Psychedelic Medicine vs. Conventional Mental Health Therapies: Cures vs. Crutches

  • Conventional medicine has failed miserably in treating mental health disorders. This is how/why mental health became a “crisis” – and is now a pandemic.
  • Globally, roughly 2 billion people now suffer from a treatable mental health disorder.
  • These people need cures. All that conventional healthcare is providing is crutches.
  • Clinical research is showing that psychedelic medicine can deliver these cures.

Psychedelic Stock Watch has been one of the leading voices in heralding the Psychedelic Drug Revolution: the re-emergence of psychedelic medicine as a paradigm-shift in mental health care.

This comes in the midst of a Mental Health Crisis which now dwarfs the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mainstream media stumbles in covering psychedelics

While the mainstream media has generally done an adequate job of reporting on psychedelic drugs, a notable failure occurred back in April. That what when an article from The New England Journal of Medicine comparing the efficacy of psilocybin versus leading antidepressants in treating depression caught the media’s eye.

In the study, subjects receiving psilocybin therapy reported clearly better results than those receiving antidepressants. But given the limited sample size, all that could be stated with statistical certainty by the researcher is that psilocybin had performed “at least as well” as antidepressants.

That message was immediately garbled by the media. What was reported instead was that psilocybin was “as effective as antidepressants” in treating depression.

In the mediocre tradition of 21st century ‘journalism’, that headline was immediately parroted by dozens of other media outlets. Heaven forbid that other ‘journalists’ should actually read the original NEJM article and do their own reporting!

“As effective as” is a mere assertion of equivalence. Nothing to get excited about. Not even a reason to invest the millions of dollars necessary to develop these drugs.

“At least as effective as” implies that at worst psilocybin should be expected to perform as well as antidepressants. A much different qualitative conclusion.

Clear motivation to continue pursuing this research (and investing in drug development). It was a mistake in reporting that should not have been made by any competent reporter.

This failure to correctly characterize the potential of psychedelic medicine will cause many people with limited exposure to psychedelic medicine to under-estimate and under-appreciate the potential of these drugs to revolutionize mental health care.

As a formal and conservatively framed clinical study, even the results from Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris (summarized by NJEM) don’t fully do justice to the potential of psychedelic medicine. Where conventional mental health care offers little more than crutches for the sufferers of mental health disorders, psychedelic drugs are showing the clear potential to deliver cures.

For readers to properly appreciate the enormous significance of this, first they need to become better informed on the size and severity of the Mental Health Crisis.

A crisis of neglect
  1. Approximately 100 existing mental health disorders today for every active Covid infection
  2. ~2 billion people with treatable mental health disorders globally
  3. 8 million deaths per year attributable to stress-related mental health issues: depression, substance abuse and PTSD

In sheer numbers alone, this is now the largest human health crisis in history. And it got be this large because of the utter failure of our healthcare system to provide even adequate treatments for stress-related mental health disorders.

Psychedelic Stock Watch has previously chronicled this litany of failure.

What’s worse than becoming addicted to your medication? Getting addicted to a medication that doesn’t work. Yet doctors prescribe anti-depressants like walking Pez dispensers. Roughly 1 in 8 Americans above the age of 12 are currently being prescribed these dubious drugs.
Substance abuse/addiction:
  • Drug rehab clinics tend to be revolving doors: rehab, release, relapse, repeat.
  • So called “12 steps” based programs help some people deal with the symptoms of their substance abuse issue, without ever addressing the underlying cause: the addictive cravings.
  • “Smoking cessation” products are so ineffective that tobacco companies cynically invest in them – as an easy source of revenue that has no measurable impact on their cigarette profits.

Consequently, the approach of our governments to substance abuse/addiction is now to either ignore it (i.e. the ~1 billion nicotine addicts and 7.1 million smoking-related deaths per year), or to ghettoize the sufferers.

Because we can’t adequately treat addiction (without psychedelic medicine), we classify addicts as literally “disabled” and hold out little hope that they will be able to resume a normal life because conventional medicine can’t control their addictive cravings.
  • A massive crisis in the U.S. military: 22 veteran suicides per day, 10s of thousands of veterans partially or completely disabled by PTSD.
  • Only 1/3rd of veterans receiving treatment for PTSD from the Department of Veterans Affairs report any benefit from treatment. Few sufferers are ever free from their symptoms.

At a time when 70% of Young Americans can’t even qualify for military service, the U.S. military is experiencing a more severe rate of attrition from (untreated) mental health disorders than from actual combat casualties in recent U.S. wars.

It’s unthinkable that both the Trump and Biden administrations have continued to ignore this national security crisis.

A failed approach in a failed system

When people obtain healthcare, they are seeking a “cure”: a solution to their medical issue(s) that will definitively put an end to their symptoms (and suffering).

