Why I Support Psychedelics as a Therapeutic Intervention for Mental Health
And why you should too
If you've been paying attention to the psychedelic movements then you've noticed that we're experiencing a renaissance of sorts for these substances that have remained shrouded behind hushed taboo for decades. If you've seen the recent docuseries on Netflix called "How to change your mind" then you might have been like me and realized that before all psychedelics were torn from the compelling subject of psychiatric research and forced into society's dark under belly with deadly murderous drugs like heroin where they've remained for decades.
Psychedelics have a much more complex history and much more complex properties to them. At it turns out, many many indigenous people's all over the planet have used many of them as a means to support spiritual growth, awakenings and stages of enlightenment. They've been used as vehicle for rites of passages and visions quests. So many psychedelics, such as mushrooms, grow naturally in the wild and can be taken as they are without any chemical processes involved. They provide these inner journeys just as they are plucked from the ground. Native Americans have used and still use the peyote cactus as a healing medicine, the active ingredient, mescaline, has also been found in the San Pedro cactus. Mushrooms were brought to western cultures after it was discovered that shamans in Mexico had been using it as a healing medicine for what could be centuries.
Supported By Research
Clearly, there is far more to these substances than the reductive demonization that has happened to them. If you've not already heard, there is a lot of research being conducted with psychedelics. I've taken the time to do some of my own research including adding them to my continuing education units. I find the topic to be both fascinating and incredibly exciting. If you haven't heard, if you're kind of out of the loop then you need to know that the outcomes in the clinical trials, in most cases, have blown many existing treatments for mental health issues completely out of the water and have defied what many had previously thought was possible. Psilocybin, the active chemical in mushrooms, is proving to be incredibly effective for depression, addiction and PTSD. MDMA or the club drug ecstasy appears to the big winner, however, for PTSD. Ibogaine is a lesser known and rare medicine that is proving to be extremely effective for treating addictions including heroine addiction which is an extremely difficult addiction to shake. Many recipients of ibogaine are reporting that this medicine has permanently cured the need for this drug and it certainly doesn't stop there.
Psilocybin (mushrooms) is also being tested for mental health issues including autism and eating disorders when many of these mental health issues have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to treat. In fact, the mental health industry has been woefully unsuccessful at treating several things over the years. Eating disorders, PTSD and addictions are some of those issues where it often seems as though no matter what we throw at it, a large majority of the people find themselves hopelessly lacking improvements. People attend rehabilitation programs, it's kind of a big business. These programs can cost obscene amounts of money with virtually no guarantee that they will work in fact that relapse rate within one year sits comfortably above 80%. We're just woefully ill equipped to treat some of these issues and if certain psychedelic plants have proven to be more effective, we should have the right to explore them in therapeutic settings.
The mental health industry is buckling under the demands of our communities, we cannot meet the needs; that is a fact. Treating PTSD through conventional means is a long arduous and difficult process. It can be weeks or even months with a good therapist before patients see any improvements let alone a complete turn around. EMDR is the current therapy method of choice for PTSD and it can be effective when it's done well, correctly and with care and unfortunately much of the time, it's not. Sadly, I've seen many cases where patients attending EMDR actually saw their PTSD symptoms worsen because it was exacerbated by clinicians who didn't provide this intervention properly. What's even worse is that the EMDR community, those practitioners who use it and speak highly of it, foster this enormous blind spot. They refuse to acknowledge that in many cases EMDR is actually harming people.
Even if EMDR is effective it can take months when some patients using psychedelic medicines see improvements after a few doses. The bottom line here is that we're in dire need for some right answers when it comes to mental health treatment. With the demands in the community consistently on the rise and the number of available and effective therapists is on the decline. People are desperate for help and the mental health industry is failing them. I'll say it again. We need some right answers, we're desperate for them. I'm not even saying this in the context of needing to throw a desperate hail mary. The effectiveness of psychedelic treatment is advancing rapidly and is supported, strongly, by empirical and peer reviewed research.
"It's become abundantly clear that we just don't know what's good for us anymore."
The abolishment of psychedelics by the government has been portrayed over the years in such a way that makes it appear as though our altruistic government was looking out for us. They wanted us to stay safe and unharmed because, as we're supposedly led to believe, they just have our best interest in mind. Whether or not you believe this, I suppose, is up to you. I'm skeptical because I just don't believe that the government truly has our best interest in mind but my point is this. These substances were outlawed in an attempt to reduce harm but we have arrived at harm. Frankly, we are at a place of great harm. Suicide is at all time high. Don't forget alcoholism, public shootings and the rates of things like severe depression. Can we confidently say that we, as a culture or as a society, know how to avoid or reduce harm? I assert that this is a big fat no. We generally don't seem to know what is good for us anymore. Furthermore, I think it's become abundantly clear that we must face an uncomfortable truth. It's time to do something different. And maybe it starts with admitting that we don't actually have any idea what we're doing.
The current research that is being done with psychedelics is showing that people are far more likely to get a positive and healing experience if they are provided with the right support. People are already taking psychedelics at increased rates on their own as they are becoming more and more popular. Many people are recklessly diving into it, not knowing what to expect or how to integrate their experiences. People are going to use them whether they're legal or not, they always have, this has always been the nature of drug use. People use them in mass numbers including the ones that are deadly and lethal in high doses, the law has never done much to slow them down. If the legal restrictions were lifted, we'd be able to provide better support, plain and simple. If we were able to provide better support, we'd be able to reduce potential harm that might come from experimenting with these substances.
