Psychedelic Experiences Neurologically Mimic Near-Death Experiences

Near-death Experience neurally correlates to psychedelic trip

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.

Researchers have been focused on trying to determine what accounts for the similarities. One theory is that the overlap is due to the action of the potent psychedelic DMT, which is naturally released by the pineal gland at the moment of death.

“Well, I don’t really think we have a lot of evidence of the “DMT dump,” as it’s often called. The problem is with any materialist addressing of NDEs you run into that absolute giant brick wall. What about shared death experiences?”

“In a shared death experience the soul of the departing loved one comes along and whisks the bystander’s soul away to go through a full-blown experience. The fact that ordinary people in that kind of setting, without being near-death, can have a spiritual journey that’s identical in quality of power to the near-death experience, but they’re not near-death, should tell you a whole lot about what a waste of time it is for materialist scientists to try and muddy the waters by pretending that decreased oxygen tension, increased CO2, or a dump of DMT from the pineal gland is causing the effect,” Alexander said.

While Alexander sees the similarities between the near-death and psychedelic experience, he also sees some key differences, based on his own experiences with both.

“I took it on myself to look into a scientific acquisition of that kind of an experience and I was able to do that with 5-methoxy-DMT which is one of the most powerful such substances known,” Alexander said. “What I can tell you, in a nutshell, is that I do believe that such substances and the experiences they engender give us a glimpse of those spiritual realms that are encountered during an NDE. But from my personal experience in both of those worlds, I can tell you that the 5-MeO-DMT experience was like looking through a keyhole on a dark and stormy night and trying to discern what was going on in that territory. It really lacked the power and the depth and breadth of what I went through in the NDE”  

While Alexander values the neuroscience research being done into how psychedelics may engender an NDE-like experience, he believes there is a better way of accessing the same spiritual realms.

“The psychedelic drugs certainly can be useful for helping to define the scientific landscape that we’re talking about here. I would just argue that meditation, centering prayer, these are the best places to go to get deep and profound transcendental experiences in the spiritual realm. And the more we can learn how there is overlap between the therapeutic benefit of the substance versus meditation, I think the more we can come into very safe and effective ways to accomplish these goals of healing,” Alexander said. 


New Studies Find Psychedelics Highly Effective for Alcoholism

Psychedelic-assisted therapy for treating alcoholism

New studies show unprecedented success in the treatment of alcoholism with psychedelic therapy.

The psychedelic revolution in mental health has produced overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrating the great efficacy of psychedelics in the treatment of various mental health disorders. Now, several new studies involving the drugs ketamine and MDMA are showing significant promise in the treatment of alcoholism.

Dr. Ben Sessa is a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at Awakn Life Sciences, an English biotech company that is at the forefront of the research, development, and delivery of psychedelic medicines.

The company is especially focused on the treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD, given how prevalent and challenging it is to treat.

“Alcoholism is a huge public health problem. It’s also a psychiatric condition that’s very poorly treated with very poor outcomes with traditional methods,” Sessa said. “Relapse to drinking after getting dry is around 80 to 90 percent at 12 months. That’s an embarrassingly poor statistic. Psychedelics offer a completely new approach; they offer the patient to explore the root causes of addiction, which so often is trauma. Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is an intensive upfront piece of work that gets the patient better, so they don’t have to keep coming back. It is a completely different paradigm shift to the way we currently manage patients in maintenance therapies.” 

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter and Awakn Life Sciences is the world’s first to examine the use of ketamine to treat AUD in a randomized controlled trial.

“Ketamine is a very well-established human medicine. It is indeed the only psychedelic that’s licensed as a medicine, as an anesthetic medicine, and has been used since the 60s as such. It’s an incredibly safe medicine. When it’s used at a much lower dose, it produces an altered state of consciousness. What we do in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy with ketamine, is we use this altered state of consciousness to affect a more effective and deeper form of psychotherapy. So, we’re using ketamine as an adjunct to psychotherapy to treat addictions,” he said.  

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