Those of us of an age remember rock concerts where everyone seemed to be “high” and/or “tripping out.” LSD and other psychedelics effectively loosen nerve connections in the brain which leads to relaxation and euphoria as well as visual enhancements like colors being brighter and visual distortions like hard surfaces appearing wavy. In excess these drugs can cause hallucinations, depersonalization and dangerously impaired judgment. How can there be therapeutic use of psychedelic medicines for PTSD and other conditions when there have been side effects like “bad trips”? First of all when psychedelics are used as therapeutics they are given in appropriate dosages and do not contain unknown and unwanted extra ingredients. And they are used in settings designed to result in therapeutic benefits and not at rock concerts with blaring music and musicians doing strange things on the stage!
Five Medical Benefits of Psychedelic Drugs
Psychedelics have moved from being recreational drugs used by hippies to the therapeutic realm. It turns out that some of the same effects that make such drugs popular recreationally work to make various diseases better when used in the right dosage and in the right setting. From reducing ischemia-perfusion deficit injury in organ transplants to usefulness in treating types of leukemia, psychedelics have been found to have treatment benefits. Additionally, psychedelics are useful in treating eating disorders that predispose to conditions like diabetes and also are helpful in treating eye diseases like glaucoma. And, at No Fallen Heroes we are especially excited about how psychedelics help treat depression and PTSD.
Management of Treatment-resistant Depression with Psychedelics
Depression ranges from occasional to chronic and from mild to severe. Mild and temporary cases commonly get better with talk therapy and/or mild medicines. Unfortunately about thirty percent of depressed people do not get better with any of the powerful array of currently-available antidepressants and aggressive psychotherapy. Here is where psychedelic medicines come into the picture. They effectively help rewire the brain to get rid of the root causes of depression and help rid the person of suicidal thoughts.
Why Psychedelics Help Treat PTSD and Depression
There are physical things that happen in the brain when we remember things and especially when we remember traumatic things. A part of the brain called the amygdala acts as a control center for fear-related memories and stimuli. When a person continually remembers and re-remembers traumatic events this strengthens and increases the nerve connections relating to those events around the amygdala and elsewhere. Thus a veteran who experienced trauma as back as in the Korean or Vietnam wars may still be reliving the deaths of their comrades and veterans of the War on Terror may still be living in Fallujah or Mosul in street to street fighting.
In mild cases of PTSD and depression it helps to just talk about what happened and reflect on the fact that what is past is past and that the veteran and their platoon are no longer in harm’s way. When cases are more severe it helps to work with a trained therapist who is experienced in helping the veteran find their way out of the past and into the present. Here is where therapeutic psychedelics come into the picture. They lessen the anxiety that is typically associated with recalling traumatic events. They “loosen” the hold that the amygdala fear control center exerts on the minds so that the veteran or anyone who suffers from PTSD can learn to distinguish the painful past from the hopeful present full of possibilities. The best use of psychedelics so far has been shown to be in controlled settings with a “guide.” The psychedelic medicine creates the right setting in the brain so that the person who suffers from PTSD or severe depression can heal. Evidence so far shows that unlike the many powerful antidepressants used today these treatments are given a few times and do not require daily dosing or use for years and years. Rather than simply putting a Band Aid on the problem to cover it. Psychedelic medicines in the right setting, right dose, and with the right help hold the potential for a permanent cure for those suffering from the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and severe debilitating depression.