Davis Talks Magic Mushrooms at Clarke Forum

Alexandria Lauff ’26, Staff Writer

The word psychedelic usually conjures up images of irresponsibility and 60s rockstars, not controlled medical treatment. Psychedelics are not one of the more “accepted” narcotics, even though its roots go back much farther than more common drugs like tobacco.

But Dr. Alan Davis gave a talk on the practice of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy hosted by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues. In the last three years, there has been considerable growth in research on the benefits of psychedelics, especially psilocybin. Davis and researchers like him have given controlled doses of psilocybin to patients experiencing depression. 

After treatment, patients experienced a significant drop in depression symptoms, 2.5 times stronger than other treatments. What’s more, their symptom scores stayed down. Half of the patients were in complete remission from their depression, and almost all said it was one of the most significant experiences of their lives. 

Psychedelic drug treatment is accompanied by talk therapy. Crucially, though, there is no attempt at talk therapy while the patient is under the influence. It comes afterward to deal with what they saw in their hallucinations. 

While under the influence of the psychedelic, patients are in a controlled environment with either a doctor or a licensed clinician and cognitive processes are not encouraged. Afterward, clinicians help patients work through what they experienced. These experiences often include mysticality, which Davis defined as  self-transcendence and euphoria, often ineffable; insight, which includes self-discovery; andwhat Davis calls “challenging experiences.” 

In this therapeutic treatment, the challenges of what is colloquially called a “bad trip” can often be what is most helpful. Facing the deepest and scariest parts of a patient’s trauma often gets to the root of their troubles, says Davis. Accompanied by support both during and after the drug intake turns a frightening plunge into a learning experience. The clinicians talk about this and all other possibilities before committing to and trying the drug. 

The drug is given to the patients as they lay on a couch. Soft music plays, and though the clinicians physically comfort them if they seem distressed, the patients are allowed to do whatever they want as long as it is not violent or sexual. Therapy focuses on taking the experience, especially those insightful moments, and integrating them into the patient’s everyday life in a process called psychedelic integration. 

As this is an uncommon drug and an uncommon treatment, many people may fear that it could create an addiction. Davis assured the audience that this is most often not the case. 

Psychedelics are, according to him, some of the safest drugs in existence. They do not harm the body or mind and do not create a dependency. There may, however, be a “psychological motivation” to keep exploring what psychedelics have to offer, he says. 

Most patients, though, do not express the desire to do psychedelics ever again. Not because their experience was bad, but because they have had their fill, or would not like to try the drugs out of the safe, supportive environment that the clinicians provide.

With the success of these trials, it is likely that psychedelic psychotherapy will see a rise in popularity. Such an effective, safe treatment may change the landscape of psychological medicine as we know it.