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Can Psychedelics Be Used As a Preventative for Mental Illness?

The post Can Psychedelics Be Used As a Preventative for Mental Illness? appeared first on Microdose.

The modern psychedelic renaissance has demonstrated…

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The post Can Psychedelics Be Used As a Preventative for Mental Illness? appeared first on Microdose.

The modern psychedelic renaissance has demonstrated that drugs like MDMA (the main ingredient in the drug ecstasy) and psilocybin (the primary ingredient in magic mushrooms) can be effective treatments for a host of mental illnesses. Indeed, both drugs have been designated as “breakthrough therapies” by the FDA, expediting their progress through the regulatory process. However, while these drugs are certainly showing remarkable efficacy in the treatment of mental illness, there’s limited research into their potential as a preventative to mental illness. Could it be possible to essentially use psychedelics prophylactically to prevent mental illnesses in the first place? While limited clinical trial data is investigating this theory, we can draw insights from real-world evidence and explore what thought leaders in the space have postulated about this theory.

Rick Doblin Discusses the Potential of Psychedelics as a Preventative & Auxiliary Therapy for Addiction

In a 2013 editorial published in Current Drug Abuse Reviews, MAPS founder Rick Doblin explores the potential of psychedelics as a preventative and auxiliary therapy for drug addiction. He describes various ways in which psychedelic therapy can be effective in treating addiction, such as their potential to help individuals come to terms with their life instead of using drugs to suppress their trauma.

Additionally, Doblin discusses the value of the mystical experience that psychedelics can produce in the treatment of addiction. He states, “A spiritual experience can offer resilience in how someone in recovery responds to life stressors because they feel more connected to life itself. Based on that connection, they can move forward in their lives feeling more supported.” Therefore, it stands to reason that individuals that have this powerfully transformative experience are better equipped to handle life’s challenges moving forward and potentially avoid developing issues like depression and anxiety further down the road.

Curiously enough, Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, actually consumed LSD after he got sober and was reportedly profoundly moved by the experience. He believed that LSD could precipitate the “spiritual awakening” described in the AA “big book” (their primary text). Unfortunately, the other founding members of AA were not so keen on the use of any psychoactive drugs (outside caffeine and nicotine) and Bill’s idea was scrapped.

Psychedelics Can Help Individuals Face Their Fears Instead of Escaping Them

Psychedelics Can Help Individuals Face Their Fears Instead of Escaping Them

Unlike traditional neuropsychiatric pharmacotherapies, such as SSRIs, which reduce amygdala activity (the part of the brain responsible for processing fear and other negative emotions), psychedelics help individuals confront these issues head-on and increase amygdala activity. This allows the individual receiving psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy to confront their demons, so to speak, and, oftentimes, actually come to a resolution that is beneficial to the long-term. This speaks to the potential preventative properties psychedelics may have in helping individuals avoid mental illness later in life by learning how to process negative emotions instead of trying to run from them. This property of psychedelic drugs is perhaps one of the most important when trying to assess their potential as a preventative and prophylactic treatment against mental illness.

Real-World Evidence of Iboga as a Preventative Against Depression & Addiction in the Bwiti Culture

When it comes to substance abuse and addiction treatment, more and more people are becoming aware of the powerful hallucinogenic shrub from West Africa known as ibogaine. A central part of the Bwiti culture, iboga is ceremoniously used as part of a “coming of age ritual”, in which a member of the tribe consumes large amounts of iboga and is looked after and cared for by the entire community for days. Furthermore, it is said that in the language of the Bwiti people, there is no direct translation for the words “depression” or “addiction”. Could it be that the Bwiti people have been using the psychedelic, ibogaine (the primary alkaloid in the iboga bush), as a preventative for conditions such as depression and addiction all this time? Given the fact many indigenous peoples have stewarded these medicines over the centuries, we can certainly learn a thing or two about the preventative power of psychedelics against mental illness from the Bwiti people.

Closing Thoughts on Psychedelics as a Preventative for Mental Illness

The highly clinicalized nature of this modern psychedelic renaissance is rapidly developing psychedelic treatments for specific conditions—particularly in the area of mental health. However, the use of psychedelic medicine as a potential preventative measure against mental illness is a different ball game altogether. Without a diagnosed condition that’s an indication to use psychedelic medicine, its use is considered more as for “psycho-spiritual growth”, or even “recreation”. For this reason, plant medicine retreats may serve the important person of holding space for such personal, non-illness-based growth.

We know and have covered in this piece that psychedelic medicines can be consciousness-expanding and offer the user deep insights and valuable tools to help people consciously navigate their lives. Could it be that the lessons and information gleaned from the psychedelic journey can help us prevent mental illness down the road? While only time will truly tell, things definitely seem like they’re headed in that direction.

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