Can Microdosing Be Used to Treat PTSD and Help Extinguish Conditioned Fear?
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Research has shown many promising ways in which microdosing psilocybin can be beneficial in treating psychological disorders. With elusive diagnoses like PTSD being among them.
Drugs, medicine. The two words have often been interchangeable. Both as words themselves and the substances that they refer to. Many recreational drugs that we are familiar with today were either used as medicine in the past, or are still used as medicine today. Derivatives of cocaine are still used as local anesthetics. Heroin is synthesized from morphine- a naturally occurring drug in specific types of flowers. Ketamine has long been used as a hypnotic for out-patient and day surgeries, especially in pediatric populations. Marijuana has shown substantial benefit in combating sleep disturbances, some types of cancer, and eating disorders.
DMT, a hallucinogenic drug has been used for centuries as medicine in the depths of the amazon. Lysergic Acid (LSD) and psilocybin were undergoing rigorous study in the 1950s (the same era that SSRIs came into fashion) as a more effective adjunct for mental illness. The social stigma associated with recreational drug use has long overshadowed the practical and clinical application of many medically relevant substances that can be found in nature. Particularly when discussing magic mushrooms. Canada, the United Kingdom, and several other countries are looking to loosen a nonsensical political grip on psilocybin containing mushrooms in order to combat the growing number of those suffering from mental illness. Particularly as a better appurtenance for those suffering from PTSD and conditioned fear.
What Are PTSD and Conditioned Fear?
What makes PTSD and conditioned fear responses so difficult to treat is that they are often caused by a number of different triggers, and have a wide berth of presentation. Making it difficult to treat with traditional antidepressants. However, these are exactly the drugs that are most commonly prescribed for these patients.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is specifically described as a condition in which a person is exposed to a traumatic or life threatening event, to which they cannot emotionally deal with at that time. The event is then persistently re-experienced in any number of ways, to include:
- Intrusive Thoughts
- Emotional distress
- Physical Reactivity
The person is never quite able to deal with what they experienced. Using unhealthy avoidance mechanisms, either willingly or subconsciously, the person continues to avoid processing the traumatic information, but they also continue to experience distressing social or functional impairment as their mind attempts to reconcile the experience. This can present behavioral and reactive issues like:
- Irritability or aggression
- Risky or destructive behavior
- Hypervigilance or obsessive and compulsive activities
- Heightened startle reaction
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disturbances
Oftentimes, these symptoms last well over a month, and only worsen with time. Persons generally require rigorous treatment that includes both medication and therapy. Although this is an overview of official diagnostic criteria, PTSD can occur in a variety of ways, with different levels of severity. Those that suffer mild consequence are often left without appropriate treatment measures for long periods of time and the effects of the trauma can worsen. Also, those that suffer continuing traumatic events, or chronic PTSD have even fewer treatment options available as avoidance patterns and reactivity become ingrained.
Conditioned fear is often a symptom of prolonged or chronic PTSD, where certain triggers or stimuli will result in reactive behaviors. These behaviors may manifest as the issues highlighted above, and serve to further engender defensive mechanisms that facilitate avoidance. While conditioned fear is thought to be an ingrained survival mechanism, it can work to the person’s detriment should these stimuli not be representative of threat. Meaning that many persons who struggle with PTSD and are unable to receive the help they need, may confuse normal, non-threatening stimuli with genuine life threats and react violently or explosively. Or turn the behaviors inward and become suicidal or detached.
How Microdosing May Help
As you can see, it’s incredibly important that people find a way to mitigate and process their traumatic experiences in safe and healthy ways. An estimated eight of every hundred people in the world will experience PTSD at some point in their lifetime. Experts also suggest that PTSD is grossly under-diagnosed and often mislabeled as other non-contiguous mental disorders. Preventing many from getting effective and useful treatment.
Microdosing psilocybin has become an exciting and incredibly useful therapy when attempting to treat PTSD. This is largely because of the way that psilocybin, the ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms, interacts with brain chemistry.
Interactions With Your Brain
Psilocybin is metabolized within the body as psilocin. Psilocin interacts directly with multiple serotonin receptors in the brain. These receptors modulate the release of a number of other neurotransmitters and hormones. Influencing biological and neurological processes like mood, appetite, cognition, sleep, and thermoregulation, amongst others. These specific receptors are often the targets of traditional antidepressant and antipsychotic medications, however, none of these medications function as elegantly as psilocybin.
What sets psilocybin apart is that it becomes an analogue of serotonin. Which means that it is structurally similar to the neurotransmitter that your body already produces and uses; binding to its receptors effortlessly and working similarly to serotonin itself. The found functionality of psilocin show that it is particularly interactive with the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that regulates things like behavior and logical reasoning. Psilocybin also has been shown to interact with the glutamate system in certain parts of the brain which could also account for some self-reported experiences of ego dissolution- helping to further reduce obstacles in PTSD treatment.
The prefrontal cortex and hippocampus both play a dramatic role when it comes to how we store and process memory. As described, PTSD is tied closely to memory and how it is perceived, stored, and processed. So it serves to reason that any drug or medication that could positively affect these areas could be a genuine treatment for the various types and causes of PTSD and conditioned fear.
While many may be able to effortlessly buy shrooms, Canada in particular has a high tolerance of the online shroom dispensary; others may have more difficulty procuring these substances. Places like the United Kingdom have begun lobbying for a reduction in prohibitory litigation, there has yet to be any concrete change.
When considering microdosing, Canada or elsewhere, make sure that you have access to appropriate and safe mushrooms. Microdosing usually entails taking small, sub-hallucinogenic does of mushrooms. This can be achieved from buying predated capsules, or just ingesting small amounts of dried mushrooms. Be advised, the latter often varies greatly in concentration, so be aware of how each dose affects you.
Microdosing schedules often last for several months, so as to help your brain develop the same neurochemical “new normal” that researchers have achieved with large doses. There are many variants of a microdosing schedule, with a number of different reported effects. Perhaps the best schedule is the one that fits your lifestyle and your psyche. The neurochemical effects of psilocybin vary widely with each individual’s biological makeup, so some users may require higher and more frequent doses, while others, lower and less frequent. Consider your goals and closely self-monitor your cognitive and emotional states throughout your microdosing schedule. There are no known ill effects should psilocybin be abruptly stopped, so should negative consequences or reactions arise- simply stop taking the mushrooms.
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