Trauma is one of the most complex mental health challenges to treat. Very often individuals with PTSD are put on a powerful cocktail of pharmaceuticals that leave them feeling numb, disassociated, and tired. In my practice, I work closely with many individuals with PTSD who often describe their experience of the medications as "I don't feel like myself, it's as if someone else is living in my body". Many choose to stop the medications altogether and resign to a life of chronic depression, anxiety, and isolation. The fact of the matter is that western medicine, with all its incredible innovation, has not managed to find effective treatment avenues for individuals with PTSD.
While conventional approaches have failed to deliver results for PTSD patients, psychedelic therapies long used by indigenous cultures, offer incredibly promising results. In a recent interview with TED Radio, Rick Dublin who founded MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association For Psychedelic Studies) offers a deep dive into the promising results obtained in his FDA-sanctioned psychedelic research.
In this interview, he provides a hopeful report of the MDMA-assisted therapy trials for veterans with PTSD.
"So what we do know is that MDMA releases serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine - sort of neurotransmitters It also releases a lot of hormones and, in particular, oxytocin. As well, MDMA impacts how the energy is distributed in the brain. And so it reduces activity in the amygdala, which is the fear-processing part of the brain. It increases activity in the prefrontal cortex, where we think logically, and it increases connectivity between the amygdala and the hippocampus, where memories are put into long-term storage.
So the problem of PTSD is that the trauma from the past never really seems like it's in the past. It colors the present, and people see the present through the lens of the past and the lens of the past trauma. And so in this complex neurotransmitter release, hormonal release, energy that's shifted in how the brain is processing, it's actually the - in some ways, an ideal drug for PTSD."