Mental Health: Psychelics & Meditation

Solving Ancient Problems with Ancient Solutions

Mental Health vs Psychedelics & Meditation

@BowTiedBarbary

Inspired by @BowTiedOx @BowTiedMonk @BowTiedBreath


Ancient problems have ancient solutions. New problems have new solutions.

Mental health is not a recent phenomenon. In this article, we explore “ancient” remedies to the modern epidemic of mental disorders… read below.


What is Mental Illness?

Negative conditions in mood, behavior, thinking, and/or emotions permeating into difficulty and negative outcomes in all areas of life.

Common Mental Illnesses

  • Anxiety Disorders → Panic disorder, Phobias, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

  • Mood Disorders → Depression, Manic Depression, Bipolar Disorder

  • Psychotic Disorders → Schizophrenia, Multiple-Personality Disorder, Psychosis

  • Dementia 

  • Eating Disorders→ Anorexia, Bulimia, Over-eating

  • PTSD

  • Addiction

The list is non-exhaustive. 25% of Americans and Europeans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Little progress has been made in 50+ years of mental health research. 

Modern Philosophy on Mental Health 

Medical establishment employs pharmaceuticals, 1 on 1 psychiatry, and in recent history electroshock therapy as well as surgical operations. 

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*Western Medicine since 1950s (or earlier) views mental illness as a chemical imbalance*

  • What is the root cause of a chemical imbalance? 

  • Diagnosing “chemical imbalances” is an attempt to treat proximate causes.

  • “Modern Medicine” doesn’t address the root cause of Mental Illness. It only masks the pain.


Widespread mental illness (anxiety/ depression) is a modern phenomenon

2.4 million years of human evolution from hunter-gatherers to the Holocene (Agricultural Revolution) to the Industrial Revolution did not involve epidemics of mental disorders.

Objection: “Mental health was not diagnosed because people were not aware.”

No, mental illness is expressed as dysfunctional behavior and emotions → Abnormal moods.

Mental illness is widespread since humans developed environments far from natural (normal).

Objection: “Mental health was not a priority because early humans had larger threats”

Hmmmmmm. Now we are exploring the root cause. Could “mental illness” be an outgrowth of not living in a natural environment.

Example: “no lions to avoid or game to hunt therefore commuting to the office seems stressful.”

Mental Illnesses have been identified throughout history 

Most ancient civilizations interpreted mental disorders as the result of supernatural forces. Modern science interprets mental health as a chemical or psychological imbalance.

Mesopotamia in 6000 BCE identified various mental disorders as “hands”. In Ancient China, around 1100 BCE, healers used herbs, acupuncture, and emotional therapy to treat mental illnesses. Ancient Chinese considered mental health a function of the balance between yin and yang and illness deriving from an imbalance with nature. 


Modern Treatments

Modern medicine assumes a chemical drug can treat and even solve mental illness because practitioners assume a chemical imbalance is the cause of mental disorders. 

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  • Electroconvulsive Therapy → Brain / Vagus Nerve stimulation

  • Psychotherapy → Licensed Therapist

  • Medication

    • Antidepressants

    • Anti-Anxiety medications

    • Mood Stabilizers

    • Antipsychotic medications


Military and Mental Health

Writing on Memorial Day, the article would not be complete without addressing mental health amongst veterans and servicemembers.

A veteran commits suicide every hour. PTSD and depression amongst combat veterans are a driving force behind the disproportionate number of suicides. 

War Neurosis → Shell Shock → Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Mental illness deriving from high-stress situations (combat) has been known since recorded history. The language, explanations, and social stigma have evolved (or at least changed) throughout time.

Mental health in the military serves as a canary in the coal mine for the entire modern populace. Veterans experience high stress for extended periods of time and receive government-funded medical treatment which has proven ineffective for decades. 


Overview of Solutions

What if mental illness is a symptom of underlying psychological and spiritual imbalances?

