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Dreams and Psychedelics: Neurophenomenological Comparison and Therapeutic Implications

[ Vol. 15 , Issue. 7 ]

Author(s):

Rainer Kraehenmann*   Pages 1032 - 1042 ( 11 )

Abstract:


Background: A resurgence of neurobiological and clinical research is currently underway into the therapeutic potential of serotonergic or ‘classical’ psychedelics, such as the prototypical psychedelic drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,Ndimethyltryptamine), and ayahuasca – a betacarboline- and dimethyltryptamine (DMT)-containing Amazonian beverage. The aim of this review is to introduce readers to the similarities and dissimilarities between psychedelic states and night dreams, and to draw conclusions related to therapeutic applications of psychedelics in psychiatry.

Methods: Research literature related to psychedelics and dreaming is reviewed, and these two states of consciousness are systematically compared. Relevant conclusions with regard to psychedelicassisted therapy will be provided.

Results: Common features between psychedelic states and night dreams include perception, mental imagery, emotion activation, fear memory extinction, and sense of self and body. Differences between these two states are related to differential perceptual input from the environment, clarity of consciousness and meta-cognitive abilities. Therefore, psychedelic states are closest to lucid dreaming which is characterized by a mixed state of dreaming and waking consciousness.

Conclusion: The broad overlap between dreaming and psychedelic states supports the notion that psychedelics acutely induce dreamlike subjective experiences which may have long-term beneficial effects on psychosocial functioning and well-being. Future clinical studies should examine how therapeutic outcome is related to the acute dreamlike effects of psychedelics.

Keywords:

Dreams, psychedelics, subjective experience, perception, mental imagery, emotion activation, fear memory extinction, sense of self and body.

Affiliation:

Neuropsychopharmacology and Brain Imaging, Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Psychiatric Hospital, Faculty of Medicine, University of Zurich, Zurich

Graphical Abstract:



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