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The complexities of mental health are ever evolving, particularly in this day and age, and yet the rate at which psychiatric medications and treatments are advancing is somehow falling short. While still largely disputable, psychedelic-assisted therapy has long been prevalent and has recently been emerging as a paradigm shift in mental health treatment, fascinating clinicians and researchers alike.
History of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy
In fact, the history of psychedelic-assisted therapy dates back to the 1950s, when it was first used to treat alcoholism. The treatment involved administering LSD in a supportive environment, aiming to induce a transformative experience and thus, lowering alcohol use.
Various studies published in the late 1960s and 1970s further attest to the efficacy of this treatment, and alcoholism was considered one of the most promising clinical applications for LSD.
Even though LSD research subsequently declined in the 1970s, such research was later revisited in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with renowned institutions like John Hopkins University and New York University playing a pivotal role in its resurgence, despite focusing more on psilocybin, found in magic mushrooms, instead of LSD.
Today, psychedelic-assisted therapy is being explored for a diverse range of mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and addictions. The resurgence of interest in this sort of therapy was fuelled by the global mental health crisis the world is currently facing.
Common psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin work by affecting the serotonin receptors, contributing to a heightened awareness and feelings of connectedness. These mind-altering hallucinogenic compounds can induce both beneficial and challenging experiences, so a controlled environment with trained facilitators is crucial.
While psychedelic-assisted therapy is not a cure-all, recent research has spotlighted the effectiveness of such therapy, especially pertaining to psilocybin. A study by Raison et. al supports that a single dose of psilocybin, coupled with psychotherapy, brings about swift, robust, and sustained reductions in depressive symptoms.
Unlike traditional treatments that tend to focus on symptom suppression, psychedelic-assisted therapy emphasises on the root of the problem and the results can be sustained for up to months with minimal to no adverse effects. With that said, not all patients respond favourably to such treatments and further research is most definitely required.
Ethics and Legal Considerations
Needless to say, psychedelic-assisted therapy is controversial and complex given the ethical and legal considerations surrounding such substances.
One key factor includes the potential for psychedelics to transform the beliefs and personality of patients, and the relationship between personality shifts and mental well-being improvements must further be explored as these changes may lead to maladaptive coping strategies, like an increased consumption of alcohol, or scepticism towards science. Variables like frequency and possibility of belief changes must be integral to treatment protocols, and patients should fully understand these risks.
Although psychedelic-assisted therapy is still quite novel in countries like Singapore, ketamine was legalised as a way to treat depression in 2021. We can only predict that this will be an upward trend moving forward, for many other countries whereby the use of such drugs is legally intricate.
That said, one cannot deny that psychedelic-assisted therapy marks a significant deviation from traditional mental health treatments. In conclusion, psychedelic-assisted therapy can be beneficial but comes with its own set of hurdles, such as ethical and legal concerns, patient consent, and understanding of the long-term impacts it may bring.
A Word From A Space Between
The adoption of psychedelic-assisted therapy in Singapore has been sluggish possibly due to the potential deleterious effects such drugs may have on individuals and the society as a collective. With that said, this is an upward trend that has been picking up.
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