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Psychedelics and Childhood Trauma

It is quite common and natural for kids to get exposed to some adverse events as they grow up. Some obvious ones include natural calamities, minor accidents, or the deaths of pets or loved ones. But sometimes certain severe traumatic events can happen, like sexual abuse or parental neglect, that can affect the child’s sense of well-being and safety. For some kids, something like experiencing a vehicle accident or hearing their parents argue frequently can be traumatizing. Not all trauma can be considered the same. Something that feels traumatic for one child may feel completely normal or easily addressed for another kid. This makes addressing childhood trauma a very delicate and critical issue.

Some scenarios that can cause childhood trauma include:

  • Bullying or cyberbullying
  • Accidents
  • Instability or disorder at home
  • Physical neglect or abuse
  • Emotional neglect or abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Separation from caregivers
  • Loss of loved ones
  • Serious and/or sudden health issues
  • Violence at school, home, or in their neighborhood
  • Poverty-related stress
  • Terrorism and war

PTSD and childhood trauma

Traumatic events in childhood can elicit a variety of reactions. For some, it can cause PTSD, but it is crucial to emphasize that not all traumatic experiences ultimately result in PTSD. A person’s likelihood of developing PTSD is significantly influenced by the length and perceived intensity of the said trauma. It is also influenced by other protective factors, like the presence of supportive and safe environments.

However, it is important to note that any individual who has suffered trauma can develop PTSD. It can be either a single significant event or a sequence of traumatic incidents, and both can have severe ramifications throughout adulthood.

Psychedelics and treatment of childhood trauma

With the introduction of psychedelics into the field of psychiatry, numerous studies have been conducted into the efficacy of psychedelic drugs in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. The positive effects of these drugs in treating individuals with severe mental health issues like anxiety and depression are widely discussed and acknowledged. This has paved the way for conducting studies that examine the relationship between the treatment of childhood trauma and psychedelic drugs.

Psychedelic drugs are already considered an effective healing method for PTSD patients. Now, this is being extrapolated by researchers to understand how they could help heal childhood trauma using psychedelics.

According to a study published in the journal Chronic Stress, adults who have experienced maltreatment in their childhood have lower levels of guilt and more complicated trauma symptoms when psychedelics are used in therapy. The study, conducted by C. J. Healy, Kellie Ann Lee, and Wendy D’Andrea, surveyed 166 people who had experienced some form of maltreatment during their childhood years. They were asked to answer a variety of in-depth questions that examined several variables, including:

  • measures of the severity and exposure of maltreatment
  • history of deliberate medicinal psychedelic use
  • internalized shame
  • any PTSD symptoms

About one-third of the respondents had experimented with some form of a psychedelic drug, including MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin, to address childhood trauma in a curative setting. These same individuals also reported considerably reduced levels of guilt, shame, suicidal thoughts, and similar other signs of complicated trauma. This clearly indicated that psychedelics can be used as a form of alternative treatment for childhood trauma.

Why is childhood trauma serious?

According to physicians, childhood trauma causes more long-term damage to the psyche and development of the person than it causes severe pain at the time it is inflicted. It can affect the way a child interprets the world around them and their place in it. It can also create feelings of intense shame. This is caused by the inability of the child to accept themselves as they are due to a distorted and negative self-perception. It can also lead to numerous other serious issues like depression, addiction, and even suicidal ideation or attempts.

Reasons for the effectiveness of psychedelic drugs

Psychedelic drugs help an individual temporarily lose their subjective personal character or identity. This is referred to as “ego death.” This makes the vast majority of individuals who use psychedelic drugs therapeutically feel happier. They even feel better and more confident about themselves. This makes them more open to new approaches and techniques for examining novel strategies for overcoming past trauma. In many cases, psychedelic drugs give these people hope and the desire to alter their future. It also gives them the courage to get past the traumatic events of their childhood and build a life not impacted by them.

While new studies are certainly promising, more research is needed to use psychedelic drugs to treat childhood trauma at its root.

