Most people think of the 1960s when they hear the term “psychedelics” with visions of tie-dye shirts, Woodstock, and free love. Unfortunately, the criminalization of psychedelics and stigmas surrounding these substances created limitations for researchers to explore their medical benefits, of which there are many.
In light of the opioid crisis and changing minds about mental health, there's been a paradigm shift in how we can use these substances. Here are some of the fascinating ways psychedelics are changing mental health treatments for the better.
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Iboga Treatments for PTSD
Iboga and Ibogaine (an alkaloid derived from the Iboga plant) are one of the lesser-known psychedelics in general conversation. While it hasn't gained the notoriety of mescaline or Ayahuasca, Iboga shows promise for treating PTSD and addictions.
Initial studies of Iboga treatment for PTSD show an effect on rapid eye movement (REM) during periods of sleep. Many veterans experience flashbacks and night terrors during this period. The neurological effects also help the individual remember the triggering events without experiencing intense emotional associations. This effect can have tremendous results when paired with therapy, allowing for better emotional processing.
Iboga is also being evaluated as an option for Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) in substance abuse and addictions. Initial studies show that Iboga has a disruptive effect on addictions and cravings, aiding in the process of rapid detox and treatment implementation.
Psilocybin Treatments in Hospice Care
Views around hospice and palliative care treatments with psychedelics have changed dramatically over the past decade, with new legislation surrounding medically-assisted death rising up around the country.
Processing death and facing mortality are overwhelming, even as we consider it in the abstract. When faced with a definitive end, often before we expected, coming to terms with mortality can be unimaginable. It's common for hospice patients to experience anxiety, depression, and fear.
Researchers have been exploring the use of psychedelic psilocybin treatments for hospice patients to help alleviate their mental health issues. While using medication for pain management has been common practice for centuries, psilocybin treatments are designed to address the mental and even spiritual aspects of end-of-life care.
A meta-review of psilocybin hospice treatment studies shows a positive effect in relieving existential distress at the end of life for 65-80% of patients. It's expected that this treatment option will become more popular in helping hospice patients face their end of life with peace and dignity.
Ketamine in Treatment-Resistant Cases
Studies show that 10-20% of depression cases are treatment-resistant, meaning pharmaceuticals and psychiatric treatment have minimal effect. While the psychedelic, ketamine therapy isn't a replacement for more traditional approaches, it provides quick relief to offset the risk of the patient harming themselves. It can also be effective in lessening the impacts in major depressive cases.
As studies are recent and limited, the full implications of ketamine treatments are not yet understood. Currently, the experts view this as a short-term, acute form of treatment rather than a long-term solution. As ketamine does have addictive qualities, there's more work to be done in ensuring those effects are managed.
Psychadelic Aids in Eating Disorder Treatment
Studies related to the use of different psychedelics in eating disorder (ED) treatments have been submitted for review with promising results. As with other mental health disorders, psychedelics target the default mode network (DMN) in the brain. This network of neurological pathways is largely responsible for self-perception, body image, and ego.
Researchers use a great analogy of a ski slope. The more ED patients have obsessive thoughts about self-image, food intake, etc., the deeper the grooves in their neurological pathways. Introducing a psychedelic is like a fresh layer of snow that fills in the pathways and allows for constructive rewiring.
The understanding of the mental health benefits of psychedelics is still in its infancy, but it shows great promise. It's worth noting that exploring this form of treatment should be managed by a medical professional.