Psychedelic Medicine and Integration by Robert Krause, DNP APRN-BC
Psychedelics are experiencing a resurgence after almost half a century of prohibition since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 made, among other classes of drugs, Schedule I, illegal to own or possess or use clinically, which made it very difficult to study. Schedule I drugs have no medical therapeutic value and are considered dangerous and addictive.
What’s very interesting is that the majority of psychedelic medicines have medicinal value (that was known and reported in medical journals at the time), are comparatively safe, and are not habit forming.
More people are using various psychedelics in both legal and underground contexts. The Wild West that this creates is a place where there are widely varying experiences, offering greatly differing opportunities to properly integrate the profound and sometimes troubling experience that people come away with.
To understand this, a recent hypothesis, described The Entropic Brain, has been proposed by Robin Carhart-Harris, et al. They argue that a chief function of psychedelic medications is to move people from lower states of entropy, such as depression, trauma, and OCD, to higher states of entropy. It is common for people in low entropy states to think the same things repeatedly and have vastly reduced quality and variety of experiences in life.
As our brains become more stimulated by the medicines, our minds become more flexible.
We see possibilities that were previously obscure and hope where there seemed to have been none. We enter into what might be called “flow states,” or states of peak performance. During these states, our minds are flexible, open, and creative. Another factor that is known is that most psychedelics increase a compound called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that I often describe as fertilizer for our dendrites.
Basically, BDNF promotes new neural connections that are reinforced by our behaviors. So the period of integration after a psychedelic experience is incredibly important because it is in this period that lasting healing and new life patterns can be created and reinforced.
When we are not properly prepared for these experiences or when the setting of the experience is not well planned, the experience can be difficult or troubling.
When we do not properly integrate these experiences, at the very least, we lose the opportunity to make the most of the experience; and at the worst, we can find ourselves floating without previous world view in question and no place to land. Fortunately, there are therapists who specialize today in integration therapy for people who have had these experiences.
Also, training in such things as yoga, meditation, Buddhism, Tantra, world mythologies, and the study of the nature of consciousness can be quite helpful to begin to understand the profound experience that the journeyer had and put it into context.
There are legal and currently available medications that fall into the overall categories of “psychedelic” experiences or consciousness medicine, where licensed and trained professionals can assist one in preparing for going on and recovering from these experiences. Still, it is important also to know that these experiences are not for everyone.
There are some whose medical or psychological condition would preclude the safe use of many of these. This is another reason to consult a trained and licensed professional before embarking on a journey of this magnitude.
Imagine if you were to plan a trip to Mount Everest, or to the Amazon jungle, wouldn’t you want a guide who knew the way? A guide who knew how to get you there and back in one piece? Someone who knew the dangers to avoid and the sublime places to see?
About Robert Krause
Robert Krause, DNP, APRN-BC is Visiting Faculty at the Graduate Institute and a former faculty lecturer in the GEPN program at the Yale School of Nursing where he worked for the past 20 years. He has extensive experience in teaching including having taught courses at Western CT State University, Quinnipiac University, and the Yale School of Nursing. He coordinated the GEPN Clinical Psychiatric Nursing experience as well as lectured for Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing and a professional issues course. His research has involved using yoga, meditation, and other practices to decrease aggression in-patient psychiatric populations. Currently, he researches the use of Psilocybin for depression and also maintains a private psychiatric practice treating most major psychiatric conditions with therapy and pharmacology.
If you are interested in Psychedelic Medicine and learn more about Robert Krause and his career as a nurse, tune in to his interview below: