November 20, 2021

November 20, 2021

Are Psychedelics Addictive? 

The general definition of “addiction” can be greatly misleading when referring to psychedelics since they are unjustly scrutinized under the label of common “drugs”. In a previous article, we challenged the stigma and fear around what we call drugs, pointing out the level of harm associated with various substances, both legal and illegal.

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Psychedelics have established their healing potential since before modern medicine, yet they are still scrutinized and misunderstood as being inherently harmful and addictive. Perhaps this is because they are often labeled as common abusive “drugs.” 

However, the addictive properties of many hallucinogens are miscalculated and misunderstood on many accounts. For starters, the definition of “addiction” can be greatly misleading when referring to psychedelics.

Let’s define addiction and discuss the potential for risk of some powerful psychedelic substances.

Defining Addiction

The True Definition

Hallucinogens are mostly considered psychologically addictive because many do not cause physical dependence. 

Psychological addiction is not limited to chemical substances and can also be associated with addictive behaviors, such as gambling. When a person becomes psychologically addicted to a specific behavior, it is usually in response to a stressor or trigger in their life. In this case, the intended substance or behavior becomes an outlet for leasing or escaping reality and its problems.

On the other hand, chemically addictive drugs alter the brain chemistry and will lead to high tolerance, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms. Except for PCP, other hallucinogens like ibogaine and MDMA don't cause physical changes that can lead to dependence. However, certain pain-relieving drugs like opioids induce euphoric feelings that can lead to drug abuse and reliance, as they only offer temporary symptom relief.

The Complex Definition

When psychedelics are considered addictive, it's usually because they may provoke at least one of the defining features of a classic addiction: tolerance, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms. For instance, although the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) does not classify LSD as an addictive drug, it does produce tolerance. Even without uncontrollable drug-seeking behaviors, the hallucinogen can be dangerous and lead to an overdose as individuals continue taking higher doses to achieve the original effect. 

On the other hand, despite being psychologically addictive, psychedelics such as MDMA and ibogaine are also known for their healing potential. More specifically, their capacity to overcome other addictions. For example, there is increasing evidence supporting ibogaine use to treat various drug addictions, including nicotine.

How Addictive are Psychedelics: The Final Verdict

Depending on the type of addiction, it is safe to say that psychedelics can be psychologically addictive, or possess certain characteristics otherwise common with chemically addictive drugs, such as tolerance.

When used as an escape mechanism, the risks of taking high quantities or having prolonged effects increase substantially. For example, the effects of LSD and magic mushrooms can last over 10 hours thereby, leading to emotional and psychological trauma, especially during bad trips. The energy, experience, and side effects of such usage can be enough to help minimize any risk of tolerance building.

Ibogaine is a powerful psychedelic that has been shown to have anti-addictive properties. This substance can offer a new world of healing for individuals suffering from substance abuse and countless other unearthed uses.

As advocates of safe drug usage, we at MINDCURE believe in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. A fundamental in risk mitigation includes safe administration, dose management, and psychedelic therapy with certified therapists. Digital tools such as iSTRYM provide data-driven insights, resources, and protocols for clinicians to support a safe transcendental journey.

Learn about our research into ibogaine and how we’re creating opportunities for research and healing by manufacturing synthetic ibogaine and conducting preclinical explorations. 

Written by

Naveen Rashid