Have there been times when you anticipated the outcome of a situation so badly that it made you worry so much even though in retrospect you had always come out unscathed in similar situations? Or do you find yourself troubled – and almost to a feverish pitch – on where you stand when it comes to personal affairs like your finances and relationships? If you were to ask an expert in the field, they’ll tell you that these symptoms are characteristic of anxiety. In the world today, statistics show that mental disorders commonly experienced by individuals are anxiety and depression.
The world health organization states that about 350 million people the world over suffer from depression, calling it a leading cause of disability. There is no treatment method that guarantees complete healing for any individual that suffers from the condition. Presently, the only methods for treatment include therapy, prescription medicines, and counselling.
At the moment, one path that scientists are inclined to for solutions is meditation even as effort is on course in the use of psychedelic (mind-altering) drugs albeit the controversies that surround this method. Individuals suffering from worrying and depressive thoughts may sooner than later have something to smile about as scientists believe it could bring relief to victims. Presently, a study is being carried out to determine if benefits using meditation and psychedelic drugs will be similar when a particular region of the brain is targeted using both methods.
Meditation or Psychedelics?
At Johns Hopkins University, behavioural neuroscientist Frederick Barrett, says meditation has the power and is effective in altering human consciousness. Calling it an established method for the reduction of stress and anxiety. The ability to alter human consciousness to effect healing is the focus of his team. Recently, treating anxiety and depression using psilocybin has been tried out and discovered to be effective. Psilocybin is found in psychedelic mushrooms or “magic mushrooms” and is one of its active ingredients.
The Imperial College London with the help of researchers recently carried out a study. The result – three months reduction in symptoms with the administration of the drug form of psilocybin (two controlled doses) to people with depression. There was also an improvement in the symptoms of anxiety. Barrett was all praise for meditation, calling it an established method in the enhancement of emotional well-being. He also said that the proper administration of Psilocybin under supervision can be effective in changing the mood of patients. The whole idea is that one isn’t pharmaceutical while the other is. By using an fMRI scanner for brain activity imaging during meditation, his team is able to study participants who have had a practice of Buddhist meditation for a long time, and in this way there is the possibility of treatment combination if similarities are found.
After being administered with a placebo or psilocybin in high and low doses, participant groups were created as researches sought to understand how meditation affects them – including its effects of the brain.
There have been promising results from preliminary investigations and at the moment trials as still being carried out. Reports show that the well-being of participants has taken a positive turn after taking psilocybin while including meditation even though making a confirmation seems too early.
Is This Really Necessary?
Those who are new to meditation come to find that it’s not that easy a feat. In fact, it can be quite challenging. Using psychedelics in this study is to find out if the perspective of participants are altered in a similar way to how meditation affects the mood and if this can used as another method of therapy. Barret says that if meditation is ineffective as treatment method, then a second line of treatment would be the use of psilocybin.
Being able to help people in their ability to improve concentration and explore consciousness – and ultimately meditate, is another reason why there is a study into the effects of this drug’s usage.
Peter Addy, Yale’s Psychedelic Science Group founding member at the Yale University school of Medicine, describes Psilocybin as a doorway to meditation, helping to reveal one’s experiences and for insight into oneself. He also feels that addictions and mood disorders can be dealt with using psilocybin but cautioning that it be used where the environments can be controlled. For a more sustainable treatment, adding meditation could give better results he suggests. He adds that the use of psilocybin daily is not recommended after people have attained a certain level of consciousness, so the real task would be keeping the patient at the level of consciousness and beyond.
People’s minds could be opened up to meditation in this way, according to Addy, and used only when necessary after this period. He however, made it clear that he wasn’t suggesting that people should practice the use of psychedelics, even though some American Buddhist community leaders have welcomed its use in learning to meditate. According to him, at the basic level, science seeks answers to its suitability in making people become more conscious. Can these studies lead to use in mood disorder treatment? Does meditation and these drugs have more to offer? Barrett believes so. Reckoning that there are several ways these therapies can be applied but that they have not been discovered yet.
Addy has worked with participants going through addiction related problems and says that finding out why these therapies would work is even as important as what works. He adds that treating people using new methods is very important in the field of psychiatry.