Psychedelic Medicines: A paradigm shift from pharmacological substitution to transformation-based psychiatry

INSIGHT Conference Berlin 2019

Friday, September 6, 2019 |
Langenbeck-Virchow Haus Berlin-Mitte

Clinical evidence shows that psychedelic medicines have the potential to accelerate psychotherapeutic change processes in supportive settings and resolve mental health problems related to anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress and addictive behaviors. While ketamine and psilocybin have been researched extensively in the past decades, the plant medicine ayahuasca currently stimulates a tremendous public and scientific interest. Beyond its traditional indigenous use in the Amazon, ayahuasca is currently spreading all over the world as an alternative plant medicine in various ritualistic contexts. This rapid dissemination coincides with the observational evidence that ayahuasca facilitates transformative processes with beneficial health outcomes.

In my talk, I will review the adaptogenic effects of psychedelic medicines on body, brain and mind from the perspective of contemporary neuroscience. Next, I will discuss the potential of psychedelics to shift the paradigm from substitution to transformation-based psychotherapy. This novel treatment framework is less focused on specific symptoms and their substitution by means of psychotropic drugs, but rather aims at directly resolving underlying maladaptive processes. Finally, the challenges of intercultural knowledge transfer and future research directions of developing pharmahuasca applications for integrative mental healthcare will be discussed.