As long as I'm talking about harm reduction, it would be important to discuss the current accepted treatment for heroin addiction. Heroin, in case you don't know, is incredibly addictive because it creates an intense physical dependence on the drug. The withdrawals from heroin are the stuff from nightmares. In order to treat these withdrawals, drugs like methadone have been approved but addicts find themselves totally dependent on this drug as well. If they discontinue taking it, they will find them in withdrawals that are just as bad, if not worse. Heroin relapses are extremely common and it's also common for a relapse to be fatal. Heroin is lethal in high doses and many users who relapse will take their prior dose which is a problem because they don't realize that their tolerance level has decreases during the time when they weren't using it. In large enough doses, it will stop their heart in minutes. The heroin they buy on the streets can also be laced with fentanyl which is a just heroin in a much much higher concentration. It's lethal. Absolutely deadly. They will drop dead in just a few short minutes. I can tell you from the experience of a seasoned clinician. We are almost helpless to address addiction that is this severe. It's like we're trying to bring down an elephant with a BB gun.
Psychedelics are proving to be an almost miraculous for treating addiction because they do something amazing. Something that is extremely difficult in regular therapy. They get right to the heart of the underlying causes of addiction including the compulsive behaviors that happen without any thought being put into it. After using psychedelics, certain people just don't want it anymore. They have a way of making it easy to quit because the emotional components are resolved. It would be tragic if we continued to limit the potential treatment benefits. It would be tragic if we allowed the current system and rate of failure to continue.
When it comes to potential risks for psychedelic use, the research indicates that they are low. People aren't experiencing harsh physical side effects when many people in fact do experience harsh side effects from anti-depressants and mood stabilizers. The worst side effect that most people are experiencing is "uncomfortable emotions" and sometimes repressed and forgotten memories. They will experience anger, sadness, grief and the like but I make the argument, as a therapist, that we're supposed to experience these emotions. They are healthy but people mistake them as unhealthy because they are uncomfortable. I know there are stories of people jumping out of windows or running into traffic when they are under the influence of psychedelics and frankly, I couldn't tell you how much truth there is to this or how common it is. I've never heard of a case of this actually happening, it might be an urban legend but this is where we can and should make the argument that if there is any truth to this, people should use them under the supervision of a qualified professional.
The healthcare and mental health industries both support and endorse the use of anti-depressant and mood stabilizing medications. It's common to hear about how many people resort to these because they have somehow acquired a common defect in which they have the unfortunate circumstance of having a chemical imbalance in their brain and that they need to take medication for the rest of their lives in order to right this defect and imbalance. Over the years I've grown skeptical. I've never seen any studies or literature on this and in recent months I've actually seen more literature calling this narrative into question. There is no scientific proof of a serotonin deficiency, for example or that some people have a brain that fails to produce sufficient amounts of it. I'm definitely never heard or seen anything that would provide any plausible explanation as to why these supposed defects happen in the brain let alone why these supposed defects are only present in recent decades and localized to certain cultures and societies. I don't say this to disparage anyone that takes these medications. I respect each persons right to choose what they believe is best for their individual situation. I'm mostly talking about these medications because I want to illustrate one important point. They aren't therapeutic.
At best they are patch or a band-aid. At times they've shown to help to stop the bleeding of sorts but in my professional opinion they do nothing to help solve the greater problem and the underlying issues and I don't believe that the underlying issue is that the brain has a defect and that's all, nothing else to see here, move along. Psychedelics are proving to have actual healing properties. There are countless individuals who are reporting that they found mental, emotional and spiritual healing through their journey. It almost sounds to good to be true because we've been accepting lousy treatments for so long but again, the research would indicate otherwise. Therapists who are supporting psychedelic interventions are reporting remarkable recoveries from so many things that have been regarded as incurable. People are finding true healing. Unlike standard medications, they have strong therapeutic value. If we reject psychedelics then we are essentially settling for lousy and ineffective treatments.
Let me be abundantly clear here. I am not officially or professionally recommending that you use them. I am not legally allowed to do so. It's your choice. I am not directing or guiding anyone in this direction. I am simply making my intentions clear for the practice of providing a support therapeutic experience for those who choose to do so. Please, do not recklessly experiment with various substances. it's important to be smart when using them. My job is to provide assistance and support and reduce the chances of harm being done. In the future I hope that more locations including Utah will lift restrictions that prohibit us from incorporating them into mental health treatment. I'm certain these measures will enable the advancement and improvement of mental health services. Psychedelics have been the right answer for many people already and it's potential seems to be unlimited.
I know that there are a lot of folks out there that want to use these in a therapeutic way and they aren't sure whether or not they can or should tell their therapist or a therapist about their intentions to use them. Many practitioners will discourage the use of them as they continue to ride on outdated information which is understandable since many are out of the loop with the current body of research as well as the body of research that was done in the 1960's. My services include therapeutic support and interventions for you if this is the path that you decide to take. It's my goal to continue to sharpen my saw, so to speak as I've been pursuing additional information and education about psychedelics and how to help ensure that people get the best experience out of them. If you're looking for a therapist that will support your journey, you've found one in me.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this, I hope that you found it helpful and informative. Feel free to reach out to me and contact me if you'd like to discuss this further. You can call me directly at 385.202.4174 or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.