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Psychedelics, Psychedelics!

They are fast becoming the new infatuation. Mushrooms and ecstasy are emerging as breakthrough treatments for depression and trauma, yes!..or maybe no…?

Thirty two year old Judi, a high functioning successful banker, felt that her life had become mundane, lacking passion.  And so one evening, convinced by a friend as to the magic of mushrooms, she decided to partake.

Sadly and tragically, shortly after ingesting, Judi’s thought processes shifted into psychosis.  She started believing demons were hiding in her room and that her parents were dead.  She then stopped eating, insisting that her food was poisoned. 

And so Judi arrived, against her will, at my psychiatric hospital. 

Now don’t get my wrong.  There is huge research going on these days indicating the powerful affirmative effects of psychedelics.

What are psychedelics?  Psychedelics are drugs that alter consciousness and perception; they can create a mystical type experience. They include agents such as psilocybin (mushrooms),  MDMA (“ecstasy” or “molly”), Ketamine, and Ahahuasca.

With psychedelics, there appears to be an increase in the brain’s ability to make new connections, what we call neuroplasticity.  As such, they expand the psychotherapeutic process and patients report amazing breakthroughs after being stuck for years.

Research has shown their effectiveness in treating debilitating depressions, frightful anxieties, PTSD, OCD, pain, cancer related distress, and even addictions to alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, and stimulants.

Right now psychedelics are federally illegal (except for Ketamine; and, last I heard, psilocybin in the state of Oregon).  But the future looks compelling for their ultimate legalization.  However, there are risks (as there are with most drugs) such as cardiac events, seizures, worsening mood, and psychosis.

As for Judi, she was in the hospital for six weeks and showed minimal improvement. I first tried simply waiting it out (with no medications), a strategy which has worked with marijuana induced psychosis; unfortunately, Judi remained psychotic.

I then turned  to various psychiatric medications but again, no change.  Every day I spoke with her while she remained hibernated in her room; I attempted insight oriented  psychotherapy and even prayed for her, but these didn’t go anywhere as Judi was overwhelmed by her many thoughts so out of sync with reality.  We even had a psychologist do hypnosis but, again, to no avail.

At the end of her hospital stay, Judi went home to her parents and continued at an intensive outpatient treatment center. 

I received a call from her parents one month later, optimistic that she was starting to come out of it, slowly.  Time will tell.

I learned a lot from Judi during those weeks. She certainly is not alone - a successful professional who still feels a deep void inside.  Therefore, it is no accident that so many people are excited about psychedelics.  This is  because at essence we are spiritual beings.   We have soul, a piece of Divinity inside us, a yearning for transcendence, a desire to break through.  And  psychedelics offer enticing possibilities!

But - as far as I’m concerned - even if they do become legal, I doubt I will jump too quickly on the bandwagon.  Perhaps I’ve been affected by Judi, and if so, I plead guilty.

Let’s make sure psychedelics are safe.  And let’s make sure they have staying power. 

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