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Colorado Legalizes “Magic Mushrooms” a.k.a. Psilocybin and Psilocin

After Oregon, Colorado is the second state to legalize the medicinal use of psilocybin and psilocin – the psychedelic compounds found in magic mushrooms. Medicinal consumption of magic mushrooms is now legal in Colorado for adults aged 21 and above. Therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms will be provided in state-regulated centers under the guidance of licensed facilitators. Personal consumption of magic mushrooms is also legal under the new legislation, but it’s banned in schools, public spaces, and while driving. Retail sales are also banned as of now.

Therapeutic benefits of magic mushrooms

There has been considerable research on the medicinal benefits of magic mushrooms over the past few years. Dr. Michael Bogenschutz of the NYU Langone Center carried out the largest controlled trial of magic mushroom use to reduce alcohol use disorder. The experiment revealed that the combined effect of psychotherapy and psilocybin pills helped people suffering from alcoholism reduce drinking for up to 8 months. This was the largest controlled, randomized study of its kind, and supplemented the findings of previous research.

Magic mushrooms have become more popular in recent years, for both medicinal and recreational use. While it is generally regarded as a safe psychedelic, experts still warn against the unsupervised use of psilocybin and psilocin.

A large number of voters show up to cast their opinion

More than 2.2 million people voted in the ballot measure, where 52% voted in favor of legalizing magic mushrooms. Around 93% of the total expected voters turned out to vote, and magic mushrooms won by a narrow margin.

Veronica Lightning Horse Perez, a leading supporter of magic mushroom legalization, said “I’m in awe of what we were able to accomplish”. It is indeed surprising that such a large number of voters turned out for the event, and more than 50% voted in favor of making psilocybin legal. The legislation will come into effect in 2024, and other plant-based psychedelics will be considered for legalization by 2026.

Psilocybin is still illegal in most states and at the federal level. Washington DC has decriminalized the use of magic mushrooms, and Oregon is the only other state where it’s legal. Colorado is set to be the 2nd state where psilocybin is legal and 3rd state where it’s decriminalized.

Supporters and opposers of psilocybin

Proponents of magic mushrooms argue that naturally occurring psychedelics have been used for ages with positive benefits, both from a spiritual and mental health perspective. New research shows that it also has physiological benefits. Moreover, the risks associated with magic mushrooms are negligible and very rare.

However, not everyone is happy with the new legislation. According to critics, this move shows how the United States is moving away from science towards populism even with medicinal ingredients. They also argue that this will send a wrong message to youngsters who will regard psilocybin as a completely harmless drug with no potential side effects.

As the voting figures show us, there isn’t an overwhelming consensus on the legalization of magic mushrooms. Far from it, many people are still against the legalization, and some pushback is likely over the next year before the legislation is enforced in 2024.

Protect Colorado’s Kids is the largest organization lobbying against the legislation. According to its head Luke Niforatos, this move “circumvent(s) science and the FDA”. Protect Colorado’s Kids will also reach out to the Drug Enforcement Administration, FDA, and U.S. Attorney for Colorado to intervene in the legislation.

Supporters of magic mushroom, on the other hand, regard this vote as a big victory for their cause. Natural Medicine Colorado, the leading lobby in favor of magic mushroom legalization, said the vote was “a truly historic moment”. According to Natural Medicine Colorado, residents of the state have already experienced the medicinal benefits of psilocybin, and that has motivated them to take a stand in its favor.

Is a psychedelic drug revolution on its way?

The United States of America is undoubtedly going through a drug revolution. With recreational marijuana being legalized in Maryland and Missouri, marijuana is now legal in 21 states. Even conservative states are showing growing support for psychedelics, particularly naturally occurring psychedelics that have proven medicinal benefits.

The ballot initiative now makes growing, possessing, and consuming magic mushrooms legal. However, it’s still illegal to sell magic mushrooms. State-regulated healing centers cannot sell magic mushrooms, but only provide them to clients for medicinal use under their supervision.

There are mixed opinions on the legalization of psilocybin, but mental health proponents are by and large optimistic about the legislation. According to doctors, researchers, and even the FDA, regulated and supervised use of psilocybin has the potential to cure mental health issues like depression, addictive personality disorder, anxiety, and PTSD.

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Use of Psychedelics in the Treatment of Unipolar and Bipolar Depression

Treatment measures for different psychological disorders have evolved with time. Doctors and scientists have resorted to utilizing more unconventional methods of treatment for different psychological disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, bipolar disorders, and unipolar disorders. The use of psychedelics in the treatment of such psychological disorders has gained popularity in recent times. In this article, we shall discuss how such psychedelic drugs are being used for the treatment of bipolar and unipolar disorders.

