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Psychedelics: A Cure for Alcoholism?

Millions of people around the world are struggling with the menace of alcoholism. Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is an unhealthy addiction to alcohol. It involves a sequence of alcohol consumption that involves issues restraining your drinking, always being obsessed with alcohol, and drinking even when it leads to issues. This condition also involves the need to progressively increase your alcohol use to attain the previous effect. People may also experience withdrawal symptoms when they suddenly stop drinking or rapidly reduce their consumption.

Alcoholism also includes a disorder called binge drinking. In binge drinking, a man takes five or more alcoholic drinks in two hours. For a female, it is four drinks or more in two hours.

Alcoholism is a serious issue as it poses a great threat to your health. It can cause significant distress, hampering your day-to-day life. The symptoms can be mild or severe. Even a mild case of alcoholism should not be ignored, as it can easily escalate, leading to life-threatening medical problems.

Psychedelics – definition

Psychedelics, also called hallucinogens, are a group of psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs that produce changes in mood, perception, and cognition. They influence all the human senses and alter a person’s judgment, emotions, and perception of time. These drugs can also cause people to hallucinate, making them hear or see nonexistent things.

There are numerous kinds of psychedelics. Some of them are naturally occurring, like those taken from fungi, leaves, seeds, and trees. Some of them are synthetic or made in laboratories. Some of the most frequently used psychedelics are LSD, DMT, and psilocybin.

Psychedelics can be classified into two major groups:

  • Dissociative psychedelics like PCP
  • Classic psychedelics like LSD

For several decades, LSD was the most widely used psychedelic. Even though it was synthesized in 1938, its psychedelic properties were not known till 1943. LSD largely has cerebral effects, and one trip can even go on for 10 hours.

Psilocybin, too, is a preferred drug being extensively studied for its psychedelic properties. It is believed that these magic mushrooms date back to 9000BC. They create a “whole-body” effect for the user, and one trip can last you for about six hours.

Efficacy of psychedelics in AUD treatment

Scientists and researchers have been conducting detailed studies on the effects of psychedelics on alcoholism for several years. Research, including both human and animal studies, has yielded a large body of evidence.

Psychedelics have also been previously used to treat alcoholism. The earliest such case was in 1953 when LSD was used in Canada for treating AUD.

Humphry Osmond and Abram Hoffer recommended the use of LSD to treat AUD since LSD was known to mimic the symptoms of delirium tremens (DT) without physical effects. Using this theory, they successfully treated a male and a female patient with a high dose of LSD. Numerous other psychiatrists also followed in the footsteps of Hoffer and Osmond. Studies were conducted on larger groups of patients to arrive at a hypothetical conclusion on the effect of psychedelics on alcoholism. Some of the findings are as follows:

  • LSD had remarkable benefits during three-month and six-month follow-ups. The study subjects showed no notable changes during longer follow-ups.
  • At short-term follow-ups, LSD seemed to have a remarkable effect on abstinence, with people reporting a reduction in cravings.

The effects of psilocybin were also studied by several researchers. The studies showed that abstinence increased impressively after taking psilocybin. The cravings were also reduced, and the study subjects experienced no side effects. The participants experienced several positive effects during psilocybin-based treatment, such as:

  • Changes in perception of space and time
  • Positive mood
  • Consistent dedication to change
  • Motivational enhancement
  • Changes in relationship with alcohol

Studies were also conducted in a non-clinical setting to assess the use of alcohol after psychedelic treatment. It was observed that about 83% of the participants were positively influenced by the use of psychedelics, and they could considerably decrease their dependence on alcohol.

Mechanisms of AUD treatment using psychedelics

Even though the efficacy of psychedelic treatment has been scientifically proven, more study is needed to understand the actual process happening. The studies being conducted now are largely focused on the positive effects it creates in the lives of patients. Many of the study subjects reported a reduction in alcohol consumption and, in some cases, even complete abstinence. Patients became self-accepting and started to have a positive outlook.

Using psychedelics is a good approach to treating AUD. Under the strict guidance of a medical practitioner, you can solve the debilitating problem of alcoholism once and for all.

