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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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How Doctors Are Using LSD as a Therapeutic Treatment for Psychiatric Conditions

LSD or lysergic acid diethylamide was considered therapeutic psychedelics and was subjected to exhaustive experimentation in the 1960s since it was believed to have the potential to be a useful drug. But since it was banned shortly after all the research, advertising and marketing relating to LSD as a drug also had stopped. In recent times, research and experiments on LSD have commenced again. Doctors are hopeful that LSD will result as a potential drug in the medical world with beneficial therapeutic results. It is being perceived that consuming a specific amount can help people eliminate their fears and anxieties.

Can LSD be used in treatment?

It cannot be denied that the consumption of LSD can distort one’s experiences of space and time. It can also make the person hallucinate. But that happens only when consumed in excessive amounts. If LSD is consumed in prescribed amounts, it can be helpful for the individual. Various positive effects are being discovered about LSD. LSD can affect the structure as well as the function of the brain, and in this way, it promotes neuron growth. With the help of advanced technology, LSD is known to react with multiple chemicals and receptors of the brain. It is being noticed that when taken in the correct amount, it makes the consumer experience creative and out-of-the-box thoughts. Doctors believe that LSD will have positive effects if used in the treatment of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, dependency on drugs, and anxiety.

When talking about treatment, LSD has to be administered under the proper guidance of a medical professional, like a psychologist, so that the patient gets the maximum benefit and remains safe. It has been noticed that after consuming LSD, the patient might lose consciousness, but they perfectly remember their experience.

Results of trials for LSD Therapy

There have been successful trials for LSD with improved technology, and in every trial, LSD proved its potential therapeutic psychedelics. Doctors had given single doses of LSD to certain participants who had no medical history of any mental illness. They witnessed that the participants were seen to be more optimistic and open-minded for about two weeks. They were feeling happy and motivated.

So, the doctors could figure out that controlled doses of LSD on people without mental ailments could help improve their mood. In addition, doctors had conducted an LSD experiment on people with alcohol dependency. To their pleasant surprise, the people reported that after receiving the dose of LSD, they experienced a lot of positivity and optimism in themselves.

They could face their hardships more smoothly. Then came the most promising trail that bought a revolution in LSD therapy. The doctors gave specific doses of LSD to patients with life-threatening diseases. Such patients’ added anxiety, in general, leads to the reduction of their life span. The doctors were pleased with the results as the patients reported that they were experiencing improvement in their mental strength and could feel a stronger self-assurance.

These patients experienced a relaxed state of mind for about a year, and the doctors were very impressed with the results. This called for marketing LSD as a potential drug for treatment.

Benefits of LSD Therapy

Doctors are advertising and using LSD in the treatment of patients since LSD provides promising results. Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety would usually take a lot of time to cure, but with the help of LSD, these illnesses are getting cured at a much faster rate. Since the doctors are continuing with the LSD research, they are confident about the medical potential of this drug. Doctors are encouraging business/industry personnel to start with the production of LSD as a drug. The influencers on social media are also talking about the benefits of LSD and encouraging people with mental illnesses to try at least one dose of LSD.

Conclusion

Doctors are promoting the use of LSD via various sources. However, it should be noted that the consumption of LSD poses a few threats. First, though LSD does not impart addiction, the patients are sometimes seen to experience confusion and anxiety after receiving their doses. Second, the patients may show rebellion, and in worst cases, they might get violent. Lastly, it is still not determined how much is the perfect dose of LSD for various illnesses. Also, at what interval should the drug doses be given to the patients.

We can conclude by accepting that LSD is very beneficial to fight mental illnesses and also acts as a mood lifter. But when using LSD, one needs to be ultra-careful since incorrect dosages of this drug can result in undesirable results.

Originally published by Redwood Creative