However, before we discuss the same, let us understand psychedelics, bipolar depression, and unipolar depression in detail.

What are Psychedelics?

Psychedelics or hallucinogens are drugs that can bring about changes in a person’s mood, perception, and cognitive processes. Psychedelics are known to impact all the senses in a human body, including a person’s perception of time and emotions. Some of the most common psychedelics include Psilocybin (better known as magic mushrooms), Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), 2C-B, and Ayahuasca. While some of these psychedelic drugs are found naturally, some are artificially manufactured in laboratories. Such drugs can be found in different forms such as tablets, powders, mushrooms, and crystalline powder.

What are Unipolar Depression and Bipolar Depression?

Unipolar depression and bipolar disorder have some commonalities. Both contain depressive episodes which can lead to confusion, but there are some significant distinctions. Unipolar disorder is another name for major depressive disorder or clinical depression, also abbreviated as MDD. MDD is characterized by a constant lack of interest and melancholy in day-to-day life.

On the other hand, bipolar disorders are known to cause extreme mood swings in patients. Mania or hypomania and depression can also be the symptoms of bipolar disorder. The patients’ mood varies between extreme melancholy or depression and euphoria. A patient who suffers from bipolar disorder coupled with clinical depression is said to be suffering from bipolar depression.

Use of Psychedelics in the treatment of Unipolar depression

Studies by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers have suggested that using psychedelic treatment with psilocybin has yielded favorable results in cases of unipolar depression. Subsequent research has further elaborated on the effectiveness of psilocybin-assisted treatment and therapy for the treatment of MDD or clinical depression. The psilocybin-assisted therapy is said to have anti-depressant properties, which when coupled with supportive psychotherapy can prove to be an effective treatment for unipolar depression.

Use of Psychedelics for treatment of Bipolar depression

In cases of bipolar depression, the use of antidepressants is not effective and should not be combined with monotherapy. In a study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), it was discovered that mood-stabilizing psychedelic drugs led to stable improvement in people diagnosed with bipolar depression.

According to studies, several antipsychotic medications can also be used to treat bipolar disorder. The psychedelic scientific community has long held the view that people who have manic depression should refrain from using psychedelics in order to prevent their illnesses from getting worse.

However, some scientists find it safe to use ketamine for the treatment of bipolar depression. Unlike MDMA or psilocybin, ketamine does not pose the risk of a manic mood episode. Ketamine does not work like other entheogens. Instead, it works on glutamate and NMDA receptors and results in rapid anti-depressive effects on the patients. Moreover, ketamine is one of the very few medications that is considered apt for patients who already take mood-stabilizing medicines.

Patients with bipolar depression may also benefit from continuing psychotherapy in addition to medication. To assist patients to learn how to manage interpersonal conflicts more skillfully, adhere to their prescription regimens, and normalize their lifestyle patterns, this one-on-one therapy combines interpersonal psychotherapy with behavioral approaches.

The way forward

While psychedelics have shown promising effects in the treatment of mental disorders, researchers have often cautioned about possible misuse and overuse of psychedelics. Moreover, there is a need for legal frameworks and formal infrastructure to increase the popularity and acceptance of psychedelics as formal treatment modes for mental disorders.

More clinical trials using psychedelics for the treatment of mental disorders are the need of the hour. The significance of the trial’s non-drug components to the findings must also be addressed by the studies’ designers. These factors include the person’s perspective going into the encounter and the setting in which it occurs.

More trials help in establishing the authenticity and effectiveness of these treatments. Moreover, they garner the trust of the medical community through proven medical research. We can only hope to achieve newer and better treatment methods for those suffering from mental illnesses using psychedelics.

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Overcoming Obstacles to Wider Acceptance of Psychedelics in Therapy

Although the use of psychedelics has shown promising results in therapy, there is still a long way to go for its wider acceptance. In spite of their proven effectiveness in the treatment of psychological disorders, the use of psychedelics is limited by legal obstacles that can be overcome.

