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What do you think of the use of psychedelic drugs in addiction psychiatry?

Psychedelics are drugs which alter one’s mind state or state of consciousness, sometimes causing hallucinations, or distorted perceptions. Psychedelics are drugs which alter one’s mind state or state of consciousness, sometimes causing hallucinations, or distorted perceptions. Common psychedelics include LSD, MDMA, magic mushrooms, psilocybin and peyote. The effects of such drugs have been described as a ‘profound experience’. Although they may be abused, research shows that they may be an advantageous addition to psychiatric treatments. Research investigating the various uses of psychedelic drugs was prevalent in the 1960’s. However, as the ‘War on Drugs’ emerged in the 1970’s, government bans and the Controlled Substances Act quickly halted the scientific research. Luckily, there has been a recent resurgence in research related to the therapeutic uses of psychedelic drugs.

Psychedelics, such as ayahuasca found in Peru, are used by local Shamans to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One Gulf War veteran suffered from severe PTSD for over a decade and struggled with addictions, as a result. He tried many treatments, none of which were able to help. For this veteran, a single use of ayahuasca was able to effectively diminish his PTSD symptoms.

Indeed, psychedelics are being used to treat PTSD in North America, as well. After one dose of MDMA in a medically guided session one man reported that his PTSD symptoms improved immediately. Psychedelics have also been shown to effectively reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Some psychedelics have even been shown to be effective in the treatment of addictions. In fact, several psychedelic drugs are currently in clinical trials for addiction treatment. Further, in the 1960’s LSD clinical trials demonstrated its effectiveness in treating alcoholism.

What is really exciting about using psychedelics for treatments in psychiatry is that their effects are long-lasting. Many of the currently available medical treatments for mental health problems require a daily dose of pills. In addition, the current medications are not always effective. However, psychedelic treatments can be effective after as little as one dose and often result in enduring improvements.

We must be careful to not consider this a miracle cure, though. There is much research left to be done. An important caveat with regard to the impressive effects of psychedelics is the fact that they have all been used in conjunction with psychotherapies, such as those offered at Sobriety Home Foundation. The psychedelic drugs enhance the psychotherapies, but certainly cannot replace the therapies themselves. Indeed, without changes in thought-processes, habits or lifestyle the changes which are initially enhanced by psychedelic drugs will be short-lived.

Two important factors influence the type of experience one has when using psychedelic drugs: set and setting. The set refers to the mindset and beliefs the person taking the psychedelic drug holds, and the setting refers to the external environment in which the psychedelic drugs are taken. The therapeutic effects of psychedelic drugs may arise partially from the supportive setting in which they are taken and the expectations of the individual. Dr. Steven Ross, a prominent researcher in the use of psychedelics in psychiatry points to the importance of have two therapists present. There remain risks when psychedelics are used in an uncontrolled setting, without proper supervision.

The lingering risk of harm from the use of psychedelic drugs remains a concern for their therapeutic use. If harm were incurred by a patient this would be in conflict with the Hippocratic oath which physicians take, stating “ first, do no harm”. The risk of harm must always be weighed against the possible benefits of any treatment. As such, psychedelics should not be considered mainstream treatment options, and should be used as an alternative when conventional treatments have not been effective. Indeed, psychedelic treatments must be correctly authorized and carefully managed.

As with any new and exciting treatment, we must be aware of it. As research continues, Sobriety Home Foundation will keep abreast to new developments.

How Psychedelic Drugs Will Revolutionize Psychiatry

Steve Ross, an addiction psychiatrist at NYU, says these drugs show remarkable promise for treating addiction and end-of-life anxiety — and they could save lives.

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