Which Psychedelic is Best for Overcoming PTSD? A Conversation with Professor David Nutt

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that countless trauma survivors, soldiers and veterans have to live with every day. Conventional treatments for overcoming PTSD are notoriously ineffective, often involving a slew of powerful prescription drugs that have mountains of side effects yet offer limited relief. Thankfully, psychedelics like cannabis, ayahuasca, ibogaine, and MDMA are starting to offer some PTSD sufferers true relief.

In this continuing conversation with Professor David Nutt, we speak about how we are learning to pair specific psychedelic treatments with certain conditions, and how some of these findings—particularly with PTSD—are welcome surprises. At the end of the article, we’ve also listed resources for anyone wanting to delve deeper into this subject with further interviews, documentaries, and nonprofit organizations that are helping people in need find treatment.

Thank you again for speaking with us, Professor Nutt. Going back to your plans to study psilocybin for opiate addiction, it’s striking me more and more how perhaps any of these psychedelic substances can be used to treat nearly any condition.

No, I don’t quite believe that. Let’s revisit that. I’ve been thinking a lot about this. My current thinking is that they will work for what we call “internalizing disorders,” disorders where people get locked into a line of thinking about a particular aspect of their life, whether it’s depression, thinking negative thoughts… people with OCD get locked into thinking scattering thoughts, and with addiction they’re locked into thinking about booze or the syringe. I’m not sure that psychedelics will work for disorders that are more externalizing—like ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia. So I think there will be a distinction; I don’t think they will be a panacea.

Right, very true. To better articulate my thought, you heard about LSD being used to treat alcoholism in the 60’s, then you have your new MDMA for alcoholism study, and there’s a forthcoming psilocybin for alcoholism study at NYU. Here at Psychedelic Times we’ve covered PTSD quite a bit, and have heard of course of the MDMA research, plus many accounts of people using ayahuasca and ibogaine for overcoming PTSD, along with psilocybin, ketamine, and so on.

PTSD is an area that is quite interesting and challenging. We did the MDMA study with alcoholics because the vast majority of people who come to our clinics with alcoholism have been traumatized, and they’re drinking to deaden the pain of the trauma. There we are giving MDMA as an adjunct to classic behavioral therapy, or extinction therapy, getting people to relive the trauma and extinguish the emotion. MDMA does that because it dampens the stress centers in the brain and allows people to relive trauma without overwhelming emotion.

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