Psychedelics and Acupuncture in Tandem

Psychedelics provide opportunities to heal on their own, but they can also be combined with other therapies like acupuncture.
By Nicole McCray
June 1, 2021

Psychedelics and acupuncture both offer distinct venues for healing. When used in combination, these treatments can complement one another. Join Nicole McCray as we learn about psychedelics, acupuncture, and their use to support healing.


Although psychedelic therapy is relatively new, certain psychedelics have an ancient history of medicinal use. In modern times, psychedelic use is beginning to show great promise for those struggling with mental health issues. Acupuncture is also an ancient therapy, with proven benefits for chronic pain, mental health, and more. Let’s take a look at how these two complementary and alternative practices can combine to maximize their effects.

Psychedelics for Mental Health

Throughout history, there has been great interest in the use of psychedelics. For example, LSD for holistic healing and mental health issues, particularly mood disorders and alcohol dependence. The plant-based psychedelic, psilocybin, also has a long and ancient history of use for spiritual and medicinal purposes.

In fact, in the 1950s psychologists and psychiatrists widely used both drugs for the treatment of various mental health issues. Mental health professionals noted that using these drugs could shorten psychotherapy and maximize its benefits.

Unfortunately, legislation was passed in the mid-1960s that effectively put a stop to all research and use of psychedelics for mental health treatments. Despite these laws, there has been a revived interest in this field of study, particularly since the early 1990s.

Although more research is being conducted all the time, the preliminary findings are very promising. Clinical research is showing that LSD and psilocybin are both beneficial for the treatment of anxiety and depression.

Numerous studies are also showing that when in tandem with human connection and guidance in controlled doses, these drugs could be beneficial for a number of mental health issues. For instance, these include:

  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • alcohol and tobacco addiction
  • PTSD
  • end-of-life psychological distress in cancer and other chronically ill patients.
two people's hands, one performing acupressure, akin to acupuncture
Image Credit: Conscious Design

Psychedelics and Chronic Pain

The treatment of chronic pain is another area where modern medicine and pharmaceuticals are seriously lacking. Research published by UC San Diego shows that psychedelics could be the answer here as well.

Their research shows that psychedelics can act as analgesics in several ways. Not only do psychedelics have a mechanical effect on serotonin receptors in the brain, but they also reduce inflammation, which is a leading contributor to chronic pain. Psychedelics also change the functional connectivity of the brain, in essence blocking the patient from feeling the pain in the first place.

Ketamine for Mental Health and Chronic Pain

Although LSD and psilocybin have not yet been approved for legal use, there is a legal alternative available.

Ketamine is another psychedelic compound. Ketamine shows great success for pain management and mental health issues. These include depression, OCD, social anxiety disorder, and PTSD.

In essence, ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic. Ketamine sees use in anesthesia applications for both pediatric and adult patients. These sedative and dissociative properties make it an excellent tool for pain management, as well as mental health conditions.

Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP) and pain management are becoming much more mainstream. In fact, KAP has shown great success in quickly reversing severe, treatment-resistant depression in many cases.

Close up of hands performing acupuncture
Image Credit: Katherine Hanlon

Why do Psychedelics and Acupuncture Intersect?

Acupuncture is another alternative therapy that is gaining traction here in the US. Acupuncture is most well-known for its ability to relieve chronic pain. However, it enjoys wide use for mental health and mood disorders. It promotes dopamine production, which makes it a valuable tool for the treatment of addiction as well.

Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that acupuncture works by balancing the flow of qi energy throughout the body. It stimulates various organ systems, such as the immune, nervous, digestive, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems to promote balance and healing.

According to Dr. Jill Blakeway, author and founder of Yinova Acupuncture in Brooklyn Heights, acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of energy healing. It can treat the symptoms of anxiety and depression as effectively as SSRIs, but without harmful side effects.

Not only that, but in cases where chronic pain and depression are intertwined, acupuncture has been shown to maximize the effectiveness of conventional treatments and even reduce potential side effects.

How Acupuncture and Psychedelic Therapy Can Work Together

Of course, either one of these therapies can be used on its own. But, combining psychedelic therapy with acupuncture may provide cumulative benefits for mental health and chronic pain patients.

Holistic therapies like acupuncture and psychedelics are often used with herbs, conventional medicine, and talk therapy to help manage mental health disorders and chronic pain in a comprehensive way. Remember, holistic medicine is all about treating the individual as a whole: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Since these therapies can impact individuals in a variety of different ways, it is important to consult your doctor before beginning any new treatments.

Because acupuncture and psychedelics are holistic therapies that help the individual gain awareness of the connection between the mind, body, and emotions, they are ideally suited to promoting mindfulness and awareness of oneself on a deeper level. This allows the patient to release issues that are causing them distress. 

The Bottom Line of Psychedelics and Acupuncture

Although psychedelic therapy and acupuncture work in different ways, they have similar benefits for the patient. Combining the two therapies is an excellent strategy for enhancing their effects and seeing results more quickly. Research in these fields is ongoing, but there is ample evidence to show that both therapies are powerful and effective alternative treatments for mental health and chronic pain.


Published by:
Nicole McCray
Learn more about my work and see my portfolio on my website NicoleMcCray.com.

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