A teenager suffering from “complex trauma due to chronic domestic violence” was able to overcome his suicidal ideation by self-administering the psychedelic drugs LSD and DMT, according to a new paper in the journal Psychiatry Research Case Reports. Despite having been diagnosed with a schizophrenia-like psychotic disorder, the youngster remained mostly free of psychosis while experimenting with the drugs and largely resolved his recurring auditory hallucinations after a year of tripping.
“The case illustrates that a diagnosis of a psychotic disorder may not necessarily need to be a contraindication to the treatment of early complex trauma, depression, suicidality or other mental disorders with psychedelics,” explains the author. However, acknowledging that a single case study does not constitute robust scientific evidence, the researcher goes on to warn that “unsupervised self-administration of [psychedelics]… carries high risks and should not be encouraged at this point.”
Penned by Mika Turkia from the University of Helsinki, the paper describes how the young man’s upbringing was colored by regular violence, as well as “daily shaming, blaming and other unsupportive behavior.” Auditory hallucinations were then triggered by cannabis use as an adolescent, with psychotic symptoms persisting even after antipsychotic medications were prescribed.
Having resigned himself to committing suicide if the voices in his head persisted, he eventually decided to try LSD as a last resort in 2019. After acquiring the drug on the darknet and undergoing a profound psychedelic experience, he “realized that the voices were only representations of his unprocessed, previous life experiences” and began working through these “adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)”.
“The session had triggered ’a flow state’ and a decision that his life was not yet at its end: he would start a new life,” explains the author. Significantly, “the auditory hallucinations mostly disappeared after he began processing the ACEs,” and a psychiatric evaluation a year later confirmed that his psychosis had more or less cleared up.
Over the course of six LSD sessions, the teenager was able to transform his negative self-image into a positive one. During his final trip, he even encountered an “entity” in the form of a geometric shape called an icosahedron “with a consciousness.”
“Every thought that the teenager shared with the icosahedron was mirrored back to him as if it would have answers to all possible questions.”
Taking his treatment a step further, the patient then began smoking low doses of DMT on a daily basis for an extended period of time. Doing so brought him into contact with yet more entities and produced an antidepressant effect.
Eventually, he came to realize that “he wanted [to] belong to the society and the world, to live and enjoy life. He described that 'life had begun to feel like a life'.”
“While his psychosis may have been due to cannabis use in the presence of a genetic predisposition, LSD and DMT did not promote psychotic symptoms in this case, and resolved the suicidal condition in one session,” explains the study author.
“If psychosis is understood as a massive defense system resulting from early complex trauma, and if his psychotic symptoms were partially due to such trauma, psychedelics appeared to transcend this defense system, providing access to traumatic memories in order to allow for an integrative treatment effect.”
Based on this analysis, the author suggests that low-risk self-treatment protocols may allow trauma patients to access the “hyperaware-hypersensitive state induced by psychedelics.” It goes without saying, however, that the unsupervised use of psychedelics – particularly by those suffering from trauma or psychosis – carries significant risks, and much more research is needed before such a treatment model can be considered.
If you or someone you know is struggling, help and support are available in the US at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255. For Canada, the Canada Suicide Prevention Service can be called 24/7 on 1.833.456.4566 or text on 45645 (available from 4pm to Midnight ET). In the UK and Ireland, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. International helplines can be found at SuicideStop.com.