Hallucinogens (psilocybin, LSD and others) are often regarded as risky substances, therefore they are banned in most places.

Are there ways of using these substances that can be beneficial?
Or in other words can a hallucination, or a set of hallucinations, have a positive value?

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    $\begingroup$ MDMA was known as "Empathy" before it became "Ecstasy" (I can't find a reference for the original name, but the history of it is on the Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDMA) $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2013 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ I removed the second part of this question as it seemed to me and others that it was a separate question. $\endgroup$
    – Josh
    Aug 19, 2013 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Aidis: apparently it may have helped create Apple and seen in the movie Jobs.... $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2013 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ "Or in other words can a hallucination, or a set of hallucinations, have a positive value?" I think it is a bad formulation. Hallucinogens may have positive effect in doses which do not cause hallucinations. $\endgroup$
    – uhbif19
    Dec 12, 2014 at 18:13

3 Answers 3


Hallucinogens play an important psycho-social role in many societies. Their positive impact seem to be primarily religious (see Tripping the Way to God: Hallucinogens and Religion).

However they do play an important role in the lab inducing a state similar to psychosis. They also play a limited role in psychiatry. Psychedelic psychotherapy as the name suggested is the combination of hallucinogens with a form of psychotherapy. It is not widely practiced. Research into cannabidiol], a cannabis constituent with anti-psychotic properties instead of the typical high anxiety and psychosis symptoms, has been published; see "Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an antipsychotic drug" by Zuardi et al, 2006.

Eli Lilly tried to make a drug based on these glutamate receptors interactions called LY2140023. It was shown to be ineffective by itself. Many hallucinogens are used for alternative primary purpose like benadryl and nitrous oxide (laughing gas).


A paper I've read (Roche, 2010) gives a rather pessimistic view about the revelatory powers of hallucinogenics and suggests that they are rather detrimental to a rational worldview if used in the long-term. However the author also acknowledges that there is a correlation between intuitive thinking and the hallucinogenic experience. The paper draws on many sources and is very interesting to read.

A quote from Terrence McKenna who used LSD exuberantly..

So I did it and...there was a something, like a flower, like a chrysanthemum in orange and yellow that was sort of spinning, spinning, and then it was like I was pushed from behind and I fell through the chrysanthemum into another place that didn't seem like a state of mind, it seemed like another place. And what was going on in this place aside from the tastefully soffited indirect lighting, and the crawling geometric hallucinations along the domed walls, what was happening was that there were a lot of beings in there, what I call self-transforming machine elves. Sort of like jeweled basketballs all dribbling their way toward me. And if they'd had faces they would have been grinning, but they didn't have faces. And they assured me that they loved me and they told me not to be amazed; not to give way to astonishment.

— (McKenna, 1993)

Psilocybin has been studied to alleviate depression in cancer patients in a well-designed study (Griffiths et al. 2016). Excerpt from the abstract:

The effects of psilocybin were studied in 51 cancer patients with life-threatening diagnoses and symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. This randomized, double-blind, cross-over trial investigated the effects of a very low (placebo-like) dose (1 or 3 mg/70 kg) vs. a high dose (22 or 30 mg/70 kg) of psilocybin administered in counterbalanced sequence with 5 weeks between sessions and a 6-month follow-up. Instructions to participants and staff minimized expectancy effects. Participants, staff, and community observers rated participant moods, attitudes, and behaviors throughout the study. High-dose psilocybin produced large decreases in clinician- and self-rated measures of depressed mood and anxiety, along with increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism, and decreases in death anxiety. At 6-month follow-up, these changes were sustained, with about 80% of participants continuing to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety. Participants attributed improvements in attitudes about life/self, mood, relationships, and spirituality to the high-dose experience, with >80% endorsing moderately or greater increased well-being/life satisfaction.


Griffiths, R. R., Johnson, M. W., Carducci, M. A., Umbricht, A., Richards, W. A., Richards, B. D., ... & Klinedinst, M. A. (2016). Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. Journal of psychopharmacology, 30(12), 1181-1197. doi: 10.1177/0269881116675513

McKenna, T. (1993). Alien Dreamtime [video].

Roche, G. T. (2010). Seeing Snakes: On Delusion, Knowledge, and the Drug Experience. In Dale Jacquette, ed. Cannabis Philosophy for Everyone: What Were We Just Talking About? Chapter 2, 35-49. Oxford: Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9781444324440.ch2


Psychotroph substances assume to have a lot of potential.

Due they where banned pretty soon after their appearance in western culture, we know almost nothing about them. In some cultures there is a large knowledge about spiritual usage, but as it is in cultural things, near to none scientific research. In the UK they started research in the 1990s and it seems like LSD/Psylocibin (which seem to have nearby exact the same effect on our brain) can be used to tread phobia and psychcological traumata in manifold issues.

Albert Hofmann(who discovered LSD) said, LSD would not alter the consciousness but expand it. Like an catalystic converter wich is needet to use the full potential of our consciousness. In his book "LSD - Mein Sorgenkind" he wrote that the things a proband sees are not hallucination but input to his sensory organ which he doesn't know and wich might overexcite him. This catches up with expirienced users of such drugs(multiple 10 times to over 100 uses), wich tell that the chance of horrortrips lowered with every usage and also they gained the abillity to "controll" their expirience in some form.

Beside of this, there are many artists wich tell that their creativity expand under influence of LSD, and even a single use in lifetime had expand the creativity.

It's assumed that depressive people have a high chance to better their condition. But the chance of horrortrips, even if this chance is really low, is a too high risk to use it in that issue.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to cogsci.SE! We encourage answerers to cite sources to back up assertions and provide further reading. $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Sep 30, 2014 at 12:34

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