How often do you find yourself looking to kick bad habits but unable to follow through? So many of us start each week with the intent to do something new and positive in our lives, but somehow, that positive change seems to get lost in an endless cycle of repetitive, negative behavior. Those bad habits could be anything. Maybe you’ve decided to start a mindfulness or meditation routine, but instead, you find yourself doom scrolling every day after work. Or, perhaps you’ve told yourself repeatedly that you’re going to drop your fast food habit, put down that sugar-laden soda, and hit the gym. Yet, you never seem to get yourself to follow through.

Unfortunately, bad habits can be one of the hardest things for us to break. Things like dopamine, the reward neurotransmitter, which gives us the kick we get from video games or our phones, repetitive thought patterns, environmental issues, cognitive dissonance, and addiction (not necessarily to drugs; even things as seemingly innocuous as sugar are addictive) can get in our way and leave us wondering “how do I break the cycle?”(1)

You may find that psychedelics might support you to break bad habits. In recent years, some research has shown that psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD may be useful for fighting addiction via neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to form new neural pathways in certain individuals).(2, 3)

One systematic review examined three studies utilizing psilocybin to treat alcohol use disorders. The review found that psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms, may help people with serious alcohol problems. One of the pilot studies examined ten people who drank heavily and had an active diagnosis of alcohol dependence. They were given psilocybin in two sessions and counseling across 12 sessions to help them with their alcohol use. The treatment showed promise as these individuals had fewer heavy drinking days from the 5th to the 12th week of the study, and this reduction in heavy drinking lasted throughout the 36-week follow-up period.(2)

alcohol use disorder

Another review examined psychedelics (specifically psilocybin and LSD) and their impact on neuroplasticity and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) levels. The review suggests that psychedelics, including LSD and psilocybin, may stimulate neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections. This stimulation occurs at both molecular and cellular levels. Furthermore, repeated administration of psychedelics promoted neurogenesis, forming new neurons and molecular plasticity.(3)

This increase was associated with improved neuroplasticity and was observed in preclinical and clinical settings. BDNF plays a key role in promoting the survival of nerve cells by playing a part in the growth, maturation (differentiation), and maintenance of these cells, which is crucial for learning and memory. These findings suggest that certain psychedelics may enhance neuroplasticity and increase BDNF levels. This, in turn, makes it easier to change habits and ways of thinking.(3)

Those findings are impressive. But how do you take that information and find ways to leverage psychedelics to help you break bad habits and improve your quality of life? You can do all these things independently or with an experienced psychedelic guide or facilitator, as they’re meant to be easy, actionable changes.

How Psychedelics Can Help You Break Bad Habits in Three Easy Steps

Step One: Self-Reflection and Understanding The Foundation of Your Bad Habits

self reflection

When we start talking about using psychedelics to break bad habits, several steps need to take place after you’ve taken the medicine. As discussed above, certain psychedelics may trigger an increase in neuroplasticity while raising levels of BDNF. By increasing BDNF and promoting neuroplasticity, psychedelics may be able to help your brain “loosen up.” Meaning that your mind may more readily let go of entrenched patterns of behaviors. This, in turn, may allow you to explore your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions from a new perspective. Psychedelics may also bring subconscious actions into the light, where they go from an unknown to a quantifiable factor in your habits.(4)

Anecdotally, altered states of consciousness may provide a unique opportunity to identify and understand the negative behaviors and the underlying causes contributing to the persistence of bad habits. By facilitating a deeper understanding of your actions and their consequences, psychedelics can foster self-awareness that might be difficult to achieve otherwise.

This newfound self-awareness may be one step towards recognizing the need for change and initiating the process of altering negative behavioral patterns. For example, perhaps you’re struggling with an addiction to cigarettes or pornography. It’s possible that the enhanced self-reflection brought on by the psychedelic state could allow you to look inward and discover the underlying cause of that particular habit. Are you smoking to manage anxiety? If so, what is the source of that anxiety? Are you viewing adult material online because you’re lonely or feeling isolated, or are you using it as a coping mechanism, just like the cigarette example?

Some research and anecdotal evidence suggest that psychedelics may have the ability to disrupt the normal stream of consciousness and interrupt ingrained behavioral patterns. This disruption can provide a reset or fresh start, which may enable you to step outside your habitual behaviors and explore new ways of acting and reacting.

In certain individuals, viewing your behavior from a different vantage point may be invaluable in breaking the cycle of bad habits. By providing a fresh perspective, psychedelics may be able to explore alternative, healthier options and encourage the adoption of new, positive habits. Neuroplasticity may also play a role in disrupting ingrained patterns of behavior. Researchers hypothesize that it allows your brain to form new connections. These new pathways may work as off-ramps for your mind. This may help you escape bad habits and form new associations with healthier, more positive things.(3)

The heightened emotional awareness often associated with psychedelic experiences can help you address unresolved emotional issues. By bringing these issues to the forefront, psychedelics may facilitate the processing and resolution of emotions driving negative behaviors and bad habits. This increased emotional awareness can foster a deeper understanding of the emotional triggers associated with bad habits, which may provide valuable insights into effectively managing and overcoming these triggers. For instance, psychedelics may help you identify why you need to smoke after a stressful day at work. They may even aid you in determining exactly what is triggering you in the workplace dynamics (for instance, they may mirror painful familial patterns), which may help you change, manage, or avoid those triggers. You will also likely want and need to create new ways to help you regulate your emotions, such as deep breathing exercises, journaling, or walking. These are just some examples of ways to incorporate mindfulness into your experience.(4)

Another potential benefit of psychedelic use is enhancing your motivation to make positive changes. The profound, often life-changing insights gained during psychedelic experiences may increase your motivation to change negative behaviors and bad habits. This boosted motivation can be a powerful driving force in pursuing personal growth and self-improvement. With a renewed sense of purpose and determination, you may find it easier to overcome the challenges associated with changing bad habits and stay committed to your goals.

