritual energy, and produce slightly non-ordinary states of consciousness. These alternatives are helpful in treating addiction, depression, anxiety, and other psychological ailments. In some states, cannabis is also legal and can be used in therapy for people suffering from conditions including bipolar disorder, eating disorders, or PTSD.  

There are also ways to reach a psychedelic state without actually taking psychedelics. Meditation, sensory deprivation, and holotropic breathwork have been shown to allow individuals to reach non-ordinary states of consciousness. Each of these techniques can increase the effectiveness of therapy and treat a variety of illnesses. But unlike psychedelic medicine, these techniques may require more training and practice before they can be used during therapy and they may not have all the physical benefits—such as a longterm reworking of the serotonin system—that psychedelics offer.

Many of us are waiting for the day when we can go to a reputable therapist and be prescribed psychedelics to manage disorders we are suffering from. While it can be difficult to wait for a cure that seems more effective than current treatments, resorting to illegal channels is rarely a good idea. Obtaining illegal psychedelics puts you at risk for legal repercussions and unwanted physical effects, and it will be harder to find a reputable psychedelic therapist willing to work with you. But there are still several alternatives that can provide healing to people who need it immediately. Consider some of these other options, stay up-to-date on research, and talk to a psychedelic therapist about legal relief you can get now.