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How do Psychedelics Treat Depression?


Psychedelic treatment is used when depression fails to respond to traditional medication. Psychedelic therapy involves the use of plant ingredients that can induce psychedelic effects such as hallucinations. These plant compounds are commonly derived from a fungi group of plants called magic mushrooms.

Doctors may prescribe psychedelic treatment as a stand-alone treatment or combine it with other forms of available treatments to address depression. The purpose of psychedelic treatment is to complement the traditional treatment for depression and improve its success rate.

Psychedelics Treat Major Depression

A small study was conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine to understand the impact of psychedelic substances on depression. The study participants were adults with major depression.

There were 24 patients. Researchers administered to patients 2 doses of psilocybin, a psychedelic substance. The treatment was supported by psychotherapy.

Patients showed rapid results after the treatment – a substantial and rapid decrease in depression symptoms was observed. Most of the patients showed improvement after the treatment.

Of the 24 patients, 67% showed over 50% reduction in symptoms of depression after a week of follow-up. 71% of patients showed improvement after a 4-week follow-up. After 4 weeks of treatment, 54% of participants were qualified to be in remission. This means these patients are no longer qualified to be in the category of patients suffering from depression.

Impact of Psychedelics on Depression Patients

According to the researchers of the above study, psilocybin produces hallucinations in visual and auditory forms in patients. The compound produces a deep alteration in the consciousness of patients within a few hours after intake.

A follow-up of the participants would be conducted for a year by the researchers. This follow-up would assess the duration of the impact of psilocybin on the patients. This study will give insights into the length of stay of the antidepressant effects of the compound.

Different Ways of Working of Psychedelics

Continuous research into the mechanism in which psychedelics work is underway. Researchers are still in search of answers that reveal how psychedelic compounds exactly work on the body.

Researchers are keen to know the reason behind the rapid effect that psychedelic compounds are able to produce in patients.

Traditional treatments for depression often require several weeks to take effect. They also work for only so long as the patients adhere to the medication.

But psychedelic substances are able to bring a change almost immediately, and that too, with as few as a single or couple of doses.

Though research is still underway, experts believe that psychedelics may be showing impact in the following ways:

Psychedelics Influence Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are the body’s chemical messengers that keep the communication between the brain and different parts of the body intact and effective. Drugs commonly prescribed for depression work by impacting these neurotransmitters. Patients experience a positive change in mood when depression drugs act on these neurotransmitters.

Psychedelics, too, work on the same lines. These substances may modify neurotransmitters, enabling them to transform signals, and in turn, the brain behavior and mood of patients.

Psychedelics Produce Mind-Altering Experiences

Patients administered with psychedelic doses undergo an intense and significant experience. These experiences can alter an individual’s cognitive responses. This change in thinking can bring about a positive change in the patient’s behavior.

Psychedelics Impact Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity refers to the capacity of the brain to re-form itself after exposure to new stimuli such as new information, sensory inputs, damage and development. Brain’s neural networks, including neurons, in particular, are capable of finding new connections and aligning with them.

Research shows that psychedelic drugs of the category serotonergic are associated with several positive effects at a psychological level. Serotonergic psychedelic compounds are a group of psychedelic drugs that operate on a mechanism that is associated with serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is produced naturally in the body. This neurotransmitter is responsible for maintaining a good mood, among other functions. Research is still on to understand the different functions of serotonin in the body.

The positive psychological effects that serotonergic psychedelic compounds are known to include an increased positive influence and decreased negative influence. They also enable individuals to feel a better connection to the self and other people.

Psychedelics May Improve Patient Suggestibility

Psychedelic substances may improve an individual’s response to suggestions. As a result, they may show an improved response to a physician’s suggestions, leading to positive behavior.

Another way that patients may show improvement in depression symptoms is by being responsive to their hallucinogenic experiences. They may be more willing to adapt to new ways of thinking and behavior as a result.

In Conclusion

The almost immediate impact of psychedelic drugs on patients with depression encourages more intense research into this form of treatment.

Promising results from research on depression-associated psychedelic treatment provide hope for people suffering from severe forms of depression.

Psychedelic treatments can be accessed only through clinical trials as they are considered only as experimental treatments. Psychedelic treatment may be prescribed on its own or in association with standard depression treatment.

Psychedelic treatment may also be offered as guided therapy. A qualified therapist may guide the patient through the changes or “high” that a psychedelic may induce as part of the treatment. The therapist offers therapeutic suggestions to the patient in this heightened or induced state.

With research on psychedelic treatment continuing, this treatment could soon be available as a mainstream therapy. If you are considering psychedelic treatment either for yourself or a loved one, then talk to your physician first for expert advice.

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