Why Psychedelic Therapy May Not Work for Everyone

October 15, 2020 10:49:52

Psychedelic-assisted therapy is causing quite a revolution in the world of mental health, and those who have a firsthand experience of how these substances can facilitate healing may find it hard to fathom that some people will undergo psychedelic-assisted therapy and remain unchanged. This article looks at the concept of dissociation and how that can stand in the way of your psychedelic therapy.

What is dissociation?

When you are faced with an overwhelming threat, your body (emotions and physical body) trigger the release of powerful and natural opioids produced by your brain and nervous system. These endogenous opioids are so powerful that they have been equated to 8mg of morphine. Note that about 2mg of morphine is given to people in great pain, so you can imagine how powerful the natural opioids released by your body are.

The release of those endogenous opioids creates a feeling of being numb, and that numbness to emotional, physical and psychological triggers is what is referred to as dissociation. This is your body’s way of protecting you from stimuli that you regard as too strong for you to survive.

Dissociation and psychedelic-assisted therapy

Psychedelics aren’t a magic wand that therapists administer to send a patient’s issues into oblivion. Far from it! Rather, they are an aid that trained therapists use to make the healing process to proceed more seamlessly.

However, as a patient is accessing past traumas in order to process and eventually transcend them, they may be confronted by a wall of dissociation which blocks access to the stimuli or memories that have for long been regarded as overwhelming (and potentially life threatening).

Once dissociation manifests, a patient can appear to have processed the issues plaguing them and they will report better scores, such as when being assessed for markers of PTSD. However, the apparent recovery will only be at the surface since the psychedelics may have allowed the patient to deal with the issues which were closer to the surface of their consciousness.

Consequently, symptoms could get worse months or years later as what was hidden beneath the wall of dissociation rears its ugly head. Does this mean the psychedelic-assisted therapy failed? Not in the least! It simply means that the person has recovered so well from the surface issues that the body is now presenting the deep-seated issues also for purging in order to give complete healing a chance.

How does dissociation manifest during therapy?

In many cases, the individual will feel unchanged after the psychedelic is administered. This can be confusing given the expectation that one will be transported to previously unknown mental, emotional and psychological realms as the psychedelic kicks in. This blank outcome is a result of the psychedelic meeting the strong endogenous opioids produced by the body to protect the patient from trauma.

For other patients, dissociation manifests as drowsiness after the psychedelic is administered. This sleepiness is also counter to what is expected after one has taken a psychedelic, and experienced therapists immediately know that dissociation is taking root.

What is the way forward once dissociation threatens to block the path to healing? Each patient is different, and the trained therapist will tweak the treatment plan in order to overcome the dissociative state in which the patient finds themselves. As psychedelics companies like Rritual Mushrooms Inc. would be likely to say, these powerful substances shouldn’t be taken without the guidance of an experienced, licensed professional.

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