Using Psychedelics for Mental Health: Potential Benefits & Research

June 30, 2021

Psychedelic drugs such as ketamine and psilocybin mushrooms can potentially treat a diverse range of mental health concerns, including but not limited to addiction, eating disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorders. In fact, Johns Hopkins University opened the nation’s first center dedicated to psychedelic research at the end of 2019. Explore how current and future findings can potentially transform the lives of individuals affected by cognitive and psychiatric issues.

The Research on Psychedelics

These are some of the key studies on the potential of psychedelic drugs in psychiatry, including psychedelic medicine options such as psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline, and ketamine.

Psychedelics for Depression and Anxiety

One of the earliest large studies on psilocybin mushrooms by the Johns Hopkins team from the Center for Psychedelics and Consciousness Research looked at the effects of the drug on depression and anxiety among patients with life-threatening cancer diagnoses. The double-blind research, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2016, found that 80% of the group who received psilocybin displayed fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety six months after treatment, with some reporting reduced fear of mortality.

In November 2020, results of a randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that participants who received psilocybin therapy for major depressive disorder self-reported fewer depressive symptoms and scored lower on depression diagnostic checklists than those who did not receive this treatment at the six-month follow-up visit. As a result, the authors recommend further studying this therapy for use in people who have treatment-resistant depression.

Fear of mortality was also a theme in research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2016. The analysis cited two small studies that showed promise in psilocybin and LSD for treating anxiety in terminally ill individuals.

A randomized control trial published by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry found that ketamine therapy facilitated faster recovery for adult males with major depressive disorder.

In 2021, CPCR worked with scientists from Maastricht University in the Netherlands and Ohio State University in Columbus to survey more than 450 mescaline users about their attitudes and behaviors about the psychedelic, often used in rituals and for spiritual enlightenment in Latin American and Indigenous populations. About half the surveyed individuals also reported having depression or anxiety, and more than 67% of those people reported improvement in these symptoms after using mescaline in the form of peyote.

Psychedelics for Smoking cessation

In the first study of psilocybin’s impact on smoking cessation since the 1970s, Hopkins researchers verified that 80% of participants in a 2017 research remained free of tobacco and nicotine six months after treatment. In comparison, smoking cessation medications have a peak efficacy rate of about 35%.

Substance Use and Alcoholism Treatment

An analysis of a decade of research on KPT published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in 1997 found it boosted the efficacy of clinical treatment for alcohol dependence. In trials conducted by the Leningrad Regional Center for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Therapy in Russia, nearly 66% of patients who received both clinical treatment and KPT were able to abstain from alcohol for longer than 12 months compared to 24% of the group who received only clinical treatment without KPT.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

In a Klarisana study with approval from the Institutional Review Board, 30 combat veterans received screenings for depression and PTSD before and after receiving a series of ketamine infusions. The research, which is pending publication, indicated an average 50% score decrease on the PHQ-9 depression symptom screening tool and a 45% score decrease on the PCL-5 PTSD symptom checklist.

How Ketamine Therapy Supports Mental Health

Ketamine for non-anesthetic indications (KNAI) has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat several physical and mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, anxiety, and treatment-resistant depression.

In the Russian study referenced above, researchers theorized that the hallucinations that occur with KPT may:

  • Enhance positive self-concept
  • Provide insight into life’s meaningfulness
  • Improve emotional attitudes toward others and themselves
  • Encourage positive changes in life purpose and values
  • Facilitate spiritual development

This impact can help interrupt the “feedback loop” of dark thoughts experienced by many patients who struggle with these conditions.

While scientists don’t yet understand the biochemical mechanisms behind how this type of psychedelic therapy works, researchers found that the study subjects displayed increased brain and neurotransmitter activity that may account for these transformations. Expressly, many researchers agree that ketamine improves mood by increasing the level of a nervous system chemical called a brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

What to Expect During Ketamine Psychedelic Therapy 

At Klarisana, patients typically see an advanced practice practitioner such as a physician assistant or nurse practitioner. The entire team prioritizes patient safety with confirmation of every infusion bag preparation and administration by two staff members. We monitor your pulse, oxygen, and cardiac rate throughout the infusion to detect and act quickly in the case of abnormalities, which rarely occur. 

Most patients receive a dose of 100 to 200 mg ketamine over each 60-minute session, administered in a comfortable private room. We recommend having six infusion sessions for the initial therapeutic regimen, each session about two to four weeks apart. The ketamine dosage is much lower than the dose provided in a hospital setting and rarely produces side effects with monitored medical use. 

The Psychedelic Impact of Ketamine Therapy

Our dosage of ketamine is targeted to deconstruct the negative view of oneself by inducing the psychotropic therapeutic response. Patients report a mystical, spiritual experience that allows them to connect with their true selves beyond the influence of ego and past trauma. Unlike some therapeutic psychedelic centers, we avoid using benzodiazepines like Xanax which will prevent our patients from remembering and learning from this powerful experience. Sedative medications also suppress breathing, which is not a concern with ketamine.

For people who have conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, the psychedelic effects of ketamine allow them to connect with their true selves beyond the constant question of why the traumatic experience occurred. When used to treat anxiety, many patients report that the infusion therapy clears them of the uncomfortable sensations and repetitive thoughts associated with this condition. This type of psychedelic therapy also helps provide relief for people who have chronic pain, which often occurs in conjunction with depression, anxiety, or PTSD.

While some patients feel apprehensive about having a psychedelic experience, most find these changes in perception relaxing, soothing and comforting. We make sure you understand what to expect in advance, which can help alleviate some of your concerns the first time you undergo psychedelic drug therapy. We find that providing privacy in a controlled, monitored environment rather than offering group infusion sessions also reduces anxiety in patients. You can listen to the music of your choice or watch relaxing videos of ocean life or natural landscapes.

Contact Klarisana today to learn more about becoming a ketamine infusion therapy patient. We have locations in Carlsbad, California; San Antonio and Austin, Texas; and Denver and Westminster, Colorado. We do not require a referral for patients ages 18 and older. However, during the intake process, you will be screened by a licensed professional counselor or clinical social worker to make sure this therapy is appropriate for your needs.

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