The need for wider acceptance of psychedelics

People all across the globe are suffering from mental health conditions. Owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many countries are now faced with national mental health crises. For example, the USA saw an exponential growth of drug-overdose cases and suicide rates owing to mental health conditions. Over the years, there has been very little investment of resources and time into preventive mental healthcare. In turn, this has led to a lack of motivation and innovation in the world of psychiatry.

Psychologists are investigating the therapeutic use of psychedelic substances as a possible strategy for addressing mental health problems in their hunt for more efficient treatments.

Meaning of psychedelics and their use

Psychedelics are a group of naturally occurring or synthetic compounds that are known to produce perceptional and behavioral changes in human beings. Some natural psychedelics have been used by indigenous communities for centuries while synthetic psychedelics were manufactured in labs in the early 20th century.

In the 1970s, psychedelics were categorized as Schedule I controlled substances. It was believed that they had no acceptable medical use and had a high potential for misuse. This suspended the research on the use of psychedelics in psychotherapy for decades until the middle of the 20th century. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) authorized certain researchers to examine small doses of psychedelics in the late 1990s, which allowed researchers to pick up again. Leading academic institutions have now conducted clinical trials, and a growing body of research supports the use of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

Psychologists and scientists became aware of the beneficial effects of psychedelics and how they could be along with psychotherapy for the treatment of mental health conditions.

Major obstacles to the acceptance of psychedelics

Following are some of the major hurdles on the road to wider acceptance of psychedelics in the treatment of psychological disorders.

Lack of proper funding and research

Due to the labeling of psychedelics as Schedule I controlled substances for a long time, there was little to no funding for studying the effects of psychedelics or their possible use in therapy. Owing to a federal appropriations rider, the US government could not dedicate funds for the legalization or research on the use of any drug included in Schedule I.

The rider arguably forbids the use of federal funds to promote psychedelic research as long as they are under schedule I. This is because such a study could increase scientific knowledge and offer proof in favor of rescheduling, which is a kind of legalization.

Two bills for the elimination of this rider have failed in 2019 and 2021 respectively. According to current regulations, well-capitalized private corporations pay for the majority of research, and they largely set the agenda and influence federal drug laws. The objective should be to create a psychedelics industry where patients and underrepresented groups have a voice. More inclusive clinical trials and an objective FDA regulatory examination of psychedelics are necessary to reach this objective.

Limited access due to Patents

Many parties are aiming to patent psychedelic substances and procedures for making and using them because of promising clinical study outcomes.

For around 20 years, patent holders have had the right to prevent anyone from producing, utilizing, or selling their ideas. This incentivization of the production and distribution of psychedelics has prompted severe criticism from researchers and patient advocates. It has limited the access of patients to prescribed psychedelics. To support psychedelics’ role in the genuine improvement of mental healthcare, limiting patents on them may be important.

Need for proper training

Training is required for many doctors who want to use psychedelics in their practices, and developing evidence-based clinical-practice guidelines will be crucial. Standards may lessen some healthcare practitioners’ concerns about being held liable for medical negligence if patients experience negative effects while receiving these therapies. To define the boundaries in this case, however, litigation may be required.

It is critical that governments allocate funds for psychedelics research given the escalating mental health problem and a lack of advancement in psychopharmacology. Without a proper infrastructural and legal framework, such research can bear no fruit.

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Ketamine and MDMA for Therapy

Psychedelics are taking over pharmaceutical drugs. We talked about psycobilin mushrooms, acid, and LSD for psychedelic therapy use in a previous blog, here. But, there are more options, as everyone reacts to shrooms and LSD differently. Some may prefer ketamine, or maybe even MDMA for therapy.

Ketamine and MDMA Therapy

Globally, scientists, doctors, and technicians are researching how psychedelics can help people with their mental health. From mild depression to severe PTSD, alternative medicines such as mushrooms, ketamine, and ecstasy can help people overcome their own minds. Psychedelic sessions address the problem(s) instead of sweeping it under the rug, like traditional meds do. A trained medical professional walks the patient through the session, guiding them on how to handle their emotions and what the patient needs to focus on. Here’s how ket and MDMA can help if other options aren’t suitable.

