Psychedelic Medicine, Therapy and Science #3
Continuing this thread.
An interview with a psychedelic therapist with a lot of experience who also wrote a book. Podcast.
@Tuan Jie , Thanks for the link. Don't know if you pursue mindfulness, but this article explores how mindfulness augments the effectiveness of psychedelics. I meditate daily and find that it helps me to be aware of when my mind is taking me some place that will kill my mood. Mindfulness brings me back to appreciating what is going on in the present, obliterating the highway to hell of troubling thoughts.
Hi @Erroll !
After my first experiences with ayahuasca, I started a daily meditation practice as a means to continue, strengthen and deepen the direction I found myself catapulted into. Like so many others, I echo that psychedelics and meditation/mindfulness are perfect companions. I can relate to the findings in the article. Cool study, thanks for sharing. I have the feeling you'd appreciate the deconstructing yourself podcast as well.
Paul Stamets was on the Joe Rogan podcast. It was a blast, just like the first time. He had a lot of interesting stuff to say about psilocybine (in the US and Canada). If you want to skip the part about how he plans to address colony collapse disorder, it starts about here.
A historic event happened just a couple of months ago; the announcement of the opening of the World's Largest Psychedelic Research Center, in Baltimore. Johns Hopkins Medicine will house the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research.
Among other things, researchers there will be investigating the effectiveness of psychedelics as a new therapy for opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (formerly known as chronic Lyme disease), anorexia nervosa, and alcohol use in people with major depression. The researchers hope to create precision medicine treatments tailored to individual patient needs.
We're entering a new phase in psychedelic research. It's quite poetic this is happening in the country where Nixon threw away the baby with the bath water, after which the entire globe followed. So many lives could potentially be un****ed by these substances, it isn't even funny. This is extremely good news!
A phenomenal podcast about depression, the inner critic, addiction, psychedelics, legislation, meditation and emotional resilience. I don't think that in the hundreds of hours of listening to podcasts and audio books on the subject of psychedelics, I have heard a better description of what a psychedelic experience is like and why it's therapeutic potential is so high as from Tim Ferris. It's a real treat to hear this conversation between him and Peter Attia.
From Attia's website:
In this episode, Tim talks both experientially and from his own deep dive into the literature of psychedelics and mental health. Tim is shifting his focus from investing in startups to funding experiments that he hopes will establish more reliable knowledge and therapeutic options for those suffering from anxiety, depression, and addiction.
If this topic even remotely interests you, I can’t recommend Tim’s podcast with Michael Pollan, author of How to Change Your Mind, enough. (You should definitely read Pollan’s book as well.) Even if you’ve never had any exposure to psychedelics or their potential applications, I think you’ll find this subject matter really interesting, and I was very grateful for Tim to be so open and honest about his experiences.
Tim also shared his short list of acquired wisdom he returns to most reliably, which might be worth the price of admission alone.
Tim’s history of depression and his TED Talk on his close call with suicide;
The type of thinking that triggers Tim’s downward spirals;
Tim’s transformative experience with ayahuasca;
How Tim’s experience and research has led him to focus on furthering the science of psychedelics and mental health;
What some of the meditation modalities, and meditation apps, are out there, why can meditation be so hard to do, but also worthwhile to stick with;
Why Tim made a big commitment (more than $1 million) to funding scientific research, and to psilocybin and MDMA research, in particular;
From all the habits and tools that Tim has learned, the five things that he returns to most reliably; and
This is WILD. Very much like some of my experiences with ayahuasca.
Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.
My stroke of insight | Jill Bolte Taylor
A bit about neuroplasticity. What neuroplasticity means for a person has been captured nicely by Gandhi.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
For people who suffer from anxiety and/or depression, their mind is like a bad neighborhood or a torture chamber. On a neurological level, both modes have been associated with an overactive default-mode-network (DMN). The DMN is active when you're not engaging in a task, when you're "selfing". Recent studies on psychedelics suggest that the DMN is the neurological equivalent of the ego. Psychedelics suppress it, which can result in a change in identification from the ego to awareness. An expansive sense of self, up to the point of being one with nature, the universe or God. The level of mystical experience during a trip has been teased out as the most important variable for a positive outcome with regards to a variety of what we call mental illnesses. There is much overlap with meditation. Meditation is the practice of identification with the witness, of expanding your sense of self and creating space between experience and action. A bit narrow, but alright for this topic.
I mention meditation because the Gandhi quote isn't workable if you identify with your thoughts. If the trance of identification with the ego is complete. A certain level of mindfulness is necessary. Becoming aware is half the challenge. Whenever I catch myself wandering down the bad neighborhood, I remind myself that this is a thought, not reality. In the case of difficult emotions, they are just that. My mind's chatter on top of that is not helpful. Buddha is supposed to have said that the first arrow is the pain thrown by life, and the second arrow is you fighting what is. This is the difference between pain and suffering. One is inevitable, the other is habitual.
