"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

How psychedelics can heal a disturbed mind

July 12, 2023 – When children learn to walk and talk, their brains are remarkably open to latest information. They gather knowledge from their parents, their environment, and thru trial and error. The same is true for teenagers, who're acquiring the emotional and mental skills they should grow into maturity.

In maturity, nonetheless, our minds grow to be relatively closed and closed to latest information. This conserves energy and allows us to navigate the world more efficiently. But it also makes it harder to regulate, learn a brand new language or skill, or recuperate from psychological or physical trauma. For those that have handled abuse, neglect, or physical violence, this closure can result in lifelong suffering, substance abuse, and other maladaptive behaviors.

However, recent research shows promise that psychedelic drugs can “reopen” the brain and help it recuperate from trauma. Study published in Naturereflects a renaissance within the use and research of psychedelics to treat a variety of mental illness.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University studied the consequences of the drugs on “critical periods” of social learning, i.e. times when the brain is more open to latest information and when these periods decrease with age. Successes in mice suggest that psychedelics can initiate a brand new phase of learning.

If this finding is confirmed in future studies, the therapeutic horizon for psychedelics could expand to other ways to retrain the brain, including recovery from stroke, traumatic brain injury, and even hearing loss and paralysis.

The stakes are high and the longer term is promising, said lead researcher Gul Dolen, MD, PhD, associate professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Psychedelics “may be the key that opens up the brain and helps people after just one dose, rather than exposing them to drugs for a lifetime.”

The Psychedelic Advantage

Dolen, who began her profession in addiction research, has long been fascinated by critical periods and their influence on adult behavior.

“Three Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work on critical periods,” she said. One study In mice, for instance, 15 periods of social learning have been identified that shape their behavior throughout their lives.

Previous research has found that MDMA (commonly referred to as ecstasy) might help soldiers rethink traumatic events on the battlefield, learn from them, and move on. This phenomenon had all of the hallmarks of a critical period for social learning. Perhaps, Dolen said, psychedelics could usher in a critical period within the lifetime of a soldier – or a drug addict or a rape victim – and provides them tools to process their trauma.

In the placebo-controlled experiment, she and her team administered psychedelic drugs to mice and subjected them to a behavioral test to measure the rodents' ability to learn from their environment.

“All psychedelics opened the critical period of social learning for varying lengths of time,” Dolen said.

Ketamine was capable of induce this reopening for 2 days, while the opposite drugs – ibogaine, LSD, MDMA and psilocybin – triggered critical phases lasting two to 4 weeks, long after the acute effects of the drugs had already worn off.

In humans, Dolen emphasized, the onset of a critical phase is a sensitive process.

“You wouldn't get these results if you took ecstasy and went to a rave party,” she said. “The key seems to be setting an intention for therapy: Discuss what you hope to get out of the experience, let yourself be guided through it, and then process it with the therapist.”

“You have to be careful with patients once they've stopped taking the psychedelic,” she said, “because they're in a state of openness and vulnerability, similar to that of a child.”

The push for psychedelic therapy

Another psychedelics researcher, Dr. Matthew Lowe, sees promising ends in the Johns Hopkins study. The drugs “put the brain in a more malleable and flexible state,” said Lowe, the manager director and chief scientific officer of Unlimited Sciences, a nonprofit organization for psychedelics research.

He believes that psychedelics might help people break out of negative behavioral patterns.

“These findings hold promise for the treatment of a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression, PTSD and addiction,” he said.

Dolen said using psychedelics in critical period therapy “opens up all sorts of possibilities for the rest of the brain.” Future research could also result in treatments for deafness, physical disabilities, and drug and alcohol addiction. She is currently raising money for a clinical trial to seek out out if psychedelics can improve motor impairments after a stroke.

“Increasing legislative openness” toward the usage of psychedelics could open up opportunities for thousands and thousands of individuals to learn from psychotherapy “through clinical trials and legal therapeutic avenues as they emerge,” says Benjamin Lightburn, CEO and co-founder of Filament Health, a British Columbia-based company that gives naturally-derived psilocybin for clinical trials.

Several states have taken steps to decriminalize the drugs or allow their use under medical supervision. Scientific essayResearchers at Washington University predict, using an analytical model based on the legalization of marijuana, that almost all states will legalize psychedelics in the following 10 to fifteen years. And that MonthAustralia was the primary country where doctors used psilocybin and MDMA to treat psychiatric Conditions. The US could potentially approve MDMA for therapy later this 12 months.