Is the Requirement for First-Person Experience of Psychedelic Drugs a Justified Component of a Psychedelic Therapist’s Training?

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics:1-10 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Recent research offers good reason to think that various psychedelic drugs—including psilocybin, ayahuasca, ketamine, MDMA, and LSD—may have significant therapeutic potential in the treatment of various mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, existential distress, and addiction. Although the use of psychoactive drugs, such as Diazepam or Ritalin, is well established, psychedelics arguably represent a therapeutic step change. As experiential therapies, their value would seem to lie in the subjective experiences they induce. As it is the only way for trainee psychedelic therapists to fully understand their subjective effects, some have suggested that firsthand experience of psychedelics should form part of training programs. We question this notion. First, we consider whether the epistemic benefits offered by drug-induced psychedelic experience are as unique as is supposed. We then reflect on the value it might have in regard to the training of psychedelic therapists. We conclude that, absent stronger evidence of the contribution drug-induced experiences make to the training of psychedelic therapists, requiring trainees to take psychedelic drugs does not seem ethically legitimate. However, given the potential for epistemic benefit cannot be entirely ruled out, permitting trainees who wish to gain first-hand experience of psychedelics may be permissible.

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Nathan Emmerich
Queen's University, Belfast (PhD)

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Epiphenomenal qualia.Frank Jackson - 1982 - Philosophical Quarterly 32 (April):127-136.
Psychedelics as Standard of Care? Many Questions Remain.Kurt Rasmussen & David E. Olson - 2022 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 31 (4):477-481.

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