You could also say that scripts get activated in our brain and those scripts can be up- or down regulated. We get locked in grooves that are deep. When you are mindful of what happens, you can pick up the needle and start a more constructive groove. It'll deepen over time. We are creatures of habit, which can be used in your favor. Forming positive habits and interrupting your DMN with usefull stuff works very well for me. I just stop feeding the monster whenever I become aware that I'm doing so. Neurons that fire together, wire together. So whatever you feed gets up regulated when you do it on a consistent basis. That's why the number of depressions you had is a predictor for the risk of getting another one. Thick cables, deep grooves. Not destiny though. That's why neuroplasticity is awesome. Neurologically this is literally rewiring the brain. The brain that changes itself. Certain things can increase neuroplasticity. Psychedelics, exercise, certain supplements. I throw everything at, probably resulting in a synergistic effect.
I practice meditation daily and I've been binge listening to constructive podcasts and audio books for a couple of years. I started at rock bottom, now my life has gotten much better than ever. Combined with psychedelics and some other stuff, I've found this to be very successful. I refrain from recommending psychedelics, but I do think something in the vein of the other things I described is essential if you want to avoid ending up in that torture chamber for the rest of your days. Not saying this is the whole story, yet vital.
Me, myself, bye: regional alterations in glutamate and the experience of ego dissolution with psilocybin
There is growing interest in the therapeutic utility of psychedelic substances, like psilocybin, for disorders characterized by distortions of the self-experience, like depression. Accumulating preclinical evidence emphasizes the role of the glutamate system in the acute action of the drug on brain and behavior; however this has never been tested in humans. Following a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group design, we utilized an ultra-high field multimodal brain imaging approach and demonstrated that psilocybin (0.17 mg/kg) induced region-dependent alterations in glutamate, which predicted distortions in the subjective experience of one’s self (ego dissolution). Whereas higher levels of medial prefrontal cortical glutamate were associated with negatively experienced ego dissolution, lower levels in hippocampal glutamate were associated with positively experienced ego dissolution. Such findings provide further insights into the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of the psychedelic, as well as the baseline, state. Importantly, they may also provide a neurochemical basis for therapeutic effects as witnessed in ongoing clinical trials.
Thanks for this thread, the brain stuff - esp. DMN as neurological correlate of "ego" is particularly interesting. I have never taken any psychedelics, so this is all intellectual understanding, plus my personal research and experiences on the spiritual side of things.
A possible link between psychedelics and Buddhism
I saw this video a while back and was immediately struck by the part about drug-induced hallucinations of seeing dry surfaces as wet, and inanimate objects as breathing, etc. That can be considered a subjective experience of disproving the existence of svabhava, which is one of the central ideas in Buddhism and ancient Indian philosophy.
Svabhava translates loosely as "nature, essence, or substance", although my understanding is that it corresponds most closely to the "form" of things as we perceive them through our senses. We perceive things to have intrinsic properties that are inseparable from their being - e.g. heat as the svabhava of fire.
Buddhism uses pure logic, and practices such as meditation, to help us see that such properties do not exist "from their own side" (i.e. noumenally), that everything is our own illusions or mental concepts, no matter how real they appear to us. Hence if drugs can make you see things as polar opposite in nature to their commonly believed svabhava (e.g. seeing dry objects as wet), they could well catalyse the grasping of Buddhist truths.
I suspect that some recreational drug users experience a state during their drug trips that is equal to "spiritual enlightenment" in Buddhism (and there are multiple possible levels of enlightenment). The difference is that drug users lack the years of systematic learnings and proper guidance to process or understand what they are experiencing, as well as how to integrate it into their normal lives, unlike religious neophytes. Maybe that causes some problems and/or "bad trips" for people, idk.
The video singles out LSD and psilocybins, but I imagine other substances (even hard drugs such a heroin) might do a similar thing - broadly, alter your perception of the world in such a way as to experience some deeper reality that your entrenched ego has prevented you from seeing. But ofc hard drugs do other kinds of harm to the body, and tolerance and withdrawal are major problems. I am not advocating for drug use, but I think most people may be mistaken as to where the problems actually lie.
From time to time I browse the r/Psychonaut subreddit, and the spiritual insights that people gleam from drug use is amazing to me. For example, people regularly report experiencing "ego death" during trips (which is also a feature of spiritual enlightenment; "ego" is the svabhava of a person). And the recognition that what we call "God" or Oneness with the Universe is the non-egoic consciousness.
It seems to me one of the biggest problems right now is that the people who are on the research side (medical professionals, therapists, scientists/philosophers, academics) do not always have the inner subjective experience, whereas those who do (spiritual/religious personnel and psychonauts) lack the intellectual knowledge or credence. Not to mention the diverse terminologies. Would be nice to see more people trying to bridge this interdisciplinary gap.
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