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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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How Psychedelics are Changing the Mainstream Pharmaceutical Industry

Psychedelic compounds like ecstasy and psilocybin have emerged as life-changing treatments for mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder. Earlier, governments have disregarded and demonized psychedelics as psychosis-inducing scourges. However, over the past decade, serious scientific studies have shown that psychedelic compounds have the capacity to enter mainstream medicine for the treatment of mental illnesses. It is being considered the next breakthrough in the treatment of mental illnesses.

What Are Psychedelics?

Commonly referred to as hallucinogens, psychedelics are a class of psychoactive substances that are capable of producing changes in mood, perception, and cognitive functions. Psychedelics have the power to affect all senses in the body, including a person’s thought process and emotions. Some of the most common psychedelics are LSD, Psilocybin, DMT, NBOMe, and Ayahuasca.

Psychedelics for the Treatment of Mental Illnesses

According to Kripa Krishnan, a senior analytical consultant at Informa Pharma Intelligence, “there is definitely an unmet need for a lot of psychiatric illnesses”. It can be said that there is a huge demand for drugs that are impactful for treating various mental illnesses. Research by various psychiatrists is hailing psychedelics like LSD, psilocybin, and 3-4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), along with ketamine, as the next breakthrough in the treatment of mental illnesses. Psychiatrists have discovered that such psychedelics are effective in the treatment of mental illnesses like PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, existential distress, and the like when other therapies have proved to be ineffective.

The emergence of Psychedelics as an effective treatment

The recent popularity of psychedelics in treating mental illnesses finds its roots in the 2010s. Different research groups at Los Angeles, Johns Hopkins University, University of California, Imperial College London, University of Zurich, and New York University discovered the quick and lasting effects of psychedelics. Psilocybin was used to treat a small group of people suffering from treatment-resistant depression and existential disorders. The results were a breakthrough for the typical drug therapies for these disorders. After just one or two psychedelic treatments administered under strict supervision and in conjunction with rigorous psychotherapy, patients could experience long-lasting effects.

Recognizing the Potential of Psychedelics

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which in 2019 received US Food and Medicine Administration approval for Spravato for treatment-resistant depression, became the first US business to benefit from efforts to legitimate a mind-altering drug. Not only psychiatric professionals are intrigued by psychedelics’ potential. The pharmaceutical industry is paying attention as well- more than 80 businesses are focused on creating or using psychedelic substances. Investors anticipate a boom in demand for psychedelic therapy in the upcoming years.

Due to encouraging scientific and clinical findings and an increase in the number of publicly traded firms active in the psychedelic industry, investment in psychedelics has increased significantly. The use of psychedelics to treat mental illness has enormous commercial potential, which has spurred significant investment in the field during the past four years.

Companies have been attracted by larger and more robust clinical trials for psychedelics. Efforts are being made for the establishment of a legal framework for the use of psychedelics in the treatment of mental illnesses. The establishment of the infrastructure to administer psychedelic-assisted psychotherapies and the growing public support for a significant change in mental healthcare are further factors luring investors.

Challenges facing the Psychedelic Sector

Even if corporations are successful in turning psychedelics into therapeutic medications, these substances will still have to deal with the stigma that is frequently attached to them in society. Breaking the cultural stigma associated with the use of psychedelics is not an easy task. Moreover, some scientists are skeptical about whether it is possible to decouple the hallucinatory effects of psychedelics from their therapeutic effects.

Despite the increase in funding, there haven’t been many published studies of investments made in the psychedelic industry. Currently, the delivery and commercialization of psychedelics present a significant barrier to their widespread use.

A total of $60 million was invested in businesses with a focus on psychedelics in both 2018 and 2019. As psychedelic-focused enterprises and new scientific trials proliferated, the volume of investment reached roughly 10 times this amount in 2020. It won’t be long until major pharmaceutical corporations start including psychedelics in their product line.

For these excellent therapies to be adopted more quickly and to generate value for the corporations that will profit from them, legislative and regulatory changes will be essential. Finally, there is a positive public perception of psychedelic medical treatments, and as the advantages become more widely recognized, there will be a rise in demand for these therapies.