Psychedelic-assisted treatment is a technique that involves the use of psychedelic substances to aid the therapeutic process. Research on psychedelics flourished during the 1950s and 1960s until such substances were made illegal in the United States. While psychedelic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin are still federally illegal in the U.S., they are known to treat various conditions, including anxiety, depression, and addiction. Over the last two decades, researchers have gotten approval from authorities to conduct trials on using these substances to treat various conditions.
Types of Psychedelics
Several different types of substances have psychedelic effects. Some common psychedelic substances and their uses include:
- Ayahuasca: Ayahuasca is a brew originating in South America reported to help with addiction, anxiety, and depression.
- LSD: Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) can lead to altered mood, perception, and consciousness. Potential uses include the treatment of addiction and anxiety.
- Psilocybin: Like LSD, psilocybin alters consciousness, mood, and perceptions. It is currently being studied for its use in the treatment of addiction, anxiety, and depression.
- MDMA: While not a classic psychedelic substance, MDMA is a drug that produces psychedelic effects, including feelings of euphoria, altered perceptions, increased arousal, and increased sociability. Research suggests it has therapeutic potential in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Ketamine: Ketamine is a synthetic molecule used as an anesthetic agent in humans and as a tranquilizing agent in animals. Research has shown its effectiveness in treating mood disorders and addiction.
Techniques for Psychedelic-Assisted Treatment
There is no standardized method of administration and practice for psychedelic-assisted treatment, so each individual practitioner has their own strategies for administering psychedelic therapy. However, there are often a few common elements:
- Administration of a low to moderate dose of a psychedelic drug
- Supervision by a professional during the psychedelic process
- Repeating the psychedelic dose with one to two week between sessions
During a psychedelic session, factors known as set and setting are critical. Set refers to things such as mood and expectations. Setting refers to the environment where the session takes place and the relationship with a professional who may be helping you with the experience. It is also essential to go into the experience feeling calm and attentive.
What Is Microdosing?
One variation of psychedelic therapy is microdosing, which involves taking very small, sub-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelic substances. Proponents of microdosing suggest that even these very low doses can have beneficial health effects such as enhancing performance, increasing energy, and decreasing depression.
What Psychedelic-Assisted Treatment Can Help
Researchers have uncovered several potential applications for psychedelic-assisted treatment. Studies have found that anxiety, depression, substance use, alcohol use, and PTSD may respond positively to psychedelic-assisted treatments.
- Anxiety and Mood Disorders: Psychedelics appear to have potential mood benefits that may be helpful in the treatment of depression. A 2016 randomized, double-blind controlled trial found that psilocybin treatment led to significant reductions in anxiety and depression in patients undergoing cancer treatment. Esketamine, a derivative of ketamine, was approved by the FDA on March 5, 2019, to treat mental health disorders. Ketamine can also be administered intravenously, intramuscularly, sublingually, and dermally. Intravenous ketamine offers patients almost instant relief, with the benefits of ketamine often occurring within hours or days, instead of the weeks to months other antidepressants take.
- Addiction: Early research showed strong evidence that LSD could help in the recovery from addiction. More recent evidence also supports the idea that psychedelic therapy holds promise as an addiction treatment. Ketamine has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of alcoholism and other forms of addiction.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Research suggests that MDMA may be helpful in the treatment of PTSD. MDMA is best known as the main ingredient in the club drug ecstasy, but it also has psychedelic effects beneficial for severe forms of PTSD that have not responded to other forms of treatment.
Benefits of Psychedelic-Assisted Treatment
Psychedelics are powerful substances that can produce profound mind-altering effects. These medicines are believed to work by affecting the neural circuits that use the neurotransmitter serotonin. Some of the potential benefits of these substances include:
- Feelings of relaxation
- Spiritual experiences
- Improved sense of well-being
- Increased social connectedness
It’s crucial to note that psychedelics don’t work for everyone. Some people may also experience effects such as:
- Distortions of reality
- Distorted perceptual experiences
- Altered sense of time
- Intense perceptions or emotions
While these effects are not inherently “bad,” they may be frightening for specific individuals. Psychedelic-assisted treatment may only work for those who can take psychedelics without extreme effects.
The Effectiveness of Treating Addiction With Psychedelics
Psychedelic-assisted treatment efficacy for alcohol and substance use has not yet been clearly established. However, a study published by the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2015 about psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence found that psilocybin-assisted treatment was associated with decreased drinking, reduced alcohol cravings, and increased abstinence. Another 2012 study that focused on LSD and alcohol found that a single dose of LSD had a beneficial effect on alcohol misuse up to six months after treatment. Another 2019 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry tested the effects of ketamine treatment for addiction. The study showed that participants who received ketamine infusion therapy had a significantly lower relapse rate.
It is important to note that studies such as these are based on self-reports by people who have taken psychedelics in the past. In order to determine if psychedelic-assisted treatment is truly effective in the treatment of addiction, more research using randomized clinical trials is needed.
Psychedelic-assisted treatment is a technique that involves the use of psychedelic substances to aid the therapeutic process. Research on psychedelics began in the 1950s and 60s until the drugs were made illegal. However, today, many researchers are starting to rediscover the benefits of psychedelic-assisted treatment. In treating addiction, psychedelics have been found to decrease consumption, reduce cravings, and increase the chance for abstinence. At Rickard Elmore Treatment Strategies, we see the tremendous benefit of experiencing medicines that help encourage growth, increase personal resilience, and give hope. We are of the mind’s eye of seeing all people being able to have access to better humanity. A part of healing is being able to allow the suffering to go away. For particular people, this will be the only path to recovery. Many of our clients describe Rickard Elmore Treatment Strategies as a transformative, life-changing experience. With Rickard Elmore, you can create a brand new life. For more information on psychedelic-assisted treatment, call us today at (877) 387-7197.