Summary: The National Post explains how new treatments for medical conditions are being developed through research into use of psychedelics as an adjunct to psychotherapy. “We’re talking about people having an experience and coming out the other side of that with a new skill set and a new way of thinking that can actually have them manage and move past some of those historical challenges,” says psychedelic researcher Dr. Evan Wood.
Originally appearing here.
A trip to the doctor’s office could someday mean a trip inside the doctor’s office, if researchers calling for further study into the use of psychedelics for treating illness get their way.
Dr. Evan Wood, co-director of the Urban Health Research Initiative at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, is one of four medical researchers behind an analysis published Tuesday focusing on the resurgence of research into psychedelic substances for treating illnesses, including addiction, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Wood said that while motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural therapy can lead to change in a patient, the use of psychedelics can bring about a “transformative spiritual experience” and a new level of insight where those traditional methods come up short.
“The pharmaceutical industry would like to see a model where people are labelled with a chronic disease and they take a pill every day,” Wood said.
“What’s being considered here is a total paradigm shift, where we’re talking about people having an experience and coming out the other side of that with a new skill set and a new way of thinking that can actually have them manage and move past some of those historical challenges.”
For their analysis, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the researchers looked at treatments involving classic psychedelics — many of which have been used for millenniums in spiritual or folk-healing rituals — such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), LSD, mescaline, peyote and ayahuasca, as well as entactogens such as MDMA.
They cite several recent studies in which the use of psychedelics has proven effective, such as LSD-assisted psychotherapy in Switzerland, which reduced anxiety in terminally ill patients; psilocybin-assisted therapy in New Mexico, which helped reduce alcohol dependence; and the use of MDMA to treat chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD in the U.S.
Many of these substances are potentially harmful, however, with side effects such as psychosis or flashbacks, the researchers noted.
Historically, the use of psychedelics in therapy developed a bad rap for “egregious violations of ethical protocols,” unsupported claims about their benefits and encouragement for non-clinical use by members of the research community.
Past attempts at using psychedelics to treat illness in B.C. have met with resistance from health authorities, including addictions expert Dr. Gabor Mate’s shuttered ayahuasca project and pot-activist Marc Emery’s “Iboga Therapy House,” an Ibogaine-assisted detox program.
But now, paired with psychotherapy and counselling, and conducted in a carefully controlled environment with health-care experts, the “re-emerging paradigm of psychedelic medicine may open clinical and therapeutic doors long closed,” the researchers concluded.
They contend that increased investment into research of such treatments is warranted as a way to tackle growing sources of illness such as depression and anxiety.
Wood said such treatments could bring “massive” savings to the health-care system because patients would not require the long-term use of pharmaceutical drugs or “endless” therapy sessions — which may prove beneficial for taxpayers in B.C., where $1.38 billion is spent annually on mental-health and substance-use services.