2. Improving the self: Psychedelic drug use and the enhancement-treatment debate

Thursday, 24 November, 2022 - 15:00 to 16:30


A growing number of people in Denmark, as elsewhere, are experimenting with psychedelics and MDMA, as a way to improve themselves or their everyday lives. The aim of this paper is to explore the underlying motivations for and social contexts of such drug use, as well as the perceived effects and their role in changing things for the better.

The study is based on a qualitative approach: Ethnographic fieldwork in/around psychedelic communities in Denmark and semi-structured interviews with 22 micro-dosers, 20 Ayahuasca ceremony participants, 5 using MDMA, and 8 facilitators of various kinds of psychedelic and/or MDMA sessions.

Psychedelics and MDMA are used in diverse social settings, and are sought through the Internet or by word of mouth. The three main reasons individuals in this sample use these drugs are: 1) to openly explore their selves to see what could be better 2) to enhance their abilities such as performance, sexual relations, or everyday situations 3) to better conditions related to depression, anxiety, or substance use disorders. No matter the intentions and circumstances, most participants experience unexpected, positive changes in their lives.

The renewed clinical interest in psychedelics as potential medicines of the future, inspire individuals within psychedelic communities to experiment with these drugs in their everyday lives. The use of psychedelics and MDMA for self-improvement nuances current understandings of the dichotomy between ‘enhancement’ and ‘treatment’. Rather than seeking to become ‘better than well’ or stuck in the health care system, psychedelics and MDMA provide an alternative way to deal with human vulnerability.

Funding: This research has been made possible by a grant from the Danish Research Council (grant number; DFF-6107- 0021)


Presentation files

24 A1 1500 Margit Anne Petersen_v1.0.pdf391.8 KBDownload



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