Mental health treatment plays a critical role in the overall wellbeing of the nearly 800 million people who experience a mental disorder annually. Without proper care, symptoms of depression, anxiety, phobias, and other illnesses could have terrible consequences for patients, their loved ones, and society in general. While some treatment is accepted – psychotherapy and certain medications – others that advocate the use of psychedelics, and even ketamine infusion therapy, are frowned upon and receive less support.
Timothy Leary and Psychedelics
Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary wasn’t the first academic to look into the benefits of psychedelic drugs like LSD as a treatment for mental health disorders, but he was the most famous and outspoken of all its proponents. A firebrand and lightning rod for attention, Leary sucked it in from all quarters – like a black hole ripping apart a planet as it passed the Event Horizon. Leary’s research in the late 1950s and early 1960s set the standard by which the drugs would be judged, especially when his behavior became a political weapon. Today, the world approaches his legacy with different optics.
What Are Psychedelics?
U.S. researchers define psychedelics as “powerful psychoactive substances that alter perception and mood and affect numerous cognitive processes. They are generally considered physiologically safe and do not lead to dependence or addiction. Their origin predates written history, and they were employed by early cultures in many sociocultural and ritual contexts.”
Psychedelics for Mental Health Treatment
- MDMA is the active ingredient in the drug ecstasy and may lessen the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder.
- Psilocybin may reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially in cancer patients.
- Ayahuasca is native to South America and is used in traditional spiritual ceremonies. It contains powerful hallucinogens with anti-depressive properties.
What the Experts Say About Psychedelics
Global efforts to de-criminalize the use of marijuana has led to discussions about the role of “controlled substances” – mostly outlawed – and how they could be used to soothe the worst symptoms of anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and other mental illnesses. Here’s what some experts have to say about the role of psychedelics.
- Michael Pollan, when asked what ayahuasca does to the brain: “One of the most striking things about psychedelics is that they’re not toxic. It’s very hard to say that about any other drug. There is a lethal dose of Tylenol or Advil out there, and indeed, most drugs, but there is, as far as we know, no lethal dose of psychedelics.”
- Alan Davis, of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research on “mushrooms” and their role in treating mental disorders like depression: “There are a couple of ways we believe it works. First is the experience itself. People who take psilocybin report having a deeply positive, mystical experience that seems to help them alter their perspective on their situation. More specifically, people with depression tend to feel isolated and disconnected from their daily lives. The experience of taking psilocybin makes them feel an intense interconnection that stays with them after the experience is over. People also report gaining insight into their depression, like they suddenly have an awareness of what they want to change in their life to help them move forward. That awareness, coupled with this mystical-like experience, serves as the catalyst for change.”
- Albert Garcia-Romeu, a colleague of Alan Davis: “In a nutshell, psilocybin and other psychedelics like LSD bind to serotonin 2A receptors, creating mood-altering effects and changes in brain function. We know psilocybin decreases amygdala blood flow in people with depression, which is associated with better antidepressant effects. This is important because depressive symptoms seem to be associated with over-reactivity in the amygdala. Keep in mind that the data for psilocybin brain mechanisms in depression is very limited, from fewer than 20 people in total. We are only starting to scratch the surface of how this works.”
- David Nutt, a professor, and neuropharmacologist at Imperial College London. He encourages policymakers to rethink their war on drugs: “An enormous opportunity has been lost, and we want to resurrect it. It’s an outrageous insult to humanity that these drugs were abandoned for research just to stop people from having fun with them. The sooner we get these drugs into a proper clinical evaluation, the sooner we will know how best to use them and be able to save lives.”
The availability and use of psychedelics and other hallucinogenic drugs peaked in the 1960s thanks to the pioneering work of Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary, then crashed a decade later. Today, science believes such drugs and others like ketamine can play a valuable role in the treatment of mental health disorders.
NeuroRelief Ketamine & Infusion Therapy is closely following the advancement of these exciting new forms of therapy to help treat mood disorders and chronic pain.
Currently, Ketamine is the only legal form of psychedelic therapy available. We utilize ketamine infusions to treat the above-mentioned disorders. Our results are astounding and we are deeply gratified by these positive outcomes for our clients.
If you or a loved one have questions about the clinical use of ketamine to treat mood or pain disorders please give us a call today to learn more.