Step Two: Embracing the Change

embracing the change

Another important aspect of fully leveraging the psychedelic experience comes from being willing to accept the internal changes that can occur during a psychedelic journey. One of the most common catalysts of change is ego dissolution (the breakdown of your central self), or ego death. Ego death is the dissolution—or letting go—of your internal sense of who you are. Individuals who undergo ego death often experience feelings of oneness with the world, other people, and even the universe.(5)

When this happens, it may help you see beyond your normal self-identity and the entrenched behaviors associated with it. This egoless state can provide a unique opportunity to explore new ways of being and behaving. By breaking down the barriers of ego-centric thinking, you may find it easier to let go of rigid behavioral patterns and adopt a more flexible approach toward personal change and growth. For example, during this state, you may see yourself from an outside perspective, allowing you to look at your bad habits in a way that is removed from the attachment your subconscious has developed with them. In other words, you see that your habits are simply things you do. They are a choice, and not you, at your core. This may mean that you see them for what they are and are then able to let them go.(4, 5)

When used intentionally, psychedelics can facilitate deep insights into the underlying causes of negative behaviors. You can leverage these insights to develop targeted strategies for overcoming bad habits and promoting positive change. By illuminating the root causes of negative behaviors and providing a clearer understanding of how to address these issues, psychedelics can significantly enhance our ability to change bad habits.

Breaking a bad habit requires a comprehensive approach that begins with identifying the undesirable habit and its harmful impacts. Recognizing the triggers (such as stress or coping mechanisms formed as a response to trauma that has become maladaptive) that lead to the habit is crucial. As is setting clear, specific, and measurable goals for overcoming the habit. Replacing the bad habit with a positive one can provide a healthier outlet while seeking support from friends, family, or support groups can provide additional motivation and accountability. Once you have identified the issues, you can move forward with an action plan to address the underlying cause of your habits.

Step Three: Integrating the Psychedelic Experience

Integrating the Psychedelic Experience

The third and most important step is “integration.” Integration is the process of mindfully and purposefully taking things you learned while using a psychedelic like psilocybin and making them part of your everyday experience.

You can do this in a variety of ways. You could start journaling, pick up a meditation routine, or even create a daily mantra or positive affirmations. By integrating these insightful experiences, you can dismantle significant barriers to personal transformation. Assimilating personal insights can cultivate a deeper sense of self-acceptance and self-compassion, which is essential for individuals aiming to transition away from bad habits and build new, healthier ways of living.

Professional help is another very effective way to integrate your psychedelic trip. Perhaps you are using a psychedelic like LSD to kick a drinking habits. If you were to do something like journaling during your psychedelic trip, you could then take those insights to your therapists or mental health professional who can help you understand and integrate those things you’ve learned.

The methods outlined here offer stepping stones toward leveraging psychedelic medicine to improve self-awareness, mental health, and a happier, more positive way of life. They aren’t about radical change, but about attainable, actionable steps that pave the way toward a more self-aware and proactive engagement with your inner self. Whether embarking on this journey alone or with a psychedelic guide, friends, or family, the insights gleaned from the psychedelic experience could be a catalyst for breaking the cycle of negative behaviors and fostering a sustained commitment to personal growth and self-improvement, allowing us to delve deeper and discover the inner strength that each of us has within.

This material is not intended as a replacement or substitute for any legal or medical advice. Always consult a medical professional about your health needs. Psychedelics are widely illegal in the United States, and readers should always be informed about local, state, and federal regulations regarding psychedelics or other drugs.

  1. News in Health. (2017, June 28). Breaking Bad Habits. NIH News in Health. 
  2. van der Meer, P. B., Fuentes, J. J., Kaptein, A. A., Schoones, J. W., de Waal, M. M., Goudriaan, A. E., Kramers, K., Schellekens, A., Somers, M., Bossong, M. G., & Batalla, A. (2023). Therapeutic effect of psilocybin in addiction: A systematic review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 14. 
  3. Ly, C., Greb, A. C., Cameron, L. P., Wong, J. M., Barragan, E. V., Wilson, P. C., Burbach, K. F., Soltanzadeh Zarandi, S., Sood, A., Paddy, M. R., Duim, W. C., Dennis, M. Y., McAllister, A. K., Ori-McKenney, K. M., Gray, J. A., & Olson, D. E. (2018). Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity. Cell Reports, 23(11), 3170–3182. 
  4. APA PsycNet. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2023, from 
  5. Ko, K., Knight, G., Rucker, J. J., & Cleare, A. J. (2022). Psychedelics, Mystical Experience, and Therapeutic Efficacy: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 13.