Psychedelics in treatment: from stigma to revolution
Updated: Sep 18, 2021
What was once a taboo "hush hush" subject may become the leading edge of psychiatric treatment for particular psychiatric mood disorders - such as bipolar, depression, generalised anxiety, PTSD and more.
This is no pseudo-science or "woo-woo talk", for psychedelics are making their way into peer-reviewed studies, and controlled clinical trials. Reports on psychedelic research are beginning to span mass media, sweeping the web and news outlets.
I found it surreal to experience sitting in a lecture hall this year (2017), at Imperial College London for a lecture on the leading psychedelic-using psychiatrists of the world. One out of five of the leading speakers was legally allowed to use psychedelics in their research, based in Amsterdam at their private treatment centre. Though they still faced legality issues and restrictions in their practice.
While studying my degree, it was unusual to hear talk of psychedelics in institutions like the University. But here we were, discussing it openly, in a formal, inquisitive setting. To me, this felt like the beginning of the future. In a way, it was.
Perhaps this talk coming to be is thanks to the ethos of Imperial College London - to take risks. That may be what drives innovation and change in the future of science, and our growth as society.
Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris leads psychedelic studies at Imperial’s Division of Brain Sciences. Here, he recruits individuals that may have depression and anxiety, and those who are healthy, observing the effects of psychedelic drugs upon them - in a controlled, safe setting.
Dr. Carhart-Harris commented: "I think it’s fair to say we are beginning to uncover some key principles about how psychedelics alter consciousness − and the profound thing is, that doesn’t just tell you how psychedelic drugs work, it can tell you something fundamental about the nature of brain function itself and its relationship to the mind”, as shown in a published article at Imperial College London's website.
The researchers summarise that psychedelics can effectively 'reset' the brain, from negative, hard-wired modes of thinking, that have links with depression. As the brain learns new patterns and new neural pathways are strengthened, psychedelics can provide a new lease of life for those who have had little help from other, established mental health treatments.
This has huge implications for the world of psychology, emphasising the question of whether prescribed antidepressants (such as serotonin inhibitors) are the only solution for chronic mood disorders such as depression.
For more information about the increasing studies of psychedelics in the UK, check out The Psychedelic Society.
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