Glossary of Terms
Anti-anxiety medications: Used to help people with generalized anxiety, social anxiety, or panic attacks. See also, Benzodiazepines.
Antidepressants: Used to treat symptoms of depression, but in some cases may also be prescribed for anxiety or insomnia. Common types of antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). See also, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors.
Antipsychotics: Typically prescribed to treat schizophrenia, it is also sometimes used for individuals with bipolar who are exhibiting symptoms of psychosis.
Ayahuasca: A psychoactive substance blending different plants, most commonly the Banisteriopsis caapi (ayahuasca or yagé) vine and Psychotria viridis (chacruna) shrub 1. Ingested as a ‘tea’, the substance contains N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI). Originally used for spiritual and medicinal purposes
during shamanic ceremonies in the Amazon basin in South America, it is still used today by many indigenous peoples and organized religions to uphold cultural tradition 2. Researchers have shown ayahuasca to be effective in the treatment of depression, anxiety and addiction.
Benzodiazepines: The most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications. They are short-acting (effective soon after being administered) and are not intended for long-term use as they may lead to dependence. They are known to impact the neurons that trigger stress and anxiety and are FDA-approved for the treatment of insomnia, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, among other conditions.
Brain Default Mode Network: A set of interconnected regions in the brain involved in the sense of self and judgment. This system of brain regions is more active during passive tasks when a person is not focused on what is happening around them – such as remembering or daydreaming – than it is while carrying out tasks that demand more focused attention 4 , 5 . During psychedelic therapy, this network becomes quiet and brain regions that normally don’t communicate start talking. These activities have the potential to bring about new insights and perspectives, allowing individuals to make changes and achieve positive outcomes.
Breakthrough Therapy Designation (BTD): A process that allows researchers to fast-track the development and review of a drug designed to treat serious conditions and that has been shown in clinical studies to be a substantial improvement over therapies currently in use.
Contraindication: Any medical condition, drug, or symptom for which a medication or treatment could be harmful and, therefore, should not be used. Conditions contraindicated for psychedelics include, but are not limited to pregnancy, a history of epilepsy/seizure; cardiovascular disease, uncontrolled blood pressure, heart failure/disease; schizophrenia; and bipolar disorder.
Controlled Substances Act: Signed in 1970, this law placed all substances into one of five schedules, with Schedule I drugs seen as having the highest potential for abuse and Schedule V drugs having the lowest 7 . Today, LSD, MDMA, psilocybin, mescaline, cannabis, ibogaine, and DMT are classified as Schedule I drugs. Ketamine is classified as a Schedule III drug.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): The most common approach to psychotherapy, CBT helps individuals, groups, or families confront unhealthy thoughts and behaviors by replacing them with realistic self-talk and constructive behaviors.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): Commonly used to treat individuals with BPD (borderline personality disorder) and other conditions, DBT is an approach to psychotherapy that emphasizes accepting and validating unhealthy thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and learning to find the balance between acceptance and change.
DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine): A central active ingredient in ayahuasca, DMT is a potent and naturally occurring psychoactive chemical found in many plants, animals, and humans that can cause intense hallucinations. Studies have shown it has the potential to treat depression and PTSD.
Ego dissolution (aka, Ego Death or Ego Loss): a reduction in “self- referential” awareness – including self-esteem and self-identity – ego dissolution is characterized by an increased feeling of unity with others and one’s surroundings.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR): Used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), EMDR is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on stimulating the brain with back-and-forth eye movements to help resurface memories of traumatic events to better process and resolve them.
Esketamine: A fast-acting nasal spray marketed as Spravato, esketamine is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat depression that does not respond to traditional therapeutics, commonly known as treatment-resistant depression. It is a derivative and a more potent version of ketamine, an anesthetic primarily used to prevent pain in animals and humans during medical procedures, including surgery.
5-MeO-DMT: A naturally occurring, fast-acting and short-lived psychedelic tryptamine, 5-MeO-DMT is produced by a variety of plant and animal species, including the gland secretions of the Colorado River toad. The effects include vision and auditory alterations, out-of-body experiences, and mystical type experiences. Studies are currently exploring its potential to treat depression as well as PTSD.
Hallucinogens: Substances that distort a person’s awareness of surroundings, thoughts and feelings.
Ibogaine: A psychoactive substance extracted from the root bark of Tabernanthe Iboga, an African rainforest shrub. Ibogaine is an alkaloid (nitrogen-containing organic compounds) with psychedelic properties 17 . In small doses, it acts as a general stimulant. Ibogaine has been shown to be effective in treating addiction and has been studied as a potential treatment for depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Indication: A medical condition for which a drug, therapy, or procedure is intended to treat.
Individual therapy: A form of talk therapy where an individual works one-on-one with a therapist, utilizing different strategies and approaches to address unresolved feelings, traumas, and other conditions that affect one’s mental wellbeing.
