Psychedelics and the Full-Fluency Phenomenon

By T.H.|March 28, 2018

I first discovered the potential psychedelics have for treating stuttering during an experience with psilocybin mushrooms.

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The healing potential of psychedelics for depression, PTSD, addiction, anxiety, and to some extent, cluster headaches, has been thoroughly documented by anecdotal testimonies, and increasingly by scientific research. Based on my personal experience and anecdotal reports that I’ve read online, one area worth deeper investigation is psychedelics for the treatment of speech disfluency: stuttering. Little is known about the etiology of stuttering, and a cure remains undiscovered for this disorder, which affects more than 70 million people worldwide. It’s unfortunate that the alleviation of disfluent speech through the use of psychedelics is not more widely known, so, as someone who stutters, I’d like to shine a light on how using psychedelics have helped do so for myself and others.

I first discovered the potential psychedelics have for treating stuttering during an experience with psilocybin mushrooms. For the length of the trip, I was able to speak as fluently and effortlessly as I ever have – more than I ever have. A helpful analogy for understanding this is, as one person who stutters put it, “I imagine that for the non-stammerer, language must be a little like thin air, a medium so compliant that most of the time you forget you’re moving within it. But for the stammerer, speaking is like moving through water – you are constantly aware of language because it constantly resists you.”

This resistance in one’s own speech creates wariness in any situation where social interaction is bound to occur, requiring a demanding amount of mental effort anticipating and attempting to avoid stuttering in these situations. However, while under the influence of the mushrooms, an amazing change had occurred: I was neither stuttering, nor cycling through potentialities in my mind for word or phrasing substitutions. For those brief hours my mind was at ease, and my speech flowed not as though I were treading water, but as if I were floating freely through air.

This was a profound experience at the time, because my stuttering had recently become more severe and was increasingly disrupting my life. Then, as if by magic, the mushrooms I ate that night induced a phenomenon of full-fluency that I had never imagined possible. It showed me that I have the ability within me to speak fluently, and that I only need to discover how to unlock the full potential of my speech.

This ignited a curiosity and passion within me to discover why psilocybin mushrooms so effectively increased my speech fluency, and whether other psychedelics could similarly do so. I was already open to experimenting with psychedelics prior to this experience, but thereafter I discovered a primary intention for engaging in further self-experimentation. Since then, I have found that, in addition to psilocybin, MDMA also reliably induces this full-fluency phenomenon

That is, for me, anyway.

Curious if my experience was unique, I sought to discover whether the full-fluency phenomenon I had experienced was a one-off anomaly, or a shared phenomenon among other people who stutter.

After scouring through numerous articles and internet forums, I compiled a fair amount of additional anecdotal evidence, which, to my surprise, largely supports my own experience. Like me, the full-fluency phenomenon has been experienced by many other people who stutter while using psilocybin and MDMA, and unlike me, while using LSD as well.

One main distinction I’ve identified during my search, is that MDMA much more reliably induces the full-fluency phenomenon than either LSD or psilocybin. From the accounts I’ve compiled, not a single person who stutters experienced disfluent speech while under the influence of MDMA. As for psilocybin and LSD, they were less reliable in inducing the full-fluency phenomenon; for every two people that did experience full-fluency, one person did not.

This inconsistency suggests that the full-fluency phenomenon may be dependent upon dose, mechanistic action of the substance in the brain, or physiological differences between individuals. Likely, it depends on all three. This, however, has yet to be definitively answered.

Self-experimentation with these substances by people who stutter have led to individual discoveries of the full-fluency phenomenon, and the aggregation of these anecdotal reports has led me to believe that it is a shared phenomenon among the stuttering population. What’s left to discover now is how these substances induce the full-fluency phenomenon in people who stutter, which can only be accomplished through formal scientific research.

As the renaissance in psychedelic research continues, it’s my hope that these anecdotal reports will pique an interest and inspire researchers to investigate this phenomenon. Just as PTSD, depression, and anxiety have been successfully treated through psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, stuttering could similarly follow this model with psychedelic-assisted speech therapy.

There’s also potential for immediate recovery from stuttering following a single high dose experience. One well told account of this comes from Paul Stamets, the renowned mycologist, whose stuttering stopped altogether following his first psilocybin mushroom experience. To sustain such a high increase in fluency after the effects of the drug wear off is rare, but Paul’s story gives testimony to the possibility for it to occur.

For someone who stutters, any possibility to speak more fluently is worth consideration, and for scientists who conduct research related to stuttering, consideration should be taken to study this full-fluency phenomenon. Let it be known that the healing potential of psychedelics extends to yet another disorder that is currently treated with little success conventionally: stuttering.

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T.H. is a caregiver, art curator, and bookworm of numerous subjects. Through many means, he aspires to relieve the suffering of others.