Do Psychedelics Make Sex Better?
Psychedelics and sex are two of the most taboo topics throughout the world. Needless to say, FDA-approved clinical trials on sex and psychedelics don’t exist.
Still, several case reports indicate this is a topic worth exploring:
1. A small study dating back to the 1970s indicated that LSD could “enrich the sexual life of the average individual and show some promise in alleviating sexual pathology.”
2. A recent 2022 microdosing case study mirrored the above sentiment.
Four couples said low psychedelic doses helped ease performance-related stress and tension, increasing passion and sensory satisfaction.
These conclusions are no surprise, given countless anecdotes.
3. An analysis of 45 interviews and two empirical studies exposed a plurality of practices and meanings that sex-related drug use holds for people.
Benefits included enhanced emotional connectedness, bodily sensations, disinhibition and desire, and therapeutic dimensions like allowing couples to explore more open communication.
Two participant quotes include:
I think the other thing is that you’re able to talk much more freely about sex, and I think everyone has a reticence to talk about things they like or really specific fantasies that you’re always worried about, “Oh, is this weird?” and I find when you’re high you’re really able to talk about that and you’re able to communicate it better and set those scenarios up better…I think both of us have, at the peak of MDMA, spoken about sexual things we would like to try…
— Abel, M30, Heterosexual, London, describing MDMA
And the sex was like… it was, amazing. It was so good. And I remember looking at him, and him looking at me, and like… us just fucking, and I was like, what is this? This feels so good. It was, like, so intense, and he was like, I know, something’s different. …And I just woke up the next day like what the fuck?…I was like, I feel like I’ve known you? It’s like getting to know the soul before you know all the other stuff that makes a person a person. It’s like you get to know the innermost personality before the extra things.
— Hanna, NB23, Pansexual/Panromantic, Cambridge, describing 2-CB
A Word of Caution on Psychedelics and Sex
There is a very real flipside to psychedelics’ rapturous and empathetic potential. Psychedelic drugs can also ruin sexual encounters, especially at high doses and in uncomfortable environments.
They can make you indifferent to the act, if penetration crosses your mind at all. You simply can’t predict what will happen when you’re on a psychedelic journey. You might want to stare at your favorite painting for hours, dive deep into your subconscious, or explore existentialism rather than your partner’s physical body.
Sasha Shulgin, the famed chemist and psychopharmacologist who introduced MDMA to psychology in the 1970s, said it best,
Indeed some of the [psychedelic] materials make a very good, close interaction possible. And a very intimate interaction. But blatant eroticism isn’t always present…
Shulgin went on to say that eroticism is often dose-, individual-, and drug-dependent. Yet, Shulgin also understood that meaningful sensuality is far from blatant regardless of your chosen chemical. Sexual desire and subsequent pleasure require deep trust, connection, emotional stability, and self-confidence.
So, rather than focusing on psychedelics’ purely erotic potential, first consider how psychedelic therapy can help heal your mental and emotional barriers to passion.
The Relationship Between Mental Health, Psychedelics, and Sex
Mental health issues like depression, trauma, and anxiety directly correlate to sexual dysfunction, especially in women.
Sexual trauma, in particular, can trigger intense fear and anxiety surrounding intimacy for years after the experience. Who wants to get naked when they’re feeling unattractive, sad, scared, or hopeless?
To make matters worse, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety medications exacerbate the issue by making you feel less aroused and less likely to reach orgasm, especially at higher doses. Some medicines also cause painful ejaculation, penile anesthesia, loss of sensation, and inflammatory lactation.
Research indicates these adverse side effects may occur because of antidepressants’ mechanism of increasing the “happy hormone” serotonin. Increased serotonin improves mood. But it can also inhibit communication between the brain and sex organs.
How Do Psychedelics Affect Mental Health?
Psychedelics also stimulate serotonin production. But entheogens like LSD and psilocybin act on different serotonergic channels and for much shorter durations than antidepressants, so they don’t cause such detrimental physiological effects.
Simultaneously, psychedelics’ unique neural mechanisms make them uniquely qualified to free you from mental and emotional anguish, especially when combined with psychotherapy and integration practices.
Psychedelics quiet brain regions like the default mode network and amygdala, responsible for rumination, storytelling, and fight or flight. Simultaneously, they create novel connections between areas tied to higher-level learning, intuition, and self-compassion.
This neural reorganization can help you let go of the stories, anxieties, and triggers preventing you from experiencing a deep connection to self, relational stability, and sexual satisfaction.
Relational Health, Psychedelics, and Sex
Walking the path of self-healing is an essential precursor to intimacy. But even inner peace is not a sexual panacea if you’re in the wrong relationship.
Research shows relationship health and mental health are bidirectionally linked. So if you’re in a tumultuous, damaged, or otherwise inauthentic relationship, you’ll likely experience sexual dysfunction and enduring stress.
Psychedelic couples therapy has been going on at least since the 1980s when Sasha Shulgin, his wife Ann Shulgin, and a team of trailblazing therapists used MDMA to help couples be more honest and vulnerable together. One clinical summary report from that time indicated broad relational benefits. Psychiatrist Dr. George Greer says:
In general. it is reasonable to conclude that the single best use of MDMA is to facilitate more direct communication between people involved in a significant emotional relationship. Not only is communication enhanced during the session, but afterward as well…This ability can not only help resolve existing conflicts, but it can also prevent future ones from occurring due to unexpressed fears or misunderstandings.
MDMA therapy can be incredibly healing. It can also help partners realize that it’s time to move on. Certified Somatic Sex Educator and Trauma-Informed Plant Medicine Facilitator Juliana Goldsone says the beauty of entheogens is they can help people peacefully disconnect from partnerships that no longer serve their true selves. Juliana in the Psychedelic Entrepreneur podcast shares:
Sometimes success is realizing this way of being together has played its course. It doesn’t mean it was a mistake. But we’re moving on to something else.
Whatever the outcome, psychedelics support building meaningful relationships that can yield deeply satisfying sex.