- Psilocybin is one of the key ingredients being used for the distribution of psychedelic therapy sessions
“if you shut down all the freeways and highways, the brain has to make connections using other paths, its gotta take all the back streets” says Dr. Stephen Bright, the Vice President from the Psychedelic Research In Science & Medicine. Bright is a leading doctor in working with psychedelic drugs in order to try and suppress the effects of mental illnesses in, hopefully, end-stage cancer patients.
Since they were made illegal back in the early 1970s, the use of psychedelic drugs have become increasingly relevant in recent years as there has been findings that a segment of these drugs can help deal with mental illnesses. This drug, psilocybin, is being given to patients in small doses in a way that can send them into a new state of consciousness and hopefully return them in a different frame of mind.
“By turning the default mode network [of the brain] off and parts of the brain start cross talking that doesn’t usually communicate with each other” said Dr. Bright.
“Perhaps people with depression can see their situation from a completely different perspective”.
The distribution of these drugs in psychiatric sessions have been taking place around America and it is now hoping to make the jump across the pond to Australia. The professionals at PRISM are hoping to begin clinical trials on end-stage cancer patients in Melbourne. These patients experience high levels of anxiety and develop a type of fear in dying.
“often the participants report that they’re anxious about dying, which I guess is quite normal, but after this experience they talk about since what they’ve experienced was, and this is measured by scales of mysticism that they administer, they experience a sense of connectedness and oneness to the universe, that everything is interconnected and that we’re all one” says Dr. Bright.
“by having that experience, they tend to reduce their anxiety about dying, they feel like everything is going to be ok”.
Dr. Bright uses the metaphor of freeways and main roads to give a general idea as to how these drugs work.
“f you shut down all the freeways and highways, the brain has to make connections using other paths, its gotta take all the back streets.” said Bright.
“By going down all the different backstreets, you’re connecting parts of the brain and talking where they wouldn’t normally be talking, you come up with a different way of seeing what’s happening to you at the moment, but also reflecting on what’s happened in the past as well.”
These different paths and streets that live inside our brain will be reconfigured in order to try and change the way we approach our addictions and mental illnesses.
Whilst some are starting to believe that this could be a great breakthrough for mental illness patients, there are always going to be people that don’t want to take illicit drugs. Dr. Lila Pesa offers the alternative to taking psychedelics by conducting holotropic breathwork sessions.
- Holotropic Breathwork conducted in large groups
Holotropic Breathwork is a breathing exercise that is used to try and help with emotional healing and personal growth. Pesa has worked closely in the past with both Stan and Christina Grof, known inventors of this type of treatment.
“it’s not necessarily a particular way of breathing or exchanging gases, but it’s an approach to holding space in a particular way that enhances the healing outcome and safety for participants entering non ordinary states via breathing.” says Pesa.
“If people lie down and breathe deeper and faster, after a while things start happening, if they enhance that space with really good safety, padding, evocative music and good holding of the space, that increases the potential and the psyche basically wants to open up and travel inward just to see what kind of system is ready and it could be all kinds of things”
Pesa also looked at the similarities between holotropic breathwork and a psychedelic trip.
“They’re very similar things in terms of where we actually go, and that’s basically to our collective unconscious or to our deeper layers of the psyche that absolutely unite us, it’s something that’s way beyond what our human mind can grab” Pesa said.
She then discusses the effect of the ‘share circle’ where participants share their experience in their newly discovered state of mind.
“people are taking themselves in their deep inward space, and they’re sitting with the art, whether it’s a collage or drawing or painting, and that’s an absolute must, not that people must draw, but they must sit, we invite them to give space to meditate and integrate on what came up for them, whether they want to draw it, which is quite good, because drawing bypasses the cognitive and helps people find images or symbols or something that is kind of significant” Said Pesa.
Looking forward, Pesa is hoping that the phase of holotropic breathwork that has appeared in the last five years in Australia will continue to grow and perhaps move into a mainstream environment.
“Its growing definitely. It’s absolutely not mainstream”