top of page

Breaking the Chains of Addiction: The Transformative Potential of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy


Breaking the Chains of Addiction: The Transformative Potential of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

A paradigm shift is unfolding in the realm of addiction treatment, offering new avenues for individuals struggling to break free from substance dependence and behavioural addictions (gambling and pornography etc.) alike. Psychedelic-assisted therapy is garnering attention for its potential to facilitate profound healing and transformation. This week, we delve into the distinct value of psychedelic-assisted therapy when compared to traditional treatment approaches, and invite you to share your thoughts, experiences and questions with us.


The Science of Psychedelic Assisted Therapy

Psychedelic-assisted therapy involves the use of specific psychedelic compounds within a broader therapeutic framework to catalyse and accelerate the process of emotional and behavioural change through transcendent experiences; at EQNMT we currently focus on the therapeutic use of psilocybin and ketamine. Both of these molecules interact with neural pathways, triggering deep introspection, radical shifting of perspective on previously held, rigid (often unhelpful) beliefs about ourselves and others, and allow for profound emotional release.


Guiding Transformation

At EQNMT, we specialize in the practice of psychedelic-assisted therapy, which involves providing an effective and individualized evidence-based therapy program that maximizes the healing effects of psychedelics. Through psychotherapy sessions before the psychedelic experience, our participants are able to explore their emotions, traumas, and thought patterns to form a clearer understanding of themselves. Very often, through therapy sessions combined with specific preparation exercises, such as life story journaling and intention-setting, participants are guided to insights about the origins of their emotional pain as well as the role that the addiction/substance use is playing in how they try to manage that emotion.


Crucially, our therapeutic approach is to understand addiction as a symptom (a maladaptive response) to deep emotional pain that results from having important personal needs unmet.

By identifying addiction as a misguided attempt to relieve suffering and then by clarifying the source of that suffering, we aid people in identifying the path to healing.

The psychedelic experience allows a person to explore these highlighted patterns in a less cognitive and much more emotional manner; i.e., getting out of their heads and into their hearts. The same content is revisited from different angles, with deep self-compassion and empathy, and the inner healing intelligence of the mind springs forward.


With the additional assistance of theoretical workshops on emotional regulation and personality formulation, experiential exercises like yoga, breathwork and cold exposure, paired with a group of trusting, empathic people, we increase the probability that the psychedelic experience will be positively transformative.


Following deep emotional release and (often profound) insights, our therapy team serve to guide participants into the realm of transforming insight into action. Leveraging the increased neuroplasticity (greater cognitive flexibility to aid in habit formation) that psychedelics promote, structured behavioural plans are generated, to provide an individualized and practical ‘how-to’ guide to help each participant better resolve their traumas, meet their needs and, thereby, eliminate or reduce the drive towards the addiction. When pain is understood and dealt with, addiction seldom persists.


The Story of ‘Sam’

Sam (a pseudonym), a successful 41-year-old executive, reluctantly sought treatment because he was drinking excessively and this was fuelling conflict in his marriage. Sam had no idea why he was drinking so much, other than to say that he had felt panic and emptiness for years and could not escape the pain.


He had tried traditional therapies, medication and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to no avail. Through participation in the EQNMT program, Sam achieved a profound insight during his journey. He realised that after his father passed when he was 7 years old, he had become obsessed with achievement. His mother, in an attempt to support her 8 children was always busy.


However, whenever he achieved, she took more notice of him, and so did everyone else. He recalled vivid memories of his love for those moments and realised he had built his self-worth around achievement.

When Sam was recently unfairly dismissed, he felt a sense of failure for the first time, and when his wife mentioned that she admires her boss, he feared losing her. Sam came to the understanding that he had equated love with achievement and he was drinking to numb his fear of loss and pain of failure.


In his integration (therapy following the psychedelic journey), Sam learned to be more unconditional with himself, but also agreed to be vulnerable with his wife and disclose his fears. He explained that when he did so, his wife embraced him with more love than he had ever felt and a hole that he had in his chest since he was 7 years old felt like it was starting to fill.


Sam has not had a drink in months and feels more alive than ever.

Beyond Conventional Approaches

What distinguishes psychedelic-assisted therapy is its holistic approach to addiction recovery. Unlike traditional treatments that may solely address behavioural symptoms, this therapy modality delves into the intricate web of psychological and emotional factors that underlie addiction. Through heightened states of consciousness, individuals can confront suppressed traumas, emotions, and negative thought patterns, leading to transformative healing. The integration of psychotherapy further nurtures the newfound insights and helps individuals develop coping strategies, resilience, and a renewed sense of purpose.


Conventional addiction treatments encompass cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), 12-step programs, and medication-assisted therapies. While these approaches have their merits, they often target symptoms without uncovering the deep-seated emotional wounds that contribute to addiction. Psychedelic-assisted therapy offers a distinct advantage by facilitating profound experiences that access the subconscious mind. For example, psilocybin ceremonies have been linked to spiritual/existential insights and feelings of interconnectedness, which can help individuals reframe their relationship with addiction. The comprehensive and transformative nature of these therapies makes them an alternative worth considering for suitable candidates.


Embracing a New Era of Addiction Healing

As the landscape of addiction treatment evolves, the use of psychedelic-assisted therapy is ushering in a promising frontier for recovery. Supported by rigorous research, EQNMT uses molecules like psilocybin and ketamine to catalyse profound healing and liberation from the chains of addiction. While challenges remain in anyone’s road to recovery, the emergence of these innovative therapies marks a shift toward a more integrative, holistic approach to unravelling addiction's complexities and fostering lasting change.


References


Noller GE, Frampton CM, Yazar-Klosinski B. Ibogaine treatment outcomes for opioid dependence from a twelve-month follow-up observational study. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2018;44(1):37-46. doi: 10.1080/00952990.2017.1310218. Epub 2017 Apr 12. PMID: 28402682.


Loizaga-Velder, A., Verres, R., & Höller, Y. (2014). Therapeutic effects of ritual ayahuasca use in the treatment of substance dependence: Qualitative results. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1), 63-72.


Jones, J. L., Mateus, C. F., Malcolm, R. J., Brady, K. T., & Back, S. E. (2018). Efficacy of Ketamine in the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9, 277. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00277


Law, T. (2022). Psilocybin Could be a Therapeutic Breakthrough For Addiction. Time. https://time.com/6167638/psilocybin-addiction-therapeutic-breakthrough/


Murrough, J. W. et al. (2013). Rapid and longer-term antidepressant effects of repeated ketamine infusions in treatment-resistant major depression. Biological Psychiatry, 74(4), 250-256.


Watts, R., Day, C., Krzanowski, J., Nutt, D., & Carhart-Harris, R. (2017). Patients’ accounts of increased “connectedness” and “acceptance” after psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 57(5), 520-564.

 

NOTE: Psychedelic-assisted therapy is not necessarily suited to or desired by everyone; it is one of many viable, available treatment modalities. Our mandatory pre-treatment screening process is conducted by qualified healthcare professionals, and is intended to safeguard the mental and physical wellbeing of all prospective treatment candidates. This blog post should not be treated as medical advice; it is intended to inform and direct readers to credible sources of information. Please always consult a suitably qualified healthcare professional before starting any new treatment.



Comments


bottom of page