Value and values in relation to psychedelic substances and experiences

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University of New Brunswick


The following is an interdisciplinary study of the uses of psychedelics for self-improvement, ritual and integrative social functions, medicinal relief of psychological and emotional trauma, and other mental health pathologies and illnesses. There is a dual purpose to this study. The first is to deconstruct the stigma surrounding psychedelics to explore how they have been excluded as natural remedies from common narratives on treatment. Stigma effects the way in which the world views these substances, and as this research shows, influences how users interpret and value their experiences with them. The second purpose is to explicate the similarities and differences between three unique settings outlined for the study: Clinical, as in being used under the supervision of a professional clinician, Ceremonial or Ritualistic, as in ceremonies such as an Ayahuasca ceremony, and Recreational, as in use by people in social settings. The research identified specific protocols, defined as best practices by interviewees, for maximizing the impacts of psychedelic use in each of these discrete contexts. Based on the first-hand experiences of users in these three settings, this thesis has proposed strategies for harm-reduction across all settings. This thesis informs current and future efforts to de-stigmatize psychedelics and promotes educating the public about their use. It contributes to harm-reduction approaches by demonstrating smart ways to manage psychedelic experiences for the purposes of enhancing mental health, reducing trauma and, for optimizing forms of self-improvement.