A growing body of scientific literature has revealed that psychedelic drugs such as ketamine, MDMA and psilocybin may have therapeutic potential. Researchers have found in recent years that these hallucinogens may be able to alleviate the symptoms of certain mental health disorders when accompanied by talk therapy.
Furthermore, psychedelics seem to deliver these mental health benefits after relatively little doses and with few side effects.
Major investors including pharmaceutical companies are now investing millions of dollars into psychedelic research to be the first to develop psychedelic-based treatments. According to Vancouver Island University researchers, tapping into indigenous knowledge will be key to fully figuring out how psychedelic drugs alleviate mental health disorders, such as treatment-resistant depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”).
Ayahuasca, for instance, is a psychedelic drink that has a rich history with certain South American communities that have used it in religious and spiritual ceremonies for decades. Nautsamawt Center for Psychedelics Research colead Georgia Martin says that this indigenous knowledge may be instrumental in creating treatments for intergenerational trauma.
She believes that psychedelics present an opportunity to develop a solution to health issues that are facing indigenous communities. Indigenous people have used psychedelics as medicines for millennia and many indigenous people are still “connected to that realm,” said Martin, who is a Secwepemc. She added that they understand the significance of spirituality and the role it can play in emotional healing.
The psychedelic research center combines indigenous perspectives with Western-style science, Martin noted, referring to this approach as “two-eyed seeing.” The center has partnered with the Snuneymuxw First Nation and invests in building relationships with neighboring communities to create mutually beneficial collaborations.
Martin stated that the center is keen on ensuring Indigenous people and the medicines they have used are respected and that they also gain from the partnership. The center is currently working with psilocybin, the main hallucinogenic agent in magic mushrooms, to alleviate depression, end-life distress and Alzheimer’s disease. It also works with ketamine to address post-traumatic stress disorder in firefighters and MDMA to treat fibromyalgia in women.
The University of Ottawa’s Canada research chair in mental health disparity Monnica Williams has been researching how hallucinogens can help alleviate racialized trauma. She says that treatment for such trauma can be difficult as patients often find it too painful to revisit traumatic experiences during talk therapy. Psychedelics can help victims of racial and generational trauma “drop those walls” that keep them from revisiting traumatic experiences while increasing their ability to tolerate distress and anxiety, Williams said.
Williams has teamed up with Ontario-based Dilico Anishinabek Family Care to work on research on ketamine-assisted therapy.
Many companies such as Mind Medicine Inc. (NASDAQ: MNMD) (NEO: MMED) (DE: MMQ) are working to unveil the full potential of several psychedelic compounds so that human health can benefit from these substances.
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