Can psychedelics heal trauma?
A cocktail of a deadly combination of benzodiazepines and antidepressants has been used to treat mental health problems including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A recent study found that MDMA, commonly sold as Streetmolly, can effectively treat patients with PTSD in just two sessions. One case suggests that the effects of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy can persist for up to two years after initial treatment. After two guided talk therapies with MDMA in the US, patients experienced a significant reduction in the symptoms necessary to qualify for PTSD.
Clinical studies suggest that supplementing traditional psychotherapy with psychedelics such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or cognitive behavioural therapy may be more effective than psychotherapy alone.
Each year in the United States and Canada, more than 1.5 million people are diagnosed with symptoms of PTSD, which include increased reactions to traumatic events that can last for months or even years.
People with PTSD who have difficulty recovering from traumatic events are traditionally treated with psychotherapy that focuses on trauma. Antipsychotic drugs designed to help PTSD patients work no better than placebos to alleviate typical PTSD symptoms in patients who suffer from the disorder in the long term and continue to experience symptoms after antidepressant treatment, a new study has found. The study suggests that antidepressants do not work as well in people who have had multiple traumas or chronic PTSD over the years.
Because the use of many of these drugs can cause unbearable side effects, many patients suffer from PTSD with no signs of relief.
They develop anger management problems, turn to substance abuse, commit suicide or develop depression. A number of small studies have shown that psychedelics are promising in the treatment of PTSD where other therapies have failed, such as in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
Now British researchers are taking part in a clinical trial of one of these hallucinogenic drugs, which could be an alternative to leading SSRIs such as antidepressants and antidepressants. Researchers at Imperial College London are comparing the magic mushroom compound psilocybin to the leading antidepressant Prozac in a major trial expected to last at least two years. Psychologists give people psychedelics - usually magic mushrooms, LSD or other psychedelic substances - to induce an altered state in an attempt to treat mental illness.
Today, many of these drugs are illegal, but a handful could become prescription drugs if clinical trials testing their effectiveness yield positive results. The most advanced in this process is psilocybin, a drug illegally sold as ecstasy and promising.
The researchers presented the results of a phase II study with a total of 107 people diagnosed with PTSD. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 8% of the US population suffers from PTSD at some point in their lives.
Participants in the clinical trial to treat PTSD did not respond to therapy, including a class of drugs commonly used as antidepressants. In the treatment of PTSD, patients are often led to recall traumatic events repeatedly and to erase the fears that accompany these experiences1.
This method fails, however, because patients often describe the memories in such a way that they isolate them from the rest of their lives, even in the face of trauma.
According to research groups conducting clinical trials, most people suffering from resistant depression, anxiety, and PTSD will not have access to new treatments for at least a few years. LSD is considered a treatment for depression, and MDMA, better known as ecstasy or molly, is currently the most popular drug for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A rapidly growing number of studies reporting positive results in treating PTSD and other mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, have brought them back from the shadows, buoyed by positive media coverage. In 2014, the SoundMind Center opened in New York City to offer MDMA - assisted psychotherapy - to a population with high rates of PTSD.
Roland Griffiths, head of the new facility and leader of some of the most promising studies evaluating psilocybin to treat depression and alcoholism, says psychedelics work and are likely to have transdiagnostic applicability. The myriad applications proposed for the drugs may be enough to make them sound like snake oil to many, but the data are “very compelling,” Griffiths says.
In the 1950s and 1970s, studies of LSD, which acts on the same brain receptors as psilocybin, reported its effectiveness in treating substance use disorders, including alcohol and heroin addiction. Researchers in California have shown that the substance - which is banned as an illegal drug in many countries - is capable of rewiring parts of the brain in ways that go far beyond the drug’s effects. They have shown that it stimulates new branches and connections in brain cells that could help fight diseases such as depression and addiction, Griffiths said.