People who have been taking antidepressants for several years sometimes hit a wall, a point when that treatment no longer seems to ease their symptoms. Psychiatrist Julie Holland says that’s where psychedelic drugs could help.
“There are certain plant medicines in particular — things like psilocybin or ayahuasca — that really help people not only explore their personal trauma,” she says, but also “this feeling of unity and connection. People really come away from these experiences having a new perspective.”
Holland acknowledges that the use of psychedelic drugs in psychiatry is controversial — but she says the practice is slowly gaining acceptance.
This is sort of a new paradigm, a revolutionary way to treat trauma. When people are traumatized, they get very anxious. They get sort of hyper-aroused. They can’t sleep well. They can’t eat well. You can give medicines to decrease anxiety or to help with sleep. But you’re not really getting to the root cause, which is that they’ve been traumatized… And what CBD does and cannabis does and some psychedelics do and MDMA does is it puts you over into the other side of the nervous system, which is the parasympathetic nervous system, which is not about fight or flight — it is about staying and being open.
MDMA is just an exquisitely perfect chemical for augmenting the process of psychotherapy, so that’s really why it has been chosen… So this high-dopamine, high-serotonin and also high-oxytocin state makes it really great for being open, being trusting, being able to explore traumas comfortably and trusting your therapist that they’re going to help you to explore these traumas safely.
Pretty much everybody that I’ve spoken to who has had an MDMA-assisted psychotherapy session has come away from it feeling like they have processed a good deal of their trauma — maybe not all of their trauma, but they certainly have a better, sort of, lay of the land of what it looks like.