A Retrospective Study to Determine the Impact of Psychedelic Therapy for Dimensional Measures of Wellness: A Qualitative Analysis of Response Data

This preprint qualitative analysis (n=65) of civilians and veterans finds improvements in wellness (a term used by the WHO), which includes improvements in medical and mental health conditions, social interactions, spirituality, and overall function.


Background The World Health Organization (WHO) defines wellness as the optimal state of health of individuals and groups. No study to date has identified the impact of psychedelic medicines for optimizing wellness using a dimensional approach. Treatment effects can be measured more broadly using a composite score of participants’ global perceptions of change for pain, function, and mood scores. Given the precedence in previous work for retrospective study of participants’ self-medicating with these substances, the nature of this study design allows for a safe way to develop further evidence in this area of care, with wellness as the broad indication.

Methods 65 civilian or military veterans between the ages of 18-99 self-identifying as having used psychedelic medicines for non-recreational therapeutic purposes in the last 3 years were recruited for this study. Participants completed various standardized questionnaires that will be analyzed in a separate study, while this study analyzed the qualitative experiences described in relation to the medicines used and coded them according to themes developed from review of previous literature.

Results A total of 93 comments were analyzed. Participant comments were classified into these categories: mysticism and spirituality, functional improvement and self awareness, social connection and cultural impact, impact on medical and mental health conditions, neutral impressions, sensations or difficult experiences. Participants described impacts in these categories related to spiritual, physiological, psychological, and social improvements, as well as difficulties and complex emotions regarding the experience of using psychedelic medicines.

Discussion Wellness of individuals or groups is not simply an absence of disease, symptoms, or impairments. Rather, it reflects the outcome of numerous personal characteristics, psychophysiology, and choices, expressed throughout one’s lifespan, unfolding in dynamic interaction with a complicated socio-cultural and physical environment. Participants that used psychedelic medicines described improvement of medical and mental health conditions, social interaction, spirituality, and overall function. In general, quality of life and wellness consequently improved after the use of these medicines based on established multidimensional factors.

Conclusion The use of various psychedelic medicines appears to be associated with a broad range of qualitative experiences that could help clarify the mechanism of how they impact wellness in the future.

Authors: Victoria Di Virgilio, Amir Minerbi, Jenna Fletcher, Anthony Di Virgilio, Salena Aggerwal, Luke Sheen, Jagpaul Kaur Deol & Gaurav Gupta

Summary of Impact of Psychedelic Therapy for Dimensional Measures of Wellness

The WHO defines health as the absence of disease or infirmity but also includes mental health, emotional well-being, and social functioning. Therefore, health and well-being are congruent in some areas, specifically mental and physical health, and social functioning.

Multiple dimensions underlying health and wellness cut across the diagnostic groups employed in classical categorical systems. However, it is rare that participants afflicted with both mental health and chronic pain issues are included in studies, making diagnostic distinctions difficult.

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A Retrospective Study to Determine the Impact of Psychedelic Therapy for Dimensional Measures of Wellness: A Quantitative Analysis
This pre-print of an observational study (n=65) examines the impact of psychedelic medicines on wellness among civilian or military veterans who self-identified as using these substances for non-recreational purposes in the past three years. Participants reported improvements in all domains (pain, mental health, function, and overall quality of life), with the highest perceived improvement in mental health and overall quality of life, and lowest in pain. The results suggest a significant association between the perceived changes in all domains, regardless of the specific psychedelic substance used.

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