Vancouver experts suggest better metrics for psychedelic effects in addiction treatment

Paper notes that measuring experiences with hallucinogens remains a challenge.

Specialists with the Department of Medicine at UBC and the B.C. Centre on Substance Use examined the role of psychedelics in addressing substance use disorders. Wildpexel/Getty Images


There is a growing literature about the potential role of psychedelics in treating addictions.

It has been widely reported that when used as part of psychotherapy, these mind-altering substances induce a positive effect in a person’s life.

But as one commentary from Vancouver noted, measuring the effects of psychedelics hasn’t been easy.

“Capturing and quantifying psychedelic experiences and metrics of recovery capital in the setting of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy has proven challenging,” wrote a team of experts from the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, and the B.C. Centre on Substance Abuse.

The term “recovery capital” means factors that enable a person to remain motivated in fighting substance use disorders.

To explain, greater motivation can lead to “sustained positive outcomes, including abstinence”.

This is where psychedelics come in as part of therapy.

“Psychedelic-occasioned mystical experiences have been shown to enhance ratings of personal meaningfulness, spiritual significance, and connectedness, facilitating deeper personal insight that may lead to lasting behavioral change and positive outlook on life,” the authors noted.

They continued, “Indeed, it has been argued that psychedelics might assist in promoting broad positive lifestyle changes, such improved diet, exercise, nature relatedness, and mindfulness practices.”

Moreover, “This may be partially explained by the meaning enhancing properties of psychedelics (such as mystical experiences and awe) that are thought to have lasting impacts on mood, cognition and substance use behaviors.”

While personal accounts describe “enhanced sense of connectedness, spirituality, and meaningfulness” during psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, these “remain difficult to measure”.

“While the literature suggests qualitative changes on recovery capital and motivation are possible, the development of validated quantitative metrics would enhance the ability to formally assess recovery capital,” the authors wrote.

The commentary is titled “Can psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy play a role in enhancing motivation to change in addiction treatment settings?”

The authors are Mark Kang, Lindsay Mackay, Devon Christie, Cody Callon, and Elena Argento.

The paper was published online by the Journal of Psychedelic Studies.

The group pointed to a need to “develop and validate new assessment tools that better capture and measure recovery capital and motivation and related factors influenced by psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy”.

This is because “formally validated measures for psychedelic effects and impacts on recovery capital and motivation will enhance our understanding of the psychosocial aspects of an individuals’ journey to remission”.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter: @carlitopablo

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