Psychedelic Therapies for Mental Illness

Green Planet is proud to announce our Partnership with the inaugural International Summit on Psychedelic Therapies for Mental Illness – which means it's the perfect time to take a look at this fascinating topic and the fast moving new discipline of neuropsychopharmacology.
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What is psychedelic therapy, and how is it relevant to cannabis? Increasing knowledge and improving access to natural therapies and teacher plants / plant medicines towards better mental health outcomes is one of our primary goals at Green Planet, and so we’re proud to announce our Partnership with the inaugural International Summit on Psychedelic Therapies for Mental Illness which is scheduled to take place this November in Melbourne. That means it’s the perfect time to take a look at this fascinating topic and the fast moving new discipline of neuropsychopharmacology.

Let’s start out with a simple question – is cannabis psychedelic? Yes it is – we discussed this in depth in this article which considered where cannabis fits in amongst other drugs, both psychoactive and non-psychoactive. To simplify matters from TLDR perspective , Oxford defines “psychedelic” as “relating to or denoting drugs (especially LSD) that produce hallucinations and apparent expansion of consciousness”.

If cannabis doesn’t do that for you, it’s time to find a new supplier.

What is Psychedelic Medicine?

Psychedelic Medicine is a new therapeutic approach to using substances such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ketamine (ket), MDMA (ecstasy) and LSD (acid) in a controlled clinical setting to treat mental health disorders including PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), anxiety and depression. Please be aware that “medicinal mushrooms” generally refers to non-psychoactive mushrooms such as those available here.

These therapies were widely investigated in the 1950s and 1960s with very encouraging results – that is, until the United States government banned the relevant substances as part of Richard Nixon’s War On Drugs. This meant that from the 1970s onwards, laboratory researchers and scientists were unable to legally hold clinical trials to determine whether or not these drugs were a potential way of treating mental health issues. Unsurprisingly, big pharmaceutical companies were happy about this – there is huge money being made in the area of antidepressants and other medications related to mental dysfunction.

Unlike expensive Prozac or Ritalin prescriptions, psychedelic therapies tend to offer lasting relief without constant drug taking. As this gold-standard psychedelic therapy research demonstrates, “at 6-month follow-up, these changes were sustained, with about 80% of participants continuing to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety. Participants attributed improvements in attitudes about life/self, mood, relationships, and spirituality to the high-dose experience, with >80% endorsing moderately or greater increased well-being/life satisfaction. Community observer ratings showed corresponding changes.”

Given that a single course of therapy can result in an improvement that continues for six months, it’s not surprising that companies who have a vested interest in selling drugs would fund opposition to this research ­– which is exactly what they have been doing. 

What are the Dangers of Psychedelic Therapy?

This is a crucial question – the recreational use of strong psychedelics can go very badly wrong. A “bad trip” can cause serious trauma and anguish, and this is the immediate threat which rightfully causes reservations amongst people.

That said, the experience of mental illness can be equally if not more debilitating – whether that simply involves feeling flat or lost on a regular basis, or more defined challenges such as high functioning anxiety or crippling depression. As detailed in the video here, it was mental health issues and the discovery that cannabis could be used to treat them that led to the formation of Green Planet. I will also readily admit that the ritual therapeutic use of ayahuasca has resulted in huge personal steps forward around improvement and maintenance of mental health and a general sense of profound meaning in the world, while microdosing psilocybin has also proven beneficial for mental wellbeing and creativity.

Please be acutely aware that this is not simply a case of consuming magic mushrooms (though Australians may struggle to find a source for them). Were it simply a case of getting your hands on some psilocybe cubensis or blue meanie mushrooms, that would be great – but that’s not what we’re recommending here. There is arguably a standalone benefit around taking mushies for creative purposes, consuming LSD to write psychedelic music (yes, we do like psychedelic rock) or making DMT art, but that is not the point here.

These are very serious and potentially harmful substances and must be respected as such.