When people receive conventional mental health care, what they typically get is something much less.
crutch krŭch

A support used by an injured or disabled person, often in pairs, as an aid to walking, having a vertical shaft that is sometimes forked, a horizontal grip for the hand, and a crosspiece that is positioned under the armpit or a cuff that wraps around the forearm.
Something on which one depends, often excessively.
A forked support or part.

[source: The American Heritage Dictionary]

In considering conventional efforts by our healthcare system to treat mental health disorders, it is clearly the second definition that is relevant to this discussion: something on which one depends, often excessively.

Arguably, this describes conventional mental health therapies perfectly. Disorders are only infrequently cured. Most of the time, patients remain “in treatment” for many years (if not permanently) – with little progress to show for this massive investment of time and money.

These patients need support for their effectively untreated mental health disorder.

Conventional therapies don’t eliminate the problem, but may mitigate the symptoms. So patients become excessively dependent on therapies of minimal efficacy: medical crutches that rarely allow patients to resume a normal life without continued support (i.e. the crutch).

Very profitable for the healthcare industry (and Big Pharma). Totally unsatisfactory for the 2 billion people with treatable mental health disorders.

In the case of depression (and the antidepressants typically prescribed), this “excessive dependency” takes an uglier form: drug addiction. The pill that patients hope will cure them instead become an additional medical problem in and of themself.

Enter psychedelic medicine

The psychedelic drugs re-emerging from 50 years of (failed) War on Drugs prohibition don’t cause addiction – like antidepressants – they cure it.
  • Using psilocybin to treat nicotine addiction, 80% of smokers were still fully abstinent 6 months later (2014 study)
  • Using ibogaine to treat opioid addiction, 50% of addicts had stopped consuming opioids within one month (2017 study)

Ironically, the only psychedelic drug that does present substance abuse issues is the only one that is currently legal: ketamine.

Psychedelic-assisted therapy has also been shown to cure depression in clinical studies.
  • A 2016 study on “treatment-resistant depression” reported that two-thirds of patients (66%) were in remission one week after their first psilocybin therapy session

The FDA has recognized this therapeutic potential and provided Breakthrough Therapy Designation for Compass Pathways’ (US:CMPS) clinical trial using psilocybin-assisted therapy to treat Treatment-Resistant Depression. That trial recently finished Phase IIb and is preparing to report results.

And psychedelic medicine is perhaps even more potent in treating PTSD.

In MAPS’s Phase III clinical trial using MDMA-assisted therapy to treat PTSD, ~90% of participants reported benefits from treatment, with 67% “no longer qualifying” for a diagnosis of PTSD (i.e. they were cured).

Eight million deaths per year from stress-related mental health disorders that conventional medicine is failing miserably in treating. Psychedelic drugs have the clear medicinal potential to prevent most of those deaths.

In the 50 years that psychedelic drugs have been foolishly criminalized, we have watched the ‘success’ that conventional healthcare has had in treating mental health disorders with crutches.

A problem became a “crisis”, and now it is a pandemic – the largest pandemic in human history.

Psychedelic drugs are not an interesting option in addressing this pandemic. They are (literally) our only hope.

Western governments should have sought better options for mental health care than minimally effective crutches decades ago. At the very latest, the U.S. government should have sprung into action in 2013, the year that suicide was first identified as “an epidemic” among Americans.

Instead, the U.S. (along with other grossly negligent governments) has ignored this worsening crisis so it could continue to fight its petty and futile “war” against the only substances that could address the crisis.

Mounting scientific evidence is showing that psychedelics are the ultimate brain-repair drugs. Scientific research is showing that these substances can “repair broken neural networks” or simply “rebuild broken brains”.

In comparison to existing medications on the market, psychedelics are Miracle Drugs.

Mental health: a health crisis and an economic threat

We literally cannot afford to have our governments continue to grossly neglect the Mental Health Crisis, because it is now more than just a “health” crisis.

In the United States, over 10 million jobs are currently unfilled – the most ever. While most of these are menial low-wage jobs, they would still probably get filled if there weren’t roughly 80 million Americans with a treatable mental health disorder (of varying degrees of severity).

The Mental Health Crisis is now more than just the worst medical crisis in human history. It is a literal threat to economies.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic causing mental health disorders to explode higher, the global economy was already losing more than $1 trillion per year from mental health – on lost productivity alone.

No one knows how high that figure is today, but with (suddenly) record unfilled jobs in the world’s largest economy, it’s not a stretch to assume that figure has already doubled.

As far back as 2016, Foreign Policy was labeling the worsening U.S. Mental Health Crisis “a national security crisis”. With the U.S. military having an even more-severe mental health crisis than the general population, that no longer looks like a stretch.

We need psychedelic medicine today. Where a government won’t provide it, the people need a new government.

We can longer survive on mental health crutches. We must have the cures of psychedelic medicine.
crutches (cover) by Dani Simmonds is licensed under Adobe Stock


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