How Do Psychedelics Work?

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Welcome to my blog post ‘How Do Psychedelics Work?’, based on a paper by the same name written by the brilliant Robin Carhart-Harris. Feel free to check out the dedicated section of my blog to pscyehdelics, click here.

Classical psychedelics share agonist actions at the serotonin 2A receptor subtype (5-HT2AR).

It is a remarkable testimony to science, and nature, that the effects of these compounds, which include the triggering of deeply profound, potentially life-changing existential experiences, can be traced to an initial action at the molecular level (5-HT2AR), and it is a grounding truth for those liable to metaphysical, supernatural perspectives on psychedelics – that if this receptor is blocked, none of their fantastical effects can occur (1).

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How Do Psychedelics Work: Disruption Of Brain Networks

Psychedelics induce a transient disintegration and desegregation of intrinsic brain networks with desegregation being synonymous with increased global functional integration (1).

The Entrophic Brain Hypothesis

Entropy means a lack of order or predictability, a gradual decline into disorder.

Psychedelics increase the entropy of both brain activity and experience, as the two are intimately related flip sides of the same essential system, i.e., mind/brain.

As you can see the below visual, under psilocybin, brain communication has significantly increased.

What does this result in?

Tightened Beliefs

Psychedelics have been shown to effectively treat:

  • Depression.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • End- of-life existential distress.
  • Addictions.
  • There is anecdotal evidence of ayahuasca being used to treat eating disorders

The above-listed conditions could all be viewed as “manifestations of implicit beliefs or biases that have become overly dominant and resistant to revision” (1).

The sufferer may or may not be conscious that his/her beliefs are unhealthy – but remains compelled by them all-the-same.

The basic tenet is that (implicit) beliefs tighten as a defensive response to significant, intolerable stress and uncertainty (1).

Tightened To Relaxed Beliefs

For aberrant beliefs to be ‘revised’, ‘reset’ or ‘recalibrated’ in a healthier way – as seems to occur not infrequently under psychedelics, they must first be decomposed or ‘relaxed’.

Thus, the relaxation of beliefs may be a definitive (acute) action of psychedelics.

The ability of psychedelics to decompose pathological beliefs that narrow perception and obstruct understanding may lie at the heart of their special value as therapeutic agents.

Psychedelics are, by definition, ‘mind- revealers’ – and it is an ideal of psychedelic therapy that aberrant beliefs be dissolved so that ‘clear vision’ be possible.

Integration

Integration is essential for the revision of beliefs that may lead to a potential longer term outcome. Once beliefs have been ‘relaxed’ we need to ‘revise’ them, and integrate the new believe in to our day to day lives.

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References:

  1. How do psychedelics work?: click here.
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