Are there any legal ways to take psychedelic substances? Can you experience these profound realms without fear of persecution or arrest?
A Therapist’s Dilemma
My name is Peter H. Addy and I’m a psychotherapist in Oregon and Washington. I was formerly an associate research scientist at Yale School of Medicine, where I studied atypical psychedelic substances for several years. I have a lot of research and clinical experience with psychedelic and transpersonal states.
In my private practice people sometimes approach me and say, “Dr. Addy, I’m really interested in taking a psychedelic substance and having a transformative experience. I’ve read the studies and I’m really interested in this path to healing. Can you give me a psychedelic substance, or help me find some?” I have to reply with, “No, I can’t help you with that. What you’re asking is illegal and as a therapist my number one concern is your safety and reducing risks, both for you and for me.”
That response is disappointing for people who come to me for help. They want healing. They’re suffering and they want to suffer less, and I have to say, “Nope, I can’t help and I can’t refer you to someone who can.” However, after researching psychedelic substances and experiences for over a decade, I’ve noticed a few ways that people might be able to take psychedelic substances legally.
Risks and Risk Management
Therapists think about risks and risk management every day. For example, when you begin therapy there is a risk that your confidential information might be intercepted or lost or stolen. We manage that risk by closing the door to our offices and using a white noise machine so that people can’t eavesdrop on our private conversations, and we use full disk encryption on our computers to prevent your protected health information from falling into the wrong hands. We think about risks and how to reduce or manage those risks all day, every day.
Using a psychedelic substance has risks. By far the number one risk or concern is that most psychedelic substances are federally illegal. Buying, manufacturing, possessing, or using a Schedule I controlled substance has the potential to lead to arrest, legal fees, jail or prison, disrupting your career or relationships, and others. Prison is not helpful to anyone’s mental health. As such, I do not recommend or advise anyone to do anything illegal. I am in the business of reducing risks and doing something illegal and possibly going to prison is decidedly risky.
I am not a lawyer. If you are interested in any of these options, don’t trust me, contact an actual lawyer. Most state Bar Associations have a Lawyer Referral Service you can reach out to for support.
Four Potential Legal Avenues
I’ve found that there are at least four legal ways that someone can take psychedelic substances. I am not recommending anyone do any of these things, and I am not even suggesting that any of these are good ideas. I just want to present some options and the associated risks so that you can make informed decisions.
One risk that is true of all these options is that you might not have a community. You might not have people you can talk to for support, who understand what you’ve been through. When you can’t talk about your experiences to anyone it can be difficult to keep those insights with you afterwards. If this is the case, reaching out to a professional with education, experience, and training in providing psychedelic harm reduction and integration might be a good option. You can also search for a local psychedelic integration group; here is a good list.
Option One: Join A Clinical Trial
The first option is to join a research study. There are several active clinical trials investigating psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy using MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD (and observational studies tracking use of ibogaine and ayahuasca). This option is great because you know who to talk to, what’s going to happen, and what you’re taking. Research scientists think about the process of informed consent every day. The substances they use have known potency and purity, verified by independent lab testing. They have policies and procedures for every kind of risk you can think of. These studies are FDA and DEA approved so there are no legal risks for you.
It’s easy to find these studies, simply go to clinicaltrials.gov and search for them. Every medical research study involving human subjects that goes on in the United States is required to register their study on this website and to send regular updates on how the study is progressing. Many researchers outside the US register their trials here as well. You can search by keywords like psilocybin and you can filter by state or view a map. The information is easily accessible, and they have contact information, so you can see who to call or email to learn more.
Pro tip: Contact the research coordinator, not the principal investigator. There’s usually more than one contact person listed on the clinical trial web page. One person is the principal investigator. They probably have an MD after their name or maybe a PhD. Don’t contact them, they are way too busy to respond to you in a timely manner. The next person on the list might have a BA or BS after their name. That’s the research coordinator. That’s the person you want to talk with. Their job literally is to talk with you about participating in the study and to get you in quickly.
These trials have a lot of integration work built into them. Here is a video where I summarize how clinical trials incorporate integration. While you’re in that three or four month rigorous treatment and data collection period, there’s a ton of integration work. It is very comprehensive. Afterwards, if you need additional support, you can reach out to integration specialists and/or find a local community.
Taking entheogens can be like air travel: people do it all the time, it’s usually fine, but when it’s not fine, it’s sometimes very bad. We’ve been there. And that’s where an experienced guide can make the difference in the outcome.
Interested in how to integrate what you learn in your journey? Ask for our Integration Guide PDF booklet.
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