Psychedelics-assisted therapy has shown very good results both from the studies in the 60s and in recent years. A few treatments are often all that is needed and in the long run you can save a lot of money on therapy and medicines. But the cost of psychedelic treatment is nevertheless considerable for many and and the community is often discussing how to make it financially accessible for everyone. So how much do the various alternatives cost today, how much will they cost in the future and what kind of support can you expect to get from the government in Norway?
Therapy costs money and the number of hours in a short time that psychedelic-assisted therapy requires, it can be a significant lump sum. In the 60s there was only one therapist in the room which made it a lot cheaper, but later protocols use two, usually one man and one woman. The current MDMA treatment protocols involve about 42 hours of treatment, and there are two therapists on site at any one time. This includes two to three eight-hour MDMA sessions and twelve 90-minute psychotherapy sessions for preparation and integration. The estimate for the entire treatment is around USD 15,000. I would like to emphasize that this is not a treatment available today anywhere legally and not outside clinical trials as of today.
Ketamine is a legal alternative in Norway today and perhaps the closest you get to psychedelic therapy. Ketamine has shown good results against depression and chronic pain, and is on its way into the public health system. The first public ketamine clinic was established at Østfold Kalnes Hospital in November 2020, and here it should be possible to receive support for treatment if you receive a referral from your GP in the near future. Today, the offer only applies to acute psychiatric cases. The cost of private clinics is around NOK 2,500-5,000 per treatment, preferably with an additional screening at the first treatment. Read a good explanation of the cost of ketamine treatment on this site or read more about prices on EmmaSofia Klinikk's site. For more information about the treatment itself this site the Axon Clinic is a good place to start.
My first treatment costs NOK 8,000. Thereafter, subsequent treatments cost NOK 6,000. Some will need somewhere between 2-6 treatments per year over a couple of years. For six annual treatments, the monthly cost is DKK 3,200. I also recommend everyone to follow up with psychotherapy next door for better effect.
Will it be covered by the Norwegian healthcare plan?
With such high treatment costs, this type of treatment will not be available to many without government support from Helfo. You can now receive treatment with ketamine at Sykehuset Østfold Kalnes with a referral from a doctor, but MDMA and psilocybin are further down the line. There is no reason why MDMA or psilocybin will not be covered by Helfo in Norway in the future, as long as it is used for the same/similar indication. That is, MDMA for PTSD and psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression to begin with.
There are psychedelic retreats all over the world and prices vary. Such retreats are usually in a group setting with around 10 participants, where you have 3-4 guides who assist. I will provide some price examples that apply at the time of writing, but I do not have an overview of all prices and they can certainly change. This is mostly to give an approximate picture.
Retreats with psilocybin
Synthesis in Amsterdam charges EUR 1700 for a group program from Friday to Sunday. Truffles Therapy charges from EUR 1200. Prices for other retreats, for example in Jamaica and Costa Rica, cost about the same. Private (one-on-one) sessions usually cost from EUR 5500 and up, but then you can bring some (up to 5, usually) friends. Food and accommodation are usually included in the prices. Retreats often take little responsibility for preparation or follow-up/integration, so here one must make sure to prepare properly. Some think a group setting can be distracting, while others think having a group you can talk to afterwards is a big plus.
Retreats with ayahuasca or peyote
Ayahuasca retreats in South America (Brazil, Costa Rica, Peru, etc.) vary widely in price and it is especially important to check out reviews (through Google, Facebook and Tripadvisor) at these locations. A rough estimate is 100 to 300 USD per day, and you often count 3-4 days. There may be some costs as well if you want more sessions over several days, for example. You can have ceremonies in the cities of these countries as well (not at a retreat), and these are often a lot cheaper. In Norway there are traveling ceremonies and the prices are somewhere between NOK 1000 to NOK 3000 for a ceremony.
There are a number of so-called underground therapists/guides out there in the world who also run processes that are more similar to the clinical model, one-to-one. Some are psychologists, others are just enthusiasts. There are very few in Scandinavia to my knowledge, but there are some farther south in Europe and in the US and Canada.
The prices I have seen internationally range from 800 to 1,200 USD for one session starting in the morning and ending in the afternoon. If you want one or two nights, a bit more like a retreat experience but still one-on-one, I have seen prices from 1,500 to 4,000 USD. There is still only one day of medicine, but the other days are then used for preparation and integration therapy.
Economic options for the future
What legal alternatives we have 3-8 years in the future are a little difficult to predict. Personally, I believe the approval of MDMA and psilocybin as a drug will accelerate the development of the processes further and it is quite possible that it will result in major changes to how it can be used. With support from Norwegian healthcare the cost will not be a challenge for the patient, but it may be limited to citizens with certain mental disorders. Those with minor mental health problems will probably be able to receive treatment but without state support.
A likely alternative to reducing the cost of therapy will probably be group lessons, which can also work well, especially for those with minor mental health problems. The use of playful people as "sitters", but with a doctor available, is also discussed as cost-saving alternatives. Regardless of which solutions we end up with, I am sure we will come up with various alternatives that will suit most. But it may take some time.