Psychedelic drugs, what they are and how they act on past traumas

Psychedelic drugs, what they are and how they act on past traumas


Natural substances that allow you to enter a dream-like state, having new experiences and reviewing past ones in a different light that allows you to process their traumatic aspect.

They are ibogaine and 5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine, hallucinogens present respectively inAfrican shrub tabernanthe iboga It is in the venom of the Mexican toad incilius alvarius. In a study coordinated by the American psychologist Alan Kooi Davisfrom the Center for Psychedelic Drug Education and Research at The Ohio State University in Columbus, 86 war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder underwent treatment first with ibogaine (day 1) and then with 5-methoxy -dimethyltryptamine (day 3), reflecting and discussing their experience among themselves and with the researchers.

They act on anxiety, depression, insomnia, anger

The participants’ psychological well-being was then assessed one month, 3 months and 6 months later. The results were extremely positive: all patients reported long-term improvements in anxiety, depression, insomnia, anger and overall quality of life. The cognitive performance of the participants was also positively affected by the treatment: an increase in psychological flexibility and cognitive functioning was observed, a particularly significant result given that the majority of patients had suffered concussion injuries to the brain, associated with deterioration of memory and mental functions. superior.

People who had experienced suicidal ideation at the start of the study no longer wanted to take their own lives one month after treatment. These results are of particular relevance also considering that such significant improvements were obtained after only three days of treatment: the authors of the study observe that psychotherapies and pharmacological treatments must be followed assiduously for months or years before producing their therapeutic effects.

How feelings about past memories are changed

It is possible that, at least in post-traumatic disorders, the change of perspective induced by substances that alter the usual perception of things and events is able to bring out a new mental state free from the conditioning of unprocessed traumatic experiences. The memory of the trauma and all the sensations associated with it tends to remain in the mind like a foreign body, and overcoming it is difficult precisely because every time it is recalled the memory takes the same path, failing to see it from different angles. and therefore to relativize it.

The different state of consciousness induced by psychedelic substances allows you to experiment with new ways of perceiving yourself and your history, opening the door to new solutions. In addition to post-traumatic disorders and anxiety and depression in general, drugs such as ibogaine, used since ancient times by the inhabitants of Gabon in initiation and healing rituals called Bwiti, have demonstrated great effectiveness. in the treatment of opioid addiction, significantly alleviating withdrawal symptoms.

The brain enters a state of fluidity

According to the English psychiatrist David Nutt, professor of neuropsychopharmacology in the Department of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London and pioneer of studies on the therapeutic effect of psilocybin (the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms) in resistant depression, psychedelics dysregulate habitual brain connectivity by temporarily placing the brain in a more fluid state. When the effect is over and normal connectivity is restored, the brain finds itself in a non-depressive mode, having abandoned the negative thought patterns to which it was hooked. The advantage of psychedelic therapies, which exploit natural alkaloids used for millennia in shamanic and healing rites, is that unlike antidepressants their effect is immediate and persistent, even after a single treatment.

Integrating these approaches with traditional medical strategies (as in the case of esketamine, which therapeutically exploits the dissociative action of ketamine to obtain a rapid antidepressant response in treatment-resistant depression) can “broaden the vision” not only of patients but also of therapists, as long as they are willing to overcome resistance and preclusions of a mainly ideological and moralistic nature.

*Psychiatrist, Department of Mental Health, Viterbo



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