Ketamine Therapy Proves Powerful For Treatment-Resistant Depression
A powerful FDA-approved anesthetic drug once used mainly in operating rooms and on the battlefield is quickly gaining ground as one of the most promising therapies for treatment-resistant mental health conditions.
First discovered as an anesthetic in the 1950s, ketamine has been used in the treatment of a wide range of physical conditions, especially pain management. Starting in the early 1970s, doctors began to find that it can also be very effective in alleviating mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. Today it is ever more frequently being studied and legally used as an off-label medication to manage conditions that are particularly resistant to treatment with conventional pharmaceuticals.
The latest in a series of recent studies has found that ketamine can quickly and dramatically decrease chronic and suicidal thoughts. Dr. Naveen Thomas is a psychiatrist who has been using ketamine in his practice for years.
“I and many of my colleagues have of course had tremendous success in using ketamine in people who are really suffering from depression. I’ve had a lot of success in treating people with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder,” Dr. Naveen said.
“And some of these folks have spent years and years doing absolutely the best they could using such a wide variety of the conventional treatments, be they various medication treatments, be they various forms of psychotherapy. We’ve seen really wonderful effects.”
Brain Scans of Shamans Show Ability to Alter Consciousness Naturally
A new study is the first to investigate what occurs in an alternate state of consciousness by looking inside the brain of a shaman.
Shamanism is considered to be the most ancient form of healing and spiritual practice. While science has been studying the healing benefits of the psychoactive plants used by shamans to enter into an altered state of consciousness, there have been very few studies to look at the neurological nature of the state itself. A groundbreaking new study investigated the shamanic state of consciousness accessed without the use of psychedelics.
Carlos Tanner is a longtime student of traditional shamanism and the director of the Ayahuasca Foundation. an educational and ceremonial center in Peru. “Shamanism refers to an alternate dimension, a dimension where spirits reside, where communication is possible, where greater insights can be acquired and brought back to the waking-day life,” Tanner said. “So a shaman would be someone who can enter into a different dimension and then pull that back.”
The process by which shamans access this state is rooted in the rich tradition of what Tanner calls, a ‘science of consciousness enhancement.’
“Oftentimes, there is the term ‘ceremony’ to describe the intentional entrance into this shamanic state. So there would be a preparation where there might be rituals to essentially prepare, certain clothing might be worn, and the use of certain tools, oftentimes a musical instrument, might be used,” Tanner said.
“All of those are a beautiful science of consciousness enhancement that, I think, has been developed through the continual use of a psychotropic substance, although to a point where, in many cases, the psychotropic substance is no longer needed to enter that state because the consciousness enhancement that was provided by the psychotropic substance can be accomplished without it.”
Richard Harris Ph.D. is a researcher at the University of Michigan who conducted the recent study on the shamanic state of consciousness. Dr. Harris and his team were interested in investigating this state in its purest form, unaffected neurologically by the use of any exogenous substances. To facilitate the entrance into the altered state without the use of psychedelics, the practitioners all listened to a recording of shamanic drumming.
“So, we did a study with 24 shamanic practitioners and 24 normal, control individuals and we collected EEG data (electroencephalogram data), you know brain activity data, while each participant had their eyes closed while they were listening to classical music which was the control condition, and then while they were listening to shamanic drumming music which was the more experimental condition,” Dr. Harris said. “So, what we’re doing with the shamanic drumming, we’re using the person’s own physiology to engender the state.”