I recently started coaching with an individual struggling with both heroin and cocaine addictions. He had been prescribed Buprenorphine (an opioid/narcotic) and SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) as part of his treatment regimen. Despite prolonged therapy and these medications, he found himself reliant not only on illicit substances but also on the prescribed "medication," resulting in multiple admissions to rehabilitation centers.
When we began our coaching, he described feeling almost hollow inside, devoid of any genuine emotion, with cocaine being the only substance giving him a semblance of feeling. Paradoxically, the prescription medications seemed to increase his cocaine use.
Together with his psychiatrist, he transitioned off SSRIs and prepared for a psychedelic experience, followed by a microdosing routine. The journey was challenging but rewarding. After a single macrodose and a month of microdosing, he shared that he felt the most optimistic and vibrant—mentally, emotionally, and physically—than he ever had.
Six weeks into our work, he reflected, "It's intriguing how what we label as 'medicine' can often be 'drugs,' and what we dismiss as 'drugs' might truly be 'medicine'." This prompted deeper contemplation on my part: "How do we distinguish between drugs and medicine?" and "When do we start recognizing the healing potential of natural remedies compared to the possible dangers of synthetic drugs?
In today's complex medical landscape, the lines between 'drugs' and 'medicine' often blur, leading to debates, confusion, and sometimes mistrust. However, a deeper dive into the world of psychedelics and certain synthetic drugs like SSRIs can provide a clearer understanding of this delicate balance.
THE NATURAL VS SYNTHETIC DEBATE
Natural remedies have been in use for millennia. From indigenous tribes using ayahuasca to induce spiritual experiences, to Chinese medicine's broad catalog of herbs and roots, nature has long provided us with therapeutic substances. Among these, psychedelics like LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline have garnered significant attention for their potential therapeutic applications.
Synthetic drugs, on the other hand, are a product of modern science, engineered in labs with a precise aim. Examples include Buprenorphine, used to counteract opioid overdoses, and SSRIs, designed to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
THE HEALING POWER OF PSYCHEDELICS
Emerging research suggests that psychedelics can offer profound therapeutic benefits. Patients have reported transformative experiences under the influence of substances like psilocybin, leading to insights that profoundly change their perceptions and behaviors.
Such treatments, especially when combined with psychotherapy or integration coaching, have shown potential in treating PTSD, depression, addiction, and existential anxiety in terminal patients. Unlike many conventional treatments, which only address symptoms, psychedelics tend to address root causes, often facilitating deep emotional release, cognitive restructuring, and spiritual awakening.
THE UTILITY AND LIMITATIONS OF SSRIs
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) play a vital role in modern psychiatry. Especially for patients grappling with severe trauma or chronic mental disorders, SSRIs can provide immediate relief, restoring functionality and sometimes proving life-saving.
However, while SSRIs alleviate symptoms, they often don't address the underlying trauma or issues leading to mental disorders, emotional imbalances, and energetic blocks. This symptomatic relief can sometimes create a false sense of wellness, pushing the core problem into the shadows only to reemerge later down the road. Furthermore, long-term use can lead to dependence, with diminishing returns and potential side effects like suicidal ideation especially when attempting to ween off.
A MIDDLE PATH: EMBRACING BOTH
The debate doesn’t have to be about 'natural vs. synthetic' or 'psychedelics vs. SSRIs'. Each substance has its place and purpose. What's essential is recognizing the strengths and limitations of each.
While SSRIs can offer immediate symptomatic relief in severe cases, they should ideally be used as a bridge, allowing patients to reach a stable state where they can explore deeper therapeutic modalities. Psychedelics, under proper guidance and in the right setting, can then help address the root causes of trauma or emotional imbalance.
The journey to mental well-being is multifaceted. Both psychedelics and synthetic drugs like SSRIs have roles to play. By understanding their unique strengths and potential pitfalls, we can better tailor treatments to individual needs, maximizing healing and minimizing harm. As research progresses and societal understanding evolves, we hope for a future where the line between 'drugs' and 'medicine' is not a matter of contention but of clarity and wisdom.