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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Healing Mental Health in the New Age

Oct 31, 2022 08:00PM ● By Leah Martinson

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Over the last decade, if not longer, there has been an emergence of research linking traumatic experiences to physical and mental health issues. This research has been ongoing for well over three decades, but only recently has it started to gain mainstream acceptance. 

It is hoped this will result in a transformation of the way we approach mental health care. It is difficult to believe there was a time when the possibilities of traumatic experiences were not explored during patients’ routine health history intakes. This information was either ignored or not considered to be of clinical value. Consequently, the potential negative impact of a trauma history on a patient’s mental and physical health lacked the acknowledgement and respect it deserved.

To this day, there are still institutions and practitioners who do not consider the link between trauma and illness. There have been a number of researchers at the forefront of the growing movement to understand trauma and how it affects our minds, brains and bodies. A particularly influential leader of this revolution, Bessel van der Kolk, and his New York Times bestseller, The Body Keeps the Score, pushed the envelope on bringing this conversation mainstream.

Another pioneer in this arena, even more well known for his work in exploring and demonstrating the linkage between trauma and addiction, is Gabor Maté. In his most recent book, The Myth of Normal, he takes an eloquent, raw and deep dive into the various forms of trauma and how it is passed down through the generations. Often, there are things we may not even consider to be trauma, including events that happened before our brains could form memories. Increasingly, we are learning that these traumas have a lasting impact and they often manifest themselves somewhere in our bodies.

Though there are a number of trauma research centers throughout the world, such as van der Kolk’s Trauma Research Foundation, we have a long way to go in better understanding the impact of trauma. We must continue this work to catch up with how we respond to mental health and physical illness. It would behoove us to become more trauma-informed as a collective in order to help us continue transforming health care.

One of the revolutionary efforts being brought back into research centers and some private practices is the use of psychedelics in the treatment of trauma, addiction, anxiety disorders and depression, as well as improving wellbeing and expanding consciousness. In the 1950’s and early 1960’s, there were powerful research efforts emerging on the incredible effectiveness of certain psychedelics in the treatment of anxiety disorders, severe depression and PTSD, among other mental health challenges.

Largely due to President Nixon’s war on drugs, these medicines became classified as schedule one drugs and made illegal—even for medical uses. There is much yet to understand as to why these naturally occurring compounds that were proving to be very effective in healing the mind and body became illegal and demonized. The resulting prohibition, in part, led to the beginning of the psychedelic movement in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. As the war on drugs raged on, it forced practitioners engaging in psychedelic-assisted therapy to go underground.

The practices and research never came to a complete halt, but they were certainly thwarted by mainstream resistance and the law. Over the last decade or so, institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, New York University, University of California at Los Angeles, and Mount Sinai have gained federal approval to resume the study of these plant compounds.

Thus far, the results are as promising as the results that were coming out 70 years ago. Currently, ketamine-assisted therapy is legal in the U.S. for treatment of depression, and phase three trials are underway for the use of methylenedioxymethamphetamine to treat PTSD. A few cities in states such as Colorado, Michigan, California and Washington have decriminalized psilocybin and it is fully legal in the state of Oregon. Psilocybin is the psychoactive compound found in the well-known magic mushroom.

The general consensus among researchers is that while the findings thus far are promising, there is still a lot we do not know and more research is necessary. Nonetheless, as this information permeates the political and social mainstream, people are eager to heal, and many are willing to go to great lengths to do so—even through the many obstacles in gaining access to these powerfully healing plants.

The work of investigative journalist Michael Pollan and his 2018 book, How to Change Your Mind, and its subsequent 2022 Netflix documentary series, have changed the public’s view of psychedelics and greatly increased the acceptance of psychedelic uses for healing and expanding consciousness. One method that is gaining popularity is micro-dosing. The psychedelic most often used for this therapeutic approach is psilocybin. Paul Stamets, one of the leading experts in mycology specializing in the therapeutic uses of a variety of mushroom species, is largely responsible for what we know about mushrooms to-date. A 2019 study by the University of British Columbia found that, in general, there were statistically significant improvements in mood that were consistent across gender, age and mental health status. This study and many similar to it have resulted in comparable effects.

Micro-dosing is a means of ingesting such a small amount of the therapeutic compound that you do not experience any psychoactive effects. The positive impact on mood, cognition and sense of wellbeing are cited as the prime drivers in people pursuing micro-dosing therapy.

It is important to note that use of psychedelics in public is still largely illegal as the brain and consciousness are both poorly understood. Therefore, a continuation of the research will be vital in broadening our understanding of these entheogenic compounds. It is the hope of the psychedelic community that further research will lead to further understanding and a greater acceptance of the role these medications can play in healing our minds and bodies and expanding our consciousness.

In the words of the renowned Czech psychiatrist, Stanislav Grof, “Psychedelics will be for the study of the mind what the telescope was for astronomy and the microscope was for biology.” 

 Leah Martinson is a board-certified health and wellness coach, licensed massage therapist, reiki practitioner and owner of Visionairium, in Minneapolis. She enjoys helping individuals connect to their heart center and heal unresolved emotions so they can experience optimal health. For more information, Visionairium.com.





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Read the full December 2022 Magazine