Putting Spirit Back in Psychiatry
The word root 'psyche' can be translated to the human mind, soul, or spirit. Therefore, psychiatry is literally a field of medicine that is inherently about healing the spirit. Yet, in our current day and age the biological paradigm of mental health has led most to forget this.
Instead of talking about what a person needs to feel happy, fulfilled, aligned, connected, valued, and like the most authentic version of themselves in psychiatry, the focus is on 'neurotransmitter deficiencies' and 'balancing the brain's function' with psychotropic drugs.
Certainly, psychotropic medications have an important role to play in the treatment of mental illnesses, although a lens of thinking about them as the sole tools instead of part of the soul's tools limits our ability to use them judiciously and correctly.
Psychedelics as Happy Pills?
Many persons may associate absence of depression with happiness. Yet after observing persons using antidepressants for a number of years I didn't feel they were making (m)any happy. Psychedelics tend to produce more robust and persistent improvements of symptoms of mental illnesses like depression, although I also doubt they make people happy. In fact, I believe that no drug will create happiness, that is your personal life's work. Your spirit's quest. The hero's journey.
However, you may need assistance, and every successful hero's tale involves getting help at some point along the way.
Psychedelics may be able to clarify and point one down a path toward happiness, it's still up to the user to walk it. They can also make you miserable if you ignore the ques.
The convergence of neuroscience, mental health, and consciousness research is breathing new life into a more or less stagnant field of mental health treatments, and psychedelic therapies are the forerunners breaking this ground.
Psychedelics as Spiritual Medicines
Like other substances, psychedelics affect physiology, emotional composition, social interaction, and cognition. However, they differ from other substances in that many feel an inherent sense of spirituality or a greater sense of connectedness to themselves, those they love, and the world at large, both under their influence as well as persistently afterwards.
The practice of pharmacy is always primarily about two things: safety and efficacy of treatments involving drugs. Psychedelics have risks, contraindications, drug interactions and practical considerations for use. They also have methods of being used that promote benefits, optimize outcomes, and safeguard patients.
To me, these truths mean a pharmacist needs to be involved and that 'spiritual pharmacy' is a needed niche!
Where are the Pharmacists?
Given the pharmacist is supposed to be the 'drug expert' of the healthcare team, and given psychedelics are drugs, it continues to shock me that pharmacists have so far chosen to primarily stay sidelined in the psychedelic renaissance. I don't believe turf wars in healthcare are necessary or helpful for patients, although if it involves the use of a drug it's squarely some pharmacy-related turf!
To the credit of therapists, they have recognized their role to play in the psychedelic renaissance in safely shepherding and helping to manage the therapeutic processes that occur as part of psychedelic therapies.
I see other professions doing the same an am pleased to see efforts within pharmacy to start an organization dedicated to psychedelics
However, I hear crickets from the existing and established psychiatric pharmacy organization. Sure, they're covering the drug pipeline for novel antidepressants, antipsychotics, etc. No worries to discuss other types of experimental treatments at length. Yet when it comes to psychedelic therapies "we need more research" is the chorus being sung.
That's some real stinky bullshit for therapies the FDA has recognized as breakthroughs and fast-tracked as a result. Therapies that have headliner articles in the New York Times stating the "results [of psychedelic therapies] are unprecedented in the field of mental health".
It's willful ignorance as trial after trial replicates safety and profound clinical benefits.
Preventable harms will have occurred and the healthcare professionals that stepped up to the plate and drove the early conversations about what models of safe and effective psychedelic use looks like will be the ones running the show.
What Can I Do?
A few questions that have kept me up at night:
How will students get the QUALITY information they need to help persons with psychedelics in their careers the way they’d like to when their school doesn’t offer psychedelic-related coursework or take student interest in psychedelics seriously?
How will psychedelics be able to be re-introduced into society safely if very few practicing professionals are aware of safe and beneficial practices surrounding their use?
My mission at Spirit Pharmacist is to fill these gaping educational voids and allow students, professionals, and organizations to access high quality, evidence-based, and pharmacotherapy-centric courses, webinars, drug interaction guides, as well as a place to ask and get answers to questions best suited for pharmacy.
I developed a psychedelic pharmacy resource and support membership so that others can join me in creating an expanding community of persons with an interest in psychedelic psychopharmacology and spiritual pharmacy practice.
As a board certified psychiatric pharmacist (BCPP) I'm rolling all my knowledge, experience, and skillsets together to push the profession of pharmacy (any anyone else that wants to know about psychedelic pharmacotherapy!) forward.
Looking forward to serving you, helping make psychedelic use safer and more efficacious for all, and putting spiritual medicine back on the map.
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