Psychedelic Therapies are NOT Recreational

Let’s be clear – we do not advocate for full legalisation of hallucinogens or psychedelics. Unlike cannabis, the uncontrolled use of psychedelic substances can be catastrophic and potentially even result in mental breakdown. An overdose of cannabis will most likely just put you to sleep; at worst you will feel paranoia and discomfort and in a very very small number of cases, underlying undiagnosed issues such as schizophrenia or psychosis can be triggered. An overdose of psilosybin or lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) opens the doors of perception in a way that can be absolutely terrifying if not done in a responsible and conscientious manner. Especially for those with an underlying depression or other personal traumas & challenges, it can unlock and release feelings and emotions which ought be approached in a more gentle and holistic manner.

This is why psychedelic research is challenging – as reported by Mind Medicine Australia, during a psychedelic research session

“there are typically two therapists in attendance. The patient can sit or lie on a couch, is often encouraged to wear eyeshades, and sometimes listen to a carefully-selected playlist of music. Oral ingestion of a capsule of synthesised psychedelic compound (e.g., psilocybin) is the most common route of administration, and the session will typically last for about 8 hours.”

Psychedelic Clinical Trials

So what’s the outcome of most psychedelic clinical trials? As MMA writes,

“The ‘psychedelic experience’ is certainly not consistent across different people and the range of experiences and responses is wide. However, with specific constraints on ‘set’ and ‘setting’ – as is the case within modern clinical trials – certain subjective features occur for many people in a surprisingly reliable way. These include increased empathy for others; increased compassion for oneself; profound and novel insights about one’s character or life or the world; feelings of deep connectedness with other people or other things; a sense of meaningfulness; a reduced sense of one’s Self, its permanence, and its boundaries; and in some cases, a completely other-worldly experience often referred to as ‘mystical’. Psychedelic experiences entail an ‘altered state of consciousness’, a shift in the fundamental nature of one’s experience that is often startling, and difficult to imagine, much less describe. A common feature of these experiences is that the accompanying insights and perspectives are felt to be more reliable, more ‘true’ or ‘wise’, than one’s usual understanding. Further, the ‘authority’ of these novel perspectives tends to endure well beyond the acute stages of the psychedelic session.”

I will personally attest to experiencing the above – it’s life-changing. Everything thereafter is experienced through the prism of a new, greater, kinder reality.

However, consider the cost of administering these therapies – psilocybin is cheap to produce, but hiring a suitable premises and paying two qualified therapists to be present for eight hours involves huge expense. That’s without all the hidden costs of administration, insurance etc. Then again, consider the cost of lifelong mental health treatments, the lost productivity from PTSD/depression/anxiety, and the psychological burden on the community of those who support the person going through mental health challenges.

This is why we need widespread psychedelic therapy to be made available under Medicare and other public health initiatives – a variety of therapies are being made available overseas from Israel to USA; it’s time to start dealing with the mental health epidemic which is needlessly damaging so many Australian peoples’ lives.

International Summit on Psychedelic Therapies for Mental Illness

Just a 10 minute cycle from the Green Planet office, one of the most exciting trials in Australian medical history is taking place. Just across the Yarra river, a well-funded and trustworthy organisation is now leading the charge on serious clinical psychedelic research. Melbourne is becoming a hub for psychedelic research.

It’s time to start taking this seriously – that’s why we’ll be at the International Summit, and we would encourage you to do the same. Regardless of your angle, these are world-changing natural plant technologies. We need to be using them. The Summit will include the presence of individuals such as Professor David Nutt, Head of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London. It will be an important milestone in reaching the paradigm shift which needs to happen in the treatment of mental health issues and the ongoing preservation of a healthy human consciousness.

Mind health care is the same as bodily health care – it is not simply the absence of issues, it is the maintenance of good health: a positive outlook and state-of-mind. Just as bodily health results in more energy and an increased ability to maintain a good quality-of-life, when things get mentally or emotionally “out of whack” (as can happen throughout human lives), we can lose sight of who we are and what we want out of life. In our experience, the careful and measured ritual, ceremonial & clinical use of substances such as cannabis, psilocybin, ayahuasca and DMT can correct that course and grant us a fresh perspective on ourselves and our lives. It’s time that the benefits of psychedelic therapy were made available to everyone.

Massive respect to Mind Medicine Australia for their hard work in making this happen – get your tickets to the Summit here.

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