Health & Wellness Mental Health

Psychedelic Therapy: The Future of Mainstream Mental Health Treatment

Psychedelic Therapy

As psychedelic therapy approaches FDA approval, researchers are considering how to make it accessible. A big challenge will be ensuring that insurance companies pay therapists well enough to make these treatments economically viable. In many countries, a shortage of psychiatrists means that patients have difficulty getting help. They also face cultural and financial obstacles preventing them from accessing care.

Future Psychiatrists Will Use Multifaceted Treatments

Psychiatrists have long used a wide range of treatments, including medication, psychotherapy, and neuromodulation techniques. But while these approaches have helped many people, there are limits to their scope. Many of these treatments target specific symptoms and work best with other therapies. Methadone targets opiate receptors to treat heroin addiction, varenicline attaches to nicotine receptors to curb cigarette cravings, and SSRIs increase serotonin availability to boost mood.

But a new approach is emerging that could potentially outperform these existing medications: psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms or LSD. The drug, along with a combination of psychotherapy, has been showing promise in treating PTSD and depression. A recent renaissance in psychedelic research has led to the creation of a growing number of clinical trials, university-based programs, and specialized clinics. Psychedelic therapy from Kairos Wellness Collective is a complex and highly individualized process. While the results from current studies are promising, it is essential to remember that most participants are middle-class white individuals treated in carefully controlled research settings.

Technology Will Help Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists use technology to stay up-to-date on journal articles, clinical practice guidelines, and drug-prescribing information. It is called Digital Mental Health, or mHealth. Almost everyone has a smartphone, and there are numerous applications for improving mental health. These include adolescent psychiatry apps, self-assessment tools, and telepsychiatry. The emergence of psychedelics as a treatment has been met with some concern over the potential for illegal drug use. However, these drugs are considered safe when used in a controlled medical setting. UCSF’s Bradley studies, for example, used a combination of MDMA and psychotherapy to treat patients with chronic depression.

Psychedelics have shown some promise in treating various conditions, but their cost and accessibility are barriers. Unless public and private insurance begins to cover this treatment, it will be difficult for those who need it most to access it. Fortunately, it may not be long before this therapy is available. Psychedelics could soon be as commonplace as antibiotics or SSRI medications.

Psychiatrists Will Use Psychedelics

In a clinical setting, psychiatrists will give people specified, pure doses of psychedelic substances like LSD or psilocybin and supervise them throughout their experience. It is in stark contrast to the drugs’ reputation as dangerous recreational chemicals that led to their placement on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970s. This remarriage of biological therapy with psychotherapy could prove transformative for many patients. For instance, a recent study found that participants with treatment-resistant depression and end-of-life despair experienced a profound change in perspective after receiving a combination of psychedelic psychotherapy and conventional counseling. Unlike traditional medications, which target specific receptors in the brain to treat conditions such as opioid addiction or PTSD, psychedelics alter the whole system, helping people heal on a deeper level. 

Psychiatrists Will Use Technology

In the future, human psychiatrists will continue to be a central part of mental health, but they’ll also be augmented by technology. For example, triage chatbots will be more advanced and better able to understand patient data, allowing them to identify patients who need more immediate attention. Meanwhile, therapeutic chatbots can provide ongoing treatment and assessment in various modalities. The use of mind-altering substances like psilocybin and ketamine as therapy is experiencing a “psychedelic renaissance.” Researchers are testing these substances to treat PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other conditions. The results are promising. For instance, psilocybin reduces fear barriers and allows patients to face trauma-related triggers. It’s also a potent antidepressant and increases social connectedness.

One challenge, however, is that psychedelics are illegal in many countries. And even if the FDA approves them, they can be expensive. It could keep them out of the hands of those most in need. Psychedelic-assisted therapy trials need to focus on recruiting and screening more diverse populations.

Featured Image by Freepik

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