Psychotherapy under the effect of psychedelics is a powerful tool helping many re-frame the way their brain interprets internal stimuli and provides a new lens through which patients can view their brain’s inner and often unconscious mechanics.
Originally used as a dissociative anesthetic, ketamine has more recently proven to be a highly effective antidepressant. Instead of acting on monoamine transmitters like most antidepressants (serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine), ketamine works on NMDA receptors for glutamate, the most common neuro-transmitter in the brain.
Within minutes of administration, ketamine improves flow through the brain's functional circuits causing an immediate antidepressant effect. In the following hours to days, ketamine induces synapse formation and increases neuronal connections through dendritic spine growth. Specifically, ketamine induces
nerve growth and leads to the formation of neuronal connections that have been damaged by chronic stress. Through these mechanisms, ketamine causes unparalleled neuroplasticity and leads to measurable changes in both the function and structure of your brain. These changes have been shown to be remarkably effective in helping people with treatment resistant depression, treatment resistant anxiety, and PTSD.
Psilocybin treats deep rooted psychological issues through a small number of profound and transformative experiences. Psilocybin is a classic psychedelic that acts on the serotonin 5HT-2A receptor. Mounting evidence suggests that psilocybin down regulates activity in parts of the brain known as the default mode network that are responsible for functions such as thinking about oneself, considering one’s past and imagining one’s future. During a treatment session with psilocybin, people experience
a non-ordinary state of consciousness that offers a less pronounced acute awareness of themselves, sometimes referred to as ego-dissolution. This state disables intrinsic psychological defenses and permits exploration of memories that may otherwise be too painful to dissect. Instead of numbing people to their brain’s unpleasant and counterproductive responses, psilocybin
helps us explore our core issues, look deep inside our own psyche, and reframe our thinking to provide durable and meaningful change. Psilocybin has been shown to be effective for treating a number of conditions including depression, treatment resistant depression, substance use disorders, and end of life anxiety.
MDMA acts through indirectly increasing levels of serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and oxytocin, the hormone of love. After taking MDMA people feel a sense of euphoria, well being, extraversion, and social closeness to others. The most compelling evidence for the therapeutic use of MDMA is for the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The brains of people with PTSD show increased activity in the anatomic region responsible for fear (the amygdala) and decreased connections between the amygdala and the brain’s long term
memory center (the hippocampus). This means that people with PTSD are unable to move fearful and traumatic events into long term storage where they can be processed. Fortunately, MDMA changes the functioning of the brain in the exact opposite way as PTSD. MDMA decreases fear responses in the amygdala and increases connections between the amygdala and hippocampus, allowing people to process fearful events, and move traumatic memories from the forefront of their mind into long term memories where they can be effectively processed. Phase 3 trials are currently underway to support the strong existing evidence for the efficacy of MDMA assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD.
Early, high quality studies in psychedelic assisted psychotherapy have shown impressive response rates in treating mental health disorders, and yet there are limited places where Canadians can seek treatment.
The best current scientific understanding of psychedelics points to their effectiveness in decreasing self-awareness and dismantling deeply rooted psychological defenses. Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy allows people to gain insights into, and explore painful or traumatic memories in ways their brains would otherwise not allow.
REFRAME YOUR UNDERSTANDING
Combined with appropriate preparation, psychotherapy, and integration practices, psychedelics represent a powerful tool which helps us heal from past traumas and make substantial improvements in our mental health.
SECTION 56 (1) EXEMPTIONS