The New Frontier: Psychedelics as Treatment


New research is being conducted on how psychedelic substances may change the future of mental health care. Dr Carlin explained more in her speech at the Annual Psychiatric Times® World CME Conference™.


Scientific research has—and is—exploring psychedelic substances as medical treatment. Shannon Carlin, MA, AMFT, discussed the role of psychedelic substances in treating mental conditions and what clinicals trials are currently underway in her presentation at the Annual Psychiatric Times® World CME Conference™.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), founded in 2014, is a nonprofit that sponsors MDMA-assisted psychotherapy clinical trials. Carlin, an employee of the MAPS Public Benefit Corporation (MAPS PBC), explained how psychedelic drug development could benefit patients with posttraumatic stress disorder.

Carlin shared the effects MDMA had on mice: it promoted fear extinction, potentially allowed for some memory reconsolidation, and made the mice’s brains respond more like their adolescent brains, with greater rewards for socialization.

In human brains, she explained that MDMA reduced cerebral blood to the amygdala and hippocampus, decreased resting state connectivity between the medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, decreased activity in the insular cortex, and increased cerebral blood flow in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. What does this mean? A total of 3 MDMA therapy sessions, followed by talk therapy integration sessions, both 90 minutes each, may assist patients with PTSD in overcoming their fear response, or fight-or-flight instincts.

In MAPS’s current therapy sessions, 2 clinicians work as co-therapists at every session, as the co-therapy model is designed to ensure consistent and through psychological care, although Carlin stated she was curious as to what might happen in a one-on-one session with a therapist. Further research might explore the safety and efficacy of 1 clinician rather than 2.

Carlin suggested she was hopeful that novel treatments of psychedelic therapies could bring new cures for mood and anxiety disorders.

The Annual Psychiatric Times® World CME Conference™ is being held October 15 – 17. More information can be found here. Next year’s conference is scheduled for September 30 - October 2, 2021 in San Diego. 

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