What do psychedelics and schizophrenia have to do with each other? Humans have used hallucinogenic substances to promote healing and expand their consciousness for millennia. Today, there are several studies suggesting they might help with mental health, too.

Schizophrenia is a neurological disorder that affects about one in 300 people worldwide. It’s among the more severe mental illnesses, but various successful treatment options are available. Psychedelics could soon join the ranks of effective, widely-used medications.

The resurgence of interest in using hallucinogens during therapy has resulted in newer studies with positive results. Could these compounds aid in alleviating specific symptoms, and how should therapists and scientists implement safe strategies?

Let’s explore these revolutionary treatment methods and determine if psychedelics could help schizophrenia patients.

 

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic mental disorder that affects feelings, thoughts, and behavior. The term has Greek origins: “schizo” means “split,” and “phrene” means “mind.” It refers to fragmented thinking, though many have confused it with a split personality, which is different.

The idea of a “split mind” comes from the characteristics of schizophrenia symptoms. They present differently in individuals but usually take the form of distorted perceptions, strange feelings, and abnormal thoughts. 

People with schizophrenia may experience visual or auditory hallucinations, cognitive impairment, disorganized speech, delusions, and challenges in interpersonal relationships. They might lose interest and pleasure in some areas and have difficulty expressing emotions.

These symptoms typically occur in early adulthood, but some start experiencing them in their teenage years. Potential risk factors for developing the disorder include:

  • Experiencing stress early in life
  • Genetic traits (family history of schizophrenia)
  • Chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Malnutrition or exposure to viruses or toxins during pregnancy or infancy
  • Using mind-altering substances as a teenager or young adult

Several treatments are available, with varying degrees of success. Could psychedelics help schizophrenia patients enjoy more stable lives?

 

Schizophrenia Treatments: Where Do Psychedelics Fit In?

Schizophrenia Treatments: Where Do Psychedelics Fit In?

Schizophrenia is a complicated disorder that usually requires ongoing treatment for the rest of the person’s life. Although it’s incurable, a combination of medication and therapy can help make it more manageable. 

Doctors initially used psychotherapy and shock therapy to treat schizophrenia and other mental disorders. In 1952, a French surgeon named Henri Laborit noticed positive effects after administering chlorpromazine to patients experiencing shock during treatment.

Other psychiatrists noted positive results, too, including some patients being able to communicate and respond better than usual. These outcomes led to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approving chlorpromazine; by 1964, about 50 million people had received it.

Before discovering psychedelics for schizophrenia, psychiatrists used chlorpromazine and reserpine. They had several uncomfortable side effects, causing patients to be reluctant about taking them. 

Over time, scientists found better medications with fewer adverse reactions. Currently, the most sought after medication is clozapine. It’s said to be beneficial in treatment-resistant schizophrenia and to help manage delusions and hallucinations more effectively. 

Other antipsychotics are also available, and psychiatrists generally try different types to find the right one for an individual. Treating schizophrenia patients typically involves a combination of medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and intervention programs.

The correlation between psychedelics and schizophrenia has only gained attention in the past several years. Studies have shown that microdoses of some hallucinatory substances are beneficial in alleviating anxiety and depression symptoms.

If they can help with those symptoms, could they also help with schizophrenia? Possibly. 

Before LSD and psilocybin became illegal, psychiatrists used them in psychedelic-assisted therapy sessions between 1940 and 1970. 

There were many positive results from those trials, and today, some areas are considering legalizing medicinal hallucinogens. They’ll have strict regulations, but if they’re successful, more adults will be able to access psychedelic therapy services.

 

Safe Strategies for Psychedelic-Assisted Schizophrenia Therapy

Safe Strategies for Psychedelic-Assisted Schizophrenia Therapy

Close monitoring is vital in successfully and safely implementing psychedelics in schizophrenia treatment. Proposed regulations on hallucinogen-assisted therapy state that doctors or psychiatrists must be present for the entire session. 

They should guide the patient and ensure no adverse reactions occur. A psychedelic therapy study published in May 2022 expressed the importance of biomarkers in neuropsychiatry. These include brain imaging and behavior monitoring, which help understand a patient’s responses.

According to the study, psilocybin treatments caused improvement in positive moods and a reduction in negative ones. They also improved brain activity and emotional regulation. 

Schizophrenia treatments with microdoses of psychedelics may assist in restoring anomalies in neural circuitry. Clinical studies suggest that these compounds can enhance neuroplasticity in the brain, leading to improved cognition and healthier neural growth.

The outcomes of these therapy sessions could lead to a revolutionary treatment for those with schizophrenia. The effects of psychedelics in small doses could improve moods over time and may decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Scientists and research professionals express the importance of continuous combined therapy. Psychedelics in schizophrenia treatments won’t contribute to improved mental health on their own. Therapists should use them in conjunction with other methods. 

Safe implementation of hallucinogen-assisted healing would involve:

  • Individualized psychotherapy: Patients learn how to handle stress, regulate emotions, and identify triggers. Cognitive behavior therapy is among the most successful options, as it also teaches how to identify early warning signs and triggers.
  • Family interventions: Therapists support family members and educate them on how to help the patient. Open communication is necessary to ensure the safest environment for the individual.
  • Rehabilitation and reintegration: Therapists help the patient to lead a normal, stable life as much as possible. Reintegration includes preparing for, finding, and maintaining employment.
  • Improving social skills: Therapists work with patients to build their communication skills, improve social interactions, and engage in activities comfortably and enthusiastically.

Conducting these forms of therapy while using psychedelics in schizophrenia treatment may help patients cope better. It could enable them to enjoy a more stable life and manage the symptoms of their mental illness more efficiently.

 

Exploring New Horizons for Schizophrenia Treatment

Updated research, new technology, and an improved understanding of mental illnesses mean that therapists can treat their patients more effectively. Recent studies and proposed trials are paving the way for revolutionary therapies that might be more beneficial in the long run.

As scientists reveal more positive results from studies on correlations between psychedelics and schizophrenia, more people could get access to these substances.

The results could be groundbreaking if safety protocols are in place and therapists consistently monitor their patients’ progress. In a few years, we might see more countries and health professionals embrace this new form of treatment.

For now, learn more about psychedelics, psilocybin, and scientific advances by visiting our blog.

 

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