“Psychedelics will be to psychiatry what the microscope is to biology and the telescope is to astronomy”

Stanislav Grof

Is it me or does it seem like everyone is talking about psychedelics nowadays? From Michael Pollan’s eponymous New York Times bestselling book “How to Change Your Mind”, to a slew of Netflix documentaries, media reports, TEDx talks, clinical trials and social media chatter, consciousness expansion is on everyone’s lips as we undergo a psychedelic renaissance. Many people are starting to get curious about how they can heal or engage in deep exploration with psychedelic medicines.

Many psychedelic substances were outlawed in the 1960s as part of “the war on drugs” and in response to the new-wave generation using them recreationally, sometimes in an unsafe way, and causing harm. At this time there was promising research being undertaken into the use of psychedelics therapeutically, as an adjunct to psychotherapy, and unfortunately this largely got shut down.

But now it seems, the world is once again awakening to the healing potential of these medicines. The UK is becoming a trailblazer in the psychedelic research field, most notably Imperial College London, which is paving the way globally for psychedelic neuroscience trials. You can legally apply to be a participant in these trials if you fit certain criteria.

One major trial has reported “exceptional” results into symptom improvement for participants experiencing major depression, when treated with psilocybin and psychotherapy. This was the largest ever clinical trial of its sort, undertaken by Compass Pathways, a mental healthcare firm.

The US is ahead of us in the game of legalising psychedelics, specifically psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms, which has now been decriminalised in Colorada and Oregon. This is in part due to the excellent research and pioneering principles of MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), which has been boldly waving the flag for psychedelic research, since 1986.

Rick Doblin, executive director of MAPS describes MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as “the best treatment for trauma”. MAPS have been conducting studies into MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for decades, especially for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Studies from MAPS have demonstrated that participants with severe PTSD experienced a clinically significant reduction in diagnostic scores after MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, compared to placebo participants. Many of these participants are war veterans, who have reported great improvements in their happiness and quality of life after working therapeutically with MDMA, results unparalleled from conventional psychotherapy.

MDMA is considered one of the safest substances to use therapeutically, as there are few side effects. Participants can potentially process their traumatic memories and feelings without fear, whilst under the influence of MDMA. The amygdala, the “fight or flight” centre of the brain, is deactivated by MDMA. This enables PTSD sufferers to revisit, work through and reframe traumatic memories, with the guidance of a psychotherapist.

With the wake of decriminalisation of some psychedelics in the US, and now Australia have legalised psilocybin and MDMA for the treatment of depression and PTSD, it is probable that in time the UK will follow suit and legalise more psychedelics for therapeutic use, giving more people access to the healing potential of these substances. Demand is currently growing for government ministers in the UK to decriminalise psilocybin for medical use as a response to research findings.

So, you may now be wondering about the legalities of psychedelics in the UK……

Most psychedelics are illegal, Class A drugs in the UK. Meaning you could face up to 7 years in prison and an unlimited fine for possessing them.

Travelling abroad or participating in clinical trials is the only way to legally access psychedelics, except for ketamine. Ketamine clinics in the UK are popping up providing the administration of ketamine, either with or without psychotherapy, for the treatment of a variety of mental health conditions. These clinics are overseen by medical professionals and can potentially be accessed with a referral from your GP or psychiatrist.

Outside of the US, there are some countries where psychedelic substances have been decriminalised and you can visit to attend a retreat:

  • Jamaica (psilocybin)
  • Brazil (psilocybin)
  • Jamaica (psilocybin)
  • The Netherlands (psilocybin)
  • Peru (ayahuasca)
  • Ecuador (ayahuasca)
  • Mexico (ayahuasca and iboga)
  • Canada (iboga)

Please note, iboga is an extremely potent psychedelic and needs careful risk assessment, planning and specialist support before use. However, there have been promising outcomes from the use of iboga to treat alcohol and drug addiction. Peru has become a prime and popular destination for Ayahuasca tourism, but travellers should be incredibly careful, especially solo female travellers. Unfortunately, greed, exploitation and sometimes sexual abuse have become serious issues.

Australia has recently become the first country to legalise the use of MDMA and psilocybin as a potential treatment for people who are suffering with PTSD or treatment resistant depression.

Despite legalisation of psychedelics in these countries, these retreat centres are not regulated, which means there are no standards of treatment and care, and no accountability process. So, if you decide to attend one, please be careful, acquire knowledge, attend psychedelic integration psychotherapy and use your instincts to keep yourself safe.

For now, despite the collective buzz, most people are extremely limited in how they can work with psychedelic substances.

But for those of you prepared to put some work (and pleasure) in, there is hope……

Holotropic (which means “moving towards wholeness”) breathwork was invented in the 1960s by Stanislav Grof, a Czech psychiatrist who was a key figure in the development of transpersonal psychology, as a response to the criminalisation of LSD. Grof wanted to continue exploring the healing potential of working with psychedelic states. He created a simple technique called “circular breathing”; breathing in and out rhythmically, without pause, and at times with a fast pace. When combined with an emotionally evocative playlist, the experiences of participants were like those created after ingesting a psychedelic substance.

Whilst in a holotropic breathwork session, the participant can enter into a state of altered consciousness, similar to that experienced whilst taking psychedelic substances. Everyone’s journey is different, but reports of visions, experiencing past lives, feeling in contact with deceased ancestors, re-experiencing birth, seeing spirits or religious deities, “being at one with the universe”, feeling complete emptiness, sexual arousal, deep relaxation and healing, or having an intense emotional outpouring are among those reported.

During holotropic breathwork it is important to work with a trained facilitator. The facilitator will maintain your safety and be with you during the process, they will not tell you what to think about. They may use consensual touch to support you energetically. Holotropic breathwork is drug free, safe and if it is getting overwhelming at any point, you can change your breathing and come out of the experience. You can search online for locally trained facilitators.

We have a whole untapped pharmacy within our brains and bodies, the breath is an utterly amazing catalyst!

Whether you are looking to work with expansive consciousness states medicinally or for mystical exploration, these experiences can give us unterritorial access into the domains of our personal and collective experience, and the boundless possibilities of the human mind. And there is something extremely exciting about that.


I would like to reference the wonderful Joe Moore, Kyle Buller and the team at Psychedelics Today for some of the information in this blog.

PLEASE NOTE: This blog is intended for information only and does not substitute medical advice. I do not advocate the illegal use of substances.


Written by Jo Dice
Psychedelic Integration and Integrative Psychotherapist


As a psychotherapist, psychedelic integration practitioner, spiritual explorer and registered nurse of twenty years; I offer wisdom from the worlds of knowledge, science, body, soul and spirit for a comprehensive and holistic therapy journey.

If you would like to work with me for Integrative Psychotherapy or Psychedelic Integration Psychotherapy, please drop me a line and we can arrange a free introductory session.