Psychedelics for Mental Health Treatment


Psychedelics for Mental Health Treatment

Aug 16, 2020

It is estimated that 1 in 5 individuals in the US experiences some degree of mental illness annually.  Recently, the World Health Organization declared that “Depression is now the leading cause of disability in the world”.   The current epidemic has created a great sense of urgency as rates of mental illness and suicide have skyrocketed in recent months and are predicted to continue to increase for the foreseeable future.

Without proper care, symptoms of depression, anxiety, phobias, and other illnesses have terrible consequences for patients, their loved ones, and society in general.  “Traditional” treatments including talk therapy, medications, and behavioral therapies have had limited success in the treatment of mental health disorders.  There is a growing sense in the medical and psychiatric community that more needs to be done, and more treatment options need to be available.  Psychedelic therapies are gaining momentum as an effective treatment for many of these disorders.  Johns Hopkins University, Cleveland Clinic, and the National Institute of Health are just some of the organizations moving research into psychedelic treatments forward rapidly.  Thomas Insel, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has said “ketamine, given intravenously, might be the most important breakthrough in antidepressant treatment in decades”. 

Currently, ketamine is the only psychedelic medication legally available for the treatment of mental health conditions.  With over 20 years’ experience and research, we have refined the use of ketamine in treatment of mental health disorders.  At Northwest Ketamine Clinics, over 70% of our patients experience at least a 50% reduction in mental health symptoms including depression within days of beginning treatment.  Ketamine has transformed our expectations for new medications to treat mental health.  With people experiencing results in as little as six hours, instead of more than six weeks of treatment with other medications, Ketamine is quickly becoming the gold standard medication for treatment resistant depression and other disorders and has raised the bar for all medications to follow.

But really, psychedelics for mental health?  The thought used to be crazy, but it is now clear to all that psychedelics offer powerful and rapid relief for some of the world’s most debilitating illnesses. 

Read on to discover more about some of the pioneers and current proponents of these remarkable medications and learn how people suffering from many forms of mental illness can be treated now, with ketamine in a safe, healing environment.

Timothy Leary and Psychedelics

Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary wasn’t the first academic to look into the benefits of psychedelic drugs like LSD as a treatment for mental health disorders, but he was the most famous and outspoken of all its proponents. A firebrand and lightning rod for attention, Leary loved the attention and banged the drum of the potential positives of psychedelic therapies long before it was trendy to do so. Leary’s research in the late 1950s and early 1960s set the standard by which the drugs would be judged, especially when his behavior became a political weapon, sometimes used against the drugs he sought to promote. Today, the world approaches his legacy with different optics.  He is seen by many as a visionary, far ahead of his time.

What Are Psychedelics?

U.S. researchers define psychedelics as “psychoactive substances that alter perception and mood and affect numerous cognitive processes. They are generally considered physiologically safe and do not lead to dependence or addiction. Their origin predates written history, and they were employed by early cultures in many sociocultural and ritual contexts.”

Psychedelics for Mental Health Treatment

  • Ketamine is a legal medication, first used as an anesthetic and for pain control. It has been found to effectively treat depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mood disorders in over 70% of patients who were previously considered “treatment resistant”.
  • MDMA is the active ingredient in the drug ecstasy and may lessen the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder.
  • Psilocybin may reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially in cancer patients.
  • Ayahuasca is native to South America and is used in traditional spiritual ceremonies. It contains powerful hallucinogens with anti-depressive properties.

What the Experts Say About Psychedelics

Global efforts to de-criminalize the use of marijuana has led to discussions about the role of other “controlled substances” – and how they could be used to soothe the worst symptoms of anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and other mental illnesses. Here’s what some experts have to say about the role of psychedelics.

  • Thomas Insel, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)” Recent data suggest that ketamine, given intravenously, might be the most important breakthrough in antidepressant treatment in decades. Three findings are worth noting. First and most important, several studies demonstrate that ketamine reduces depression within six hours, with effects that are equal to or greater than the effects of six weeks of treatment with other antidepressant medications… Second, ketamine’s effects have been noted in people with treatment-resistant depression. This promises a new option for people with some of the most disabling and chronic forms of depression… Third, it appears that one of the earliest effects of the drug is a profound reduction in suicidal thoughts.”
  • Michael Pollan, when asked what ayahuasca does to the brain: “One of the most striking things about psychedelics is that they’re not toxic. It’s very hard to say that about any other drug. There is a lethal dose of Tylenol or Advil out there, and indeed, most drugs, but there is, as far as we know, no lethal dose of psychedelics.”
  • Alan Davis, of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research on “mushrooms” and their role in treating mental disorders like depression: “There are a couple of ways we believe it works. First is the experience itself. People who take psilocybin report having a deeply positive, mystical experience that seems to help them alter their perspective on their situation. More specifically, people with depression tend to feel isolated and disconnected from their daily lives. The experience of taking psilocybin makes them feel an intense interconnection that stays with them after the experience is over. People also report gaining insight into their depression, like they suddenly have an awareness of what they want to change in their life to help them move forward. That awareness, coupled with this mystical-like experience, serves as the catalyst for change.”
  • Albert Garcia-Romeu, a colleague of Alan Davis: “In a nutshell, psilocybin and other psychedelics like LSD bind to serotonin 2A receptors, creating mood-altering effects and changes in brain function. We know psilocybin decreases amygdala blood flow in people with depression, which is associated with better antidepressant effects. This is important because depressive symptoms seem to be associated with over-reactivity in the amygdala. Keep in mind that the data for psilocybin brain mechanisms in depression is very limited, from fewer than 20 people in total. We are only starting to scratch the surface of how this works.”
  • David Nutt, a professor and neuropharmacologist at Imperial College London. He encourages policymakers to rethink their war on drugs: “An enormous opportunity has been lost, and we want to resurrect it. It’s an outrageous insult to humanity that these drugs were abandoned for research just to stop people from having fun with them. The sooner we get these drugs into proper clinical evaluation, the sooner we will know how best to use them and be able to save lives.”

Final Thoughts

Worldwide, mental health has been declining rapidly in past decades, a trend that has only accelerated during the current pandemic.  Traditional medications and treatments have limited effectiveness and non-effective for many who suffer the most or have the most debilitating symptoms.  But there is hope!  Psychedelic medications, including ketamine, are providing hope for a new class of extremely effective, rapid acting medications to treat a variety of mental health disorders.  These medications are revolutionizing the field of psychiatry.   Ketamine is the first of these new medications and is available now, in a safe, legal, healing environment at Northwest Ketamine Clinics.  Many other medications are in the pipeline and are likely to be approved in the coming years, ushering in a new era in the treatment of mental health.

Call Northwest Ketamine Clinics today for more information and to see if you qualify for ketamine infusion therapy.