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.