Millions of Australians suffer from a myriad of mental health issues. Depression, PTSD, and addiction to name a few. Every day in Australia, more than eight people die by suicide. Millions more suffer mental health issues. We have treatments available, but in Australia, we are missing out on therapies that are showing great promise in other parts of the world.
Psychedelic drugs and mental health issues may sound like a terrible combination and can be in the wrong setting. But increasing evidence suggests that using controlled portions of these drugs with trained psychotherapists could help people overcome several mental health disorders.
Psychedelic psychotherapy involves using small amounts of psychedelic drugs in a controlled, clinical setting with trained psychotherapists. There are different drugs used for different purposes, but some of the main ones are psilocybin (magic mushrooms), LSD and MDMA (also called ecstasy).
The drugs used in this type of therapy are not like you will find on the street. They are pharmaceutical grade, meaning you know the exact dose and what's in it. All psychotherapies aim to help patients overcome a problem or make a positive change to their life-usually by facing it head-on.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Take post-traumatic stress disorder for example. Someone with PTSD may avoid thinking about the bad experience they had. In psychotherapy, the therapist will direct them to that experience to help them to work through it.
Adding psychedelic drugs to the mix helps patients get there faster. The therapists 'hold the space', allowing the patient to mostly guide the session. The therapists will usually only need to intervene if the patient is avoiding their issues or bad feelings.
The further they push against [the bad feelings], the worse their experience becomes. So we try to talk to them about what they're experiencing and allow them to approach it and work through it rather than avoid it, and doing so seems to have a therapeutic response.
A mystical experience
They found that patients with life-threatening cancer who had this mystical experience from psilocybin psychotherapy had improved quality of life and decreased depression and anxiety.
The problem is spiritual experiences are hard to create but we know, with psychedelics, we can induce these mystical experiences in a clinical setting in the right context with the right trained therapists involved. In this study, they also took a look at what was going on in the brain of patients with neuroimaging. Using this, they found a reduction in the depressive symptoms.
Australians will not need to travel to these treatments because they will have clinics and trained therapists available in Australia who can provide these therapies. So it's probably time that Australia had an epiphany and took psychedelic science a little more seriously.