Depression and psychedelics are two topics that are often not discussed together. However, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that psychedelics may be helpful in treating depression. Here’s more about psychedelics for depression.
What Are Psychedelics?
Psychedelics are substances that alter sensory perception and awareness, making you feel things differently. These include drugs such as LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), mescaline, DMT, MDMA, ayahuasca and ibogaine. They may also be called entheogens, entheogenic or mind-expanding drugs, psychedelic drugs, psychedelics, hallucinogens or mind-altering drugs. They are known as “mind-expanders” because they can act as a catalyst for perceptions, emotions and thoughts that are not normally conscious. Psychedelics can be used both recreationally and therapeutically.
Depressive States and Antidepressants
Depression has many causes: inherited characteristics, family history and trauma. Scientists think depression happens when the brain struggles to regulate the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine (which are involved in mood regulation). The standard treatment for depression includes antidepressants (such as Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors or SSRIs) and counseling.
Types of Medications Used in Treating Depression
There are several types of approved medications used in treating mental health disorders. They include:
- serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs);
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs);
- tricyclic antidepressants.
Unfortunately, these treatments don’t work for everyone. Therefore, there is a growing interest in using certain natural or synthetic drugs like psilocybin and other psychedelics for depression treatment.
Psychedelics for Depression: How Does Psychedelic Treatment Therapy Work?
Psychedelics for depression are drugs that are used to treat mental health issues by altering the perception, thoughts and feelings of people. They are considered a class of psychoactive drugs. The way they work is by changing brain activity and increasing the activity of serotonin, a chemical in the brain, which is involved in regulating mood and behavior. Psychedelics have been used for many years in the treatment of various mental disorders including depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
What Are the Potential Risks of Psychedelic Treatment?
The most significant risk of psychedelic therapy is the potential for a difficult or challenging experience. This can occur with any psychedelic, but is more common with higher doses. These difficult experiences are known as “bad trips” and can involve anxiety, panic, fear, paranoia, confusion, or unpleasant hallucinations. However, even these challenging experiences often have long-term positive effects on well-being.
Another potential risk of psychedelics for depression is that it may cause people to act in unusual ways that could put themselves or others at risk. For example, people taking a psychedelic might walk into traffic or climb out of windows in an attempt to escape from what they believe is an emergency situation. Because of this risk, it’s important to take psychedelics in a comfortable environment where someone will be able to keep you safe and reassure you during any challenging moments.
Worsening the Existing Conditions
In addition to the risks mentioned above, psychedelics can also exacerbate symptoms of certain mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. People with these conditions should likely avoid psychedelics or work with a therapist who has experience in treating both conditions before trying psychedelics.
Can You Experience a Bad Trip During a Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy?
If you’re familiar with psychedelics, you’ll know that a “bad trip” is an extremely uncomfortable experience, where the person can feel overwhelmed, anxious and even paranoid. Thankfully, this is less likely to happen during psychedelic therapy for depression. In fact, in a recent study on psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for depression, none of the participants reported having a bad trip.
Reasons Behind “Bad Trips”
Researchers think that most bad trips are caused by people using psychedelics in uncontrolled settings, such as crowded bars or parties. During those times, there’s no one who can help manage their experience or provide reassurance when things go awry.
In addition, therapists tend to give patients low doses of psychedelics, only enough to open up their minds without overwhelming them with visions and hallucinations.
That said, it’s still possible to have a bad trip during psychedelic therapy for depression. However, your therapist can talk to you before and after the session to see if anything went wrong and what you can do to avoid having an unpleasant experience next time.
Is Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Approved by FDA?
The short answer to this question is no, psychedelic-assisted therapy is not currently approved by the FDA. There are a few clinical trials that are currently ongoing, but the results have not been released yet. It’s possible that psychedelic-assisted therapy will be approved in the future, but there is no guarantee. Some states, like Oregon, have legalized the use of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes, but it’s still illegal at the federal level.
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