*Disclaimer: If you or a loved one are feeling severe symptoms of depression, having suicidal thoughts, or death anxiety, please reach out to friends, family, & mental health resources. This article is to contemplate how psychedelics can help alleviate symptoms of severe depression. The clinical science is still expanding <3
Psychedelics: an answer to depression and suicide prevention?
Depression is the leading cause of suicidal tendencies and thoughts. And this rate continues to grow. The writing is on the wall here: as SSRI prescription rates increase, suicidal rates follow suit. Meaning that current therapy is simply not working.
We’re here to provide our share of found research, which favors a modern & holistic approach to depression. And, how psychedelics can be an option for certain people who contemplate suicide and death anxiety.
Traditional Therapy vs. Modern Therapy
There are many factors that cause suicidal tendencies and thoughts; severe depression is the leading factor. SSRIs (a.k.a. antidepressants) and/or paired with some form of other therapy treat depression. But sometimes depression does not go away, even with prescribed treatments. This is called Treatment Resistant Depression or “TRD” and up to 30% of adults have this. As a result, these persistently low feelings are not properly treated. With untreated symptoms of depression mean persistent feelings of hopelessness and lack of meaning in life. The issue with traditional, big Pharma medications is that it targets specific parts of our brain. But our brain does not have a specific neurotransmitter that regulates “meaning in life,” which is parallel to suicidal feelings.
Therefore, we need a a modern and rather holistic therapy to target this characteristic.
Death Anxiety and Psilocybin Research
With feelings of hopelessness, there is possibility to turn to psychedelics to seek guidance, conclusion, and meaning. The last decade has positively supported the use of psychedelics as a modern therapy for this dilemma. For example, researchers conducted studies with terminally ill patients using psychedelics to help deal with death anxiety. These studies, carried out by NYU and John Hopkins University show that a single dose of psilocybin reduces the rate of depression and anxiety for patients awaiting terminally ill related deaths. The decrease of negative feeling lasted for 6 months. Up to 70% of those reported that this psilocybin trip was one of the most profound experiences of their life next to having children or experiencing a death of their parents.
“In some ways, I feel that I am better equipped to deal with what life throws at me, and to appreciate the good things. I am grateful to be alive in a way that I didn’t know I could be grateful,” said Eddie Marritz, a participant in the NYU study. “It’s a kind of gratitude that’s ineffable. I am much more focused on this moment.”
In some sense, this kind of research shows that psilocybin helps people create meaning and hope. Which is important for those who decide to consume psychedelics and contemplate very life changing event like death and suicide.
Modern (and holistic!) Therapy
Many who suffer from negativity of suicidal thoughts or death anxiety create fixed narratives in their minds. These fixed narratives is the ‘voice inside our head,’ and are also emotional triggers for people.
Creating hope and connection in our lives begins with the internal dialogue we have with the ‘voice inside our head.’ We write off these internal dialogues as fixed truths, especially for people with depression. Fixed truths like, “I’ll never be loved,” “I don’t deserve this,” are narratives that psychedelics fight and change when we consume them.
Psychedelics weaken negative narratives, by targeting the brain’s default mode network. The default mode network or DMN is a brain network that regulates our ego, social thinking, and memories. An overactive DMN is linked to depression, ADHD, and anxiety. When we consume magic mushrooms, the active compound psilocybin slows down the DMN. Therefore, our minds are able to formulate new insights about ourselves without the disruption of overthinking. These insightful feelings last way after your psilocybin trip. Meaning, there is something hopeful and beneficial to learn from our magical fungi friends.
Ultimately, psilocybin helps us rewrite our narrative.
On the Internet you find many anecdotes from people claiming profound mystical experiences after just a single dose of psilocybin. One profound anecdote came from a Reddit user contemplating suicide until they consumed magic mushrooms. They later realized these thoughts vanished. From this single dose, they found meaning. The profoundness of this anecdote is that perhaps before committing to a serious decision like death…maybe consuming psychedelics can help guide you through the process of alleviating symptoms of depression. As well to contemplate what happens when you make such an irreversible and life changing decision.