Psychedelics and Depression


The Sunday New York Times Magazine special edition, “Health is All in Our Minds,” explores the use of psychedelic drugs to help people cope with anxiety and depression in the face of illness and death.

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. I have not read this yet but this trend concerns me. I just this week saw several young people with new onset of psychosis in the settting of marijuana and other psychodelic drugs. In fact, I was going to blog about how advocats of various persuasions might at least agree on the need to educate people about the harmful affects of substance abuse.

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  2. Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen a number of articles in mainstream magazines and newspapers about the use of psychedelic drugs (like psilocybin, MDMA, or LSD) to help treat PTSD and end-of-life-anxiety, including a good article in Oprah magazine in Feb 2011 (Google Oprah MDMA). I like it that:
    – The drugs are given no more than 2 or 3 times total.
    – Each time is in a safe supportive setting.
    – The drugs aren’t a daily prescription to take forever.
    – The drugs aren’t on patent, so hopefully there’s no mega-profit motive to massively pollute the desire to genuinely help people.

    Several months ago, I found a clinician who might have been able to facilitate one or two MDMA (Ecstacy) psychotherapy sessions for me. I don’t exactly meet “official DSM criteria” for PTSD, but it’s clear my nervous system has long been stuck in a rut, and years of typical psychotherapy and psychiatric medications just haven’t helped much. I wondered if one or two uses of MDMDA, with the right sensitive guide, might help me lift up over some of my rut, and help me find a new, calmer place to settle into.

    But over a couple of introductory visits, there were just too many misunderstandings between us; it was a poor interpersonal fit. Because my stress responses can sometimes be accompanied by movement issues, he strongly instead recommended that I go on Orap, or pimozide. I looked up that drug: It’s a dreadful first-generation antipsychotic whose side effects are nasty enough that only people with very severe movement disorders should try it. I can most of the time suppress my movements (though via continued hypervigilance and distraction, which gets exhausting). But instead of a 1-or-2 MDMA trial that I hoped might provide some new perspectives on coping, I was instead being asked to go on a dreadful antipsychotic full-time. No thanks, bye.

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