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Key Facts About Using MDMA For PTSD Psychotherapy

Did you know that in an FDA-approved test on using MDMA for PTSD psychotherapy, almost 70% of patients found their symptoms had reduced considerably within just 12 months? Such was the reduction in symptom severity that these patients found that they no longer qualified for the PTSD diagnosis within a year’s time.

In this article, we explore the role of MDMA in PTSD Psychotherapy in greater detail.

What is MDMA?

MDMA – methylenedioxymethamphetamine – is a psychoactive drug that is used for recreation purposes by people of diverse ages. It is also referred to as Molly or Ecstasy. While MDMA is normally illegal in many parts of the world, in the past few years, the therapeutic effects of this psychedelic drug have been discovered quite recently. This has made MDMA a potential treatment option for multiple psychiatric conditions. One area where MDMA has effected great positive change is PTSD.

Understanding PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that forms when individuals experience severe psychological trauma. This triggers strong negative feelings, memories, thoughts, and physical reactions. PTSD causes patients to become extremely vulnerable to triggers that resemble the traumatic experience in any way. PTSD can reduce the quality of life of individuals and needs therapy and medication to help.

Studies have found that MDMA is one of the most effective drugs for PTSD management. When combined with cognitive therapy and counseling, MDMA can help PTSD patients cope with their symptoms and regain their quality of life.

Five facts about MDMA’s role in PTSD Psychotherapy

1. MDMA releases happy hormones in the brain

MDMA, when consumed, increases the number of neurotransmitters in your brain. These neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that affect how the brain functions. Some of the neurotransmitters released include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are called “happy hormones” or “feel-good hormones” because they contribute to feelings of pleasure, calm, and satisfaction. In addition to these neurotransmitters, MDMA has also been found to stimulate the release of other hormones like cortisol, oxytocin, vasopressin, and prolactin, which together help to lower aggression, fear, stress, and anxiety.

Since these feelings are what exacerbate the symptoms of PTSD, MDMA helps reduce the severity of PTSD by changing brain activity to become calmer and happier.

2. MDMA has been found to increase empathy in patients

A surprising impact of MDMA-induced PTSD psychotherapy has been empathy. While scientists don’t know for certain how MDMA increases empathy in people diagnosed with PTSD, it does do so.

In a study by Molly Carlyle & et al. from the University of Exeter, titled “Greater empathy in MDMA users,” it was found that MDMA can reduce social distress and help diagnosed individuals have better cognitive and emotional relationships with others. In fact, the study found that participants had normal psychosocial functioning thanks to MDMA. This goes a long way in proving that MDMA need not be a debilitating drug all the time and can be a highly therapeutic psychedelic with immense social benefits for PTSD sufferers.

3. MDMA-assisted PTSD psychotherapy takes place over 12 weeks

People who take MDMA recreationally often do so whenever they prefer and without a specific quantity or frequency. This can cause more harm in patients with PTSD. Rather, for MDMA-induced PTSD psychotherapy to work, there must be a specific administration process that is followed.

Doctors recommend that PTSD diagnosed individuals undergo 2-3 sessions through a 12-weeks period, where they ingest 120 mg of MDMA per session. Depending on the severity of their symptoms and desired treatment outcomes, they may be advised to take another 40 mg of MDMA two hours after their first dose.

Complementing MDMA treatments must be cognitive therapy, counseling, and other treatment/coping techniques that can help the PTSD patient.

4. MDMA for PTSD psychotherapy can help reduce substance abuse problems

Past research has shown that many psychedelic drugs do have very addictive properties. However, there are no sufficient studies done to prove conclusively that MDMA causes physical dependency on users.

Instead, another surprising finding of the MDMA-induced PTSD psychotherapy studies has been MDMA’s ability to reduce substance abuse tendencies. Early reports indicate that individuals who received MDMA-induced psychotherapy are less-likely to develop a dependency on drugs and alcohol.

There are currently studies going on to find out if this is due to MDMA treating the addiction itself or addressing the symptoms of other psychiatric conditions that make PTSD patients vulnerable to substance abuse.

5. MDMA isn’t the right treatment for everyone who may want to undergo PTSD Psychotherapy

Despite all the amazing benefits offered by MDMA-induced PTSD psychotherapy, this is a treatment that isn’t ideal for every PTSD patient. Doctors need to conduct a slew of tests to qualify patients to participate in the trials. Currently, MDMA-induced PTSD psychotherapy is in Phase 3 clinical trial stage. Successful completion of Phase 3 will allow providers to officially apply for FDA approval for MDMA-induced PTSD psychotherapy.

