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Research Summary


Richards, William A., Rhead, John C., DiLeo, Francesco B., Yensen, Richard & Kurland, Albert A. (1977). The Peak Experience Variable in DPT-Assisted Psychotherapy with Cancer Patients. Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, 9(1): 1-10.

Short-Term Effects (with preparation)

Richards, et al.

An empirical study compared changes in psychological test scores for two groups of cancer patients who received one administration of DPT (dipropyltryptamine) in moderately high dosage (75-127.5 mg.) in the context of brief psychotherapy (Mean: 20.5 hours over 4-5 weeks): (1) Peakers (N=14) who reported major peak experiences during the period of entheogen action and (2) Nonpeakers (N=17) who encountered aesthetic or psychodynamic content during the period of entheogen action, but did not have major peak experiences. Those who reported peak experiences (as measured by the Psychedelic Experience Questionnaire [PEQ]) manifested significant change (p = .01-.001), comparing test scores obtained (1) before the beginning of treatment and (2) after the entheogen session, on scales of Shostrom's "Personal Orientation Inventory" (POI-- an instrument based on Maslow's concept of Self-Actualization), including Time Competency, Inner Directedness, Existentiality, and Capacity for Intimate Contact. Comparable change in the group of Nonpeakers was not found.

Of greatest potential relevance is the peaker's improvement in "Capacity for Intimate Contact", suggesting the enhancement of a quality of interpersonal openness that might mitigate the isolation and lack of meaningful communication often experienced both by terminally ill patients and their closest family members. Similarly, the peakers' improvement in "Existentiality" suggests increased tolerance of individual differences in interactions with family members." (p. 8)

In conclusion, it may be observed that peak experiences may constitute an intrinsic element of effective psychotherapy for some persons. The explicit causative role of such unique experiences in contributing to psychotherapy in general still constitutes an intriguing research question; the correlation of such experiences with rapid therapeutic progress in the course of short-term psychotherapy with cancer patients, however, is indicated by this study. Clinical impressions would suggest that, when a peak experience does occur, its continuing relevance for daily living may be strongly dependent on the degree to which the associated insights are assimilated or transferred into the everyday self-concept and world view of the patient. (p. 9)

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