Ketamine

Ketamine is active in the medical world already as anesthesia for humans and animals. We know it helps with physical pain relief, and now we’re looking to see if it help with the mental pain. It can produce hallucinogenic effects, as well as calmness and relaxation. The most notable aspect is the supposed “out of body” experience. Those who’ve experienced ketamine report literally looking at themselves from a different perspective, literally and figuratively. So, we’re thinking maybe this can be helpful for overcoming depression. It can control epilepsy.

MDMA

MDMA is more known by its street names, ecstasy and molly. Often used at raves and parties because it brings such euphoria, and the hallucinogenic effect of a “glowing atmosphere” alters reality to be dreamy and heavenly. Some say Nirvana-like. Therefore, MDMA can help those with severe mental issues, such as extreme depression, anxiety, and PTSD. MAPS is actively trying to legalize MDMA and incorporate it into energy medicine sessions.

In related news, opium may be the next plant-based medicine for mental health. Take your and your loved ones’ mental health seriously. So, consider alternative medicine, and end the stigma on using alcohol to “drink problems away”. Thank you guys so much, we appreciate you! And lastly, don’t forget to take care of yourself!

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Psychedelics and Eating Disorders

Among all psychiatric illnesses, anorexia claims the most number of lives. Food is the trigger for many who suffer from eating disorders, and you cannot simply “stop” eating. Finding effective therapies is crucial because eating disorders affect approximately 5% of the population.

Psychedelic treatment has been demonstrated to be effective in treating a variety of mental diseases, according to the evidence. The antidepressant and antianxiety benefits of psychedelic therapy may benefit eating disorder patients who also have depressive and anxious symptoms. Eating disorders frequently co-occur with depression and anxiety. Before delving into the use of psychedelics, let us explore a little bit more about eating disorders.

A little bit about eating disorders

Eating disorders are a collection of conditions that are characterized by extreme and distributed habits regarding eating. Some of the main symptoms of eating disorders include over-eating or not eating at all and having distressing thoughts about food.

There are mainly four different categories of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: Characterized by not eating food or severely under-eating, over-exercising, or both.
  • Binge-eating: Binge-eating comprises over-eating regularly.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: Some symptoms of bulimia nervosa include eating a huge amount of food followed by making up for the over-eating by forced purging or taking laxatives.
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): In this condition, the patient tends to avoid certain foods or restrict eating food, or both.
  • Other Specified Eating or Feeding Disorder (OSFED): Any eating disorder with symptoms that don’t fit into any of the above-mentioned categories, can be classified as OSFED.

Current treatments of eating disorders

The causes of eating disorders are largely unknown. Eating disorders are likely to be the result of a spectrum of environmental, physical, and biological factors. Typically, eating disorders are treated with CBT or “cognitive behavioral therapy”. CBT aims to help people change their negative perceptions and attitude around food. Along with a therapist, the guidance of a dietician to ensure a proper healthy diet is necessary for the treatment of eating disorders. Usually, there are no specific drugs that can be prescribed for the treatment of eating disorders alone. When coupled with other mental illnesses such as depression, existential disorders, or anxiety, drugs may be prescribed.

How psychedelics can treat eating disorders?

Research shows that psychedelic therapy can have promising effects in the treatment of certain mental illnesses like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, existential crisis, and the like. The antidepressant or anti-anxiety effects of psychedelic treatment can help in the treatment of eating disorders. It helps people who suffer from eating disorders change their perceptions and attitude toward food. Psychedelics have the power to induce changes in brain activity. Therefore, it can alter some changes in brain activity that lead to eating disorders.

Following are some of the most commonly used psychedelics for the treatment of eating disorders.

MDMA

Sometimes, eating disorders develop as a response to past traumas. MDMA therapy could assist people with eating disorders establish trauma coping mechanisms that don’t entail restricting their diet and weight by enabling them to comprehend and process their traumas better.

Psilocybin

Psilocybin, also commonly referred to as magic mushrooms, has shown promising results in the treatment of mental illnesses like obsessive-compulsive disorder, abbreviated as OCD, depression, and anxiety. Obsessive thoughts and compulsive attitudes are two traits that OCD and eating disorders have in common. Psilocybin therapy’s success in treating OCD serves as a testament to how successful it might be in treating eating disorders.

Ayahuasca

A study of patients with eating disorders showed that ayahuasca led to a rapid decrease in attitudes and symptoms associated with eating disorders. It helped patients process painful memories or thoughts and improved self-acceptance.

