When it come to psychedelics, scientists are either for or against it’s use. There is very little in between. In the recent Netflix documentary on psychedelics called How to Change your Mind, there isn’t a single scientist that gives an opposing view. When you see a documentary with this level of bias, it is easy to see that they are only selling half the story.
In this video I’ll share why psychedelics is a desperate attempt to resurrect a failing industry and depending on your view point – whether it heals or does more harm to the brain?
As of 1st of July this year psilocybin and methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) will be available for prescription by authorised psychiatrists in Australia. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will permit prescription of MDMA for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression as these are the only conditions with sufficient scientific evidence.
Psychiatry doesn’t have the best track record and is running out of ideas at a time when mental health conditions are become dangerously common. People who are looking for psychedelic for mental health support are generally not interested in “science” but rather use science for confirmation bias.
To get balanced perspective, we first need to understand the brutal history of psychiatry to determine if you trust psychiatrists to bend your mind at will.
A brief history of Psychiatry
For the vast majority of human history, the brain was an enigma and despite what we know as neuroscientists today, remains an anomaly of form and function.
The earliest know treatment for psychiatric conditions was discovered by archeologist as circular fractures in the skull from the neolithic era. These holes in the skull was the direct result of trepanation, a surgical procedure used by shamans to drill a hole using sharp stones to allow demons and evil spirits to escape.
Amazingly many of these patients survived the procedure yet it is unclear what behavioural modifications was achieved after these prehistoric procedures. Trepanation still survives today as a neurosurgical operation to release intracranial pressure and may become commonplace with Neuralink’s automated neurosurgery.
The turn of the century did not prove any better with the 1949 Nobel Prize being awarded to the Portuguese neurologist António Moniz for the introduction of frontal-lobotomy for the treatment of depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.
Better yet, patients could be isolated in a mental health asylum and administered Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) which intentionally triggers a brain seizure. ECT was invented in Italy in the 1930 and experienced a revival in the early 1980s with moving accounts from patients who recovered from the brink of depression. ECT is still in circulation today with an estimated 1 million people worldwide receiving ECT annually.
The Big Break To Nowhere.
The breakthrough in psychiatry came with the pharmaceutical release of the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors to match hypothetical illness categories derived from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).
Surprisingly, for such a universally adopted list of mental health conditions, there is relatively little support for DSM5 outside the narrow circle several hundred experts of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) who profit generously from it’s publication.
The biggest reason for this lack of support is the uneasy tension between psychological and biological psychiatry. If psychiatry were to update it’s understanding based on the latest neuroscientific findings, the pharmaceutical paradigm of creating disease for profit – would become obsolete. It is therefore not surprising that, after the release of SSRIs in 1987, pharmaceutical innovation has dried up and there has been no blockbuster drug discovery since.
After all, why abandon what does not work, where there is still money to be made?
I cover the fallacy of the chemical imbalance hypothesis of psychiatry in this video.
Looking at psychiatry from a chemical imbalance perspective is – an easy sell. If you are feeling depressed, take a happy pill. If you are anxious, take a chill pill.
Psychedelics: Science vs Reality
Similar to pharmaceuticals, the chemical high understanding of psychedelics has been overexploited.
In fact the great disconnect is people confuse microscopic chemical reactions with large scale brain organisation. We shall instead look at the psychedelics from a network theory perspective and see if psychedelic assisted therapy still holds? For simplicity we will only consider Psilocybin and MDMA as these are the drugs currently approved for prescription.
Contrary to popular belief – psychedelics don’t light up the brain but rather consistently reveal decreased activity especially in the brain’s key connector hubs (such as the thalamus, Anterior Cingulate Cortex and Posterior Cingulate Cortex). This has been correlated with important aspects of psychedelic experiences such as “ego-dissolution”
The result is the dilution of the psychological scaffolding ascribed to the functional organisation of the brain. The lack of connectivity between key structural brain regions results in the brain unable to detangle topological information to cohesively construct reality.
The experience is similar to the phenomenon of synaesthesia, where senses get all mixed up through concurrent pairing sensory input. For example, experiencing intensified visual input when hearing sound.
Yet we do not call synaesthesia an elevated state of consciousness. People confuse computational challenges within neural networks with a spiritual experience. It’s like calling the sensory input from a kaleidoscope – a portal to a new dimension.
When we take spirituality out of the equation and look at treatment alone, psychedelics does offer some benefit. For example, in a recent study published in Nature, the severity of PTSD was reduced with MDMA when compared to placebo. The problem these studies is they never compare against other treatment modalities. If you know of any such studies, feel free to link them in the comments below.
Before we go any further, lets briefly look at micro-dosing. In a culture that is so distracted by overstimulation and weakened by temptation – caffeine is no longer enough. We need performance enhancement, something a little stronger to compensate for all the mind-candy already out there.
If you cannot naturally experience peace, creativity, joy and love and depend on micro-dosing to actually feel something, than you are in the danger zone!
The reality is that the prevailing majority of people advocating psychedelics as a profound experience have an untrained mind. They have done nothing to earn the experience. You might as well seek spiritual guidance from cocaine bear.
I don’t have an issue with the occasional use of psychedelics for a bit of fun at Burning Man or Coachella. I do however question the narrative of researchers whose minds are twisted by a psychedelic experience. If they genuinely had autonomy over their own mind – a psychedelic experience will leave them throughly unimpressed. All that glitters is not gold. You can learn more about what it takes to train the mind in this brain-body connection video.
It is easy to chemically fool someone who is has severe PTSD with a temporary chemical high from MDMA.
People on psychedelic assisted therapy report heartfelt experience, revisiting the a traumatic past and seeing the world through a new light. This is the spiritual equivalent of instant gratification.
This is no different from workshop junkies who keep returning for a cathartic experience but refuse to learn from it.
So here is a news flash for you – there is no such thing as a spiritual “experience”. Spirituality is not an experience that you have and report back as “WOW that was wonderful”. If you are truly spiritual, then you have gone beyond the mind where there is no experience. You have nothing to report. You experience great beauty in the mundane everyday reality rather an escape from it.
Now given the track record of psychiatry, do you trust an institutionalised bender when the brain that is unstable, vulnerable and desperate for a solution? How do you believe in a profession whose very existence is build upon the exploitation of patients and denial of a higher calling, a soul or GOD?
If you still wish to go down this road, then perhaps avoid the controlled, sterile and clinical setting of psychiatry – that overpromises a pleasant psychedelic experiences. It’s not suppose to be pleasant nor psychedelic. I’d suggest seeking out a true shaman, deep in forests of South America, someone who doesn’t have a made-up spiritual following or is a self-proclaimed gatekeeper of wisdom.
A word of caution for people who journey deep into forest in search of the Wisemen or Medicine Women – they often struggle to return and re-integrate into society. This is how you know the Medicine is genuinely working. But this is a tale for another time.
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