Psychedelic-Assissted Therapy for Veterans and Personality Improvement
Psychedelic-assisted therapy at the VA
Psychedelic-assisted therapy has recently gained mainstream acceptance among civilians, but what about for members of the military and veterans?
This therapy may soon be an option for some veterans. As “Lucid” reports, “psychedelic-assisted therapy is on the rise at some veterans administration hospitals.”
Phase 3 clinical trials of MDMA therapy to treat post-traumatic stress disorder have been so successful, with 68 percent of participants in remission, the FDA granted MDMA a special ‘Breakthrough Therapy’ designation. But this therapy is not yet available all over the country, prompting more researchers to call on the VA to create protocols for MDMA, psilocybin, and ketamine therapies. These psychedelics are still classified as Schedule 1 narcotics, and it will take political will and bipartisan support to win FDA approval.
If that happens, researchers at the forefront of these therapies hope to see VA hospitals nationwide using psychedelics to help veterans by the year 2024.
Could the use of hallucinogens actually improve your personality?
A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology looked at how psychedelics affect personality. Researchers recruited adults who were planning on using hallucinogens in the near future and asked them to fill out a survey regarding their personality, based on the five-factor model of personality traits:
- Openness to experience
Participants took the survey three times — before their psychedelic experience, two weeks after, and four weeks after. The results were impressive, with people reporting a reduction in neuroticism and an increase in agreeableness, even four weeks after their experience.
Brandon Weiss, a psychologist at Imperial College London and lead researcher told Psychology Today, “[F]irst, people seemed to report that they were not as quarrelsome or critical in their interactions with others. Second, people reported that they were less easily upset by things and less anxious.”
Weiss also pointed out that despite these positive outcomes, hallucinogens can be dangerous, especially with people who have pre-existing psychosis. More data is needed to confirm the studies’ findings. As a large number of participants did not follow through with the entire survey. But this is more evidence that hallucinogens could be another tool to help with mental health.
Psychedelic Experiences Neurologically Mimic Near-Death Experiences
Research suggests the psychedelic trip is remarkably similar to a Near-Death Experience and has been noted for decades. Now, research into the neural activity experienced while under the influence of psychedelics, is providing valuable context for the commonalities.
Dr. Eben Alexander is a neurosurgeon who experienced an NDE in 2008 and has since been studying the phenomenon and sharing his findings in a number of bestselling books.
“This research with psychedelics has been so fascinating,” Alexander said. “Not only does it show that the brain goes dark under the influence of such substances, they actually showed this beautiful inverse correlation between the amount of turning off and dissolution of the Default-Mode Network, as demonstrated on fMRI, with a degree of liberation of consciousness away from the ego into these unfettered realms of transcendental and paranormal experience. It shows us in a very concrete fashion that the brain activity is not actually causing all of this to happen, but it’s more the brain getting out of the way.”
Researcher Dr. Rick Strassman was the first to rigorously study the overlap between the psychedelic experience and the NDE. The commonalities are quite significant.
“It’s all about entering new realms, I mean, entire immersive experiences — worlds that are different from our material realm. That is a very common theme in those drug experiences as well as in near-death experiences. There’s also this extraordinary world of beings, entities, guides, of intelligences. It’s showing this incredible unification, a sense of being, and a binding force of love through these experiences. So, there’s a commonality of lesson and transformation,” Alexander said.