Can psychedelics combat prolonged grief?  Dell Medical School is launching a study to find out.

Can psychedelics combat prolonged grief? Dell Medical School is launching a study to find out.

For this, researchers recruit Gold Star Wives, those whose spouses died while serving in the military. Thirty participants will be studied: 15 will receive psilocybin which comes from specific mushrooms; five will take 5-MeO-DMT, a psychedelic derived from toad venom; and the other 10 will receive nothing.

The Mission Within will administer the psychedelics outside of the United States. Participants will be brought to Austin for a series of tests before and after taking the psychedelics to measure their impact.

“We believe that psychedelics disrupt these [depressive] patterns and allow the brain to function in new ways that weren’t possible before,” Fonzo said.

All participants will undergo brain scans called functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, which can measure how the brain is responding in real time.

“We’re going to investigate what are called behavioral tasks that people will perform inside the fMRI scanner, some of which are very unique to bereavement,” Fonzo said.

While undergoing brain scans, participants can view photos of their deceased spouses, for example, or look at words related to grief. Researchers will also analyze blood tests to see how participants’ genetic makeup influences their response to psychedelic therapy.

“A connection to something bigger”

Whether science can explain everything that happens after taking psychedelics remains to be seen.

“This spiritual medicine, what we call psychedelics, creates a place to go through the filter of the mind, to open up that subconscious mind,” said Andrea Lucie, a therapist who monitored and guided Lombardo-Grosso during his retreat. at The Mission Within. “It’s something sacred because it touches the heart of our human being.”

Before ingesting the psychedelics, Lombardo-Grosso was instructed to set a clear goal of what she hoped to achieve.

“My intention was to let go of the traumas that were holding me down,” she said.

Lombardo-Grosso took the two compounds that Dell Med will study. First she drank a cup of tea containing psilocybin. Within an hour of the first sip, she says, she started seeing herself objectively.

“I was just my child self, going to the root of some of my deepest trauma,” she said. “I felt all these feelings; I was so angry and after all that anger it was compassion for myself and others and forgiveness.

The next day she smoked 5-MeO-DMT.

“I felt my heart open up and this pull and push of energy,” she said. “Then I started to purge. I could feel something coming out of me. Once that came out, it was that white light and a deep moment where I felt a connection to something bigger than me.

Lombardo-Grosso said her view of the world and of herself changed profoundly in just 36 minutes.

“Imagine having the opportunity to just be reborn and see your whole reality with fresh eyes,” she said.

Polanco warns that if psychedelics aren’t used in a structured setting or without adequate support, a person can have a “psychotic break.”

“You can have issues where the patient has trouble integrating the experience,” he said.

Fix a bad reputation

Research on psychedelics for therapeutic use is not new. It started in the 1950s, but was closed in the 1970s after scientific scrutiny and recreational drug use.

“That made it very difficult to continue any research,” Fonzo said. “There were cultural biases associated with the countercultural movements of that time and issues of legality. I think it took time to overcome these barriers.

Given history, Fonzo and Nemeroff said researchers today are cautious but hope their research on psychedelics will lead to better treatments to fight the invisible war of mental illness.

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