Wrapping up

The future for MDMA-induced PTSD psychotherapy looks very bright. Reports indicate that patients can maintain their reduced symptoms for many days and sometimes weeks after a single session. In the next couple of years, the world can expect PTSD treatment to be revolutionized thanks to this therapeutic psychedelic.

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The Truth About Psychedelic-Induced Creativity

Over the past few decades, artists and musicians have been claiming that consuming psychedelics help enhance their creativity. Artists like Yoko Ono and Adrian Piper have been known to use some form of psilocybin mushrooms or Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD). They claim that these psychedelics and the resulting experience have influenced their work. As scientists are digging into the potential health benefits of these substances, they are also focusing on the truth behind psychedelic-induced creativity. But, before we get into that, let’s get an understanding of what creativity actually is.

Some might define creativity through activities like music, painting, or arts. However, as per the scientific literature, creativity is made up of two constructs—divergent thinking and convergent thinking. For example, if you are trying to solve a problem and you brainstorm ideas, divergent thinking helps you come up with multiple solutions for that problem, and convergent thinking enables you to select the best possible solution from those.

History of using psychedelics for inducing creativity

Over the past decade, there have been many anecdotal reports suggesting that consuming serotonin 2A against psychedelic drugs, such as LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin, can enhance one’s creativity. There have been some popular examples of creative breakthroughs that were affiliated with psychedelics. The most interesting aspect of this is that this creative breakthrough has not been limited to the field of art but has extended to science and technology as well. Some examples of this include the discovery of polymerase chain reaction by Kary Mullis, the California-based computer industry of the 1960s, and the literary works of authors like Ken Kesey and Aldous Huxley.

However, even though there have been historical examples of people using psychedelics to enhance their creative capacity, the scientific evidence is mostly lacking. The initial studies that tested the impact of psychedelics on creativity started in the 1950s. However, since these drugs were banned in the late 1960s, these findings are mostly inconclusive. The preliminary contemporary work indicates that psychedelics are capable of affecting your creativity-related constructs. There have been some phenomenological reports that suggest psychedelics are capable of inducing a hyper-associative state of cognition. Combining this with the pseudo-experimental studies that found subacute and acute increases in CT or DT after consuming psychedelics in a natural setting suggests that psychedelics have a certain impact on constructs of creativity. But, as mentioned before, there is no direct, experimental evidence proving the same.

Experimenting with psychedelics

Today, there are some artists who experiment with psychedelic experiences to create art. Self-dosing has become quite popular among these artists. It is the recreational medicine or fuel that they need to get started.

While considering the impact of psychedelics on creativity, it is also crucial to discuss its therapeutic side. If a person is suffering from a psychological disorder like anxiety or depression, their ability to think outside the box or their creativity has been found to be reduced. Such individuals get fixated on their problems and are not able to adapt to circumstances. Creativity can help curb the symptoms of these mental disorders. By enhancing creativity, they will have better coping skills. Now, this can be linked to psychedelic drugs as they are known to benefit people with disorders like anxiety and depression.

Now, there can be a few reasons behind this. First, under the influence of psychedelics, people might think that they are more creative while they are not. Psychedelics are known to increase feelings of profoundness, insight, and attribution of meaning. So, when you are “high”, you might think about an idea that might seem original and revolutionary to you, but in reality, it is a common plan.

Another reason behind this is the different way people look at creativity. Take the example of deliberate creativity, characterized by being more goal-directed and attention-demanding. Deliberate creativity is the one that is mostly tested during studies. The other type of creativity is spontaneous creativity, where the mental state is characterized by random, bizarre, unfiltered, and unrestrained thoughts. Deliberate creativity is like asking someone to be more creative, while spontaneous creativity is letting people’s thoughts flow to the creative spheres. When a person is under the influence of psychedelics, there is a decrease in deliberate creativity and an increase in spontaneous insight. They are more likely to have improved the letting-your-brain-go kind of creativity. Once the drug wears off, deliberate creativity increases.