Ketamine

One of the major symptoms of eating disorders is compulsive behavior. For example, throwing up after a meal. Research has shown that when ketamine infusions were given to patients with eating disorders, it helped reduce compulsive behavior. It shows how ketamine therapy could be an effective treatment for eating disorders.

The approaches used to treat eating disorders today frequently fall short. Therefore, it is understandable why researchers are looking into psychedelics as a different kind of therapy to treat this fatal psychiatric condition.

There is sufficient evidence to support the theory that therapy utilizing various psychedelics may be helpful in treating patients who suffer from various eating disorders. It is critical that this field of study continues since the high incidence and death rate attributed to eating disorders make it imperative to identify novel treatments.

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Why are Drug Companies Investing Big Time in Therapeutic Psychedelics?

Rising investments in an uncharted avenue

Ancient civilizations believed that psychedelic compounds could alter human consciousness, thereby dubbing them “spiritual guides”. Now, drug companies are investing big-time in the therapeutic psychedelic industry after scientific studies highlighting their beneficial effects in treating psychiatric illnesses started emerging.

However, the in-depth scientific study of psychedelic compounds has been disregarded for many decades. Much of it is because of them being too politically charged and the perspective around these substances as psychosis-inducing bane that’s created in mainstream society by governments. The 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances placed psychedelics in its most restrictive category. However, times are now changing as their benefits are hailed by many psychiatrists and drug companies.

Major drug companies are now showing keen interest in psychedelic substances like Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), in addition to mind-altering, non-psychedelic drugs like ketamine. That’s because studies have shown these compounds can be the next breakthrough in the treatment of mental illnesses. People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, substance disorder, and existential distress can find great healing potential in psychedelic compounds when other therapies have failed to deliver results.

So far, more than 80 drug companies have devoted themselves to creating or administering certain psychedelic compounds. Investors in the therapeutic psychedelic industry reckon that the demand for safe and effective psychedelic therapies will hike significantly in the years to come. Moreover, some of the companies are focused on first­-gen psychedelic compounds like MDM, also known as ecstasy, and psilocybin.

There are firms that wonder if they can use information derived from scientific studies conducted on the receptors in the brain that bind to these molecules to boost them by bringing down certain negative properties of the drug. This can be cardiac side effects and risk of heavy drug use. Some drug companies are even expecting to create molecules of psychedelic compounds that do away with the hallucinogenic effects completely while retaining their therapeutic features. However, many scientists believe that the psychedelic “high” changes the perspective—something that’s considered crucial for treating people with mental illness.

A quick peek into history

The present surge in the popularity of psychedelic compounds started with studies that were conducted during the mid-2010s. Research groups at the New York University, University of California, Imperial College London, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Zurich unraveled the fast and durable effects of psychedelics, especially psilocybin, to treat those with treatment-resistant mental illnesses like depression, PTSD, and existential distress.

The results of the studies dismantled the paradigm for typical drug therapies for mental health problems, according to Fred Barrett, a cognitive neuroscientist, and researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. Patients suffering from intractable mental health issues saw lasting effects after just one or two administrations under controlled conditions and coupled with psychotherapy.

The first company in the United States to be rewarded for attempting to endorse a mind-altering compound was Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals. In 2019, the company got US Food and Drug Administration approval to launch Spravato for treatment-resistant depressive disorder. Essentially, Spravato is a nasal spray containing an anesthetic S enantiomer of ketamine and a party drug, called Special K. Patients self-administer Spravato in a doctor’s clinic or medical setting and then remain under supervision for a few hours. People typically are given two treatments a week for four weeks along with an antidepressant.

Technically speaking, ketamine is not a psychedelic compound. However, its approval laid the foundation for the idea of treating difficult mental health conditions using a substance that’s widely considered illicit. The use of ketamine treatment was foreseen as a breakthrough in a field that has been stagnant in terms of innovation after the SSRIs, which happened in the 1980s. It was only last year that researchers from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and many other institutions published the results they got from a Phase 3 clinical trial. As a part of the trial, people suffering from PTSD were given three doses of MDMA at an interval of four weeks, coupled with psychotherapy. Such people showed sustained improvement just two months after the treatment, contrary to those who consumed a placebo.

