While Covid cases continue to drop and masking restrictions ease across the country, the mental health crisis resulting from the pandemic is still going strong. Psychedelics may help.
Kayote Joseph, a licensed therapist and holistic healing expert based in Los Angeles, says all of her patients feel the sting of the Covid pandemic in one way or another.
“All of my clients have been impacted by Covid,” Joseph, 34, tells Ethos via email. “No one has come to me specifically for healing trauma related to [the physical symptoms of] Covid, but everyone’s trauma seems to be amplified by the isolation implicated by Covid and the restrictions necessary to contain it.”
The pandemic amplified mental health issues; 25 percent of adults have experienced anxiety or depressive episodes during the last two years, according to recent data. It has affected people across the board from those prone to depression and mental health issues to those traumatized by the magnitude of dealing with the virus on a daily basis, such as frontline and health care workers.
“Covid has brought trauma to the surface that many people might have otherwise been able to ignore in their day-to-day pre-pandemic life,” says Joseph. She says that can be existing issues like “abandonment wounding, or trauma related to isolation or scarcity, these things could be activated by their experience during the pandemic.”
But that’s just the beginning, Joseph says. “If [people] have a relative that has passed or are grieving during this time then attachment issues that they never faced from their childhoods could surface and then due to our current state of isolation, they lack the proper support.”
Psilocybin’s healing benefits
But in some ways, the timing couldn’t be better for a global mental health crisis. There’s a surge in alternative mental health treatments, namely psychedelics—Joseph’s specialty.
“I came to work with psilocybin professionally after many years of using it as a healing modality myself,” she says. “I discovered the healing powers of psychedelics after a very powerful journey in my 20s in which I worked with ayahausca and it changed my life. While psilocybin is a different psychedelic, both have incredible healing properties when used as medicinal tools.”
Psilocybin has quickly become a major disruptor in the conventional drug therapy market in recent years. While it still bears the stigma of its hippie roots, the pharmaceutical industry is eyeing it favorably as a viable treatment for depression, namely treatment-resistant depression, which affects up to 30 percent of patients prescribed traditional drug therapies. Research has pointed to benefits coming from a single dose of psychedelic mushrooms, with relief from depression lasting for as long as a year.
“I work with psilocybin in a therapeutic context because it creates neuroplasticity in the brain so it is an incredibly powerful tool for rewiring neural pathways,” Joseph says. “In other words, doing a combination of talk and somatic therapies (such as IFS) in conjunction with plant medicine expedites the healing process because it actually facilitates the reorganization of synaptic neural connections that could otherwise take years upon years to restructure.”
The psychedelic surge
But it’s not just psilocybin. Psychedelics including LSD, MDMA, DMT, ketamine, and iboga, have seen a surge in interest from celebrity investors including former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, who’s now behind Wesana Health, as well as Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary, and entrepreneur Peter Thiel.
Regulations are easing across the U.S. as several cities including the nation’s capital and Denver have decriminalized recreational psychedelic use. In Oregon, therapeutic psilocybin use is now legal to treat mental health issues.
“More and more states will follow Oregon and be legalizing this drug as the research continues to prove its efficacy,” Joseph says. “Treatment centers, programs for training facilitators, and the like will be cropping up more and more following in the footsteps of ketamine which is being used legally to assist in medical and psychotherapeutic contexts.”
In January, popular soap brand Dr. Bronner’s, added a ketamine therapy program to its medical benefits for employees—ketamine is a legal dissociative approved for off-label uses in the U.S., such as treatment of mental health issues. Nearly two dozen employees have taken advantage of the program in the two months since Dr. Bronner’s began offering it.
Joseph says that while there have not yet been any studies on psychedelics and Covid trauma, there’s enough documentation about psychedelics’ abilities to treat PTSD and trauma that make it a viable resource.
“There have been many studies done on substances like psilocybin and MDMA healing trauma in war veterans for example; studies from the best research institutes on the planet that indicate that psilocybin has a much more potent effect on eradicating trauma than traditional talk therapy,” she says. “This goes for sexual abuse, and for abuse survivors in general. In my own experience with my clients, I’ve witnessed psilocybin heal ‘incurable’ autoimmune conditions, eating disorders, long-term depression, a wide variety of traumas as well as a range of personality disorders.”
While the research is thin on long Covid, some experts say it looks to mimic or exacerbate autoimmune disorders that can be episodic and bring emotional stress to its victims. “Long covid is a trauma,” Joseph says.
“There will be books upon books written about this in the future from a psychological standpoint, rest assured,” she says.
“The list of Covid’s impact on our collective psyche is massive.”
Psychedelics are not a treatment or cure for Covid. Before starting a psychedelic treatment regimen, always be sure to discuss with your primary care physician and mental health practitioner. This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.