Psychedelics and virtual reality: parallels and applications

This theory-building article (2020) constructs a bridge between psychedelics and virtual reality (VR). It highlights how both alter sensory experiences and can invoke awe. Via different modalities, both can break people free from rigid thought patterns and both are finding their way into therapeutic use. VR could possibly also be used to ease people into a psychedelic experience.


“Psychedelic drugs and virtual reality (VR) each have the capacity to disrupt the rigidity and limitations of typical conscious experience. This article delineates the parallels among psychedelic and VR states as well as their potential synergistic applications in clinical and recreational settings. Findings indicate that, individually, psychedelics and VR are used in analogous ways to alter sensory experience and evoke awe. They are also both used in tandem with traditional therapies to treat a variety of mood disorders; their shared capacity to transiently alter perspective and disrupt rigid patterns of mental experience may underly their analogous and transdiagnostic therapeutic uses. In terms of their combined applications, a number of recreational users currently utilize psychedelics and VR together to enhance their experience. We propose that VR may be a useful tool for preparing hallucinogen-naïve participants in clinical trials for the sensory distortions experienced in psychedelic states. Given the critical role of “setting” in psychedelic treatment outcomes, we also detail how VR could be used to optimize the environment in psychedelic sessions. Finally, we provide considerations for future studies and detail how advancements in psychedelic and VR research can inform one another. Collectively, this article outlines a number of connections between psychedelics and VR, and, more broadly, is representative of growing scientific interest into the interactions among technology, psychopharmacology, and mental health.

Authors: Jacob S. Aday, Christopher C. Davoli & Emily K. Bloesch

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Psychedelics and virtual reality: parallels and applications

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Published in
Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology
August 14, 2020
2 citations

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Theory Building


Authors associated with this publication with profiles on Blossom

Jacob Aday
Jacob S. Aday is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.

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