Conclusion

The surge in investment in therapeutic psychedelics shows no sign of slowing down. The rate is likely to continue increasing as several larger companies are inching closer to launch. Surely, that’s going to propel the industry, which is poised to offer hope and relief to people who desperately require alternative therapies.

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How Psychedelics Can Help Patients Have Substantial Breakthroughs

Just a few years ago, therapy was considered taboo. Something that only a “certain kind of person” would seek.

But research shows that younger cohorts today are more likely to take up therapy than in the past. During the Covid19 pandemic, 30% of adult Americans sought in-person therapy with a professional, while 36% of millennials and Gen Z’ers turned to social media to get more resources on mental health. In fact, millennials have been found to seek therapy at a 10% faster rate than their Baby Boomer generation counterparts.

As a consequence of therapy becoming more normalized today, another development has taken place. More counselors and psychiatrists today are confident in recommending therapeutic psychedelics to supplement therapy sessions for patients.

But why?

Psychedelics – medicine for mental peace or medium for mystic experiences?

In the 1950s when Humphrey Osmond proposed LSD to address the problem of alcoholism and its mental health concerns surrounding addiction, not many doctors were keen to follow his advice. It was, after all, one of the first times a psychedelic was used for treating mental health conditions. But things have changed considerably today.

It’s true that Osmond’s belief that LSD could scare patients into desisting addictive behaviors was not completely accurate. But, as research shows, it did turn out to be something far more profound for patients.

Many studies, including one published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, showed how participants consuming psilocybin experienced mystical and spiritual-type experiences during the study. These studies show that consuming psychedelics can lead to a transformative experience, which leads to intense epiphanies and a sense of awakening. For example, a 2021 study titled, “Psychedelics alter metaphysical beliefs” discussed how effective psychedelics were in generating fresh ways of looking at metaphysical and religious beliefs in a large number of participants.

Another study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy showed how the brains of people on psychedelic trips revert to storytelling as a tool to extract understandable narratives from the hallucinogenic experiences they have. Even if the trips they have were bad, many people using LSD and psilocybin reported how the psychedelics allowed them to confront and acknowledge their repressed emotions, memories, and trauma. During the study, many patients reported feeling grateful for the bad trip, because of the insights they received from it.

Another study, “Making “bad trips” good: How users of psychedelics narratively transform challenging trips into valuable experiences”, seconds these findings. According to this paper, storytelling becomes a form of coping mechanism that enables people to come to terms with what they experienced or are undergoing now, and find ways to express their feelings.

It is this finding – which is echoed in other studies of a similar nature – that has led many researchers around the world to study how therapeutic psychedelics can be used during therapy sessions to help patients gain better insights and experience psychological breakthroughs.

What’s happening in the brain?

While it isn’t perfectly clear how psychedelics are helping people experience these epiphanies, scientists believe it might have something to do with how these drugs affect brain activity.

Psychedelics have been found to reduce the activity that occurs in the amygdala, which controls our response to fear and threats.

Simultaneously, psychedelics increase the activity in our prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for all cognitive functions, including memory, impulse, and inhibition.

While this is happening, parallelly, psychedelics reduce activity in the default mode network (DMN). This is a region of the brain which is very active when you’re restful and engaging in activities like daydreaming. But the DMN has low activity when you’re consciously thinking or concentrating on something. By lowering DMN activity, psychedelics stimulate critical self-reflection during the trip.

In this way, therapeutic psychedelics, when used during counseling sessions and therapy, can bring the mind to a state of lowered inhibition. This allows the individual to – depending on whether it’s an easy or a hard trip – experience their fears and repressed memories at different degrees of intensity. During this time, the person engages in reflection and consideration of these thoughts, feelings, and memories semi-consciously. This allows them to unlock new perspectives and sometimes, make significant breakthroughs about their issues.

Won’t a hard or bad trip do more harm than good for patients?

Scientists say this is possible but unlikely. The trick to preventing regression during therapy is to ensure patients have the right support system during therapeutic psychedelic treatments. This is why doctors who prescribe therapeutic psychedelics for therapy patients, first consult the patient’s family and friends to identify if they have a strong support structure to lean on. It is only after the entire group is briefed about what the patient may experience and how long it takes them to recover from the hallucinogenic experience, that the treatment is administered. Other coping and grounding mechanisms are also shared with patients to help them return to reality after the trip.

