How we should talk about psychedelic therapy in the context of mental health treatment

Do we want laws that promote goodness? Yes. Should mental health be a priority, especially given the increasing rates of addiction, anxiety and depression? Also yes. And if we find mental health treatments that work, are safe, and cost-effective, should we not consider them as a legitimate solution? Once again, yes. This is the context in which psychedelic-assisted therapy should be framed. 

As of Jan. 5, 2022, Health Canada has approved the use of psychedelics MDMA and psilocybin (the psychoactive chemical compound in magic mushrooms) for medical use.

This is a step forward for mental health, as psychedelics have been demonstrated to be effective in treating a myriad of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction.

Most importantly, psilocybin has proven to be effective in cases of treatment-resistant depression, where medication and conventional therapies have been ineffective for certain individuals. 

 When discussing psychedelics, it’s easy for a conversation to go off track and get caught up in historical stigma, religious dogma and anecdotal experiences.

This can be mitigated by returning to the fundamentals of psychedelic therapy — the overwhelmingly safe and documented medical benefits — and reiterating why psychedelics have been used for healing purposes for thousands of years.
The most important thing to recognize when discussing psychedelics is the context with which they are introduced and associated.

Psychedelic use should not be framed by how your friend described their recent binge drinking experience, nor associated with party drugs used to “see some crazy stuff” or “have a wild time.”

Not only does associating psychedelics with this kind of leisure and ‘reckless recreation’ damage the credibility of psychedelic advocacy, but it also degrades the powerful mental health and spiritual benefits that are at the crux of psychedelic therapy.

Psychedelics such as psilocybin ought to be introduced as a tool like the academic and researcher Rick Doblin, Ph.D suggests.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that those who undergo psilocybin therapy are more likely to remedy their depression, anxiety, PTSD and addiction. In fact, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous originally wanted to incorporate psychedelic therapy with their treatment since multiple studies of the 50s and 60s indicated a strong correlation between psychedelic usage and overcoming alcoholism.

During a psychedelic-therapy session, it’s common for patients to encounter a “religious” or mystical experience, which they credit as being profoundly spiritual and fundamentally transformational. 

Psilocybin and magic mushrooms originated in Mexico and have been used by their inhabitants for thousands of years, often under the guidance of a shaman or other practitioner. The mental health and spiritual benefits of psilocybin mushroom usage can be traced back to the ancient Aztecs where they were referred to as “flesh of the gods.”

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