Psychedelic Medicine


Psychedelics for Sexual Functioning and Intimacy with Tommaso Barba, PhD(c)


In this episode of the Psychedelic Medicine Podcast Tommaso Barba joins to explore the topic of psychedelics for sexual functioning and intimacy. Tommaso is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London where his research is focused on understanding the potential role of psychedelic drugs for well-being. Tommaso authored the first paper on the effects of psychedelics on sexual functioning.

In this conversation, Tommaso shares results from the multiple studies into psychedelics and sexual functions he has been involved in. He reports that in both a trial comparing psilocybin and escitalopram and a survey of naturalistic psychedelic use, respondents reported positive impacts on sexual functioning following psychedelic experiences. He also speculates about aspects of the psychedelic experience that are interpreted as “erotic” in the midst of the altered state and the reported shifts to experiencing sexual connection as more “spiritual” following psychedelic experiences. In closing, Tommaso discusses the promise of psychedelic journeys for healthy couples and the difficulties of researching this topic since there is no clear pathology being addressed.

In This Episode

• How Tommaso got interested in the intersection of psychedelics and sexual functioning
• Why SRRIs often have side effects of inhibiting sexual function
• How psychedelic neuropharmacology may help explain improved sexual functioning following psychedelic experiences
• The upcoming studies exploring the effects of psychedelic journeys on couples who undergo the experience together
• The possible differences between MDMA and classic psychedelics in terms of mechanism and impact when it comes to effects on sexual function


“When we looked at the positive affect symptoms—like wellbeing, connectedness, ability to feel emotions, and so on… Psilocybin outperformed escitalopram. And given so, we were really curious to investigate further the sex lives of these patients, because an active sex life is a key component of people’s wellbeing, and a very overlooked one.” [7:34]

“What we found was that people treated with psilocybin reported improvements in sexual pleasure, in capacity to communicate sexual desires with their partner, in sexual arousal, sexual satisfaction, and similar components of sexual functioning, while people treated with escitalopram did not report any of these changes and tended to report deterioration in this aspect of functioning.” [11:10]

“[These psychedelic treatments may] work because it disentangles couples and its capable of individuating the two patients into the context of their relationship so that they start to develop a better identity in the context of the relationship instead of being completely fused into each other and not capable of really developing themselves and communicating their desires and what they want.” [31:15]


* The Psychedelic Medicine Podcast has allowed the Psychedelic Medicine Association to post episodes as an educational resource, and in return the PMA is hosting the podcast show notes.