Article by Growth Op
Sabina Pillai, M.A., is a registered psychotherapist at Toronto-based Field Trip Health Ltd., where she helps deliver the transformative effects of psychedelic drugs with guided therapy to those suffering from mental illnesses, to help process trauma, confront past experiences, and overcome negative habits and behaviours and more.
Here, she discusses how psychedelic drug therapy works and how it is being used in Canada.
As the world slowly begins to grieve and heal from the COVID-19 pandemic, we now face the challenge of addressing the lingering relics of this calamitous global event. Collectively, we need to start thinking about how the disruption of our routines, the disconnection from our loved ones, sociopolitical upheaval, and extended uncertainty has impacted our physical and mental health. Prior to the pandemic, the lifetime prevalence of major depressive disorder in Canada was between 4.7-11.2 per cent, which has equated to a $51 billion burden on the Canadian economy through lost productivity, lowered quality of life, and related healthcare costs. Early reports suggest that these figures have grown significantly, with rates of depression symptoms and suicidal ideation tripling since the start of the pandemic with over half the population reporting worsened mental health due to the impact of the pandemic. Current treatment approaches such as antidepressants struggle with high drop-out, relapse, and non-adherence rates, as well as negligible improvements in symptoms. These issues have warranted an exploration of novel treatment approaches and there is a growing body of research that supports psychedelic-assisted therapy’s ability to address them.
Moving away from the notion of taking a pill everyday, psychedelic-assisted therapies are creating a paradigm shift in how we as a society approach the treatment of mental health disorders.
At Field Trip Health Ltd., where I work as a psychotherapist, we are offering ketamine-assisted therapy treatments. Ketamine is a legal, widely used dissociative anesthetic that has been shown to be safer than alcohol. While ketamine can have powerful antidepressant effects, pairing it with psychotherapy has the potential to capitalize on its ability to promote neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change) and lead to more lasting change. Similar to other psychedelics, ketamine works by interrupting default modes of thinking and behaving, allowing individuals to face their traumas from new vantage points, and use these insights to make changes in their daily lives. In a psychedelic-assisted therapy session, set and setting as well as preparation and integration of these experiences are perhaps more important than the experience itself. Our clinics at Field Trip offer safe, comfortable, plant-filled spaces to have these experiences. This is a treatment that prioritizes autonomy, respect for the dignity of persons, as well as trust and collaboration between therapist and client. As therapists, we are ultimately creating a safe space for the client’s inner wisdom to emerge and guide the healing and growth process.
The results of recent clinical trials on MDMA and psilocybin highlight the promise of psychedelic therapies for treating those suffering from treatment-resistant disorders like PTSD and depression. Over 80 per cent of participants see a reduction in their symptoms after participating in MDMA-assisted therapy and 67 per cent of participants no longer meet the criteria for PTSD one year following treatment.