Patients are also monitored for signs of addiction and abuse – although psychedelics like LSD have been found to have very limited addictive features.

Wrapping up

Overall, there is a bright prospect for the role of therapeutic psychedelics in therapy. Researchers and doctors have started doing significant research on how psychedelics like MDMA can help patients cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and how psilocybin can play a role in managing depression symptoms.

When done alongside cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of mental health therapy, psychedelics like MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin can truly have a therapeutic and empowering impact on patients.

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Psychedelic Therapy for Autistic Kids

Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a complex condition associated with the development of the brain. This disorder affects how an individual interacts with other people, causing issues with communication and social interactions. Autism is also characterized by a restricted and repetitive sequence of behaviors.

ASD now includes numerous other disorders that were previously recognized as separate diseases. These conditions include autism, childhood disintegrative disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and a form of pervasive developmental disorder.

ASD usually starts during early childhood and starts causing problems in situations demanding social interaction like school or work. The symptoms of autism can be observed often during the first year of a child’s development. There are also some cases where the child shows symptoms later on, between 18 and 24 months of age.

There is no cure for AUD. But with early detection and proper medical care, it is possible to make a huge difference in the child’s life.

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.

Psychedelics and the treatment of autism

There are numerous controversies surrounding the use of psychedelics like LSD for medicinal or therapeutic purposes. Psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin are Schedule I medicines. This means they are not approved by the US government to be used for medicinal purposes.

Numerous research studies are being done to study the potential benefits of psychedelic drugs when used to treat disorders like autism.

In recent years, psychedelic drugs have started to attract the attention of several investors due to their potential to treat autism. Several pharmaceutical companies are now focusing on creating psychedelic-based treatments.

LSD and autism treatment

The effects of LSD on people with autism have been studied as early as the 1960s. Even though the studies were not conducted in a controlled environment, they yielded positive results. But the major flaw associated with this study was the flawed assumption that autism had no other treatment options.

But recently, studies have been resumed to understand the potential benefits of LSD in managing autism.

The use of LSD in autistic patients has resulted in several positive effects, including:

  • Improved speech
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased positive moods
  • Improved emotional responsiveness
  • Less dissociation
  • Improved relaxation
  • Reduced obsessive behaviors
  • Improved social interactions

The mechanism of LSD’s action in autistic people is not yet fully studied. Studies have shown that people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome have low serotonin levels in the brain. LSD works by influencing the serotonin receptors. This will help in improving the social interactions of the person. It also helps autistic people process their emotions better.

The thought processes of autistic people are markedly different from those of non-autistic people. Using LSD can aid them in sorting out their thoughts in a coherent fashion.

Psilocybin and autism treatment

Psilocybin, also called magic mushrooms, is a potent psychedelic drug that affects perception, mood, and behavior. Research conducted on psilocybin has shown that it can influence the way in which different sections of the brain communicate with one another. Psilocybin has a proven effect on reducing depression, anxiety, OCD symptoms, and nicotine addiction.

Extensive studies are being done to develop a treatment for autism using psilocybin with a focus given on fragile X syndrome. This syndrome is responsible for developmental issues like cognitive impairment and learning disabilities connected with autism. Experiments conducted on rats have shown a considerable reduction in anxiety and improvement in cognitive functions.

Psilocybin, similar to LSD, improves mood and social interactions by influencing the serotonin receptors in the brain.

MDMA and autism treatment

MDMA – scientific name 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine – is a psychotropic drug commonly called ecstasy. MDMA is famous for its potent ability to foster empathy and enhance sensory perception.

Numerous studies conducted on MDMA have revealed the prosocial components present in the drug. It has the capability to improve people’s ability to love others. This can help autistic people by improving their social and emotional interactions. MDMA also hinders a person’s ability to perceive negative emotions like fear or anxiety.

MDMA-assisted therapies are also a good method to help manage autism. This therapeutic strategy can help manage anxiety, especially in autistic individuals who are high-functioning.

Psychedelic drugs have the immense capability to improve the lives of autistic people. With proper research and application, psychedelic drugs can be made into mainstream therapeutic drugs to revolutionize the treatment of such complicated disorders.

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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.