A promising new approach to treating PTSD, depression, and substance abuse disorders in veterans includes the use of psychedelics medicines as adjuncts to psychotherapy. This approach is so promising that the US Food and Drug Administration has singled out the psychedelics psilocybin and MDMA as breakthrough therapies. They are currently undergoing clinical trials to confirm both safety and efficacy and should be available for standard treatment without a couple of years. Medicinal use of psychedelics is promising and includes more potentially useful treatments than just MDMA and psilocybin.
DOES LSD HAVE ANY THERAPEUTIC USE?
Back in the 1950s and 1960s researchers looked at possible uses for LSD separate from its “recreational” use. In retrospect there were serious problems with much of that research. Studies funded by the military or intelligence agencies often violated ethical protocols with informed consent often not obtained. Many studies lacked the sort of rigorous protocols used today, such as double blind setups where researchers do not know which patients get a placebo or a given dose of the drug being tested. Because of these problems as well as a swing in the general opinion about psychedelics research ground to a halt and did not resume until the 1970s when protocols were tighter and research goals were clearer. Of the more than two dozen studies of psychedelics five were done on LSD. These included healthy test subjects as well as patients needing treatment.
Results of these studies showed that LSD increased feelings of trust, openness, closeness to others and suggestibility. It directly affect the amygdala fear and sadness center in the brain by reducing response to fearful stimuli. And it increased emotional empathy. A profound benefit of research in the modern era is that the brain can be directly observed with magnetic resonance scans, PET scans and the like showing precisely where a drug like LSD is having its effects. One specific effect of LSD was the reduction of anxiety in a patient dealing with a life-threatening illness.
It should be noted that like with studies with MDMA and psilocybin only pharmaceutical trade drugs are used with no impurities and they are only used in therapeutic, safe dosages. And as with the other drugs being tested, these patients were in controlled clinical settings when the LSD was used. The effects of LSD treatment in these studies were commonly for a couple of months after just one or two doses. As with the use of psilocybin and MDMA we are seeing a much lower exposure to medication than with the use of antidepressants which are commonly used for months or years for the same sorts of conditions like depression, substance abuse disorders, or PTSD.
DMT Uses as Medicine
DMT (dimethyltryptamine) is a substance found in two natural substances, ayahuasca and jurema. Ayahuasca has been used in the Northwestern Amazon in Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia for centuries and jurema has a similarly long history of use in the interior of Brazil. Because DMT is rapidly metabolized in the body it is given in an intravenous form in studies. Studies are underway to see if this psychedelic medicine, which has similar “spiritual” effects as seen in psilocybin and MDMA has similar potential to open doors to more effective psychotherapy in treatment of conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders.
A 2014 study demonstrated this facet of ayahuasca to a degree.
Ayahuasca also appears to increase activity in the left hemisphere’s amygdala/parahippocampal gyrus structures that play a role in emotional arousal and memory, enabling ayahuasca to make repressed memories conscious and to re-experience emotions associated with them. Such apperception enables one to reprocess these memories in more constructive ways and with a potential for processing traumatic pasts in novel ways.
This finding is exactly in the same camp as how psilocybin and MDMA work to make psychotherapy more effective in treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse problems.
At No Fallen Heroes our focus is on the reduction and elimination of veteran suicide and these psychedelic medicines that hold such promise in treating the risk factors of suicide namely PTSD, depression, and substance abuse give us hope that our goal will be obtained in the reasonable near future.