In this interview for 3:AM Magazine, Chris Letheby argues that even though psychedelics may induce delusions or imaginary phenomena, their use can also lead to accurate knowledge and insights into one’s own mind and consciousness. He also discusses some of the key differences between antidepressant use, which can be dehumanizing, and psychedelic use, which is often transformative.
“I just think that our intuitive conception of how drugs like SSRIs work fits the description of what some thinkers regard as a dehumanising treatment modality. What’s the description? Basically, they re-wire you from the bottom up, and you, as a person, don’t really have anything to do with it. The change in personality or mood is alien—it’s inserted ‘from the outside’ of one’s biography, by the drug, rather than being a meaningful and comprehensible change that one goes through and can incorporate into one’s autobiography. This contrasts starkly with prototypical psychotherapies, be it cognitive-behavioural therapy, Freudian analysis, exposure therapy, or whatever, where there is a sense that the transformation results from learning and insight, and the subject, post-transformation, can tell a plausible story about how and why that particular experience or insight transformed them in the way that it did.
Well, a glance at the literature on psychedelic therapy, and in particular the reports of psychedelic subjects, gives you a picture much more like the second than the first. People are talking about being transformed by meaningful learning experiences, and typically they can tell a story about why that particular experience transformed them in that particular way. Of course, they might be confabulating. But I think it’s plausible that psychedelic therapy does in fact involve something more like the intuitive picture of psychotherapy than like the intuitive picture of pharmacotherapy—explicable transformation by a meaningful conscious experience. A philosophical slogan would be that psychedelic therapy is a personal-level process.”