  1. Meditation

  2. Psychedelics - Ayahuasca, Psilocybin, MDMA, LSD 

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Meditation

Meditation changes your brain.

Let that sink in. You change your neurological programming by sitting alone with your thoughts.

Analogous to Exercise: Meditation shifts how our brains respond to stress as deadlifts change how our core muscle groups respond to physical stress.

3 Components of Meditation

  • Awareness

    • Be Present, Use 5 senses to observe the environment, Reflect

  • Non-judgment

    • Observe thoughts and feelings as they come and let them go

  • Peace

    • Serenity: Accept what you cannot change 

Transcendental Meditation → PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, Addiction

Simple, yet effective meditation technique using a mantra or “tone” to quiet the mind.

Method:

  1. Sit comfortably in a chair or on a mat, legs/arms uncrossed

  2. Close your eyes, 3-4 deep inhalations, and exhalations

  3. Open your eyes, observe surroundings, then close your eyes for 20 minutes

  4. Repeat a Mantra (Sankrit common) on each exhale (long, slow exhales)

  5. Observe thoughts/feelings as they arrive. Let them go and return to Mantra

  6. After 20 minutes, wiggles your fingers and toes. Open your eyes when ready.

  7. Enjoy the day. Carpe Diem!

Transcendental Meditation vs PTSD

Transcendental Meditation v Depression


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Psychedelic Immersion for Mental Health

Psychedelics (LSD, Psilocybin, DMT/Ayahuasca, Ketamine, MDMA) have been tested in clinical trials (read: western science) as an effective treatment for mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, addiction, alcoholism, and more. 

Psychedelics (like Meditation) allows the mind to explore sources of trauma and stress out in the open without experiencing the typical “emotional overload” of processing a difficult memory.

How Psychedelics Influence The Brain

  1. Default Mode Network: Psychedelics “chip away” at the DMN enabling the mind to rebuild new pathways and connections. The root causes of anxiety, depression, PTSD may be “rewired” into mentally healthy connections.

  1. Mimic Serotonin → Effect the 5-HT2A receptor leading to → 

    1. Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor → growth, connection, activity

    2. Production of Glutamate → cognition, learning, memory

    3. “Serotonin Effect” feelings, processing, energy

  1. Neurogenesis and Neuroplasticity: Psychedelics rapidly accelerate the growth of neural pathways and neuron cells which allows the brain to “rewire” and heal itself.

Institutionally- backed Psychedelic Treatment

There are myriad scientifically organized studies on psychedelic therapy. “Further Reading” section provides a source for follow on research. Google is also your friend. The evidence is ubiquitous. 

  1. Psilocybin: Johns Hopkins University has pioneered clinical trials on patients and found dramatic improvement, particularly for major depressive disorders.

  2. MDMA: A study conducted by Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies found 67% of patients were no longer diagnosed with PTSD after 3 sessions of treatment.

  3. LSD: A study by MAPS found anxiety significantly reduced for up to 120 months in patients receiving 200ug dose in a single treatment.

  4. Ayahuasca (DMT): Clinical trials by the University of Rio Grande found 80% of subjects showed dramatic improvement in depression after 6 months


Psychedelics and Potential Use Cases for Mental Health


Military and Psychedelic Treatment

As U.S. servicemembers experience disproportionate incidences of PTSD and suicide and the Department of Veterans Affairs both studies and provide data on veteran outcomes, psychedelics treatment is gaining traction as a solution to a seemingly unsolvable problem.

Non-profit support of psychedelic therapy for military veterans →Heroic Hearts Project


Further Reading

LSD: My Problem Child by Albert Hoffman

Food of the Gods by Terrance McKenna

DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Straussman

How Mushrooms Can Save You And Perhaps the World by Paul Stamets (Tim Ferriss, #340)

How to Master Your Mind by Sam Harris

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

Memento Mori,

@BowTiedBarbary

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