While psychedelic therapy is relatively new to the Western culture, many other cultures have embraced psychedelics in therapy and religion for centuries. It's becoming more and more popular as mental health conditions continue to rise and psychopharmacological research evolves.
Research on psychedelics dramatically increased in the 50s and 60s but declined as these substances were systematically made illegal. However, within the last two decades, researchers have been given the approval to conduct trials to learn how medical professionals can use these substances to treat many different medical conditions.
Today, we will dive into the world of psychedelic therapy. We will discuss how it works along with the benefits that psychedelic substances can have on certain psychological and behavioral issues.
What is Psychedelic Therapy?
Psychedelic therapy is a psychiatric practice where the patient ingests a psychedelic substance as part of the therapy process. It is typically used in combination with psychotherapy (“talk therapy”) and has shown promise in resolving serious psychological and behavioral issues.
Many different psychedelic drugs are currently being used or are in the research stage to learn if they would be beneficial during psychedelic therapy. Some are plant-based drugs such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), peyote, ayahuasca, DMT, and ibogaine. Others are chemical compounds such as MDMA, ketamine, and LSD.
How Psychedelic Therapy Works
Often, it can take weeks for traditional medications to effectively lend balance to mental health conditions. On the contrary, many research studies have shown that psychedelic therapy can be highly effective in as little as one session.
At this time, researchers don’t exactly know how all aspects of psychedelics affect the brain and mental health conditions, but there is mounting evidence as to how psychedelic therapy can be helpful in many situations for treating those struggling with their mental health. Some examples include:
- While you are under the influence of psychedelics, you may have some intense, meaningful experiences. These experiences can shift your mindset, which can cause you to think or behave differently.
- It’s also possible that when a person uses psychedelics, they become more responsive to positive suggestions from their therapist.
- Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in your brain. Many mental health drugs directly affect the neurotransmitters to change your mood. Some psychedelic drugs may have the same effect on neurotransmitters.
Benefits of Psychedelic Therapy
Psychedelics are potent substances and can result in intense mind-altering effects by working with your brain's neural pathways and their use of serotonin. Some benefits psychedelic therapy may have on the user are:
- Feeling more relaxed
- Feeling more connected to those around you
- Gaining the desire to analyze your mental and emotional state
- An overall improvement in your sense of well-being
- Spiritual experiences that help one find meaning and purpose
A 2019 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicated that the improvements in the mood of those influenced by psychedelic drugs appeared to have continued benefits even after the effects of the substances wore off. This has implications for lasting positive benefits of psychedelic therapy in treating and even resolving mental health issues.
Conditions Treated With Psychedelics
Psychedelic therapy has shown much promise in treating various mental health conditions. Further research is needed, but there are currently many trials underway to determine the effectiveness of psychedelic drugs on certain conditions.
Anxiety and Mood Issues
Research has shown that psilocybin therapy can reduce anxiety, improve optimism, and increase one's overall quality of life. Approximately 80% of the participants in one study showed continued improvement six months later.
Psychedelic therapy has shown promise in aiding in decreasing the use of alcohol. A 2015 study showed that psilocybin therapy helped participants decrease their drinking, reduced cravings, and helped them stay sober.
In a 2019 study, researchers surveyed people who had quit using alcohol by using psychedelics. It reported that only 10% of those surveyed had used psychedelics to intentionally stop drinking. And over 25% said that the hallucinogenic experience they had was part of why they changed their alcohol use.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
MDMA therapy has shown promise in being an effective treatment of PTSD. One study reported that 54% of those who participated did not meet the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis after treatment, while only 23% in the control group no longer met the criteria after treatment.
It also appears that the benefits are long-term. For example, after the study, 68% of participants no longer met the diagnostic criteria for a PTSD diagnosis a year after treatment.
Get Ready to See the World With New Eyes!
While there is still a lot to be discovered about psychedelic therapy, research thus far has been promising, especially for people who have severe PTSD. That is why advocates and lobbyists are continually working to make some psychedelic substances legal, make them more accessible, and increase funding for research into these substances to make these treatments more readily available to those who need them.
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