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Psychedelics & the Emerging Psycho-Spiritual Medical Paradigm

It’s no surprise that mental health has become a leading issue for many people as of late. According to one report, today, nearly one in five adults suffers from some form of psychological struggle. Couple this statistic with the fact that our society is currently experiencing a loneliness epidemic, in which many people have reported feeling more isolated and alone than ever before, and we have a crisis on our hands that is in desperate need of new solutions.

Unlike regular medical issues, mental health issues involve the entire psyche and can be difficult to treat using only traditional western medicine alone. And while the medical world has given us resources to address these issues, some have proven themselves to be less effective than we had originally hoped. Not to mention, many of these solutions, like antidepressants and other pills, come with a foreboding list of possible side effects, making them less than ideal to those already suffering. Psychedelics, however, may offer a viable solution to this growing problem.  

While still illegal in the United States and elsewhere, psychedelic use has been experiencing a major renaissance in American culture in recent years.

There are, most certainly, multiple reasons why someone would be drawn to these substances, but a primary reason for the resurgence is their promising potential in the field of mental health.

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) the psychedelic substance sometimes called ecstasy, for example, has shown enormous potential in the treatment of PTSD. The substance is currently in phase three clinical trials to assess the efficacy and safety of using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in adult participants with severe PTSD. And the results demonstrate how powerful a tool it can be. In fact, 76 percent of the participants no longer had signs and symptoms of PTSD after their trial had been completed.

The trials have been so successful, it is now likely that MDMA will see FDA approval by the year 2021. This means that in the not too distant future, doctors may soon be able to prescribe MDMA-assisted psychotherapy  to those suffering from PTSD — a condition that can often lead to suicide.

Likewise, as more evidence has come to light demonstrating the effectiveness of using psilocybin, or “magic” mushrooms, to treat severe and treatment resistant depression, states like Colorado are even considering decriminalizing the substance in order to make it available to those suffering. Additionally, lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, has also been found to be effective in treating depression when, like MDMA, it is coupled with talk therapy.

And while they are not legal yet, many people have also been experimenting with microdosing, or taking smaller doses of LSD or psilocybin, in order to enhance creativity and help curb symptoms of anxiety and depression. Since prohibition has made reliable information on these substances harder to obtain, sites like The Third Wave give explorers a platform to share their experiences with others as a means of crowdsourcing information.

From Underground to Mainstream

Over the last couple of years, using psychedelics as medicine has gone from the underground to the mainstream as more people and publications feel comfortable reporting on these substances’ potential to revolutionize the field of mental health. Last Spring, best selling author Michael Pollan helped further legitimize the issue when he published his book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.

Truly, the concept of using psychedelics to treat mental ailments and achieve transcendence is an idea whose time has come. And one of the organizations leading the way on this pivotal research is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS.)

Since 1986, MAPS, run by Rick Doblin, has been leading the charge to educate the public and conduct trials that show the rest of the world the true potential of these psychedelic substances. In addition to the research conducted on MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy, MAPS also received the regulatory approval to conduct research on smoking marijuana and its impact on PTSD. MAPS has also completed the first double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the therapeutic use of LSD in human beings since the early 1970s.

All too often, and especially in mental health, we treat only the physical symptoms, instead of factoring in the spiritual component as well.

 For many suffering, there is a great deal of unresolved trauma. And while this trauma could confronted during therapy sessions, it is a long and sometimes grueling ordeal where patients must relive the darkest moments of their life. And for those in pain, the process can be unbearable.

Psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin, on the other hand, can expedite this process by giving users the opportunity to face the trauma head on. MDMA, works differently by causing the user to experience a rush of serotonin that, when taken under the right circumstances, causes extreme euphoria and feelings of happiness. This is useful in talk therapy sessions, since this euphoria helps the user open up and articulate their past traumas easier than if they were riddled with panic attacks, flashbacks, and other symptoms of PTSD.

This type of treatment shouldn’t be done lightly, of course, which is why in psychologist James Fadiman’s book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, he emphasizes the importance of “set and setting.” This is a principle that cautions users to be in the right frame of mind and the right physical environment that is most conducive to fostering a positive psychedelic experience.

As the drug war is starting to come to an end and many people are recognizing that much of the propaganda we’ve been taught about drugs has been false, psychedelics are poised to become a major disrupter in the field of mental health. And this brings hope to the many people who are sick of suffering and desperate for new solutions.

Continue exploring the topic of psychedelics & the emerging psycho-spiritual medical paradigm at this year’s Future Frontiers with MAPS’ Liana Sananda. Register today!