Novel Treatment Approaches for Substance Use Disorders: Therapeutic Use of Psychedelics and the Role of Psychotherapy

This review (2022) explores how psychedelics can be used to treat substance use disorders (SUDs) Specifically, the authors discuss the role of different forms of psychotherapy such as psychodynamic and cognitive behavioural.


Purpose of Review: The use of psychedelics in a therapeutical setting has been reported for the treatment of various diagnoses in recent years. However, as psychedelic substances are still commonly known for their (illicit) recreational use, it may seem counterintuitive to use psychedelic therapy to treat substance use disorders. This review aims to discuss how psychedelics can promote and intensify psychotherapeutic key processes, in different approaches like psychodynamic and cognitive behavioural therapy, with a spotlight on the treatment of substance use disorders (SUD).

Recent Findings: There is promising evidence of the feasibility, safety, and efficacy of psychedelic therapy in SUD. In the whole process of former and current psychedelic therapy regimes that have shown to be safe and efficacious, various psychotherapeutic elements, both psychodynamic and behavioural as well as other approaches, can be identified, while a substantial part of the assumed mechanism of action, the individual psychedelic experience, cannot be distinctly classified to just one approach.

Summary: Psychedelic therapy consists of a complex interaction of pharmacological and psychological processes. When administered in well-defined conditions, psychedelics can serve as augmentation of different psychotherapy interventions in the treatment of SUD and other mental disorders, regardless of their theoretical origin.

Authors: Michael Koslowski, Matthew W. Johnson, Gerhard Gründer & Felix Betzler

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Authors associated with this publication with profiles on Blossom

Matthew Johnson
Matthew Johnson is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. His research is concerned with addiction medicine, drug abuse, and drug dependence.