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JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE MIND: Psychedelic Treatment of Mental Health in Aotearoa

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posted on 2023-01-16, 14:30 authored by Lutyens, Daisy

Examining participants’ experiences self-medicating with LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA, this exploratory study sought to determine whether psychedelics have a future in New Zealand mental health treatment. This thesis employed a mixed-methods approach to data collection, by collecting broad-brush quantitative data via a Qualtrics survey, which then informed the qualitative data collection method of semi-structured interviews. Braun and Clarke’s (2006) steps of thematic analysis identified key themes from the interview transcripts, including the New Zealand environment, the success of the psychedelic treatment, and the creation of the ‘self-therapist’. There appears to be a robust, underground psychedelic community that offers participants support and knowledge around safe psychedelic use Congruent with international research, study participants reported successful, long-lasting effects of LSD, psilocybin and MDMA, with minimal adverse effects (Bird et al., 2021, Davis et al., 2020, Griffiths et al., 2008, Muttoni et al., 2019). The challenge of accessing legal, conventional mental health treatment meant that participants used psychedelics to craft their own safe treatment method, paying particular attention to set and setting. Overall, participants advocated for psychedelic legalisation in New Zealand and proved to be a valuable source of knowledge for future drug policy. Analysing these results, this study concluded that New Zealand’s prohibition of psychedelics fails to prevent individuals from seeking out these substances. Instead, it perpetuates societal and internal stigma and causes individuals to be wary of talking about their psychedelic-treated mental health issues. As psychedelics have been proven to be medically useful and incur minimal harm, they should be rescheduled and enabled in New Zealand drug laws, both as a form of self-medication and as an adjunct to psychotherapy. Lastly, while future research must consider psychedelics through other cultural lenses, any legalisation should be mindful of not appropriating other indigenous groups’ use of plant-based psychedelics.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Institute of Criminology

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

200102 Efficacy of medications; 200206 Health system performance (incl. effectiveness of programs); 280121 Expanding knowledge in psychology; 200305 Mental health services; 200309 Palliative care

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

2 Strategic basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Hutton, Fiona