How Psychedelic Treatment Differs From 12 Step Programs

Updated: Jul 4, 2018

Psychedelic treatment for addiction may be an effective alternative for those who have previously struggled with 12 Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

This is largely because of a fundamental difference in the way these two treatment modalities approach addiction:

While the 12 Steps can provide a lifeline for some people, others find it hard to connect with the underlying narrative that is offered as an incentive to get clean. Essentially, this narrative focuses on the negative impact that a person’s addiction has on their life and those of others, and attempts to deter further drug use by highlighting how unacceptable this addiction is. Keyrings are awarded to those who manage to stay clean for a period of time, but these must be returned if a person has a slip and uses again.

The main problem with this is that it uses shame and fear as the main incentives for recovery, making members feel completely mortified by their drug-taking and terrified of the consequences of further use. Not only does this damage self-esteem and amplify the harmful mental narratives that underlie addiction in the first place, but it also makes abstinence an obligation without providing the tools to live a satisfying life without drugs.

In contrast, the effectiveness of psychedelic treatment lies in the fact that it does not make abstinence its direct goal. Rather, it is about learning to connect with life in a meaningful way for the first time, understanding that there is no blueprint that everyone has to follow, and becoming free to make the mistakes we need to make in order to grow into the person that we really want to be.

The underlying premise is that addiction is the product of a sense of isolation and low self-esteem, which arise due to cultural narratives that shame us into suppressing essential elements of our authentic selves. By reconnecting to this authentic self and allowing it to flourish, we can finally start living without fear and pain, and therefore overcome the need to self-medicate.

Using psychedelics to facilitate recovery from addiction in this way requires preparation and guidance, as it is essential to develop the correct intentionality. To learn more about how this can be achieved, contact us at or call us on +44 7873 331 882 or +44 7535 618 189.