Integration: See Psychedelic Integration.
Interpersonal therapy: A form of psychotherapy that helps people address relationship problems and teaches them new interpersonal and communication skills to improve relationships. It can also be used for couples counseling or to help those with depression better relate with others.
LSD: One of the most well-known psychedelics, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a potent hallucinogen. Studies have shown LSD may have the potential to treat conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and cluster headaches.
Ketamine: An injectable, short-acting anesthetic used primarily to prevent pain in animals and humans during medical procedures, including surgery. It is known for its “dissociative” effects which makes patients feel detached from their surroundings. 21 Ketamine is available for use as an off-label drug to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. While a powerful psychoactive substance and antidepressant, ketamine is technically not a psychedelic.
MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine): A stimulant and psychedelic, MDMA is a synthetic chemical that can distort perceptions and alter mood. It has been shown to increase the activity of three brain chemicals: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin 22 . In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration granted MDMA-assisted psychotherapy Breakthrough Therapy Designation, allowing for clinical studies to explore its benefits in treating conditions like depression, PTSD, anxiety in terminally ill patients, and social anxiety in autistic adults.
Magic mushrooms: See Psilocybin.
Mood stabilizers: Medications commonly prescribed for people with bipolar disorder and mood-related conditions to stabilize mood and prevent significant mood swings, mania, and depression.
Neuroplasticity: The capacity of the brain to change and adapt its structure, functions, connections, and behavior in response to a variety of stimuli, including but not limited to learning, experiences, memory formation, sensory stimulation, or damage. Neuroplasticity is also known as neural plasticity or brain plasticity.
Off-label: The act of prescribing a drug for an indication that is not included on a drug’s label.
Psilocybin: A mind-altering substance found in roughly 200 species of fungi in Mexico, Central American, and the US 24 . Psilocybin has been shown to effectively treat major depressive disorder (including treatment-resistant depression), anxiety, PTSD, cluster headaches, OCD, and alcohol dependence.
Psychotherapy: Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy is designed to treat a wide range of mental health conditions and is offered in both inpatient and outpatient settings. During sessions, a therapist can help clients process their feelings and learn new coping skills.
Psychedelics: Psychedelic, literally meaning “mind-manifesting,” are psychoactive substances that alter normal consciousness. When used carefully and in combination with therapy, psychedelics can help surface unconscious thoughts, feelings, memories, and sensations. They are considered safe and to have low risk for dependence or addiction 27 . Psychedelics, which vary widely in their pharmacology and their physiological effects, have also been shown to increase neural plasticity, enhance neural regrowth, and change mental patterns.
Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy: A mental health treatment where a psychedelic substance is administered under supervision within a series of therapy sessions.
A PAT session involves three stages:
• Preparation – When the participant seeking care addresses any concerns and details about the upcoming session. During this stage, the participant is building trust with the therapist, sitter, or integration coach who will help to guide the person through the session. Proper integration, some argue, is key to unlocking therapeutic benefits.
• Psychedelic Experience – Taking the medication in a safe, comfortable setting.
• Integration – When insights from the psychedelic experience are translated into meaningful and positive changes in daily life. See Psychedelic Integration.
Psychedelic Integration: In partnership with a provider, integration is the process by which an individual revisits, explores, and intentionally engages in unpacking, understanding, and coming to terms with their psychedelic experience. Ultimately, this can lead to developing habits and skills into one’s everyday life to drive behavioral changes that can lead to greater balance internally (mind, body, soul, spirit) and externally (lifestyle and relationships). Participants may employ the services of a therapist, guide, facilitator, sitter, or integration coach to assist with the integration process.
Set and setting: A phrase first introduced in the 1960s by former Harvard Professor Timothy Leary to highlight two key factors which contribute to psychedelic experience. Set refers to a person’s mindset during a psychedelic session, which can include mood, perceptions, and expectations. Setting refers to the context or physical environment where the therapy session takes place. Setting can also include anything that is physically located in the space where the session takes place, including music, an eye mask, pillows, candles, among other things.
Sitter: A trusted person who sits with and supports the participant undergoing a psychedelic-assisted session.
Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): A class of drugs used to treat depression. They work to increase the mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain by blocking their reabsorption (or reuptake) into the neurons.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): Antidepressants that work to increase serotonin levels in the brain by blocking their reabsorption (or reuptake) into the brain’s nerve terminals or neurons.
Therapist: Depending on the setting, a therapist is the person who arranges the space, administers the substance, and supports the participants through the journey. The person in this role plays a huge part in the overall experience and safety of the person or group undergoing therapy.
Tryptamine: A broad class of hallucinogens capable of producing changes in sensory perception, mood, and thought in humans. Tryptamine can be found in psilocybin, ayahuasca , and DMT.
World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines: Quality-assured medicines that are deemed by the World Health Organization as effective, safe, cost-effective and necessary to satisfy healthcare needs.