One of the factors that have been hindering this research is the stigma attached to this topic. People still are wary of these researches. Some think that it is bad to give drugs to people, even if it’s for research, while others think of this research as just a free way to get drugs. It is important to work through this stigma and find participants who are serious about the research.

brown brain decor in selective-focus photography

Use of Psychedelics in the Treatment of Alzheimer’s

There is no denying the positive impact psychedelic drugs like DMT, psilocybin, and LSD have on mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Several studies have proven the same. However, apart from psychological benefits, psychedelics have been known to have positive effects on neuroplasticity and neuroinflammation as well. The reason behind this is their physiological mechanisms of action, which have inspired new research. Studies are now being conducted on whether psychedelic therapies can help neurodegenerative conductions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Read on to learn how psychedelics are used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that destroys thinking and memory skills, leaving people unable to carry out simple tasks. In most cases, the late-onset type symptoms usually appear around their mid-60s. In the case of early-onset Alzheimer’s, symptoms usually occur between the 30s and mid-60s. However, this is extremely rare. Alzheimer’s disease is known to be a common cause of dementia.

This condition has been linked to proteins aggregating pathologically that results in the formation of clumps into plaques between Aß protein or amyloid-ß, the nerve cells. These proteins might also twist into “neurofibrillary tangles” or fibers within the cell or tau protein. The protein’s abnormal deposition is pronounced in one of the main memory centers of the brain, known as the hippocampus, along with the basal forebrain and the cortex. However, how these molecules lead to the neurodegenerative process isn’t determined yet. So far, all we know is that excessive tangles and plaques can disrupt basic cell functioning and drive cell death, leading the person unable to have nutrient transport or stress response function.

According to the cholinergic hypothesis, Alzheimer’s is caused by neuronal dysfunction via the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). In fact, ACh has been the main paradigm in creating a treatment for this condition. It has been observed in patients with Alzheimer’s that their brain cells produce less ACh, which causes the death of cholinergic neurons. Most of the drugs that have been clinically approved for Alzheimer’s work by slowing down or stopping the ACh degradation. Even though they can’t stop the decline completely, they are effective in improving cognitive function.

The role of psychedelics in treating Alzheimer’s

The way psychedelic treatment affects the brain and the root causes of Alzheimer’s disease are connected. Therefore, it is possible that a structured regimen of psychedelics can improve the quality of life for people suffering from this condition. Psychedelics contribute to increased communication among the different regions of the brain and cognitive flexibility.

Many mental health disorders are characterized by persistent inflexible patterns of thought, behavior, and feeling. So, psychedelics can disrupt the neural system responsible for encoding and overdetermining such patterns. This gives people an opportunity to rewire their brains in a way that helps them get long-term relief.

However, research has suggested that usage of the drug alone won’t have that much impact. What the patients need is the supportive presence of a counselor who can help patients integrate the “high” induced by the psychedelics and develop new mental habits. One can consider psychedelic treatment as a therapeutic window that gives you a view of greater openness.

Antipsychotics, on the other hand, have been proven to be ineffective at treating Alzheimer’s. In fact, in some cases, they have had dangerous results. But, microdoses of psychedelics can disrupt the ego, allowing you to unbind from acute mental suffering temporarily. Theoretically, it can help the patient experience greater calmness. Now that we have a better understanding of why antipsychotics have deleterious consequences, it has become more important than ever to search for a valuable direction to treat Alzheimer’s through psychedelics. Research is required on how psychedelics, non-addictive, non-hallucinatory, and well-tolerated at low dosages, can benefit patients with Alzheimer’s.

In Conclusion

Researchers are working on the potential of psychedelics in enhancing and influencing functional neuronal connectivity, restoring brain plasticity, enhancing cognition, stimulating neurogenesis, and reducing inflammation. If this can be proven, it will provide a compelling argument for researching psychedelics as a treatment for conditions where such functioning doesn’t exist.

It is important to note that even though there is anecdotal evidence on the recreational use of psychedelics for enhancing cognitive function, there hasn’t been robust research on studying the cognitive effect of microdosing psychedelics. So far, the results have only shown acute changes in cognitive function and no evidence of persistent changes—positive or negative. There is an urgent need for studies that take a look at microdosing psychedelics for the long term. Also, we must understand the impact it has on cognitively impaired individuals, such as the ones suffering from conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.