What is Psychedelic Therapy and Where to Get it
The size of the mental health problem is so big, its hard to wrap our heads around.
8 million people in the US have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 15 million suffer from alcoholism. And 300 million people globally face depression.
To put that into perspective, 300 million is 8 times the population of Canada. Imagine 8 Canadas, where every single person is sick, hurting, can't sleep at night, have lost their autonomy and their ability to connect with people or are contemplating suicide.
They have tried again and again to heal and have failed. And it's not their fault. What we have available for treatment today is just not getting the job done. Therapy alone has definitely helped some. But dropout rates are high and most people maintain their diagnosis. The other option, antidepressants, come with a whole host of trade-offs.
"Here, take these pills. They'll manage your symptoms and might make you feel weird. Take them from now until forever." is what we're told, give or take.
What is psychedelic therapy?
One of the most promising mental health treatments in the last 30 years is psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy: using psychedelic substances alongside therapy to treat some of our most debilitating conditions, depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, among others.
Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is delivered in a controlled, supervised, safe setting with preparatory sessions before and reflective sessions after the drug-assisted experience. Picture eyeshades, headphones and classical music. You're tucked in under a blanket with one therapist to your right, and one therapist to your left. That sounds pretty good without any psychedelics. (And indeed we do see results just with therapy alone. Sound healing companies like Wavepaths have created a new kind of psychedelic music, which can elicit the type of trance-like states needed to release deep trauma.)
But when you add psychedelics, the impact goes to a whole other level. You start seeing data for first responders with severe PTSD who have failed with prior treatment, and after receiving MDMA assisted psychotherapy, over 50% no longer have PTSD. 12 months later, that number continues to rise without additional intervention, to two thirds of patients no longer having PTSD.
There is similarly remarkable data for psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy (magic mushrooms), substantially reducing depression and anxiety in patients with terminal cancer, drug-resistant depression and addiction, with persisting sustained effects.
How psychedelic therapy works
The commonality across the conditions that have been treated effectively with psychedelics is that they are diseases of rigidity where destructive thoughts of others of ourselves have overtime, calcified the negative feedback loop digging us deeper and deeper into the grooves of our own psyche: Anxiety. Depression. PTSD. Addiction. We're stuck.
For example, MDMA is thought to help PTSD in a couple ways. First, it's an empathogen. It fosters empathy and connection. This prosocial quality is thought to enhance the rapport between therapist and patient rapidly accelerating the healing process.
Second, we see a quieting of our fear center in the brain, and an uptick in our memory and critical thinking. One theory is that this fear extinction and memory reconsolidation allows us to face memories of traumatic events without the fear impulse that typically comes up and shuts things down. Instead, we can process these memories with emotions other than fear.
Those memories start to take on a different color. One that isn't so brutal, or so haunting.
The patient anecdotes are truly astounding. Themes of transformation and awakening. Realizing a deep connection and unity to everything, to nature, to total strangers, and feeling that we are all in this together.
Indeed, it would be challenging to think of another experience described as transformational, life changing, where we get to learn so much about ourselves, connect deeply with others, and see the world in a new way.
Where to get psychedelics therapy
Despite all the recent media buzz, psychedelics are still super illegal. MDMA and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) are Schedule 1 drugs in both the US and UK, which by definition, means they are highly addictive and have no medical value.
Researchers have worked tirelessly for decades to debunk these institutionally engrained myths, get these drugs off schedule one and legally provide psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. The first FDA approval could come as soon as 2022. So where is psychedelic therapy legal? Currently, there are no legal clinics facilitating true psychedelic therapy in the US, UK and Canada. However, there are a number of medically-supported retreat centres globally if you are able to travel including the Caribbean, Netherlands and Peru, depending on which compound you seek to use. In the interim, a number of legal clinics are offering drug-assisted therapy in the form of Ketamine, an-FDA approved dissociative, with similarly beneficial effects for depression, anxiety, addiction and more.
List of popular psychedelics therapy centres and retreats:
Ketamine Therapy Clinics
Save Minds - London, UK
Field Trip Health - Various locations in the US & Canada
Psilocybin Therapy Centres Synthesis Retreat - Netherlands, Europe
Ayahuasca Therapy Centres
Temple of the Way of the Light - Peru, The Americas
Ibogaine Therapy Centres
Tabula Rasa Retreat - Portugal, Europe
Pangea Biomedics - Mexico, The Americas
Clear Sky Recovery - Mexico, The Americas